Very Tiny Voyage: Mayfair, Chicago

Every month or so, I head up to my grandfather’s house in the northern suburbs of Chicago on the Metra, the suburban commuter train. I catch the train at Mayfair, which is the next neighborhood west of mine, the station a little less than two miles from my house. Every other time I’ve gone there, I’ve taken the bus. But this weekend, I woke up a little early and thought, a walk might be nice.

A walk down the major roads would not have been nice. There are few streets less scenic than Montrose Avenue west of Central Park. So I took the side streets. I got a little messed up around Elston, a diagonal street that messes up Chicago’s neat, orderly, never-get-lost grid system in such a way that two north-south streets can intersect, like so:

This is also the area of Chicago where the streets go in alphabetical order. Really.

Despite the fact that Mayfair is my neighborhood’s neighbor, I’ve never spent much time there. It’s not home to any particular destinations, and I don’t know anyone who lives there. But I’m glad I had the chance to wander through. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have discovered a place to take your car when it has a nervous breakdown.

I wouldn’t have seen with my very own eyes the famed House of Caldwell, founded more than twenty years ago.

And I wouldn’t have gone past the Buddhist temple, which was celebrating the Buddha’s birthday.

No one gave me strings of lanterns on my last birthday. Of course, I never founded a major religion, either.

The best part of the walk wasn’t any individual sight, though. It was just the fact of the walk. The idea that I could wake up in the morning and decide to take a different route, see a different neighborhood, and be a little bit of a tourist right outside my own door. It was a free and unexpected trip, the epitome of a very tiny voyage.


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