As the Free Store opens in its new location (Conger-Neal basement) this month, I take note of two phenomena: the dogged dedication of KARES and the renewed loneliness of Wallace Lounge.
It was something, once. It was an underground beacon for bored adolescents whose sloth could not be alleviated by the Gizmo or Post Lobby alone. One offers something greasy to start your fire for $2.75; the latter only boasts a big TV chained to a brick wall. Wallace Lounge was altogether different, with its functional gaming tables, and its prior reputation as a bona fide bowling alley…simply put, it was not a place to be. It was a place to do, a locale where the verbiage spanned beyond “eat” and “sit.”
In the vein of Wallace’s former noble mission, I was conflicted by the 2008 decision to convert Wallace Lounge into a pizza bar. A fine brainstorm, Helmut, it really was. It would have toppled the Alfano’s empire (all the better if Knox served “stuffed breadsticks”). However, even I, as a cheese-and-sausage enthusiast, yearn to breathe free. I want an activity, consarn it!
Now that the pizza bar dream has been (perhaps temporarily) laid to rest, I have my own proposal:
Let’s build a ball pit.
I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and I simply cannot see a downside. It would require only three employees: one to demand shoe removal and pocket checks at the door, one to mist the plastic paradise with sanitizing spray, and one to supervise. Really, these are pretty much the same obligations of our computer lab assistants. Some netting near the glass windows would, of course, be installed. Other than that, though, it’s such a minimal cost. I would imagine that the balls themselves would require only biannual replacement, and the carpeting beneath it would remain untouched and pristine. Unlike a pizza bar, where demand constantly dictates the purchase of new ingredients and dough every hour, the ball pit (which I would like to call Balls to the Walls) would provide an optimal diversion for even the most skeptical adolescents roaming the campus. We would thus create our own personal Eden: a Galesburg getaway.
What better way to de-stress after a nail-biting midterm than to sink into waves of tumbling color, enveloped by the waxy scent of the cool, smooth childhood spheres? The ideal first date, I’d say, and that’s just scratching the surface. Imagine the intriguing effect a ball pit would create if it were the new venue of Knox’s Writers’ Forums or Caxton Club readings, let alone the mention the infinite concert potential for WVKC. Remember Girl Talk’s debauchery last May? Just add a rainbow (but don’t hold up lighters during your favorite songs – some melting may occur).
I have discussed this ball pit platform with several of my contemporaries, and have appealed to them for other Wallace Lounge possibilities. A coffee bar, a yoga center, a sexier Founders – none of these ideas even approach the majesty of all those synthetic ROY G BIVs, and the knowledge that, as I eat my dinner in the caf, they’re all right below me, waiting for my inner child to rear its tiny head once more. Waiting, in fact, for all of us to become the community of cops, robbers, cowboys, and Indians we all once were, before the notion of apathy crawled into our collective subconscious. I’m convinced Wallace Lounge could again host a cascade of lost and precious verbs – laugh, crawl, dive, yell, exhaust, burrow, envelop – if only given the chance.