Column: Keyhole into Chicago

By Chuck Prochaska

After consecutive weeks of exams, midterm papers, meetings, practices and social unrest (frats can be as catty and bickery as sororities), I needed a weekend at home. Heading north on I-57 Friday afternoon, I quickly learned that, no matter what a yellow sign in Greg Hall might tell you, there is absolutely no sex on the Suburban Express. I was the victim of false advertising, but I wasn’t about to ask the girl next to me if she felt the same way.

It was great to escape Champaign and all of its nuances, but during my stay in Chicago (okay, okay – the suburbs) I couldn’t help but notice the subtle hue of orange draped over the buildings and flowing throughout the streets. There’s a lot of Champaign in Chicago these days, and I wish there was always some Chicago in Champaign. I bet you do too. To re-acquaint you (or the majority of you) with news from our favorite city by the lake, here are the headlines.

Chicago is an Illini-kind of town

Sports headlines in the Chicago Sun-Times or Tribune could be talking about the NBA All-Star game or the NHL Lockout, but they aren’t. They are too busy noting that Roger Powell broke his slump by shooting 10-10 in a blowout of Penn State. They hammer out every detail of a “near miss” for the Illini who pulled one out against Iowa, even without hot showers at their Hawkeye hotel. The papers brag about the undefeated Illini as if Champaign-Urbana was on the near-South side.

While working out in some of my Illini gear, I was asked about our basketball team’s chances of winning a national championship by a total stranger. His next question was, “When are they gonna stop whining about the Chief?” It was my pleasure to answer both.

We don’t realize it here on campus, but just 140 miles north, America’s third largest city has become our biggest fan.

The Auto Show comes to town

The 97th Chicago Auto Show was held at McCormick Place this past week and closed Sunday.

Besides the sweet new Ford Mustang, the most ridiculously amazing car (a bit unconventional, albeit) is the Maybach. Not-so-modestly priced at $319,000, this V-12, 543 horsepower ultra-luxury sedan comes with everything from a suede dash to a champagne bottle holder in the backseat.

Acura also has an impressive lineup for 2005 including the completely redesigned RL. After riding in one over winter-break, I can confirm that its satellite-based real-time traffic navigation system, keyless access system, swiveling headlight beams, super-handling all wheel drive and sporty look are surely worth the sticker price of $49,000. However, I am a bit biased. They pay my bills.

Gearheads, if you stayed at school this weekend, you missed out on a display of beauty.

Meth takes toll on gay community

Recently, methamphetamine, or meth, is being bought and sold throughout the gay community more than ever. It is extremely popular at gay-circuit sex parties, many of which are masked as AIDS fundraisers. Because it causes a surge in energy and a lack of judgment, meth is causing increased rates of HIV and AIDS. Users say that meth is cheap and provides an escape from “a lifetime of confusion, rejection or insecurity” (Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 20). Now the city is planning to unveil a treatment program for addicts.

It’s sad that many people use drugs to cope with the realities of life. However, I find it difficult to muster sympathy – especially at the taxpayer’s expense – for a small group of meth addicts that readily expose themselves to the dangers of drugs and unprotected sex. Meth production, sales and abuse began – and still thrives – as a predominantly rural problem. Yet, where was the media’s cry for help when farmers’ sons began dying from exposure to anhydrous ammonia, a key meth ingredient found in liquid fertilizer? If there is a group of people involved with meth that need to be targeted for treatment, it’s those in rural communities, like those surrounding our campus.

It is these communities that we need to be concerned about rehabilitating, not just the gay community, whose last problem is worrying about the kind of drugs that are being abused.