Song of the Day: “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” – Elton John

Ah, the joy of big city life. Some days it can feel like if you stopped walking, the rush of swarming people would either carry your forward or trample you in seconds. So, you know, don’t stop walking. Ever.

Living in a large city is something of a mixed blessing. Sure, my proximity to the greater Chicago area means that I have access to many things one just can’t get in smaller towns. Things like getting seafood delivered to my house and almost meeting John C. Reilly. Those kinds of things.

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On the other hand, the daily reality of living in Chicago (or New York, as in the song at present) is that, at any given time, your average city-dweller is surrounded by hundreds (and really maybe even thousands) of complete strangers. By “surrounded” I mean someone’s face is in your armpit. It can get intense. In fact, when I’m on the Red Line in the middle of Rush Hour and the jam-packed train stops for no reason, the fact that I live in a genuinely cool city is of little comfort. The Art Institute of Chicago’s placement among the best museums in the world isn’t making the guy next to me want opiates any less, now is it? City life can turn you hard and cynical if you’re not careful.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I can appreciate Bernie Taupin‘s sentiment in the lyrics for the Elton John classic “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.” I’ve certainly thought of my adopted hometown as a “trash-can dream come true” before, particularly when I lived in the Uptown neighborhood. Taupin’s NYC is a place where the “rich man can ride and the hobo, he can drown.” Big city life is casually cruel and lonely sometimes. Ultimately though, Taupin “thanks the Lord for the people he has found.” I feel the same way. Life in the modern American metropolis can be almost unbearably savage, but it’s the moments of goodness and hope that carry us through.

Also, Sir Elton celebrates his birthday this week, and that’s as good a reason as any to listen to my favorite track by him.

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