Thursday, November 21, 2013

French don’t think much of non-touristy areas. Do Chicagoans think any higher?

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined the ranks of those people who want to tell the French government to “stuff it” with their objections to large swaths of our wonderful home city.

Oh, be quiet!
Yet a part of me can’t help but think there are people amongst us who ought to stifle themselves with their own objections. Because the French official stance toward Chicago isn’t really any different than what is often expressed by our own residents.

THE WHOLE MATTER became public when the Washington Post reported about the guidelines the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues to French citizens who travel abroad.

When it comes to Chicago, it advises French tourists that they should avoid everything about the West Side, or anything south of 59th Street on the South Side.

If you must know the truth, the only part of that assessment that surprises me is that the French didn’t advise their citizens to avoid everything south of Roosevelt Road!

The French ministry didn’t give specific reasons for avoiding those areas. Although I’d suspect the overabundance of African-American people who live in those neighborhoods to the west and to the south make them think there just isn’t much for tourists to see.

BECAUSE THE PLACES in Chicago that promote themselves as attractions people from around the world ought to go to tend to be congregated along the northern stretch of the city’s Lake Michigan border.

It can be very easy to think that nothing of interest exists to the south or west (even if the reality is that those are the oldest neighborhoods of Chicago, they’re where the heart of the city lies).

It certainly is an attitude that gets expressed all too often by people promoting our own city. And if you think I’m exaggerating, just check out some of the Internet commentary on this issue where countless numbers of people (anonymous, of course) are saying they agree with the French.
EMANUEL: Weak defense against French attack

They’re the same types who point out that the United States has its own travel guidelines advising – amongst other things – that people don’t travel to Ciudad Juarez along the U.S./Mexico border while MISINTERPRETING it to mean that they shouldn’t travel to anywhere in Mexico!

BE HONEST. THERE are those north lakefront neighborhoods filled with younger people who came to Chicago so they could claim to be “urban” who never venture outside of their particular neighborhoods – and who then insist on moving OUT of Chicago once their kids hit the age of 5 (because they don’t want to be involved with the Chicago Public Schools).

Personally, I’m by birth from the land where the eastern boundary isn’t Lake Michigan, but State Line Road. Down in the 10th Ward, the locals are used to having the rest of Chicago forget we exist.

Or perhaps we’re just buried under all those mounds of petcoke that are accumulating along the Calumet River – and having their dust blown about to make mess of the environment.

Regardless, we’re talking about some areas that have done little to tout their perks and bits of interest that ought to attract the curious from amongst us around the world. And not just the sights in the South Chicago neighborhood that served as background scenes (the 95th Street Bridge, anybody?) in “The Blues Brothers” film.

HOW MANY TIMES can we check out the Water Tower? Or venture to the top of the Willis Tower – and claim we saw the whole of the South and West sides from that glass ledge that allows one to look straight down from more than 100 stories in the sky?
A cinematic moment 1/3 century ago

So listening to Emanuel say, “Don’t get me started on what I think of the French,” it comes out as outrage reeking from a touch of phoniness. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many of the people who voted for him two years ago are the same people who never venture to the South or West within Chicago.

And as for the French, I’d tell them to stuff it! Because they won’t have a clue about Chicago if they merely go to Wrigley Field and don’t check out the one-time Pullman Rail Car Co. remains – the site that Emanuel himself touted.

After they check it out, they can venture over to the South Deering neighborhood for a lunch at Hienie’s – which has one of the most intriguing hot sauces for its fried food that one will ever experience.


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