Hello there, boys and girls. Please allow me to introduce myself. This is your soon- to- be- old pal Malcolm Tent talking to you. I sell records and stuff at many NYC area record shows. When not doing that, I travel this great land of ours playing my absurd brand of punk rock, either as a solo or with my fabulous band Ultrabunny.
When I tour, I do so as a tourist. I love to check out my surroundings during the down time between gigs. Since I’m almost always surfing on local couches, I have plenty of local people to show me what’s what in their town. And I’m always running across random sights while driving.
So here’s an alphabetical list of 10 amazing sights I saw while on tour in 2015.
THE BRICK DICK OF YPSILANTI
This massive, throbbing water tower was built in 1890, right at the height/depth of the Victorian Age. Designer W.R. Coats apparently had a few highly suppressed demons in his subconscious.
A wonderful city that’s almost had the life beaten out of it but continues to hang on. I’ve found it to be full of nice people who coexist with the wreckage and keep things running despite the odds. And if you’re into urban ruins, Detroit is paradise. I wouldn’t poke around too many of the abandoned buildings, but I would bring my camera. Amazing sights.
U.S. Highway 27 used to be the tourist main drag from Miami to points North. Gatorland was a major stop on 27 with billboards every mile or so advertising souvenirs, orange juice, and live reptiles. I always wanted to stop there, but my parents never did. This year I finally got my chance. Too bad there wasn’t much left of Gatorland, but nice that I love urban exploration.
THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM
We use it every day and totally take it for granted, but think about it. Think about all it took to conceptualize, design, engineer, build, and maintain such a mammoth road system. Think about how it is totally uniform from one part of the country to the other and what great shape it’s in. And how well the whole thing works. The mind positively reels upon contemplating it.
Can you imagine what the air was like in Lansing when these things used to belch smoke? Each tower is 615 feet tall and is attached to a power plant. You can’t appreciate how totally they dominate the skyline until you’ve seen them from a few miles away.
PAINTED ROCK PETROGLYPHS
You have to travel a long way into the hot, remote desert to find these ancient rock etchings. Their meaning is largely unclear and their origins are largely unknown. Scrabbling amongst them, I felt a very powerful connection to the past. Way better than seeing an exhibit in a museum.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER
By now you might have noticed my fascination with vintage tourist traps. South Of The Border is one of the last standing and is still, in my opinion, the best. Incredibly kitschy. Everything is handmade and hand painted. Absolutely tacky in a way that tacky hardly is anymore.
If you ever roadtripped in the 1960’s, 1970’s, or 1980’s, you know how cool Stuckey’s was. Pecan logs, gator heads, biscuits ‘n’ gravy, sparkling clean restrooms….. Stuckey’s had it all. The Stuckey’s chain was bought by a mega conglomerate in the 1980’s which promptly ran it into the dirt. They’ve just about disappeared from the landscape, but every now and again one can be spotted. I found this one in eastern Tennessee by some forgotten milemarker. It hadn’t changed since the 1970’s. It even had a disintegrating and weather beaten “how many miles to Rock City from your hometown” mileage counter in the front lobby. It had been standing in that lobby since 1974. I felt like I was 9 years old again.
No picture of this one, kids. Photos don’t do it justice. You need to go to Tallulah Falls, GA and look down.
THE VIEW FROM A PLANE
I’m so glad I don’t get jaded easily. That means I can enjoy the breathtaking views from my plane window every time I fly somewhere. Whether it’s the sky, the ground, or the sunset between, it’s beautiful out there in the wild blue yonder. Better than anything you’ll see on TV or in a movie. I can’t wait to get back up there to see some more.