Where I live is about as suburban as suburbs get.
I guess I've come to have a love-hate relationship with the 'burbs over the years. Love, because there's usually something to do. Hate, because it can start to feel claustrophobic at times.
I can't complain too much, though. A thirty-minute train ride and, boom, I'm right in the heart of downtown Chicago. Or, on the rare occasion I don't mind putting up with hoards of so-called "Cubs fans", a short forty-five minutes on the bus and I'm in Wrigleyville.
Still, most of my time is spent right here in suburbia.
I happen to reside right across the street from a big mall, which, like the suburbs that surround it, is good and bad. More than anything else, the city I live in gets identified with the mall more than anything else.
When I tell people where I live, I almost always get the Oh, you mean right next to that mall? response. It's very Fast Times at Ridgemont High-ish, but not all that funny. (And I certainly don't know any Spicolis.)
Granted, there's a Target right in the heart of the mall, so I'm lucky in that I can scratch a cardboard itch anytime I feel the need.
Another big thing I've learned about the suburbs is that there's never a shortage of places to eat.
That is, if you don't mind fast food.
The mall, as you might imagine, has about as diverse of a food court as you'll ever find. There's a gyros place, a Mexican place, a pizza place, a Subway, and even a frozen yogurt place.
And, of course, a McDonald's.
McDonald's is good. Nothing more, nothing less. I don't find myself having a craving for it all that often, but it's a safe place to eat if I'm passing by and/or don't have a lot of money.
A couple McChickens off the dollar menu and I'm set.
Right next to the huge mall is a lonely little Burger King.
The bus I take to come home from school lets me off right across the street from it. I'm almost always greeted by that greasy smell of frying burgers. I can usually still smell it from my apartment on the second floor.
If I'm really hungry, it can admittedly be like a tractor beam, sucking me in to the world of Whoppers and chicken sandwiches. Thankfully, I've learned to block out the smell most of the time.
If Burger King still issued cards, though, there'd be no stopping me.
You'll find a Denny's about a block down from that Burger King.
I can't say particularly like much about Denny's. The food has never really been to my taste.
The only reason I ever go is because it's pretty much the only thing open when my friends and I need a bite at one in the morning. Remind me never to get Denny's eggs and sausage in the wee hours of dawn ever again.
I'm sure the food is more fresh during, you know, actual breakfast hours, but it's hard for me to eat anything before noon.
That doesn't exactly bode well for Denny's.
There's a mini-mall right across the way from that Denny's.
In that mini-mall is a Domino's. I'm hopelessly out of touch with that place. It's been forever since I've stepped foot in there. I didn't even know they ever made cards until earlier this year.
The reason is quite simple.
I don't like Domino's. I could take a bite out of this Mickey Lolich card and it would taste about the same as their pizza to me.
Luckily, there's a million other places I can go to get a good pie around here.
One of the benefits of living around Chicago.
Though you won't find their logo on them, Long John Silver's produced a set of baseball cards in 1990.
They're among the most common oddballs I've ever encountered. They're bound to pop up in almost any dime box. Strange, because I never knew so many people ate at Long John Silver's.
I think there's one a little east of where I live. Or is it west? I don't know. I don't like seafood. At all.
While the cards are okay, I've never had a reason to step foot in a Long John Silver's.
Then again, not everything has to be a big meal.
You're bound to find a 7-11 on almost any street around where I live. A quick and usually essential stop if I need a quick Diet Coke or bag of chips. (Cheddar and Sour Cream, of course.)
This may seem like blasphemy, but I've never been a big Slurpee guy. They're a bit too sugary for me.
But I'll be darned if they didn't come with some sweet 3-D coins back in the '80s.
If my friends and I are feeling particularly adventurous, we'll take a ride down to the new Sonic a mile or two down the road.
They just built it a couple years ago. Before then, I'd been living in a Sonic-less world.
I quickly found that the burgers weren't anything special, sadly. I stick with the popcorn chicken whenever I happen to hit a Sonic these days.
I do rather like the 1950's atmosphere on the place. You order from a little drive-in window, park, and wait for the waitresses to come and deliver your food.
It makes me feel like I'm in American Graffiti or something.
I should note that there's also a Wendy's, Taco Bell, and Jimmy John's on my block, but I don't have cards for any of those eateries.
Okay, so maybe the fast food is one of the defining characteristics of my little suburban town. I don't know if that's a good thing. The worst part is that none of them issue cards anymore.
Still, I guess I can't complain too much. Just as long as I make sure to get out into the city every once in a while, being around the suburbs isn't so bad.
It's a relatively quiet, low-stress life, which suits me just fine.