Tag Archives: Chris Christie

Off the gridlock

This morning I got in my Camry and drove to the liquor store. Later, my wife took her Camry to the paint store. If you think I’ve run completely out of material and am reduced to egocentric trivia, not yet. I mention this because just a few days ago, attempting these mundane errands in Atlanta would’ve been flat-out insane because of the snow, ice, and all-out chaos on our roads.

I can now safely report that things are normal again. The national press has turned its attention back to Chris Christie, who may be joining Al Gore as the guy who used to be the next President of the United States. (See also Ed Muskie, Henry Wallace, etc.)

But think about it: These two blockbuster stories of the past week both revolved around traffic. Mass-parking-lot-on-the-interstate, inching, dead-stopped, agonizing, frightening traffic. The kind that devours untold hours and tanks of gas, threatens people’s lives, and gashes our collective sanity. Long ago, we gaily allowed cars to take over the landscape, and now we’re like Lou Reed on “Heroin” – “It’s my wife and it’s my life.”

But, you ask, could anyone have ever possibly imagined that things would be this bad? Yup. My uncle, the late Herb Daniels, used to write a Sunday column called “The Modern Almanac” for the Chicago Tribune, and back in 1961 – 1961, folks – he predicted “The Last Traffic Jam.” “In Stoneville, IA, on Sept. 18, 1967” Herb wrote, “Herman Melville Jintz proudly took delivery of the 10,697,935,006th Super Atomic V-8 (world’s biggest compact),” which “took up the last inch of free space on United States streets and highways. As he forced his way into traffic the entire United States came to a screeching, brake jamming halt.”

“The traffic backup extended to the most remote village. Rural routes, obscure lovers’ lanes, and even private driveways, as well as every highway, were solidly packed by stalled cars, buses, and trucks.” Does any of that sound familiar? Maybe just a little?

The column goes on to describe how Kennedy aged so fast that he became the oldest (not the youngest) president in history. Cold War Commie commissars flew over from Moscow to take charge but returned nonstop, with Khrushchev exclaiming, “What could we do with it?” Eventually, “Production of cars was banned until 1999. Private car ownership was limited to six per family. Each car was assigned a daily three hour period in which it could be driven.”

Today, even on a good day, three hours wouldn’t get lots of us to and from their jobs. I doubt that I’ll live to see it, but I devoutly hope the day will come when Herman Melville Jintz is just part of a writer’s imagination again.

P.S: If you want to read more of Herb’s work, you can find it in the Tribune’s online archives or maybe scare up the long out of print collection of his Modern Almanacs. I don’t think he’d mind my borrowing from him a bit, because he always said I was his favorite nephew. Of course he also said he might feel differently if he had another nephew.

Birds of the weather

OspreyAs I’ve said before, Florida sure is an interesting place, especially the wildlife, and no, I don’t mean Justin Bieber in Miami. When my wife and I went down to Ft. Myers last week, our hotel was on a classic suburban strip, yet just a short walk from an old canal that’s also a bike trail, park, and home to lots of birds. We saw a wood stork, great blue and little blue herons, egrets, some ducks I haven’t ID’d yet but looked like they had Mohawk hair, and this osprey.

If you’re a serious birder or watcher, the place to be in that area is the refuge on Sanibel Island. True fact: you can go to Ding Darling to look for the Marbled Godwit. We didn’t see any of those but did get to watch some white pelicans, roseate spoonbills (which look just like their name), and more other species than I have room to list. State parks are one of the things that Floridians do very well.

Little blue heron on sandbankOf course, at this time of year, the native feathered fauna are outnumbered by their flightless, RV and SUV-riding counterparts from up naw-wuth: the snowbirds! From Michigan they come, and Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, the whole Big 10, plus some auxiliary Greater Upper Midwestern states like Ontario and Nova Scotia.

If you think I’m kidding about their numbers, just try to get off Sanibel or onto I-75 in late afternoon; you’ll swear the city had imported Chris Christie to manage traffic. The locals sure know their customers, too. I heard more Bob Seger in restaurants around Ft. Myers than I’ve ever heard anywhere except Detroit.

In fact, most of the interstate south of Atlanta seems designed to fleece the birdies. At the point where anybody coming from Grand Rapids or Wapakoneta is bound to be desperate for a break, there’s a place called “Café Risqué – We Bare All!” and multiple billboards touting not one but two Adult Superstores: the Lion’s Den and Adult Central. I may be old and jaded, but come awwwnnn: how super can a porn shop be?

You can also get “Fireworks – Ground Shaking Mortars,” just the thing for that veteran of Afghanistan, Baghdad, or Khe Sanh in your life. And no trip is complete without visiting the Florida Citrus Center, which also conveniently peddles GATOR HEADS and WIND CHIMES. A bit north of Ft. Myers, there’s a billboard for the “No Needle, No Scalpel Vasectomy!” (If I were the copywriter, I believe I’d just leave out any mention of needles and scalpels altogether.) Then for women whose husbands missed that sign, there’s “My Gynecologist – We Deliver!”

We saw this too: a couple of Confederate flags the size of a barn door on tall poles next to the highway. One was north of Tifton, GA, the other right at the junction of I-75 and I-4, near Tampa. They weren’t flying when we drove down on January 18, but coming back on the 24th, the week of the Martin Luther King holiday, there they were. Coincidence? Not likely.  The snowbirds might think this is common in the South, which it most definitely is not.