Saturday, October 24, 2009


Normal is surprisingly scary at Halloween. Large cranes overshadow the Post Office, like giant arms ready to reach down and grab unsuspecting Uptowners. Orange and white barrels form mazes which vehicles enter only to disappear forever. Railroad crossing gates go up-and-down randomly, daring us to try our luck at passing beneath them without getting cut in half. Darkened patches of rough surface on College Avenue yawn ahead like camouflaged tar pits, waiting to swallow and preserve us for future research. Squirrels with sharp little teeth dart about, looking for pedestrians to bite. Budget cuts and increased fees are discussed by Town Council “men and women” (or are they aliens?), frightening all residents. The Marriott Hotel reduces the IQ of those who enter late at night, even putting them into a trance. Some streets (East Beaufort) are opened while other streets (Ft. Jesse) are closed, adding a fun-house like confusion to the driving experience. Stores display Halloween items right next to Christmas items, determined to cast a pall over the yuletide. And the scariest of all: those drivers around you, talking on their cell phones, swerving and running red lights. Self-absorbed dolts or ghouls out to get you? Enjoy a frighteningly Normal Halloween!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Normal Agriculture

This is actually more about McLean County than about Normal, but I wanted to share it since I don't usually write about agricultural information. At the Normal Public Library's sale I purchased the book Five Golden Decades 1914-1964, published by the McLean County Farm Bureau in 1964. It's a history of the Bureau during those years and I found a few interesting items as I looked through it. First, the "McLean County System of Swine Sanitation" was developed in 1919 by Lyle Johnstone as a way to prevent runt pigs (it was thought that runt pigs were caused by round worms) (page 86). Second, a couple of outbreaks in McLean County's history: "One of the worst hog cholera outbreaks McLean County ever had occurred in the Fall and early Winter of 1931. Without doubt the worst grasshopper outbreak occurred in the Spring of 1937" (pages 108-109). (And we complain about aphids and beetles!) And third, from the chapter "Artificial Breeding Program in McLean County," it seems that there was a problem with "poor bulls" in McLean County in the 1930s. The solution was to join a breeding co-op in the 1940s. An exciting breakthrough in this program is described: "One of the great boosts to the artificial insemination program came when frozen semen which could be stored indefinitely became a reality, making possible the availability of any bull at any time" (pages 161-162). Any bull at any time. Oh, there's a joke or two one could make based on that phrase. . .

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Normal A to Z

A is for Amtrak -- hopefully soon pulling up to a new multimodal transportation center!

B is for baseball -- next year, take someone out to the ballgame and cheer on the CornBelters!

C is for Constitution Trail -- whether you walk, run, bike, or skate, it's a great way to exercise!

D is for debt --ok, so Normal has some debt; it would be difficult to invest in the future without it

E is for environmentalism --"going green" seems to be a growing (pun intended) trend in Normal

F is for Fell, Jesse Fell -- Normal founder, tree planter, with a park and a street named for him

G is for geese -- it seems like geese are constantly flying around and landing in Normal

H is for Heartland Community College -- it continues to grow and meet community needs

I is for ISU -- it has such an impact on Normal in so many ways

J is for Junction -- one of the former names of Normal

K is for Koos, Chris Koos --Mayor, business owner, bicycling and historic preservation advocate...

L is for Linden -- a major north-south thoroughfare in Normal (with many squirrel crossings)

M is for Marriott -- many, many conferences and special events are in this hotel's future

N is for Normal -- of course!

O is for opinions -- Normal citizens have opinions on everything; just ask!

P is for parks -- Normal has so many wonderful parks

Q is for quad -- a surprisingly pleasant place to temporarily host the Sugar Creek Arts Festival

R is for Redbirds -- ISU teams (represented by a bird's head stenciled on town streets)

S is for Sugar Creek Arts Festival -- a very nice annual event for those around in the summer

T is for traffic circle (aka roundabout) -- better than a 3-way stop? we'll see...

U is for Uptown -- even if you don't like the new title, you'll like the new experience!

V is for vinyl siding -- so many subdivisions, so much vinyl, so few colors

W is for windy -- Normal could become known as the "Windy Town" (that refers to weather, not politicians)

X is for X chromosomes -- too many XX singles in Normal, not enough XY singles!

Y is for yield -- please remember to yield to all pedestrians and bicyclists

Z is for zig-zag -- that's how you'll have to drive to get around all of the construction in Normal

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Normal Signs

At the October 5 Normal Town Council meeting the Council voted to spend money on street signs and "district map" signs for the Uptown area. (District map signs are the you-are-here type of signs.) Originally, there were more types of signs proposed but the bids to do all of the signs came in too high. So, going with a few signs now will save some money and more signs can be added later.

I have to say, I really like the "primary gateway boundary" sign that identifies Uptown, although I don't know the best place for it -- on the east, west, north, or south end of Uptown? I also like the "pedestrian directional" signs that list the major destinations along with arrows pointing the way. All of the signs have a nice style so I hope that more are added in the future. Residents probably think that it's silly to have signs for such a small area but people who come for conferences or to deliver their ISU students to the campus might miss out on some great destinations without signs.