Notes from a Portlander

“Dear Chicago,

I want to live in Wicker Park.

Lots of love,


So my friend Megan from Portland, city of hipsters, hippies and big mountains, came to town recently to visit the Big Apple of the Midwest. And like most people hailing from the Pac North West, she really had no idea what to expect. In fact, when I lived out there I would tell people where I was from, and they’d ask, “What’s it like on the East coast?” and I’d have to explain to them that no, there is actually a lot of land mass and culture between here and New York city. So I think if you had asked Megan to say a few descriptive words about Chicago before she came, she would have said “hot dogs, tall buildings and thugs.” That’s all she knew!

I took her around town, and she had a great time. We saw some comedy, we rode on public transport, went shopping and went to the Art Institute. After her visit, for curiosity’s sake I asked her to list the three best things about Chicago and the three worst things. Here they are, in random order:

1) The architecture. The buildings have an old brick aesthetic to them, but all the different neighborhoods have a slightly different style, making it interesting to walk around in. (in Portland they use a lot of wood to make the houses- I guess they didn’t have a massive fire last century that scared them off from doing so. Also, lumber is pretty big out there.)

2) Tweakers on the bus. Not so fun to turn to your left while riding the bus and see a guy laying across two seats and an isle, twitching slightly and completely oblivious to the world. Maybe it’s a big city thing, but Megan had not been exposed to a lot of tweakers. It’s really no fun for anyone, including the one doing the tweaking.

3) The weather. Coming from Portland, where the rainy season began a couple weeks ago, an Indian summer in Chicago was a nice surprise. “Isn’t it supposed to be cold here?” Megan asked me while sweat rolled down her face as we walked in the 75-degree sun. Yes, but this is what’s so special about Midwest weather- never know what to expect.

4) The food. It’s hard to come from a place where they serve gourmet bratwursts and organic tossed salads at the airport to a place where wieners reign. As Megan said, “They’re not even Kosher!” The food in Chicago is… different. Less fresh seafood, more grease. We’re definitely in the heartland of cows and corn, and it didn’t take long for the west-coaster to notice the meat-heavy menu. Hey, I like it- it’s just harder to be a vegetarian here, if that’s your thing.

5) People not covering their mouths when they cough on public transport. Yeah, I have to say I must be used to this little phenomenon, but ever since Megan observed this, I’ve been a little paranoid about getting the plague in Chicago. Of course it’s not everyone who does this, but that one person who chooses to cough into space instead of into their elbow is also choosing to jeopardize the whole bus. Not cool, guy, NOT COOL.

6) The culture. The diversity! All the different ethnicities, all the different preferences and styles in Chicago. And I will attest to this; when I lived in Portland I felt a little stifled when I’d get on the bus in the morning and everyone would be sitting quietly, head down, reading their novel. Not to get me wrong, there is a different kind of diversity in Portland. Like all the different kinds of sunglasses! Haha. But yes, the diversity and exposure to hundreds of different cultures in Chicago is a big plus for everyone who lives here.

So these are reasons why Chicago is the best but also what it might be able to improve on… in the eyes of a Portlander. So bye bye Megan, tell the beautiful North West hello but also tell them to come visit the Midwest- because it’s pretty awesome too.

Picutre of author

About Claire Shapleigh, Biomedical Visualization

Hi, my name is Claire and I'm in my second year of the Biomedical Visualization MS program at UIC. It's a combination of art and science, and it's pretty fun. So far I've dissected a human body and learned how to draw in 2D using a computer AND my hand, and I'm about to learn how to 3D model. Holler at me if you have any questions about the program!

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