Tuesday, May 11, 2004


James Carville once said about Pennsylvania that it was Philadelphia on one side, Pittsburgh on the other, and Alabama in the middle.

We spent a good part of last week roaming around the Alabama part of PA. Farms and gun racks. We took Route 80 to Cleveland taking lots of stops to let the kids stretch their legs.

We stayed over in State College, PA, a town created in farm country to serve Penn State. It's the only town for hundreds of miles with a Thai restaurant and clothing boutiques. A town entirely devoted to the 70,000 students.

Universities as economic development for an area of the country where the old industry has become irrelevent, outsourced, or made unprofitable. I don't know why I found this facinating, but strange things amuse me.

Whenever we drive through small towns on the way to a destination, we often wonder what people do there for a living. There are some jobs that are necessary for local consumption -- school teachers, letter carriers, cops. But there are only so many of those jobs. These small towns need money from outsiders. They have to sell something or provide a service. A McDonalds off the highway. An education.

It's one of the failures of the technological era that computers and the internet haven't led to jobs for these areas. After all, there is really no reason that my husband has to work in Times Square. He could easily do his job anywhere with high speed internet access. And we could afford one of those quaint Victorian homes out there. But it hasn't happened. Cities continue to monopolize jobs.

And the Albama area of Pennsylvania gets older and older. PA has one of the oldest populations in the country. The kids have left for the city, while the parents run the farm.

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