Strange a hole-in-the-wall chicken shack closing down has caused me this level of personal upheaval

When I first moved away from Eau Claire – far away, not the three hours down the road to Madison – I often felt homesick. I’d look forward to my trips back, and feel like they were never coming soon enough. I still miss friends and family, and certain bits of the local music and arts scenes, but that isn’t the same as missing a place, and now, after twelve years away, Eau Claire has become just anywhere to me. It is where there are friends and family, but it doesn’t matter that they’re there. They could be anywhere, and I would go to anywhere to see them. For some time now I thought it was time that had changed me, and I simply didn’t miss my old hometown that much anymore, but that isn’t the case. The case is this, I’ve stayed the same, but my town has changed. It’s not the same place I left behind. There are new roads, new laws, new places and old places that no longer exist. The record store where I bought damn near close to all my music is gone. Condos have sprouted along the Eau Claire River. Everywhere I ever held down a job, save one, is shuttered or bulldozed. The fiberglass bull has been vanquished along with the chicken and the mouse. A growing percentage of the town’s people are strangers, and therefore the people in the bars are strangers… especially after the sun goes down. There is one bar that holds a particularly timeless appeal to me, but I know that too shall pass. This is all no more than saying that as we age, the world changes and the older we get the more we become strangers in that world. Time alienates us from our homes. The mad rampaging drunks of the past quiet down and have children. Unlimited chicken reaches its limits. My hometown is gone as if ripped through by tornadoes and completely rebuilt. You won’t meet me at the London Square Mall, no; you’ll find me on the new highway 53 racing from end to end, from one Wal-mart to the other like two massive dead weights on either side of the dumb bell. Blink now and you’ll miss that there was ever a city there to be seen. Vrroooom… this bypass doesn’t bring blood to the heart. It diverts it all away, leaving the city to bleed out, leaving me missing a city like I miss the dead.

The passing away of Chicken Unlimited is what got me on this train of thought. The last remnant of a long dead chain, I loved this place with its smoking and non-smoking tables right next to one another, and its signage proclaiming its product was "Tender as Quail... Tasty as Pheasant" as if it was selling chicken to a bunch of rustic hicks who had never lain eyes on a domestic bird they didn't view with disdainful suspicion.


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