Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Not Chicago

We all have them: inane missions. They can range from everything from making sure you chew your food so many times before you swallow to watching every movie from the AFI top 100 list. And, as hard to imagine as it may be, I have some of my own.

It was my inane mission to get that picture of Jeff Koonz’ Balloon Dog. In a grander view of such missions, one could argue that spending the summer in Chicago was a mission that I accomplished. Most of my ridiculous goals, however, are completely arbitrary. One of which is to travel to as many states as I can. And wouldn’t you know it; I share this mission with Paul.

Paul and I have discussed some of the problems that may arise when trying to complete this mission. Does passing through a state count as going there? Questions like this kept arising, so we created a set of criteria that must be met in order to constitute going to a certain state:
1.) You must set foot on the ground. This does not include airport or train terminals. In fact, we consider all places of transit to be neutral and do not count as part of the state. Otherwise Paul would have gone to Michigan, when in fact he was only there to get a connecting flight to New York.
2.) You have to eat a meal in the state. Preferably, something that is unique to the area in which you are visiting.

Once these two criteria are met, you can officially say you have been to that state.
City’s are a little different. We have decided that you either have to set foot on the ground or take a picture. I argue that you should at least do both, but Paul made the case that if you are in a hurry, sometimes all you have time for is snapping a picture.

So, with the material at my disposal, I set out to complete this mission. Chicago’s regional train line, the Metra, stretches to many nearby communities. Much to my luck, the end of the Union Pacific North Line is Kenosha, Wisconsin. Sunday afternoon I took the bus to the Ogilvie Metra Station, bought a weekend pass, walked to gate 14, climbed aboard a lovely, double-decker commuter car, and traveled from Chicago to Wisconsin.

Upon my arrival, I walked a good distance from the platform, officially setting foot on Wisconsin soil. I then walked through this lovely, quiet city towards Lake Michigan. Kenosha is a harbor town, filled with nautical themed attractions and quaint lighthouses. It seemed like a very nice place, and I couldn’t have gone on a day with better weather. I only had about two hours to meander around the city, so I walked to the edge of the pier and took pictures of the beach and the lighthouses. I then walked to Marina Gardens, where I had the fried Lake Perch with a salad on the side. With the clock ticking, I made my way back to the train station, climbed aboard the Chicago bound train and looked through my pictures. By all definitions, ladies and gentlemen, I have gone to Wisconsin.

With that little mission accomplished, I took notice of my surroundings. The Metra train zipped through many small towns on its way back to Chicago, and one stood out to me, but at the time I couldn’t place it. I was, however, very impressed with the efficiency of the Metra and the speed in which it moved folks from one place to another. Still, though, there was something about one town in particular that stood out to me. I knew I had heard its name before, but where?

By the time Monday afternoon came around, I still had the travel bug in me. I found myself back at the Ogilvie train station, jumping right back on the Union Pacific North Line to that one town, Winnetka. With the hundreds of towns and neighborhoods surrounding Chicago, what was it that drew me to this one neighborhood. What fantastic site was in this neighborhood that I had to see?

Oh, nothing, just the home of Kevin McAlister! That’s right, somewhere in this sleepy (and clearly affluent) suburb was the house that Home Alone was filmed in! I did what any child of the nineties would have done, and I took a picture of this famed location, the said home in Home Alone. That pretty much made my day. I snapped a few pictures, and then got right back on the train to Chicago. Did I tell you that seeing filming locations is also one of my inane goals?

Mission accomplished.

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