Posted on 28th August 2011 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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My oldest son has now made it through his first week in college at Penn State Altoona. It was such a busy week, I was unable to give a brief synopsis of the eventful trip. On that Wednesday night we packed all of his earthly belongings into his CRV and my Insight. His hockey stuff, amplifier and electric guitar took up 70% of the space in his car. His check-in time at his apartment complex in Altoona was 11:00 to 12:00. The plan was to leave in a caravan at 7:00 am for the 3 1/2 hour drive.

I slept like crap and got up at 5:00 am on Thursday and began the orderly shower progression . I put on a pot of coffee and walked outside to get the newspaper. As I reached down to pick up the paper, a flash of lightening departed from the heavens.

I should have known right then it was going to be a long day. The weather forecast was for scattered thundershowers. That usually means a late afternoon 20 minute storm. But Nooooo!!!! Not today. The rain started to fall and thunder and lightening increased. The path to Altoona is pretty straightforward – 180 miles west on the PA Turnpike and 40 more miles on Route 220/99. We got under way at 7:00, but driving through a heavy thunderstorm on the Turnpike with 18 wheelers sharing the road with you is stressful and much slower.

After about an hour on the road we blasted through the storm and into sunshine. We started to make good progress until the Administrator’s bladder filled up and we needed to stop at a rest stop. We made one more stop on the way to get some more gas and arrived in 4 hours and 15 minutes.

When you pull into Altoona you notice a Sheetz store/gas station every other mile. They are the Wawa – 7/11 of Altoona. The other thing you notice is the closed up deteriorating locomotive factories that haven’t built a train in decades.


We pulled into the apartment complex up on the hill overlooking the beautiful mountains that surround the campus. The clubhouse has a pool, workout room, game room and TV room. Not exactly like the hovel I lived in at Drexel in West Philly.

We unloaded the cars and started to move Kevin into his new home. We met two of his three roommates and their parents. They struck me as good kids. It must be just me, but I find most of the Millenials that I meet to be good kids with good manners who try their best. As we set up his room, we realized the missing piece was a floor lamp. We decided to cruise around Altoona looking for a place to buy a floor lamp and get some lunch.

Kevin took the wheel and we set off. We found a Wendy’s and pulled in. As usual, whenever I’m out among the masses I try to be observant. I noticed that just about everyone in the Wendy’s was a candidate for wearing Depends. Altoona has 30% more people over 65 than the US in general. This is surprising since it is a college town with 4,000 students skewing the demographics to the younger categories.

When you examine some other key demographic factors, you come up with a median household income of $28,000 versus $50,000 for the US. The population has declined from 82,000 in 1930 to 46,000 today. The population is 96% white. The poverty level is 18% versus 14% in the U.S. So, we’ve got very poor old white folks living in Altoona. This sets the stage for the next part of the story.

Kevin turned down what appeared to be the main retail strip in Altoona looking for a Wal-Mart or somewhere to buy a floor lamp. We drove five miles with no luck. Since I wasn’t driving, I was observing. We passed McDonalds, Olive Garden, KFC, Taco Bell, Red Lobster, Texas Roadhouse Grille, Outback Steakhouse, Applebees, El Campasino, Alegros, Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, Eat n Park, Friendly’s, Hoss’ Steak & Seafood, Perkins, Ponderosa Steak House, Pizza Hut, Ruby Tuesday, TGI Fridays, the Waffle House and a few other eating establishments. We passed a Veteran’s Hospital and about ten other medical related facilities and senior centers. For mile after mile there was nothing but strip malls. I did not see one business establishment that actually produced anything. Nada.

Eventually, there she blew – A Big K. We knew there would be a floor lamp in the Big K. I had not stepped foot in a Kmart in ten years. And now I know why. The staff and clientle at Big K make the People of Wal-Mart look like the upper class.

fail owned air fresh fail Daily Awesome: People of Walmart, Kmart, & Waffle House (35 pics)

kmart funny 01 Daily Awesome: People of Walmart, Kmart, & Waffle House (35 pics)

coke Daily Awesome: People of Walmart, Kmart, & Waffle House (35 pics)

We found a Chinese floor lamp and tried to escape this asylum as quickly as we could pull out of that parking lot.

I found myself pondering how all these restaurants, retailers and strip malls could stay in business when the median household income in this area is $28,000. I come back to our entitlement society. The only way this mecca of consumerism and fast food can survive is from government transfers to the residents of Altoona. There is no other explanation for these businesses surviving. The entitlement stream will run dry. That is a certainty. The impact will be a collapse of our already crumbling consumer society. I don’t think those 20 restaurant chains listed above are anticipating this event. Too bad. It is happening. 

We found our way back to the campus without running over any old farts and took a stroll on the beautiful campus. Then it was time to go. Avalon was tearing up. I contributed by asking her about the day her baby was born. We all hugged the Junior Administrator and set out for home.

It had been a beautiful sunny day in Altoona. I usually do all the driving, but I was a little tired. I asked Avalon to drive the first half of the trip home until we got to a rest stop to eat. On the way out to Altoona she had yelled at me for going too fast at 75 mph because Kevin was following. I said I needed to pass the 18 wheelers because being  near them in a Honda Insight was a death wish.

Avalon took the wheel and we were off. In the first 15 minutes she cut off two cars and almost missed a turn. I knew I should have driven. I am not comfortable in the passenger seat. At some point it seemed like we were going pretty fast. I looked over at the speedometer and pointed out to Avalon that she was travelling 87 mph. She said OOHHH, I’ve never gone that fast before. I think she set a new land record for a hybrid. I was thankful when we pulled into the rest stop. After eating a half cooked “deep dish pizza” I was ready to assume control of the Insight.

We pulled away from the rest stop near Harrisburg with less than two hours to go. Then it happened again. Off in the distance.


WTF!! What did I do to incur the wrath of God? I continued to see lightening far in the distance. I assumed it was just a passing thunderstorm and maybe it would pass before we got there. I had another thing coming. It got darker and darker. The lightning became more violent.

Then it happened. The most violent downpour I’ve ever driven through. Drivers began panicking all over the turnpike and pulling off the road. The 18 wheelers didn’t slow down and seemed to be surrounding me. Avalon was scared and telling me to pull over. I determined it would be more dangerous to pull over and risk being hit by some other idiot. My Insight has less metal than a Coke can.

The rain did not let up for about an hour. It was a tense hour of driving 50 mph on the PA Turnpike. It seemed like God was trying to get me. But he failed this time. We made it home in 4 1/2 hours and I slept like a baby.

This concludes the story about the day Avalon’s baby left the nest and started his journey to adulthood.

  1. llpoh says:

    Admin – this is the damage an Insight received when it nudged a wall at 3 mph. Lordy knows what a KW would do to it.


    You do not want this to happen:


    Glad you got back safe, one and all!

    28th August 2011 at 10:59 pm

  2. AWD says:

    Senior Admin:

    You never cease to amaze me. You ride out a hurricane and still have time to post a story. And rip Fred F. a new asshole while said hurricane was attacking. Your topical writing is excellent, but your first-person narratives are just classic. I don’t know why, but everything that happens to you always sounds eerily like what happens to Clark W. Griswold. The Kmart stuff was priceless. There’s a reason they went out of business (almost).. It was nice to have a good laugh before bed.

    28th August 2011 at 11:12 pm

  3. llpoh says:





    28th August 2011 at 11:17 pm

  4. llpoh says:

    Well, fuck – that last photo is a new size record. It was supposed to be something like this. Avalon’s version of events


    28th August 2011 at 11:20 pm

  5. Maddie's Mom says:


    What a great story!!! It had a little of everything…including some great pics and a dose of Friday Fail.

    A fine way to stary an (early) Monday morning. :-)

    (But I can’t talk about babies leaving the nest and my baby has been gone for 8 yrs. I understand, Avalon.)

    29th August 2011 at 8:14 am

  6. Administrator says:

    Avalon informed me that I had forgotten about Altoona’s chief export. They do still produce stuff in Altoona.


    They produce that marshmellow goodness that harkins back to my youth walking home from baseball practice (that’s right – walking 3 miles from the baseball field to my house – not once did I ever get driven to or picked up from baseball practice). We would stop at the corner store on McDade Blvd and get a soda and a three pack of Mallo Cups for a total of 50 cents. We’d savor the chocolate marshmellow goodness and wash it down with soda. Then we’d have a belching contest as we walked through the cemetary on our way home.

    29th August 2011 at 8:45 am

  7. Administrator says:

    Avalon also pointed out another booming industry around Altoona. They have not one, but two amusement parks. So, my whole entitlement government transfer payment theory is out the window. This bastion of American productivity produces candy and entertainment for the old poor people in the community.



    29th August 2011 at 8:55 am

  8. Maddie's Mom says:

    Retiree rollercoasters. I think I could handle those ;)

    29th August 2011 at 10:16 am

  9. avalon says:

    Oh LLPOH, those little boy pics really got me……..I am tearing up again.

    29th August 2011 at 10:49 am

  10. scott says:

    “Buy” a floor lamp? In a college town? Pity you did not go there in the spring to get your son’s essential furnishings. Whatever is needed can usually be found in the piles of stuff last semester’s students no longer need or want and heave out into the alleys or dumpsters.

    It is depressing how dining in America has become ‘chained’ to a corporate menu. You’d think a college town would have a few local establishments but the corporate food purveyors have even managed to site themselves right on campus. McDonalds right next to the bookstore! Yeech!

    29th August 2011 at 10:51 am

  11. newsjunkie says:

    I’m tearing up, too, I’m not that far behind you.

    But here’s a chuckle for you…


    29th August 2011 at 10:59 am

  12. Drowning in Parasitism says:

    Admin: I have to concur with the others here singing your praises. You are one helluva gifted writer, and in fact (this coming from a life-long voracious reader), one of the best I’ve ever come across.

    You are also a patriot extraordinaire – a modern day Thomas Paine. Your lead-ins and commentaries to your featured articles are often as good as the pieces themselves. Your righteous rage and desire for justice against the perpetrators of unfathomable crimes is palpable and oozes in every fine (usually brilliant) piece you publish. One can only hope that the adage of “the pen being mightier than the sword” once more bears truth.

    As others’ have also noted, I don’t know how you continue to churn out such riveting work day-after-day, but please keep up the great work. Thank you for ALL you do.

    You should also consider running for political office. God knows we need more great statemen like the truly honorable Ron Paul.

    Your children are lucky to have such a terrific father, and your wife, a superb leader.



    29th August 2011 at 12:16 pm

  13. Stucky says:

    Great story, Jim!

    Reading the list of chain-store restaurants and businesses is depressing. ALL of America is just one homogenous pile of same-old, same-old, for the most part.

    I recall when I was about 13 my parents and I drove from NJ to Niagara Falls. Back then about the only “chain” businesses were hamburger joints. There were SO many mom and pop joints. REAL diversity. A REAL sense of “uniquness” everywhere you went.

    We’ve lost that, I’m afraid. Franchise America is just one giant cookie-cutter carbon copy where a pit stop in Alabama is no different than a pit stop in Idaho. Kind of a shame.

    29th August 2011 at 12:22 pm

  14. Stucky says:

    Drowning in Parasitism …

    Wow! Helluva tribute. Way to kiss ass!!!

    Ummmm …. are you having “relations” with Avalon?

    29th August 2011 at 12:24 pm

  15. AWD says:

    Drowning in Parasitism:

    “You are one helluva gifted writer, and in fact (this coming from a life-long voracious reader), one of the best I’ve ever come across.”

    Once again, a great post by you. I’ve been trying to get Jimbo to get some of his stuff published, so it will be around for posterity. Blog writing, although important and brilliant, doesn’t last very long. He would be a great novelist and non-fiction writer. Are you listening? You need to have books around that you’ve written, there is no feeling like it; holding a book you’ve written in your hands. You should not miss it.

    29th August 2011 at 12:29 pm

  16. scott says:

    I was always impressed with the New York Times staff’s collaborative effort writing “Naked Came the Stranger”. After noting that the words Naked and Stranger appeared most frequently in the title of fiction bestsellers they applied themselves to this purely commercial venture and passed the manuscript back and forth so everyone could claim authorship. It became a best seller too!

    29th August 2011 at 1:06 pm

  17. Thinker says:

    AWD, I’ve thought a ‘book club’ would be a great idea for some time. How about reading/discussing Dmitry Orlov’s “Reinventing Collapse” — a book often recommended by Muck here, and one that’s certainly pertinent to the times?

    Or something else that TBP’ers are currently reading…

    29th August 2011 at 1:26 pm

  18. scott says:

    How about a ‘hoax’.

    Possible secret diaries to be ‘discovered’.

    Moamar Khadafy- Life Under the Big Top
    Ayatollah Khomeini- Confessions of an Athiest
    Kim Il Sung- I’m a Seoul Man!
    Osama Bin Laden- Fear and Loathing in Waziristan

    29th August 2011 at 1:32 pm

  19. AWD says:


    It ain’t my sandbox. Admin is mum so far. Some of us have written books, might be fun to be ripped apart on those.

    29th August 2011 at 1:33 pm

  20. Administrator says:


    I’ll never be able to write a book, write articles, run a blog, commute 10 hours per week and work a job. Something would have to give. So if someone out there could just use my paypal button and donate $1 million, I’ll quit the job and write a book.

    The TBP book club is a good idea except I have no time to read a book. If you guys want to write book reviews, I’ll post them.

    Do you want contributor status to write and post?

    29th August 2011 at 1:52 pm

  21. AWD says:


    I understand. I was afraid you were going to say that. It was just an idea. At least bask in the glory.

    I’ve written some stuff for TBP. Sitting on the hard drive. I’m not sure if I have the ego strength to post it.

    29th August 2011 at 2:00 pm

  22. Administrator says:


    You need to learn some lessons from Drowning in Parasitism.

    Threatening to beat me up doesn’t get you as many points.

    29th August 2011 at 2:29 pm

  23. Administrator says:


    I just gave you contributor status. Now post something godammit!!!

    29th August 2011 at 2:32 pm

  24. AWD says:

    I’ll get on that.

    One of these days you’ll have to email all your stuff. I can edit it and get it into book form. I have a great girl that does the covers. You might be pleasantly surprised.

    29th August 2011 at 3:07 pm

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