“Check your air, Mister?”


How much is gasoline where you’re complaining from? Lately, gassing-up is right there with opening the 401K statement when it comes to shits and grins. Some of you are paying over $4.00 a gallon, and it may be a while before we see the peak. Remember, we’ve got the summer to drive around dodging hurricanes, and after that comes winter, which I predict will bring colder than present temperatures, and together prices surely aren’t going south, so, just learn to deal with the pump and your now “201K.” Supply, demand, gouging, stupidity, uprisings, weather, bad dog food, tainted catfish, and more explain high gas prices. Now you know.

Take a look at the cities above and what they are paying per gallon in USD. If you kind-of back into the numbers and average prices around the US, and forget about including indexing pork belly futures or some other nefarious global statistical kabob skewer, it’s obvious we are getting hosed. By my calculations, the figure is a staggering two bucks a gallon. The choices are clear, according to what the experts say. Buy a smaller car, use ET looking light bulbs, or don’t wipe your ‘windshield’ anymore. Well, none of that for me, I am a comfort creature. I want my two bucks back because two bucks is two bucks where I’m from, so I might just move to one of these ten cities and hang on to my money. Want to drive along? I’m glad for the company.


1. Caracas, Venezuela – population: 3, 276,000. $0.14 a gallon, wow! Take a good look at the picture. The Caracans totally redefined the purpose of the Cul de Sac. See that little tiny spit of asphalt in the center of the photo? It’s unbelievable. See the second, third, etc. row homes? There’s no driveway taking you there, and you park your car elsewhere and walk home, if you can figure out which house is yours. This explains the popularity of amphetamines in Caracas. The whole place grew up never knowing the benefit of urban planning. Forget about picking the right neighborhood, there are whole “cities” within the city of Caracas, and they play by different rules and laws. Some have water and power, and some don’t. Why drive? Where’s your two bucks going? Shoe leather. This is not going to work.

2. Baku, Azerbaijan – population: 2,036,000. $1.15 a gallon. Why the jump? You get what you pay for – the wind. It never stops. Northern polar air influences blow through the oil fields into the city and right out to the oil tankers filling up in the Caspian Sea. It’s not cold, per se, but learn to speak Russian and find something to do in the oil business, you’ll need to, and without question, your two dollars is going to either be spent on hair spray or a ball cap. I hate wind.

3. Dushanbe, Tajikistan – population: 7,320,000. $1.32 a gallon. OK, I’m getting nervous. See the scenic mountains in the background and wonder why the pretty lady isn’t up there hiking or picking anemones? Well, her nervous system might be shot by all the uranium they mine up there. There are some very strange medical conditions going on in Dushanbe, and now that the war is “dying” down, Tajikistan is promoted by the department of tourism as a mountain climbers dream. Sounds to me like a plot to get your two bucks after your thyroid explodes. Don’t give it away though, buy yourself a good Geiger counter – clicking noises are your friend. Dushanbe and Boulder, CO are sister cities, which makes perfect sense to me, as there is truly something in the water in both.

4. Atyrau, Kazakhstan – population: 150,000. $1.35 a gallon. Alright, decent size town and cheap gas. Atyrau is pronounced “at raw,” and they mean it. This is rough, tough country, land and otherwise. Really, the only reason the place exists is because of the gas, not the price, getting it out of the ground. Talk about zero culture, my 85 year old grandmother has more history on her than Atyrau. This is West Side Story, meets the Hatfields and McCoys while outrunning Jesse James rushing for the 1849 gold. There are the “natives,” the Kazakhs, and the ex-pat Turks, who believe they bought the place. “We will f(use)k your women, Kazakh,” is a common greeting at the “office,” and it ain’t rhetorical like calling somebody a ‘ho with nappy hair. Your two dollars here is best spent topping off the tank and getting out of Dodge. It’s scary here.

5. Almaty, Kazakhstan – population: 2,000,000. $1.36 a gallon. I’m not being totally fair to anybody here, and things do get better in Almaty, thanks to oil money. You can land in the good airport and find modern lodging, but being a vegetarian because my dog talked me into it, I don’t know about eating “chuzhuk.” Sounds Russian for “up-chuck,” doesn’t it? You might, after your waiter informs this is horse meat sausage, quite the “tooth-picker” here. Almaty is the end of the line for the Siberian railroad – period. The area is prone to earthquakes and mudslides, and certain areas look like the surface of the moon thanks to active mud volcanoes. They are wild to watch bubble, and many locals don’t even know about them, so get a map, or call me! This place gets on your nerves quickly, and evidently, the government felt the same, as Almaty was the capital of Kazakhstan until it decided to move in 1997. Broken things, that we take for granted, like railroad tracks, just don’t get fixed. You simply step around it here, as, “if it’s broke, why fix it?” The Soviet Union melt-down had it’s good an bad sides, and you get to live with both here. Two dollars to spend? Do the equines a favor and brown-bag a PB&J.

6. Moscow, Russia – population: 10,469.000. $1.45 a gallon. It’s cold here, but you knew that. People are rude here, and I know the reason. It’s a bathroom issue. Did you see the picture? That’s a Moscow street public men’s room, and actually, not a bad one. You have to pay to go to the bathroom in Moscow, everywhere, even McDonald’s, unless you’re eating. The bathroom in this picture does not have doors, and it’s cold, but you imagined that, and the bathrooms really smell, with or without doors. See the “attendant” on the throne? He was either dead or dead drunk, I do not know, and you’ll enjoy your life longer by avoiding both types in Moscow. If Rudy Guilliani flunks in 2008, he would be a God-send for Moscow. New York City returned to smiles, thanks to Rudy and Charmin licking the bathroom issue. Two dollars here is worth every penny spent on toilet paper. It’s very hard to find, and Cheryl Crow would go completely unnoticed in Moscow.

7. Shanghai, China – population: 18,670,000. $1.48 a gallon. The air pollution here is the worst in the world. The picture does not depict an unusual day. Shanghai is the Sasquatch of all carbon footprints. What’s causing it? What’s not causing it. Money is way too important in Shanghai. There is no “EPA,” and very little effort to stop this. This picture should be answer enough as to why China would not sign Kyoto. I don’t see any solution to this, as the government condones it, and the public is forced to live with it. I asked a Shanghai bud about this, and he said fear was the main kindling fueling this mess. The best the would-be Chinese Al Gores can do is call attention to the problem via the Internet, and hope they don’t get caught and shut down, or worse. If you’re thinking about a vasectomy, save your money and move to Shanghai. Male infertility is 20% higher here, and they think the cause might be the air. Also, animal cruelty is a horror story in Shanghai, and I’m finishing a piece on that. There are no laws preventing animal cruelty, and mass slaughter under the guise of rabies amok, and eating dogs and cats is common in Shanghai. You can kick a dog to death for no reason in front of the police station if you wish, without fear of prosecution. This, and far worse, sadly happens. Save your two bucks for an iron lung or stomach in Shanghai.

8. Tianjin, China – population: 10,240,000. $1.54 a gallon. You know how we have hurricane tracking and are getting better with tornadoes and tsunamis, sort-of? Tianjin over the past couple of years has been developing technology to do the same with recurrent sandstorms sweeping out of Mongolia. It’s hard to equate a sandstorm. I guess, a white-out blizzard is close, but not equal. Blowing sand hurts, as you can imagine from the photo, and depending on the intensity, you cannot see, hear, or worse – move. It’s a very helpless sensation. These storms are bionic, and it’s like God at work relocating his deserts. Once this stuff gets going, it circles the globe. There are some jaw dropping satellite photos on the NASA site. Your two bucks will get you some aloe-Vera, needed if you’re caught with your pants down.

9. Bangkok, Thailand – population: anybodies guess. $1.60 a gallon. The “registered” population of Bangkok is 7,000,000, but this figure is a figment. The real number is closer to 15,000,000, and growing, thanks to the outlying areas flooding the city every day. Bangkok’s biggest bane is the traffic. No, that’s not rush hour in the picture, that’s every hour, every day, all day and night. Bangkok is fun, and you will have a good time, provided you can get where you want to be. If you’re the “type A,” go-getter business person with aspirations of making five power meetings a day around town, forget it. Traffic crawls, and a half-mile an hour is not too shabby. People set their evening social schedules around distance in Bangkok, which can also limit your circle of friends. I wouldn’t feel guilty about regretting an invitation to a party over two miles away, as the host expects as much anyhow. One thing maybe you’ll miss about driving in Bangkok is making a left turn. You get to go around the block here a lot to get there. I’ll never understand why they equip autos in Bangkok with turn signals or mirrors, totally unnecessary options. Clearly, you will not save any money on gas, as it simply idles away.

10. Vientiane, Laos – population: 200,000. $1.66 a gallon. You probably won’t drive here, because there is not much reason. So, this capital city of Laos is truly the place to stretch your petro-funds. Good food with the expected French influence, and great beer. Everything and everybody moves slowly here, and after a couple of days, you might find yourself checking the calendar for the right month. Did I mention the beer? The Mekong River runs through town, and can sometimes turn the place into a mud pit, but there’s plenty of beer. This is a good rest stop before moving on.

I could conclude by saying, “see, it’s all relative,” but it’s not. The likelihood of me relocating to any of the above is not going to happen by my volition, and gas prices hurt. What can you do? Search for the filling stations with TV’s built into the pumps to avoid looking over your shoulder for an approaching sandstorm, because that’s not going to happen either. Cheers!