Zach Miller (zarfmouse) wrote,
Zach Miller

Farewell to Urbana

I put together a mass email about the garage sale and figured I might as well include some farewell words to Urbana while I was busy spamming half the town. Here's what I wrote.
I know some of you very well. Some of you I've never met. Some of you
I haven't talked to in a long time. But one thing binds you all
together (and there are hundreds of you). You are in some way
connected in my mind to the third of my life that I spent living in

I've been spending the last few months sorting through all my old
boxes of stuff accumulated during that time so that I can simplify my
life and reduce my possessions because I am moving to Australia for a
little while and because it is time to shed the anchors of the past
and move on to newer unexpected things!

I came to Chambana expecting to rough it in the cornfields for only 3
or 4 years, get my degree and leave. After spending 5 years getting 2
degrees and slowly nudging my political identity from liberal to
radical, I found myself so involved with WEFT community radio, the
Prairiegreen party, and the UC-IMC that I decided perhaps I'd stay in
Urbana for a good long while.

In my time there I loved, learned, battled, campaigned, organized,
agitated, befriended, communed, bonded, played, rode, traveled, built,
and more. I lived in 6 houses with over 25 different roommates. I had
6 major relationships. I worked for a dozen different political
campaigns, I ran for county board, I helped bring folk and punk music
to a voluneer operated non-profit venue, I rode in Critical Mass, I
rode with the Hell's Chipmunks, I competed with Team Groogroo, I put
surface water data on the web, I played games, I crawled around in the
guts of supercomputers, I created 6 dimensional mazes, I threw
week-long parties, I organized press conferences, I testified at a
union witchhunt, I got sued by the democratic party and won, I spent a
day in jail in New York City, I got assaulted by cops in Miami, I
marched in Philly and at Ft. Bening, I tried to reclaim the streets of
Naperville, I DJed weddings, I ate pad thai laced with crack at the Y,
I threw out of control parties attended by rowdy drunken strangers, I
had a punk band in my basement, I introduced friends to their spouses,
I watched the patriot act take a community member away, I learned the
word "permaculture", I met some well-schooled designers of a society,
I was a radical cheerleader, I played capture the flag at midnight in
downtown Champaign, I mediated conflicts, I started some whiskey
trains, I demanded change, I hung posters and stuffed envelopes, I
replaced wires with waves one rooftop at a time, I cooked thanksgiving
dinner for 40, I perfected the thrash-jig and learned all the nuances
of breaking the dancing bubble barrier, I played in the woods after
dark, I was an errant pedant, I rode my bike to Kankakee, I questioned
Eris, I read every novel written by Ursula Le Guin, I worked for a
dot.bomb, I lived through mono, I taught kids how to run a PA at a
rock concert, I transmitted pirate broadcasts, I hosted radio shows, I
took road trips, I broke a few laws and I helped make some others, I
herded a committee of over 80 people through 6 years of
self-definition, I tried to make room 3 explode, I ran with artists
and scientists and laborers and geeks and farmers and teachers, I
started a folk music festival in UP Michigan, I joined a union, I made
peace, I wrote and spoke and listened and read and created and
combined, I saw community shatter and I saw it re-build, I helped a
band of anarchists buy property from the federal government, I
produced news, I attended city council meetings, I saw and showed
great movies, I invented a new kind of drink, I danced naked in the
rain, I watched the ebb and flow of transience in a college town, I
fell in love, I broke hearts, I ate apple pancakes, I breathed, I
fought for what seemed right, I won, I lost, I broke even, I fell
down, I got picked back up, I cried, I laughed, I hugged, I dreamed, I
grew up. I think I did a few other things too. It was a good ten

And every single one of those things was something that I did in
community with others. People from Champaign-Urbana taught me and
joined with me in every one of those things. I am who I am today and I
will be who I am in the future, in large part, due to the people of
Champaign-Urbana who were my friends and allies and comrades and
fellow workers and co-activists and lovers and roommates and teachers
and students and volunteers. Thank you to all of you for the part you
played in my growth. Thank you for giving me a vision of community and
chosen family. Thank you for showing me how to struggle against
overwhelming power with joy in my heart. Thank you for showing me that
I can learn to do ANYTHING with the right kind of help. And thank you
for the part you continue to play in the world wherever you are. Maybe
the last time we talked there was some bad blood or ugly vibes or hurt
feelings between us...but that seems completely irrelevant to me now,
so distant, and so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Whether
I'm in touch with you every day, or only every few years, or if we
never happen to speak are all in my heart and memories
and always will be.

I have no idea what the future will bring. After deciding that my
future was no longer in Urbana, I've spent the last year clearing the
decks and patiently waiting for the next stage of life to come along.
In that time I've fallen in love with Meagen and received a job offer
to work in Australia for the next 3 years. Meagen and I are eager to
see what new adventures await us in Australia, if the unexpected gifts
of Australia are even half those of Champaign-Urbana we'll return rich
in our souls and deeply changed for the better.

If you'd like to keep in touch please consider joining me on or at,
or emailing me at

As with every mass email I ever haphazardly throw together, there's
HEAPS of people who should be getting this but aren't because I've
lost track of your email address or just accidentally skipped over it
when building the big list. I've lost a LOT of email addresses! So if
you're reading this over someone's shoulder and wondering why you
didn't get one, it's probably because you should email me right now
and get yourself back on my contact list.

I know I'll be back to visit, but once this house is empty and sold, I
will be just that ... a visitor in the town I've called home since
August 1995.
Tags: australia, house, urbana
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