City observations



Streetwalker dilemma

I was standing on the sidewalk smoking a cigarette around 9 p.m. the other night. This guy walks up to me and says, "Can I ask you a question?"

"It depends on what it is," I say. I've been hit up by just about every kind of beggar over the past few years, so I'm always on guard.

But this guy doesn't fit the profile of the homeless, crack-fiend beggar that I usually see. He's in his mid-20s, well-dressed and clean-shaven. "Go ahead and ask," I say.

"I'm drunk," he says. "I'm not going to lie to you. I'm drunk. I've been walking from 22nd to 70th Street to see a friend."

"OK," I say. "What's the question?"

"I guess I want to know, is it worth it or should I turn around and go home? I've been walking for a long time and I'm having second thoughts."

I say, "You're halfway there already. If you go home, you'll have walked all that way for nothing — you'll be just as tired and won't have anything to show for it."

He considers this for a moment and then asks me again if it's worth it. By now, I know he's not going to ask me for money or cigarettes so I'm genuinely trying to help him.

"Your friend — male or female?" I ask.

"Male," he says.

"If the answer had been female," I say, "that would influence my decision. So I guess I can't help you, buddy. I just can't make that call for you."

"Damn," he says. "I was hoping you could. I just don't know what to do."

"Well, I guess it would depend upon why I was going there," I say.

"Sex," he says, looking away from me. "I'm going there for sex."

I take another pull off my cigarette, exhale and say, "Eh, I guess I'd walk three miles for sex. Most people would. I say you should go."

He says thanks, and keeps walking north.

PlayStation blues

I arrived home from a business trip late Thursday night. After unpacking and relaxing for a moment, I got out my PlayStation 3 controller, eager to catch up on Call of Duty: Black Ops and the murderous rampages I'd been missing for a week.

Sony had taken down its online servers after a hacking attack, keeping 75 million gamers from getting online. As of late Sunday, the server was still down with no repair time in sight.

My guess is that this is the kind of thing we're all going to have to get used to, especially as businesses move away from onsite servers to cloud computing, in which data and applications are stored on faraway Internet servers.

This underscores the need for a comprehensive national broadband plan, which would guarantee access to high-speed Internet for millions of underserved customers. The plan would also increase security for huge networks and give consumers official channels for the redress of grievances. Of course, conservatives and their friends in big business are trying to undermine the president's directives to make this happen.

It's not a big deal, the fact that I can't make Prestige Level 3 on Black Ops, but the Sony server crash and others should force lawmakers to look at alternative plans.

Mass-transit tourism

Just a quick note about our city's mass-transit problem. Local media are doing a great job covering the budget battles and other issues surrounding our broken public-transit system.

WTHR reporter Mary Milz is a first-rate journalist. But why did her bosses force her to ride an IndyGo bus for a week to work for a story? I've seen dozens of these stories over the past few years and they're all the same. Ms. Milz's insights were no different than The Star's reporters' were last year:

Buses are sometimes late. They are often crowded during rush hour. Fellow passengers have varying degrees of hygiene. Sometimes you have to transfer buses to reach your destination. You're not allowed to eat or drink on the bus. It takes longer than driving your own car.

I've ridden the bus to work five days a week for the last 39 months, an estimated 1,600 bus rides, and I figured all this out by my third ride. Surely there are better uses of award-winning reporters than to write blog posts about how smelly fellow bus passengers can be. Ms. Milz did a great job; however, the assignment itself was like sending a camera crew to watch someone buy groceries.


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