I scanned the Silver Cloud menu and thought briefly of ordering the Korean beef dish, but I only had $5 in my pocket. Therein lies the big difference between the Silver Cloud and Midwestern hangouts: the prices. The Cloud was indeed cheap, but no match for an Illinois eatery/bar: two coffees, two meals, and juice came to $17 at Le Peep. Mon dieu!

I don't mean to make Urbana sound like Mayberry. It is a university town, so it's a nice mix of townie and sophisticate. I was there to see a reunion of all the acts that were big in '93, back when Champaign-Urbana was supposed to be the next Seattle. The guys from the Poster Children and Hum were there, along with a ton of people I went to high school with. We sat outside and drank Sierra Nevada. The air was hot and sticky, just like I remembered. At 1:30 a.m., my dad called and said he was coming to get me. I was tipsy and smelled like cigarette smoke. I felt like a kid again.

At the Silver Cloud, the couple next to me had moved on to talking about gay marriage. They agreed that we should live and let live, which just happens to be my philosophy of life, truth be told.

I think I'll embroider that mantra on a ruffled plaid pillow for my home.

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