Chicago Snob

That is what Meesha called me last week for a joke I tried to make about Johnson County and massage parlors. I think the not mentioning him on my goodbye post made him pay more attention to me, don’t ask me to explain how a Russian’s mind works.

Some people never move from the town they are born in. Both my wife and I ended up in other countries. It is always amazing to me that even thought we are from the same town back in Colombia and having friends in common, we just never met while we lived down there. If I would not have moved up here during my teenage years and actually gone to College down there I am sure our paths would have crossed since she went to the same University that many of my classmates went to and I would have gone to a University that some of her friends attended.

I ended up finishing high school and college here in Chicago and ended up leaving here during the years that I think shape someone’s personality. Since most of my immediate and extended family have lived here for decades, I have always had ties to Chicago even when living in Michigan and Kansas.

I used to be extremely annoying with the Chicago thing when I first moved to the tri-city area in Michigan. I was not the foodiot (another moniquer thanks to Meesha) back then, but I did enjoy going to good restaurants and I think in my time in Michigan I could count the good ones in one hand. None of them better than anything I could find in Chicago. It did not help that many people in Michigan had no pride on their state or cities and Saginaw (where I worked back then) was known as Saganasty and Bay City a place I seldom visited was Bay Shitty. I did not come up with any of those names, that was what people truly called them. I used to live in Midland which was the snob city, but it had nothing going for it either and the proximity to the chemical plant just made me nervous… people would make jokes about the color of the clouds and which ones would mean stay indoors and which meant run away.

Besides my friends there Michigan does not have anything that really interests me, sure it is beautiful but even the cheeseheads have better lakes.

When I moved to Kansas City I had no clue what I was getting into. I knew next to nothing about the city, the company that paid to move me, I left after six months. It would have been easy for Bea and I to pick up and take off to Chicago, Montreal or Colombia at that point, but we decided to stay and I was lucky enough to find a job that I thought was going to be a career. Then the blogger community embraced us and I made some awesome friends at my new job. Little by little our support system was bigger than I could have ever expected.

I have plenty of family here in Chicago. Just this weekend I got to go and play football (tackle, I am actually in pain right now but I will survive) with my cousin and their friends. Bea and I have been spending time with my sister and Mom and loving it. My friends are little by little finding out that I am back, and the schedule keeps on getting full before we even have a chance to make any plans of our own. Its a great feeling but still very bitter sweet.

Kansas City had become home, Bea and I already felt that when we used to drive back from Chicago after a weekend. Saying good bye a couple of weeks ago was tough, but we still have one more week down there of packing and it is starting to settle in my head for sure that we are not going to live down there anymore. I know some people I will see again, and hopefully I will see often. I never expected to leave Kansas City so soon, and to leave so many people who I consider family behind. We will be making trips back and hope to stay in contact with everyone, maybe twitter and facebook will make that easier, only time can tell.

Driving

Everyone in this country thinks that X city has the worst drivers, and from first hand experience they have never driven in Cali, Colombia. I am sure that the reason that people don’t care about traffic signals or speed limits is that there is little consequence beyond getting on a wreck or taking someone’s life… that happens quite often and I lost my best friend to a car crash down there years ago. In the US the fear of getting stopped by the police and given a fine keeps most people driving within reason, but we have all seen people driving like maniacs in an interstate if they think its “clear” and then slow down as soon as there is a cop.

There is a little anecdote I hear about someone that got a chance to move and work in Switzerland. Someone from the company he was working for was driving him to work every morning and he noticed that he parked very far away from the entrance in a very limited parking lot. The person’s curiosity was eventually too much and they asked why did he park so far since they obviously got there early and were there first. The driver explain it in very simple logic, “When we arrive earlier, we have more time to walk to the door. Someone that come in later might need the walk time to actually arrive in time.” To some this might seem dumb, in our society we always want to be rewarded for doing something, we want self gratification so if we get somewhere early we want the “best” parking spot. Thinking of others is not something I see in many parking lots here. Something very small, almost trivial, but it illustrates a lot about how being thoughtful can be applied even to where you park in the morning. If you take that last parking spot right next closer to the door are you making someone running late, even later? Is that just their problem for not getting to their destination with more time?

This morning I wrestled the Chicago traffic once again and it solidifed my view that I need to find a place close to the office because with snow the commute could turn into a two hour mess quicker than you can say Chitown. There are new things here since the last time I lived in the area. A lot intersections now have cameras that will politely request money from you via mail. The highways don’t have the virtual cops and people are just as nasty as I remember. There was a dude in a red mustang that was cutting people off just to get a spot ahead in stop and go traffic.

I am not sure where that shift in the brain happens, that waking up 30 minutes earlier to drive at normal speeds and without stress is just not acceptable compromise. The pace of life here is quicker, but does it really have to be? Can I keep some of that slower pace from Kansas City in here? I guess we will have to wait and see.

First Day At Work

So the journey started on Saturday morning. I started the journey a little later than I wanted to but still early enough to get to the Chicagoland area before five. After an afternoon of getting food and catching up with the family I got tons of sleep. Sunday was a day of rest and getting ready for the week ahead.

If you have never been to Chicago, the city is overwhelmingly huge… but the Chicagoland area now extends from Chicago to Winsconsin and pretty much all the way to Joliet and almost all the way to Rockford. Just look at a map.

I know a lot of the Chicagoland area as if I was a cabbie, however the north side and suburbs beyond are kind of a black hole in my map. Sure I know Glenview because a friend from college used to live there, but we did not hang out there too much, only went there for great family cooked dinners. So besides on main street and a couple of bowling excursions with my northsider friends I used to see it as the exits you pass to get to Six Flags Great America.

I knew an hour drive today was pretty much a given, so I double that to make sure I had plenty of time. Surprisingly I did the trip from where my sister lives to the office with enouth time to spot for an actual sit down breakfast. I had missed family restaurants like the one I got to enjoy this morning.

I am working now for a large corporation, and just like in the past I am not going to tell you were exactly. Lets just say that they are global and have at least 3 letters on their name.

I met my supervisor who was nice enough to take me for a little lunch excursion, you cannot be mad at paid lunch. We discussed a lot of information that I am still digesting, but the coolest is that I can probably just telecommute on Fridays if I chose to. He does not come to the office every day and most of my team is all over the world, so besides one other person in my team most of the interaction will be technology based. I am pretty used to this from my time in the consulting world and love that there is no micromanaging. You know what you have to get done, as long as it is done there are no issues.

I will have to adjust my pace to a big company, which moves a lot slower in some aspects; like I am probably not going to be able to VPN until Wednesday, but already lighnight speed on others; I am already part of a huge number of projects and getting tons of e-mails.

It is a nice to be back in the content management world and the Senior Analyst does have a good ring to it.

Sh!thole Cowtown

That Tony not only reads this blog, but that he actually links my sometimes opposite views on his tabloid news site has been flattering. He is one of the people that I looked forward to meeting because I wanted to know the person behind the satirical blog, but I wanted to dig deeper. I hope someday he lets me actually interview him, not because people will like him afterward, he never set out to be popular, but because there is probably a lot more about that crazy local personality in the blog sphere that what is portrayed in his writings.

He was nice enough to post a link to our departure post, and his first commenter was nice enough to inspire this post. He called KC a “sh!thole cowtown.”

I have lived in 3 US cities now, and let me tell you that even though Chicago is a great town, KC is really not that far behind. I actually think that KC is ahead in many levels.

When it comes to great food Chicago might have more food choices, but in all reality you pay a lot more for them. For 15 bucks you can have an excellent meal in KC, in Chicago you have to pay over 25 to get the similar quality. There is defiantly more high end places and choices in KC, but with resources like KC lunch spots there are many things that I am sure you still have not tried.

The airport here is AWESOME. It has a very simple design, you can find parking easily. You get in and out in no time, try to do that in O’hare or even Midway, I dare ya.

Traffic. I laugh when people think that there is traffic in KC. They don’t know what a 2 hour work commute looks like. Sure Chicago has the train system and it works great, but try to get anywhere near downtown even at 4 AM and you WILL hit traffic in Chicago.

Accessible Art and Music scene. You can find a lot more art in Chicago and their museums are excellent but they are both super expensive and horrible to get to. You park and you walk forever, here you can make it an afternoon trip and have dinner and see some good art. Add to this that artist here in town are people you can interact with, if you have not done so you are missing out. The music scene here is the same way, you can hear some good music and not have to pay a prohibitive entry price at the door. In Chicago there is a lot of stuff, but when it comes to being able to actually get to meet an artist it cannot touch First Fridays.

Air quality. You have no idea what pollution can do to your body until you have lived it. Be thankful for the great air and plenty of trees that you have around. Concrete jungle might look pretty but air quality truly sucks.

Winter… you guys don’t have winter here… enough said.

Pace of life. It is a lot more relaxed here, it will take Bea and I a bit to go back to big city mode even though she lived in a city about the same size as Chicago (Montreal). People yell a lot more, and more crunched for time, there is a lot more running… the rat race is just something I don’t really look forward to and hope I can keep as slow as it is here.

The thing that hands down is great about this city is its people. There are nice people here, from the waitres that actually has a conversation with you and knows you by name, from the people that still hold doors for you. The a$$wh0l3 ratio is a lot lower here. I am not looking forward to fighting for a parking spot all the time or have people hunk on their horns like they just bought a new la cucaracha ring tone for their rice burner.

Parking

Even though most of my driving career has been here in the United States, I first learn the ways of the road in Colombia. While I still get a little shocked when I first drive there, parking there is actually too different to even include on this post. Lets just say that in most places you park you have to know people or the tourist thing will happen. You have to see Slumdog Millionaire to get this reference.

I learned how to parallel park in Chicago, and even though I am out of practice I can get my car into some pretty tight spots. Parking last night at 75th Street Brewery was a pain because the lot was full, so I got lucky and found a street parking spot where I would not be towed. Wait… no… just ticketed. That is when I realized something, I am super paranoid about getting towed.

I probably have seemed rude in the past here in Kansas City when in a suburb I park on their driveway when visiting them. In the Chicago area parking is a big ordeal. You have to have a city sticker allowing you to park there over night. However, just visiting friends can result on being towed or getting a ticket. After seeing my Dad get towed and having to pay a hefty fine to get the car back I became paranoid. These is one of those ordeals you do not forget and neither does your wallet because it can be more than $200 bucks down the drain.

I have to get out of the mode of parking on people’s driveways and just park on the street since there is no danger of being towed on the suburbs over here. You rarely have to even parallel park.

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