Smile Politely

Eight experiences we’re missing in C-U right now

As we discussed last week, there are plenty of things we can still do and adventures we can launch amid this global pandemic. Things look different, and feel different, and even though it’s not easy on anyone right now, most people are just doing their best.

It’s easy to focus on all the things we’re not doing, not experiencing. Sometimes it helps to name a thing, a problem, in order to move on, or at least begin the process of accepting the reality. In an effort to name, claim, and accept, we’ve identified a few activities we miss doing. This is just a short list of things we’re missing, in no particular order; there are plenty more. Feel free to share the things you’re missing with us.

We know it’s hard. Hang in there, C-U.

End of year exhibitions at the U of I

Gallery at Krannert Art Museum during the opening reception of the 2018 School of Art + Design BFA Exhibition. In the large gallery are wall hung artworks and artwork on pedestals. There are a lot of people in the room looking at the various displays. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

School of Art + Design 2018 BFA Exhibition at Krannert Art Musuem. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

It’s no secret that we love the MFA exhibition, the BFA exhibition, and ARTS 299 Fashion Show. The two capstone exhibitions are held at Krannert Art Museum, but given the closure of the University, they will be held online. (Check our Arts section in the next couple of weeks for our coverage.)

Susan Becker’s ARTS 299: Fashion Design class always puts on an incredible show. The class is always organized around principles of waste reduction and reuse, and the creativity from the students is truly inspiring. This year, the fashion show was online. You can view images here, and follow the class on Facebook for all sorts of photos and student-made fashion. There’s also a Fashion Illustration class (taught by Chiara Vincenzi) you can follow on Facebook.

These arts events mark the closing of the spring semester, the end of the academic year. They are celebrations of three or four or even five years of hard work and dedication and learning. They provide visitors and viewers with the opportunity to get outside of themselves, to expand or challenge their thinking. It’s a beautiful way to usher in spring and summer, and bid farewell to groups of students who have called C-U home.

Restaurant patio drinking and dining

Outdoor dining in the summer in C-U is among our favorite activities. Crane alley — the actual alley — is magical, especially when you’re having some appetizers and drinks from Crane Alley, the restaurant. The rooftop at Barrelhouse 34 is a low key respite from the more lively drinking and dining situations that surround it. Who hasn’t enjoyed a beer or pineapple marg on the patio at Esquire?

As we normalize our lives in the time of this pandemic, in addition to rethinking how to best support local bars and restaurants, we have to help imagine how they can adapt to survive when people aren’t able or willing to dine in and linger over a few drinks. We can still capture that delight that comes from having a great meal at a restaurant in the summer; we just have to do it in our yards, on our porches, or even in the parks.

We’ll have more on this in next week’s editorial

Sitting in traffic on North Prospect

I guess we’re not exactly missing this, per se, but instead missing the normalcy of running errands and the luxury of being annoyed by idiot drivers and slow moving traffic.

Experiencing live music, in person

The New Pornographers at PYGMALION 2019. The band, made of at least eight people, is on stage. Several people are at their own microphones singing and playing instruments. A crowd stands before them. It is night, and there are lens flares from the camera. Photo by Josh James.

The New Pornographers at PYGMALION 2019. Photo by Josh James.

With everything shut down and large group gatherings a big no-no, live music, in real life, has also gone away. C-U has a robust live music scene; actually, there are a few scenes. We miss sipping some wine at KCPA before, after, and during a show. We miss the smell of stale cigarette smoke wafting around us as we drink some beer and hootenanny at the Rose Bowl Tavern. We miss cocktails and jazz happy hour at Blackbird. We will likely miss strolling around Downtown Champaign on a sunny evening for Friday Night Live.

Even though we can’t get to grooving together in person, we can still experience live music from the internet. C-U’s DJs are streaming live sets. While it’s not the same, there is some fun in grabbing a drink and tuning in, or playing some live versions of your favorite songs by your favorite bands. Check out our Music section for interviews with local musicians and the ways you can support them.

Being touched and touching others

Humans are social animals, and there are plenty of studies that show that loneliness is devastating and deadly. It’s particularly harmful to older people. That’s why it’s really important for every single one of us to reach out to our friends and family, and set up regular means of communication. Maybe it’s a weekly FaceTime or phone call. Maybe it’s driving to their house and having a ten-minute conversation while you’re standing ten feet apart.

For those of us who live alone, physical touch is something we might not even know we miss. It might be that if you’re living along, you have a “quaranteam,” a person or couple of people who have all agreed that they will not see others, except for that small group. It’s a way to build community and companionship, and to get some hugs, too.

We’re also thinking about all of the people whose livelihoods are reliant upon physical touch: hair stylists, nail technicians, massage therapists, even dentists. It’s been said a million times on a million platforms, but if you are able, consider purchasing gift cards from the places and people you’ll be desperate to visit once things let up a little.

Trying not to look like a weirdo creeper in the teen section of the Champaign Public Library 

There’s always that hesitation before entering the teen room at CPL… but we just want to read really good Young Adult books and graphic novels.

Visiting the library, at one time a seemingly innocuous activity, has been reframed as a vector spot: all those hands touching books and CDs and DVDs and tables and computers. The libraries are currently closed, indefinitely, but you can still access online resources and electronic materials. You can even sign up for a library card online.

Check out the Champaign Public Library and the Urbana Free Library websites for details.

Avoiding our neighbors at Urbana’s Market at the Square

Urbana's Market at the Sqaure, an outdoor farmers' market. Vendors under tents are on either side of the image. Down the middle is an aisle where a lot of people are walking and shopping. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.

We’ve all done it on a Saturday morning at the market. We are not at our best, and we see someone we know and maybe don’t want to engage with in our current state, so we appear very enamored of the leafy green options, or we turn and walk in the other direction.

Due to some creative and efficient planning on the part of market organizers (and this goes for The Land Connection’s Tuesday market, too), our markets are still open, albeit with some strict guidelines. We are lucky to be able to continue to shop from local vendors.

Now the avoidance of our neighbors is not intentional; we just can’t identify each other because we’re all in disguise. We look forward to running into them once again as we wait in line for Pandamonium Doughnuts, unshowered, exhaling coffee breath.

The feeling of self satisfaction that comes with enjoying the hell out of a quiet and affordable summer in C-U while others take expensive international trips

We will all be enjoying the hell out of a quiet and affordable summer in C-U. Emphasis on quiet. 

The Editorial Board is Seth Fein, Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, and Patrick Singer.

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