Tag Archives: suburbia

A Night Drive in Late August

After everyone else has gone to sleep, when the house is quiet, the dishes are washed and all I can hear is the kitchen clock ticking and the ceiling fan, this is the time for the night drive. Instead of turning out the last light and brushing the teeth for bed, I put on my flip flops and grab the keys.

A night drive must not be taken too early in the evening. It should be no earlier than 10:30 and no later than sunrise. If it goes later than sunrise, it is no longer a night drive, is it? Night drives are best on clear nights. Something about being able to see the stars makes the road seem more free. There’s more space for the night soul to roam.

I pull out of the driveway and hear the garage door creak shut. I roll down the windows and turn off the radio. On night drives, I prefer only the sound of the crickets and the cicadas and the frogs from the forest and the wind rustling through the leaves. Sometimes I like to sing to myself too, but nature sounds more beautiful.

I pass through the nearly empty streets of my quiet suburban town, my old high school, the Wal-Mart I used to frequent, the soccer fields I played on. I leave the city’s center and am now on purely residential roads, the country byways between spacious housing developments. Trees line the road and my car goes up and down over the gentle hills, rolling past Chisolm creek and over the railroad tracks. Outside the sky looks purple and the air is perfect as it comes through the windows. It’s cool and smells like trees and soil.

I roll up to a stop sign and stop there for a good while. There’s no one else around. There’s no rush. I sit in perfect silence and listen to the outside. It’s an entire world. I want to get out and leave the car on the side of the road and lay down and watch the stars circle around overhead and listen to the forest soundtrack forever. I don’t think anything has sounded quite as beautiful as this. It’s a little heartbreaking.

But I stay in the car and drive a little longer, singing an Eagles song, going up and down on the road that moves on the hills and in between the trees on a night drive in late August.

“Take it to the limit, take it to the limit, one more time.” 

 

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What you don’t know about this Chicago suburb will in no way surprise you.

You might be familiar with the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” A lesser known version of that phrase is, “When life throws you a Chicago hurricane that strands you in Evanston, IL for an evening, you might as well stay there the next day and judge / be jealous of everyone.” This is the version that happened to me.

Evanston is a Chicago suburb exclusively populated by people without any problems, beautiful churches made from white stone, homes that look like English cottages, and a creepy amount of trees. With a population of 74,000 (as of 2010), and a leaf count of just over 3 billion, Evanston is the home of Northwestern University (also the city’s largest employer), and the Grosse Point Lighthouse (on the National Register of Historic Places.)

I had the whole day to prowl around and figure out this wild suburb. You will not be surprised by what I found.

Here’s the low down on Evanston and its people:

dog-walking

People walk their dogs.

People leave their stuff outside when they go inside Brothers K Coffee to get something to drink.

They leave their stuff unattended.

They trust strangers. Even me.

They trust strangers.

They play badminton with their kids on the front lawn. (See lower left corner. Disregard my face. It's hard to take pictures behind you with an iPad.)

They play badminton with their kids on the front lawn. (See lower left corner. Disregard my face. It’s hard to take pictures behind you with an iPad while you’re trying to not look like a creep.)

They still use the word ethnic. I didn't know that was allowed.

They still use the word ethnic.

They have breakfast with their high school aged son and some of his engineering friends who are in a summer camp at Northwestern while a woman (me) sitting alone behind them eavesdrops on their entire conversation.

They have breakfast with their high school aged son and some of his engineering friends who are in a summer camp at Northwestern while a woman (me) sitting alone behind them eavesdrops on their entire conversation.

They enjoy a good font, especially this one that is popular with Northwestern University and Ye Olde English Pubs.

They enjoy a good font, especially this one that is popular with Northwestern University and Ye Olde English Pubs.

Even the street rodents are adorable and picturesque.

Even the street rodents are adorable and picturesque. (Those are rabbits.)

They have housing to spare.

They have housing to spare.

Which is shocking considering the world-famous board game night at the wine shoppe just around the corner.

Which is shocking considering the free board game night at the wine shoppe just around the corner.

All in all, Evanston seems like a pretty swell place to be. Especially if you like ethnic festivals, trusting strangers, and rabbit meat.

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