It’s been hard to watch the car-wreck of this year’s politics. Until recently I called it the OMSANDA (Old Men with Stents and Non-Disclosure Agreements). Actually, OMSANDA has the ring of a terrorist cartel, doesn’t it? It’s still old men: one with stents who can’t stop scaring people with the word “socialism,” one with folksy rambling rhetoric, and a president who’s hopelessly narcissistic and stubborn.

In the meantime, we need to take some time to enjoy the good stuff here in Oak Park. Well, actually Downtown Oak Park, because I don’t have a car and that’s the area I know best.

I think the Lake Theatre leads the pack in getting people onto our main drag. Owners Willis and Shirley Johnson have opened umpteen theaters in northern Illinois, but our local branch of Classic Cinemas is one of the first and the best. I can’t believe I still only pay $6 as a senior citizen. While I dread the coming summer and the space-and-cartoon movies, we’re lucky to have the Film Club once a month with art movies. Even after The Lake had their regular showing of Parasite, they brought it back for a second run! And the popcorn is excellent.

The Nineteenth Century Club has really upped its game in the last few years. The remodeling is beautiful, and they keep making improvements. In addition to its regular cultural and entertainment programs, the 19th provides a home for other groups. Two of my faves are the Free Readers Ensemble and the Sounds Good Chorus for seniors. The Nineteenth Century Club is a great building and a true hub of cultural activity.

About local restaurants: La Bella on South Boulevard has opened a lounge around the corner on Marion. I love it. It has a small, pretty bar and a few individual seating areas with sofas and easy chairs rather than tables. It’s quite dark so you can feel a shade “louche.” I took my adult kids there for a drink early on New Year’s Eve and it was perfect.

Congrats to the Cajun Boil and Bar, also on South Boulevard, for posting a sign that says there is loud music inside, which is great for those of us who are Aging Disgracefully. They let you know what to expect — and avoid — and good for them. I must remember to get some carry-out just to support them.

Sugar Fixe is delicious, but pricey; Lea, the French restaurant, is a great space with great food, but I hate using a computer to order.

Jayne and 16 Suitcases are great for clothes. Careful Peach around the corner is great for gifts and to impress your out-of-town guests. 

A few years ago I collected those Christmas shopping receipts from Downtown Oak Park and had a hassle redeeming them for the gift certificate. This time I went to their new digs, was welcomed warmly, received that certificate, and even had Christmas cookies. Delightful.

The space on South and Marion where Two Brothers used to be would make a terrific comedy club. There’s enough room, there’s transportation from the city, and it would be a hot attraction. I’m sure the village would get bogged down in parking issues, but what do people do when they go to Second City? Keep in mind the generation that goes to comedy clubs also uses Uber and Lyft. (For that matter, Winberie’s would also be a good space for a comedy club.)

This paper has observed that village retail can’t get by on restaurants alone. Here’s an idea. If Lake Street can’t be “au courant,” let it be practical. I love Target and would love to see it stay where it is and also expand into the empty spaces across the street (with another large Starbucks inside, of course). They seem to do well wherever they are.

For every high-rise that’s been built, we were told that it would include or attract all kinds of nifty retail. That didn’t happen; instead we got mattress stores, which didn’t make it. Apparently the people who moved in already had mattresses. At least there’s the popular and delicious Cooper’s Hawk. The third high-rise, on Harlem and South Boulevard, which I call the “facility,” still has a main floor that’s rubble. 

How come the village always believes developers?

Finally, here’s a huge cheer for the CVS inside the Target. I needed to refill a prescription for an injection that needed a certain needle. My regular pharmacy didn’t have it, so I called around without any luck. One of my calls included the CVS in Target. They didn’t have it either. I got a call the next day from a pharmacist who said she had gone on the computer and found one CVS on the north side that had the needle. She said she had driven up there to pick it up. Home town service in a chain store!

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Mary Kay O'Grady

Mary Kay O'Grady is a former high school English teacher and later owned her own public relations business, The O'Grady Group. She has lived in Oak Park for almost fifteen years. She is currently the chairperson...