2004 Desperately Seeking Santa

The toy industry may have no megahit in 2004, but there are always shortages in the holiday season. This year's: the Polar Express train set by Lionel. The movie hasn't done well, but that doesn't seem to matter to kids who are dreaming of that classic toy. My assignment: to find that train. How difficult could it be, especially in a sea of Nintendo lovers? But two high-end boutiques, five discount behemoths and many blank looks later, anxiety sets in.

In a snowy Chicago parking lot for Kmart, I have an epiphany: hobby shops. My confidence renewed, I make my way...

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