Mayor Rahm Emanuel was over at the Roosevelt "L" station this morning shaking the hands of South Loopers. As well he should. We were the ones who hosted NATO, and we fielded the troublemakers he attracted. We gave up our streets, our Museum Campus museums--and turned over our hearts and minds. We deserve the kudos, the congrats, the thank-you notes.
But we got a lot of out of it, too--now that open streets, our general level of safety and security, the mailboxes and order are coming back. Not to mention the Metra. We saw the transformation of our streets turn into a rich man's lockdown--which was remarkable. The police were our neighbors, our guests, our protectors, our info-line.
I bet you dollars to donuts that not many residents outside of the South Loop actually thought about the meaning of NATO; should it stay or go? Is it a criminal enterprise of some sort, the military wing of the Military-Industrial Complex
? Or a positive bonding of countries that are in it one for all and all for one?
I knew when my friend invited me that that was where we South Loopers belonged on Sunday. Being part of NATO proper. The Reason? To complete the neighborhood picture this weekend. Just the walk over and back was a microcosm of the NATO summit. Lots of cops, a few board-ups and two South Loopers traipsing through it all.
All weekend I wondered where all the imported cops from other cities were
. And if we would know them when we saw them. What would they be wearing? I finally saw some last night--but not in the South Loop. Cops from Philadelphia (in their own uniforms) were at Wacker and Wabash as NATO wound down and President Obama was well on his way to Joplin, Missouri
. And some from Milwaukee were at Chestnut and Michigan. (By the way, the scene a block away in front of the Four Seasons--Hamid Karzai's home away from home
--was remarkable. Tons of armored cars, Afghani body guards with cords streaming from their ears, Illinois State police and Chicago cops. The trunk of one of the cars remained open--and I figured that's probably where they put Karzai when they transport him: for full-blown safety.)
One of the most remarkable bits of communication I received during the Summit? Daily reminders from the Near South Planning Board
, of all groups, who sent an exhaustive list of where the protesters would be every day, every hour, their agendas, meeting places, etc. Those emails had something for everyone. If you wanted to protest any or all, you knew where to go and who to see. If you wanted to stay far, far away, you also knew what to do. Unfortunately, I don't think I paid close enough attention on Saturday, because a group came by the house at Roosevelt and State
--I found out--when I was elsewhere. Although it was apparently an impromptu visit. But I sure would have liked to see them saunter by with their signs and their riot police. What a picture. As far as I know, none of my friends had the presence of mind to snap a few.
We were there among the out-of-the-ordinary. It was reported during the course of sprucing things up for the overseas visitors--in addition to finishing Congress Parkway--that the city made workers spray weed killer in the sidewalk cracks
of the South Loop. Which I don't approve of. But I must say things were immaculately clean and orderly.
Bottom line: we were where it was at. Most of it I can't even describe. You just had to be there. And no, we weren't a ghost town, after all. There was life on these South Loop streets. But it was a different sort of life. Again, you just had to be here to understand it.
Perhaps the whole world wasn't watching. Or even all of Chicagoland. But we were. We had to. And I sure am thankful for that.
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