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Worst Places to Live: How Does Your City Rate?


A new book out may mean even lower real estate prices in some places. It's called “The Absolutely Worst Places To Live in America.” The author, David Gilmartin, came up with 50 cities and towns, all with uniquely bad things about them. He told me how he did his research, mostly from his apartment in New York City.

Mr. DAVID GILMARTIN (Author): Oh, when I first started, I thought I'd be driving around the country and seeing things, and talking to people for a year or so. And unfortunately, when I asked for a travel budget, my publishers got a nice laugh out of that. So I wound up doing it mostly online.

I just, I came up with all these surveys and polls, and I think I was on every Craig's list in the country at one point or another. And just, you know, threw in a couple of places I don't like just to, you know, get those in there. But it was mostly through this unscientific polling that I did.

BRAND: Okay. Give us a sample of what people wrote in about a particular city.

Mr. GILMARTIN: A lot of them are in a story form, like I grew up in this town, and when I was a kid it was bad, and it's just gotten worse and it was a very dense. And other people just write like for Fairbanks, I got someone who wrote in, and then just said simply take the worst place you've ever been, then subtract the sum.

And that was like those were the great ones. I was, okay, Fairbanks is in now. That was really, it was all over the place.

BRAND: Well, I imagine you've gotten some pretty strong responses.

Mr. GILMARTIN: I have, you know, the people that seem most upset are like local politicians, and things like that. I think most of the regular people I've talked to get that it's a humor book and that it's just satirical. But I'm definitely hated in some cities, such as Granite City, Illinois. They don't like me.

BRAND: Let's read a little bit from the Granite City.

While not an out and out ghetto, this blue-collar mill town is remarkable for its breadth and scope of its shortcomings and for the way, a palpable coat of failure seems spread across the city and its people.

Now, I don't know why they'd be angry about that?

Mr. GILMARTIN: Yeah, I know.

BRAND: Well, they certainly don't like you in Mitchell, South Dakota. And a local radio station in Mitchell invited you on to debate the mayor, Mayor Lou Sebert. And let's listen to a little bit of that debate.

Mayor LOU SEBERT (Mitchell, South Dakota): You tell 15,000 people in Mitchell that it's the worst place in America to live, these folks are not going to sit down and just take that and say hey, honey he's a bad guy. They're going to become vocal because they don't think it's the worst place to live. And it's the people that make the difference, not the buildings.

Unidentified Man: Dave, rebuttal?

BRAND: Well, Dave, what was your rebuttal?

Mr. GILMARTIN: I think my rebuttal was that there's one place to visit Mitchell, and it's the Corn Palace. And when we went there to visit it, we were yelled at by a group of local punks who thought we were being ridiculous for looking at the Corn Palace.

So I didn't find the people very friendly. So that, that was one though where I am it's kitschy. It wasn't even that bad, you know. The mayor was actually a nice guy.

BRAND: Having been a New York City resident, I know that there is no finer sport in New York City than despising other places to live.

Mr. GILMARTIN: Yeah. But I'm actually from New Jersey. I think that what gives me my expertise. You know, 30 years of being from the armpit of America. It's like, yeah, I know it. I know a bad town when I see one, you know.

BRAND: Which town are you from?

Mr. GILMARTIN: I'm from South Jersey, right outside Atlantic City.

BRAND: Oh, and Atlantic City is in your book?

Mr. GILMARTIN: It sure is. Yes. It's dreadful.

BRAND: So this is your revenge on the rest of America?

Mr. GILMARTIN: Maybe I'm trying to work it out somehow here. I don't know. The book made me feel better.

BRAND: David Gilmartin is the author of the book, “ The Absolutely Worst Places to Live in America.” David Gilmartin, thanks a lot.

Mr. GILMARTIN: Thank you.

BRAND: Happy travels.

Mr. GILMARTIN: Thanks.

BRAND: Stay with us NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Madeleine Brand
Madeleine Brand is the host of NPR’s newest and fastest-growing daily show, Day to Day. She conducts interviews with newsmakers (Iraqi politicians, US senators), entertainment figures (Bernardo Bertolluci, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Gervais), and the everyday people affected by the news (an autoworker laid off at GM, a mother whose son was killed in Iraq).