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.