Wednesday, August 31, 2005

So, What's Next?

Anyone who drives has got to be wondering just what is going to happen next with the price of gasoline. Gasoline has gone up more in price in the past few weeks than it has in years. If you think I'm exaggerating, think about this for just a moment.

Just a few weeks back gasoline jumped over the $2 a gallon mark for the first time. That infamous date was March 29th, 2005. As of today, a mere 5 months later, we have travelled thru the $2 range and gasoline in certain places in central Indiana today has crested the $3 a gallon mark.

Listening to the price analysts on radio and tv today is like trying to listen to a lawyer. Part of this price increased is supposedly based on advance fear ratio. Excuse me, but what in the bloody hell is that?

Does that mean people are getting worried about gas prices so the oil industry goes ahead and jacks up the price because of these fears? What a crock!

And of course, the oil barons are also taking advantage of the serious hurricane damage sustained in the Gulf of Mexico to add even more to the price of a gallon of gasoline. The sad thing is, nobody, nowhere seems to be doing anything about it.

Naturally the president will do nothing, mainly because of his investments in the oil industry. He is no doubt going to profit handsomely thru this time of overinflated pricing. The funny thing I can't seem to get over here and that no one can explain to me is that the gas prices are being jacked up on gas that was already paid for months ago! How can something that has already been paid for go up because of recent events? Can someone explain that to me in plain unvarnished truth? I think the answer is an obvious no!

My own take of this accelerated trip thru the $2 range and into the $3 one is quite simple. We keep the prices in the current $3 range for a short period of time, lower back down into the mid $2.70 range, and people will think they are getting a bargain once again, even though they are really getting shafted while the oil industry continues to show the largest profits in history.

I talk to a lot of people, and very few I talk to have done anything to curb their driving to less miles. Most continue to take trips, make numerous trips that could be consolidated into one trip, and they continue to fill up and not raise any hell about it.

Not here. This year, instead of my wife and I taking our normal out of state vacation in October, we're merely staying close to home and do some local sight seeing rather than drive thru 5 to 7 states and make numerous stays in hotels along the way.

Our nation is slowing bankrupting itself, thanks in part to the increase in crude oil futures. My trash hauling company is adding a fuel recovery charge to each stop they make on their trash runs. As I see, they are going to add on a charge of $1.75 per stop, per week. So, if they stop in my neighborhood, they are now going to make an extra $17.50 a week, in my neighborhood alone. In my opinion, they are merely using the extra price per gallone of fuel to pocket a larger profit on their services. And yes, I am looking for another company to haul my trash.

Heating oil and gas supplies, both natural and LP, will be higher this winter than ever before. People on fixed incomes will either have to turn down the heat or find more money to pay their bills. I hate to think of the people who will be freezing to death, literally, this coming winter.

President Bush doesn't hesitate to use "terroism" as a reason to invade countries and wage war, yet he is allowing the oil industry to hold the American public hostage while the fat cats continue to get fatter, he himself among them.

Now I know I've gone and pissed some of my regular readers off with what I've written here today, but I think it's something we all need to take a look at. This situation isn't going to get any better. And if you think it is, take a moment today to write today's date down and put it up somewhere, along with the current price of gasoline from the station where you normally buy your gas and check back with it and keep record in the weeks to come.

It could be that gas might make an even quicker trip thru the $3 range and make a speedy journey into the $4 range before it subsides a few cents. But it should be interesting to watch. And should gas move into the $4 a gallon range before it starts sliding in price, I bet it gets there quicker than it did for it to go from $2 a gallon to $3 a gallon.

Drive smart, readers, slow down and consolidate your trips. Car pool if you can and find things closer to home to do. Quit using as much gas as your do right now, and hopefully someday the truth can come out and something can be done to stop this madness!!!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Remembering Summer Heat, Part One

Back during the mid to late '60's, a common activity that took place regularly were teen dances at the Rush County Fairgrounds Community Building. Live bands from around the area and sometimes from Ohio would come, set up on a makeshift stage on the south wall of same said building and begin playing music for Rush County youth to dance to. These dances normally began around 8 pm and last until 11pm. A usual turnout of around 100 to 150 was normal, and along with the presence of youth there was always the presence of local law enforcement as well.

I recall back in 1968 attending my first dance at the Community Building, presented by then hot tune am station WIBC-AM. DJ Jim Shelton emceed an Indianapolis band called "The Sons of Summer." They were actually a quite talented band of young men varying in age from their late teens to early 20's. Myself and a couple of friends attended, and as big a lover of rock music as I was back then, I was instantly hooked. For a buck and a half we were not only entertained by the band and Jim Shelton, but we got to watch various foxy ladies gyrating to the music that was obviously being played way too loud, but wouldn't have sounded as good if it had been turned down.

I was fortunate to see "The Sons" on several occassions, and even managed to get to know Jim Shelton on a personal basis thru another friend of mine who was quite a talented drummer. I eventually got to work for Jim on a few occassions by taking posters around Rush County and advertising for upcoming shows that he held. The pay wasn't much, a few dollars and free admission to the dances, but it was the music business, and at that time in my life, music was where I wanted to spend my life!

WSAI-AM out of Cincinnati held a couple of dances there, with several bands playing the three hours. I vividly remember a group called the Gory Oatly and a Cincy band called Love Train that had a gorgeous lead singer, and if memory serves me correctly, Love Train was the only band that played there that boasted a female lead singer.

Other times, the dances held were by more local groups, from Shelbyville or Connersville. One band that played innumerable times were the Chalets from Shelbyville. I got to know several members of the Chalets, Mike Davis, Rocket, Jack Hignite, and we became friends that always enjoyed seeing each other whenever they came to town to play.

Also back in 1968, Rushville itself had a few local bands trying to make a name for themselves. A couple were pretty much forgettable, namely Innovation and Care. One band, though, that really rocked and comprised solely of Rushville natives was Summer Heat. These guys were great! Another thing about the local bands was that they only charged a buck a head to get into their dances.

Summer Heat was comprised of lead singer Jay McGinnis, lead guitarist Mike Clarkson, bass guitarist Denny Dawson, and drummer Jim Smiley. All of them were well-known, popular teenagers and all very talented!

I remember at my second Summer Heat dance, they had a table set up in front of the stage with this huge speaker in front. Since I've never been a talented dancer at all having been blessed at birth with two left feet, I generally spent my time in front of that speaker listening to their music full bore! On this evening in question the band began playing their version of Jimi Hendrix's classic, Fire. As Jay belted out the words, I sat down on the speaker table and took my pipe out of my mouth and began blowing into the bowl of it, forcing this huge cloud of smoke up towards Jay and the band. If you've never seen anyone blow thru a tobacco smoking pipe backwards, it's quite a sight to behold. The amount of smoke resembles that of a small forest fire. It's huge, very blue looking, and yes, it really stinks like hell, too!

Anyway, Jay became so engrossed with this neat "special effect" that he and the band added a couple of extra rounds to the song, extending it way past its normal length. As soon as the song was over, the band took a break and Jay came down to talk to me.

He told me that he had seen me coming to the dances for a few months and was wondering who I was, so I introduced myself. The smoke was still hanging in the air and he laughed and told me how cool that had been to be singing a song called Fire with all that smoke unexpectedly filling the stage. When I told him that it just seemed right to do it when they started playing the song, he told me I had a good idea and asked me if I had anymore ideas the band might use.

What I didn't realize at that moment was how important an effect this band was about to have in my life for the next couple of years.

This was going to be the first of a great many nights spent with Summer Heat.

A lot of memorable nights....

to be continued.....

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Congrats, Rushville Rocket!

This past Sunday's Brickyard 400 was not only one of the most exciting Brickyards ever, but it was very special to those of us who are dyed in the wool Tony Stewart fans. This is, after all, the one track Tony has always dreamed of winning at. That dream finally came true for him at long last.

A new track surface seemed to allow for more passing than is usual at the famed 2 1/2 mile rectangular track. Not only more passing in the field this year, but more passes up front. Instead of the usual game of follow the leader after the first handful of laps, this 400 miler gave lots of exciting track action for the Nextel Cup fans.

I made my usual trek for both Friday and Saturday action again this year, even though Friday turned out to be a day of no more than sitting in the stands and trying to wait out the rain. Sitting under the protection of an awning over our seats proved to be just what we needed, as we sat for over 7 hours, hoping that Nascar would at least make an attempt to dry the track.(Even after the rains finally came to a halt in the early afternoon, it was apparent to those of us faithful that Nascar had no intention of really trying to get the track dry. Within a half hour of bright sunshine returning to the Speedway, the announcement came around 3:10Pm that all track activity scheduled for that day had been postponed.

So, again early Saturday morning, we made our dash to our favorite seats down in turn 1 and waited for action to begin as the thousands of fans began to pour in. After a few rain delayed moments within minutes of practice starting, Nascar allowed the two one hour practice sessions to become on lengthened two hour session. Honestly, it was one of the best pre-qualifying practices I have ever attended. The break between practice and actual qualifying, however, was long and drawn out, with no track activities in between to occupy the interest of the fans in the stands. This was okay, however, because it allowed several trips down to the concession area where several bloody marys and a few Crowns and Coke were purchased and consumed, along, of course, with the some several Coors Lights I happened to bring along.

With qualifications set for 3 pm, the crowds never really started looking for seats until, oh, let's see, about twenty minutes before qualifying started. I can't tell you how many people actually thought they were going to get those choice seats, but from all the people I watched make the climb up to the top of the stands and the look of bewilderment on their faces when they found no empty seats, the number was huge!

An action packed two and a quarter hours of qualifying followed, setting the field for Sunday's running of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. And as much as I would have loved to have been in attendance the following day, my wife and I decided not to pursue that venture, and we rode home with a friend of ours and settled for watching the race on NBC. After all, we didn't have to get up real early to make the trip to Indy, pay outrageous prices to park and fight the crowd of people or the jam of traffic that snarled its way towards the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we didn't have to stand in line to go to the bathroom, and we didn't have to fight the crowd getting out of there, either. We sat in our living room and watched the race unfold before us on our large 60 inch television and had a view of the entire race better than any seat at the Speedway would have allowed us to have.

My biggest regret, however, was not being able to see Tony cross that finish line ahead of everyone else in person. My couch has the imprint of both of my hands that I left after watching him retake the lead, and then again when he saw the checkered flag wave ahead of everyone else. I shared in his joy and in the joy of the tens of thousands of his fans as he won a race at the track he had always dreamed of winning a race at. My wife and I watched his Polish victory laps, we watched him climb the fence along with his crew, and we watched him receive his trophy and the traditional kissing of the bricks at the start-finish line.

To see Tony win at the track that his luck has never held out for him on, was such a glorious thing to behold. And now that Tony has risen above the beast that has kept him out of Victory Circle on so many occasions, both in Nascar and the IRL, I sincerely hope it is the first of many victories for him at the famed Brickyard.

This is what Tony has wanted for so long, and now that he has made this achievement, hopefully that second championship awaits him at the end of this year's Nextel Cup season.

My heartiest congratulations once again to Tony Stewart, the Rushville Rocket!!!