The Poem and the Hotel

A picture of a window washer taken through the window. In the background you can see a city landscape.

Dear Loews Luxury Hotels & Resorts,

When you decided to move in, we were nervous. This is Chicago, an unsophisticated Midwestern city, and you’ve built your leisure palaces for the super-rich all over North America. We’ve been hurt by people like that before. (Don’t get us started about that giant “TRUMP” emblazoned 200 feet above the Chicago river.)

But early on, we thought things with you might be different. You said you would reflect your surroundings and be “local in the very best sense of the word.” You even picked a poem about us, “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg, and you vowed to make it your inspiration.

But look, Loews, we have to talk. It’s about the poem.

In it Sandburg describes us as the “Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler.” Now, we saw that you engraved those words in your elevators in a flowing golden script. But we have to ask: did you read them? They are about everyday people. And they are especially about the people who are hard pressed and do what they can to survive. Sandburg praises them for being “coarse and strong and cunning.”

But when we come into the lobby, there’s nothing gritty, nothing about people who are “Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping,” or “cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness.” Instead there is a high moulded ceiling and sleek modernist couches with elegant light fixtures. Were we just looking in the wrong place? Were we supposed to look instead in one of the 400 hotel rooms and suites? Or maybe in one of the assorted ballrooms or bars?

But we want to give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe some of this was just a misunderstanding. Maybe when you read about the “marks of wanton hunger” on “the faces of women and children” that’s what inspired you to open the Argentinian steakhouse run by “Iron Chef” Jose Garces.

And then there is Sandburg’s personification of Chicago as having “dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth”—Maybe that is what gave rise to the hydropeptide hydrating butter melts and microdermabrasion lip peels at your on-site spa. But what about the 75-foot pool for lap swimming? The exclusive yoga deck? The ballroom light fixtures arranged in a snowflake motif?

The point we’re trying to make, Loews, is that this isn’t working. You’re not right for us. We need to see other people. It’s clear that this is going to be awkward—we will still be bumping into one another quite a bit. But you need somebody more like you, someone who values your 9,000-square-foot rooftop lounge with two bars “perfect for weekend sun-worshipping” and “hosting a game of pétanque.”

And, really, don’t worry about us average folk who can’t afford one of your 398 rental apartments to use as a stylish pied-à-terre in the city, even if they do have luxurious Garnier Thiebault bed linens and panoramic lake views. We’ll keep “Shoveling, Wrecking, Planning, Building, breaking, rebuilding.” And we’ll be happy being true to our smelly, rattling public trains and to our mouldering old diners and pizza places—and, of course, to the literature that gets us.


Image courtesy of Nicole Yeary on