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River Town Chronicles: Living around here sure feels nice, to me

When the switch on my desk lamp died, I announced to my wife, Tia, “I need a new light. Home Goods?”

“Or Target or Meijer.”

Five minutes later I was scrutinizing Home Good’s lamps with the eye of an American Kennel Club judge. Fifteen minutes after that, I found next door at DSW some loafers, original price thrice reduced.

At times like these, or browsing Playaways in the St. Charles Public Library or fishing the Fox River, I’ll think, “Boy, sure is nice living around here.”

Author Kurt Vonnegut’s uncle used to tell him, “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’ ”

OK, you’re thinking, “Hey, who are you, and what have you done with Rick?” Yes, I can be cynical, even bilious about Fox Valley life. But, hey, I’m still here, and have been since 1979 because I wouldn’t – couldn’t – live anywhere else.

We have global restaurants: Gen Hoe (Chinese), the Gratto (Italian), Wok’n Fire (Japanese), El Taco Grande (Mexican), and Stockholm’s (Swedish and beyond). All with bilingual menus.

As for parks and recreation, Tia takes our dog Chewball on twilight walks through Peck Farm’s prairie paths surrounded by wildflowers and tall grasses. Meanwhile, I, cowed by low back pain, read or write in the three-sided barn, occasionally glancing up to view the lake’s herons, egrets and ducks. One evening we found two women sitting in soccer chairs at a table in the parking lot while sipping wine and chatting as the sun painted its western canvas.

My daughter, Molly, loves biking along the Fox River, and my son, Jay, runs circles around Delnor Hospital’s track and continues onto points west. Other favorites include Wheeler Park’s frolf, tennis and miniature golf.

But wait! There’s more! This weekend, I’ll try to catch Shakespeare on Island Park in Geneva. Last week, Batavia’s Windmill City Festival offered a terrific country band (Jay tells me), and the Kane County Fair offers more bands than you can shake cotton candy at.

But life’s not all fun and music. Recently, a friend, feeling chest pains, visited a St. Charles convenient care facility. Directed to the ER at Delnor Hospital, in an hour he was having a stint put in. A couple days ago, he was running his band saw.

When our ancient Ford Taurus station wagon started groaning louder than usual, I called Duke and Lee’s service station. In a couple hours, they had her running quieter than a study hall on the eve of final exams.

As for traffic, compare driving a Tri-Cities’ block to Naperville. And if you think winter’s potholes are deep here, try navigating, as I did, Ann Arbor’s volcanic cavities.

The schools aren’t too shabby, either. Do your homework and discover why.

Gotta go. Egg Harbor for breakfast, then a farmers market, and maybe a flick at Randall 15 or Charlestowne 18.

Like everyone says: small town feel, big town conveniences. That is what I am talking a-BOUT!

• Rick Holinger has lived and taught high school in the Fox Valley for more than 35 years. His poetry, fiction, essays, criticism and book reviews have appeared in national literary journals. He founded and facilitates two local writers groups. Degrees include a Ph.D. in creative writing. Contact him at

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