Last spring, Downtown Oak Park (aka DTOP) put out a glossy color brochure with a promotional map urging people to “shop,” “dine,” and “indulge” in the business district near Harlem and Lake. Inside, it features one of those compressed perspective maps, showing a cartoon version of DTOP with the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan not very far removed in the background – as if we were just a hop, skip and an el ride away. Well, I guess we are.
For some reason, the map includes a smiling guy in an “Oak Park” helicopter hovering over the Whiteco building (they even listed Trader Joe’s among the amenities, eight months before it opened – talk about optimism).
I’ve never seen an official OP helicopter, so maybe this is a prediction of future parking enforcement procedure, where officers will one day swoop down and ticket aggravated shoppers whenever sensors detect an expired meter – or instantaneously carbon-date an automobile to determine if it’s been parked more than two hours on a side street.
What caught my eye was a word they coined on the front of the brochure: “OakParkicity” (actually Oak-Park-i-ci-ty). Not “Oak Park city,” which was my first inclination (we are, after all, a village). But no, they coined a term to describe Oak Park’s je ne sais quoi. According to the three descriptive nouns listed underneath (accompanying photos from our downtown business district), “OakParkicity” derives from our unique combination of “eccentricity,” “multiplicity,” and “simplicity.” In the brochure’s second incarnation, which came out last fall, they kept “multiplicity” but added “felicity” and “historicity.”
Interesting. But why limit our local lexicon to OakParkicity? Why not also OakParkitude (Oak Park with attitude) or OakParkishness, OakParkness, OakParkition, OakParkenon (the Oak Park phenomenon – or maybe Oak Park Parthenon), OakParkology (we deserve to be studied), OakParkatory (hothouse flower that we are), OakParkily (we roll along …), OakParkette, OakParkality, OakParkament (Oak Park temperament), OakParkerific, OakParkitive, OakParkspicacity (our vaunted perspicacity), OakParkorial, OakParkitorial (our endlessly editorializing) OakParque (Opaque Oak Park), OakParkination (the Oak Park imagination) or OakParkalicious (we do have a lot of restaurants)?
What exactly is OakParkicity? How do we define our OakParkness or OakParkishness? We need an OakParkologist to study the OakParkitude. Feisty, opinionated, progressive, dissatisfied, frustrated, over-educated, laid-back, tolerant? Communitarian with individualistic tendencies? Individualistic with communitarian tendencies? It’s hard to nail down the Oak Park temperament with all this diversity.
Local activist Barbara Mullarkey likes to say, “That’s so Oaky Parky.” Which is way too cute for me, but maybe I’m just being too OakParkspicacious.
Some residents live here merely to sleep when they’re not working elsewhere. They’re just passing through on their way to some thinly imagined future. Others are so dug in and involved they’re OakParkcentric. We don’t all live in the same village. Well, we do, but we all have a different vision of the village we currently share. Call it divergent OakParkspectives.
E Pluribus Oak Park. Out of many, Oak Park. Diversity, seeking unity. You say OakParkicity, I say OakParkissitude. Are you a DTOPer (Downtown Oak Parker) or a DOOPer (Dear Old Oak Parker)?
OakParkicity will do for starters, I guess. I’m glad the original DTOP brochure listed “eccentricity” first (OakParkcentricity). Everyone lauds our “multiplicity” (OakParkversity), but the only time you hear about our eccentricity is when River Foresters roll their eyes about our latest progressivism (OakParkism) or some new silliness catches the attention of the city’s media.
But in a country that, until recently, had completely lost its way, being eccentric is a badge of honor. It’s practically OakParkalicious.