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Weekend in Peoria, and a Sign of the Times

June 27th, 2007 · 10 Comments · Books, Culture, Food, Illinois, Journal, Labor, LGBT, Meta, New Wave, Peoria, Photos, Restaurants, The Economy, Stupid, Vegetarian & Vegan

Murray Baker BridgeYou may have noticed things have been a little slow around the OcPot this week, because I spent the past weekend visiting my parents in scenic Peoria, Illinois. I’m now paying the usual price for taking a couple of days off, with everything I have to do piled up to twice its normal height. It’ll be a few more days before I’m caught up enough for Ocelopotamus to resume its usual lumbering but steady pace, I suspect.

On Sunday the P’s and I had brunch at Peoria’s River Station restaurant, which was closed for a while and has recently reopened. The River Station, as you might guess, is famous for its view of the Illinois River, which is conveniently parked right outside. The Sunday brunch buffet is fairly lavish and they sure do crank out a lot of fresh delicious waffles for you to put cherries and strawberries on.

Afterwards we took a stroll in the little park along the river, whence I took this shot of the Murray Baker bridge that connects East Peoria to Peoria as you travel along I-74. It was our traditional route into town during the years I was growing up, though it’s had a makeover or two since those days.

The Wikipedia article tells me that the Murray Baker bridge “is not up to modern Interstate standards” because “it has no shoulders.” Hey, no need to get personal. I always hated doing shoulder presses myself, so I can only imagine how hard it is for a bridge.

I hadn’t actually intended to spend Pride weekend in Peoria, away from all the festivities (they don’t exactly do a parade in Peoria, to put it mildly), but I planned my trip before I realized how early in the month Chicago’s Pride Sunday was going to fall this year. Ironically, though, on Sunday evening I looked out the window of the car and saw a giant rainbow arching above the East Peoria sky. So I guess sometimes if you don’t find Pride weekend, Pride weekend will find you.

On Monday we had brunch at One World (formerly known as One World Coffee and Cargo) before putting me on the bus back to Chicago that leaves from the nearby Bradley campus. One World wasn’t around yet during my Bradley days, but since then it’s become a major campus-area landmark. (As a matter of fact, One World is on the site of the former record store I worked at one summer, and got fired from for bringing friends in after hours to dance to the new B-52’s record. Apparently a manager was driving by and saw people jumping around in the aisles when the store was supposed to be closed. I was quietly spoken to the next day.)

One World makes a mean hummus and you can get herb-roasted tofu in salads and other dishes, which is still pretty radical for Peoria, and for that matter, Chicago.

On our way into town, as we rounded a corner in downtown East Peoria, there was a man on the side of the road holding a handmade sign up above his head. No idea if it was his first day there holding the sign, or his hundred and first. Solid-looking guy, thirties or forties maybe, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, cap and shades, smiling gamely at the oncoming traffic. Looked like he could have been an ex-Caterpillar employee, though that’s just a guess.

The sign said simply: GOT WORK?

Related: As I’m catching up on Daily Kos, I see that the Republicans in the Senate have managed to block the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made it easier for employees to unionize without company interference.

Someone explain to me again how the Republicans manage to convince large chunks of the country that they represent the interests of ordinary working people? (That’s a rhetorical question, of course, since I think Thomas Frank has already explained it pretty well.)


10 Comments so far ↓

  • Aaron

    Thanks for the update on the homeland! I’m headed there in a few minutes myself…I haven’t been to One World in years! I’ll have to check it out one of these times. I haven’t been to River Station since my senior prom!

    Republicans are evil. Even Andrew Sullivan (if for no other reason than that he’s deluded)…

  • CP

    Was [Name Redacted by editor] behind that firing? You know if you were playing an REM album of bootleg outtakes he would have been cool with it.

    I remember when the quad cities (I think) co-op had a fire and they brought bin after bin of smoke damaged albums to the Main street store. [Redacted] paid me and a few other goofballs to sit in the basement and clean the smoke damage off the plastic wrapped vinyl. I think he paid us in either credit or piece meal (a few cents per album.)

    Good times.

  • Ocelopotamus

    Hi, CP! Yes, your surmise is correct. Which is the reason that — forgive me — I have redacted the name of the person in question, because I’ve learned that in this age of Google, to mention someone on the Web is pretty much to summon them. And as Lovecraft once wrote, “do not call up any that you cannot put down.”

    But of course you’re right — that decision, like so many others, was pretty arbitrary, and the stated reason was most likely not the real reason. Pretty much everything that was cited as a reason for dismissal had been done regularly by others in the employ of that fine establishment, both by other employees and by the person who did the firing himself. It mostly all just came down to popularity politics, fickleness, and whim. Anyhow, it makes a good story, and isn’t that really what matters?

  • Aaron

    You know, I’ve discovered in my life that what goes around, comes around (yes! the saying is true!). Philanderering males in my family all ended up with prostate problems or warts on their butts. People who fire unjustly may seem to coast away scot-free, but the ghosts off all pissed-off ex-employees are hovering through their rooms at night. Wondering how much insurance is on their house.

  • CP


    No worries on the name removal. I was just a typin’ and not a thinkin’. God knows I’ve googled enough people in my life.

    You know I still have this memory of being at co-op while you were working there and having some discussion about Oingo Boingo. Just one of those odd memories that lack details, yet doesn’t go away.

  • Ocelopotamus

    That’s entirely plausible. I think most of my conversations in those days involved Oingo Boingo somehow.

  • gadgetgirl

    My favourite way to spend a Saturday was to pick up the latest (insert cool band name here) at Co-op then scour the racks at the Salvation Army for an over sized sweater then go to Lagron-Miller for one of those finger rosary things to hang from a chain. Ah, the memories….

    Oh, and I’ve got a couple of saucy stories about the person who’s name was removed. Let’s just say it involves under aged girls and some skinny dipping…..oh, the Peoria gossip!

  • Ocelopotamus

    Wow, Gadgetgirl, you really do have the saucy stories.

    And I am continually amazed to realize how many of us ex-Peorians there are in the world.

  • Ocelopotamus

    I should also point out, in the interests of historical accuracy, that during the period of time when I worked there — in fact, all the time I was at Bradley, I’m pretty sure — it was called “Mainstreet Records” rather than Co-op. The Co-op Records that was around during my high school years liquidated their stock and closed during my freshman year at Bradley; Mainstreet Records opened in the One World space not too long after that. And sometime after I graduated, they went back to using the Co-op name.

    I think there were some legal shenanigans going on with the name, but I’m not sure.

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