Back to School
So you're a big shot now. A great big big shot, with plans and dreams and wanderlust and gas money. Look at you! Going places! Maybe you're moving away for college, maybe you're relocating for a job, maybe you're throwing a dart at a map just for the dick of it. But where are you going to go? What are you going to do? What are you going to wear? What are you going to eat? Who are you going to bang? THE UNITED STATES HAS SO MANY PLACES IN IT, YOU GUYS. Here's a little guide to help you get oriented, have fun, and fit in with the locals so you don't end up dismembered in a quarry because you used the wrong fork or something. Mind your forks.
The Pacific Northwest
Mascot: A dude named Jeff (he has a band).
Motto: "Hey, you should check out my band."
Main attractions: Kurt Cobain's house (Seattle), Bruce Lee's grave (Seattle), Crater Lake (Oregon), Space Needle (Seattle), whales (the ocean), that one vegan place with the kale chips (Portland).
This is that damp, green place up in the corner. The Pacific Northwest is the nation's leading exporter of trees, airplanes, vegans, software, serial killers, suicide bridges, polar fleece, octopus attacks, coffee-related smugness, bands, sad white people, sad white people in bands, and owls. All the stereotypes about the Pacific Northwest are both true and untrue. You will hear that it rains a lot—it does, but it rains more in Miami. You will hear that the people are passive-aggressive and cold—some are, but others aren't, because THAT'S HOW PEOPLE WORK. You will hear that everyone is always drinking a latte—FALSE, nobody drinks lattes. Normal people drink Americanos. You will hear that Washington and Oregon are both run by puppet governments controlled by Sasquatch. Yeah, that's actually true. Oregon has no sales tax. Washington has Dave Matthews. The eastern halves of both states are exact replicas of Wyoming.
Mascot: A clogged artery.
Motto: "Ow, my artery!"
Main attractions: The Sears Tower (Chicago), the Gateway Arch (Saint Louis), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland), Oprah (OPRAH!!!!!), corn (everywhere).
The Midwest is a wholesome place where everyone is nice, even the bad people (and there are several!). The sizable Scandinavian population keeps things Lutheran and bland. A typical Midwestern meal consists of feeding a cow potatoes and ham custard until it dies, then cutting the cow into steaks, stuffing the steaks with Jell-O salad, deep-frying the stuffed steaks, piling the steaks into a large mound or berm, smothering the whole thing with maple-beer-cheese gravy, and serving it all with a side of popcorn shrimp and "broccoli" (which is just sticks of butter carved into the shape of broccoli). Vegetables are outlawed. And for dessert: hugs!
Mascot: Tom Hanks.
Motto: "You're fat!"
Main attractions: The Hollywood sign (Los Angeles), Yosemite National Park, the Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco), the Integratron (Joshua Tree), gays (San Francisco).
Los Angeles is where entertainment comes from. Northern California is a utopia of breezy marijuana fields and comically large trees. Southern California is Mexico with breast implants. The rest of California is flat and covered in cow poop. All of your favorite people live in California (Weird Al Yankovic, Joan Rivers, Snoop Dogg), but all of your least favorite people live in California, too (Charlie Sheen, Paris Hilton, the ghost of Ronald Reagan).
Motto: "World's Greatest Grandpa."
Main attractions: Area 51 (Nevada), the Grand Canyon (Arizona), Las Vegas (Nevada).
In the bottom-left part of the country, there is a big desert where tarantulas and crazy sand-sheep lived in peace with the indigenous human population for many billions of centuries. Then one day, an invading army of old people ran a garden hose all the way from California and turned the desert into a ludicrously unsustainable golf course, and all the tarantulas were like, "Whaaaaaaaat!?" and California was like, "I'm thirsty, bro!" New Mexico is like Arizona but with more hippies. Arizona is like New Mexico but with more old people and racism. Nevada is like Arizona but more prostitutey. Utah is like a church basement but with better national parks. New Mexico is like Mexico but newer.
Mascot: Delta Burke being chased by an alligator.
Motto: "We don't take kindly to mottos."
Main attractions: Civil War battlefields, Appalachian Mountains.
Okay, okay, so the South has had some public image problems over the years (rhymes with "blavery"—whoops!), but Americans are nothing if not forgetful. And the South really does have a lot going for it. First of all, SEERSUCKER SUITS. Second of all, BARBECUE. Third of all, SEXY VAMPIRES!!! The South might not be the number-one easiest place to move if you're a non-straight or a non-white or a non-vampire-hunter, but it's the 21st century and things are loosening up. Try big cities (Atlanta, Houston) and university towns (Austin, Chapel Hill), which tend to be more liberal. And full of vampires.
Mascot: Ben Affleck.
Motto: "Wheeyad yoo fahkin' PAHK the CAH!?"
Main attractions: The Statue of Liberty (New York), Walden Pond (Massachusetts), Irish pubs (fucking everywhere), lobsters (watching you while you sleep).
Vermont and New Hampshire are exactly the same, except that part of New Hampshire is a suburb of Boston, whereas all of Vermont is a village. Rhode Island exists so that Massachusetts can feel better about itself. Every state north of Massachusetts is where they wear flannel and talk slower. Connecticut is "more than just an extension of New York, damn it! We also have several hills and fences made out of stone!" Maine is a vast, unconquered territory of pine trees and bogs. New York thinks it's better than you, and it's kind of right.
Mascot: Ted Kaczynski.
Motto: "Get off my land!"
Main attractions: Snow, sky, geysers, Testicle Festival (Montana).
The mountains are where people go when they don't want to be bothered. So QUIT BOTHERING THEM. Colorado is full of great skiing and creepy Christians. Wyoming is whatever Wyoming is. North Dakota is flat and brown. South Dakota is beautiful and full of bikers. Don Johnson lives in Colorado. Huey Lewis lives in Montana. Literally nobody lives in Idaho. People look to the mountain states to fulfill their idealistic dreams of the classic American West—but, of course, that dream doesn't exist anymore, having been replaced by the classic American meth. Stay away from meth.
Mascot: A bear, eating you.
Motto: "Canada's hat."
Main attractions: Bears (eating you), wolves (eating you), nature (eating you).
Alaska, at different times of the year, features both 24 hours of sunlight AND 24 hours of darkness (pick your hell!). There's tundra (actual tundra!) swarming with man-eating monsters, plus cities (not actual cities!) swarming with batshit right-wing separatists. Men grow woolly beards to keep their faces warm, and moose outnumber women 3:1. You can see Russia from there. The state bird is a cruise ship filled with fat people.
Mascot: A Hawaiian person laughing at everyone who doesn't live in Hawaii.
Motto: "WHY THE FUCK DON'T YOU LIVE HERE!?"
Main attractions: Hawaii (Hawaii).
Hawaii is a bunch of laid-back, chilled-out volcanoes sticking out of the ocean covered with beautiful sun-roasted people who just want to eat macaroni salad and have a good time, maaaaaaan. White people did horrible, violent things to Hawaii, but Hawaii still lets white people live there, because that's just the kind of cool dude Hawaii is. Hawaii runs on "island time," which means that all your shit is going to be fucking late. Because it's island time! Cute! Island time! Oh, also people in Hawaii looooooove huffing glue (I saw a documentary about it). The only thing they love more than huffing glue is surfing. Good times. Island times.
This Guide to America was reprinted from How to Be a Person: The Stranger's Guide to College, Sex, Intoxicants, Tacos, and Life Itself (Sasquatch Books).
by Paul Constant
You probably know someone who has announced that he's not going to vote because voting is a sham and there's no difference between the candidates anyway. He used to be a Ron Paul supporter, or maybe he's really into the Occupy movement, but now he's just disillusioned with the whole media-fueled spectacle and trying to encourage everyone to drop out of the electoral process. This person is an idiot.
And what's more, this person is probably a white male. How did I know this? Because the truth is, if you're a straight white male, you're at the top of the heap in America, and you have much less to lose in the transition from a Democratic to a Republican president. The system is rigged to your advantage, and no president can take away the benefits bestowed upon you by centuries of race and gender privilege. So maybe for Chad—or what-the-fuck-ever his name is—the ballot looks like Tweedledum and Tweedledumber. But for the rest of us, it could be a matter of life and death.
Look: The truth is, unless you run for office one day, you're never going to vote for a politician who has the same beliefs and principles as you. And even then, if you do run for national office, you're going to wind up making a bunch of compromises. Because of those compromises—on national security, on financial inequality, on medical marijuana—there are plenty of reasons to not vote for Barack Obama.
But there are way more reasons to vote for Barack Obama, especially if you're not a white guy with a lot of money. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan both want to defund Planned Parenthood, which would bar millions of women around the country from access to affordable family planning methods, cancer screenings, and other important medical care. Ryan believes in banning abortion even in the case of rape or if it's the only way to save the mother's life. The list is virtually bottomless: On every non-wealthy-straight-white-guy topic—immigration, gay rights, equal pay regardless of gender, the social safety net—it's imperative that Barack Obama win the White House for a second term. Vote. VOTE.