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Thursday, May 13, 2004 07:29 am

Grace about town 5-13-04

art1062
Ready for anything

I've finally sorted all of the Very Exciting Contest entries into piles all over my living room. Most fall into two categories.

First, people crave more community involvement.

José Santiago sent a lovely handwritten note saying that everybody should be required to do something or go somewhere he/she has never done or been. He gets a little strident about it, insisting that these people provide written documentation that they've gone to new places, but his central idea is sound.

Troy Gorda is saving his ideas for improving the whole country in anticipation of the "If I ruled the world contest" (I'll get right on that). He signs himself "Troy 'El Conquistador' Gorda, Supreme Councilor of Inane Activity." Snappy.

Troy says: "Increase voter turnout, take part in community groups, attend various offerings of entertainment, use the library ... go to our beautiful parks, visit our zoo." He notes that "small theater productions go unnoticed, great musicians go unheard ... because we don't take part." I'm with you on that, Troy.

Other folks complained about the lack of stuff to do here. For instance, Lisa Porter wants more restaurants open late and more stuff downtown. But I agree with Troy and with Linda McElroy, who both believe that people need to be more involved. I've gone to plenty of interesting events and places that were poorly attended. Get out already, people!

As a matter of fact, start by coming to my one-woman show, Grace Talk #1, playing at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, May 19 and 20, downtown at Stella Blue. I've talked to people who are going out to dinner (downtown) and then to Stella Blue to see my performance. It feels great, knowing I'm doing my part in getting people out of the house and downtown, where everybody who's hip and cool will be.

Incidentally, I'm not doing a standup-comedy act or magic tricks or anything; I'm just going to be talking about stuff -- kind of like right now, only more so. In person. With some videos and other things -- a multimedia extravaganza. Maybe not "extravaganza," exactly; more like a "Celebration of Enjoyment." It's a little hard to describe -- you'll just have to see for yourself. You can listen to me talk about it on the "Molson & Lee Show," WMAY (AM 970), at 1 p.m. Monday, May 17.

The second group of Improving Springfield ideas falls into the "spiffing the place up" category, either through various beautification projects or by picking up the enormous quantities of trash plaguing our landscape (I've been making a concerted effort to locate all this trash, so far to no avail).

Norma Bergman was particularly vocal about the need for trash removal. She addressed her letter to the mayor of Springfield, care of Illinois Times. Perhaps she's under the impression that I live with the mayor? Sadly, not true. Maybe she thinks I am the mayor? Also not true, and don't even ask me to run; my sordid past would surely preclude any official titles.

Liz Meunch is also passionate about the litter crisis, as were a bunch of other folks. Al Eck e-mailed to say that he's involved with Springfield Green (not Soylent Green -- this is a much more people-friendly affair ... as far as I know, anyway). Maybe everybody needs to get in touch with Al.

Thank goodness it wasn't all about litter removal. Tom Huber has a really great idea. He thinks big, ugly streets such as Wabash Avenue should be split by wooded medians. He writes, "More greenery is always good. Plus, if you're stuck in traffic on a hot day, wouldn't some nice shade be welcome? If traffic backs up, drivers could step out of their vehicles for a quick game of whiffle ball."

This made me laugh; I'd be out there for the whiffle ball, even though I'm horrible at all sports. But honestly, this is a marvelous idea. One major street in Los Angeles, Santa Monica Boulevard, is an extremely ugly slab of concrete. But the city planners split the street and installed all kinds of cool plantings and sculptures down long stretches. The construction process made the wretched traffic completely unbearable for a while, but when it was all over, the place looked fantastic. You're a visionary, Tom. You can have my new job of mayor, if I get elected by a landslide without even running.

Dennis Shlenka wrote a nice note, complete with a neat colored-pencil drawing (I'm guessing Dennis is an engineer), detailing his idea of painting murals on area overpasses. Also a great idea.

I received just a few negative comments -- a woman transplanted here from Oklahoma thinks people here are the "rudest, unfriendliest and most superficial people" she's ever been around.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. If, for whatever reason, the people or the garbage, you hate it here, here's what you do: Leave.

I'll see the rest of you next Wednesday or Thursday night.

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