By the time you read this, I’ll have just had another birthday; turning older often makes me look back and reflect on days gone by, and wonder where the heck the time goes. This has also led me to realize that over the last 15-ish months, I’ve now contributed 20 entries to the weekend real estate Marty sets aside for us “other voices” here at MBIP.
I’ve got to hand it to Marty, he took a chance and gave me a shot based on nothing more than my expressing interest. And hey! It’s even September 20th today, so I thought it fitting to present my “20 on 20” by going back and reflecting on each post I’ve done and what my thoughts have become of each since. You know when sitcoms want to throw together a cheap episode of flashbacks? Well, this is sort of like that; so...welcome to my “clip show”.
Let’s get started shall we? We’ve got 20 to get through…
Hoisted By Pertarde (published June 30, 2013)
I recall being very nervous when I started contributing, especially since I had already attended a Contributor’s Lunch and like I mentioned earlier, Marty agreed to let me write with no knowledge of my ability. I figured this piece of trivial local history about the sculptor whose work you probably know, and whose name you may not, might be a safe way to start.
As I mentioned in it, I had portrayed Petarde in Springdale’s Annual Cemetery Tour, which allowed the thing to practically write itself. Since then, I have actually gone back and reprised that performance in last year’s cemetery walk, having an even better perspective the second time around.
An East Bluff Kid Remembers (published July 27, 2013)
I wanted to document my memories of the neighborhood I’ve spent most of my life in while I still could. I suspect anyone who wanders past the places of their childhood may look at a seemingly ordinary rock or building and have some story to tell about it. This was my version of that. I had so much to say and show, I soon realized it would take numerous posts to get it all in. Even just since writing about and photographing these places, some of them have changed or altered.
An East Bluff Kid Remembers—Part Two: Weber’s Grocery (published August 31, 2013)
I set an ambitious goal for myself on my third post—to write about a legendary “lost” landmark that once stood very close to my home…due to my age though, I soon realized how wildly underqualified I was to comment on Weber’s Grocery. A post to Facebook eventually lead directly to Weber’s family, and this proved to be my first taste ever of feeling like a journalist: you get a scoop on a story, and suddenly it feels like you’ve struck gold. I got up early on a Saturday morning to go meet with Weber’s son Oscar, who provided incredibly valuable photos and information about this one time East Bluff fixture, my memory of which was actually so faint it was borderline mythic.
This turned into something much greater than I could have hoped for, and maybe even my favorite of everything I’ve written to date for MBIP. I still get compliments and questions about this one more than a year later. Marty often talks about how you get to meet people and learn things you normally wouldn’t by doing a blog, and he couldn’t be more right about that.
Playing (Backstage) In Peoria Players Theatre (published September 14, 2013)
I was bound to cover local theatre sooner or later for MBIP, but wanted to put an interesting twist on it. Peoria Players is one of several places that’s allowed me to do what I love for several decades…its backstage and the stuff audiences don’t get to see are what’s most fascinating-as someone who loves to explore nooks and crannies, Players has them for days...I’ve seen the place from every angle and at all hours of the day. (The place is creepy when you’re there alone at 3 in the morning.) I’ll get to return and play there this winter when I direct the musical Cabaret. Save the date!
My Favorite Building—The Scottish Rite Cathedral (published October 27, 2013)
I always get really anxious when trying to come up with titles for my posts—you want it to be clever, funny, or at the very least, sound interesting.
But “My Favorite Building”? Seriously? That was the best I could do? If I could go back I’d re-title it “My Old Haunt” considering the supernatural element I was able to tie in (this also being the reason why I made it my “Halloween” entry). Anyways, the Scottish Rite was one of the first blog topics I thought of, and I get a knot of nostalgia in my throat every time I drive by it.
Broadcasting (Not) Live From Chicago! (published November 17, 2013)
At first I wasn’t sure about doing this one, since it was more about Chicago than Peoria. But it won out because the Museum of Broadcast Communications is way too cool not to share with others.
Shopping Be Damned: Spending My Time (Not MyMoney) On Black Friday (published December 8, 2013)
I totally get how commerce works, but last Thanksgiving showed just how truly out of hand Black Friday shopping has become (and is it just me, or are most people going out to buy things for themselves on that day?) Shopping has never really been a part of my Black Friday—even when I worked retail jobs, I always managed to take it off. I thought it would be refreshing and palate-cleansing for those that were annoyed by the hoopla to see a slew of wholesome, family friendly and free alternative ways to spend the day after Thanksgiving, plus they are steadfast Peoria Christmas traditions. Try it (or something like it) instead this year, then when reports show that Black Friday sales were down this year, we will all have a sense of accomplishment and the world can maybe go back to normal. Doubtful though.
Over the River And Through Goodfield, Or There’s Snow Business Like Barn Business! (published December 28, 2013)
I know there’ s a lot of stuff Marty isn’t able to get to due to his odd and demanding schedule, so sometimes I like to cover things he can’t. A huge snowfall delayed this visit to the Barn by one night, which I thought made our trek out to such a warm cozy place in the middle of nowhere for a hot meal and a Christmas show in the dead of winter a more interesting story. I’ve been back to the Barn quite a few times since, and no snow has gotten in the way. A little rain, though.
Westlake Cinema Paradiso (published January 11, 2014)
The title is a riff on a popular Italian film about a young boy who falls in love with cinema, so it felt appropriately esoteric. I had a sequel planned to this one almost as soon as it was written, even going as far to meet with people at the Cohen Development Office for it, but in the end I realized I just didn’t have enough content to write a “worthy” sequel and since most sequels suck anyways, abandoned the idea. You wouldn’t have been getting an “Empire Strikes Back”, more like an “Electric Boogaloo”.
People Come And Go So Quickly Here... (published January 25, 2014)
It was early one week in January where Marty stated that the “well was dry”, so I stepped up and quickly did this one—I’d known about it for years, so most of the research was readily available. It got a great reaction and I did not expect as many comments and interest from so many on the short life and subsequent death of the “real” Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.
Becoming Fagin: I Pick A Pocket (Or Two) (published February 8, 2014)
This entry also fell on a week that Marty had a last minute opening and needed something. Since playing Fagin in “Oliver!” was consuming almost all of my free time at that moment, I figured it’d be fun to show what goes into becoming such an iconic character onstage, plus the traffic and audience that MBIP has make it a great way to promote stuff. I’ve done a lot of directing, but not performed onstage since this role, as finding one as satisfying will be difficult.
Two Bits For Eight: A Trip Back To 1983 (published February 16, 2014)
When we pulled up to the Arcade Museum in McLean, IL on a VERY snowy day, I wasn’t even sure if it was the right place—it is a jewel That hidden. I can’t stress to everyone enough how cool this place is and how it needs to be supported. Make an effort and go there. I haven’t been back yet, but I will!
An East Bluff Kid Remembers—Part Three: Pedalin’ On... (published March 8, 2014)
The weather briefly saw a break in early March allowing me to finally resume my East Bluff tour; by now I just had a lot of sporadic places and memories left to cover, so thought I would use the memory of riding my bike as a unifying theme to all of them.
The Search For The Flying Tomato (published March 15, 2014)
This was one of the more time-consuming “big” pieces I’ve done. I was so excited about this one and it shows how neat unexpected things can happen when you’re out blogging for MBIP—first by extensively researching Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan to ultimately meeting one of the founders was great. I was back in C-U for work in June and revisited County Market for more take home slices.
A Chilli Day With A Bold Renegade (published April 5, 2014)
I had first learned of the Zorro exhibit from talk at an MBIP luncheon. Marty idly said “someone should check that out for the blog” which stuck with me until I finally had a chance on a cold day months later to do so.
Girls And Guys Just Wanna Have Fun: The Awesome ‘80’s Prom! (published May 3, 2014)
For anyone who ever says “there’s nothing to do here” I’d say MBIP has proven them wrong. Really cool things happen in town if you know when and where to find them, and “The Awesome 80’s Prom”, an interactive show/party that zaps you into an 80’s movie is perfect example of something fun and cool that happens in this city.
Where Good People Went For Good Food (published May 17, 2014)
When I first started contributing, I had ideas for days. But in the cold winter months with so many weekends open, I started cranking through them quickly, but this topic was on my list of ideas for some time before finally getting to it. I’ve been driving around for years watching more and more Hardees buildings go vacant and become something else. I had a lot of fond memories of going there as a kid, and thought writing about it might stir up the memories of others as well. It took me months to get pictures of them all, which is why some shots have snow, and others are sunny.
Meanwhile Back In New York: Presented By Chipstagram (published June 1, 2014)
Marty suggested I do a report on my trip to NYC back in the spring. I was worried that the things I did there might not be of much interest to the masses, so I added the whole “Instagram” angle in hopes of making it more fun.
An East Bluff Kid Does Not Remember: The Viking News, May 1953 (published August 16, 2014)
This piece would not exist had I not met the Weber family. The Viking News sat on my shelf for several months before I could get to writing it, since I had other more time sensitive pieces come up. Then I finally set myself a deadline to make it happen.
Sometimes, however, you have to make lemonade if things don’t go as planned. When I decided to revisit all the businesses advertised in this 60+ year old publication, I didn’t even take into account that the streets had all been re-numbered, making It very difficult to do. I could have abandoned my plan, but liked the idea too much, so I buckled down and made it work.
The Hog Days Of Summer (published September 6, 2014)
I wrote this in response to some of the thoughts I had been feeling about the season of summer...once you become an adult and work a regular job, you really don’t even notice its presence and can really miss out on its benefits (unless you’re a teacher). So this piece pretty much sums up my getting to experience the season of “summer” in just a few hours.
That brings us up to now…I gotta thank Marty again, for letting us Contributors play in his sandbox and providing an outlet for those of us that don’t have the time to do it full-time. I’ve been replenishing the idea list and look forward to what lies ahead-more memories to recollect, more road trips to cover, and more adventures to recount. I’m having a blast.
And I walk one, two flight, three flight four,
Five six seven flight, eight flight more.
Up on the twelfth I'm starting to sag,
Fifteenth floor I'm ready to drag,
I get to the top and I'm too tired to rock.
Bonus Jaws the Cabbie Art!
Jaws the Cabbie sent in this piece of clown art to accompany his comment. He calls it, “Ronald McGort! Thanks, Jaws!