Chicago isn't as utilitarian as I had always believed. I was shown this by a penpal from 1996 who I had last talked to on a bulky cellular phone in the days before the internet who By chance was in Chicago in the same six hour window I was. There is a lot of art in Chicago, and a lot of architecture, the skyscrapers full of commodity brokers showing a pastiche of gothic flourishes. There is a lot going on in Chicago.

And yet.

I still get the feeling that in these lands, iron and beef and grain are real in a way that they no longer are in some of my West Coast homes. There, attitudes and irony and digits are real, and the physical goods we collect and keep are just counters in the game.

An initial impression from a short visit, typed hastily on my iPhone in Gary, Indiana.

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