Thursday, July 16, 2009

Indiana Bound – Page Six

We are in Indiana and we had a good visit with Dan and Cindy, my younger brother and his wife. We’ll see them again Friday at Kentucky Lake Big Bear Resort where the whole family from several hundred miles around will gather for a three day party. But, I digress. Yesterday we left Newton, Iowa at 7:30 A.M., our earliest start yet, and left the rough roads of Iowa about two hours later… whew! The roads improved immediately when crossing into Illinois and the rundown sections are being replaced. It’s funny how that works; some states pay attention to their infrastructure and some don’t. Maintaining road systems pays off. Good roads mean good, accessible commerce for businesses and less vehicle maintenance costs to businesses and people and a whole change in attitude. I, for example, am not motivated to stop in Iowa, but would suffer through it to see Nebraska. So, Nebraska will get my tourist dollar.

Anyway, we entered the Chicago Metropolitan area around 1:30 P.M., Central Time I believe, and the increase in traffic told us we were getting close to something big. “They” drive no better in and around Chicago than they do in the San Francisco Bay Area, which implies that I do, of course. Never mind. We arrived in Michael Jackson’s childhood neighborhood about 2:00 P.M., but we had to walk the last block because the street was blocked off. The only thing one can think of when visiting a neighborhood like this is what a strange story it is that the Jackson family was determined to climb out of it. I hear some say Joe Jackson, the father, was mean to his children, but I wonder how much of his relentlessly pushing his children was only fierce determination to escape poverty. I’m not so sure he deserves all the criticism he receives from the network news. We talked to two residents of the neighborhood who knew the Jacksons in their childhood. They told interesting stories, but we had to travel on and could not stay to hear more.

I did not know that my GPS was smart enough to know Lafayette’s time zone, but it does. I expected the drive from Gary to Lafayette to take three hours. The GPS ETA displayed about 5:30 P.M. and the dashboard clock read about 4:15 P.M. when suddenly Lafayette exit billboards started to appear; “Days Inn – Take exit 126.” I was about to talk myself into believing that Indiana had two Lafayette cities and we were at the wrong one when, in the nick of time, I remembered that Lafayette uses Eastern Time. We lost an hour going directly south! That’s weird. Exit 126 was on us before we knew it and it was luck that I had sense enough to take it.

Dan, Cindy, Chris and I had a good visit. We ate at the Triple XXX restaurant in West Lafayette near Purdue University. It’s a home-grown family restaurant with local fame meant for a college town. Old Lafayette pictures and university sports heroes covered the walls. It was the first drive-in restaurant in Indiana, but customers eat seated along counters now. The Tenderloin sandwich and fries reminded me of the good Tenderloin sandwiches of my youth, a rarity now days. Chris had a hamburger and curly fries. I had a root beer float and Dan and I recalled a drive-in in Fort Branch, Indiana when we were kids where root beer floats were our favorite; “Black Cows” we called them and that’s how they were listed on the menu. A Black Cow and Chili-Dog in the back seat or our Dad’s 1952 Studebaker was a special treat. I’ll have to ask Diane the name of the drive-in. I can’t recall it now.

I wish that I could sit long enough to finish one of these articles in one sitting without the urge for a cigarette or the need to answer a nature call; I would be able to complete a thought. But, interruptions drive the thoughts from my mind. For example, had I remembered I would have told of the irrigation I saw in Nebraska; mile after mile of large sprinklers irrigating crops. The Ogallala Aquifer is an underground water system covering 174,000 square miles in eight western states and our huge western farms are draining it dry irrigating their crops. The United States feeds the world, but we are going to use up one of our greatest assets doing it. Scientist say that in the near future, perhaps as soon as fifty years in our children’s lifetime, western farms will turn to the dust of the 1930s because the Aquifer will run dry. Some farmer is going to have to stop farming. How easy do you think that will be for a farmer to willingly give up farming? We should pay attention to this. We can’t continue uncontrolled use of this water source; it is a matter of national security and survival. It is also a matter of freedom and sacrifice to ask a farmer to give up his livelihood.

I would also have remembered to mention that most of the trees along Interstate 80 in Iowa lean East-North-East because of the constant wind. Iowa obviously sits in a continental wind corridor and the several hundred wind turbines along the road prove this out. But, there were not enough of them; there could be more. There is no reason that thousands couldn’t be raised to supply clean power to half the Midwest.

It seems to me that harping about our national debt and complaining about leaving our children a burden of debt is not the major issue. The legacy we are leaving our children is starvation and social anarchy. The debt is ours to pay, now that the bill is due. We should pay it now, and get control of these critical resources for our children. Dan and I had a conversation about the economy and I lamely attempted to explain my take on it. I’m not particularly good at explaining what I think, but, basically, there is no such thing as “free markets,” whether we are talking about farming markets, stock markets or local economies base on local businesses. Markets, all markets and especially global markets, are a cycle of growth and destruction where innovation destroys the old and communities suffer in the process. Global markets create poverty and riches, but, increasingly, more people end up in poverty than rich. Global markets create welfare states. There is a social aspect of markets that has been forgotten in totally free markets and we should not allow markets or companies to disregard social obligations.

Shawn, a young man, probably in his early to mid-twenties, from Valparaiso, Indiana is staying at the Days Inn, Lafayette on a job replacing the roof on the Lafayette Subaru plant. Looking around at many of those staying at the Days Inn, I see many labor crews in the same situation. Shawn said they offered him a job and he said, “why not? Have to go where the work is.” “Pleasure to meet you,” he told me when he shook my hand as he was leaving for the Subaru plant. From our short talk, I got the impression that we’re leaving America in good hands, but we can leave it in better condition. Shawn really has few choices and he’s an example of millions. He should have a better bank, but banks are not interested in his financial condition and in fact will more than likely take advantage of him than help him. He should have better community services, but many of those are considered wasteful or too costly. He should have a better environmental future, but he doesn’t.

The Red Cycle Services, Inc., out of Indianapolis delivers supplies to hotels in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky. The driver says he leaves home at 6:00 A.M. and sometimes doesn’t get home until 11:00 P.M. “Have to do what I have to do,” he says. “Some guys bitch about the hours, but I have a family and I need money, so I don’t bitch.” He didn’t hang around to talk more than that. He made his delivery and left; talking while he loaded his dolly on his truck. Then he left. He should have more time for his family, but fierce competition drives him to spend hours on the road for his family. I wonder if cooperation isn’t better than competition.

Ah well, whatever else I was planning to write, the thoughts are gone for the moment. More later.


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