Sunday, September 5, 2010


rural Georgia

Driving around in circles in the extreme nothingness of rural Georgia, one might contemplate that Georgia isn't the most thrilling state to live in or travel to. There is really a paucity of mountains, which by Western standards look more like hills, a minute shoreline that is usurped by Florida and South Carolina and outside of Atlanta, few legitimate destinations that one might drive two or three hours to in an eager fashion. Though, the U.S., in its vastness, really has no shortage of states with much less to offer. I've been to 47 of the 50 states and spent at least a day or a night in each, so I feel I can be excessively opinionated in which states are the worst to travel to or consider living in and which are the best. After wasting a decent amount of time rating them, I realize, in my mind at least, Georgia is actually near the end of the top third, closer to being one of the best, than the worst.

Beginning with the crummiest states to travel to or live in, Michigan and its post-apocalyptic, left-for-dead state of existence, has to be among the worst. Detroit and Flint are usually at the top of any list of the most unlivable cities in the U.S. Then, the whole Midwest is reliably dreary: Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, states where a roadside attraction like a giant cow sculpture seems to be the only diversion worth veering off the interstate for. I have not spent much time in Illinois, but I suspect it is likely only saved by Chicago from being near the bottom of the list. Chicago is pretty Midwestern too, but, being a fairly giant city with some fantastic architecture and pizza, vaults Illinois to being several spots below Georgia in my mind. Texas has always seemed to me to be an impossibly rotten state, despite overrated Austin, and Oklahoma, even worse in every respect, is overly Christian and sad. North Dakota is just a pile of rocks at the top of the country, not worth spending much time in unless like me you are attempting to visit all 50 states. Also, very low on my list would be Minnesota. I'm not sure what I expected of Minneapolis. I was thinking Prince, but nothing was purple, or the Replacements, and immediately understood why they used to get so overly shitfaced. St. Paul seemed to be worthy of a couple of hours at most. Also, I really don't care for Garrison Keillor; his blabbiness and Midwestern wholesomeness typifies Minnesota.

bored wild horse in North Dakota

Among Southern states, Georgia, by virtue of Atlanta, the swell college town of Athens and somewhat overrated, but still pretty striking Savannah, rates pretty high in my book. Georgia easily has more to offer than say Kentucky or Arkansas. As much as I love Alabama for its strangeness and decrepitude, no one in their right mind would want to live there. I have not explored Mississippi much. But like Louisiana, it's a state with a substantial musical and cultural legacy and extreme poverty. Both Louisiana and Mississippi are uniquely odd. The two Southern states that are to me more attractive and compelling than Georgia are Tennessee and North Carolina. North Carolina has the Blue Ridge Parkway and the misty mountain town of Asheville, while sharing the kitschdom of the Great Smoky Mountains on its western border with Tennessee. Tennessee's most swell city is Nashville, often near the top of most livable city lists, which despite a lot of awful music emanating from there, is one of the country's more attractive medium-sized cities. The difference between Georgia and Tennessee is dramatic when you cross the border near Chattanooga. From the stubby, pine-covered hills of North Georgia, you are transported into a land of deep lakes and log cabins surrounded by Appalachian splendor. It's nearly as dramatic crossing into North Carolina from Georgia.

Among the best states for traveling to or living, Hawaii has to rank near the top, as it's as close to an idyllic paradise as almost anywhere on the planet. California has more to offer the traveler or resident than most of the countries in Europe. Arizona has one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, along with well-preserved cowboy and mining towns. Aside from the U.S's preeminent city, New York state, where I lived for a few months, has vast wildlife-filled forests, charming towns that are less icky and self-conscious as those in neighboring New England, the huge and dramatic Hudson River, which rivals the Mississippi, and lots of history of the not all boring sort. Florida ranks above most states because of its lengthy coastline, exceptional climate and vast amounts of kitsch, even if it's overly touristy to the point of yuckiness in many places. Also, way better than average, Pennsylvania has vast forests, underrated Pittsburgh and no shortage of historical mumbo jumbo, Washington has laid-back college towns, a dramatic coastline and a very livable city in Seattle and Massachusetts has Boston, one of the more attractive large American cities, though the Western and Central parts of Massachusetts are a bore.

upstate New York

Now I've obviously spent more time thinking about this than it deserves, but I realize that Georgia, despite that so much of it is just trees, trees, trees, shack, Applebees, more trees, falling down shack, is actually a few spots above say, Maryland. Baltimore is a fantastic, antiquated city like Boston, but the rest of Maryland is guys fishing, crabs and not much else. Vermont is a very attractive family vacation type of state with yummy maple candy and probably not a bad place to live, but the main town, Burlington, is a place where college kids play Hacky Sack and wander around in backpacks eating greasy pizza. There are a lot of bookstores in Vermont, but that's hardly a reason to get very excited about it. Georgia beats out both Maryland and Vermont by a few hairs and also overly hippie Oregon by a decent margin. Yay Georgia! You're not so bad. Be proud of yourself despite your disheveled look and amiable, but kinda dumb smile! You're way more fun and sexy than Missouri and, compared to Connecticut, you're like Berlin during the Weimar Republic.