“Write a one-page travel guide to your town, -naming all the not-to-be-missed highlights. Use any tone you like: -insider-tipster, snarky outsider, booster given to hyperbole, bewildered -foreigner.”
Jennifer Traig, Part II The Autobiographer's Handbook
Always afraid of missing the train, she breezed passed the shops along the north side of the tracks on Burlington Avenue. She realized she was extremely early, and paused to peer in Mr. Nicks, the local barbershop that has changed names several times, but still has the original barber chairs. There used to be a locally owned video store along here, where she remembered renting movies with her mom back in high school.
She proceeded to the water tower that was nicely lit like an advertisement for suburban living; each town had their name painted on the new globe shaped water towers. This historic-narrow-brick tower was just for show. Too bad the perfectly placed maple tree they planted when they built it is now taller than the tower and obstructs the view from across the street.
She saw the newly opened Starbucks out of the corner of her eye, she was sure it was closed at this hour in this sleepy town. She walked over to Oberweis, the small Illinois chain ice cream shop; it was closed. She strolled passed The Fruit Store, Dye Hard Salon, and stopped in front of The Uptown Shop, that was new since Miller was home in April. Stems and Twigs oddly left their displays out all night long; they would be gone and resold by morning if this was Chicago. Vintage Cottage was another knick-knack store that seemed too impractical even for Western Springs. Casey’s Market appeared to just keep growing; it has expanded to two storefronts. Snacker’s Café has great kid food; Miller was fond of the grilled cheese sandwich. Miller paused in front of a clothing store called Clever Girl; it was a clothing store for suburban moms, no girls involved. Harris Bank has been so many different banks.
Across the street, True Value Hardware has expanded to a double-wide storefront. Her father is a loyal customer and wouldn’t step foot in a Home Depot even though the hardware jacked up its prices. She stopped in front of Kirchbaums, an old-fashioned women-run bakery, glazed in at the four empty cookie shelves behind the cased-in sweets. She loved their yellow-smiley-faced cookies; grown children traveled states to indulge in the childhood pastime of eating too many smiles. Their sauerkraut bread brought Germans from all over the Greater Chicago area. Miller has heard they have the best éclairs in the world, but she has not tested that survey. The clock across the street from the bakery always displays the correct time. Miller wondered how much the city paid someone to keep it working properly.
Western Springs was a nice place to come from. The manicured lawns would not lure her back as it has for so many burned-out city dwellers. She found conventional kitsch and over manicured landscaping suffocating. She had reached the end of the block at what used to be Tischler’s, a local grocer; she was not sure what the name was now, but she recalled it had a really slow automatic door.