Whenever Iwanski and I go visit a different neighborhood, I decide I want to live there. It never fails—we could be in West Hollywood or in Branson, Missouri, and I inevitably want to make it my home.
Anyway, when Iwanski and I woke up this morning, we were pondering visiting a forest preserve in the city or suburbs for a lovely nature walk. Then we thought, with yesterday’s gargantuan amount of rainfall, perhaps a walk in a muddy forest might not be the best idea.
So…what to do? What to do? Our stomachs piped up “Feed us!” and hunger became the determining factor in our day’s plans. “We could go eat at Mickey’s in Oak Park,” Iwanski suggested, half-kidding. Mickey’s is a burger/hot dog fast food kind of place, and he knows that Miss Healthypants isn’t prone to going to a place that doesn’t advertise salad as one of their main menu items. But little did he know, Miss Healthypants was in the mood for some greasy food today.
So we hopped on a green line el train and rode 20 minutes west to the lovely tree-lined suburb of Oak Park. On the way, I ate a snacky-poo (a packet of nuts and dried fruit), so by the time we got there, I wasn’t quite as hungry. And Iwanski is pretty much a food camel, so we decided to wait a bit before eating and instead take a walk around Oak Park. And what the hell, since we were already there, we thought we might as well walk to the forest preserves in the area. So we headed down Lake Street to the preserves (kind-of sounds like a bottle of jam, doesn’t it? ).
Anyway, I absolutely fell in love with Oak Park.
There are two big reasons why I really like Oak Park (besides the fact that it is a quick 20-minute el train ride from downtown): 1) It is a walking suburb. Unlike some suburbs, there are sidewalks and little shops along the streets of Oak Park, which encourage pedestrian traffic. You don’t have to drive everywhere in Oak Park; and 2) There are a million parks in Oak Park. Okay, a million might be exaggerating it just a little, but in our three-hour walk, we passed by or walked through at least six parks. That was pretty refreshing to a city girl like me. In my neighborhood, we have some parks, but in general, there is not too much green to be found, unless you venture closer to the lakefront.
To me, Oak Park felt like the city and nature, all rolled into one. Score!
And surprisingly, the forest preserves in the area (which are actually in the neighboring suburb of River Forest) were not muddy all over—just in certain spots. Iwanski and I headed down a service road to higher, dryer land within the woods, and walked down a picturesque trail. The birds were singing and the sun was shining…ah, what a perfect day! Then we came upon a steep, slightly muddy hill and ventured up it. Unfortunately, after a few minutes it became quite apparent that we would have to venture back down it again. Going downhill on a slippery, muddy path was not exactly my idea of a good time. I crawled down ever-so-slowly, and Iwanski snapped this unflattering picture of me. (Hey, you try looking attractive when you’re sweating in the hot sun, trying to balance going down a steep, muddy hill and carrying a Whole Foods Bag full of bottled water and snacks and not fall on your ass in the mud!)
Anyway, I made it down without a trace of mud on my clothes—yay! But by now, my stomach had had just about enough of this crap, and I was ready to eat. So we ventured out of the pre-serves and headed back down the streets of River Forest and Oak Park to Mickey’s. I ended up getting a gyro salad—a green salad with greasy gyro meat on it. I know, kind-of defeats the purpose of the salad, but what the hell, it’s Saturday—I had to be a little bad! And it was totally freakin’ yummy.
As we walked back to the train, I saw even more of Miss Healthypants’ favorite things: a Trader Joe’s grocery store, a TGI Friday’s, and then—wonder of wonders, a froo-froo oil and vinegar store! Whoo-hoo! If I lived here, I could still get my fancy-ass oil and vinegar.
And just before we got on the train, Iwanski and I took a seat on the grass in a beautiful little park, alongside other couples, Moms with their kids, and people with their dogs, all listening to a groovy drummer and keyboard player kicking out some funky tunes. It was the perfect end to a beautiful visit to Oak Park.
Honestly, I had never seriously considered living in Oak Park before, but who knows? Maybe someday, I could be—horror of horrors!—a suburbanite.