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Volume 90, Issue 95

Tuesday, March 25, 1997



Travelling the trenches of North America

By Jory Groberman
Gazette Staff

My gluttony for punishment, coupled with my desire to travel, has led me to drive from my hometown of Vancouver to school every year. Add to that, trips up and down the coasts, as well as family vacations, and you can be certain that I've seen a few shitholes in my time. Summer's approaching; if you're planning on travelling, these are some of my favourite places to avoidÉ

1. Detroit, Michigan: The sheer size and murderousness of this place gives it the number one ranking. I spent three hours lost in the inner-city, due to a lack of road signs. My survival of those hours is my greatest life accomplishment to date. As soon as I found the highway, I called my family to tell them I loved them.

2. Regina, Saskatchewan: For hours we drove with nothing to look at but a fence on the left and telephone poles on the right. . . Fence, poles, fence, poles. . . Oh Lord, bring us the sweet oasis that is Regina. Flat and grey, like a mouldy pancake, Regina depressed us further into the prairies. During our stay in Happyville, we saw not a single smile, nor heard an amusing comment.

3. Spokane, Washington: Have you ever considered the fleeting nature of life? That's what I thought about while lying on the floor at a Taco Bell during a hold-up. It turned out that the assailant was drunk and he didn't have a gun (he had a loaded finger), but considering the possibility of my life ending while face-down in a basket of Mexi-Fries was enough to leave me with a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak.

4. Kansas City, Missouri: The outskirts of this gem was where I met real-life talk-show trash. An evening was spent with our motel room neighbours, who rattled my faith in humanity. Drunk, pregnant, 17-year-old ex-cons who lived in the motel regaled us with their racism, bigotry and sexism. Truly sickening.

5. Edmundston, New Brunswick: What the hell is that smell? Oh, it's coming from that factory in the middle of downtown where black smoke is belching out of a smokestack, blanketing the city in a putrid stench. That's attractive. I really feel like eating here. Let's go, there's ashes on my sandwich.

6. Syracuse, New York: Driving one block in the wrong direction brought us to a corner where kids stood outside a liquor store throwing broken bottles at our car.

7. Russell, Kansas: Birthplace of Bob Dole. Farm machinery, rednecks and pizza that made me throw up.

8. Playa del Carmen, Mexico: Hundreds of three-legged dogs staggering about looking for a place to die. Malnourished and displaced Maya Indians hawking blankets and ceramics to boisterous tourists. Flies circled like vultures, feasting on garbage and dead dogs.

9. Missoula, Montana: Every motel and hotel was booked, due to a high-school football playoff game. People are spending the night in a motel to see 15-year-old Johnny Pimplehead throw a ball to his friends. We spent the night 50 miles outside of town in the lobby of a gas station in the desert.

10. Tampa, Florida: Ahh, Florida. As we drove the sunny streets, we noticed a couple of things that did not fit into our preconceptions. The streets were not bustling with sun-worshipping internationals, in fact, the streets were completely vacant. It must be 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning. No, it's 5 p.m. on a Friday evening. 5 a.m. Sunday morning is actually a happening time around here, because that's when the elderly walk their poodles. Later that night, it snowed.

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Copyright © The Gazette 1997