Thursday, July 24, 2008


Just returning from Europe, several things were indelibeled on my aesthetic consciousness. The first that was blatantly obvious was the long walk to Customs at JFK. After all the airports of Europe, it looked like we were coming into a third world country. All the mechanical stuff was broken down. Moving walkways, escalators, elevators. I did mention this to a lady at the Admiral’s Club, saying “Did you know your terminal is falling down around you?” She didn’t.

The second great disappointment was getting the old Greenbacks again. This just drives me nuts after using the beautiful and functional Euro money. Their whole system was carefully thought out, not just cobbled together as we do, just keep it looking like it has always been, with an old important person pictured and a masons eye on top of a pyramid plus the ever present In God WE Trust. First of all, our great dollar is worth 63 cents in Europe. Maybe it’s time we hired the Belgiums to design a new currency system as well as new coinage. If a penny costs us two cents to make, is there something wrong here? Just eliminate it. Why can’t we have a dollar coin that doesn’t weigh a ton and pull your pants down. The Euro goofed when they used the penny, but at least it is really tiny.

I am chagrined to be back in a country where all the big rig trucks are ugly as sin. Every time we stopped at an aire (or rest stop/Restaurant/gas station) I had to get out and photograph all the beautiful trucks parked around the place. They are all cab over type, not the long snouted like we have. Volvos, DAM, Mercedes, Renault and Iveco, all are well balanced work of functional industrial art, including the trailers.
Speaking of their transportation systems, they have beautiful freeways all over the place, but they are not free. They are toll roads, usually built and owned by private companies. You must be careful not to get lost and end up on one in the wrong direction, as you may have to go many miles until there is a overpass so you can get back to the right direction. It cost us about $40 in tolls to drive from Dijon to Cassis on the Mediterranean, plus gasole (Diesel) at $7 per Liter!
This is a similar concept in their use of public toilets. In great contrast to our liberal policy that you shouldn’t have to pay to take a piss, any public toilet will cost you (50 cents) and have an attendant to watch over you all. She will be a large older woman, just get used to her working around you. But there will be no grafitti and it will be clean and safe.

I’m really mystified why American drivers don’t want to understand the concept of a fast and slow lane on freeways. I am appalled that probably 80% of drivers here will not move over when a car wants to pass them in the fast lane. Are they just dense? Using a cell phone? Or just being an asshole or speed monitor and will show you. In marked contrast, just try that on a French freeway and will be literally pushed out of the fast lane. However, all Eruo drivers understand the system and will always move over to the slower lane even if they know they will have to go round you shortly. They are always moving over so often, their cars have a turn indicator that only blinks twice when you hit it.

The Golden Gate Bridge is currently considering spending $50 million dollars on a suicide barrier to try to keep idiots from using it as a jumping off platform. Approximately 1600 people have jumped since the bridge opened. That will be about $32,000 per jumper. Now I know our bureaucrats don’t understand the concept of Cost-Benefit Ratio but I do. There has to be some reason involved here and not just a knee jerk reaction to try and stop people who will find other ways to off themselves.

My solution is very simple, extremely cost effective and does not impair the aesthetic design of the bridge, one of the of the most intriguing in the world. Install a plank out about ten feet from both sides of the walkway so the jumpers can march out to their demise with dignity, not having to crawl over barriers and guardrails. The cost of both these leaping places would probably only be about four thousand dollars. Send me the other $49, 955,000.

I assume everyone has heard of the top secret American Embassy being built in Bagdad. Called “George W’s Palace”, “American Palace”, it will be the largest embassy on earth, costing $600 million, with offices for a staff of 8,000! It has 21 buildings, including housing, gyms, tennis courts, pools, movie houses, etc.. all on a mere 104 acres. In addition, we are building four large U.S. Military bases, why? To keep an eye on the Iraqis? If we ever leave.