We headed back to Chicago to visit Jon’s family for the Jewish holidays. Jon’s family lives in the great suburbs as featured in John Hughes’ movies, and sure, the suburbs of America are not necessarily as exciting as the cities, but, as I will be reporting, it doesn’t matter.
In fact, as a traveler, I suddenly developed a new appreciation for the suburbs. Here in Highland Park, Ill., the most recent buzz about town is that the house in the popular 80’s John Hughes movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off , in
which Ferris’ friend Cameron lives, is up for sale (for a mere $2.3 mil) and may be torn down if nobody is buying. I said you could only buy it if you had the right cars to put in that famous garage; after all, nobody wants to see my Honda Civic, dents and all (none of which are my fault except for the fact that I park my car on the streets of DC), parked in that garage.
John Hughes managed to capture the American suburban complex so excellently in his movies. Nowhere else in the world do we have such an existence: spacious houses and lawns, driveways, kids riding bikes on the streets, even houses for our cars (aka garages)! We’re not in the countryside, but we’re not in the city. It’s really quite a beautiful collective to see, if city people ever made their way up there to check it out. People like to hate the suburbs, and I, too, will gag at the brand-new shopping complexes filled with massed-produced chains and the matching cars and the need to fancy the Joneses. I admit, I had a regurgitative reaction to the suburbs while shopping at Trader Joe’s in Westchester County. I saw several young couples like me, once upon a time were regular Manhattan socialites, now wearing stained tank tops and putting on some weight and gray hairs and shopping at the strip mall and just thought – oh god, the suburbs is where married couples come to get old and wrinkled. (Which is usually the case, but it doesn’t have to be that bad).
But you don’t have to live there. However, you can enjoy a wonderful weekend there. And take your camera to capture what’s really going on, even if it’s just your in-laws’ house and their dogs. Which I did, without feeling the need to rush into “the city” to feel like I saw something this weekend in the greater Chicago area. Here I was, jogging along Highland Park, on the bike trail following the Metra train tracks and then into the Chicago Botanic Garden where a path loops around lakes and streams and trees and greenery and flowers. It reminded me of the rustic wooded path in Westchester, along the Bronx River, where I used to take my bike and where two high school friends got arrested for canoeing down (it’s really more like a stream than a river). It also reminded me of the Capital Crescent trail in Washington, D.C. which spans into Maryland. In a city, it’s a luxury to have space for your bike without having it stolen, and to be able to take that bike out on the paths into the suburbs.
And I really do enjoy all the foliage, the cherry blossoms and magnolias in springtime, and looking at people’s cute gardens out front on their lawns. At Christmas, it’s really fun to see all the houses lit up and decorated with random snowmen sitting out front. This is American life, our suburbs. You don’t have to travel far (unless you’re British and reading my blog) to have a vacation like this in “this economy.”
So I encourage all of you: dust off your bikes or put on your sneakers (tennis shoes, gym shoes, kicks, or whatever it is you call the in your part of the country) grab a camera and take an active weekend vacation to check our your nearby suburbs. Take a leafy drive and gaze at the big houses, or bike up a bike path (found on google), or hop on the commuter train to your destination. In the end, you can still sleep in your own bed. Happy travels!