I was in Orlando a couple months ago, and it's weird how much the Phoenix/Tempe/Mesa gigalopolis reminds me of O-Town. There are mountains off in the distance here, and it's a lot drier and there's cacti instead of palm trees, but other than that they look a lot alike: It's flat, it's incredibly spread-out, everything's on a rigid grid system, and the cities are composed of housing developments in which all the houses look identical. They even have these big backlit street signs that remind me of the road signs in the Disney complex. Oh, and there's lots of old people here too, but that goes without saying, I guess.
Now that I'm in Arizona, this makes 36 of the 50 U.S. states that I've been to (plus the District of Columbia, whose U.S./Not U.S. status is an ongoing controversy). But that obviously leaves substantial parts of the country I haven't been to, and that's why this week's +5 is Five States I Haven't Been To Yet But Probably Need To Go To Pretty Soon.
I've been to South Dakota before, and it was pretty awesome, I have to say -- Wall Drug, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, all that stuff. But I've never been to its neighbor to the north, or as the people in South Dakota like to call it, "the lesser of the two Dakotas." Yup, it's true, North Dakota, that's what they're saying about you. You gonna take that shit? Anyway, this might sound like an odd choice for a place to go, given that it's flat and cold and the largest city is about half the size of my hometown of Columbus, but there's something kind of foreboding and fascinating about just how big and flat and vacant it is (there are only 9.3 people per square mile there) -- I have what I guess is the opposite of claustrophobia, I get nervous and weirded-out in spaces that are too wide-open, so maybe I just want to go up there to scare myself for a few days. Plus Chuck Klosterman is from there, so it can't be all bad.
Yeah, I guess I'm probably gonna have to go here eventually. I've avoided setting foot in California for all 30 years of my life now, but a couple of friends of mine and I were planning on making USC-Notre Dame our big crazy random non-Georgia-involved game of the year, which would mean finally biting the bullet and going to Los Angeles. I realize it is not completely representative of the rest of the state, but I've kind of always had this thing against L.A. -- big, smoggy, glitzy, fake-boob-y, race-riot-y, et cetera et cetera. I suppose I wouldn't mind going to San Francisco, though. I realize it's a dangerous place for a naive Southern boy like me, what with their lattes and their fancy imported cars and their gay marriage and all those other things that constitute their evil Satanic "San Francisco values," but I think I can handle it.
One of my friends who's part of our big crazy random non-Georgia-involved game of the year group is Mark, who transferred to the Associated Press bureau in Honolulu a couple years back, and there's been some talk that, since we're gonna be in Los Angeles anyway later on this year, we might as well throw caution to the wind and go to Hawaii while we're at it. Which would be nice, and Lord knows there are only going to be so many chances for me to go out to Hawaii and have a free place to stay, but the problem is that with gas prices being what they are it currently costs about as much as a second mortgage to buy a plane ticket out there. That's the problem with Hawaii: When you're a kid, all the U.S. maps in elementary school have Hawaii right down there in the corner so that you're like, "Oh, Hawaii is this nice little island chain right off the coast of California, it should be easy to go there." And only later do you find out about insets and Mercator projections and blah blah blah and it turns out Hawaii is actually the remotest freaking island chain on the earth and you'll never ever be able to go there, ever. But hey, maybe I'll write a novel or sell a kidney in the next couple months and make it anyway, who knows.
My aunt and uncle went there on a cruise one time; I've never been myself. But my uncle did play golf at the northernmost golf course in North America, where you have to step over moose droppings as you're navigating the course, and they brought me back a T-shirt (that I'm wearing right now, actually!) from the Denny's in Fairbanks, Alaska, which is the northernmost Denny's in the world. In. The. World. So now that I've gotten a tiny taste of the magic with this T-shirt, I figure I need to go the whole nine yards and experience a Grand Slam breakfast consumed on the very edge of the Arctic Circle. Oh, and Denali National Park or whatever it's called, I hear that's pretty cool, too.
'Cause it's little and I want to walk across it. I'm sure people do that all the time.
And now the Random Ten for you snooty East Coast elitist types:
1. Perez Prado, "Mambo #8" (Editor's note: This is the song playing at the beginning of "Office Space," not to be confused with "Mambo No. 5," which I also have in my iTu -- um, sorry, I'm rambling.)
2. Pet Shop Boys, "Suburbia" (The full horror)
3. Sam and Dave, "Soul Man"
4. Sergio Mendes, "Mas Que Nada"
5. Moby, "My Weakness"
6. Thievery Corporation, "Samba Tranquille"
7. Gnarls Barkley, "Open Book"
8. Pet Shop Boys, "Somewhere" (Trouser Enthusiasts mix)
9. The Beastie Boys, "To All the Girls"
10. Underworld, "Winjer"
Your turn: Put your Random Tens and/or states you've never been to -- although there probably won't be many of them, as I'm sure y'all are far better traveled and less sheltered than I -- in the comments.