It’s been a great week of driving around Indiana. Now I’m in Indianapolis, which to people in Boston is to Indiana as London is to England. You sort of confuse them and then, instead of feeling silly, you think, “Well, honestly, what’s the difference?”

Indianapolis looks like a mall exploded and they called it a city. It’s full of banks, chain restaurants disguised as real ones (a chain of brewpubs?) and Starbucks. Pleasant, like the mall.

Gary, where I spent Monday, is another story. It is no mall. Gary is probably the poorest city in Indiana – it certainly has the worst schools – and the main drag has really very few banks at all. Ok, none. Instead, it has pawn shops, check cashing places, blood-giving places, and evangelical churches. The funny thing about the places to sell blood is that they have official-sounding names, like BioPharm Plasma and MediPlas Pharm Center. For a second I thought they were some kind of biotech things until I remembered that the only jobs you can get in Gary are pawn shop guy, check-casher, Taco Bell chef, cop, pastor, and, if course, blood merchant. The other thing that Gary has a lot of are restaurants – little mom and pop places – that brag about having shrimp. Three or four a block: Fried Shrimp Here. Tip Top Fresh Shrimp. Shrimp, Fish, Seafood. (I love that one.) It is well known that our poorest cities have too few supermarkets and pharmacies and too many pawnshops and check cashing huts. Urban planners, take note: perhaps shrimp is the real problem.

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