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Monday, September 7, 2009

Roadtrip !

I went to a wedding in Sharon, Pennsylvania this weekend. I drove there with Devin and his father Patrick. Six hours both ways. On the way there last Friday I couldnt sleep wink. I think the anticipation of the weekend ahead kept my wheels turning. Considering I slept almost the whole way back Im pretty sure this was true. The wedding was beautiful, genuine, and simple in the best way (a nine minute ceremony? Hallelujah!) . Anyway, I ll tell you all about the wedding on Friday.

Today I would like to talk about the drive itself. The things I saw along the road, and what it lead me to think about.

We left straight out of downtown Chicago at about 11 am. The city was in full bustle by now. The streets full of cabbies, the sidewalks filled with walkers hustling around carrying their second or maybe third Starbucks purchase of the day. Everyone seemed to have a purpose. We talked briefly about which freeway seemed the smartest to take out of town considering it was the beginning of a holiday weekend. Oh yeah, happy Labor day !! We chose the I-80. It was a great choice. Easy breezy the whole way, and when I say the whole way I mean we didnt get off the 80 until we exited into Sharon, PA. Who would have thought one road could take us all the way to our destination? Once we got on the freeway from downtown we were in Indiana almost immediately. Passed what seemed like a couple small suburbs right away, then it became much sparser. It was a huge contrast from the city we were only about 20 minutes from by now. Devin or his Father then told me we were now passing though Gary, Indiana. Ive heard of this place before, I thought to myself... but why? Then Devin said " This is considered one of the armpits of America" . Being from NJ I am particularly sensitive to this phrase ! Since I know how beautiful parts of NJ are I am always skeptical when I here this about other places. But considering it was the beginning of a 6 hour drive I didnt really want to get into it over why people called it an "arm pit". I just started to look around.

The first thing I saw were two billboards directly across from each other on opposite sides of the road. I tried to take a picture for this post but getting one that actually showed the proximity was impossible. To my right I read in huge letters " JOBLESS?" and written below were some local statistics on unemployment in Gary, and then some local resources to help the unemployed. On my left, the second billboard read "CASINO" , "Come and try your luck" , " Biggest payouts in all of Indiana!" . I thought this hilarious and ironic at first. Then it turned sad. Its always been interesting to me that the people most suseptible to the lure of easy money are the ones that are most down and out. This idea makes as much sense as it doesnt. Of course a person in a bad spot, maybe unemployed, with bills to pay would love a fast fix trip to the casino that has the ever present possibility of solving all their financial problems. Sounds perfectly reasonable. On the other hand completely illogical. These are the people with the most to lose. If somebody with money to burn walks into a casino and loses a couple hundo for fun there are usually not much for consequences. Some poor soul trying to make rent could really dig themselves a deeper ditch. So why does it seem to me that these vulnerable people, trying to avoid eviction are the ones targeted by advertisers? Maybe I was just over analyzing things that day. And by no means do I imply that whoever approved the placement of these ads had any idea how ironic it looked. Either way it was an odd site to behold.

The rest of the drive we past through lots of industrial areas, both currently in use and some that seemed untouched for decades. It was a progressive journey that ended in Sharon, PA, which according to our cab driver was being slowly taken over by "blacks" ( this guy was enough to talk about in another post and completely killed my wedding buzz). In between all the " blacks" this and "blacks" that, he said most of the businesses in the area had closed down, and they had major drug dealing and using problems that the police cant handle. Driving around the town it looked like it might of had a heyday. Not much proof left of that now. Lots of empty retail/commercial space and run down buildings. No matter what we found the right places and people to make a great time for ourselves !

Like I said the wedding was great, we had a blast ! The travelling itself gave me perspective on the country I never had before, I had never even been through any of these places. The ride back was a weird reverse trip back to city life. Turns out going to a wedding in Sharon, Indiana is much more thoughtful, educational and eye opening than I imagined. For that I am grateful.


  1. Ummmm, you've probably heard of Gary Indiana because that's where the Jackson's grew up. I thought maybe you just went the other route for story's sake...

  2. No honestly, I didnt know... but Devin and his Dad said the same thing !

  3. The addition of music to complement the mood of each post is so GREAT!!! I'm not kidding. CCR, I can just see the miles and the scenery passing through the windows of the car as you think about these things in the post...So proud right now!!!