Continuing my record of impressions of the fifty states, based on a lifelong journey that ended in early October in South Dakota.
New Mexico: Spent a couple of days around Albuquerque. Incredible sunsets, beautiful vistas. Albuquerque is a big sprawling town, nothing special, poor air quality.
New York: Well, there’s The Big Apple and everything else. New York City is a universe unto itself and I love the place for its energy, its diversity, its food, its culture, its walkability, its transportation . . . it’s like riding a bolt of lightning at first, but once you match its speed, you discover the subtleties that make it a great city. The rest of the state is “upstate” and the countryside can be a lovely place to be unless you’re buried in snow. Albany is a very odd place with modernistic Rockefeller architecture interspersed with traditional industrial.
North Carolina: Spent a week in Raleigh-Durham earlier this year. My overwhelming impression is “feminine,” but I can’t explain why. People are friendly and helpful, and the landscape is calming. I learned to never attempt to drive anywhere in the area when Duke is playing North Carolina. I noticed that there is more diversity in the South now than during my visits in the early 1990’s. Made my first visit to a Chick-Fil-A, and gay marriage controversy aside, their food sucks. Although the religious presence is a bit too thick for me, if I had to live in the South, this would be the place.
North Dakota: #49. I spent the night in Fargo, which I liked a little bit more than the movie, which I hated. Loved the Roger Maris Museum. Very, very white. Many people have weathered faces because the prairie wind seems to be a constant and could explain why so many men don military-style haircuts.
Ohio: Several trips to Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and various other locales in the state. The first thing I think of when I think of Ohio is “big houses.” Coming from a perspective of a grew-up-in-a-tract-home California boy, the homes in Ohio seemed humongous. I am a lifelong fan of the Cleveland Browns (see post), but the city still needs work: too many dead spaces beyond The Flats and the new stadiums. I remember little about Columbus because I was shit-faced during my entire stay due to another near-collision at an airport. Cincy has a perfect set-up rising above the Ohio, but the city itself is dead and grumpy.
Oklahoma: #47. Spent an afternoon in Miami and Commerce to see Mickey Mantle’s home town in May of this year. The ugliest border crossing in the U. S. is from Eastern Kansas into Eastern Oklahoma. Definitely not my kind of place; no desire to explore any further.
Oregon: Several visits to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, numerous trips to Portland, a few drives through the state on the I-5 corridor. Oregon is a beautiful state with much to offer, although the people aren’t especially warm and welcoming to outsiders (particularly Californians). Portland is nothing like what they show on “Portlandia.” It’s a very well-managed city with great restaurants, a vibrant arts and entertainment scene and great bookstores. Best walkability and transportation is in the city core; when you go out to the more distant neighborhoods traffic can be rough. Ashland is a delightful town with great food, shopping and Shakespeare. The Oregon coast is quite lovely, but a very different seaside experience from the warmer climes down south.
Pennsylvania: Several trips to both ends: Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. These are two of my favorite cities, although they are very different places indeed. In Pittsburgh, it’s the combination of stunning architecture, the mountainous setting and the convergence of the three rivers. When you come through the mountain tunnel at night, you feel like you’ve entered a magical kingdom. The city is a bit grittier than its appearance but not the smoky steel city of yesteryear. In Philly, I have to go against the stereotype that Philadelphians are mean people who boo everything and tell you that my favorite thing about Philadelphia is the people. I’ve had more people in Philly make me laugh than anywhere else in the world except Dublin, Ireland. The sights in Philadelphia didn’t knock my socks off (Independence Hall is a tiny little thing), but the city has a unique flavor that I appreciate.
Rhode Island: Spent a day in Providence, where I felt pretty comfortable but can remember nothing except a great lunch at a mahogany-trimmed restaurant.
South Carolina: Spent a Sunday afternoon somewhere near Gaffney. Everyone was in church. There were lots of trees and bugs. I really do have to see Charleston someday.