Smile Politely

A Spring Cleaning, A Building, A Feeling, and A Latrine

For those of you who might not know, this past Sunday, March 20th, was the first day of spring. Yes the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and all the students have left and gone to Florida for a week. Most importantly though, spring is about spring cleaning, that magical time of year when you deal with all of those messes you made during the winter, but were too sick or cold to do anything about. Thus, today’s B/F/L is devoted to spring cleaning in its many forms. So let’s roll up our sleeves, break out the mop and get started.

The old Bombay Indian Grill, 302 South 1st Street Champaign

Often, spring cleaning is about letting go of things you have sentimental attachment to, but ultimately don’t need anymore. For instance, I still have the first jar of mayonnaise I bought from Meijer when I moved here back in the summer of  2011. We made some great sandwiches together, but it’s about time to throw that ole’ jar out (ehh, maybe next year).

Anyhow, one building in Champaign that always brings back bittersweet memories when I see it is the old Bombay on 1st building. For those of you that don’t know, there used to be two Bombay locations in town. There is of course still the Bombay on Green, a small space that continues to turn out good food and mango lassis, but there was also a location at 1st and White. The Bombay on 1st was a bit classier (with a quiet atmosphere and white tablecloths onto which I would inevitably drip masala sauce and then feel super guilty), and it had a magnificent lunch buffet. The Bombay on 1st has been gone a few years now, and even though I like the Ambar buffet almost as well (Ambar does not seem to have my beloved gulab jamun), whenever I pass by the Bombay building I am reminded of lunches long past.

The only thing that is sadder to me than a broken neon sign is a closed Indian restaraunt. So, in order to protect me from having sad thoughts, I am calling on the community to come in like a wrecking ball and tear this place down. It’ll be a great unifying event, like when the Berlin Wall got pushed over. Everyone will bring their safety goggles and their largest hammer and David Hasselhoff will be there, it’ll be just great. I’ll never again have to see Bombay’s little half circle windows that just look like unhappy faces to me now, or its beige/yellow paint scheme that reminds me of chicken korma.

Alright, obviously Smile Politely and myself in no way advocate the destruction of private property. Luckily, if this big development plan goes through, the old Bombay building will get flattened and some other stuff will be put in its place.

VERDICT: There are certainly uglier vacant buildings in town, but none of them make me as wistful. Also, I do seriously think that breaking stuff with hammers is a great community building experience.


Browsing the PACA Architectural Salvage Warehouse

It is important to remember that not everything you get rid of during your spring cleaning belongs in the dump. Reduce, reuse, The Matrix: Reloaded, recycle as the kids say today. So instead of tossing those 14 used pizza boxes in the dumpster, stack them all up and BOOM: new bedside table. Sublime. Quirky. Truly you are an interior design visionary.

However, if you are strongly against your home or furniture being made out of cardboard, you should check out the Architectural Salvage Warehouse operated by PACA (the Preservation and Conservation Association of Champaign County). If you’ve never been to the Salvage Warehouse (located at Walnut and Washington in Champaign) it’s a pretty magical place.

PACA takes in antique furniture and building materials of all kinds. Inside you’ll find, banisters, light fixtures, tile, steam radiators, and doors, lots of awesome doors. Most of the stuff in PACA dates back to the early 20th Century, though the stacks of home renovation magazines only seem to go back as far as the late 80s.

On my most recent visit to PACA, I was entranced by all the toilets, bathtubs, sinks and faucets.

Just look at all these toilet tops!

So many options!

Yes readers, my new life goal is: buy a house, then, using supplies from PACA, create the greatest, most luxurious Victorian bathroom that Champaign County has ever seen. After that, I’ll write a very positive review of my bathroom in this column right before retiring from Smile Politely forever.

Fear not dear readers, I am nowhere near retirement. I’m also nowhere near buying a house. On top of that, I have none of the skills necessary to renovate a bathroom (though the Intro to Plumbing online course I’m enrolled in will be starting up soon). 

VERDICT: Whether you have home projects or not, check out the PACA Architectural Salvage Warehouse and be inspired.


The Men’s Room at Brass Rail

Cleaning up your personal habitat is feels great, but don’t go overboard. If you clean too much you’ll lose all the character. A little clutter gives a space that “lived in” feel which turns a house into a “home”, or a cold, small, life-sucking, efficiency apartment into a “hip pad.”

To illustrate this concept, I’ll be reviewing the men’s room at Brass Rail in Champaign. Brass Rail is my favorite bar to go to at the end of the night after I’ve already been to three others bars and all I want is a Hamm’s in each hand and a jukebox that plays only songs I like. Most folks would put this establishment in the “dive bar” category, and Brass Rail doesn’t try to be anything other than that.

The men’s room is just as divey as one could hope for. Small, white, and unadorned except for the prominent bathroom wall vandalism which ranges from the cliche to fairly humorous. Importantly though, this is a clean bathroom. I found no urine on the toilet seat or the perimeter around the urinal, and I wasn’t afraid to touch most things. The bathroom isn’t too clean though. The massive chip in the sink and the discoloration on the wall behind it remind me that I’m still at Brass Rail and not the Ritz. Sure, the bathroom smells like dive bar bathroom, but frankly I’d be afraid if it didn’t.

VERDICT: This bathroom reminds us to never try to be somebody that we’re not, but still always strive to be the best version of ourselves. Also, I like this bathroom because it allows me to relax and just use other people’s poop jokes in my column.

That’s all for this column folks. Don’t forget to scrub your toilets regularly, and as usual, leave any thoughts you might be having in the comments section below.

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