In a proverbial sense, Rome is burning to the ground. And, while much of our national economy lays in ashes and the American Dream smolders in flames, all anyone seems to be talking about is the opera.
That’s the terrible tragedy of tonight’s Presidential Debate, which has been covered and discussed more like the buildup to a Super Bowl game rather than any bona fide exchange of real ideas and actual substance that will solve some very serious problems. At this moment, parading around out in front of the arena where the debate will take place, thousands of “fans” are holding signs cheering for their side. One would think Ohio State is playing Michigan. It’s a contest of who can scream the loudest or who can make the cleverest sign.
Indeed, the gravity of our nation’s problems are very real and quite serious. Yet — while a senseless foreign war continues, while we continue to bleed ourselves dry policing the entire world, while we drown by the trillions in debt, while our inner cities crumble, while affordable health care is more costly and out of reach than ever before, and while millions of Americans remain hopelessly out of work, after tonight’s debate everyone’s going to be asking one utterly baffling question – ”who won?”
I’d like to ask my own question — why are we focusing on “who won?” As long as we focus on such trivialities, then we all lose.
Northwest Indiana is famous for some things. Well, on second thought, it’s not really famous for anything.
The mishmash of small working-class suburbs encrusted by lead smelters, railroad tracks, and oil refineries — mostly filled with people with unpronouncable last names that don’t contain a single vowel — is utterly indescript. Gary and Hammond and East Chicago and Highland and Hessville and Munster and Calumet City and all these places in between are to greater Chicagoland what North Jersey is to New York City — little more than a warehouse and freightyard to a far more vibrant place. It’s bascially like a giant Self Storage unit the size of a county, with plumbing pipes and electrical wires running along every roadway, railroad track, and field. That’s the picture I see when now think of Northwest Indiana.
Indeed, Gary and Hammond — where I’m staying and working over the next few weeks — are nestled right across the Illinois-Indiana state line. These are old industrial cities that pretty much look unchanged since the post-WW2 boom. Red brick buidings. Cracked sidewalks. Old storefronts littered with faded out ”For Lease” signs that more symbolize a loss of hope rather than any possible prospects of gaining a tenant. As the great writer-biographer Robert Caro would more eloquently write of another time and place, this is where ”windows, glassless except for the jagged edges around their frames, stared out on the street like sightless eyes.” (Footnote 1)
How do you go out to two seperate dinners at two different restaurants and still end up starving at night’s end?
Well, it happened to me tonight in the industrial garden spot of Hammond, Indiana — which is right cross the Illinois-Indiana border, outside of Chicago.
First, a few words about Chicago — the city I’m visiting over the next nine days. It’s basically a city of trains, truckers, tolls, and traffic. Ranks right up there with Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Detroit, only with more people, and apparently far worse food. What would you expect from a city made up mostly of Eastern Europeans? World class cuisine? What’s the only thing worse than spending nine days in Chicago. Answer — spending ten days in Chicago. Not a fan.
But I’m here.
Here’s the story. Last time I was in Chicago, I stayed here two weeks. During that entire time, I don’t remember having one memorable meal, unless one considered shocking disappointment to be a virtue. I’m sure there are some great restaurants in this city. There has to be. I just haven’t experienced one yet. I’m zero for 20. I’m the Chicago Cubs of snob diners. In all fairness, most of the restauants I’ve tried have been either around O’Hare Airport or over in Gary-Hammond — which is kinda’ like saying you hate New York’s food because you spent most of your time in Flushing or Newark. I realize Hammond is not the charming neighborhood of the northside.
I do remember one thing. Last time I was here, I had a horrible meal at some Italian place on Calumet Road. So, where did I chose to go for dinner tonight?
You guessed it — the same Italian restaurant. The place couldn’t be that bad twice, could it?
NOLAN DALLA: 2012 POSTED SEASON RECORD
29 WINS – 23 LOSSES - 1 PUSHES —– (+ 8.7 units / 1 unit = $100)
STARTING BANKROLL: $10,000.
CURRENT BANKROLL: $10.870.
BEST BETS OF THE WEEK: 2-2-0
Coming off a bitter losing week because of Packers last-second upset loss at Indy……went from being a 5 unit gain to a 6 unit loss due to one play…..Big card coming up in Week 6 with 11 wagers including an unsual situation with two BEST BETS of the week — Wagering $4,990 on 11 bets. Note: All wagers are for amusement-purposes only. I bear no responsibility for those who may decide to follow my plays.
In a scene right out of Mad Max, some places are now charging $5.90 a gallon for unleaded. The premium fuel has actually hit six bucks.
SIX DOLLARS! A GALLON!
Where is this? Some remote whaling village in Norway? No, it’s right here in the USA.
Here’s a snapshot of the sign out in front of the Chevron station in Shoshone, California — which is located close to Death Valley. Admittedly, this is a tough place to reach. So, gas is going to cost a little more in out-of-the-way places where it simply costs more money to transport fuel from the producer to the consumer.
But a 50 percent markup from the national average of just under $4 a gallon? (Note: This sign and price was not unusual — other stations in the area had similar prices per gallon).
Might this be a conspiracy?
Let’s agree that it costs significantly more to truck gasoline to remote parts of the country, such as Death Valley. I’m not sure precisely how much more it takes to drive a tanker from a fuel hub such as Los Angeles, which is 200 miles west. But let’s concede that it costs more.
I wonder — does it cost any more to transport fuel out to the desert than, let’s say, to a small town in the hills of Tennessee, where the same gallon of unleaded gas now costs $3,89 a gallon?
Someone please explain this to me. $5.90 a gallon in Shoshone….$3.89 a gallon in Gatlinburg.
Roughly the same geography from refineries and tankers, and the same reliance on overland transport. Shouldn’t the high dessert in California and the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee have roughly the same gas prices?
Again, please educate me.
Moreover, Id like to know that if indeed it’s more difficult to move goods to the consumer to a place like Shoshone, then why aren’t the other products also marked up significantly? A coke that costs $1 in Los Angeles is not priced at $1.50 in Shoshone. In fact, it’s the same $1. A candy bar that costs 60 cents elsewhere is also 60 cents here. Same with just about everything — except gasoline.
When people in one part of the country are forced to pay a 50 percent markup on a product that is widely available in similar regions at a substantially lower cost, something is very wrong.
I have a solution: I hope the day comes when this nation nationalizes the oil industry. Seize them all. Acquire all their assets. Take them over in the public interest and damn all the greedy shareholders who are caught holding an empty bag.
But all this pales in comparison to my final inquiry. Alas, I’ve saved the biggest question for last. Take a close look at that sign again. Look carefully.
I wonder — can’t the idiot who runs the Chevron gas station afford some legitimate signage, rather than using black electrician’s tape? I mean, the criminal oil company and the service station are raping consumers to the tune of $6 a gallon. And the sign looks like a fucking lemonade stand?