Wild night and the long day before it  

badboyofurdreams 41M
1 posts
4/5/2005 5:07 am

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

Wild night and the long day before it


My job required me to be in Champaign last night. Part of that meant going down to Green Street to observe the party that was threatening to tear out after the Illinois game.
Of course, the Illini lost, but that didn't stop the party (more on that later.) My job was to chornicle as much of the day for the University and the town as I could. I quickly figured out the action was on Green Street and I spent most of the next 15 hours on Monday. I talked to two women who showed at a bar, Legends, at 9 a.m. One of them brought a chair, which was a smart move. I talked to the homeless man, Rod, on the street and saw him all during the day (so I high fived him every time I passed by.)
I met up with a former athlete I covered and followed her to a physics lecture (very boring ... and I love physics, but more so theoretical quantum physics). I got to talk to her professor afterward.
I went to a fraternity house with a number of our local kids (a long-ass walk). I watched the bars fill up. I interviewed one person at the back of the line for Legend's. He gave up after 10 minutes. I talked to another girl who waited four hours in line and was almost to the front door.
I went to a bar with hookahs, the Middle Eastern smoking things, and watched a little bit of the game while I drank from a $5 pitcher. I had about two or three cups (they only allowed plastic cups on campus for the weekend.) then gave the rest to some guys at the next table.
I hoofed half a mile to the Osco to see if there was someone who wasn't interested in watching the game. No, everyone in Champaign was watching. Even one girl who was sick and had no TV. She was listening on the radio.
I walked all the way back then watched the Illini comeback inside a Burger King. I went down to Legends again and watched with people looking through the window.
It was just sad to watch the end. People stood with glassy faces. One girl's eyes bulged with tears. I passed by one guy who locked his lips together, trying to hold it in.
Then a wild thing happened. All the sadness seemed to exit. Everyone swooped together toward the middle of the insection (police had already blocked off the street.) They were jumping and dancing and chanting "ILL-INI" together. The whole experience seemed very joyful and carthatic. They were letting it out and expressing their happiness for a great season.
Of course there was a little bit of anger too. "F--- Sean May" and "F--- UNC" were two favorite chants. There were a few firecrackers being set off. Someone brought 10 beach balls, and they were bouncing around. Girls stood on top of guys' shoulders above the crowd.
"We're still No. 1." was the best chant I heard. It meant a belief. They weren't No. 1 on the court, but that team was No. 1 in their hearts.
Then someone chanted "To the quad", "To the quad", "To the quad." It built and everyone performed a flawless about face. The crowd slowly surged toward the Quad. The two girls I interviewed at 10 a.m. suddenly appeared, jumping up and down at the sight of me.
At the entrance of the Quad, people stood on the college's main statue, the Alma Mater (who carried a basketball in her left hand and was decked out in a jersey and a Dee Brown headband.) People kept chanting. There were a couple people burning anything light blue. Hats, shirts, jerseys.
It was all fairly peaceful. Nothing too out of control. I went to the Quad. Got closer and closer. I realized I was too close. Many of the people around started crowd surfing. This is very dangerous if you've ever been around it. I got kicked in the head at least three times. I could feel the tendons pop in my neck on one kick. Another shoe hit the tip of my nose, you know that part that makes your eyes water. I got bruised on the right side of my head.
Next to me were two smaller women. I kept an eye on them. The crowd fell to the right. The girl next to me bumped her friend. She was falling backward quickly. Reflexively, I launched out my hand and caught her wrist. She would have fallen to her back without a doubt. Who knows what would have happened then. She thanked me profusely. "Oh my God. You saved my life," she said.
The crowd knocked us all back again. I grabbed both of them and held them up again to keep them from falling down.
They smartly decided to exit the scene, and I helped make a path for them.
I wonder if the one girl thought about me later. I thought about her and the moment that I saw her move backward.
I went back in to try to help anyone else that was caught up in the middle like I was. I was able to keep some smaller people on their feet and get them out.
I felt good but then I checked my pockets. My notepad was gone. I panicked. I retraced my steps. I searched the ground. Nothing. Shit! Then I saw a big pile of crumpled paper. Yep that was it.
After an hour the crowd dispersed except for a group of 10 people with instruments. Most of them had bongo drums. Someone brought a small, white flute. Someone else had a whistle. A girl shook a tambourine. They led the people slowly out of the Quad like pied pipers. Then they stopped and formed a circle. Those around them danced in the center. Spinning, bouncing, skipping (and even doing very quick handstands) to the primal rhythm.
The guy I came with and I decided we could go home. As of this writing, I still haven't slept after waking up at 5 a.m. Monday. I couldn't sleep. I was probably too excited. I have trouble sleeping anyway when I'm on the road, but especially when there's something exciting to do at my destination.
It certainly turned out that way.

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