After spending only a few hours at the Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute, I fell in love with Evanston, Illinois. The town of nearly 75,000 is the perfect size for a suburb and easy to navigate with only a few turns to reach its main streets. It reminded me of Dobbs Ferry, New York, where my high school is located. Both towns are near large bodies of water, rely heavily on public transportation and sit within 25 miles of a major city.
Since the 1940s, my family has lived by New York City. Despite moving to the suburbs in 2000, I still frequently travel to New York, where I’ve cheered for Aaron Judge home runs at Yankee Stadium and viewed the city’s skyline from the Freedom Tower.
When I ponder the word “city,” I immediately think of New York because I’ve spent so much time there. As a result, the Big Apple’s characteristics have become my basis for comparing cities, such as Cape Town, Istanbul and Sydney, during my travels. And Chicago was my latest case study.
In the early days of the cherub program, I was so focused on studying journalism that going to the Windy City didn’t cross my mind. But after two weeks of writing, I was thrilled as all 84 cherubs ventured into Chicago to take an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.
These metropolises have certain things in common, but with minor differences. While on the tour, I noticed that the Chicago River runs through the middle of the city, while the Hudson and East Rivers flank New York. When walking through Millennium Park, I interpreted the futuristic Pritzker Pavilion and Cloud Gate, also known as The Bean, as radically different from Central Park’s vintage Carousel and Alice in Wonderland statue. Additionally, I found Chicago’s subway the polar opposite of New York’s, with its clean cars, on-time arrivals and elevated track, which is why the city’s system is called the “L.”
Also, what other city contains a Spanish Colonial Revival structure in the Wrigley Building and a modern skyscraper in the Trump International Hotel and Tower within 1,500 feet of each other? What other baseball stadium besides Wrigley Field uses a hand-turned scoreboard?
Still, I saw aspects of New York in Chicago. To me, 875 North Michigan Ave., also known as the John Hancock Center, and the Aon Center at 200 E. Randolph St. architecturally resemble New York’s Bank of America Tower and 432 Park Ave. The Magnificent Mile made me think of Fifth Avenue, and the Chicago Lighthouse in Lake Michigan reminded me of viewing the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
At first, I worried these correlations wouldn’t give me a blank slate for observing and understanding the city. But looking back, I’m grateful for these comparisons between the Big Apple and the Windy City because I was able to see America’s third largest metropolis in a completely different light. “New York, New York” may always be my stomping ground, but Chicago is definitely “My Kind of Town.”