Friday, April 27, 2007

Back to Normal (for the Very First Time)

A couple of weekends ago (in fact, the very day that Rachel and Chase tied the knot), Jeff and I headed south to Normal to visit Greg at the Illinois State University. Just for context, here is a picture of Greg:

And here is a picture of the enormous dorm in which he lives:

This is allegedly the largest college dorm in the country. It is a tribute to late-sixties collegiate architecture, in that it isn't really aging all that well. But it IS quite impressive. And bizarrely laid-out. The elevators don't go to each floor. They stop on maybe a third of the 26 or so floors. Each stop serves two "houses," which are comprised of several levels each and which are located on either side of the bank of elevators. There are no long halls... just warren-like passages and stairwells. I'm sure there must be folks my age still wandering about in there, trying to find the rooms assigned them back in 1973. Greg is on one of (if not THE) highest floors, and he has spectacular view over the town of Normal.

I'm not sure they could have found a better name for this town. We stayed at a hotel along the main strip of commerce in the city, where you can find just about every chain restaurant and store known to man. Well, to American man. It was very convenient, I must say.

Only steps from the largest dorm in the nation, though, is the small downtown area of Normal, which is rather charming. It has a guitar shop, a used record store, a comic-book emporium, t-shirt shops (which could clean up by offering t-shirts with the simple name "NORMAL" on the front, but which only seem to carry University-themed apparel), coffeehouses, an Emack and Bolio ice cream parlor (yum!) and such. It is also thoroughly under construction, which may be its normal (heh!) state. Presiding over all this is the splendid Normal Theater (see above and below) with its art-deco facade, marquee, and neon. It has been restored to its former glory and--in an amazing blaze of good sense--the restorers did NOT turn it into a multiplex! It is still a single screen theater and hosts movies and other events frequently. It was one of the greatest things about Normal.

Although I really liked the charming downtown courthouse square in Macomb (where Greg attended Western Illinois University last year), I think Normal has much more to offer in just about every way. Now if they could just work on getting their t-shirt act together.... (I'm telling ya: NORMAL t-shirts would sell like hotcakes, guys!)

Greg has a couple more years there, so I'm sure we'll be back. Maybe we'll even take in a show at the Normal.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Happy Couple

Here are a couple of pictures from Rachel and Chase's wedding, overlooking beautiful downtown Marfa:


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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rachel's Getting Married in the Morning...

Ding, dong, the bells are going to chime!

Well, I don't think the Presidio County courthouse has bells, but tomorrow morning at 9:20, according to Rachel's email dated today, she and her fiance Chase are going there and tying the knot!

Here's the venue:

And here's the happy couple and pooch Balloux (a few months ago, when Marfa was snowier than Chicago):

(Photo above from Chase and Rachel's Photos)

Let's all raise a glass of bubbly to the happy couple and wish them many years of joy and love!

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

My First Movie

This past weekend I shelled out all of twelve bucks to own the very first movie I ever saw in a theater: Darby O'Gill and the Little People. My dad took me to the Wayne Theater to see it when I was three years old. And I had nightmares for years afterwards. This was something my dad didn't expect from taking his precious and precocious little daughter to her first Disney flick, but then, he didn't know about the banshee and the death coach before hand. In all, I loved the movie. But the banshee stayed with me. And appeared regularly in a recurring dream until I was about ten or so.

I'm sure I dreamed about the banshee before the recurring dream took hold, but the first time I had the dream had to be after I had turned four. That year, we went to Schenectady to visit my Aunt Grace (my dad's sister) and Uncle Sal and my cousin Marietta (who later shortened her name to Mari...we haven't seen each other for more than thirty years...). At that time, they lived in a white clapboard house on a big corner lot in Scotia. On their broad front lawn was a cement pedestal and a shiny gazing ball--I was enchanted by that. But in the little shed behind their house was something that ended up terrifying me: a big wood bin with a hinged lid--big enough for me to hide in, as I vaguely remember us playing hide and seek. Big enough for a banshee to lurk in.

That was the crux of the recurring nightmare: That I opened the lid of the wood bin and a banshee--a banshee that looked just like the one in Darby O'Gill and the Little People--was waiting there for me. Waiting to chase me. Waiting to catch me and throw me in the death coach and float alongside it, screaming, as it bore me up into the sky toward oblivion. Shudder!

I've seen the movie since then, maybe a couple of times. And I recall it fondly, even though I have a hard time recovering the terror I felt nearly fifty years ago. After all, I'm an adult. I know that the banshee was animated--although I still think it's creepy as hell. But the terror the dream inspired? That's still in the back of my mind, lurking like the banshee in the wood bin.

I'm going to watch it again in the next few days. Fingers crossed I'll rest easy after doing so!

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