Obama staffers: A guide to what has changed in Chicago over the last 27 months

April 5, 2011

It was announced on Monday that the Obama re-election campaign has begun. And the President's campaign will be anchored in Chicago. The offices are located in the Prudential Building, and several of the staffers have moved back from Washington DC, returning for the first time since the office closed on January 19, 2009.

That was almost 27 months ago. That's a world of difference from the Chicago we live in now. It's almost like a landing on a different planet - or waking up in a modern day Rip Van Winkle tale.  I can only imaginehow disorienting it must be for Obama staffers this week, trying to find Bar Louie or Carson Pirie Scott.

But have no fear, I've culled bits and pieces of information from WBEZ staffers to help you with the transition.  Here's a guide to what's happened since you left town:

DOWNTOWN

Newsflash: it's not called the Sears Tower anymore. Yes, that's right. You're supposed to call it the Willis Tower now. Block 37 is no longer an ice-rink; instead it's a half-occupied mall, which nobody goes to.

Also, Oprah announced she is leaving Chicago. Rosie O'Donnell is coming in to do a new talk show at Harpo. Yeah, I know.  But that's not the big news in the West Loop. Supposedly they're building a huge Fitness Formula. I've heard it's a game-changer.

As you stroll north along Michigan Avenue, look to the east. Yes, that's a Best Buy at the John Hancock Center. That's new. Target is moving into Carson's space on Madison and Borders is out of business.  But that pales in comparison to the biggest retailing news: a Margaritaville is moving in at Navy Pier.  Oh - and they also moved Dick's Last Resort from North Pier to Marina Towers.

Wacker Drive is totally messed up.

Oh, they closed CND. It was the best dive bar in the city. It was also a gyros place. Gyros up front, bar in the back. They also gave you hard boiled eggs as free appetizers. Beat that deal.

Finally, Millennium Park was built on that old railyard. Oh wait, you were here for that. Nothing has changed at Millennium Park.

NEIGHBORHOODS

Logan Square is in. South Loop is out. Uptown is still the same, but along the way, they opened a new El Pollo Loco in the old Burger King space at Sheridan and Wilson. I think it's gone already. In other news, Qdoba Grill seems to be expanding. Cold Stone Creamery is out. 

WBEZ's Al Keefe moved a few times. He's now in Ravenswood (via Rogers Park, via Lincoln Square)

NEWS

We didn't get the Olympics. The Trib is still bankrupt. O'Hare hasn't been expanded. Parking meters are expensive. Oh wait, get this - remember Ron Huberman? He moved from CTA to CPS, then just quit. You probably knew that though.  After all, your buddy Rahm is our mayor-elect.

LIFESTYLE

Watch out for rogue flash mobs. I guess they are all over Michigan Avenue. It's really just teens creating diversions so they can steal a lamp from Pottery Barn. Also, it's okay to wear black socks with your shorts. And I've heard homeade cut-off jeans are coming back this summer.

In quick celebrity news: Roger Ebert doesn’t talk anymore, but is still a badass.

POLITICS

Judy Baar Topinka is back as state Comptroller. Unfortunately, nobody really cares about the comptroller.

FOOD

Stephanie Izard won Top Chef and then opened Girl & The Goat on Randolph. Grant Achatz is opening a new restaurant following the success of Alinea. Berghoff has a whole new waitstaff.

SPORTS

We are all Blackhawks' fans now. Until they don't make the playoffs, in which we will go back to not remembering we have a hockey franchise.

Lou Piniella quit in the middle of last season. Also, the Cubs don't have Derrick Lee, Ted Lilly, Mark DeRosa, Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, Milton Bradley and Carlos Silva anymore. The Sox lost Jermaine Dye, who isn't even playing in the league anymore. 

Bears QB Jay Cutler is dating Kristen Cavallari.

Hopefully that will get you back up to speed so you can jump right in and pick up where you left off. You're welcome, Obama campaign staffer.