Last Friday I drove to my old stomping grounds in east-central Illinois for a bridge tournament. The locals in Champaign-Urbana have been hosting a Regional event since shortly after I left town. Last year, I went up for five days; this time, only three. The highlight was facing off against two of the top 40 (that’s appropriate, I suppose) all-time leading US masterpoint winners in the semifinals of a knockout event. My team was given a 19.5 point head start in the match due to our relative inexperience (so they had to beat us at least 20), but unfortunately we lost by 25. We gave it a good shot, and I’m cool with that. It was awesome to see all the folks–Karen, Debbie, Martha, Ned, my teammate Mike, among others–again.
On Saturday, I was able to have dinner at an excellent Chinese restaurant with Bruce, my dissertation advisor, and Robin, his wife. We didn’t play in morning events on Saturday or Sunday; Saturday, my partner and I went to the Farmer’s Market in Urbana for breakfast and a walk down the tree-lined brick streets, while on Sunday, I met Bruce for coffee on campus. I have to say these were much better uses of time than being hunched over the table.
I have fond memories of my time in C-U, and I miss living there. I honestly wouldn’t mind going back for an extended period should I get another sabbatical leave. It’s got a fantastic city park system, decent public transportation, and, while clearly growing, it’s not humongous. We’ll see.
What would a trip report be without photos?
The alma mater statue, pictured above, is in front of the gorgeous math building, Altgeld Hall.
One semester when I was a teaching assistant for calculus 2, I had a high school student in my class who was somehow on the weekly schedule to play the bells in the carillon of Altgeld. One time she invited me to watch her play–very interesting. We kept in touch just a little bit over the years; she’s now a professor of linguistics at UCLA.
Every flagship state university seems to have a main quad lined with academic buildings, and UIUC is no exception. At the north end of the quad is the Student Union, while at the south end is Foellinger Auditorium. Among other things, I saw B. B. King in concert and heard Jesse Jackson speak, maybe during the 88 presidential campaign. Sweet little venue.
Our playing site was close to one of those great parks, Hessel. It’s got a nice one-kilometer walking path surrounding it now, which I’ve used these last two years; back in the day, I’d join a number of my friends at that pavilion off in the distance on summer Sunday evenings for cookouts.
Between our hotel and Hessel Park is one of my favorite eating spots, Jarling’s Custard Cup. I regret that I swung by only one time on this trip.
Finally, I took a tour of all the places I lived while in grad school (yes, we’ve reached the really boring part of this post–it’s here mainly for my son’s education about his old man’s life). One dorm and four apartments in a six-year period.
First, Sherman Hall, one of two grad student dorms when I was there. I was on the fourth floor, on the end facing away from this point of view. The only year I lived in Champaign. August 86-May 87.
Then, John, Jim, and I moved to 305 W. Elm, in Urbana. Our apartment is the one farthest away on the lower level. The fence you see on the right makes it hard to get a good shot. May 87-August 88.
John and I then stayed together while Jim found other arrangements. This is 404 E. Michigan. It was the farthest away from campus of all the places I lived, but also the one I stayed in the longest. We were in the bottom level, to the right of the entrance. August 88-August 90.
John got married in late July of 90, so I needed to find a one-bedroom place for myself. I landed at 502 W. Main, not too far from downtown Urbana and pretty close to the place on W. Elm. This time, I was on the top floor. I think it’s the middle pair of windows between the two entryways (this is the back of the building). August 90-August 91.
For my last year, I roomed with Greg, after Katie decided to switch to the applied mathematics program at the University of Maryland. We lived at 1010 W. Clark, the closest I’d been to campus since my first year. On the third floor again; my bedroom window was the fourth from the left (on the right side of the building). I see it’s still called Smith Apartments, though I imagine it’s in the hands of the children now, given what I perceived to be the age of the landlord at the time. August 91-August 92.
As you can see, I had nice sunny days on this trip, but it was plenty hot–low 90s all three days.
It was a wonderful time, and I look forward to going back when I can. It almost certainly won’t be for the bridge tournament next year, though, as I’m expecting that to be the weekend that Ben graduates.
If you’ve made it this far, you deserve some music. Throughout the weekend, I kept the car radio on SiriusXM’s PopRocks station (pop-rock hits of the 90s and 00s), where they were counting down a top 101, as voted on by listeners. There are plenty of 90s songs I really like that fell into this station’s milieu. One of my favorites twenty years ago (shocking to think it’s been that long) was Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” which I was disappointed to hear among the countdown’s first half-dozen songs (maybe #97?). I’ve always thought the video was brilliantly done, so I watched it a couple of times after getting back home Monday. It struck me, for the very first time, how the clip is all about making the line “Illusion never changed into something real” come to life.