There’s a lot of “can’t” right now. We can’t go out to eat. We can’t gather with friends and family in the way that we like. Life as we know it is basically cancelled for the time being. Living here, right now, and in cities everywhere, is strange. We exist in this weird space where life is still happening: there are cars on the road, some of us are still going to work, people are out walking their dogs. At the same time, it’s entirely different than how we were existing just two months ago. Grocery shopping is an insane experience. It’s bizarre to see everyone in masks, yet we are alarmed and angry when we see those who aren’t wearing one. Everywhere you go it’s a dance of still interacting while also keeping your distance from others. We have all of these rituals that would’ve seemed absurd had you told us back in February that would be a part of our regular lives.
This way of living has now become routine in many ways, yet there are times that every fiber of our beings wants to push against it. To run outside and scream into the void: “This isn’t normal and I hate it!!” Is that just us? Working at home, schooling at home, exercising at home, socializing from home. So much damn time at home. When you’re people publishing a magazine that is often about being a participant in the community by going and doing, it can be a struggle.
However, C-U still exists, the best and worst of it, out there in this strange limbo. Here at Smile Politely, we don’t shy away from talking about the whole spectrum. Here's a reminder of things we can still do in C-U and beyond: the entertaining, the absurd, and the imperative.
Create, and support the creators
Local artists and musicians are finding ways to stay connected. Our Arts Editor Debra Domal has shared a lot about local artists and their work during this time. Read a bit more here and here. Local businesses and artists have been collaborating for c-u pARTners, an effort where your purchases will support both. Rose Bowl Tavern has been a particularly active venue; a space where local musicians can play their music for online audiences. Canopy Club is hosting a weekly open mic night over Zoom, and Krannert Art Museum has adapted their Art Remastered series for online audiences.
What can you create during this time? Of course there’s no pressure to do so, you can only do what you can do right now. But whether you are taking advantage of kits that Art Coop has to offer, or you are molding your home into the oasis you need right now with greenery from Plant Mode or flowers from Delight Flower Farm and Fleurish, there can be space right now to flex those muscles.
Spend time in nature
Yes, we have been talking about this a lot, but our options for getting out and doing things is awfully limited because we’re encouraged to stay home. Our parks and forest preserves offer safe options for leaving the house, getting some exercise, observing the season change, and doing so in a way that’s relatively easy to do while physically distancing yourself from others. You can now visit all of the outdoor areas at Allerton, including the gardens which are surely beautiful right now. If you find that portion to be too busy for your comfort when you arrive, the less traveled trails on the south side of the park are kind of a wonderful oasis. The Champaign County Forest Preserves are such important places of refuge right now, and if you want to venture just a little farther, Kickapoo State Park is now open as well. Golf courses opened last weekend, with strict measures of course, if you want to add one more aspect of semi-normalcy to your week. Just make sure you do your part to be a good citizen while you’re out doing these things. Here’s a reminder of how to do that.
We can also get to work on those yards and flower and vegetable gardens. Landscape Recycling Center is open for your mulching needs, as are garden centers. Common Ground Food Co-op has its annual plant sale happening this week, where your purchases will support their Food-for-All program.
Eat local food
Our Food and Drink section has remained robust due to our local restaurants finding ways to adapt during this time, and patronizing those places has the dual positive of helping them through this time while also maintaining a sliver of connection to the community. But please, people, as you share all of the tasty things you are ordering from our restaurants, take some time with your food photography. We want people to be enticed by the food you are eating, and there have been some questionable photos floating around out there.
Take advantage of locally grown and sourced food as well. Urbana’s Market at the Square opened last week, and The Land Connection's Champaign’s Market will open soon, giving you ample opportunity to support our local farmers. It’s something we harp on all the time anyway, and now it’s more important than ever.
Admire the fugly gray buildings
Campustown may be somewhat empty, but its skyline remains. Why not cruise along Green Street and take in the muted, architecturally boring aesthetic that we’ve bemoaned over the past few years? Seriously though, take some time to visit and support Campustown businesses and restaurants as you are able.
Read trash comments on local social media pages
The Facebook comment section for WCIA in particular has been so historically terrible that it even made our WORST of the Decade column. However, comment sections on the News-Gazette, Spotted in Chambana, and now even C-U Public Health District aren’t any better. In a world where everything has changed, it’s nice to see that some things remain the same. If you want to find all of the people who would rather criticize Governor Pritzker’s weight than take wearing a mask seriously, this is the place to be. Now, for the sake of your mental and emotional health we don’t recommend spending time here, but isn’t it great to know these people are still out there?
Be there for others
Most importantly, we can be good neighbors. This can look a lot of different ways: picking up groceries for someone, sharing your baked goods, donating your time or money to one of the many organizations working to provide for those most in need, reaching out by Zoom or FaceTime to someone you know would be happy to see your face, wearing your mask (properly) when you go to the store. This has to be a collective effort if we’re going to get through it. And we will get through it.
The Editorial Board is Seth Fein, Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, and Patrick Singer.