You probably know some of the lyrics
from this popular song.
They’ve been running through my head
for our 13 days in Chicago.
Feel free to hum or sing along as you read.
“Now this could only happen to a guy like me and only happen in a town like this.”
I grew up in Las Animas, Colorado, a very small town kind of town. We never traveled farther away than a rare shopping trip to Pueblo, 86 miles away. So when my best friends would come back from a visit to Chicago relatives, how I’d ooh and ahh that they got to see a Cubs or Bears game. Somehow they’d come home with an autographed ball! They got to see Ernie Banks and Gayle Sayers in person!
Fast forward to my late 20s and 30s when I made up for my confined boyhood by traveling abroad and into all 50 states. Admittedly I fudged counting Illinois since all I did was stopover at O’Hare Airport—where I didn’t even step foot outside the terminal.
“Bet your bottom dollar you’ll lose the blues”
Today, the news about this kind of town: murder and mayhem. Where you’ll lose more than the blues! “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”—what a toe-tapper but nobody wants to set foot in his neighborhood! Mary and I prayed for protection as we rode the red El down to see the Oriental Institute centered on the University of Chicago campus, reputed to have the finest collection of Middle Eastern archeology in the northern hemisphere. My pastor told me don’t dare miss it. So we dared to get there!
Our whole day riding the Els and walking this kind of town, not once did we feel threatened. The Kingston Trio wisely picked on another city for “the man who never returned.”
Also making the news, this kind of state is ILL all right—facing bankruptcy! In spite of all the toll roads. Thankfully smartphones are so smart they can show you only routes that don’t ding you with $1 to $2 tolls that will bust your budget!
We really enjoyed our visit to this kind of town after helping our youngest daughter drive the 1,025 miles from Denver to her new position and new life at her corporate office in Chicago. We can be happy about it because she is actually in a beautiful, peaceful suburb to the north. Where she works and lives is graced with trees full of singing birds, beautiful landscaping, lush lawns, parks and dog parks.
On the way out we listened at times to Frank Sinatra. I didn’t realize he sings several famous songs about Chicago. Surprised that my millennial daughter would love an old Rat Pack singer, I asked her why. She heard Frank sing about another great American city, New York, and she was hooked. Lo and behold, a few years later she’s moving to the kind of town Frank was lauding in his hit recording of 1965. We who trust God to direct our paths find inspiration in such “coincidences”!
Composed by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Sammy Cahn, “My Kind of Town” was originally part of the musical score for “Robin and the 7 Hoods,” a musical film starring several members of the Rat Pack. Though nominated for the 1964 Academy Award for Best Original Song, it came in second to “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins. Too bad, what better place to go fly a kite than the Windy City!
Franks town in more ways than one
Once in this kind of town, my first order of business was to treat myself to an official Chicago dog.
“The 10 Best Chicago-Style Hot Dogs” by Nick Kindelspergen defines what a Chicago dog must be like:
“An all-beef hot dog with a crisp natural casing from Vienna Beef (skinless dogs lack any snap and also tend to get lost when fully dressed). But even a natural casing isn’t a complete guarantee of success. Stands need a diligent owner to maintain high standards, so that each dog is juicy and not overcooked.
“Freshness is also paramount for the toppings, especially if going with the fully loaded style. The onions, sport peppers, and the pickle spear should be crisp and crunchy, while the tomato slices should be red and juicy. Even layers of mustard and relish ensure a uniform bite. A final dusting of celery salt lends an unmistakable final touch, but too much mucks up the whole thing.”
And don’t even think about ketchup! Chicagoans think it’s the unpardonable sin. One tourist guidebook said nobody gets it unless under 18 or a foreigner. True confession, I ate the first half according to the rules but caught up to sensibility by squirting on a layer for the final bites.
Tuesday we enjoyed our trip-ending dog at the local favorite only a mile from my daughter’s place. Dave, the owner of the popular “Luke’s,” pointed out two important truths. Chicago dogs is not just a tourist passion. “Chicagoans love their dogs.” And Dave astutely noted, “What makes a Chicago dog is not the dog but the accessories.”
Dave noted that many rate Gene & Jude’s as serving the best dogs in the windy city. He said the line snakes around the building daily to the tune of over 6,000 dogs a day. Their twist is mixing their hot dog in with their awesome French fries so you get a mouthful of both at the same time—all for only $2.25. At last a fast food joint that doesn’t bother asking “You want fries with that?”
“My kind of people, too, people who smile at you”
Dave graciously took time to talk to me during his busy noon hour. He talked with admiration about his dog competitors. But with a confidence from knowing that every body raves about Luke’s being a local favorite. He noted that he has to charge a little more than Gene & Jude’s because his product has more ounces. He referred me to a local literary classic called “My Dog Is Bigger Than Yours.”
Dave is a prime real living example that what makes this kind of town is its people. Chicago people we met were everywhere impressive for being friendly and helpful. Every time I asked people of all ages if they liked living in Chicago, not a one said they didn’t.
So we are happy our youngest daughter will be working and living here. She is always positive, recognizes opportunity, and will make it her kind of town.
“Tuggin’ our sleeves, calling me home”
Mom and Dad happily flew home Thursday to Canon City, Colorado, our kind of town as we live out our physical lives.
Every day we’ll gladly trade it all in for God’s city—the one sought by those in the Hall of Faith—prepared for us in His better country (Heb. 11:16). God’s kind of town, wherein righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:13).
Chicago lived up to Frank’s lyrics. Good songs promote good living. That’s a good reason why we should follow Paul’s advice to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).