Back home again…

…in Mich-i-gaaaaan. Hmm. That song doesn’t really work without that extra syllable, does it? Ah, but who cares? A long drive home from the undisclosed location last night — 10 hours at freeway speeds, except in the Chicago area, which hardly ever runs at freeway speed. Not that everyone isn’t trying. Aggressiveness was a feature of the big-shouldered city even before the invention of the motorcar; the high-end SUV — yes, I’m talking about you, BMW drivers — only gives it a new, fun outlet. I’m talking weavers, tailgaters, bumper-to-bumper 70 MPH expressways.

The best compliment I ever received on my driving came from John, when we were traveling from Fort Wayne to Milwaukee for Deb’s wedding. We had time, so we got off I-90 after the Skyway and took Lake Shore Drive through the city, to enjoy the sights, but of course the driver doesn’t get to do this, as you must play DeathRace 2000 to get through not only unscathed but un-f*cked-with; show any sign of weakness, and soon you’ll be pulled off on the shoulder weeping into your hands. (Something like this happened to Bob Greene the last time he drove a car; I remember reading this somewhere.) Witnessing my transition from happy Hoosier to snarling urbanite, John said, “It’s just…seamless! We passed some invisible boundary, and you became an urban driver!”

You better believe it. Now let me in this lane!

I found the western edge of Chicago driving around the Cook County line on I-90. On one side, calm and courtesy and slower traffic on the right. On the other, every man for himself. I actually refused to let a driver into my lane because he had a Bush/Cheney sticker on his Honda, shocking even myself, but what can I say? I’d been listening to war news for a large portion of the trip. If I can’t make the president himself pay, his supporters will have to do.

So now I’m home. What a difference 10 days makes. The leaves have gone from a delicate, pale green to a deep, takin-care-of-bizness green. The lawn needs mowing. And today the dog goes for his summer haircut — photos t.k., as we say in the newspaper biz.

As for me, I’m off for a bike ride along the river and a chance to listen to the MP3s I ripped out of Alex’s record collection. You think you know a person, and then you find Grand Funk Railroad’s Greatest Hits in his CDs and realize: Facets upon facets — aren’t people wonderful?

Posted at 9:30 am in Uncategorized |

10 responses to “Back home again…”

  1. Jack said on May 12, 2004 at 10:07 am

    I drove from Chicago to Urbana and back last weekend. Driving in the Chicago area is like a clinic in passive-aggressive disorder. We’ve got drivers who are actually out to commit grievous bodily harm. And (being Chicago) they’re all Democrats (cackle)!

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  2. Lex said on May 12, 2004 at 11:06 am

    “We’re an American Band” rocks. The rest of their oeurve? Not so much.

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  3. alex said on May 12, 2004 at 11:07 am

    Passive-aggressive perhaps, but I must say in their defense that Chicago drivers are certainly efficient. In the eighteen years I’ve lived here, I’ve never had an accident or ticket. In the Fort, where I used to live, I find that people pilot cars as if they were spaceships and are generally oblivious to other drivers. They’re neither as skilled nor as careful because they’ve never been forced to share the road every day with such large numbers of other speeding vehicles.

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  4. Nance said on May 12, 2004 at 11:17 am

    Passive-aggressive? Hardly. More like aggressive-aggressive. And as for accidents, best of continued luck to you, Alex, but I can’t help but notice how many cars zooming past me seemed to have been side-swiped.

    Lex: Admit “Walk Like a Man” rocks, or get the hell out of my life.

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  5. Paul said on May 12, 2004 at 1:52 pm

    Nance–OT, but Mitch Daniels just pre-appointed the CEO of Vera Bradley to be Indiana’s new Secretary of Commerce. (“Pre-appointed” because he’s not the guv yet, nor even the guv-elect, but apparently the guv-apparent.)

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  6. Mindy said on May 12, 2004 at 3:06 pm

    My dear brother-in-law commutes from Valporaiso to Chicago every day and has a large collection of the most amazing traffic stories. He is particularly fond of telling people from the coasts a tale of the day he headed for an exact-change lane to pay his toll on a Friday afternoon only to discover that exact change was not to be had. He bravely aimed his car toward another booth and eight lanes of Chicago traffic immediately stopped to let him pass. All he could do was stick his arm out the window and wave his apology to the other motorists on his way to another toll booth. He sez that anyone who frequents the Dan Ryan has made this mistake and that most people know to let the offender pass in order to get moving again. I once saw him tell this tale to a couple from LA. They were slack-jawed and wide-eyed in disbelief.

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  7. Marci said on May 12, 2004 at 7:37 pm

    Chi-town’s got nothing on DC-Maryland-Virginia drivers. If you ever happen to be navigating the highways and byways ’round DC, be on the lookout for any SUVs with those ubiquitous black-red-and-green JESUS SAVES stickers — especially when said SUVs are piloted by women.

    Worst. Drivers. Ever.

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  8. John Ritter said on May 13, 2004 at 9:50 am

    Jesus Saves bumper stickers…my fav (seen 30 years ago near Boston) Jesus Saves and Esposito scores on the rebound.

    Jesus Saves signs are best written in lights on crosses, or in Appalachia, in paint on large rocks along the windy hillside roads.

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  9. Bob said on May 13, 2004 at 12:06 pm

    I’ve driven in Chicago exactly once in the last 25 years, and that was just passing through on an interstate. For my visits there, I drive to South Bend or Michigan City and board a South Shore train. Trains run every two hours on weekends, and several times daily on weekdays. One-way fare from South Bend to Randolph St/Michigan Ave is $9.70 weekdays and $9 weekends. There are stops convenient to University of Chicago, Field Museum/Adler Planetarium/Shedd Aquarium, and the art institute. Accomodations are bare-bones, no diner or lounge, but the cars are clean, restroom equipped, air conditioned, and run on time. If you want to know more, go to

    Getting around the city, CTA is easier and cheaper than parking, and taxis aren’t all that expensive, especially if two or more split a fare.

    Another month, and I’ll be able to ride the South Shore for senior fare, about half price.

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  10. Mindy said on May 13, 2004 at 4:20 pm

    Many happy returns, Bob. Return to Chicago and spend the savings on your fare on something terrific to eat. I recommend a Vienna Beef hot dog as an appetizer while you consider where to dine. With all the fixins, natch.

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