The last installment in my record of impressions of the fifty states, based on a lifelong journey that ended in early October in South Dakota.
South Dakota: #50. Wind-swept prairie, which is impressive at first glance but dreary after a couple of hours. Crossed the border to a glorious sunset in early October (see photos 1 2). Froze my balls off taking those pictures. Lots of anti-abortion billboards and road kill. One porn store. I hear all the good stuff is in the western part of the state. It sure isn’t in the northeast corner.
Tennessee: A couple of trips to Memphis and environs. Beyond Beale Street and the Peabody Hotel, there’s not much to recommend about downtown. I did the obligatory pilgrimage to Graceland where I saw the most powerful display of poor taste I have ever seen. The city seems uneasy.
Texas: Dallas several times, Houston several times and one trip to Austin. I’m aware of the stereotype that Texans are a bunch of gun-toting loudmouths, but I never experienced that. The people were very friendly wherever I went. The primary gestalt of Texas is “boobs.” Dallas was (and maybe still is) the fake-boob capital of the universe and Houston is stacked with titty bars. Great Mexican and southwest food. Horrid weather. Houston in the summer is unimaginably awful. While Houston suffers from weak or nonexistent zoning laws that have created a hodgepodge of a community, Dallas is probably a bit over-organized and business-like. Still, the trip to The Sixth Floor (Texas School Book Depository) is not to be missed. Austin provides some landscape relief with small hills and more culture with the presence of the university, but the weather there is as abysmal as anywhere else in Texas.
Utah: A couple of trips to Salt Lake City. Smoggy. Not the greatest place to party. Places that don’t honor vices make me a bit uncomfortable.
Vermont: No state is more beautiful in the autumn. Driving is quite dangerous because you can’t take your eyes off the fantastically vivid colors that surround and conquer your visual field. Brattleboro’s a very nice New England town with great bookstores. Vermonters are rather colorless, though.
Virginia: Spent some time in the D.C. metro area between Alexandria and Arlington. Arlington National Cemetery was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Outside the ring road I remember green and lush and gently rolling, but I need to go back to get a better feel of the whole state and see more of the historical sites.
Washington: This is where I live now, in the Seattle area. It is beautiful every day of the year. The rain makes this a wonderful place for napping and writing. Great music, great coffee and a pretty good restaurant scene. Eastern Washington is dull farmland broken up by a few lake resorts. Spokane could easily be lifted from the ground and placed somewhere in the Midwest and I doubt anyone would notice. Tacoma has a beautiful setting and an absurd amount of crime. Olympia is one of the ugliest state capitals, which is saying a lot. Bellingham up north is a nice place to drop in during the summer. The area is dominated by passive-aggressive introverts who pretend to be nice but aren’t in the least.
West Virginia: Took a trip through the North Panhandle, stopping in Weirton and Wheeling. At the time, a lot of people were out of work, so the place was pretty dreary. Wheeling has a cute little downtown that could use a bit of sprucing up.
Wisconsin: A couple of trips to Milwaukee and a half-trip to Madison that was aborted due to a tornado warning. Milwaukee is Germanic-looking and made of brick, which is always unnerving to someone who grew up in earthquake country. Great Polish food, though. I was planning on getting my Master’s at Marquette . . . until I went to Milwaukee and couldn’t stand the humidity.
Wyoming: The overall impression was “red rock.” Traversed the entire state on my way home from Chicago, stopping in Cheyenne.