What Makes a True Highland Parker?

Do you know how to navigate Sunset Foods before a holiday? Then you might live in Highland Park.

Few things make me feel more at home than hearing my spin instructor start a class by announcing that she has three briskets in the oven and is in the midst of setting her table for Passover.

It made me think: what makes me feel like a true Highland Parker? The question wasn’t anything new. It first came to me about ten days ago, when a group of us were having lunch at the CK — that’s for the two of you who don’t know — and the conversation turned to holiday preparations. Brisket, of course, garnered a mention, as did gefilte fish, matzah cookies and the lament of the noodle-less kugel. We debated the merits of cooking with schmaltz and laughed about how dated that seemed, yet how reassuring it was that our beloved  continues to carry the delicacy (assuming rendered chicken fat can indeed be considered a delicacy).

My husband offered to do the weekly grocery shopping last week. Soon after, he called me in a panic from the aisles. 

“You owe me big time,” he said. “Why didn’t you warn me?”  

I hung up and  smiled. Silly, imported husband. You’d think that after 21 years of marriage, 18 of which lived within the confines of 60035, he’d know enough to steer clear of all grocery stores in the days leading up to a holiday. The police officers patrolling the parking lots in uniform should have been a tip off.

I felt like a true Highland Parker on Sunday as I geared up for a nice spring ride.  At 6:30 a.m., the thermostat read 36 degrees, but weather.com assured me that, factoring in the wind, it’d feel a little more like 28. Sturdy and stubborn, I put on layers and layers of unattractive bike clothing and headed out. After all, the sun was shining and it was mid-April. I grew up here. I’m used to it.

Then on Monday, the coup de grace: three inches of wet, white snow on April 18. There was only one response I could think of:  I was going swimming. Outside. The health club had deemed mid-April as the kick-off for outdoor spring swimming, so by 7 a.m. I was in the pool, alternately swimming laps and floating on my back, trying to catch snowflakes on my tongue.

Yet, none of this made me feel as much a Highland Parker as what I’m about to confess. After my swim, I headed to the . I love the library. I live two blocks from the library. But it was snowing. And wet. And cold. And I had my laptop. So I drove there.

On my first pass through the lot, there were no spaces. Here’s where my head hangs in shame. I circled in and out of the lot three times, never once getting lucky enough to find a spot.

I swim outside in the snow. I bike in the howling wind. I know how to navigate the grocery store before a holiday. But when it comes to walking or driving the two blocks from my house to the library, I drive.

You tell me:  Is that the sign of a true Highland Parker?

Erica Lieberman April 23, 2011 at 12:20 PM
That is so true!!! Only us crazy Higland Parkers can understand and love it! Thanks for a good morning giggle!
Steven Schwartz April 23, 2011 at 01:04 PM
This is laugh out loud funny...and so true.
ronnie schwartz April 23, 2011 at 04:13 PM
I drive to the library because my library "card" is on my key chain - and Sally, being the reader you are, I am sure you drive to the library because of the stack of books you want to bring home. Being a Highland Parker means we are lucky enough to have this wonderful library in town, open every day and most evenings, with a fabulous selection of books, tapes, etc. - we need to make sure it stays as wonderful and accessible as it now is. And isn't there a button for the door to open in case your hands are full? Then there's the post office....
JS April 23, 2011 at 06:11 PM
A bike-swim-drive triathalon! True HP'r? Probably, especially if it was an SUV. Or, maybe, the true HP'r is a gear-head who drives those two blocks in the newest greenest machine, like a Leaf or a Volt or any old plug-in NEV. But, sadly, even those are not without an impact on the environment. Make it a bike-swim-walk next time, and -- as you hoof it over to the library -- wear something warm and expensive and stylish, put on your stunna shades, dump the laptop and put an ipad in your oversized pockets, and you're still a true HP'er!
Bob Levi April 25, 2011 at 01:43 PM
Is a true Highland Parker one who works out at their club then drives into town and insists on circling the block until they find a parking space directly in front of the store the patronize?
Bob Levi April 25, 2011 at 01:51 PM
I don't understand how "Ipad's [sic] exploit the children of African nations, working in coal mines." Perhaps you don't recognize satire. The piece brought a smile to my face. BTW -I normally shop at Sunset Foods on Saturday mornings. Recognizing that the first night of Passover fell on a Monday before the Easter weekend, I shifted my shopping to a Wednesday to avoid both Saturdays. I feel THAT'S the sign of a true Highland Park resident.
Sally Higginson April 25, 2011 at 02:29 PM
Turns out there are several interpretations when it comes to understanding what makes someone a true Highland Parker. I laughed at the concept of driving an expensive "green" vehicle or a giant SUV. Neither is what I drive, though as the weather warms I will be the crazy woman on the tripped-out bicycle (complete with paniers and front basket), wearing a green floral helmet. I do think designer coat and shades might be a must for the true native, though I'm including anything from Uncle Dan's as designer. Bottom line is this: I'm proud to be from this town and currently living in this town. And I'll pledge to walk or bike to the library... as much as I can! - Sally Higginson
JS April 25, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Riley - Much of my comment was tongue in cheek. I haven't lived in HP for many years and can only pretend to know what a "true Highland Parker" is, not that I would ever seriously suggest there is a single definition. But I do recall a dominant trend toward consumerism back in the day and I'd be very surprised if it has subsided, so my comment reflected on that trend and by no means was it intended to seriously applaud that trend, or to suggest there aren't greener and/or less consuming folks in town. P.S. The reference to "bike swim drive" and "bike swim walk" was in regard to Sally's entire column, which mentioned a bike ride, and then a swim, and then the trip to the library.
JS April 25, 2011 at 05:07 PM
"Like." p.s. I'm hoping there's a potted geranium in the front basket.
Bob Levi April 25, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Years ago, the City Council and various committees were discussing ways to increase shopping in the HP business districts and thereby increase tax revenues. I wrote a satirical letter to the editor that was published in the HP News. I suggest putting up toll booths on the main streets into town and charging out-of-towners a fee for shopping or dining at HP establishments. Much to my surprise, some wrote a letter that appeared shortly after mine. It stated I was wrong in my thinking. The writer felt that toll booths would discourage out of town people from coming to HP. I seem to recall that they mentioned something about us not being a police state. I guess some people take life too seriously.
M. Davis April 25, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Sounds like if you are not Jewish, then you cannot consider yourself a Highland Parker?
JS April 25, 2011 at 05:42 PM
Toll booths! How could someone not appreciate such a swift and "Modest Proposal"?
Sally Higginson April 25, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Time for a few emergency comments! 1. My mother once told me that if you had to explain to someone that what you'd just said was a joke, then it wasn't funny. Back then I remember thinking that she just didn't get it. 2. Nothing wrong with a Modest Proposal, as long as it's Swift. 3. Do you need to be Jewish to feel like a true Highland Parker? Absolutely not! From my house, I hear church bells from two different churches. Sunset caters to everyone, including having a priest in the stores on Ash Wednesday applying ashes to any forehead offered. I've enjoyed the Christmas lights and decorations every holiday season since 1963, and I especially like the Christmas festivities in Port Clinton that accompany the lighting of the holiday lights in the business district. 4. Nothing wrong with a town where people like to shop. It keeps the downtown vibrant and, let's face it, everyone likes a little retail therapy now and then. So maybe in 60035 it's more like every now and now. Still,it's a great place to live and to believe in whatever you want to believe in.
Bob Levi April 25, 2011 at 09:10 PM
I hate to be misquoted. In my post that Riley comments on, I mentioned that I shopped midweek to avoid BOTH the Passover AND Easter crowds. I'm an "equal opportunity" shopper. ;o} As far his comment about me being a member of the dominant religion in HP, I'm not Catholic. (For more, go to http://www.bestplaces.net/city/il/highland_park# and click on religion) It appears that HP has almost twice the national average of people following the Jewish faith, but one should keep in mind that Jewish populations tend to be centered in urban areas. From these data, it appears that Jews in HP comprise only 10% of those who follow the Catholic faith.
Sally Higginson April 25, 2011 at 10:57 PM
Well, without a doubt there is a pervasive Jewish culture here. But as someone who grew up with Channukah and married into Christmas, I can say that there really is more to this town than matzah and brisket. I do believe Santa and his elves were featured in winter festivities in the business district. For years and years there was a gingerbread house erected in Ravinia during the holidays. Sure, the kids have no school on Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur, but they had the day off for Good Friday. As for my point in the article, I really do stand by my conviction that the majority of Highland Parkers will circle several times in hopes of getting a good parking spot.
Andrew April 26, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Bingo. I'll even up the ante. Works out at the club and then blocks traffic on the road, school driveway, camp drop-off, etc. for 5 minutes, so she can get a space 10 feet closer than the one that's already empty. The ones who circle the block are only posers.
Andrew April 26, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Nicely stated Sally.
Andrew April 26, 2011 at 05:50 PM
I suspect some of the sensitivity to the article comes from the fact that there are some in Highland Park who do think there are "true" Highland Parkers, much the way Sarah Palin believes there are "real" Americans. Those who do not fall into the hallowed definition set by those who are serious about being a "true Highland Parker" probably can be a little tender in that area. It's unfortunate. With any luck, you'll be able to run a similar article in 5 years and not get a negative reaction to it. The us vs. them mentality isn't healthy for the community.
Ken Robertson April 26, 2011 at 07:59 PM
Sally - this made me chuckle quite a bit. You forgot to mention, of course, that while bundling up is okay for biking, yoga pants must be worn for shopping or going to Starbucks. As an aside - a few years back, a family moved into our neighborhood, but left after less than 2 years because the felt they "didn't fit in" with HP. We were upset that someone would feel such a way that they would leave so quickly, but the salt on the wound was when their realtor (a well-known name in HP) told them that they would have to reduce their asking price because our neighborhood was "not what people really expect when they think of Highland Park." Hmm, I can walk 2 blocks to the lake, less than a mile to school for k-12, a little more to downtown, short distance to the train, and last I checked my taxes were pretty high ;-) Heck, there's even a temple round the corner! When our realtors are deciding what is and is not "true HP", we're in trouble...
Bob Levi April 27, 2011 at 02:36 PM
This is a reply to Riley Mort's comment about the number of Catholic Churches and number of Jewish temples and synagogues in HP. Another resource (http://www.city-data.com/city/Highland-Park-Illinois.html) indicates the following: 66.3% of the HP population are adherents to the Catholic faith, but only 11.1% of the congregations are Catholic. The Jewish adherents and congregations are not broken out but included in the "other" category. The "other" religions in HP comprise 14.5% of the adherents, but 53.5% of the congregations. What this means to me is that the Catholic churches have much larger memberships than the "other" religions. FYI: The Jewish faith is not homogeneous and has different ways to practice the religion, so that's why there are so many temples in town. Riley Mort should take a look at the cited websites and realize that the statistics quoted by me are generated by others. (BTW - I checked the Assn. of Religion Data Archives to see if they broke out the Jewish adherents and congregations in HP, but I was unsuccessful in finding more detailed data. It should be noted that my career as a marketing consultant has involved conducting business research, collecting data and analyzing the information. It's all about dealing with facts. Hope I've clarified things.)
Bob Levi April 27, 2011 at 02:58 PM
Digging further into the ARDA data, I looked at the numbers for Lake County (http://www.thearda.com/mapsReports/reports/counties/17097_2000.asp) An estimated 253,000 Catholic adherents belong to 32 congregations. That's ab0ut 7,900 members per congregation. An estimated 25,000 Jewish adherents (10% of the number of Catholics) belong to 15 congregations. That's 1,666 members per congregation. One would assume that the adherent figures count all members of a family and not just the family. Assuming Riley Mort's figure of six Jewish congregations and one Catholic congregation in HP are correct, HP accounts for 40% of the Jewish congregations in Lake County. The similar figure for Catholic congregations is only 3% of the Lake county total being in HP. I find those numbers enlightening and hope any readers do too.
william brown December 17, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Bob. You do realize that there is only 1 Roman Catholic Church in HP. Perhaps you dont realize that Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans, et al are Protestant...and Not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. While the Protestant Population has taken quite a hit, in the area, we remain still NOT Catholic.
william brown December 17, 2012 at 12:20 PM
A True HPer, well I think the Book Pioneer to Commuter has a partial explanation. Once Pioneers, A move to being Commuters post war, today perhaps today the Commuter has become a Blogger. A True HPer is no longer a person who grew up here, by perception a true Parker is someone who always wanted to live here and now does. Growing up in HP has meant different things depending on time. The HP of my Father and Grand Parents is different than mine. And mine is different than my sons. So first off......I do shop at Sunset, but not everyone does. And not everyone lives on Sheridan Rd. Not everyone drives an SUV. There is No TRUE Parker. There are many different perceptions. Dependent upon where you live in town, and when you live or lived there. As my Blue and White runs deep, I recall from the HP HS fight song......"We are Proud of you Highland Park" If you are Proud of Highland Park and work to make it so........You are a True Parker.


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