Oh the Bean. The Bean, the Bean, the Bean. The shiny metal fart bubble that is now a ubiquitous reference to Chicago. When did it replace the mighty Sears Tower, the glittering skyline, or ivy-covered Wrigley Field as a symbol of our fair city?
Hm? WHEN!? This is not a rhetorical question.
Aaaaaahhh, THE BEAN. It's high polished chrome resplendent with grubby handprints. THE BEAN. Teeming with distorted reflections of jovial tourists on their way to the museums. The "unique" shape, LIKE A BEAN.
I live out of the country in Doha, Qatar. On a recent Qatar Airways flight they were advertising for their new direct flights to Chicago. I was giddy that I no longer have to deal with horrendous layovers in Dulles -- giddy, until I saw the visual image they used for the ad. Can you guess what it was? Yes, that's right. You've been paying attention. It was THE BEAN. Seven thousand miles away that is how people know us: a trippy nonsensical orb. "Welcome to Chicago! The friendly city that thinks art is a bloated funhouse mirror!"
On the fifth season of Friday Night Lights when Julie visits Saracen in Chicago she talks about THE BEAN. Having a wedding in Chicago? Why not take some your photos in front of THE BEAN. Is your towns' mayor coming to Chicago? Make sure he or she visits THE BEAN.
When I Googled "THE BEAN Chicago" it turns out that isn't even its stupid name. That's how much of an asshole the Bean is. It's real and far more esoteric name is "Cloud Gate," which sounds like a sci-fi show that aired on UPN Power 50 in the mid-90s.
Chicago, there are so many other images that can symbolize you more succinctly, more accurately, more artfully. These things are, but not limited to:
1. A beer gut.
2. A motorist that's given up digging out their car out of the snow with an ice scrapper and resorts to angrily beating the scraper against their windshield (me).
3. An assortment of calorie dense, nutritionally vacant foods -- hot dogs, Polish sausages, deep-dish pizza, etc.
4. Disappointed sports fans.
5. Ecstatic sports fans.
6. Indifferent sports fans.
7. The confusing chaos of a six corners intersection.
8. Former mayor Richard Daley carved into a pumpkin.
9. Oprah's face when she's verklempt.
10. Or quite simply, this.
I think you get the idea. I guess we're over Sears Tower, no? It's not so tall anymore and it awkwardly changed its name. Fine. But Chicago, does that mean you are going to sit around on your fat, Midwestern can and let a piece of "modern" "art" become the international symbol for our nose to the grind, working class city? Take a good, long look at your distorted reflection in the smudged funhouse mirror before you answer that question.