1. A new leader:
Twenty-one days from now we’ll have a president whose voice doesn’t sound like fingernails skidding down a chalkboard; who speaks in complete, even complex sentences; who makes sense and inspires; and who understands and has genuine respect for the constitution that he will take the oath to uphold and defend. Now that’s change we can believe in.

2. Out with the old, in with the new: A lot of intelligent people are going to Washington D.C. to run the government, and a lot of stupid, incompetent and/or unethical people are leaving (except for the slime hanging around as lobbyists). Good riddance. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. The worst administration in U.S. history is almost history.

3. A renewed image: The rest of the world is temporarily on our side and will likely give us the benefit of the doubt at least for the time being. Other countries may begin to see us as the good guys again if the new administration can get us back in touch with our core values.


4. Public programming at our four libraries: Stimulating, easily accessible, and best of all, free. It’s remarkable how many different subjects they touch upon during the course of each month.

5. Plenty of cafes: Eastgate, The Buzz, Nola’s Cup, Lido’s, Cosi, Starbucks, Caribou-not to mention bookstores-Book Table, Centuries & Sleuths (Forest Park), Barbara’s and Borders-to while away the time browsing, reading, people-watching, writing, holding court and/or sipping something warm.

6. Good books and DVDs: Escape while the world sleeps through winter (many available at our public libraries).

7. The Lake Theatre: Seven alternate universes to travel to for a couple of hours on any given afternoon or evening, especially in January and February when the better movies are released. This past year, I entered the Lake Theatre transporter and armchair-traveled to the Taj Mahal (Bucket List), the Black Hills (National Treasure II), Afghanistan and Washington D.C. (Charlie Wilson’s War), Dunkirk (Atonement), New York City (Ghost Town), Madrid (Vantage Point), Oahu (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Deep Space (Wall-E), a Greek island (Mamma Mia!), Chicago (Dark Knight), Barcelona (Vicky Christina Barcelona), Iraq and Jordan (Body of Lies), South Carolina (The Secret Life of Bees), Bolivia (Quantum of Solace), and, of course, the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Indiana Jones).

8. Reasons to get together: New Year’s Eve, the Inauguration, the Super Bowl, the Oscars, Valentine’s Day, March Madness, you know, our national feast days. Fact is, we don’t need holidays to get together. A good dinner will do. Home is looking better and better, but there are plenty of area options for the occasional occasion-Avenue Ale House, Bar Louie, Caffe de Luca, Cucina Paradiso, Depot Diner, Edwardo’s, Erik’s Deli, Flat Top Grill, Fuego Loco, George’s, Giordano’s, Grape Leaves, Hemmingway’s Bistro, Jerusaleum Café, Jimmy’s Place, Kevil’s, King & I, Lalo’s, Luo’s Peking House, Mama Thai, Mancini’s, Maple Tree, Marion Street Grille, Maya del Sol, Mickey’s, Molly Malone’s, New Rebozo, Onion Roll, Panera, Papaspiros, Pasta Shoppe, Penny’s Noodles, Philander’s, Pizza Palazzo, Pompei, Poor Phil’s, Trattoria 225, Trattoria Peppino, Velvet Rope, and Winberie’s are among the places I’ve sampled and enjoyed (maybe I’ve been going out too much).

Then there are myriad book clubs, support groups, discussion groups, prayer groups, movie groups.

Heck, a good fireplace is reason enough to get together.

9. Local elections: Everyone gets juiced up, unwraps their pet peeves, vents their spleens and expounds on the future of our two villages. Then hardly anyone comes out to vote (at least compared to the national election). But it still gets people revved up. This year the real fireworks will be in River Forest where, evidently, they won’t always have Paris (who is retiring). But Paris Lite, John Rigas, has stepped forward as heir apparent. It’s the old guard vs. the new guard (Steve Hoke et al) and in a still very cliquish small town like River Forest, such internecine warfare can get pretty ugly. Not to be outdone, Oak Parkers are ready to take up pitchforks over parking meter increases, Los Cazadores (we love our underdogs-or is it Tasty Dogs?), and unsalted streets. The VMA would really be in trouble if Trader Joe’s hadn’t opened.

10. Trader Joe’s: Just when we were beginning to lose hope that there would ever be a store in downtown Oak Park that got us jazzed, the doors swung wide. An excellent complement and alternative to Whole Foods-whose prices are somewhat, shall we say, River Forestish-the only problem with Trader Joe’s may be that it isn’t big enough. Walk in there pretty much anytime and you’ll wonder why the large national chains are afraid to come here. They must be nuts (or about to go bankrupt).

Onward and upward. Here’s to a fine 2009.

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