A Miniature Chicago for a Tabloid Tribune

(Photo: A tabloid-sized Chicago Tribune? Mercy…what next?)

So the newsstand Chicago Tribune is smaller now. While the dwindling rolls of home subscribers will keep receiving the larger, broadsheet-format paper, the rest of us who prefer to buy Chicago’s leading masthead one copy at a time (is that crickets I hear?) will be purchasing a smaller, tabloid-sized version.

Given how deep job cuts have been across the American newspaper industry in the past year, I suppose the Trib’s only other option to save money and stave off collapse would have been to cease publication on one or more days per week. (Even a brief browse of Newspaper Death Watch shows how common that strategy has become lately).

Yesterday, local Chicago blogger Polomex (Matt Bartosik) opined that all-electronic news delivery is probably inevitable at this point.  As I scribed to mark the debut of the online Huffington Post Chicago last August, I wholeheartedly agree. But the day of the totally virtual city rag hasn’t arrived yet, so for now we’ll have to make do with our newly teeny, trial-sized Trib.

Personally, I find the paper’s strategy inspiring. I can think of any number of things that would benefit from a likewise miniaturization. Winter, for one.  Not the whole thing, we can keep Thanksgiving through Christmas and I’ll even throw in football on New Year’s Day for the straight guys out there. But I think we can all agree that minus-17 January and February lows could do with a little shortening.

So could Indiana, or at least the drive through it to actually get anywhere worth getting. If we were to, say, squeeze the place to a more manageable hour’s drive across–whittle the Hoosier State down to the parts that matter: Indianapolis, that cow park on I-65, and a few corn producers–think how much closer Michigan and Ohio would be!

Speaking of corn, that’s getting to be the only charitable way to describe the better-days-were-yester Museum of Science and Industry in Hyde Park. When the most modern technology in the house is the Dyson Airblade hand dryer in the lobby men’s room, perhaps a literal little rethinking is in order? Let’s keep everything that moves–the mine-train ride, the Zephyr, and the U-Boat–give the rest of the building over to parking, and market the place to tourists as a new indoor theme park.  True, it would be a pretty paltry set of amusements–the U-Boat doesn’t even move, I just threw that in to make a triplet. But after all, hordes of suburbanites are still gullible enough to believe that Navy Pier’s worth visiting, so I think the idea has potential.

Although it might detract from the earning power of the above idea, I’m also all for miniaturizing the suburbs, themselves.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Oak Brook Center as much as the next guy-with-friends-with-cars-who-take-him-there.  But a shrunken Chicagoland sure would mean fewer Loop newbies to drag me through inane conversations like this one:

Southlander: Excuse me, how do you get to LaSalle?
Me: It’s three blocks west of here.
Southlander: No, I mean LaSalle.
Me: Yes, it’s three blocks west of here.
Southlander: No, I don’t think that’s where I got off. I need LaSalle.
Me: Off of the train?
Southlander: Yes, at LaSalle on the other side of the Loop.
Me: Any train that stops at LaSalle will stop on this end of the Loop, too.
Southlander: Wow, I didn’t know the Metra came all the way up here!
Me: Ohhh, you mean LaSalle Street Station.  It’s that way. (SMACK.)

Not that we Chicagoans don’t deserve a smack every once in a while, ourselves. I’d start that self-flagellation with the drunken Chad and Trixie hordes who stagger out of Wrigley Field after every Cubs home game. I wouldn’t shrink their numbers–after all, without them who would be left to show apartments in Old Town or throw up on the sidewalk in Wicker Park? But how about we shrink the walk from the corner of Addison and Sheffield to the Red Line entrance a few feet? Sure, the ‘L’ is only half a block east as it is, but have you ever seen a soused Chad or Trixie with a working sense of direction? Getting there is not always half the fun.

Nothing truer could be truer could be said of O’Hare, these days.  The coming of the New Depression means fewer flights and fewer passengers–so why aren’t lines any shorter at security gates? I guess United never got the memo Midway wrote ten years ago when its new terminal opened with massive numbers of security lanes.  (Short Midway waits get shorter still if you know which lane to stand in, but I’m not divulging that me-first secret without good reason!)  Not so at the checkpoint-short O’Hare. Could it be United still holds a grudge? Harbors a persistent case of surveillance envy? Whichever, the wait to be wanded at its Chicago terminals could certainly stand a good contraction.

For that matter, our bigger-city envy could use a good squishing down, too. We’re the cultural equal of any coastal pretender, yet so many Chicagoans greet visiting out-of-towners with, “I know it’s not New York, but…”  I’ve lived here long enough to know trying to change a Chicagoan’s habits is a losing battle. What say, instead, we petition to have New York City and Los Angeles miniaturized? With all of Daley’s clout and a Chicagoan entering the White House, I think we stand a chance.  Just imagine never having to put up with that pesky “Second City” monicker any longer.  Especially since we’re already third on the totem pole as it is.

I know of one pole that would probably make Chicago stand up and cheer if reduced down to size. Most of all, I propose we shrink Rod Blagojevich. Not all of him.  We can leave his private parts the dimensions they are now.  Let’s just shrink the rest of him, down to about one-tenth normal size.

You know, so everything would finally be in proportion?

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