Funt: Memo from the Southwest
SURPRISE, Ariz. – I paid $1.89 for gas here the other day, a very feel-good price.
I've always believed that the cost of gasoline — now below $2.50 in most of the nation — is a good barometer of how people feel. More adult Americans watch the Pump Index than care about the stock market, and right now gas prices are putting people at ease about hitting the road as the holiday season draws near.
Some other observations from 16 days on the road in the Southwest:
With a full year still remaining until the election, most folks don't give a hoot about the day-to-day drone of presidential politics. This contrasts sharply with the impression I get back home, where I spend a lot of time ingesting news and opinion from mainstream media.
When it all got started, when Trump lit up the GOP race and Clinton first sparked interest among Democrats, people were at least curious. Now, it's a crashing bore. Maybe residents in Iowa and New Hampshire — where early caucuses and primaries aren't that far off — are more interested in assessing Ted Cruz's daily poll numbers or studying Bernie Sanders' new commercials, but I rather doubt it.
Most Americans will take the campaign seriously next year, but right now even the day's weather gets more attention. Speaking of which ...
Nearly five inches of snow fell this week in Flagstaff, about 140 miles north of Phoenix. El Nino predictions are already coming true across the West, which is going to help alleviate the drought. But it also means many people are going to suffer through a difficult winter.
Turning to sports, football may have grown to be America's favorite pastime, but the Phoenix metroplex now has the nation's largest, thriving baseball industry, and it operates year-round.
While the Royals were thrashing the Mets on the national stage, a different World Series featuring more than 300 amateur teams was staged here at Major League facilities. Over 5,000 players from around the nation gathered for the annual three-week event.
Concurrently, the little-publicized Arizona Fall League featured several hundred future Big Leaguers in a slick annual showcase in which all Major League teams participate.
Sparkling baseball complexes — the newest of which was opened by the Chicago Cubs in Mesa last year — dot the region from Phoenix to Goodyear, providing a significant boost to the local economy. In Arizona, baseball is big business.
And finally ...
Arizona media know a good story when they see one, which is why the state was buzzing about the return of GusGus, the baby goat that went missing from a pen at the State Fair. After the goat was spotted roaming near a canal in Phoenix, the fair's livestock director, Karen Searle, told reporters:
"As we walked GusGus up, his mother started going crazy ... I couldn't not shed a tear."
Meanwhile, in Tucson, four escaped emus kept Pima County sheriff's deputies at bay for more than three hours before being recaptured. "It was quite an ordeal," said officer Tracy Suitt. "We aren't trained to deal with emu. They're tough, but they're pretty delicate."
So went this week in Arizona. Presidential politics will just have to wait.
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker.