Saturday, September 26, 2009

Just back from the US

I was in Chicago and Pittsburgh this week, and managed to eavesdrop a bit on the G-20 window-dressing and to take the pulse a bit of the east and central US.

Impressions? Pittsburgh is an old-money city which has done very well. I think the airport design is thoughtful, the freeways are well designed and maintained, and property is an incredible bargain. I checked out house prices in a very upscale enclave about 20 minutes from downtown, with a golf course and architectural controls, littered with Benzes and Escalades. What was being offered at $550k would have sold for $800k - 900k four years ago. And the bottom has not yet been reached. Local companies are still cutting staff and looking for ways to save their way to prosperity. Can't be done, although the opposite (spending your way into bankruptcy) can be easily achieved.

I also think Pittsburgh's media has lost its mind. Here's why: Greenpeace managed to fool all the police and security on Wednesday morning and string a banner on a major bridge downtown. The radio reporter who covered this was eagerly WAITING FOR GREENPEACE TO COME AND TALK TO THE MEDIA to crow about how they had pulled off this act of publicity-grabbing vandalism.

Chicago people like to say "The best thing about Chicago is you can fly direct to anywhere in the world. The worst thing is you have to do it from O'Hare Airport." And it used to be true; few airports could match O'Hare for pure congestion and crowds. But no more. There are parking spaces in the lots, seats in the airport restaurants, even room to walk from gate to gate. Traffic is probably 70% or so of its pre-crash levels, by my guess. A sign of the times. And worse is yet to come.

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