Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, July 7

Gapers Block

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Almost every time, the Milwaukee Metra train coming into or leaving the Edgebrook Station traps me. The three-to-five minutes I spend in this North Chicago mini-suburb is cherished time. Edgebrook, blending between Forest Glen, Park Ridge, and Lincolnwood, is merely a moment you probably don't notice while hurtling down Devon. But since I get stuck during the rush hours, I've starting looking closely.

The general appearance of the intersection is not entirely attractive. Devon intersects Caldwell and then quickly crosses Lehigh. The three wide roads, plus Metra tracks, give the scene a Pick-Up Stix look. Once debarking from the Metra, commuters seem to scurry across the whole intersection, like a handful of fallen marbles. They weave around the gridlock, finally free for the day.

Fig 1. Archie's doesn't just sell baseball cards but entire estates!

At the north and southwest corners, a forest preserve marks a sharp divide between nature and city, green and brown. The North Branch Trail bike path snakes out of sight, but for a few hundred yards, I delight in watching people with plastic bags walk their dogs, sweat-sheened joggers destroy their knees, and plastic-capped bicyclists zooming past. Since the onset of Chicago "spring," people have changed their down for fleece and a few brave souls have dug out last summer's shorts. Although I always look, I never see any bodies decomposing in the brush. Perhaps I've watched too many crime shows; I always expect to see something.

You can't look anywhere without seeing an ad, and since this intersection is along a commuter route, there are several large billboards. Movie ads seem to rotate on one billboard; this week, it's pimping X2. For several months, a huge billboard featuring Eric and Kathy has loomed down over the intersection. I try very, very hard not to make comparisons between the two goofy DJs and the great symbolic eyes from The Great Gatsby. Instead, I wonder why the advertising agency picked these two particular photos of the "wacky" morning team. Kathy looks like a dowdy, ashen housefrau who could use some color on her cheeks and an expression on her face. In contrast, Eric appears overly puckish and his head is decidedly larger than Kathy's. A clunky Swedish Covenant Hospital billboard sits kitty-corner. The left half of the ad features blue copy against a bright yellow field. A black-and-white photo of a woman's upturned face occupies the right half. It looks like an album cover for a young Joni Mitchell.

I like to call the northeastern corner "Enthusiast's Haven" because it's populated by several businesses serving particular communities and needs. I'm glad that people can support families and retirement funds by selling niche goods. The sight is incredibly quaint, and at the end of a long day, I'm tempted to park the car and check these places out, but all the businesses are closed by five. My imagination probably does them justice.

Your North Chicago model train enthusiast probably already knows about Grayland Station, but I recently noticed this discreet hobby shop. Their awning is forest green with green letters set in Copperplate, a favorite font. They also sell airplane memorabilia. Grayland Station�s window display is minimal and dusty; I can only imagine the treasures inside. The story I've made up is that a retired United pilot named Buzz owns it. He's trim and swims exactly fifty laps each day at the YMCA.

Just next door, the Habana House of Fine Cigars greets weary commuters with the foully sweet stench of high-end stogies. Many Internet resources call this shop excellent, but regardless of the caliber of their trade, what catches my eye here is the inflatable cigar store Indian guarding the entrance. How sad, how innovative. I can't go in this store, no matter how much I'd like to, because I know I'd feel obligated to purchase something, and what would I do with a cigar? I imagine that a stout woman named Mary, whom Buzz winks at when he buys one fine cigar each Friday afternoon, staffs it.

Fig 2. Makes you wonder doesn't it?.

Sandwiched between Grayland and the Habana House is Archie's. I just don't know what to make of this place and I�m going to have to go in someday. It's a hobby/dealer/pawn shop. "Pawn," "coins" and "hobby" done in purple neon light up the window. I wonder how many shops provide the opportunity to buy a model airplane kit while rubbing shoulders with a meth addict pawning his grandmother's television and a hungry-eyed numismatist in search of a rare penny.

When the Metra speeds off and the lights change, I struggle into first and pick up speed down Caldwell as it turns into Peterson. I know I'll be back later, so I don't even bother to look in the rear view mirror.


About the Author(s)

Shylo Bisnett sometimes uses her hands instead of yours.

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