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Houston Got a Big Metal Bean and Now Chicago Is Furious

"It's a leftover bean, a second-rate bean that's been lying around in storage for the better part of 20 years because nobody else wanted it."

Drew Schwartz

Drew Schwartz

Photo of Houston's bean via Lisa Gray / Twitter; photo of Chicago's bean by Raymond Boyd/Getty Images.

Earlier this week, Houston unveiled a 21,000-pound, stainless-steel Goliath of a sculpture outside its Museum of Fine Arts called the "Cloud Column," made by Anish Kapoor—the same artist who brought Chicago "Cloud Gate," better known as the Bean.

But seeing as there's been some tension simmering between the two cities for a while—Houston's on track to outstrip Chicago as America's third-largest metropolis, which is a sore spot—things are really heating up now that they both have big-ass metal beans.

On Tuesday, Chicago Tribune columnist Kim Janssen fired the first shot in the battle of the beans with a scalding hit piece: "Unoriginal 4th place Houston gets its own bean sculpture... whatever." After a kind of lackluster diss about Houston's bean being "uptight" (because it's upright) and Chicago's being "chill" (it's horizontal), Janssen took out the claws.

"If being surrounded by a cultureless abyss insufficiently communicates to confused tourists that they are in Houston, the bean’s verticality will therefore act as an additional reminder of their poor life choices," he wrote.

The Houston Chronicle's Lisa Gray wasn't going to just lie down and take that, so she shot Janssen an angry email—kicking off a vicious back-and-forth that wound up getting printed in full.

"Is Chicago feeling defensive? How bad is it there, knowing that Houston is set to pass you in population, taking your spot as third-largest city in the US? Are you feeling—well, to steal someone's joke from Twitter—like a 'has-bean?'" Gray wrote.

"It's a leftover bean, a second-rate bean that's been lying around in storage for the better part of 20 years, because nobody else wanted it," Janssen shot back. "Nobody except Houston wants a leftover, second-rate bean."

Both cities' denizens piled onto the scrum on Twitter, to various degrees of nastiness. Houstonians called Janssen a "massive douche" and slandered Chicago as a "trash city," while a few Chicagoans told Gray her city's sculpture looked like a vibrator, or maybe a suppository.

Like all of America's greatest rival cities—Boston and Philly, New York and Los Angeles, Portland and Austin—it looks like Houston and Chicago are now fated to hate each other forever for some totally juvenile reason: who has a better bean-shaped piece of public art.

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