Editor’s note: Review columnist John Rice, a proud Forest Parker who happens to work in Oak Park, filed this column for Wednesday Jerbil, the April Fools’ edition of Wednesday Journal, the Review’s sister paper in Oak Park.
Jason Smith, owner of The Book Table in downtown Oak Park, first sounded the alarm when he declared, “Forest Park is a myth.”
Wednesday Jerbil, the village’s award-winning investigative newspaper, immediately assigned a reporter to check on the merchant’s claim.
The correspondent said he felt as if he were passing into a different dimension when he crossed Harlem Avenue. Upon encountering the happy inhabitants of the other side, he reported the new land as a culturally diverse Shangri-La.
These cheerful creatures subsist on ambrosia (pork chops) and nectar (beer) and live together in complete harmony. Traveling west across this magic kingdom, the reporter passed the Temple of Roos and stumbled on the lost continent of Atlantis, complete with water slides and a cooling spray park.
Just past Atlantis, he scaled Mount Olympus, finding a monument of giant softball bats surrounding a colossal Clincher. None of the gods was present, but their photos and batting averages were on prominent display. Believing that the gods may have been visiting the Underworld, the reporter pressed even farther west.
There it was – Hades! The reporter wandered this vast kingdom of the dead until he finally reached the banks of the River Styx. He searched the shore for Charon to ferry him to the other side, but ended up crossing on a suspension bridge. At last, his travels took him to 1st Avenue, the far edge of the Underworld, where he could glimpse the very real community of Maywood.
Returning to the world of the living, he sought to find the leaders of this mystical land. He followed the brick road until he came to the mayor’s palace, adorned with Greek columns. There, he learned the inhabitants pleasantly prospered under the gentle reign of The Five: The Alarm Installer, The Lawyer, The Engineer, The Barkeep, The Former Paving Contractor, and the other so-called gods of our legends, though gods they were!
He learned that their peaceful kingdom extended to a remote island cut off by Roosevelt Road and Harlem Avenue. Venturing to this exotic place, he came ashore at 16th and Marengo. He found the natives engaged in a primitive rite, known as the block party. He saw the islanders tossing eggs and water balloons at one another and consuming great quantities of nectar.
Crossing Harlem Avenue back into the commotion of the real world, he saw the ugly presence of parking meters in shopping districts and orange tickets fluttering on windshields. This kind of unsightliness he had never encountered in Forest Park. There, he had seen the inhabitants flocking to trade with the simple shopkeepers, without fear of getting a ticket.
The reporter had found that Smith’s words were true: Forest Park was indeed a place of fairy tales.