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Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate: An Economist's Travelogue [Paperback]

Michael D. Yates
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 19, 2007 1583671439 978-1583671436

The road trip is a staple of modern American literature. But nowhere in American literature, until now, has a left-wing economist hit the road, observing and interpreting the extraordinary range and spectacle of U.S. life, bringing out its conflicts and contradictions with humor and insight.

Disillusioned with academic life after thirty-two years teaching economics, Michael D. Yates took early retirement in 2001, with a pension account that had doubled during the frenzy of the late 1990s. He and his wife Karen sold their house, got rid of their belongings, and have moved around the country since then, often spending months at a time on the road. Michael and Karen spent the summer of 2001 in Yellowstone National Park, where Michael worked as a hotel front-desk clerk. They moved to Manhattan for a year, where he worked for Monthly Review. From there they went to Portland, Oregon, to explore the Pacific Northwest. After five months of travel in Summer and Fall 2004, they settled in Miami Beach. Ahead of the 2005 hurricane season, they went back on the road, settling this time in Colorado.

Cheap Motels and a Hotplate is both an account of their adventures and a penetrating examination of work and inequality, race and class, alienation and environmental degradation in the small towns and big cities of the contemporary United States.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Author

MICHAEL D. YATES is associate editor of Monthly Review. He was professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown for many years. He is the author of Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy and Why Unions Matter. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Michael D. Yates is Associate Editor of Monthly Review and the author of Why Unions Matter and The ABCs of the Economic Crisis (with Fred Magdoff).

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press (March 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583671439
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583671436
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.5 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,354,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Yates is a writer, editor, and labor educator. Among his books are Why Unions Matter (Monthly Review Press, 1998, second revised edition 2009), Longer Hours, Fewer Jobs (Monthly Review Press, 1994), Power on the Job (South End Press, 1994), Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy (Monthly Review Press, 2002),More Unequal: Aspects of Class in the United States (Monthly Review Press, 2007), Cheap Motels and a Hotplate: an Economist's Travelogue (Monthly Review Press, 2007), and In and Out of the Working Class (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2009). He has also published more than 200 articles and reviews in a wide variety of journals, magazines, blogs, websites, and newspapers. He is currently Associate Editor of Monthly Review magazine and Editorial Director of Monthly Review Press. He taught economics and labor relations at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown from 1969 until his retirement in 2001. He won the Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award in 1984. Since 1980, he has been a labor educator, teaching trade union members in a wide variety of formats, from one-day seminars to six-week courses to semester-long classes. He has taught union members through Penn State's Union Leadership program, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Labor Center, Indiana University, Cornell's Labor Centers in Manhattan and Albany, and through individual arrangements with unions, including SEIU (1199), UNITE, USWA, UFCW, and OCAW. Yates also worked in the research Office of the United Farm Workers Union and has served as a labor arbitrator with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation. He and his wife Karen Korenoski have been traveling the United States for the past eight years. These travels are recounted in his latest book Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate: an Economist's Travelogue.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read ! May 5, 2007
By tara
This book is thought-provoking as well as an easy read. It deals with serious issues like race, class and labor in an interesting, readable way. Although it is very educational, it was the perfect book for me to read poolside on vacation. Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate provides an in-depth look at many popular travel destinations that will make you think twice about what goes on behind the scenes the next time you visit a National Park or stay in a hotel.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A road less traveled April 26, 2007
The author's look at leisure travel through the lens of the economist is a refreshing change from travelogues that tell you to go-to-this-beach or visit-this-restaurant. The picture of material excess in Miami Beach and the despoiling of nature for profit is revealing of our profit-driven world. Having graduated from the same high school as the author, I can attest to the accuracy of his portrayal of his home town. I do find some irony in the book sale profits the author makes in an economic system he castigates. Over-all, though, an educational and enjoyable drive through the topography of our society: the beautiful, the bad and the ugly.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Opinionated Liberal Economist's Travel Diary July 23, 2007
I had the pleasure of taking two classes from the author in the 1970s, so I was not surprised by his liberal viewpoint. I'm proud to call myself a liberal, but 30 years on, Dr. Mike Yates is still more liberal than I am. So, if you're a Republican, you probably won't enjoy this book.

Mike's travelogue is enjoyable, although his writing degrades into stream-of-consciousness from time to time, and he includes more personal details than most travelogues.

This is really an opinionated liberal economist's travel diary. I enjoyed it very much, and I recommend it.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly enjoyable read from cover to cover. August 4, 2007
Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate: An Economist's Travelogue is the memoir of economics professor Michael D. Yates, who set off together on a journey across America. As they traveled, they observed sights and human efforts ranging from a program meant to reverse the privatization of national parks and forests to the political economy of California agriculture which relies heavily on migrant workers to pick food, to a savvy look at the job market in Portland. Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate is not a motel or eatery guide for vacationers per se, but rather an assembly of insights sure to intrigue and captivate armchair travelers. A highly enjoyable read from cover to cover.
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33 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Left Wing Perspective on 21st Century Workforce June 14, 2007
I hate to denigrate someone's hard work. In an effort to be objective, however, I have to say I was disappointed in this book. Looking for something light-hearted, as the title and cover seemed to suggest, I was instead subjected to a treatise on the working conditions of the lower middle class in 21st century America. Anyone interested in "Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate" should be aware that this is a work by a dedicated leftist.

I am not saying there's anything wrong with the left-wing point of view, just that the author's opinions are definitely skewed. That's not to say that Mr. Yates doesn't have some very valid points. His description of the summer he and his wife spent working for Xanterra in Yellowstone National Park is quite the eye opener. It's enough to make a would-be tourist balk at the idea of putting any money into that profit-obsessed company's pocket. The working and living conditions of the company employees are pathetic to say the least. No benefits, lousy food, cramped quarters, long hours, indifferent managers and a stressful environment would dissuade all but the desperate from working for Xanterra at any of their national park locations. The author's Yellowstone experience is perhaps the most interesting and useful of the entire story.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book is not particularly enlightening. We are treated to a back-and-forth tale of the couple's stints in various parts of the country after his retirement from a college teaching position. New York City, Portland and Miami are highlighted and some of this is worthy of note. One wonders, however, how Mr. Yates didn't see some of the hassles in advance. Is it a surprise, for example, that rents in Manhattan are outrageous and what you get for your money is contemptible?
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HOT TRAVELOGUE AND A CHEAP CULTURE August 5, 2007
Michael Yates has discovered America and its not the glossy, star-spangled, fantasy-culture blasted at you 24/7 by the corporate infotainment state. This is the America of cheap motels and low-wage service economy jobs, from Yellowstone National Park to Miami Beach to Portland to Pittsburgh. "Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate" is literally an on the ground report from the front lines of America as actually seen and experienced by a working class son of the Sixties and former college economics professor, who knows a cheap con when he sees it.

Yates incisive American travelogue is a panoramic, coast to coast exploration of the scarred beauty and turbulent history of our once great nation. It's a searing economic expose of the relentless commercial onslaught of the last forty years on our people, our land and our democracy, resulting in a growing class inequality unprecedented in American history. If Michael Moore was a travel writer, this is the book he would have written. -- Ron O'Brien, Contributer, Free San Francisco: The Ultimate Free Fun Guide to the Bay Area
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Every prosepctive Yellowstone or Xanterra employee should read this...
It was well written and provided a much guarded prospective of life as a Xanterra employee. Xanterra is a non-governmental agency who has contracts to operate all the hotels and... Read more
Published 6 months ago by charles mcmanaway
4.0 out of 5 stars Read It Anyway
The author writes about working at the Monthly Review as among other things an editor, either doing the usual shaping up of submissions or even making something unreadable into a... Read more
Published 24 months ago by M. J. Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars Single Abroad: Confessions of a Boyish Man by Brian Ward
Budget travel memoirs are on the rise. A recent example is, Cheap Hotels and a Hot Plate. This book recounts author and economist Michael D. Read more
Published on May 10, 2012 by Brian Ward
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time and money
I had to read this book for class and it was a complete waste of time. I don't understand why this guy is driving around the U.S. Read more
Published on May 18, 2008 by Leroy Landry
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Reading
This book focuses on specific areas of the country, giving personal views of the beauty or ugliness of each place and of how income and lifestyle affect them. Read more
Published on October 7, 2007 by P. Eftink
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun Read
We traveled right along with the author - hot plate in tow! (No kidding - we brought our own food on our most recent vacation, ate and felt better and actually LOST weight without... Read more
Published on June 7, 2007 by Nancie N. Svensen
5.0 out of 5 stars hey i liked this book
I thought this book was a "must-read" (cliche-sorry) for anyone who is interested in exploring the country in a more non-conventional way... Read more
Published on May 21, 2007 by Siyufy
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Topic From this Discussion
Greetings from the author
I just saw you on Tavis Smiley's show, and am going to order your book right now. My husband was a professor at Wilson College in Chambersburg, PA so I can identify with your previous professional life.

Because I have MS, travel is restricted. However, we traveled over much of the eastern part... Read More
May 22, 2007 by J. Beecher |  See all 5 posts
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