SKANLYN’s Top Ten
Worst Cities in America
Having had the opportunity to travel all around this great nation, I’ve gotten the chance to visit a lot of great places. I’ve also gotten the chance to visit a lot of terrible places. Since there’s no fun in writing or reading about the positive, I present to you my top ten WORST cities in the United States.
Will your city be #1???
#10. Seattle, Washington
How can you possibly hate a city that’s got a monorail? Take a trip to Seattle you’ll find out exactly how!
In all fairness Seattle might well be on my list of best cities if it wasn’t for their godawful weather. Yeah, there’s also that thoroughly irritating population of scruffy, infrequently bathed, wool hat and flannel shirt wearing stoners who seem to comprise the wait staff everywhere you dine but they’re easily ignored, unlike the nearly constant drizzle and grey clouds. Seattle is also fairly chilly year round – not quite cold enough to freeze your ass off, just cold enough to make you perpetually uncomfortable. In spite of its abhorrent climate, however, there is actually a lot worth seeing and doing there.
Seattle’s most well known attraction is of course the Space Needle. Riding the elevator to the top will set you back twenty bucks but once up there you can step outside onto the circular balcony and look out into the opaque grey mist. At first I questioned who in their right mind thought it would be a good idea to build an observation tower in a place where constant fog and cloud cover limit the visibility to about three feet. After considering the lines of people willing to pay the significantly more than nominal fee to go up there I could only surmise a real genius – that’s who!
Pike’s Place, while not quite as iconic as the Space Needle, more closely represents what I consider to be the essence of Seattle. That is, a feeling of utter “yuck”. If you’ve been there then you know exactly what I mean. Stepping into the marketplace, your clothes wet from the cold rain outside, you immediately and profusely begin to perspire (it’s hot as Hell in there). As the warm sweat from your flesh soaks into your already soggy attire, you find yourself enveloped in a sensation of stickiness and dampness. It is this feeling of “yuck” that I most closely associate with Seattle.
While it does rightfully earn its place on my list, Seattle does have significantly more positive attributes than the other nine cities about which I have written. Aesthetically it’s beautiful – the greenest grass, trees, and other plant life you’ve ever seen, a downtown that is immaculately clean. There’s also a plethora of museums, great restaurants, and nightlife. That’s all eclipsed, however, by the lack of sunlight, a feeling of general malaise that overcomes you and does not go away until you leave, and the air of melancholy that pervades every corner of the city. Combine all that with the previous mentioned “yuck” and it’s no wonder Seattle has the highest suicide rate of any major U.S. city.
#09. San Francisco, California
Like Seattle, San Francisco is cold and wet though the sun does tend to shine there more often. That only tends to illuminate the city’s imperfections though.
Known for its mostly harmless population of Asians and homosexuals, there is also a fairly significant thug element in San Francisco that makes you feel generally unsafe. Wander slightly away from Union Square and find yourself lost in a neighborhood known as “The Tenderloin” and you will immediately sense the imminent danger. Filthy hippies and homeless people are also quite abundant throughout the city. While the panhandlers may not be quite as aggressive as say Atlanta (which, unlike San Francisco, has enough positive attributes to outweigh its homeless problem), they certainly bring down any efforts to gentrify this big dirty city that somehow manages to command a ridiculously high cost of living.
As in Borat’s country, in San Francisco there is problem and that problem is transport (well one of them anyway). The city’s extreme urban density causes quite a traffic nightmare, making commuting to work by car highly impractical for most. Public transportation is therefore of the utmost necessity, a factor heavily exploited by the union representing employees of the BART, the nation’s most unreliable public transit system. Each night, they force the city’s working population to stay up late to find out whether they will be allowing the trains to run in the morning or whether they will again be holding the city for ransom. They make their decision sometime after midnight with many commuters having to hit the road shortly thereafter in order to make it to the office on time (a necessity for those working a non-union job). I’m told that, in addition to a pay increase, more vacation time, and the flexibility for employees to show up at work whenever they feel like it, their latest assortment of unreasonable demands includes a mandate legally compelling all Bay Area McDonald’s to serve Shamrock Shakes year round (Uncle O’Grimacey we implore your tasty mint flavored mercy!).
The transit union of course isn’t the only labor organization to inflict their disruptive shenanigans on the City by the Bay. I was once unfortunate enough to be in town when one of the local hotel unions was striking. I remember disgruntled workers pacing the sidewalk, shouting into megaphones, and beating on empty paint buckets all night, making enough of a racket to disturb me twelve floors above street level. Police stood at the scene keeping a watchful eye and making sure that no patrons had the unreasonable expectation of a good night’s sleep, lest they attempt to enforce the apparently non-existent ordinance against disturbing the peace with their fists. And yet they say the South is ass-backwards! Go figure.
#08. Cincinnati, Ohio
When one thinks of Cincinnati, names like Dr. Johnny Fever, Les Nessman (winner of five Buckeye Newshawk awards!), and Venus Flytrap probably come to mind. I know they did for me so I found myself quite choked-up my first day in town when I came upon the Tyler Davis Fountain, featured prominently during the opening credits of the classic television series WKRP in Cincinnati. As I stood there taking it in, a shaggy looking fella stumbled past me, stopped dead in his tracks about five feet in front, and proceeded to vomit onto the plaza. After seeing a little more of the city I had similar sentiments.
There are a lot of things to dislike about Cincinnati. It’s ugly, unsafe, and the air is poison. Most of all though, it’s boring. When the main selling point of a major American metropolis is its close proximity to Newport, Kentucky, a town of three square miles that boasts an aquarium and a really old post office, you know they’ve got problems. It also doesn’t help tourism efforts when business travelers, such as me, arrive in town a day early to do a little exploring only to find that everything’s closed on Sunday. This included the restaurant in my hotel. I thus found myself wandering downtown for more than an hour looking for someplace that could supply me with sustenance. Fortunately I stumbled upon a charming little bistro called Wendy’s that happened to be open. After enjoying some casual dining, including a unique dessert specialty of theirs called a “Frosty”, I decided to check out Cincinnati’s world famous nightlife, only to find there is none. Well, I did come across a blind hobo on a street corner singing Al Green tunes, if that counts. Having no change on me to deposit into his coffee can, however, I didn’t feel right staying for his full performance so I retired to my hotel room where I turned on the local news and learned about the variety of drive-by shootings, armed robberies, and assorted other crimes that were committed around town earlier in the day.
#07. Wichita, Kansas
If you’ve never been to Kansas’ largest city, type “Downtown Wichita” into Google Images. Now imagine this – it’s even less exciting than it looks!
Wichita can be summed up in two words: it sucks! There is absolutely nothing to see or do here. A city of nearly 400,000 people yet completely void of any human progress since its founding in 1863, the level of apathy among the residents of this urban vacuum is absolutely baffling. For God’s sake build something people! Hell, give a couple plots of that land back to those natives from whom you stole it so they can build a fucking Casino or something!
I’d go on ranting about all the things I hate about Wichita but there would actually have to be things there for me to hate and a lack of things is precisely what puts Wichita on this list.
#06. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
With a skyline consisting of one building, it almost seems like an ironic joke that the word “City” would make its way into the name of Oklahoma’s capital. Well okay, there’s actually more than one building but only one is tall enough to be seen from a distance so I’m not counting the others as part of a “skyline”. Either way, if you’re looking for a big city experience, you won’t find it here. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an inner-city experience, da hoodz of OKC rank right up there with some of the best from New York, Los Angeles, and Miami – complete with an active presence from all major street gangs as well as two Mexican drug cartels.
If you’re not looking to score crack or engage in other criminal activity, you’re just unfortunate enough to have to spend some time in Oklahoma City, then the area known as “Bricktown” provides the closest facsimile to the type of entertainment district one might find in a real city (though “closest” is still a few hundred thousand or more miles away). A piss-poor imitation of the San Antonio Riverwalk, Bricktown doesn’t quite capture the charm of its counterpart in the Alamo City. While the Riverwalk stretches for miles along the San Antonio River, celebrating the city’s rich Tejano culture with Mariachi bands, Mexican folk dancers, and hundreds of unique shops and restaurants, Bricktown celebrates OKC’s culture of blandness with bricks (plain red ones) and a handful of unremarkable chain restaurants, all situated along a canal that barely stretches the length of an arena football field. But if you’re bored and hungry, you generally won’t find anything better in this town. That is unless you happen to be there in September when the State Fair is in session. For you more cosmopolitan types, a state fair is where obese people (such as every single resident of Oklahoma City) go to eat chocolate covered bacon and ride the Ferris wheel. There’s also pig judging contests (the animal of the genus sus that is, not a female resident of Oklahoma City), competitive arm wrestling, and live music from people that used to be famous. Regarding the latter, I walked by a stage where none-other than Eddie Money was performing “Take Me Home Tonight” to a crowd of about fifteen people. Ronnie Spector, who apparently hasn’t fallen on as hard times, was conspicuously absent.
#05. Montgomery, Alabama
On the roads and highways in and around Montgomery is a series of signs reading “Keep Alabama Beautiful”. If their capital city is any indication of what the rest of the state is like then it’s a little too late for that.
Montgomery is “The Asylum” of American cities. The Asylum is of course the film studio that makes those really bad sci-fi movies like Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, 500 MPH Storm, and Sharknado – films so terrible that they’re actually fun to watch. And such is Montgomery, AL – a city so inconceivably awful that it’s actually fun to visit (though you sure as hell wouldn’t want to live there). From the cratered streets that are sure to destroy your shocks and struts in as little as five miles to the rows of semi-demolished (and sometimes burned-out) houses to the confederate flags that proudly adorn every front porch and dirty pick-up truck you see to the stench of utter poverty that perfumes the city, Montgomery manages to reflect every stereotype of the deep South with 100% accuracy.
One probably can’t expect too much from a city whose economy is driven by the bail bond industry (or so it would seem from all the billboards around town targeting the recently arrested) so it goes without saying that Montgomery’s city center is clearly not the place of neon lights and places that stay open all night that Petula Clark had in mind when she sang about going downtown. There’s no “music of the traffic” or any “rhythm of a gentle bossa nova”, just silence punctuated by the occasional howl of the wind. I walked several blocks without encountering another living soul. The buildings, sidewalks, paved streets, traffic lights, and power lines all seemed to suggest that people had been there at one time, probably not too long ago, but at some point they all just vanished. It brought to mind an old Twilight Zone episode in which a man and woman awake in an unfamiliar house after a night of heavy drinking. Finding no one at home, they wander outside and find themselves in a deserted town seemingly void of any other human beings though they keep hearing the laugh of an unseen child. At the end of the episode it’s revealed that they’re being kept as pets by a little girl giantess and that they had been wandering around a miniature town built for a model train. While there was no such dramatic revelation for me, just a really boring walk around town, the eerie vacancy of downtown Montgomery thoroughly creeped me out and left me with a strong desire to be around other living things, even if they weren’t human. I thus found my way to the Montgomery City Zoo, a grungy 40 acre wildlife park where the scent of exotic animals and monkey shit fills the air.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned at the Zoo and I didn’t get to see nearly as much of it as I had hoped due to getting there late in the afternoon and an unfortunate train derailment. There was also that loser in front of me at the ticket booth who seemed to take forever counting out enough change to cover admission for him and his white trash family. After finally getting through the gate I got to see a giraffe, a gator, some birds and a parade of really dirty elephants (not sure if that was mud or shit covering them). It was then that I thought it would be a good idea to hop aboard the train for a leisurely ride around the perimeter of the zoo. About half way into the ride there was a terrible noise followed by a thunderous thumping then, I shit you not, the rear two cars came off the fucking track. This set into motion a comedy of errors that began with the nervous lady engineer stopping the train and handing all of us accident forms to fill out followed by a bumbling maintenance man making several failed attempts to lift the derailed cars back onto the track with a bulldozer of all things. Somewhere in there the lightning began to flash as thunder clouds burst open sending heavy rain pouring down on all of us. It was during that violent storm that Maintenance Man Mike finally came to the conclusion that the bulldozer thing wasn’t going to work so he decided to just disconnect the rear to cars and have the passengers who were seated therein find new seats for the ride back to the station. Upon arriving back at the train depot I decided to call it a day in light of my wet clothes and the continuing inclement weather.
Due to the train incident I was unfortunately unable to make it to the Hank Williams Museum as planned. I really had hoped to get my picture taken in the back seat of the death car. That is, the blue 1952 Cadillac in which ol’ Hank died of heart failure while being chauffeured to a gig on New Year’s Day in 1953, proudly on display as part of the museum’s permanent collection. Oh well, maybe next time. The day was not entirely a loss though as I did manage to teach that big blue parrot at the zoo to say “motherfucker”. I only wish I could have been there the first time he repeated himself in front of a pack of school children on a field trip.
#04. Hartford, Connecticut
I recall years ago hearing a radio interview with some new age heretic who claimed to have been given a vision of Hell by an angel of some sort. He described not the fire and brimstone we’ve all come to know but rather a lonely place completely lacking in hope, love, and the presence of God – a land of overwhelming emptiness and despair. In retrospect I can say with confidence that this man describes not Hell. This man describes Hartford, the most depressing city that’s not in Pennsylvania.
Branded as the Insurance Capital of America (way to attract them tourist dollars!), Hartford has a less- than-booming downtown area where you see few, if any, people on the streets. The city blocks, for the most part, are populated only by a collection of architecturally unimpressive office buildings which I can only imagine to be occupied by very unhappy people working dead-end jobs with long hours and low pay. If you’re looking for something to do then you’re shit out of luck. I suppose you could visit the Harriet Beecher Stowe house (if you like that sort of thing) but other than that, being sad is the only other form of recreation you will find in Hartford.
#03. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
This list pretty much could have been comprised entirely of cities in Pennsylvania, the most dreary, miserable, depressing state in the entire the Union. In the interest of diversity though, I’ve chosen to limit myself to one city in this horrible commonwealth. While the filthy cesspool known as Philadelphia or the poor man’s Detroit (aka Pittsburgh) would have been decent choices for any list of this type, I’ve opted for the state’s wretched capital which I feel best represents the utter despair you feel when you’re in Pennsylvania.
Death and decay are the words that most prominently come to mind as I look to describe Harrisburg, a city that looks remarkably like the type of post atomic landscape you might see in sci-fi movie. A frozen river covered with polluted grey snow runs through town. Plumes of black smoke continually rise into the air from decrepit old mills and coal plants. A dim sun makes an increasing failing attempt to penetrate the carcinogenic tint around the city. And bitter cold perfectly mimics the effects of nuclear winter. If anyone questions why we must keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of rogue nations, they need only come to Harrisburg for a preview of what it might be like if we don’t. The primitive agrarian communities of the Amish in nearby Dutch country offer a glimpse of what it might be like a millennium or so down the road if society were to find the muster to start over again.
To be fair, I haven’t been to Harrisburg during the spring or summer months but I can’t imagine it’s any less depressing and I suspect that the trees stay bare year round and that the color green is perennially absent from the flat brown grass in this city of living death.
#02. St. Louis, Missouri
If you like being raped, shot, having your car stolen, and having your house burned down then you’ll love St. Louis! If not, then maybe not so much. Exceeding the national average multi-fold with its ridiculously high rates of sexual assaults, gun crimes, auto-theft, and arson, St. Louis is a top contender every year for the title of Most Dangerous City in America. Though long-time rivals Camden, NJ and Detroit have taken the top spot more often, St. Louis still has a respectable number of wins under its belt.
A high crime rate is of course a bad thing for any municipality but it doesn’t necessarily make a city a bad city. People certainly didn’t flee or stop visiting New York and DC back in the 70’s and 80’s and Chicago is still bound to show up near the top of any “Best City” list despite its 500+ homicides over the last year. Hell, even Detroit has enough charm to keep itself off this list. Of course those cities, unlike St. Louis, actually have something other than crime to offer. On the other hand, if you ain’t being robbed, raped, murdered, or carjacked (or some combination thereof), you just ain’t experiencing St. Louis. Crime is literally all they have. Well, there’s also that big stupid piece of bent steel that rises over the skyline as a peculiar monument to western expansion.
Yes, I suppose if I am talking about St. Louis I am obligated to mention the Gateway Arch – the world’s oddest and most impractically shaped observation tower (it’s also perhaps the world’s most unnecessary one, overlooking a city that’s best left unobserved). Many people to whom I’ve spoken were actually surprised to learn that the Arch is not a mere metallic sculpture and that you can actually go inside it. Of course the question is then, why would you want to go inside it? The simple answer is that, other than being the victim of a violent crime, there’s just nothing else to do in St. Louis. And so I paid the ten dollars to take the “tram” ride up to the observatory. This so-called “tram”, as they call it, is actually a series of very claustrophobic pod-like gondolas on a semi-vertical chain that slowly pulls you to the top. One boards with six or so other people making things quite tight (especially so with the thick winter coats everyone was wearing on the frigid October day I visited). With only the most microscopic personal space between passengers and low ceilings that force you to hunch forward, the long, uncomfortable, and noisy ride to the top is torturous to say the least. When the tram finally comes to a stop, you exit to a steep upward staircase (handicapped persons are requested to please go fuck themselves), at the top of which is the very small, very narrow, and very crowded observation deck. On each side is a series of tiny windows projecting downward at a very non-ergonomic angle that makes looking out a window far more strenuous than you could ever imagine it would be. If you care to do so, however, you will see some quite majestic views. To the East is the Mississippi Riviera in all its flowing diarrhea brown glory, the permanently docked riverboat casinos establishing it as a sort of Monte Carlo for trailer trash. To the West is a spectacular bird’s eye view of the cityscape. On a clear day you can actually see beyond the studio backlot façade of downtown to the real St. Louis – a place of dilapidated houses and plywood-boarded store-fronts, a land where bullets swarm through the air like mosquitoes on a humid summer night and where chalk outlines turn the sidewalks into a virtual portrait gallery memorializing the latest casualties of the ongoing turf war between the Boys of Destruction and the Horseshoe Posse. There is a certain amount of peace you feel while you’re up there though. After all, it is probably the safest place in this war zone of a city even with the wind nearly blowing it over at times, the constant threat of shifting tectonic plates, and the possibility of an unannounced tornado coming along and tearing it to pieces.
Intensely dangerous yet thoroughly unexciting – St. Louis is a land of contradictory extremes. Its climate of brutally hot summers and bitterly cold winters seems only fitting for a city that gives residents and visitors alike the worst of both worlds in every respect.
And the most horrible city in the United States of America is . . . . .
#01. Boston, Massachusetts
Up in that far northeastern corner of the country known as “New England” is the land of filth and revulsion they call “Beantown”, a city about which I have so many bad things to say that I don’t even know where to begin. From the grimy cityscape of trash littered streets; to the permanently gridlocked roads; to the unsanitary public transit system with its urine soiled subway trains (some friendly advice if you’ve never ridden the “T” – never let your ass make contact with those seats!); to the continuous aural collage of jack hammers, police sirens, and angry car horns; to the crazy lice-infested homeless people that yell obscenities at you as you walk streets; to the ten months of non-stop bitter cold – yes, Boston has everything you would never want in a city that you visit, much less call home (which I unfortunately did during my college years and for a number of years after). Of all the bad things one can point to when discussing Boston, however, it’s perhaps the awful people that ultimately make this hell hole such a terrible place.
Ah, the Bostonian (douchebageous maximus), an angry, racist, vulgar, and excessively ignorant creature if ever there was one! The male of the species is instantly recognizable by his backwards Celtics cap, sleeveless white t-shirt (sometimes referred to as a “wife beater”), and the humble and respectful manner in which he addresses his fellow man as “ya fuckin’ qweer” and “ya fuckin’ cawksucka”. When he’s not calling the people around him derogatory names for homosexuals, dropping the n-word in public, or threatening the life of those who say something critical of his union, he can frequently be heard chanting “Yankess Suck”. Those words always seemed rather ironic to me given that the Red Sox had not won a World Series since 1918 at the time I lived there, as compared to the Yankees who won twenty six between then and when the Sox finally broke their so-called Bambino curse in 2004. But I digress.
Female Bostonians are of course known for their exceptionally tacky attire, reminiscent of the 1985-era Madonna, and the tall mass of hair that extends high above their heads, adding as much as six inches to their height. Every twelve to fifteen minutes they can be seen reaching into their purse (or “pawk-a-book”, as they call it) to retrieve a large aerosol can from which they release a cloud of noxious gas called “AquaNet”, a compound most irritating to the eyes, nose, and throat of everyone within a fifty foot radius. While generally not prone to the ignorant sports chants of her male counterpart, the female Bostonian can often be heard cursing into her cell phone, usually at her mother whose intelligence she often questions (“What are ya fuckin’ stupid ma?!”). While equally as racist as her male counterpart, she does enjoy the sexual prowess of African American men who are generally able to satisfy much more fully than that punily equipped Irish boy from her neighborhood in “Southie” whom she officially dates.
Those who have never been to the self-proclaimed “Hub of the Universe” are probably questioning the authenticity of my description of Boston and its wretched inhabitants. After all, how could the city that gave us JFK (and his brothers Bobby and Teddy) and where Martin Luther King Jr. earned his PhD possibly be racist? How could a town with so many prominent institutions of higher learning be so full of ignorant and uneducated people? And how could a city that always looks so nice on TV and in the movies be as filthy and rundown as I say it is? All fair points which I shall address one-by-one.
The reality is that the Kennedys, despite their public image, have long kept themselves tucked away from the non-white population. For years they lived behind the walls of a highly guarded compound located nearly two hours from the city in a place called Cape Cod where you are more likely to encounter a Dodo bird than a person of color. As for Dr. King (or “Martha Lewtha King”, as Down Syndrome-afflicted Mayor Thomas M. Menino called him at the 2012 DNC), he got the hell out of there as soon as he delivered his dissertation and headed back to the more racially tolerant Alabama of the 1950’s.
Yes, it is true that Boston is home to some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world – Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Boston College, Boston University, Emerson College, Berklee College of Music, all fine institutions and all mostly populated by foreign and out of state students. Native Bostonians rarely have an education beyond fifth grade, many having been seduced into dropping out of school by the four dollars an hour they could earn by working “under the table” on a construction site. Upon turning eighteen, many then find their way to employment with the City which is strong-armed by the local unions into paying them six figure salaries for menial minimum labor jobs, thus eliminating any need for an education.
I probably don’t have to tell you that most of what you see on TV and in the movies is pure fiction. However, we all saw quite a bit of Boston earlier this year during the very real news coverage of the Marathon bombing and its aftermath. That bombing of course took place near the finish line in a highly unrepresentative neighborhood called the “Back Bay”, which is also what you generally see on TV and in the movies. Unlike the garbage dump that comprises the rest of the city, the Back Bay is kept tidy and beautified by its large gay population. God may hate those people but there are no better neighbors to have if you want to keep your property values up. Nonetheless they are confined to this small area due to safety concerns as male Bostonians, from other parts of the city, have a penchant for beating them up pursuant to the scientific theory that “if you know a guy’s a fag and you don’t kick his ass then that makes you a fag.” Very logically they therefore sacrifice a clean, kept neighborhood in order to avoid having to perform fellatio on, or accept anal sex from, another man.
Despite my disdain for Boston and Bostonians, I did briefly find myself sympathizing with the people among whom I spent several years living when I initially heard of the Marathon bombing. Upon seeing the interviews with them in the media and hearing that despicable accent again, however, I immediately lost every ounce of compassion as my mind filled with memories of those dreadful souls and the sheer torture I endured living with them. Yes, what happened at the 2013 Boston Marathon was absolutely tragic and I would hope to never see another terrorist attack on American soil ever again. In the very unfortunate event it were to happen, however, one has to wonder if it would be all bad if Boston were blown to smithereens and the ground irradiated so that no one or nothing could ever live there again.
Congratulations Boston – you are the worst city in America!
THE FLIP SIDE – SKANLYN’s Top Ten BEST Cities in America – 10) Virginia Beach, VA; 09) Myrtle Beach, SC; 08) Charleston, SC; 07) Savannah, GA; 06) Dallas, TX; 05) Atlanta, GA; 04) Washington DC; 03) San Antonio, TX; 02) Miami, FL; 01) Chicago, IL