Everything's normal in Normal, IL
Normal, Illinois is a smallish town coalesced with Bloomington, Illinois into Siamese twins of unrelenting Midwestern normalness. According to a local source (a hot little Gidget type who despite having received a Lonewacko: Blogging Across America card has not corresponded with me), the students at Illinois State University are quite an abnormal lot. A couple of them ride unicycles on the quad, and there are occasional SCA meetings behind the tennis courts.
Surely, there must be something more abnormal in Normal. My search brightened when I was directed to the three or four block older downtown section, home of a comic book store, various studenty type stores, as well as what is surely a Normal landmark, Mother Murphy's.
I've stepped back into a few 60s/70s flashback places (for instance, the Empowerment Project's old location in Santa Monica), but Mother Murphy's takes the prize. It's a head shop/record store that still proudly features an autographed photo of Tiny Tim back from when he performed there. It was just me and the two workers there in this second floor walk-up store, and I was already planning my escape routes in case they thought I was a narc because I was asking all these strange questions. Not to worry. They were both natives of Normal, and I wasn't the first person who had noticed the town's name. "Each year, five thousand students gather here and make fun of our town's name." While there, I also picked up a copy of the Post Amerikan, a "humanist" 10 page rag whose content can be guessed but not equaled by a satirical treatment. Perhaps I'll post one of the poems here in a later post.
The comic book store guys told me about a couple of the abnormal residents of Normal, including an 80-year-old prostitute and a drunk who thinks he's a sportswriter. However, they indicated that most of the abnormal people live in Bloomington.
According to Steven Westerdahl of Normal's Community Development/Downtown Renewal Department (pictured above holding a Lonewacko business card) the only thing abnormal about Normal is "efficient local government." I'll leave it at that.
P.S. Two of the reasons I stopped in Bloomington were a) Boingo indicates that they have a WiFi access point there, and b) to climb a silo.
As for a), the WiFi access point was non-operational. I'm very disappointed with Boingo, and I'll have more to say about that in a future post.
As for the silo, I had called ahead to the climbing gym asking if the owners (who are based in AR, not IL) would waive the fee in exchange for being reviewed here. When I got there, I learned that my application had been rejected.
The gym offers three things that are of interest: climbing inside a 60' silo, climbing a 100' outdoor wall, and rappeling 120' from the top of the building. Those all sounded interesting, but the rappel alone would cost me $50 plus, and doing all three would cost near $100. I took a look at the silo, and it seemed a lot more interesting on paper than in person. I watched someone climb to the top, and it would have been fun to do, but it was also a sweaty, claustrophobic environment. I decided to hold off.
P.P.S. The gym was the first place I stopped when coming into town. I entered via what I guess is the old route. The lady at the gas station, while nice, was a bit more like someone who would have been a nice biker chick from West Virginia. That's an unkind characterization, I'll think of a better one later. The neighborhood I passed through was a bit decrepit and semi-rural, much like I guess one would find where the silos are. It didn't look like the kind of place that would have its own climbing gym. I asked one of the workers there whether there were any "town and gown" conflicts. He didn't know what I meant, and he'd never seen An Officer and a Gentleman either. Once explained, he hadn't noticed any. But, as alluded to above by the gents from Mother Murphy's, apparently there are some. The Siamese twin towns became more of a bustling mini-metropolis as I went further north and east, and I could see how it could sustain a climbing gym.
P.P.P.S. While in Normal/Bloomington, my seat belt buckle failed, causing the latch to never stay in the buckle. I went to the Jeep dealership there, who didn't have the buckle in stock. So, I went to the Autozone and bought the special bit needed to get the buckle off, and I switched the buckles there in the Autozone parking lot. For a brief moment, I was living the normal, everyday life in Normal, Illinois.