No overarching theme this month folks. Just a VIB (Very Important Building), a feeling full of possibilities, and a latrine with ALL the bells and whistles.


A BUILDING

The Champaign City Building

When I don’t know what to write about for my column, I take a leisurely bike ride around town. Pedaling down the street with my eyes and mind wide open has never failed to provide me with writing inspiration. This month, I really didn’t have to go far before I saw this:

A beige brick building on a street corner. There is a lower, two story portion of the building and a taller 6 story portion with a greenish blue pointed roof. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

Yes, it’s the Champaign City Building. I’m sure we all know it - it’s a stately presence in downtown Champaign. Not only that, but a stylized version of it is the official logo for the City of Champaign.

Image from City of Champaign Facebook page.

Honestly as I rode by it, I was a bit surprised to realize that I’d never written about it.

Maybe I haven’t written about it in the past because there’s not much to say. I really like the Champaign City Building. Look at how art deco it is!

Look at it's cool copper roof and lovely decorative brickwork!

A close up of the 6 story portion of the city building. It has thin rectangular windows, beige brick, and an antenna on the roof. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

Look at this somewhat intimidating employee entrance!

A seafoam green metal door recessed from the sidewalk, surrounded by concrete walls. Photo by Tom Ackerman.
And this vestibule that seems like it must have been an entrance at some point, but now just holds this single potted plant!

A vestibule recessed from the sidewalk. There are tall windows, and a round concrete planter sits in front of the windows. It has yellow flowers planted in it. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

Of course, the best time to view the Champaign City Building is at night when it’s all lit up.

A beige brick building on a street corner. There is a lower, two story portion of the building and a taller 6 story portion with a greenish blue pointed roof. It is nighttime, and there are lights lining the lower roof, and flood lights illuminating the top of the tall portion. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

And the best place to see it at night is from the Quality or Blind Pig Brewery patios. And sometimes you’re three beers in and you see all the lights and the City Building and you think to yourself “yeah, this town is pretty cool.” (Perhaps I should have made this a Feeling segment instead.)

A few of the illuminated city building through beer gardens with black wrought iron tables and chairs. String lights criss cross over the top. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

Anyhow, I wanted to learn more about the history of the Champaign City Building, so I read its Wikipedia page. But that was pretty sparse, so then I read this much longer history of the building written by a former mayor. A lesser columnist would tell you to just go read that history yourselves, but I would never do that to you dear readers. Instead here’s the most interesting/important/funny points of that article in bullet form.

  • The Champaign City Building design was inspired by the Los Angeles City Hall, which is also art deco as fuck.
  • The City Building was completed in July 1937, but cost overruns meant that the furniture budget had to be used to finish construction so the building sat around with no furniture for a few months.
  • The building originally held the fire department and the police department. Then the fire department moved out in 1967, the police dept took their space and also carefully edited the stones on the southeast side of the building to say CPD instead of CFD.
A close up of a portion of concrete with a large Photo by Tom Ackerman.

VERDICT: The Champaign City Building is very cool. It’s one of the few buildings in town that I wish was taller. I really want to check out the interior of the building, but I’m saving that up for when I become the mayor.

A FEELING

Scrolling through the chambana Craigslist business section

I know that most folks have stopped using Craigslist and now use Facebook marketplace, and that’s kind of a bummer — not only because Mark Zuckerberg is a soulless demon boy and a danger to democracy itself, while Craig Newmark seems like a pretty decent guy — but also because you can still find some absolute gems on Craigslist that don’t show up anywhere else.

In particular, every few months I like to take a look at the business section of the “for sale” part of our local Craigslist. The business section is a place of broken dreams, and also of exciting new opportunities! You know about “for sale: baby shoes, never worn,” but what about “Restaurant chairs, 11 available, from an Applebees, good condition, $10 each?”

As of this writing, there’s some great stuff at the top of the business page.

A screen shot of items from a Craiglist page, including a pizza oven, ice cream store sign, steel carport, and porta-potty. Screen shot from Craigslist.Screenshot from Craiglist.

We got an absolutely FREE pizza oven (that I’m honestly considering getting to put in my basement). An advertisement for “Sneaky Pete’s Equipment Auction” which is definitely in Ohio (ya can’t make this stuff up). An ADA compliant porta-potty (only $1799), and the exterior and interior signs from Red Bicycle Ice Cream (which I’d be bummed about, but I think they’re doing fine without their storefront).

VERDICT: Seven or eight years ago, there was a churro cart on the chambana business section of Craigslist. Do you understand what that is? It’s a CART that produces HOT, DELICIOUS CHURROS. It was $1200 (which is a decent price) but I just couldn’t justify it at the time. How I kick myself now for that decision. Imagine the life I could have had as “The Churro Guy.” Walkin’ around the Quad, selling churros. I would have been the most popular person in town. The University would probably have made me the new mascot (and then immediately gone back to having no mascot when people pointed out the white guy selling churros is appropriative). Anyway, don’t end up like me. Check the business Craigslist often and follow your dreams!

A LATRINE

The men’s room at The Original Pancake House

So, I already reviewed this restroom waaaay back in 2015, but I started hearing from my trusted latrine scouts that the toilets at OPH are now “super fancy” and have a multifunction bidet installed. After hearing multiple reports of this, I made my way to OPH to check it out.

The restrooms have been renovated since I was last here. They look good, but that’s not what’s important.

A double sink in a bathroom, with a speckled counter and white basins. A mirror fills the wall above the counter. There are baskets with paper towels on the counter. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

Enter the stall, and YES, just look at this fancy toilet.

A white toilet with lit up buttons along the back of the basin. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.
A close up of an electrical outlet behind a white toilet. There is a white cord attached to the toilet that is plugged into the outlet. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

The lid automatically lifts up as you approach. There are LED lights on the seat itself, though I do not know what they mean.

Next to the toilet is a remote to work the many features of the toilet and bidet. Blessedly, there are also instructions taped to the wall to help you interpret the remote.

A close up of a hand holding a silver remote control. There is a paper hung on the adjacent wall with instructions for using the remote. Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.
Two signs hang side by side on a wall. One has instructions for the remote control, and the other says in black letters: Self Sanitizing Heated Seat! Photo by Tom Ackerman.Photo by Tom Ackerman.

The heated seat was very nice; something that would be on all toilets in a perfect world. Supposedly it’s self-sanitizing. I’m not totally sure how that works, but I was very conscious of the fact that the remote didn’t seem to be self-sanitizing.

I’m gonna come clean here readers (pun intended) and reveal that, despite being a professional restroom reviewer with years of experience, I had never used a bidet before this encounter. As such, I felt I was not ready to try all of the different functions of this top-of-the-line bidet system. In particular the “pulsating wash” seemed to be something for advanced users or particularly...messy situations, so I specifically did not press that button.

Without going into too much detail, the “Rear Wash” water was surprisingly hot and very accurate in terms of its, uh, aim. The air dryer was also surprisingly hot and effective as well. It’s definitely better at drying than most of the hand dryers I’ve reviewed for this column. I wanted to try out some different water pressures and “wand positions” but I was also mindful of the fact that some beautiful pancakes would arrive at my table at any moment, so I didn't stay in this bathroom long enough to do a totally thorough review.

VERDICT: I’m not sure I’m a total bidet convert yet, but I definitely do want one in my home. Next time you’re at The Original Pancake House, make sure you treat your bum to these fine toilets!

See y'all next month!

Top photo by Tom Ackerman.