Credit: Jamie Ramsay

Navy Pier is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of the midwest because it’s what people from small towns think cities should be: a mall with rides and chain eateries with large portions.

Navy Pier is the locational equivalent of a panic attack. It’s chaos and distress and bright signs that scream “Hey, maybe there’s a solution here!” But there’s never a solution. There is a Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant.

Confused and unfocused, Navy Pier presents its attractions as if it’s grasping at anything in an attempt to convince you not to break up with it. “But, but baby—we’ve got the stained glass museum and the fun-house maze. Remember the Build-A-Bear Workshop? Baby, please! There’s Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Bar & Grill! Please, baby. We’ve got the WBEZ studios. The Shakespeare Theater. BABY!”

Navy Pier knows locals think they’re too good for it. So as part of its superexpensive Centennial Vision renovation, it’s added a new fountain and Ferris wheel, gussied up the promenade, and padded out the fast food with what its website calls the “Chicago Food Experience,” featuring “authentic” options such as DMK Restaurants’ Fish Bar. It dares you to think you’re better than Fish Bar.

Navy Pier gaslights you. It insists you’re having fun, that there’s something for everyone—and you’re an everyone, right? It traps you in its labyrinth of light, sound, and smells that are either food or people. You’re already here. It insists you stay.

You know the Pixar movie Inside Out? Navy Pier is the Inside Out of America’s collective consciousness. The emotions are noise, capitalism, and being from Indiana.

Have you ever sat in silence next to a family that doesn’t love each other? Then you’ve never ridden Navy Pier’s Ferris wheel.

Navy Pier is a Carnival Cruise ship that never makes it to better weather.

These types of people love Navy Pier: IMAX nerds, men named Rick, and children who literally don’t know better.

The most fun I’ve ever had at Navy Pier was at the Art Expo when I was in high school. One of my classmates saw Oprah and said, “That was Oprah!” I looked up and didn’t see Oprah, but my friend had seen her and that was cool to me. Then an adult male artist tried to get us to come back to his hotel so he could show us more of his work and also have sex with us.

If you dropped an alien in the middle of Navy Pier and asked it what kind of porn Americans like, the alien would say, “Stepdaughter porn, for sure. Also, did you know Dippin’ Dots are still a thing?”   v