Jan Stafford Kellis

Country Mice in the City

Country Mice in the City

Tomorrow I embark on a journey to the city. Chicago! Named for a wild onion, it’s the city of big shoulders and wind and it’s my favorite major US city (I’ve been to NYC, LA, St Louis and Orlando, so those are the comps). My sister, daughter and I will stay just outside the city itself and take the train in every day as if we’re commuting. We’ll stroll the Mag Mile and State Street, take in a show at the Briar Street Theatre and eat lunch at Ed Debevic’s. It’s October so we will enjoy a color tour all the way there and back and we can leave our outer layers at home.

We’ll stop at a Borders Books. This alone is worth the 8-hour drive, each way, so we can sit on the second floor drinking coffee in the window and watching people scurry by on the pavement below. We’ll shop at Macy’s. Macy’s! And the fabulous Columbus Day Sale! Oh, to live in a place with stores. I’m also bringing three of my books to leave in various strategic locations for someone to pick up and read.

This, the eve of a trip to the city, makes me wonder what it would be like to live in an urban place. It seems glamorous from here, tucked into the woods where the only culture is the free karaoke performance at the bar. I’m sure I’d take in a play at least once a month and rarely eat dinner at the same place, cook less often than I do now (it’s become my  least favorite chore) and buy fresh flowers from the corner stand regularly. I’d probably dress better–a Life Is Good T-shirt would not be considered dressy casual in a city–and I’d know all of the train schedules, which taxis are the fastest, and the shortest routes on the safest streets. I would be just one more anonymous soul trying to get through the day with no one asking me how I like my new job or if I’ve seen the new hairstyle of the girl at the gas station.

I’d miss the trees. And my routine: a five-minute, five-mile commute to work on a two-lane road canopied by maple trees much of the way, mine frequently the only vehicle on the entire route. I run out the door most mornings, my boots untied and coat half-on, turn up the radio to hear 5% of the news events occurring in the world, none of which impact our lives here, and which  my commute was longer so I could hear the rest of the story. I always see Mrs. Goetz in her window, watching me turn toward work, so she can later report to me what time I arrived every day last week. She’s pretty accurate–if any local employers are considering time clocks, they should just hire her. She’d also be a reliable alibi corroborator if one had driven by her house at the time of the murder. She’d remember, down to the minute, what time she spied the vehicle and which direction it was headed.

But I digress. We are traveling to the city, it will be fabulous, then we will travel home and it will be even more fabulous for the brief interlude of urban sophistication.