Smile Politely

A Building, A Feeling, and A Latrine: Back to School Edition

Yes, it’s that time again. The time when all the U of I students leave their carefree summer lives in the Chicago ‘burbs, and return to their equally carefree lives at school. In honor of this event, A Building, A Feeling, and A Latrine will be entirely focused on Campus this month. Starting with:


The Castle on Locust, 1007 S. Locust St.

There is a dizzying number of apartment buildings in the unholy square between Kirby and University, Neil and Lincoln, that most people know simply as “Campus.” These accommodations range from the barely livable to the sickeningly luxurious, but there’s only one building that looks like a castle, and that’s the Castle on Locust.

Image 1: Who says castles have to be grey?

Image 2: The Castle on Locust under siege by an SUV and a marauding dumpster

When I first rode by this building I wondered if the property managers realized what they have. I can tell you they totally do. The place is really called the Castle on Locust, and if you want more information about renting there, you go to I eagerly went to the website, but was disappointed to find that it just talks about really mundane stuff like what appliances come in each unit. Their tagline is “Welcome to Castle on Locust Apartments… where your friends live!” Instead of, “Live like royalty at the Castle on Locust!” which is what it should be. Also, none of the text was written in olde English, and nowhere did it boast about how the castle protects residents from barbarian raids.

[The following is an open letter to the owners/managers of the Castle on Locust]

Dear Castle on Locust folks, 

You guys should really double down on the fact that you own a castle. Kids in college right now love their Game of Thrones, their Lord of the Rings, and their Harry Potter. Some of them might even watch that History Channel show about the vikings. I can’t imagine you’d be hurting for tenants if you upped the rent by 10% but started having mock gladiatorial combat and quidditch games in the inner courtyard. Maybe get some super cool banners to fly from your towers, and pay some kid in a tunic to stand up there and yell at passers by that he farts in their general direction. Because really, what’s the point of owning a castle if you don’t do these things?

Sincerely, your friend and local legend,

Seriously though, I want the Castle on Locust to become the first move in a campus-wide arms race to create the wackiest themed apartment buildings. Just imagine “The Train on Chalmers” (made of old train cars), “The Pagoda on Healey” (pretty self explanatory), or the “Phallus on First” (a building shaped like a penis). With all the new construction going on, I’m really disappointed that nothing like this is happening. I guess university students will live in any old boring rectangle, and that’s a shame.

VERDICT: I’ve seen worse fake castles for sure, and some way uglier student housing.


Knowing that this town is nothing without those meddling students

Some folks in the community get very upset this time of year. Many get angry: “These darn kids, always vomiting on my lawn, playing beer pong on my lawn, fornicating on my lawn, and JAYWALKING EVERYWHERE. I can’t stand them. I should move out to Tolono” (yes people actually say this). Some just become defeatist: “I was going to have fun this weekend, but the students are back, so what’s the point really? They just ruin everything they touch.” And then there are those who openly declare, “international students shouldn’t be allowed to drive here,” without realizing how hateful they sound.

The thing is though, every person in Champaign-Urbana knows, deep deep down, that, if it weren’t for the University, this place would be just like every other tiny farm town in the state. There’d be no concerts, no art galleries, no sports stadiums, no microbreweries, no decent Thai restaurants, and definitely no online culture magazines.

This must be what people in a tourist town feel about the tourists. However, there’s one key difference between tourists and students that the complainers need to remember. While a tourist may stick around for a few days and contribute nothing but cash to the places they visit, the students call CU home for years of their life, and many of them enrich community significantly.

I guess all I’m saying is, if you’re a year-round resident, next time you want to tell some students to get off your lawn, instead invite them in for tea and a chat. And students: I know you can finish your schooling and move away without giving this town a second thought, but you should consider becoming involved in CU in whatever ways you can. It’s a great community and you can make it better! Also, maybe try to walk faster when you’re jaywalking.

VERDICT: This segment got weirdly preachy, so I’m only going to give this feeling two stars


First floor men’s room in the Illini Union

As you probably know, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign is a widely respected research institution that makes world-changing discoveries on a daily basis. It was also recently declared the number one party school in the nation. I was curious if this duality would manifest itself in campus restrooms, and you’ll never believe what I found! Inside the quiet, immaculate, wood panelled halls of the Union, I found the men’s room to be a hotbed of VICE and DEPRAVITY.

VERDICT: OK, you saw through my sensationalist journalism. This bathroom is actually clean and adequate. It feels like an airport bathroom at a large, but not terribly busy airport. Also it has a Dyson Airblade, the king of all hand dryers. So if you’ve never used a Dyson Airblade, here’s a good place to try one.

That’s all for this month, dear readers. As usual, put any review suggestions, friendly critiques, unfriendly critiques, death threats, marriage proposals, and lemon bar recipes in the comments below.

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