Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Damn Hippie Kid
I greet you this morning from Crystal Lake, Illinois. It's about 50 miles northwest of Chicago, straight in the path of the exploding generica of Lake in the Hills, which is gradually rolling up from the south. Yet the character of this place seems a lot different. Unlike the prefabricated "edge city" a couple of miles away, Crystal Lake is a real city with a real history, and therefore a more tangible sense of place.

If you come in from the west, like I did yesterday, the city pops up out of the farm fields like dozens of other medium-sized midwestern cities, although it's never been a farming town itself. Its big industry was ice harvesting, in the days before electric refrigeration; in the days after, it became a resort town, "a miniature Lake Geneva," according to one local historian. After O'Hare Airport began expanding in the late 50s and early 60s, all of the northwest suburbs of Chicago began to grow, even the ones as far from the city as Crystal Lake. The leading edge of the sprawl is actually moving beyond Crystal Lake now, out toward Woodstock, Marengo, and Huntley. Nevertheless, it will probably be a few years before the last working farms in the western part of McHenry County are converted to developments--which, barring a depression and/or a revolution, they one day will be.

(Digression: The last working farm in DuPage County, southeast of here, was paved over and developed probably 20 years ago. It was owned by a family that now farms just up the road from the farm I grew up on.)

I've actually been to Crystal Lake at least once before. About 10 years ago, I was a candidate for a radio job in the Milwaukee area, and was asked to interview with the station's owner, who lived out here. He was one of those guys who's already made a fortune and doesn't really need to live on the dead run through 18-hour days anymore, but he's addicted to the adrenaline and slightly suspicious of anyone who doesn't share that addiction. We had a pleasant-enough lunch, until the very end, when he looked across the table at me and asked, "Would you consider getting a haircut?" I was so taken aback by the question that I could only stammer out a flustered "sure." I'd just had a haircut, actually, and I couldn't figure out why my hair was such an issue with him. I finally decided it was because he'd lost a girlfriend in high school to a guy with hair like the Beatles. Long story short: I was offered the job, accepted it, and then gave it back a couple of weeks later. It wasn't entirely because of the hair thing--the more I learned about the place, the more it looked like a train wreck waiting to happen--although I could see that this owner was going to be the kind of guy who parachuted into his stations and raised holy hell over things he didn't understand. Been there, done that, ain't going back. The day after I bailed on the job, I registered for the teacher ed program at the University of Iowa.

Recommended Reading: The Rude Pundit asks the obvious question--how come nobody's talking about the fact that John Roberts would never have been nominated to the Supreme Court if the Bush Administration didn't know precisely how he would rule on every question likely to come before him?

Also: Pandagon has become one of my daily must-read blogs--Amanda Marcotte is forever finding topics nobody else writes about, and Jesse Taylor's takes on politics are always thought-provoking. Last night, Jesse defended the use of curse words in blog posts, and it was one of the best fucking posts I've read in a goddamn long time.

What, too obvious?

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