We drive into Gary, Indiana at dusk on a cold, grey winter day, the lack of color a perfect fit for the post-apocalyptic desolation that surrounds us.  Empty buildings with broken windows or yawning holes in the walls.  Gaping, empty lots filled with trash and the winter carcasses of plants.  No pristine snow to lend an ephemeral impression of beauty.  The few stores crouching behind their metal barricade of gates.  I expect Mad Max at any moment, searching for gas or revenge.

Eventually we reach a slight more populated part of town, mostly fast food restaurants, loan shops, lots of churches for people with nothing left but hope.  We recall how Gary used to smell when our families drove or took the train through it on their ways west but it was at least the smell of jobs, money and living, not just the reek of pollution.  Today there is no smell; also no life, no jobs; no doubt still pollution.  The factories lie mostly empty, dinosaur husks slowly rotting and rusting in the Midwestern weather.

On the horizon the surviving factories belch plumes of dirty white smoke into the darkening winter sky, their lights evoking an urban ring of Dante’s “Inferno” or  an Isengard still ruled by Saruman, wrenching out newer model Uruk-hai, “bred from the heats and the slimes of the earth.”

We drive on toward the lights and living of Chicago, stunned almost into silence, hearts as empty as the city streets, mourning the death of a city.


  1. sad, poignant and unfortunately more and more desolation across our great nation has reared it’s ugly head. Thank you for sharing, only wish you had not had to see.
    By the way in my 20’s I circled I believe this same toll three times coming out of airport, trying to get the right exit to go on to Racine, WI. LOL

  2. sorry to read about the desolation… heart breaking from a people/family view
    though the plume view of dirty white smoke is upsetting, too.

    What are we going to do?


    • That’s the hard part. Most of these jobs aren’t coming back, so people need retraining, not just handouts. Education is vital but education is pretty pathetic right now overall. When children can’t read, can’t do basic math, can’t think logical, don’t know our country’s history, not just jobs are a problem, life is a problem. I personally think workfare, rather than simply welfare (in as many cases as possible) is best. People need to do something, to feel that they have a part to play, even if a small part. They need to have self-respect and some amount of self-determination. They have to know that people care about them and are there for them.

      What do you think?

      • I think Roosevelt had it right with the Public Works programs, putting people back to work, then and now, building and rebuilding bridges and roads, working on our parks, even cleaning up our city streets – why our water system is completely out-dated and needs to be overhauled. Let’s also put our grads – some of our best and freshest minds – to work, too, on these projects..

        But are you willing to pay taxes to do it? Will our millionaires and corporations kick in their fair percentages? Why we can’t even get agreement on our coming “Fiscal Cliff”. And I just read that back in 2008 when the crash came several thousands of millionaires applied for and received unemployment benefits. But ask them to pay their taxes and they’ll squeal.

        Let’s work smart, pay taxes smartly and audit them smartly, help people to learn, work, and use their talents – but everyone has to “kick” in, not just “kick” each other.

        Vote for me!!!!!! Oh… it’s too late. Maybe not here in Florida. I’ll have to get back to you on that.


  3. beebeesworld says:

    Ive heard of Gary’s problems-seems like towns just sorta move off the map-perhaps a”new” gary will spring up on the outskirts of the old-here in Asheville Nc-30 yrs ago downtown was dead-no one dared go there- all the shops were at the mall-now it is swarming with businesses, new hotels; Beer city (not my favorite for a “nickname”), there are restaurants, downtown “condo’s. lofts, a host of artists, businesses, local grown foods. delis-when new people move here and i find out they are going up town, it still surprises me-i still dont go, but im glad the newer people see it as a cool place to be-it just takes a few people with some nerve and cash to get things going–good luck to Gary Indiana!

  4. We need to bring the factories back to our shores no doubt. A higher tax should be enforced on products made over seas. We need to buy American made. Which is very hard. Everything is inported from food to our underwear. It is sad.

  5. Ah, yes, Gary…Gone from the “Music Man” song to a desolate version of hell.
    I have been through it on occasion and was very happy that I did not have to stop.
    Not somewhere I am going. Yes, I wish something would come along and help the entire city and its people.