By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."
There are Places I Remember (The Beatles)
Whenever I listen to this great song, places I’ve been come rushing back.
For example, there is Hutchinson, Kansas. The actual sign as you leave Hutchinson is, “Gateway to Wichita.” No, I’m kidding but the sign is real. While Hutchinson is a very nice place, as the expression goes: “I spent two weeks there one night.” That comes from a famous contest naming some sort of household product; first place is one week in Hutchinson Kansas, second place is two weeks in Hutchinson Kansas.
Old joke: A man comes home and notices some suspicious behavior by his wife. He starts snooping around and discovers a naked man in his bedroom closet. He asks, “what are you doing here?” Guy answers, “everyone has to be someplace.”
Okay, so I admit I’m a bit biased. When you grow up in New York, along with all its warts you are in the middle of everything important. Literature: it is the center of magazine and book publishing in the U.S. Entertainment: Other than Hollywood, more television gets produced in New York than elsewhere. Broadway is world famous. As the song goes: “if you can make it here you can make it anywhere.” (From New York, New York – sung by Frank Sinatra).
Now I’ve written before about the “magic” of the left coast. The Beach Boys capture this exquisitely in their great song "California Girls." The West Coast provides the “promise of an unlimited future.” I think greater Seattle is still that way. For a relatively small city, Seattle has a disproportionate share of high tech start ups and Venture Capital investments by city. Note Seattle is #7 whereas it is the 22nd largest city by population.
So where are the places I can rightfully make fun of? Well, watch the movie “National Lampoon's Vacation" (Chevy Chase). Watch the Griswold family go out of their way to visit “the World's largest ball of twine” which is somewhere in Kansas. (Actually Cawker City, Kansas claims that right, but so does Darwin Minnesota and Branson Missouri). I can think of something else in Branson that could be called the largest non man made structure, or naturally occurring - which includes plastic surgeon assisted, in existence. (Hint – think Dolly). Now can’t you imagine Hutchinson Kansas wrapping themselves around that moniker?
What about Fargo, North Dakota. Watch the movie “Fargo.” Tell me the movie doesn’t depict Fargo, in winter, as perhaps the most bleak spot on the planet (Antarctica and North Pole excepted – perhaps northern Siberia in winter qualifies). The Coen brothers movie captures this in such a way that the part played by William H. Macy’s berserk felony committing car salesman is not only understandable, but one wonders why everyone else in the movie is not as crazy.
I attended a trade show once in Atlanta. My travel agent (now ex agent!) booked me into a relatively inexpensive hotel just down the street from the convention center where the trade show was. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a welfare hotel. Below a certain floor the “residents” were all hookers, thieves and other scoundrels. I found a half dozen empty whiskey bottles under my bed. That night (the only one I stayed there) I refused to crawl under the covers and slept, instead, on top of the bedspread. I am still shuddering at the thought of all the creepies and uglies awaiting my entry into the sheets.
Here are some other attractions that you’d have to hold a gun against my head in order to get me to go there:
Alexandria Indiana; World's Largest Ball of Paint, World’s Largest Hairball. Do you really want to establish yourself based on some “zany,” meaningless, pointless, stupid thing? What does that say about your home town? Perhaps that goes some way toward explaining why Alexandria, Ind., has tried to boost its reputation with two of the most bizarre attractions.
More than a decade ago, sewage workers unearthed a massive hairball, which the town quickly declared to be not just any hairball, but the largest in the world. Unfortunately, after a few years, this hairball dissolved (though the town did create a replica that they’ve been known to parade around on holidays). I’m surprised that Jackie Gleason’s famous sketch, The Honeymooners (starring Art Carney as his sewer worker neighbor) missed creating an entire episode around this. This town also claims the Worlds Largest Ball of Paint. Be sure to remind me to “not miss going there if I can (miss going there).”
South Dakota; The Corn Palace. South Dakota proudly declares that this is the only corn palace in the world, which, quite honestly, isn’t exactly surprising. But it does raise an important question: dowe really even need one?
Houston Texas; The national museum of funeral history offers exhibits on everything from the technique of Civil War embalming to the invention of the motorized hearse. Okay, I can’t resist: “people are just dying to go there.”