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Living the High Life

October 23, 2009

All photos taken on my Blackberry. So don't expect much in the quality department.

Let me give you the ending to this story first in order to remove whatever melodrama might exist. I survived my trip to Champaign. I might be completely exhausted. I might have a decent sized lump on my head. I might have pink eye. But I survived without any outstanding legal actions pending.

This is the story of my first post-graduation trip back to campus. There will be pictures. There will be debauchery. There will be blood (not really).

Now, let’s start from the beginning…

(Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

The picture you see at the top of this story was taken about 30 miles outside of Champaign. This was a promising sign for the start of my trip.

This is what it looks like when I dream.

When I got to campus, the very first thing I did was go to Empire Chinese food restaurant. Holy cheesesticks that place is awesome. Many you are already aware of my love for Empire, so these last three months away from school have been like some kind of Tantric torture in preparation of food-gasm.

As you could have guessed, I ordered myself some sesame chicken and dove right in. I literally didn’t eat for almost 24 hours in preparation of this moment. Worth it.

After the gorging, I took a little stroll around campus. I saw some old friends, went by my former classrooms, and visited my favorite toilet on campus.

A little tired from only getting four hours of sleep, I decided to take a rest on the Quad. Ah yes. Warm weather, soft grass, and plenty of open space. What more could I ask for? How about random spurts of liquid/gas from the ground?

Gas? Liquid? The world may never know.In the five years I spent at Illinois, I never saw anything like this. Without warning or any pattern, little geysers shot up out of the ground. At first I thought this was some kind of new sprinkler system, but everyone on the Quad looked surprised. The liquid/gas would spray for about 10 seconds and then disappear. A few moments after that, another eruption would occur somewhere on the Quad. It was amazing. People were terrified. Then one went off right in the middle of a class that was sitting on the Quad. Papers went flying everywhere. My spleen exploded from laughter.

Next up, I decided to hop into a random class for a while. I walked in on a Geology 101 lecture and learned about sink holes. Sitting in the back of the room, I could see practically all 700 students at once. Let me tell you, I’ve never seen so many iPhones in my life. After a class nap, I ducked out early to walk around a little more (That’s right, I slept in a class that wasn’t mine and I left early. Oh college).

Duck and coverWalking around outside the library, I noticed this statue (see photo). I always thought this was a funny looking statue to associate with a place of learning. A guy in the duck and cover position is not what I want to see before I go study.

Anyway, this statue and the the three others just like it (two outside the Graduate Library and two on the south side of Foellinger) were created by Lorado Taft. Taft was an Illinois alum and also designed Alma Mater. Taft’s most famous piece of art might be his work that rests in Chicago though. “Fountain of Time” in Washington Park is quite awesome. It’s actually really creepy, but a wonderful sculpture designed by one of Illinois’ less famous alum.

Before Taft died, he started working on a complementary piece that was supposed to be fixated at the north end of Washington Park. It was to be called “Fountain of Creation.” However Taft was unable to finish the piece before he passed away. He was only able to complete four figures. Those figures now grace the campus of the University of Illinois.

See, now you learned something new today.

After my walk, my friend Big Boy finally arrived.  I met Big Boy during our undergrad years. He doesn’t mess around.

Before starting our night, we talked for a while at my other friend’s (we’ll call him BGB) apartment. We were just hanging out when we found this drawer in his place…

You be the judge.

We never got an explanation for this photo, but I think it’s safe to say BGB is a crack dealer.

So after we left the set of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” Big Boy and I headed down to Green St. in order to get the night’s festivities under way. At this point, things get a little bit hectic. So instead of trying to recreate a timeline of the events, I’m just going to list the places we were at and give you a breakdown of what I can remember from each.

YumMurphy’s (1.0): When I graduated, Murphy’s was my favorite bar on campus. Now with the edition of a whole new seating area and bar (they took over the coffee shop that was next door), it’s the best bar on campus. No picture on my crappy little phone camera could do it justice. Big Boy and I had some great food and cheap drinks while playing air hockey for a few hours before heading out. We probably could have stayed there all night, but then that wouldn’t be very fun for you.

Legends: Wednesday night was once a glorious place at Legends. Buck Night, as it would be lovingly know, was $1 bottles on most mainstream light beers. Such a deadly combination. Hard to find a better deal in Champaign-Urbana during the week. Then it changed to $1 special bottles only (PBR, Old Style, Natty Light). Finally, it degenerated into something dumber than humanly possible: $2 bottles (domestics only). But Kyle, that’s only one dollar more, is it really that big of a deal? I think the complete emptiness of the bar speaks for itself. We had a beer, met with BGB, and left.

Illini Inn: The Inn isn’t really the kind of place you go to have fun. It’s small, dark, and they don’t have that much in the way of drink options. BUT, there is a little thing called the Mug Club that every person should join. Big Boy lost his membership card last year and needed to regain his pride. So after chugging one beer, drinking another, and then remembering his Mug Club ID number, we left. It is my belief that I contracted pink eye at this bar.

Geovanti’s: We rarely drink at Geo’s, but we happened to walk by and thought Karaoke Night was just too good to pass up. We had one of our favorite drinks – lunch box (beer, orange juice, Amaretto) – and then made a quick exit. The karaoke was calling, but our group had a higher calling than singing Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again.” We would be back for food at the end of the night.

Firehaus: At this point, I have lost all sense of time. I really have no idea when we got to Firehaus or how long we stayed, but it was long enough for Big Boy to do his usual damage. After a few beers, Big Boy went outside where he lost his dinner on the patio floor. BGB and I found him sitting in a chair all alone surrounded by puke. Picture opportunity missed.

Brothers: On a busy night, Brothers usually has two doormen. One outside (to control the line) and one inside (to check IDs). Since it was most certainly not a busy night, there was no one working the outside position…so I decided to give Brothers some free labor. I took my position as the downstairs doorman and pretended like I was checking IDs. It was great. So much power. Just because I was standing where the door guy usually is stationed people just assumed that I worked there. I wonder if I went behind the bar that people would assume I was a bartender? After checking a few IDs (all legal), we went in for a few drinks. Common sense left our party long ago so Big Boy decided to headbutt me in the bar for no reason. I have a small lump there now. Ow.

Murphy’s (2.0): Back to Murphy’s to finish up the night. I saw some more random friends from years past and had a few more drinks before throwing in the white towel. So much consumption, so little room.

I’m sure there’s a bunch more that I’m missing, but I can’t remember or my mind has mentally blocked it out.

I really love Champaign-Urbana. It was the best time of my life and that place really made me who I am today.


Going back as an alum was more uncomfortable than I thought. I’m only a few months removed from finishing my master’s project, but I felt decades older than everyone else. It was great to eat at my favorite restaurants and to visit my old watering holes, but this place was no longer mine.

In my five years on campus, the University of Illinois changed so much. New businesses and apartment buildings seemed to go up on a weekly basis. It looked nothing like what I remembered from my first day back in August 2004. It always felt like my second home though.

Not anymore.

I didn’t belong and I didn’t want to belong. In a way, this is was somewhat depressing. I felt like that place I had loved so much (and every emotion and memory attached to it) was gone forever. But as I write this, I’m glad the campus I know will never return. Now it only lasts as a memory for me to enjoy. It can no longer be corrupted by skyscraper apartments or Urban Outfitters.

All this made me so excited to return to Chicago. The big city is my new home where I’ll make new memories. I’ve only been living here for a few weeks, but it feels more like “my place” than Champaign did the other day.

Anyway, back to sports. Purdue preview to follow shortly.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. jamaicanafricanillinoian permalink
    October 23, 2009 1:35 pm

    dang man. i miss everything except Murphys

  2. A Peezy permalink
    October 24, 2009 7:31 pm

    this was really depressing. even more depressing than when u told me co’s was closed forever. thanks.

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