The dumbest song ever written about Chicago is probably “My Kind of Town,” originally performed by Frank Sinatra in the 1964 Rat Pack musical Robin and the 7 Hoods.
Lyricist Sammy Cahn intends to praise the city, but he never gets specific, so he sounds like someone who has never been there. (Jimmy Van Heusen composed the music.)
The song has a persistent refrain of “Chicago is,” which is funny because the songwriters seem to have only the vaguest notions of what, in fact, Chicago is.
It’s “my kind of razzmatazz,” Sinatra sings at one point, “and it has all that jazz.”
Wow, I really feel like I’m there.
The dumbest part, though, comes near the end, when Cahn decides to list the cultural icons that give the city its unique and thrilling atmosphere.
Chicago is The Wrigley Building Chicago is The Union Stock Yards
End of list. One office building and a notoriously disgusting meatpacking district—evidently, that’s Frank’s kind of town.
The Chicago-themed Lego set in the Danish toy company’s Architecture Skyline Collection expands the catalog of the city’s attributes to six sites: the Wrigley Building (again), the Willis Tower, the John Hancock Center, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture (commonly known as the Bean), the DuSable Bridge over the Chicago River, and the big red building at 333 S. Wabash, known in my day as the CNA Center.
I lived in Chicago for about 15 years, or 19 if you count my time as an undergrad at Northwestern in Evanston. You are welcome to tack on those four years to my tally, but keep in mind that anyone who grew up within Chicago’s city limits would sooner break the sacred law of dibs on a shoveled parking space in winter than resist drawing an impenetrable distinction between the city and the suburbs.
In any case, I did live in Chicago proper for a long time, and based on that experience as well as my marriage to an honest-to-goodness Chicagoan (born and raised within city limits and don’t you ever forget it), I am prepared to declare Lego’s representation of the Loop to be just fine. I would have liked to see a little Lego version of the elevated Brown Line in there, and I would argue that the corncob-shaped Marina City towers would have been a better choice than Big Red, but hey, no Lego set is perfect. At least not until the brand finally releases an official Golden Girls set.
If Lego ever gets around to designing a Zac-themed Chicago Lego set, it should include tiny plastic brick versions of the following:
- the Steppenwolf theater with a yellow Chicago Reader newspaper box out front, to denote my years as a freelance performing arts journalist
- one of the phallic rainbow pylons saluting the LGBTQ+ community along N. Halsted, to acknowledge my years of Chicago-based homosexuality
- the Granville Red Line station, to suggest the neighborhood where I lived for the longest stretch of my Chicago tenure
- and I’d like for there to be something in there that recognizes my aforementioned, Chicago-born spouse, too—maybe one of the Puerto Rican flag arches in Humboldt Park, to pay tribute to his Boricua heritage?
If, however, having a Puerto Rican symbol in my set constitutes cultural appropriation, you have my permission to swap in something white instead.
Might I suggest the Wrigley Building?