The Worst 50 States in America: Day 3
We continue today in our journey to the bottom of the state-based cesspool that is America, praising eight more territories for their meager good and shaming them for their overwhelming terribleness.
As a refresher for those unfamiliar, to obtain each state's rank we asked Gawker staff members to rate the states on a scale from 1-10, then averaged the scores to get our list. We're ranking best to worst, so our final day will see the lowliest state given its tarnished crown. We've already covered 50-43 and 42-34, so please come and sink even lower with us.
The Old Line State sports lots of nice scenery, and some parts are conveniently (or detrimentally, depending on your view) D.C.-adjacent, but its main city is a Dickensian nightmare.
The Good: The whole Chesapeake area is definitely pretty. There's a whole island full of wild horses, so that's pretty cool. Some of us have cousins that live in Rockville and that always seems pleasant enough. There's a town named after Chevy Chase! (It couldn't possibly be the other way around.) They have blue crabs there that are very delicious to eat. (No, they are not STDs that are sad.) Annapolis is a pretty little town, and there are lots of hot young Navy cadets to peep there. You can buy a house in Baltimore for under $10,000!
The Bad: Do you know why you can buy a house in Baltimore for under $10,000? Because it's something of a murder-ridden horrorhole. They like made a whole television series about what a scary and miserable place it is! Sure there are revitalization projects underway and crime is falling some, but it's still pretty bad. Other than Baltimore, Maryland is basically just the Mid-Atlantic's Connecticut — all suburby sprawl dotted with occasional crumbling cities. Oh, and of course rural Maryland's woods are full of mean old witches who hate film students.
Final Score: 5.75
America's Big Cheese is a land divided. It possess a kindly, Midwestern open-mindedness that's constantly doing battle with fervid red state-ism.
The Good: Well, there's the aforementioned cheese. If you have a friend from Wisconsin and they are a good friend, they will bring you back a lot of cheese curds from when they go home to visit their parents. There's a lot of lakes and stuff, including two really big ones, so you don't exactly feel like you're in the landlocked Midwest. (Though, of course, you are.) And it must be said lest we lose any bobo cred that Madison is a great town, a smart and laid-back kind of place that, among others, is home to the sublime Lorrie Moore. No state can be that bad if Lorrie Moore lives there! Most importantly, though, this school song is oddly hypnotic.
The Bad: Well, uh, there's this whole mess. Wisconsin, or at least certain influential parts of it, has devolved into Tea Party craziness. Voters got rid of the great 18-year senator Russ Feingold and replaced him with area dope Ron Johnson. Beyond politics, Green Bay is mostly a frozen wasteland populated by beer-filled bellowers and some of the scariest sports fans in the nation and Milwaukee, though experiencing a small population growth owing to some changes for the good, remains Milwaukee. Most importantly, though, this school(ish) song is deeply chilling.
Final Score: 5.73
The New England family's insurance salesman brother is pretty enough and ugly enough to fit almost in the middle of our countdown.
The Good: Mostly Connecticut is good because it's near other stuff, chiefly Boston to the Northeast and New York City to the Southwest. But actually within the State of Steady Habits (sounds exciting, huh?) there is picturesque Litchfield County, a restaurant in New Haven that invented the hamburger (both America's greatest achievement and its inevitable undoing), and a seriously haunted ghost town. Connecticut politics have been good to the gays and other worthy causes.
The Bad: Connecticut politics also birthed terrible Droopy dog Joe Lieberman. The truly bad part of CT, though, is what's mentioned in the Maryland section above. Connecticut is mostly just America's suburb, a string of medium-sized towns rolling into medium-sized towns, only to be briefly interrupted by decaying heaps like Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford. Connecticut has some of the least character or local flavor in the country, unless you count the WASPs of Westport, and we really shouldn't count them. Also, Connecticut is home to two of the nation's most annoying student bodies (Yale and UConn, for very different reasons).
Final Score: 5.72
30. North Carolina
The mountainous gateway to the true American south, North Carolina can seem charming and terrifying all at the same time.
The Good: Contrary to the ugly old "dumb Southerner" stereotype, North Carolina's public university system is top-notch (especially Chapel Hill, obvs) and towns like Asheville are artsy, cultured places full of beer. In terms of scenery, the Outer Banks are some of the East Coast's most beautiful shoreline, and the dark and shadowy Blue Ridge mountains are picturesquely moody.
The Bad: A traditionally old-school southern Democratic state, North Carolina has an often contentious political scene and is not untainted by, sigh, a history of bad race relations. Remember the watermelon guy? He was a real gem. The city of Charlotte is a strange place, at once a depressed and rundown shanty and, conversely, the second-largest banking center in the US. (A large banking sector makes for a pretty dull city, too.) Beyond that, Duke kids are real gems, as are some of the state's more deeply pious folks. The worst thing about North Carolina, though? The poop monsters.
Final Score: 5.66
The Show-Me State may immediately appear to be a boring drive-through state on the way to and from somewhere else, but there's actually some stuff going on there.
The Good: Say what you will, but driving down Rte. 55 from Illinois and seeing that Arch in the distance as you approach St. Louis is an oddly stirring, patriotic kind of experience. And once you're up close it's still really cool! You can go to the top in these weird iMac-esque pods and there's a view for days. At the other end of the state, Kansas City is a vibrant city, full of lots of cool history (organized crime-related and otherwise) and music and other culture and stuff. Missouri is one of the few states in the union to have two baseball teams, too! That is fun. Some towns along the Mississippi, like quaint old "America's Hometown" Hannibal, are perfectly pleasant places to stop by on a summer afternoon.
The Bad: Well, yikes. The political sphere is pretty goshdarn silly. The state's chateaus are downright ugly. Depending on where you live in the state, you'll probably be killed by a tornado. And it's Missouri! Yes St. Louis and Kansas City are fairly decent cities but there's a lot there in the middle (see: Columbia, Jefferson City) that is slow as slow can be.
Final Score: 5.53
28. Rhode Island
The barely-there baby of New England is full of lovely things but sadly rotten at its core.
The Good: There are beaches in Rhode Island that are some of the nicest in the land. The entirety of the coastal part of Rhode Island is beautiful (woop woop, Little Compton), from snobby Watch Hill to, uh, snobby Newport. They make some decent wine in Rhode Island, and Brown University in Providence is probably the number one school-that-got-away for a large portion of American college kids.
The Bad: Other than the pretty coastline, there isn't a whole hell of a lot to do in Rhode Island. The inland parts of the state (which are, admittedly, only like 20 minutes from the non-inland parts of the state) are just bland in that depressingly New England bland sort of way, and Providence, while definitely undergoing a hefty makeover, is still a sleepy and vaguely distressing city (maybe because it fired all its teachers?). It's also egregiously corrupt! Politicians like Buddy Cianci have been crooked and mobbed-up for years. Oh, and the Cranston/Pawtucket accent is, perhaps, the ugliest in the nation.
Final Score: 5.51
A middle-of-the-road state ends up in the middle of the road.
The Good: Yes! Gay marriage in the Midwest! It is a miracle. Well, a miracle maybe but certainly not a shock for those in the know about Iowa, an unassuming state that quietly boasts probably the best writing program in the country and that hosts a big hippie bike fest every year. Iowa's rolling farmland heading west toward Omaha is sublimely idyllic, as are the strange bluffs near South Dakota. You can eat deep-fried butter in Iowa, so that's pretty good. Plus that name! "Iowa." So sad and pretty, like how to say goodbye in a language lost long ago.
The Bad: Well, some of those judges that passed same-sex marriage were also elected out of office, a strange thing that you can do to appointed judiciary in Iowa. The whole Iowa caucus/straw poll brouhaha is an irksome clusterfuck, one that gives too much political power to a relatively small state. Des Moines is something of a creepy, melancholy city. And we should maybe move that deep-fried butter down into this category.
Final Score: 5.40
The geographic center of the U.S. is a flat land with a few surprises.
The Good: Kansas has two good college towns. Lawrence (University of Kansas) is one of the 10 best college towns in America. And Manhattan (Kansas State) is, despite its depressing name, apparently a good place to retire young. Kansas is the prototype of what you think about when someone mention's America's sprawling vastnesses of corn and whatnot. It's Kansas. It is what it is. Dorothy's from there. Y'know. Kansas. You can go see this.
The Bad: What's the matter with Kansas? A whole hell of a lot. There's lots of religious nuttery. And then even more religious nuttery. Some folks in the state don't think too much of reproductive rights. It's flat as hell, its amusement parks are abandoned, and it's full of tornadoes. The Kansas part of Kansas City is boring, including those snobby jerks in Overland Park. And while Dorothy might be from Kansas, the state isn't very nice to her friends. And, you can go see this.
Final Score: 5.09
The countdown continues tomorrow with eight more states. Be there!
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 1
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 2
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 3
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 4
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 5
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 6
Photos: Maryland (via auvet/Flickr); Wisconsin (via luzbonita/Flickr); Connecticut (via panoramio); North Carolina (via mitchgroff/Flickr); Missouri (via auvet/Flickr); Rhode Island (via morrowlong/Flickr); Iowa (via auvet/Flickr); Kansas (via hpz/Flickr)