Thursday, August 2, 2007


When I went to the University of Minnesota I used to play on an enormous sandpile on the north side of the 35W bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis yesterday.

The bridge was in use then, but you could only use it to cross the Mississippi from the University to Downtown or vice-versa. The section of 35W just north of bridge was still under construction and there was this enormous sandpile down on the uncompleted freeway between University Ave and Fourth Street. It was as high as the bottom of the overpass, a perfect cone of sand, like an enormous Hershey's Kiss.

We had some great midnight parties down there, featuring beer and one fearsome game of "King of the Hill". Half...ok, fully...drunk we would try to climb that mountain of sand to become the King of 35W. If you have ever tried, in an inebriated state, to climb a mountain of sand..well, believe me, it ain't easy.

You start out with all the best intentions, of course, but after three steps you realize your bare feet have disappeared and you are up to your ankles in trouble. It is slog, slog, slog from there on up to the top, to achieve your Pyrrhic victory.

I lived less than a block from that sandpile, in an apartment on 8th and University. We knew the cops would bust us if we hauled the keg down to the sandpile, so we kept it back in the apartment and brought the beer down in pitchers and plastic gallon jugs. We would fill our beer cups at the base of that sandpile and head up. By the time you got to the top...if you got to the top...your beer was gone. Spilled, most of it. Wasted.

Actually, it was usually gone about halfway up, at which point you'd say, "Dammit! I'm out of beer!" and tumble back down. You had a choice to make. You could continue on to the summit and face a fight with some other drunken yahoo and possibly become "King of the Sandpile", or you could go back down for more beer. We would generally opt for the beer. We were college kids, and we had our priorities straight.

We don't anymore.

We are in charge now. Today's leaders are of my own generation, which I once thought showed such promise in those days when we played on that sandpile. But somewhere on the climb up that mountain of sand we lost our principles, lost our priorities and failed to live up to our promise.

Our "King of the Hill", who was supposed to be the best one of us, turned out to be George W. Bush, the worst. And the rest of the "leaders" from my generation have turned out to be nearly as bad, Republican and Democrat alike. Lousy. Every one of them.

"Leaders" they call themselves, the ones who have allowed the infrastructure of "The Homeland" to fall into such disrepair and led us to the devastating consequences witnessed yesterday.

And why? So they could sell their souls to lobbyists and play their little 'Earmark Games'?

To chase some Pyrrhic "Victory" in a sandpile in the Middle East, a sandpile that did NOT attack us on September 11, 2001, while allowing the levees in New Orleans to weaken and break? While allowing the arteries and veins which carry the lifeblood of this country to crumble and fall?

I was just reading that the cost to fully repair and modernize the bridges in this country would be around $ 9 billion per year for the next twenty years, or around $ 180 billion dollars.

The War in That Big Sandpile in the Middle East is currently costing, so they tell us (and they usually only tell us the half of it), $ 2 billion per day.

$ 9 billion dollars is four and a half days in Iraq. Four and one half days.

Too bad we already threw a cool trillion or two down the hole in that outhouse over there.

We could have fixed all the bridges, all the dams, and got one helluva good start on the highways.

Nice work there, America's leaders.

You Kings and Queens of The Hill.


Larry Jones said...

Like you, I thought that the takeover by my generation would bode well for humanity and the planet. I realize now that I was not associating with the crowd that would eventually be in charge. Those people started disappearing from my circle early, running for school office, interning at the Capital, doing Christian camp counseling, applying to Yale and Stanford. How did they know to do that? They were just kids like me, weren't they, full of rock'n'roll, rebellion and irreverence?

I guess not.

Graeme said...

Well said Neil. tragic about the bridge. My best friend lives close. Even more tragic about Iraq.

Well said Larry. I am in my mid-twenties and I clearly see the split. The ones that want to be "successful" scare me most.

a rose is a rose said...

mr shakespeare it was wonderful how you melded this posting together. of course i agree with you, larry and graeme.

i'd also like to add a couple of things. in addition to the bridges and highways, the money COULD be going to education, health care, katrina victims and on and on.


and in college instead of playing king of the hill - you should have been playing at what your PREVIOUS posting was about

Coffee Messiah said...

Nicely stated and isn't it wonderful to know we are taking the terrorists to task, while our own country crumbles from within, and no one caring.

I bet the bridge though will be taken care of way before the gulf coast ever is. ; (

Now there are priorities.

Yes, gw is "the worse" pres ever, and how ironic his eyes are elsewhere while this country crumbles into little pieces.

As for our elected officials, all having been there, well most since the 70s and earlier, what the hell are they doing falling in line with all this, and only the occasional "blow-hard" making noise, and nothing on the follow through?

The Death Of A Nation, on your TV screen everywhere. ; (

Nicely done!!!!!

JM said...

What irony; they were willing to spend megabucks on a new stadium but nada on a crumbling infrastructure. Another telling barometer of how screwed up our priorities have become.

Nvisiblewmn said...

Rome is burning, fiddlers.

fallenmonk said...

Nice post Neil and well said. The tragedy that is George Bush and company, only part of which is Iraq, will unfold over and over again for many years to come. The bridge in MSP is only a symptom of the cancer GWB has introduced into our lives.

Time said...

It is expensive, and that goes against our selfish interest, but I keep wondering why people won't pay to continue to be the best, build the best, and have pride that we sacrificed to do the right thing.

If we were not spending all that money on the (bogus) war, it's not a foregone conclusion that we would tax ourselves for needed repairs.

The lack of good leadership has eliminated the motivation for people to say, yes, that is a high priority of need, and we will sacrifice to get it done.

When will this generation give a hard sacrifice (as all other generations have done before us) to invest in the future of this country and the well being of our people.

The sacrifice needed now, is a financial one, not a military one. We have the money, but apparently not the guts, to do it.

Peacechick Mary said...

After that very excellent post, I'm ordering one huge shitload of sand to be dropped off in my backyard. I'll meet you there. It's the best we can do under the constraints of this gubment.

windspike said...

Pyrrhic victory? you betchya...yader hey. Been on that bridge as well.

Daniel said...

Beneath the muddy water lay the corpses of those whose ghosts may haunt the American people, drive them into action, push them to cleanse their nation of the forces of evil.

The rest of the world holds its breath!

Neil Shakespeare said...

Thanks all for your comments.

enigma4ever said...

really good post....about something that matters...alot....and we all are smart enoiugh to know how serious this is...and that it is not just a photo is trouble..and our infrastructure is in the sad...

sumo said...

Enigma got it right. I've been mostly ashamed of being an American since 2000...I'd like to think by the time I'm ready to shuffle off this mortal coil...things will look up...even though I won't be seeing much of anything.

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