by Jeff McSweeney
A collection of people, places, things and events for a novel about Central Illinois.
Paul is an old-soul storyteller who captivates those around him. Born in 1971 at Resurrection Hospital on the far Northwest side of Chicago he embraces an accent that is classic Southside, a trait he credits to his father who is the epitome of that part of the country. He is a mix of Czech, Danish, German and Polish descent and is especially proud of his Polish ancestry. A retired Power Lifter from 1991-2006, where he was Illinois State Champion in his weight class a couple of years, Paul’s hobbies include Cowboy Action Shooting, reflecting his respect for guns, and fishing. An avowed bachelor, Paul says, “I’m old fashioned, but how can I find somebody who will make my life better when I’m already so happy?”
Being a Chicago refugee, Paul moved to Peoria in 1997 and believes Mayor Ardis’ statement, “It’s Better Here” - there are a lot of cool joints here, but you have to know where to look; the commute is a great treasure that we don’t appreciate enough; and you can actually own a home here with having a mortgage your entire life. One of Peoria’s great secrets is the River, “if we could just utilize it more…” Regretfully, the nuclear family is gone, its not just in Peoria, but it is one of the weaknesses of our society.
Paul is a Bears fan, a Blackhawks fan, a beer fan, everything Polish and enjoys an occasional cigar.
As a character in this novel Paul will play a strong supportive role that will arch over and around many other characters. He knows many noteworthy people in the community and will provide a mechanism to tie them all together, oftentimes through the stories he is apt to tell to anyone who will listen.
Peoria Riverfront Museum
The PRM holds political intrigue, dollars and the power of the insiders within its doors. The recently established museum is a collaborative result of eight organizations and a ten-year effort to convert the old Sears block on the Peoria riverfront to a modern reflection of what Peoria can accomplish. The museum’s mission is “to inspire lifelong learning for all – connecting art, history, science and achievement through collections, exhibitions and programs,” but may be better stated “to dishearten the public by making them believe the noble would actually create something that would represent the depth and breadth of the community.” Political connections above public need, great beauty contrasted by missed opportunity, the location for a great tragedy. A contrast will be shown between the shortcomings of the PRM with the continued successful vision in East Peoria. Imagine the possibilities this location holds when one considers its location just one block from the river, the underground parking deck, its giant screen theater, museum exhibits, special events and captivating walkway that surrounds the venue.
Gentlemen’s Cigar Society
A metaphor for social and economic lines crossed with no regard to race, sex or age. The Cigar Society formed in Eureka, Illinois in the fall of 2001 with just five foundational members. The mailing list today boasts over 150 with average event attendance around twenty. Those who gather to smoke cigars come from all walks of life including banking, politics, financial planning, auto sales, IT and marketing. This friendly, informal group gathers all over Peoria at places including Jimmy’s, Kouri’s and The Last Chance to catch up, share stories, talk about the week past and the months to come. Within this group relationships are expanded, connections are made, and storylines will cross. Intrigue will be introduced here by those who show up for events whether it be a regular or rare visitor, the distinctive conversations and who is present at any given time.