Skip to main content

The Once and Future Campus Town

I grew up and live in Champaign-Urbana, IL, a nifty little college town. Having been here for (ahem) some time, I've watched the community grow and prosper. Most of the changes have been for the best, although change is often defined subjectively. One of the areas about to undergo a somewhat major overhaul is the campus town district. Many college communities have a campus town, an area close to the university full of shops and cafes, where students and townies alike can meet up for food, friends and fun. The changes coming to our own said area include several new high-rise (for C-U) buildings, parking garages, retail spots and hotels.

An employee at the university here, driving in to work this morning I became wistful while gazing upon the campus town landscape and skyline, all the while thinking of the aforementioned changes, and how things used to be. In truth, campus town here in C-U used to be more, well, grungy. And I mean that in the most affectionate way possible. Perhaps "organic" would be a better term? More of the buildings were older, looking their age but not dilapidated, and the businesses within their walls were a little less... trendy than they are today. They were commercial, while not appearing overly-glossy.

Back in the day, you could walk down Green St. without being in the direct shadow of any structure taller than 3 or 4 floors. There was the beat-up old Burger King (where a 24-floor high rise now stands). I remember hanging out there late into the nights as a teenager, with a crowd made up of folks who were into The Crow movies, Beck, Anime and giving themselves nicknames such as "Ice." Best not to ask about that last one. Or, sometimes, we'd hang at the IHOP (still there), the Garcia's Pizza place (recently demolished), or, even further back, the old Steak 'n Shake (long gone).

You could walk along Green St. (which runs through the heart of campus town, in case you didn't already know, or couldn't guess) and stop in at the White Horse Inn, if you were old enough, or catch a movie at the Coed Cinema. I remember meeting a friend there, Susan, whom I had a crush on. She wanted to see Mel Gibson's Hamlet. I wasn't quite old enough to get in on my own, but she assured me it would be fine, and it was. No carding occurred. Alas, the Coed is now an apartment building.

Further down on Green you could hop into the Space Port arcade and play video games to your heart's (or pocketbook's) content. Next door was not one, but two record stores: Streetside Records and Record Service. I spent many an hour, and dollar, in both shops. Above Record Service was Figaro's, which specialized in selling classical music. Imagine that now: a store on campus where you can buy classical music.

Of course I welcome the coming changes to campus town. Let there be no mistake about it. Always been a fan of taller structures, infill development and greater population density, so those are things to look forward to. It will change the look and feel of campus town, certainly, but then I'm not naive enough to think that the campus town I remember (and have just described in this post) was the original version. Of course it wasn't. Communities change. It is the way of things.

But it's OK to be a little nostalgic about how it used to be, right?


Popular posts from this blog

If You Could Read My Mind

Dance clubs are a funny thing. They contain within their walls a life force and vibrancy sometimes unmatched anywhere else. When dusk settles and the lights come on, people will flood the dance floors to gyrate to music with hypnotic beats and songs about love, lust and fun at the disco. At gay bars, this sort of scenario usually increases ten-fold. It isn't for everyone, but for many it is a respite from the harsh realities of the real word. It is a place that isn't just a structure, but a sanctuary where folks -- minorities in their own communities -- can take shelter and unwind with abandon, at least for a few nighttime hours.
As someone who benefited greatly from such an aforementioned gay dance club, you can imagine my dismay at news of the closing of Chester Street Bar. In business for over three decades, gay-owned and operated, there was a time when C-Street (as it was known by most) was the only haven for those in the LGBT community, near and far, to enjoy themselves …

Third Death

My father has had three funerals. The third (though perhaps not final) one, was last night.
In reality, Lewis died in 1997. Cancer. Aged 52. He had a real funeral. I was there. The next two funerals occurred only in my dreams, yet they seemed real at the time, and their impact during the waking hours was keenly felt.
You see, during the intervening nineteen years, Lewis has come back to life in my dreams, many times. It is more than simply having a dream about him. During these nighttime images, it is noted that Lewis shouldn't be there, that he died of cancer and is resting six feet under. How, then, could he be alive and, seemingly, healthy?

Thoughts on an Election

Before I get started on the ruminations of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, I'll begin by saying I really have no clue as to who our next president will be. I've always fretted over the outcome of elections, regardless of the polls, and this year is no different. Especially this year. A good case can be made as to why Hillary Clinton will become our 45th president. All one has to do is look at the polls. Clinton has a comfortable lead in many states, enough to make one think that she will win handily on November 8th.
Of course, polls can be wrong. 538 gives Clinton's changes of winning in the low-mid 80 percent range. Several polls would seem to agree. Many Republicans are jumping ship from Trump. The race looks over. But of course, humanity isn't as easily predictable as polling would have us believe. Things happen. People can surprise us. And, for better or worse, I think that Donald Trump may very well become our next president.