Loop Love

I went down to the Loop yesterday for a meeting. I got there a little early, so I walked around a bit. Despite working nearby in River North, the other half of Chicago’s bisected downtown, I rarely make it to the Loop. Because, well, I never have much reason.

The Loop is Chicago’s center, its heart, its business and transportation hub. If you picture “Chicago” in your mind, you’re probably picturing the Loop. El trains. The Willis (nee Sears) Tower. Skyscrapers galore. State Street Mall. Marshall Fields. Buckingham Fountain. The Chicago River. Grant Park. It’s all there. It’s big, it’s epic, it’s the only place in the US that comes close to matching midtown Manhattan’s vertigo-inducing maze of concrete canyons. It’s… a ghost town.

After 7 pm, that is, on weeknights. It’s worse on the weekends, when almost nothing is open. As any Chicagoan will tell you, the action is elsewhere. You want clubs, bars, restaurants, festivals? Try Lakeview, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Pilsen, Andersonville, Ukrainian Village, Hyde Park, anywhere other than the Loop. The Loop is dead. Half of Chicago works there, but then leaves as soon as the sun begins to set.

This can get really frustrating if you somehow find yourself in the Loop after dark. Not because it’s dangerous; I’m pretty sure even muggers vacate the Loop after sundown, because who would they rob? No, the Loop sucks at night because you’d have any easier time finding food or drinks in that asteroid-that-was-actually-a-giant-worm in Empire Strikes Back.

Back in March, Ayako and I went to see The Marriage of Figaro at the Lyric Opera in the Loop and had to eat when we got home to her place in Lakeview, because, I am not kidding, there are no open restaurants near the skyscraper-sized opera house in the middle of the 3rd largest city in the United States.

I sometimes dream of opening a 24-hr. Taco Bell a block from the Lyric Opera. I would be a millionaire in months. I could sit back and watch night after night as hordes of people in formal gowns and tuxedos gorged themselves on Baja chalupas.

But nobody does this, because the Loop scares people. Maybe it’s weird zoning laws or property taxes. Maybe it’s simple reputation. Mostly, I suspect, it’s because almost nobody lives there. People commute in, work, and then jump on the El as soon as the steam whistle blows (or whatever).

Whatever the reason, it’s a shame. Because the Loop really is awesome.

It really is stunning and beautiful, and full of architectural marvels like the Chicago Temple, the Board of Trade, the Willis Tower, the Cultural Center, etc. Hell, there’s a giant Picasso sculpture just sitting out in the open.

I want to start a movement. I want to get more people to move to the Loop. If more people live there, more bars, restaurants, and clubs will open (ones that will actually stay open past 7 pm and will also be open on, gasp!, weekends).

So, let’s do this, people. Move to the Loop. Make it happen. Make it happenin’. Make Chicago’s heart actually beat.

I’d do it myself, but y’know, we just moved to Bucktown and we really like it. It has 24 hr. taco stands, just like the opera house of my dreams.

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5 Comments

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  1. >I’m pretty even muggers vacate the Loop
    >I’d would be a millionaire in months.
    Your English is getting pretty good, Osuten!

    Also, I cringe to read “Willis Tower.” It just overemphasizes the phallic structures for which our fare city is known. And no, there’s no more nightlife in Hyde Park than the loop. That much, alas, has not changed since you lived here.

    That said, I’d totally come to your taco stand. You just need a catchy name (franchises are so ’90s)… Taco Bloggo? Taco Town? Loop’n’Beans? The Grease Trap? Tienes Gas? Holi(er than-thou-)Frijoles!?

  2. I’d lived in Chicago for what, a little over 3 months, when the blue line from O’hare deposited me in the center of the Loop on a hellishly cold night about week after X-mas. It was 6:15pm on a Tuesday or something. I wanna say January 3rd.

    To maintain your posting’s table of referents, the surface of the ice planet Hoth had more life.

    I was convinced I was going to die and nobody would know the difference until people started showing up for work the following morning before the #6 finally rolled up. And brother, you thought it smelled bad on the outside.

  3. Meghan- typos fixed! Thanks! I need to reread these things more carefully before posting. HP’s pretty quiet, but it at least has that scholarly air. Like, “boy, it’s quiet because everyone’s inside studying post-Chaucerian dental theory” or something. The Loop just feels like “I Am Legend” without the thrill of zombie vampires.

    Doug- yeah, same thing happened to me after my first ChristMAPHs Break (don’t worry, I just boo-ed myself for that one). There’s something deeply disquieting about being the only person in the center of a vast urban space.

  4. Oh, and Meghan, you’ll appreciate this. When we were in the Burg back in June, we were walking back from the Green Leafe when some middle-aged dude stopped me and said, “can I ask you something? Where is all the nightlife?” I said something about it being summer break and the Burg never being lively anyway, but what I should have done was point towards the CW Taverns and said, “it’s about 500 yards and 200 years ago that way.”

  5. My kitties were startled by my sudden outburst of giggles when I read, “where’s all the nightlife” referring to CW. That’s awesome. Because yeah, you know, they totally tricked you into visiting this colonial tourist trap with promises of crazy nightlife. “You’ll totally be trippin’ balls when we take your picture in the stocks and pillars! And TJ!? Forget about it!!!” And what’s a middle-aged dude doing looking for that, anyway? He kind of missed the Rainbow Room days when the bicycle shop in the basement under Paul’s actually tried to have a nightlife scene, so it wasn’t quite 200 years ago, but still… That’s an awesome story.

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