Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Now when I die, I don’t want no coffin
I thought about it all too often
Just strap me in behind the wheel
And bury me with my automobile

-James Taylor, from “Traffic Jam”

We love our cars, don’t we? In America, that four-wheeled pony represents freedom. Freedom to hit the open road and go wherever we want, whenever we want.

I remember sitting in a beachside restaurant in Malibu, not so long ago, thinking “Man, I’m a long way from home.” But then I thought about the fact that the parking lot I could see from my chair connected to the PCH, and from there, I could get all the way back to my front door in Arkansas without ever getting off the pavement. At that moment, the 1600 mile distance to my couch didn’t seem like much.

Today, it seems far away again. Considering that my car gets about 20 miles to a gallon, and the last gas station sign I saw displayed, proudly, the price of a gallon of unleaded at $3.45, I did some ciphering. That’s about 17.3 cents a mile. So, I’m thinking. If I was out there right now, and needed to get home, could I?

I checked my wallet. $67. The 1600 mile trip would cost me $276.80 in gas alone – meaning if I didn’t eat or drink anything for 27 hours, I was only short about $210. So, how far would that get me? I mean, I might as well take off and get as close as I can before I set out walking.

388 miles. Where’s that put me? Sitting beside I-40, in the desert, about 30 miles east of Kingman, Arizona. I’m not happy about this. I’m hungry, thirsty, out of gas, and it’s 1200 miles home. If I walk, without food or water, I still never have to leave the pavement (or the shoulder, anyway). I might be able to make 60 miles in a 12 hour day. So in 3 weeks, I’ll be sitting beside my green, frog-filled pool, with an IV in my arm to replenish my fluids, eating a high carb diet, pondering why I keep hearing from Republicans on TV and radio talking about how well the “economy” is doing.

I s’pose, if you’re rich, your economy is doing swell. But considering that Wal-Mart just had its lowest profits in the company’s history, I’m going to just take a wild guess and say that folks who aren’t rich must be either spending their disposable income on gasoline, to get to their low-paying jobs so they can work their butts off to pay for the increased cost of food and clothing that will follow gas prices; or sticking a few dollars back so they don’t get stuck in the desert outside Kingman, Arizona and have to walk home. Either way, the simple truth is that when gasoline prices go up, the cost of practically everything else goes up as well, because those flip-flops and toasters don’t grow on the shelves at Wal-Mart. They have to be transported in there from someplace else. And somebody’s gotta burn some fuel to get them there.

About this time next year, fuel prices will go down, because there’s an election next fall. The jugheads who are raping this country while lining their pockets, and those of their friends in “Big Oil”, will want you to forget sitting beside the highway in the dark desert, with the moon illuminating that sign ahead that warns you not to pick up hitchhikers because they may be escaped convicts. They’ll want you to forget that the oil companies, while the government looked the other way, were taking in record profits and telling you that “supply & demand” dictated the prices at the pump. They’ll want you to forget that one reason supply was down was because the oil companies, at the peak of the driving season, decided to shut some of their refineries down for “maintenance”. They’ll try real hard to make you forget that there was a Republican administration in charge (for 7 years) while all this was going on. If history is any lesson, they’ll probably succeed. People’s memories are as short as the government’s foresight.

Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to take the highest gasoline receipt I get this season, and stick it up on my refrigerator. That’ll do two things for me. It’ll remind me why there’s no food inside; and it will be there next November when I go to the polls – to remind me to do my part to vote as many of them as I can out of office. I’ll vote against the wimpy pandering Democrats in the primary, and I’ll sneak out the Monday night before the general election and siphon all the gas from the cars of my rich (or wannabe rich) Republican friends so they can’t get to the polls.

Just doing my part for America.

I used to think that I was cool
Runnin’ around on fossil fuel
Until I saw what I was doin’
Was driving down the road to ruin.

© 2007 Rick Baber


Anonymous said...

"you left them swimming for their lives
down in new orleans
can't afford a gallon of gasoline
with your useless degrees
and your contrary statistics
this government business
is straight up sadistic

you don't fight for us
but expect us to die for you
you have no sympathy for us
still i cry for you
you may kill the revolutionary
but the revolution you can never bury

don't you dare speak to us
like we work for you
selling false hope like some new dope
we're addicted to

i'm not a desperate man
but these are desperate times at hand
this generation is beyond your command

it won't be long till the people flood the streets
and take you down
one and all

a black rain
is gonna fall"
-Ben Harper
Black Rain

He's right, the administration exhibits no accountability and you're right there is a way to remedy that. It's like Ben Harper said, the people have to flood the streets because they can kill the revolutionary but the revolution they will never bury. I have a feeling the revolution will be more visible than ever come November '08. So tape whatever reminder or incentive you need up on the fridge, just make sure you keep your fist of love up in the scene and show at the polls in '08.

Anonymous said...

Zat your kid Rick?
Maybe all hope is not lost for the next generation.

Anonymous said...

That's m'boy!

Anonymous said...

I noticed the price at the pump dropped considerably when the AJ annonunced he was going to visit NWA, while national prices were still going up. If that isn't a hint at what is going on I don't know what is. You're right. They're all in it together.

Anonymous said...

OOPS! I meant "AG". Sorry. Wrong side of the "H".

Anonymous said...

Now lemme get this straight: I put da lime in de coconut and drink 'em both together? And then I feel better? Nah, I'm goin' straight for the mixers and the chasers.

Here's the deal: Why not just jump the price of petrol right on up to the real environmental damage cost of $5 or heck even $8 per gallon? It is the only way to whack our complacent habits and demand alternative ways of motorvatin’ about. It has been that way in Europe a long time and their public transportation is way up there and local car sporting is not. London even recently made it practically a crime (cost wise) to drive one of those steely/plastic beasts into the city. And the last time I was over there and still motoring about, I shelled out more to park the auto than to rent it - almost $75 US/day. Next trip, I was like, tubing, dude, and spent the saved cash like a local - at the pub.

The more pressing question for me is: Is Ben related to Bill Harper? The latter once pulled a switch blade and slapped it against my neck at a basketball game, circa 1968. So I just want to know, that’s all. Those were rough times at that Jr. High. And back then, gas was somewhere near a cool .40/gallon.

Now, before you get too excited, if this is tied to today’s money game, that’s maybe $2.50/gallon. So at $3.50/gallon now, only $1 more, it is truly a paltry increase which would not buy decent a cup of coffee today. And therefore, gasoline is still much cheaper than coffee. And what about coffee - that small bean that has first been abused and burned by heat, then scalded by water, and then laced with so many cholesterol mongrels or chemical concoctions as to be barely recognizable as a former vegetable. Or is that the tomato?

So, between pricing our driving out of existence and making coffee houses full of only the most snobbery lot, I wonder, where will it all end? Probably out on that road next to Kingman, AZ. But hey, you can always be grateful that you at least made it past Bakersfield…

Rick Baber said...

OK. Now I'm having an existential meltdown.

Anonymous said...

Just doing my part to help keep you awake during these long summer days. -m

Anonymous said...

The coffee logic doesn't make sense to me. Gasoline SHOULD BE cheaper than coffee, look at the usage statistics. According to coffeeresearch.org America consumes 334,800,000 cups of coffee per day. That is the equivelant of 20,925,000 gallons of coffee. According to the Energy Information Administration we consume 384,700,000 gallons of gasoline per day. America would have to consume 6,155,200,000 cups of coffee daily to make this a fair comparison.

The higher the volume the lower the per unit cost. Read Sam Walton "Made in America" or go into any manufacturing sector and ask for quotes on different quantities.