Hook, Line and Sinker

By Tony Hooker
Surrealism was a post-World War I artistic and cultural movement whose artwork was known for its juxtaposition of uncommon images.  Such giants in the art world as Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso are some of the most famous purveyors of this bizarre form of expression.

Why the art lesson in a country boy’s weekly column? 

No, I’ve not gotten culture suddenly, and I’ve not lost what little sense I had, although Mrs. HLS would probably beg to differ with the last point.

I wrote that brief Art History lesson because the word surreal is what I felt last week when I made a rare venture to UIUC campustown.  

Streets that would normally be swarming with young people, walking, talking, biking and enjoying the last vestiges of true freedom, where their only concern was that morning’s Diff EQ or Sociology exam, were practically bare.  The garish lights of the restaurants who had no choice but to stay open and try to eek out a meager existence stood in stark contrast to the businesses who were either unwilling or unable to remain in the struggle.  Many of the shuttered businesses were chain stores such as Walgreen’s and Panera Bread, while one off mom and pop stores such as BoBo China and my destination, Mia ‘Za’s, remained committed to doing what they could to survive.  As an aside, Mia Za’s is making meal kits that are pretty good and inexpensive, so if you’re up that way and like Hookerville, you’re running out of dinner ideas, you might give them a try.  

All of the chain link fencing associated with the MCORE project on campus added to the randomness of the trip. Cars, busses and delivery vehicles who would normally be slowed to a crawl by other motorists and pedestrians were able to navigate lane closures and single lane streets with impunity.  Surreal.

And, because I’m here to inform as well as entertain, (ha!) I googled exactly what in the heck MCORE stood for, and found that the project, which is now in phase four, stands for “Multimodal Corridor Enhancement Project”.   Basically, the city and the university are working to, according to WILL’s web page “link up the Campustown area with both downtown Champaign and Urbana, creating an east-west corridor along Green Street that provides access for several modes of traffic, including mass transit, cyclists and pedestrians, as well as regular motor traffic.” 

At any rate, in normal times, traveling by car in the area of Green and Wright street would be a hot mess.   Not now, though.  I arrived at my destination at that intersection a tad early and parked on Green St. eastbound for 15 minutes while waiting on my food.   AT 5:15 on a Tuesday.  Surreal.  

It’s been estimated that 20 to 30 percent of all businesses in CU won’t be able to re-open if action isn’t taken soon, and I shudder to think of what that number would balloon to if the students aren’t able to return for fall classes.  

Finally, as a reminder, Veteran’s Day honors all those who have served, Memorial Day honors those who gave the supreme sacrifice while serving.  

It always reminds me of my Grandpa Hooker, though he didn’t die during his service years, he carried the emotional wounds of WWII with him for his entire life.  The man went from being a farm worker in Piatt County to crawling on his belly in Belgium, finding landmines with his bayonet during the battle of the Bulge, or at least that’s the family lore.  I do know that he was at the battle, but he never talked about what he did.  The family heard about his exploits from a gentleman from Sullivan who served with him.  All of that after volunteering to serve at the age of 34. After surviving the great depression.  The crazy thing is that his is just one of a million similar stories.  True heroes. They were indeed the Greatest Generation, to my way of thinking.

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