A Few Random Thoughts Upon Returning from Carbondale

So I just got back to Seattle from my church network’s annual Summer Conference, held in my college town and home of four years, Carbondale, Illinois.  Throughout my few days back, I had some thoughts and observations about the town, the restaurants, and a few other things, and have been looking forward to writing them out upon returning home.

The Nightlife movie critics are beyond ridiculous . . .

In late 2003, I picked up a Nightlife on a Thursday or Friday, as I often did, and read the review for the newly released Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  In a nutshell, they said, “Since there’s a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding this new summer-quality movie, some people might actually manage to mistake it for real cinema.”  A couple of years later, I read the review for Batman Begins, and the reviewer gave it (I think) one star out of five, complaining that it takes itself too seriously to be a movie about a comic book character, and you don’t even get to see Batman until more than an hour into the movie.  Well, I opened one up while standing in line at Don Taco this past Wednesday and read short excerpts from the review on The A-Team, which I LOVED, and I honestly don’t think the reviewer watched the movie.  Sure, he was probably in the theater, but he didn’t WATCH it.  All of his complaints are complaints of someone who has managed to combine a reasonable jaded-ness in light of modern Hollywood, with a serious over-abundance of self-importance and ego.  He decided, “this is a movie that is based off of a cheesy TV show from the 80’s, when few big movies are anything but updates and remakes anyway, therefore it’s worthless and I don’t care.”  At least I know few people there take those guys seriously.

The Giant City Water Tower is a lot like YouTube . . .

I guess I knew that years ago, too, but now I have a really good comparison to get it across to people who have never been there.  It’s 85-86 steps up to an observation deck, spiraling around a central support structure, and it’s all covered in Sharpie® and Bic® messages that have the maturity and taste of comments on YouTube.  Some of these graffiti artists appear to actually seek out comments from other people they don’t know to belittle and mock their memories there.  I could do a long rant on how disturbing it is that such actions are tolerated more and more, but I’ll spare you and me from that one.   The oldest marking I saw was from 1999, and someone CARVED it into the paint, so the rain can’t wash it off like all the stuff from April 2009 and before.

New Kahala has the worst service I’ve ever experienced . . .

Disclaimer: I’ve never been impressed with New Kahala.  People remember it fondly alongside their college memories, which is fair (I cling to Don Taco over all, and, depending on the day, Italian Village over Quatro’s, so it’s all subjective).  The food’s not bad, as long as there are no roaches in it (talk to my wife), but I’ve NEVER felt welcome there.  The restaurant owners and employees have only ever managed to make me feel like a burden to them.  The dining room has the feel that it’s only been spot-cleaned for the last 20 years, and the passive-aggressive notes around the counter give the customer a sense of, “complaining is futile.”  The guy that ordered his food before me ordered some kind of soup to go.  He was sitting at a booth waiting for it when the guy that seemed to be in charge came out and brashly asked if he wanted a styrofoam container or a bowl.  “I’d like a bowl,” the guy said.  A few minutes later they give him his soup in a bowl that’s clearly intended to be used in the restaurant.  When he told the lady who gave it to him that he had specified it to go, she argued with him for four minutes along side that guy who was in charge, saying, “We ASKED you if you wanted it in a container or a bowl, and you said a BOWL!  Why did you say you wanted it in a BOWL if you wanted it in a CONTAINER?”  Then they reluctantly re-packaged the soup and the guy was on his way.  I guess there’s really no sense in complaining about New Kahala for too long since I’m only ever there once every year or two, anyway.  Especially since the customer service in Carbondale restaurants is pretty low overall (most food service workers there treat you like an inconvenience; I know I did it when I was one).  But if the average score for everyone is 4 out of 10, New Kahala is a 1.

I can’t believe the Hangar 9 is gone . . .

If there was one hangout that defined my memories of Carbondale over everything else, it was the Hangar.  I know people are polarized over it, as with anything else there, but I loved it.  And now it’s gone.  It’s one thing to leave a place behind with so many memories; it’s something else to find out that the places where those memories took place  no longer exist.   . . . but the more I think about it, it’s probably best that I don’t cling to those memories too closely.  It’s still weird, though.

I like SIU’s expansions . . .

I’ve heard from some people that the new library sucks, but from the outside it looks pretty nice.  And Saluki Way is coming along well.  I just hope they can turn that enrollment drop around (but then again, the enrollment has been “dropping” to around 18,000 students since I went there).

Steak n’ Shake changes, as lots of things do.  Yet some things do not . . .

I could go on and on about how the changes to Steak n’ Shake fascinate me (in mostly good ways), from the re-painting of the walls red, to the re-structuring of the booths in section 4 (which is over a year old now, but whatever), to the re-writing of the menu to a much more customer-friendly and affordable setup (such as including fries with burgers).  But this post will be long enough, so I’ll share ONE.  At one point during my second and final visit to my old place of employment, I saw Ed stick his head out of the entrance to the back section, look around at the dining floor, then head back to the back.  Ed was and is the dishwasher.  He was a pain in the butt.  I later went to the cash register to pay my bill, and I asked my server and service trainer, Nicole (I think), “So tell me–is it still like pulling teeth to get Ed to wash silverware?”  Without flinching for a millisecond, despite having never met me and not knowing until that moment I was a former employee, she responded, “Like pulling teeth and getting a root canal.”  I feel for Nicole and her co-workers as only former Carbondale SnS employees can.  I’d pass on the tricks I learned to get him to do it, but honestly I had all but completely blocked my memories of that man until I saw him that night.

My old house is in nearly the same shape it was when I lived there, but I’m shocked at how run down it is/was . . .

409 South Washington, if you live in or near the ‘Dale and want to check it out.  We were two doors down from Italian Village when I lived there, until three months before I left when my neighbor’s house burned down.  It’s in serious need of a paint job or new siding, and new windows.  And doors.  And, if the inside hasn’t changed (which it likely hasn’t), some drywall.  But if Frankie keeps that rent low like she did when I was there, she doesn’t have to do those things because the college students will fight to get into that location for that price.  That’s college town property ownership, I guess.

It’s nice to see that someone’s living in my old apartment behind the mall . . .

I’m making a mental note to blog my story about our apartment building getting struck by lightning.  Heck, I could do several blogs on Country Club Circle stories.  But, it’s not Country Club Circle anymore, the pool’s been filled in, and it seems that they’ve finally repaired building 10.  I know for a fact that two conferences ago I was able to walk into my old apartment.  At that point, me and Adam and Justin were still the last people to have lived there, and they hadn’t locked the doors yet.  I wonder if they ever straightened out the foundation.  Oh, I’m excited for these CCC stories, now!

This church network is awesome . . .

I’ve tried to word it a number of ways, now.  I can’t really explain it.  The people in my church and in my network all truly love Jesus and are all genuinely interested in following him and are all awesome.  I can’t elaborate more without going into tangents that I’m not interested in putting out to the masses on the interwebs.  So that’s all you get.

Until next year, C-dale!

If you made it this year, what observations or thoughts did you have?

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