Chicago goes the extra mile to prettify its ugly reality.
Last Tuesday, we took the midnight train to Chicago.
It’s an easy ride, with a bedroom both ways — except I get the top bunk, which feels like I’m stuffed in a 1942 troop train heading off to battle the Nazis.
Getting up and down the ladder in cramped quarters gets tougher each year, especially when the train makes quick jerks and big sways (this isn’t France with smooth bullet trains — and our tracks are old and crooked, not unlike Goldman Sachs).
I picture myself crashing through the window some night and ending up in the gravel along some Godforsaken stretch of tracks.
But sleeping comes easy with the swaying back and forth. We’re like a bunch of babies nodding off in a supersized rocking chair.
The first call for breakfast in the dining car is at 6:30 a.m., with coffee and fresh red carnations on the tables and a choice of scrambled eggs or freshly cooked oatmeal with plump golden raisins.
Unlike stopping on the road to eat and losing time, the train allows a quadrupling of getting things done — you can simultaneously watch the miles go by, eat breakfast, listen to your wife and read the newspaper. Or it’s a quintuple if you’re also on the cell phone or the computer.
Near our destination and chugging through the Chicago rail yards, I noticed a story-high painting glorifying (!) Osama bin Laden on the concrete wall of an overpass amid the junk and litter. It’s a stylized picture, reminiscent of the old paintings of saints on church walls in Italy.
To some graffiti artist in this sorrier section of town, I suppose bin Laden is viewed as a hero of the dispossessed.
On the other side of the tracks, literally, in a cab on the way to our hotel, we were greeted with tens of thousands of tulips of every color in full bloom for miles in the city’s planters on Michigan Avenue.
Our hotel is the grand old Hilton Chicago, facing Lake Michigan, opened in 1927 with great fanfare. There’s a two-story Conrad Suite atop the hotel — separate in style from the rest of the building. Viewed from afar, it looks like an opulent old mansion erected on the roof. It’s $8,000 per night, plus tax.
The tulips on Michigan Avenue come with an annual maintenance cost of $250,000. They’ll be gone in a few days, replaced with thousands of summer bloomers, and then by truckloads of mums.
“Flowers make people calm,” said former Mayor Richard M. Daley, kicking off an effort in 1989 to make Chicago “the greenest city in America.”
The mayor probably had that backwards. Rather than tulips making people calm, I think calm people plant tulips, while the un-calm do things like crack.
Either way, the mayor put the flowers where the people were already calm, rather than in the killing fields of the city.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?