Planet Granite

Yippee: Unreal finds a way to interact (virtually) with the world's sexiest people! Plus -- Granite City's relative suckiness, McDonald's bad 'tude and Circuit City's parking-lot campers.

Although Unreal thinks Collinsville's more deserving, a hearty huzzah to Granite City, Illinois, for snagging an entire chapter in the new book The Absolutely Worst Places to Live in America. The east-side burg, known affectionately as Planet Granite to those of us who appreciate its Twin Peaks-ian quirks, was one of 50 across the nation selected by author David Gilmartin. And it stands in good company: Atlantic City ("filled with either drug whores or crack kingpins"); Gary, Indiana ("if you must come, bring galoshes or risk stepping in something nasty"); and Seattle ("...used to be a relatively nice place to live until it started believing its own hype") were also selected for membership in the (sour) cream of the crop.

"While not an out-and-out ghetto," Gilmartin writes of Granite City, "this blue collar mill town is remarkable for both the breadth and scope of its shortcomings, and for the way a palpable coat of failure seems spread across the city and its people." Gilmartin opines that despite its proximity to the universally decried East St. Louis, "Granite City seems somehow worse, if only because expectations seem a little higher."

Unreal thought Granite City should have a chance to respond.

Dan Zettwoch

"Oh, I don't agree with that at all," says Bob Dittman, owner of Goff and Dittman Florists, who relocated his flower shop from Madison to Granite City. "If Granite City is an armpit, than East St. Louis is a crotch. Plus, I grew up in Madison, which is probably a worse place to live than Granite City."

"Jane," a member of the staff at the Taco Bell on Madison Avenue (who declined to supply her real name) doesn't see it quite that way. "That's not a surprise," she tells Unreal. "Let's face it, downtown is centered in the middle of crack houses, drugs — a high-traffic area." She says the steel mill helps business, but the tradeoff is "respiratory problems, allergy issues, increased headaches. I get headaches. When I first moved here" — she relocated from neighboring Pontoon Beach — "everybody was rude, strange, not very friendly. You'd think you were up north, like in New York. It was an odd bunch, without the style or class."

But count John Measki, general manager of Gitcho's Gas and Cars on Nameoki Road, among his hometown's boosters. "I take offense to the [ranking]," says Measki. "I've lived here my whole life. I'm 64 years old. They've got a new shopping mall just about completed over here, and they've got an Applebee's and Starbucks here. I'm happy with it. I don't even know where I'd live if I left here. I'd have no clue."

It wouldn't be Pontoon Beach, though. "I never did care for Pontoon Beach," says Measki. "I don't know why — it just seemed like a hick town. Sure, they got a lot going for them, but Pontoon Beach was always a hoosier town for me."

Ebrew Schooled

Anheuser-Busch says it will hire e-bouncers for Bud.TV

— November 2 Associated Press headline

Work from home while (virtually) interacting with thousands of the world's sexiest people! Advanced knowledge of SQL*Plus, Linux and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon required. Experience hosting bawdy chat rooms and message boards a plus. Special consideration to individuals with intimidating online personas, including but not limited to: menacing avatars (e.g. alien monsters, dead dictators and/or pissing Calvins) and harrowing screen names (e.g. Killa, Terminator or any word ending in capital Z). Must be able to work days, evenings, weekends and anytime the World Wide Web is accessible. Drug test mandatory; Drakkar Noir optional. Additional perks include monthly beer stipend redeemable for Bud or Bud Light. Serious inquiries only.

Game On!

This past Thursday 24-year-old Tony Kania was standing outside a big tan tent he and five others had set up on the sidewalk outside the Circuit City in Brentwood Square.

Why would six people choose to camp out on the edge of a parking lot at the beginning of winter?

Why, for PlayStation 3, of course. The new game console was to be released the following day, Circuit City had been allocated six units and Tony's crew was set on purchasing all six.

They'd pitched their tent Wednesday evening. By the time Unreal came along Thursday night, they'd broken the bad news to twenty or so latecomers.

Inside the tent it was cold. So cold that Terry Umphrey was putting on a pair of Toasti Toes. In another corner, Tony's brother Nick was huddled in a sleeping bag next to his cousin, Adam. Also present were Tony's wife and dad.

Tony's mom, Debbie, had dropped off dinner: meat loaf, mashed potatoes, corn and cheese cake (all homemade).

The group intended to stay up all night. "I don't think it's a safe area," Debbie ventured.

At 6 a.m. Friday Circuit City would issue each camper a voucher guaranteeing them a game console ($499 or $599 apiece, depending on the model). Then they'd be able to break camp before returning a few hours later to pick up their booty. Nick said after that he'd head home for some shuteye. After a moment he revised his plan slightly. "Well, after I play it for like six hours," he said.

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