The Things You Leave Behind

 

As you age, there are many things you leave behind. Most are rational or even necessary. At my age, I get nostalgic about almost all of the memories that are left. Despite that, I choose to leave more than a few places and things behind that brought me much pleasure back in the day, but now make me sad if not angry.

I was 37 years old in 1986 the first time I went to Chicago. I was a first-year radiology resident after retraining from a career in pediatrics. None of the other residents had asked to be off for the NRSNA meeting, which had 40,000 participants and vendors, so I and two other residents decided to go. It was only a few weeks before the convention, so we had some trouble finding a place to stay. We ended up at the YMCA on Chicago Ave about seven blocks above the Michigan Mile. Before we left, another more experienced resident, gave us each a soap on a rope. As I recall, the rooms were $15 a night and only slightly overpriced.

Despite our trepidation, it was a fabulous five days, during which we visited many great museums, bars, and restaurants. I have been back to Chicago at least 30 times since. It seems to me that about five years ago, I decided that the city had become a place I no longer wanted to visit. The homeless panhandlers were everywhere and flash mobs were making headlines.

A similar thing happened concerning both San Francisco and New York. I gave up on San Francisco 10 years ago and left New York City for the last time three years ago. The decline in these cities is easy to see as an outsider or occasional tourist. The consistent indicator, for me, was the accumulation of trash on the streets. The trash is everywhere and the residents put up with it. I doubt if I will ever be back to these cities. I cherish the fond memories that have now been tarnished by sordid reality. Nothing I see in the news makes me think this is going to change.

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  1. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    SP,

    Wrt NY and Chi, me too.

    For me, put Seattle in there, too. All I hope for now is to have some few years or days of almost painfully sweet memories of these once-great, irreplaceable, enchanted,  utterly unique American cities.

    • #1
  2. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    My parents used to go to the College of Surgeons meetings in Chicago and San Francisco.  One time in Chicago, probably in the early 70s, they stayed at The Drake (which surprised me…not their style, but perhaps that’s where many others were staying).  They walked out of the hotel on a beautiful fall evening (October is one of the best months in Chicago) and the bellman asked if he could get them a taxi.  Dad declined.  They were just going down a few blocks to the InterContinental, which was a great place to have a cocktail.  The bellman insisted.  They took the taxi for what would have been a nice, ten-minute walk.  Walking would have been too dangerous.

    Little Richie Daley sure spruced things up, planting flowers everywhere (Urbs in Horto, and all that), but behind the facade the city was a mess.  Now that the clowns are running the circus, well, lets just say that there is plenty of office space available for sublease.  One family of die-hard lefties I know who live in Chicago spend an awful lot of time in Montana, or Florida, or Mexico.  

    I used to ride a bus into New York Port Authority in the mid 80s.  Everyone knew which streets to avoid while walking to where you needed to go.  There were always rivers of…liquid to step over and you would watch people lighting up crack pipes as the bus came out of the Lincoln tunnel.  If you were driving, the squeegie men might slice your tires as you waited at a light, especially by the Triboro. Then Giuliani was elected.  The place transformed into something out of a Sinatra song.  Now quite a few life-long New Yorkers we know are moving, mostly to Florida, some upstate.

    A family member lives in San Francisco.  She is terrified and spends a lot of time in Sonoma county.

    But no mean tweets!

    • #2
  3. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I hate seeing and hearing about this, some of our most magnificent cities.  They had the TV special on last night the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. It was spectacular, but we know what has happened to NY. They had DeBlasio flip the switch…….gag.

    There is no reason or excuse for any of it. It is a cultural thing – bad elements that have infiltrated our country’s morals, values, history and standards. I’m not talking about people, but belief systems. There is a serious spiritual void.

    • #3
  4. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    I never felt uncomfortable in the diverse neighborhoods near the tourist areas of Chicago until the last few years. For decades I would see young women pushing baby strollers fairly late at night. The thing I loved about Chicago was that it was a beautiful city that you could visit but it was also a vital lively city where you could interact with people who lived there and cherished it. I always felt welcomed until I didn’t.

    • #4
  5. John H. Member
    John H.
    @JohnH

    I’m leaving behind the other side of the Earth. I was going to say “the Eastern Hemisphere” but Cape Verde is in this one. I’ve written off my plane ticket there. I’m sure not going to anywhere else in Africa. I’m also never returning to Turkey. Likely I will confine my travels, if any, to the Americas. Yet the reason has little or nothing to do with these places, but with the assured noxiousness of just getting to them. I just don’t want to wear a mask that long. And I predict that masks will never go away.

    • #5
  6. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    It was a wonderful city in which to grow up—except for the schools, which have been bad since at least the 40’s when I was in elementary school. It has become a case study in Democratic misrule and corruption. Tragic. 

    • #6
  7. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Sandy (View Comment):

    It was a wonderful city in which to grow up—except for the schools, which have been bad since at least the 40’s when I was in elementary school. It has become a case study in Democratic misrule and corruption. Tragic.

    That would seem to describe every city in America. I think many of us look back on our childhood and think it was a great place to grow up except for the schools which unfortunately seem to have been better then than now. 

    • #7
  8. Catman Inactive
    Catman
    @Catman

    It seems that many cities I have visited recently have the same problems with homelessness, trash, excrement, etc. that you describe – even smaller cities. 

    I had wondered if maybe it was just that I tended to notice these things more that I am older, and that in my “youth” I was more “wide eyed” in looking at the attractive sights and not “down below” at the problems….

    • #8
  9. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    NYC was horrible in the 70s, the squeegee men, trash, bums and decrepitude.  When I heard Disney had purchased a couple blocks in the crumbling Times Square porn district, I was amazed.  But, they cleaned it up and there was a renaissance.  Short lived.  It’s crumbled again, and worse than ever.

    SF was beautiful in the early 80s, a thoroughly enjoyable, walkable city.  Then there was the rise of the smelly Elmos.  What started outside the business hotels spread throughout.  Now it’s a third world armpit.  LA removed the ban on RV parking on the streets near the beaches.  Soon, old Winnebagos and trailers became permanent fixtures in beach neighborhoods and the indigents followed.  Every shrub became a toilet.  This attracted new variants, tent people and park people.  Corners were protected by the most aggressive beggars.  LA was overtaken.

    Portland and Seattle, not to be outdone by their big cousins to the south, adopted policies that promoted indigence and panhandling.  They are now overrun.

    It’s a travesty.

    • #9
  10. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Mayor Pete left South Bend behind.  

    • #10
  11. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    My family visited my aunt and uncle San Francisco in 1962. It was the nicest and cleanest big city I had ever seen. If I remember right the Mission District was the main or only run down area.

    You can get a tour of 1958 San Francisco by watching the movie Vertigo. There are several collections of then and now photos of scenes in the movie. This is one of them.

    • #11
  12. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    A little more time to do the same to the whole country.  It’s what happens when these kinds of fascists?socialists?crooks, yes crooks,  take over.   

    • #12
  13. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    For a long time Chicago was on my list of cities I wanted to visit, but I never made it there. And now I have zero desire to go there. I feel sad that I missed the chance to visit a place that doesn’t really exist anymore.

    My family and I did get to visit New York City, once in 2015 and again two years later. I was surprised at how great it was, clean and vibrant and — most surprising of all — friendly. I had been looking forward to many more visits over the years, and so I’m even more saddened by what I’ve heard about its recent decline.

    I’ve been struggling to think of a vacation destination for our family for next year. Thanks to COVID, an international destination doesn’t seem like a good bet. And most of the American cities I used to want to visit no longer sound like places I’d enjoy. I’m thinking instead maybe Wyoming, where there aren’t so many people to ruin the place.

    • #13
  14. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    For a long time Chicago was on my list of cities I wanted to visit, but I never made it there. And now I have zero desire to go there. I feel sad that I missed the chance to visit a place that doesn’t really exist anymore.

    My family and I did get to visit New York City, once in 2015 and again two years later. I was surprised at how great it was, clean and vibrant and — most surprising of all — friendly. I had been looking forward to many more visits over the years, and so I’m even more saddened by what I’ve heard about its recent decline.

    I’ve been struggling to think of a vacation destination for our family for next year. Thanks to COVID, an international destination doesn’t seem like a good bet. And most of the American cities I used to want to visit no longer sound like places I’d enjoy. I’m thinking instead maybe Wyoming, where there aren’t so many people to ruin the place.

    Big Timber, Montana is a beautiful small western town near to spectacular sights. Charleston, SC, my old home town,  has done a fairly good job of balancing the disparate tensions of tourism, livability and tradition. It is one of the few cities/ tourist destinations that figured out how to deal with the homeless situation: Not here. Either enroll in a drug free shelter or hit the road. That may be cruel but life is often cruel.

    • #14
  15. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    NYC was horrible in the 70s, the squeegee men, trash, bums and decrepitude. When I heard Disney had purchased a couple blocks in the crumbling Times Square porn district, I was amazed. But, they cleaned it up and there was a renaissance. Short lived. It’s crumbled again, and worse than ever.

    SF was beautiful in the early 80s, a thoroughly enjoyable, walkable city. Then there was the rise of the smelly Elmos. What started outside the business hotels spread throughout. Now it’s a third world armpit. LA removed the ban on RV parking on the streets near the beaches. Soon, old Winnebagos and trailers became permanent fixtures in beach neighborhoods and the indigents followed. Every shrub became a toilet. This attracted new variants, tent people and park people. Corners were protected by the most aggressive beggars. LA was overtaken.

    Portland and Seattle, not to be outdone by their big cousins to the south, adopted policies that promoted indigence and panhandling. They are now overrun.

    It’s a travesty.

    Didn’t this all coincide with emptying out the psych hospitals?  If so, are the psych patients any better off on the streets?

    • #15
  16. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Didn’t this all coincide with emptying out the psych hospitals?  If so, are the psych patients any better off on the streets?

    That is a very big part of it. As a teenager I worked at an institutional psychiatric hospital that was very much like Ken Kesey’s vision of what he flew over. It was a far more caring and enpowering environment than the mean streets of modern America. 

    • #16
  17. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    NYC was horrible in the 70s, the squeegee men, trash, bums and decrepitude. When I heard Disney had purchased a couple blocks in the crumbling Times Square porn district, I was amazed. But, they cleaned it up and there was a renaissance. Short lived. It’s crumbled again, and worse than ever.

    SF was beautiful in the early 80s, a thoroughly enjoyable, walkable city. Then there was the rise of the smelly Elmos. What started outside the business hotels spread throughout. Now it’s a third world armpit. LA removed the ban on RV parking on the streets near the beaches. Soon, old Winnebagos and trailers became permanent fixtures in beach neighborhoods and the indigents followed. Every shrub became a toilet. This attracted new variants, tent people and park people. Corners were protected by the most aggressive beggars. LA was overtaken.

    Portland and Seattle, not to be outdone by their big cousins to the south, adopted policies that promoted indigence and panhandling. They are now overrun.

    It’s a travesty.

    Didn’t this all coincide with emptying out the psych hospitals? If so, are the psych patients any better off on the streets?

    It’s all about that, with the important addition of drugs. Patients may or may not be better off in any given case but the manner in which they are supported by various agencies appears to contribute only to a growth in numbers and, thereby, a diminution in the healthy part of the body politic. Once again, official public health has failed us. 

    • #17
  18. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    NYC was horrible in the 70s, the squeegee men, trash, bums and decrepitude. When I heard Disney had purchased a couple blocks in the crumbling Times Square porn district, I was amazed. But, they cleaned it up and there was a renaissance. Short lived. It’s crumbled again, and worse than ever.

    SF was beautiful in the early 80s, a thoroughly enjoyable, walkable city. Then there was the rise of the smelly Elmos. What started outside the business hotels spread throughout. Now it’s a third world armpit. LA removed the ban on RV parking on the streets near the beaches. Soon, old Winnebagos and trailers became permanent fixtures in beach neighborhoods and the indigents followed. Every shrub became a toilet. This attracted new variants, tent people and park people. Corners were protected by the most aggressive beggars. LA was overtaken.

    Portland and Seattle, not to be outdone by their big cousins to the south, adopted policies that promoted indigence and panhandling. They are now overrun.

    It’s a travesty.

    Didn’t this all coincide with emptying out the psych hospitals? If so, are the psych patients any better off on the streets?

    Yes.  And heroin and street drugs were cheap self-medication.  I lived in downtown Boston and I used to buy pizza for the local bums who used my public laundry as a warm gathering place.  They complained about the crazies, themselves being higher up on the street pecking order as common drunks.  

     

    • #18
  19. Jim George Member
    Jim George
    @JimGeorge

    Southern Pessimist: I gave up on San Francisco 10 years ago

    It is hard to describe the pain we feel when we see what is happening to what for so long a time was our very favorite city in the entire country. We traveled with a national legal organization, American Board of Trial Advocates, through which we met some of the leading trial lawyers in the city and eventually formed very close friendships with several of them. Two of them became some of the best friends I ever had in my life. We couldn’t count the good times we had at restaurants and watering holes which, I assume, are now in areas which are completely off limits to anyone without a gun and I’m not at all sure you can even open carry in that blue city; almost certainly not as that is probably one of the few things which  that DA Boudoin will arrest you for. What prompted me to comment on this excellent, if not sad and depressing, post was an article I just saw this morning in the NY Post– “How looting turned the most upscale part of San Francisco into a ghost town”, here. When I saw the photo, below, and the location, I realized we had stayed in the St. Francis Hotel, right on Union Square, and also at the Hyatt about a block away. One of our favorite spots was The Clift, a block from Union Square, with its iconic Redwood Room. Here is what it looks like now:

    These viral photos of boarded-up boutiques in San Francisco’s upscale Union Square district this week are a bleak encapsulation of the city’s approach to crime.

    The article concludes: 

    Being soft on criminals has its consequences. For San Francisco, the result is a ghost town. For decades, this Bay Area destination has held conferences where it held itself up to the world as a model of a “livable, walkable” city.

    Not any more.

    “People are scared to go downtown,” native resident Tandler told me.

    “This is the destruction of a city.”

    Earlier today, I saw an article about a gang of animals who beat up a bus driver so bad he had to be hospitalized–right in downtown Chicago, once another one of our favorite spots for having a good time with good friends. I sent the article and the link to the video,  which I  warned was sickening, to friends with this subject line: “Remind me again how this is different from a Third World Country-I keep forgetting.” Perhaps, and I do not say this facetiously or sarcastically, this might well be an insult to many Third World Countries. 

    God Help Us.  

    • #19