Saturday, May 12, 2007

Let's hear it for the west side!

[Valparaiso's west side business district]

[A coffee shop that's not a Seattle-based chain]

[A local pharmacy stuggles against Wal-Mart and Walgreens]

[Local farmer's market]

[Ubiquitous box store development]

I’ve been dependent on my suitcase, since Tuesday. The chain hotel where I’m staying is quiet and clean and given the current state of the world that’s not a bad combination. While cleanliness is often placed side by side with Godliness, the staff that occupies the front desk has been another story.

As someone who has spent a lot of time of late focused on workforce training and skills improvement back in my home state, I can’t help but see some serious shortcomings at the hotel, as well as numerous other places that one is forced to frequent when on the road, namely convenience stores and unfortunately, fast food chains and sandwich shops.

While I’ve been limiting myself by and large to the complimentary fruit and coffee after my daily morning walks, a midday snack and a large meal in the evening, occasionally, I’ve been forced to grab a bite on the run. Everyone of these visits have been disappointing. I’ve learned that not all low-skill workers are created equal. While I expected this to be the case in some of the “grittier” communities in the northwestern most tip of Hoosierland, I expected Valparaiso (Orville Redenbacher’s hometown, btw) to be a bit better.

Adding to my disappointment in the most rudimentary skills these workers possess is that each time I’ve asked one of these hotel desk personnel about some aspect of commerce in the town, as in, “where can I find a drugstore (or grocery store),” everyone of these 20-somethings advised Wal-Mart across the way, on the other side of U.S. 30. When I mentioned to one young lady that I didn’t care to shop there, she offered the alternative suggestion of “Target.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the downtown area (the west business district) wont’ be functional in another five years, if everyone shops at the eeat end of town (big box heaven).

Granted, one’s consumer choices often boil down to a matter of degrees and shades of conformity, but as I’ve been writing about frequently, our choices do matter and at some point, we may not even have the option of making our own free choices.

Enough of that for now, although I’m bound to be back on this topic again.

As Bobby Fuller, sang, “I fought the law and the law won.” While I didn’t engage the law in any confrontation, I was ticketed to by a member of the fine Indiana State Police on Thursday, while on my way to an interview. Traveling southward on construction-choked I-65, between Gary and Merrillville, I was pulled over by an officer of the law, who inquired if I “was in a hurry.” I learned long ago to answer politely and respectfully when dealing with and agent of the law. This one was obviously a veteran, as evidenced by his quiet confidence and mannerisms. Being that I was traveling in a construction zone, I was fortunate in that all he wrote me up for was going 73 in a 55 mph zone and not triple for the construction zone violation.

So while things have been going remarkably well that event put a bit of a crimp on my enthusiasm, on Thursday.


weasel said...

Dude- you wily outlaw, you!

Those first few pictures you posted is the America I expected to meet when I first emigrated: a continuation I guess of European village life but with bigger and juicer burgers. I agree- it is on the wane and only really exists in Kevin Costner movies. What is to be done, though?

Jim said...

It's been a whirlwind of a trip, as I fly out tomorrow. I'm beginning to find myself chanting, like Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz, "there's no place like home...there's no place like home."

Maine has its issues with development and sprawl, but this particular area is Maine X100; apparently there is little or no prohibitions on this kind of development. It is very much like parts of Florida that I've been to.

New England, particularly our nothern corner of the kingdom has its quirks, peculiarities and craziness, but it might be one of the last bastions of uniqueness in a growing landscape of sameness.

The Maine Farmland Trust is one way to preserve open spaces. I'm not sure what Indiana has, if it has any type of program(s) at all--I tend to think they don't, but I've only been here a week.