I just recently went on a long road trip with my family up to Chicago, were I stayed one night with my filmmaker friend Wei Zhang and met up with Jim Andre of Film Branch; and then I was off to Pittsburgh to visit my friend for a week. Sean Wiegand and I worked on the So Ill Film Club summer project last year and seeing as he directed I wanted him to see the finished film and give some input. Then I finally came back to Carbondale, IL, going from a nice 80 degree temperature to above 100. I had a really great time on the trip and wanted to share some interesting insights with anyone who might be pondering about economics and local business.
On my trip I was astonished by the evil prices of the Indiana Toll way and the Ohio Toll park. Ugh, this was awful. Between Chicago, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania’s tolls I had to pay $31 dollars. By going around them the extra mileage would have cost me less and my time might have been more enjoyable. What made the tollways so egregious was the inability to easily get on and off the road to visit local towns and gas stations. Every time you exit the tollway you are charged and it becomes a minor hassle to go through the gates. To accommodate travelers the states have these oasis things that are just corporate $&!@ holes which close early and force you to eat awful food and deal with curmudgeon workers. I felt very annoyed by this, when I finally found a Panera (good coffee and salad) it was closed. How annoying 🙁 If I had gone a traditional route I could have found local Dennys, IHOPs, or some other place to venture in and meet local people. Might sound like an odd reason, but some of my favorite road trip memories (and inspirations for stories) have been these late night locals. For instance a Waffle Hut near St. Louis were a black man was rocking out to a jukebox full of Metallica songs at 2 a.m.- he sang very well.
The second observation I wanted to share was about the awesome local businesses in Pittsburgh. It seemed like franchised America was kept out. Although the city is smaller than St. Louis, it is filled with local flavor, business, and institutions. Also, so many coffee shops!!! Oh, how great, and they aren’t Starbucks. This place was more local than parts of Manhattan- unbelievable. I felt this was really inspiring. Whereas St. Louis’s downtown is decaying and the city seems to expand with crime everywhere, Pittsburgh was obviously rebuilding and investing locally in its downtown areas and really working hard on keeping the center of the city for its people and not for tourism or McDonalds.
On the way back from Pittsburgh we visited Louisville, Kentucky. My grandmother, Carolyn Plochmann, has some art in the city and we wanted to know what the place was like. It was a pretty cool town with a pretty river front and a sky walk in which you take glass encased catwalks through the mid of the skyline. It seemed like a new city and this is inspiring during these economic depressed times and the terrible heat waves.
And now for pictures..
P.S. I have updated this video online, check it out.