15 days before the election
Population (Estimated): 11,000
2004 Election: Bush 54%, Kerry 45%, Other 1%
2008 Election: Obama 53%, McCain 46%, Other 1%
In a weeping drizzle and the uncomfortable fire breath of sinking daylight, we arrived in Chesterton, Indiana, a factory town turned affluent suburb with only three hours to complete our next episode.
But with the help of five pliant locals we were more than halfway done in half an hour. After just a few interviews it became clear that to tell our own abbreviated story of Chesterton, we would need a shot of the steel mills that grind away on the proximate shore of Lake Michigan and have been an indispensible reservoir of local jobs for decades.
We decided to wait and shoot the mill on our way to our night’s place of rest in Chicago. We were, after all, ahead of the game and we had to record three more voices if we were to reach the eight we do our best gather.
But the rain started and our momentum, always a fragile commodity, stopped. Rejections piled up and we soon found ourselves short an interview in a quickly dimming Kmart parking lot talking with the exact wrong kind of person: a woman who wanted to speak at length, but not on camera.
The mills were miles away. One of our day’s more helpful interviewees had passed along a password to the gated community of Dune Shores, a place he guaranteed we’d find the best vista of the belching behemoth.
But navigation was not on our side. We went south, when we should have gone north and by the time we reached the one man security detail on the edge of Dune Shores, we had less than ten minutes before the sun faded and with it our hopes of a cohesive episode. Graham conveyed the password to the guard and the man waved us through.
But we quickly found, through a series of dead ends, no way to reach the beach in an automobile. So we abandoned the car in a driveway of a home we hoped was unoccupied and hiked up and down a private dune mountain. And there in front of us was the promised stunning shot of the mill with the last moments of daylight adding to its foreboding industrial massiveness on the wave-crashing shores of the lake.