In the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris skips school with his buddy Cameron and his girlfriend, Sloane, and gads around Chicago. Film geeks posit that Ferris couldn’t possibly have accomplished everything he does in the movie in one day and still have returned to his north suburban home by six o’clock, ahead of his parents. Recently, I re-created Ferris’s day as closely as I could, complete with companions. I couldn’t be exact, unfortunately: My Cameron did not have a gleaming 1961 Ferrari 250 GT in his father’s garage, for example. His dad drives a Nissan. And while my Sloane wore gray suede boots like her movie counterpart’s, she had to be back at work by three.
Glenbrook North High School
Movie: Ferris rescues Sloane from the smarmy dean, subversively mocking him before squealing out of the parking lot.
Me: We’re greeted by curious construction workers. When we try to peel out, the car almost stalls.
Parking Garage, Monroe Street
Movie: Cameron reluctantly parts with his father’s car, certain that the slippery parking attendant will take it for a joy ride. He promptly takes
it for a joy ride.
Me: I gladly hand over the keys to my Honda, which still has the kids’ Cheerios stuck to the seat. Our attendant doesn’t appear eager to drive it anywhere, or even park it.
Movie: Ferris and friends punctuate their quick visit to the Skydeck by pressing their faces to the glass and looking down.
Me: We’re ushered through a subterranean maze of gift shops and lines and forced to endure a History Channel documentary. Only when we are 1,353 feet up does Cameron mention his fear of heights. Sloane texts a friend. I push my forehead against the glass alone.
Movie: After watching the action at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange from a private room, Ferris scores a table at a snooty restaurant by impersonating Abe Froman, sausage king of Chicago, humiliates the priggish maître d’, and orders pancreas.
Me: After learning that the CME gallery no longer permits walk-ins, we cab it to Cyrano’s, the only spot I can find serving sweetbreads for lunch. (Chez Quis doesn’t exist.) Turns out Cyrano’s isn’t serving sweetbreads—it isn’t even serving lunch. Froman, party of three, eats wings at Hooters.
Movie: Ferris has choice seats and catches a foul ball.
Me: All I can get is upper-upper deck, where I show my itinerary to the guy beside me. “You’re insane!” he says. “You’re taking the Edens? It’s under construction.”
Movie: Ferris blends in with a class of second graders, sees countless works of art, and kisses Sloane in front of Chagall’s windows.
Me: My neighbor, an Art Institute employee, has given me an annotated map so we can find every painting featured in the film in record time. Sloane is gone, and so are Chagall’s windows, which are being restored. When confronted with a camp group parked in front of a Kandinsky, we push them out of the way.
Von Steuben Parade
Movie: Ferris hijacks a float and sings “Danke Schoen” and “Twist and Shout,” setting off a raucous Loop-wide dance party.
Me: Von Steuben Day isn’t until September. Near the corner of Dearborn and Adams, where it’s raining, I sing and dance for an audience consisting of (1) the red Calder sculpture and (2) Cameron.
Movie: The trio speed to the North Shore, where Ferris and Sloane attend to Cameron, shell-shocked by the mileage the joy-riding parking attendant put on the car.
Me: @#$*ing Edens. It takes two hours—until 6:15—to go 24 miles. Since we’ve missed our deadline, we skip the movie’s trip to Sloane’s swimming pool and jump into the lake.
Movie: Cameron trashes his father’s Ferrari in their Highland Park garage.
Me: After circling aimlessly in search of 370 Beach Street, where we thought the scene was filmed, we realize it was at 370 Beech Street, four miles away.
Movie: Ferris walks Sloane home, sprints to his sickbed, and arrives seconds before his parents.
Me: The Bueller house used in the movie was in Southern California, so we drive through a flash flood in search of Butternut Lane in Northbrook, where neighborhood scenes were filmed. Just when we find it at 7:45, Mrs. Closer calls, demanding we “stop farting around and come home.”
Ferris Bueller said life moves pretty fast, but apparently he didn’t take the Edens.