Sunday, January 24, 2010

Life in the Poor Lane

Now that we're rolling along in this new year, I have to wonder just what's really new. Yes, the numbers read 2010, but it's really the same crap as last year, and the year before, and the year before that. As a matter of fact, I have yet to see anything truly new as of January 1st.

The common thought is that everything's brand new at the stroke of midnight. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. We are in the same boat that 2009 left us in! The world is in the same state of turmoil, our money (what we have of it) doesn't buy much, and the cost of living keeps rising. How is that a new year??

There is no magic incantation said at the stroke of midnight that in any way erases the past year. We're doomed to continue on, saddled with the baggage from the previous year, and things continue on as we left them. How does this make it a new year? If I were in charge, I'd damn sure change things!

First, I'd call a cease fire around the world. I really don't care about what sort of an agenda people have. Sit down, talk it over and try to reach some sort of compromise! Quit yer 'friggin fighting already!

Secondly, I have to wonder what's up with all this "luxury" stuff. Haven't we damn near killed off the middle class? We try to achieve a better life for our families, but end up falling short, and further from our goal. If success in life is measured by what you have, can you still be successful with second hand junk?
The world we live in today, can't even measure up to what our parents had. Inflation is so bad, we're just posers, and that's what has put many people in so much debt. Learn to live with what you've got people, and if you don't have it, buy it second hand! We can no longer afford the good things in life, but we can if they're slightly used, on sale, or greatly marked down!

Thirdly, we don't need the government dictating our lives, at the behest of the paying contributors. When you examine the cost of a new car (which most of us can't afford any more), you'll find items the insurance lobby had legislators add.
If we don't want the cost of airbags must we have them? Stability we need it, if we're paying attention while we drive? Both these things, and so many more, are added to the cost of a new car. Even a tiny change to a model, bumps the cost. With the average cost of a new car close to $30K, how many can afford one? When the Indian car maker Tata came up with the idea of a $2500 car, I got excited! finally a car for the rest of us!
That's what's so sad; we are no longer a prosperous people, we've sunk to a third world status.
Where will it end? Will we ever get our middle class status back again? I guess we'll all have to wait!

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Hey, Hey, throw 'Em away!"

I wrote my last blog about the late Jan Gabriel, the man who gave us "SUNDAAAAYYYYY, Sundaaay, Sunday!". I first heard that phrase on a commercial for US 30 dragstrip near where I grew up. It got me thinking on yet another tangent, about how we acquire things in life, only to discard them.

US 30 was a HUGE deal back in the 1960's. It was a mecca for not only racers, but spectators. Admission wasn't terrible, and we could afford to attend the races there without a problem. In fact, we could race our own cars there if we had the right equipment for safety! Over the years, thousands attended the races each season, yet after a while, the commercials went away, and we forgot about the track. It was just a memory, no doubt turned into yet another strip-mall in the suburban jungle.

Then, one day during a conversation with a friend, we were remembering our days at the track, when he mentioned "you know, it's still there"! This got my curiosity going, thinking I had to see the track one more time in all it's glory. Extensive searching of Google Earth finally showed me where the site was, and one Saturday morning, we left out to find it. It's still there, overgrown and decaying, but it still exists. No one had bought the site, nor cared for it, and it sat there, a sad remembrance of our past.

Upon moving to Arkansas, I found another major attraction that was left to decay. Dogpatch (later Dogpatch USA) lies just South of Harrison Arkansas on Highway 7. A once thriving attraction, drawing people from all over the country, it sits sullenly clinging to the side of a hill, just waiting to rot into dust. Investors were reported to have spent 26 million dollars to get the park up and running, yet by 1993, it closed, never to re-open. It's there today, as if it were poised for the new season, but overgrown and decaying. I have to ask, who would walk away from an investment of that magnitude? As hard as I've had to work for my money, I couldn't imagine owning something, and then walking away from it. It just seems so wasteful! Land is expensive, and to own land is part of the American dream. Who in their right mind would just walk away?

I guess it's reality, as over the past few years, I've seen way too many abandoned homes and businesses here. People just walk away from their hopes and dreams, and leave them to decay. I 'm amazed at this, and find it hard to understand. Everything has to be worth something, to just leave it seems wasteful.

Look at the town of Rush, Arkansas.
That's the General Store\Post Office in the photo. It's now owned by the National Park Service, but the buildings that are left, were just abandoned by their owners, as the town declined. It's hard to believe that the hard work and money required to buy the land and build the structures, is not important to the former owners.

I guess the real reason for this blog today, was to focus on just what a "throw away society" we've become. Don't need it? Just toss it and get something else! It all boils down to the fact that many people have (or seem to have) an unlimited supply of cash to do what they wish with. If something doesn't work, or work the way they want, it's forgotten as they move on.

So where is this blog going? Well, the last time we were up in Branson, I couldn't help but notice a growing number of vacant buildings along the strip. Signs still graced the properties, calling to visitors, yet the shops themselves were empty, abandoned by their owners. I wonder how long before Branson becomes another Dogpatch, or worse yet, another Rush?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On The Radio

I've debated for a long time over what I wanted to write next, work got in the way, and nothing got done. That changed today, when I saw an article in the former Hammond (IN) Times (now "The Times") about the death of a local disk jockey.

Jan Gabriel died from kidney disease at age 69. I remember he had the early evening shift at WJOB, and seemed to be on every night. He had a sense of "big city cool" but was always a local boy. To me, that was important. Chicago was the big market back in the '60's, with names like Dick Biondi, Barney Pip ("Turn into peanut butter!"), Ron Brittain, Larry Lujack, and more. The trouble was, they seemed to be so different to me. They spoke of "big city" events I would never go to, and sell products we would never see where we lived.
Chicago was about 40 miles North of where I grew up, but it could have been 1000. It was another world!
WJOB was more local, even though at the time, Hammond was a HUGE city in my mind also. Why heck, the Goldblatts store even had elevators, with men stationed inside to operate them!
This was amazing to me!

Gabriel represented the best in a small town radio DJ; just as good as the large market guys, but with a tinge of local flavor.
I remember the on the air contests he'd put on, and winning a record album on the show. Speaking to him on the phone (from a pay phone booth in downtown Hammond), and hearing that I had won, was the coolest thing I had ever done. It was my touch with celebrity!

In the late 60's, all the area stations did commercials for a local racing venue called "US 30 Dragstrip". It was Southeast of Hammond, just off US 30, hence the name. The commercials would begin with a manic beat, while the announcer would scream "Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAAAAAY, at Beautiful US 30 Dragstrip"! He would then go on to announce the stars that would be there (and there were many), from the "Little Red Wagon", to Art Arfon's "Green Monster Jet".
Being a normal teenager in the '60's, we read more hot rod magazines than textbooks. The siren call of the announcer was all it took to inspire us to head to the track. Later in life, I learned that the "SUNDAAAY!" announcer was in fact Jan Gabriel. I thought back to all the good times he brought us on the radio, and made a mental note to keep tabs on him. I felt a kinship with him, as he was a local boy, doing a job I always wanted to do.

Sadly, I never got the chance to go into broadcasting, choosing a career with the Post Office, and ultimately staying there for nearly 40 years. Over time, the changes in my life, the music, and the station's format, made me tune away from WJOB, but I never forgot Jan. I can still recall the sound of his voice, and how he sounded like a neighbor, not a stranger, speaking to me every night from the radio.

Later, I would connect with my past when I heard the song "On the Radio" by the band "Cheap Trick". It summed up my youth to a T, and ended with that same frantic DJ patter I used to hear. And when I hear it to this day, the one voice I always think of is that of Jan Gabriel.

Rest in peace, Jan, and thanks for a lifetime of memories!

It's on the radio...!