June 3, 2006


I’ve just returned from a far-too-short visit to Chicago for the latest An Event Apart. The event itself went off magnificently. I would only like to echo Jeffrey’s thoughts, and express my extreme gratitude to all the attendees for the good times and great discussion. I also wish we could take the Gleacher Center with us to every city, as it’s the ideal venue. Check out some photos from the event on Flickr.

There is something odd I noticed on multiple occasions during my brief stay: When talk of a structure getting replaced or destroyed (for instance, a building), Chicagoans tend to refer to it as being “razed to the ground”. Now, I’m not unfamiliar with this phrase, but I must admit, I’ve never heard it used so seemingly universally and frequently. Which is not to say I spent my time with some hell-bent anarchists, but conversation in Chicago often meanders to architecture and new construction projects. Just an observation, of course, but one that makes me happy, partially due to the somewhat archaic nature of the phrase itself, but also the phrase’s status in the local parlance.

I truly do love Chicago. I’m starting to think of it as my city mistress (the city I visit that I don’t want Philadelphia to know about). I hope to get out there again soon—not that I need much convincing to go, or to hang out at the bar with Coudal Partners over and over again. Shhh, don’t tell Philly.

Commentary (24):

1. Matt Johnson says… jun 3, 2006 | 7:14 pm

Ah good pictures!

Wish I could have come, I’m like 20 minutes away! Oh well, next time.

2. Tim Crowe says… jun 3, 2006 | 11:26 pm

I just overheard Atlantic City and Wildwood talking at the coffee house. They think you are a slut and Chicago is a home wrecker.

3. nickd says… jun 4, 2006 | 3:26 am

When I moved away for grad school, I finally discovered that people outside of Chicago don’t use the phrase “gaper’s block,” ever, to the point where they will assume I’m referring to the web site. I’d mention the term when stuck in a traffic jam, and get blank stares and awkward silence from my passengers. It astonished me that nobody had even heard of the term.

I’ll admit, though, that I do use “razed,” but I have no idea where that came from. For some reason it strikes me as a recent development, but I can’t put my finger on when.

Finally, when I describe my favorite-ever stroke of 100% insane urban planning and political manuevering, I use “bulldozed.”

4. Jemaleddin says… jun 4, 2006 | 8:32 am

Razed? Great Chicago fire, natch.

5. Smallest Photo says… jun 4, 2006 | 9:32 am

Was checking out your snaps over at Flickr yesterday. Looks like it was quite the success. I only wish I could use the next E.A. as an excuse to visit my love - NYC.

6. Jason Santa Maria says… jun 4, 2006 | 9:49 am

Smallest Photo: Well… then you should!

Time Crowe: A.C. and Wildwood are caddy old bats anyway.

7. bearskinrug says… jun 5, 2006 | 5:56 am

Well, we have our share of unique Philadelphia terms… like “Get your hands off my Liberty Bell”, or “I’m gonna William Penn your FACE!”

8. Joshua Lane says… jun 5, 2006 | 9:42 am

Philly is in love with ME now, so GOOD RIDDANCE to you!

9. wayne says… jun 5, 2006 | 11:32 am

not that i don’t love philly, but i think i need to find a mistress city. one that’s attractive, athletic, and book-smart, with a sense of history but also a hip edge. no southern “cities” need reply.

10. Dan Boland says… jun 5, 2006 | 5:43 pm

Jason, I wanted to meet you at the bar, but I went to the bathroom and subsequently lost track of the group, which meant there was no hope of reaching the bar. (And I live here, too. Terrible sense of direction. Sad, huh?) At any rate, I enjoyed the whole event from start to finish. And I plan on stealing your idea once the stork has a delivery planned. =)

11. Atlantic City says… jun 5, 2006 | 9:38 pm

Tim Crowe and JSM: screw both of you, I’m moving to Madison, WI and Wildwood is driving the moving van.

12. Croaky says… jun 6, 2006 | 1:07 am


I think you just described Boston…

13. Stephen Collins says… jun 7, 2006 | 10:08 am

Well, in Philly we do have “gaper delays”.

14. Jason Santa Maria says… jun 7, 2006 | 10:24 am

Grrr. I HATE gaper delays. I think that police cars should be outfitted with curtains to put up around an accident. Sure people would still look for a while until they become commonplace. Then maybe they will stop looking. Ooo, or an elevator that lowers the accident below ground.

15. Jared says… jun 7, 2006 | 5:23 pm

Chicago is on my “Places I’d love to move to, but never ever will” list.

16. Michael Nolan says… jun 8, 2006 | 2:05 pm

I’ve lived in Chicago and in Philly and loved them both. Each of them stole my heart in different ways.

The reason razing is such an issue in Chicago is because of the way neighborhoods have been changed by development. I watched an elegant row of brownstone townhouses across the street from me get torn down to be replaced with a parking garage. That so many beautiful old buildings have been destroyed for bland highrises is tragic. The same thing is true to a certain extent in Philly, but its renaissance has come much later and there’s more sensitivity to the issue now (I think.)

17. alain says… jun 13, 2006 | 6:37 pm

Really, they say “Razed to the ground”? Isn’t that like saying “aesthetically pleasing”?

And now I’m off to the MENSA convention!

18. Stewart Goodwin says… jun 14, 2006 | 2:53 pm

Shouldn’t a mistress city give some sort of seclusion and msytery to its visitor? If so how ‘bout Park City, UT? High up in the mountains but still a very engaging and inspiring city for creatives. Dear old Philly would never think to look there…

19. KJ says… jun 16, 2006 | 4:50 pm

Philadelphia heard that and its feelings are hurt.

Chi-town is a great town though.

20. Mario says… jun 19, 2006 | 10:58 am

I just thought you might want to know, since you use the word anarchist in a derogatory fashion, that the Weakerthans (currently listed in your leisure bar) are anarchists. The singer was previously a member of Propagandhi who are also anarchists. They were previously on the g7welcomingcommitte label, which is an anarchist collective.

anarchists != terrorist.

21. Jason Santa Maria says… jun 19, 2006 | 11:08 am

Mario: Sorry for my generalization, I thought I was qualifying it by saying “hell-bent”, implying that while not every anarchist means harm, some do. Anyway, apologies. And Propagandhi and the Weakerthans are some of my favorite bands :D

22. Justin says… jun 23, 2006 | 8:54 am

You’ll also hear “gentrification,” “tear-down,” and “McMansion.” I saw dramatic change in my old neighborhood in five months. My present one’s not far behind despite designation as a “historical district.”

Objects once so new, so concrete that it could never have occurred to anyone they stood for other things, had crumbled. [. . .] Rome, that was almost permanent, did not give rise to thoughts like these. And was it abidingly real? But in Chicago, where the cycles were so fast and the familiar died out, and again rose changed, and died again in thirty years, you saw the common agreement or covenant, and you were forced to think about appearances and realities.
— Saul Bellow, “Looking for Mr. Green”
23. Mario says… jun 24, 2006 | 8:36 am

It’s all good :)

Besides, anyone who likes the weakerthans, propagandhi, AND doesn’t eat meat (re: your bio) is someone i like. Except, of course, for those i don’t like.

24. katalog says… oct 14, 2006 | 7:52 am

Shouldn’t a mistress city give some sort of seclusion and msytery to its visitor? If so how ‘bout Park City, UT? High up in the mountains but still a very engaging and inspiring city for creatives. Dear old Philly would never think to look there…