Last year at about this time, I wrote a B/F/L focused on campus, just in time for the return of the students. Well shockingly, the students are back again this year, so it’s only fitting that I once again turn my attention towards the University of Illinois. First off this month I’ll be telling you about one of my favorite locations on the beautiful Illinois campus, so that you can go there and ruin it for me forever.
If you asked most folks what their favorite place on campus is, they’d likely say the Quad, the Union, or possibly Assembly Hall or Memorial Stadium (if they're into the sports). But when you ask me what my favorite place on campus is, I’ll say The Slab.
The Slab may not be a building in the traditional sense, but it is still definitely an edifice. It’s a roughly eight foot by 12 foot concrete platform elevated maybe three feet off the ground by some more concrete. It resides in the middle of the parking lot just East of Turner Hall and South of the parking garage at Gregory and Dorner.
Here I am just chillin on The Slab, with a table and chair I brought.
Can't see me? How about this one?
So why is this tiny man made plateau so dear to me? Maybe it appeals to the child part of my brain which is always looking for the best places to play make believe. I mean, look at this thing. It’s so clearly a pirate ship or a desert island or a Broadway stage, or a particularly sparse Street Fighter arena. Another part of my brain says it seems like some kind of modern art installation. A dais in the middle of a parking lot where you can sit and watch the world go by.
I’ve always wanted to get like 20 people, a grill, and some brats together on The Slab and have a standing-room-only barbeque one afternoon. Or maybe I’ll don a robe, throw down a luxurious rug and spend a day beckoning people over to The Slab to tell them their fortunes. The Slab mutely welcomes all of these wacky schemes. The Slab is up for anything.
I haven’t even told you about The Slab’s greatest feature yet. Since The Slab is actually some kind of access point for the University steam tunnels, it is pleasantly warm year round, even in the dead of winter. I highly recommend that you grab a couple friends and some cocoa on a chill November eve and lay out on The Slab and look at the stars. Now that’s livin’. Make sure to bring your imaginations, and maybe a pillow or two.
VERDICT: You can have your big prestigious University buildings, I’ll be hanging out on The Slab.
Commuting by bike down Green Street
As most readers will remember, I recently moved to a new apartment. This move means I now ride right down Green Street from my apartment in Champaign to my job on campus. This wasn’t so bad in the summer, despite the sorry state of Green Street in some places (as one fellow bike commuter put it “I’ve seen goat paths in war-torn countries that are smoother”), but now that school is back in session, my commute has become very stressful. The more vehicles there are on the road, the less patience everyone seems to have for other vehicles being on the road. Since nobody can tell that I am in fact a beloved local humor columnist and not just local cyclist trash, I have often feared for my life on my way to and from work.
Of course, there is that plan to revamp Green Street, which is supposed to provide “protected bicycle lanes.” Unfortunately, that won’t be finished until 2065. Also, that project only addresses part of the problem.
I think the biggest issue with trying to get from Greater Champaign to campus is that you can only cross under the train tracks at major streets. This creates a series of unpleasant bottlenecks (at Green, Springfield, Stadium, etc.). Back when I lived Urbana-side, I could ride down smaller streets into campus and hardly piss off any cars.
Thus, once I become fabulously wealthy (which should occur any day now), I’m going to give millions of my dollars to the city to create a series of bike-only skybridges that arch over the train tracks at various places (okay skateboards and roller blades are allowed too, but none of those damned Razor© Scooters). Since filthy rich people get to name all the wacky stuff they pay for, my bridges will have names like “Rainbow Road,” “The David Bowie Memorial Skybridge,” and “The Cookie Monster Memorial Skybridge.” (I’m aware that Cookie Monster isn’t dead yet, but I had a premonition that it's going to happen soon)
VERDICT: I don’t really recommend riding your bike down Green Street, but it’s better than driving a car which makes you an earth-killing, globe-warming, demon person.
The Basement of the Funk ACES Library
The Funk Library does not hold a large collection of American funk; it is instead the library for Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences on campus. It does have some very colorful bathrooms however. Just take a look.
Sure, this restroom was quite clean and inviting when I visited, but the real talking point is this tilework. I think it’s only a little gaudy, and actually pretty refreshing compared to the dull greys and off-whites of most restrooms. Who’s idea was it to floor the ACES bathrooms with rainbows anyhow? What does it mean? The only thing I could figure is that each color represents a season: yellow for summer, red/orange for fall, navy blue for winter, and green for spring. Seasons of course, are very important in agricultural science. Maybe I’m thinking too hard about this though. Maybe the contractors just got a good deal on some colorful surplus tiles.
What really could have made this bathroom legendary though, is if the urinals and sinks were colored to match the tile stripes. Just imagine....
VERDICT: Fun hues lead to fun poos.