Smile Politely

Lamenting the lack of decoration downtown

No lights, no holiday cheer.

One of the more rewarding parts of enjoying the holidays as a married adult with no children, but with a strong sense of nostalgia, is simply allowing one’s senses to be delighted. For all the commercial bullshit that comes along with Christmas (and even Hanukkah to a degree), there is nothing more satisfying than walking around downtown in the cool, crisp air, warm cup of coffee in hand, deeply inhaling the season as you watch Pete Vrinio get crazy on some canes in the window of Jim Gould. It’s truly worth waiting for each year.

But downtown Champaign seems to have an ongoing problem come Christmastime: either poor choices in visual stimulants or this year, the simple lack thereof. Honestly, without knowing better, you might have never realized that it was the holiday season downtown this year.

And while I realize that a bit of bad luck, and strong winds, blew away the big Christmas tree at One Main, I guess I am still scratching my head as to why it was never put back up? And moreover, why was it instead replaced with pink flamingos? 

Now I recognize that it’s work — and money, more importantly — but it’s work that seems worth it, economically speaking, if the goal is to try to drive people downtown to spend dollars locally as opposed to at the mall, where they have a big ass tree and Santa Claus and free parking.

This is what Walnut St. should look like:

I suppose that there was nothing adorning the tops of street poles this year wasn’t a terrible thing; the tacky and lackluster neon green tinsel Christmas trees of the past four years were about as ugly as a strip mall. But this year, there was truly… almost nothing.

OK, there were a few strands of lights with garland wrapped around some of them, but outside of that, it could have been February for all intents and purposes. In downtown Urbana, there were wreaths with bows (which looked lovely, by the way — nice work, UBA) to go along with that garland, and enough of them to make walking around feel like Christmas. But nothing in Champaign, really. At least, not enough for a city of 75,000 and the fastest growing metropolitan center in all of downstate Illinois.

Now, I realize that in an economic crisis this seems petty. And certainly, the Champaign Downtown Association tries to do a great job year-round to try to make our little city center a fun place to be. But here is a plea to Mary Dennis, President of the CDA: perhaps more holiday cheer in 2010?

It seems like a really great investment on the season, and my guess is that the shopkeepers will appreciate it. With that picturesque West Side Park hanging just west of the business district, it might be a good idea to get it in on the action as well. Perhaps offer carriage rides through the park and city? I don’t know what for sure — I suppose there are people better suited than myself to start throwing out what’s best for downtown during the holidays. I just know it needs something.

After all, if it’s people you want downtown, this is one way to give shoppers a reason to brave the cold and spend an afternoon.

Give me my Galena.

I’ve called a few times to the number listed, but to no avail. The message just tells me that they are working to get open soon. The sign is out front, and across the street, another one instructs me on where (else) to park. I am hungry, and my diet is changing for good on January 19, 2010.

I want a Galena. And I want it now.

For those of you confused by my desires for this so-called Galena, look no further than Buttitta’s on Neil and Avondale, a restaurant over two years in the making. Upon closing down Dom’s on Locust and Logan on January 1, 2008, John Buttitta and his wife Vicky vowed to open a new spot with many of the same Italian specialties, and now that promise is close to becoming a reality.

So, please. Soon. I want a Galena. Or, at the least, some chicken livers in gravy. That’s marinara sauce to you folks who don’t know any true Italians.

Best name for a band in years.

I haven’t seen them live yet, but there is a new band on the scene with what I would consider to be band name perfection: Arkansas Dogjaw.

I am not sure what it is, or if it’s even anything, but I know that it works. A quick google search brings up one definition for the mysterious word. From Urban Dictionary. I will spare you the stupid ass details. Click the link if you are really interested

No matter. I suppose we already know what a “dogjaw” is. If we analyze the compound word, it’s simply what it sounds like: a dog’s jaw. But what of Arkansas?

Did it just work phonetically? Or is there something to it? Are dog’s jaws somehow more relevant in Hot Springs? Or was it just a super stoned moment where the drummer said to the bassist, “Dude. That’s the band name.”

My guess is the latter.

Who cares. They are performing in town soon, I am sure. You can likely find out when by clicking here. Go see them. It’s music, after all.

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