The Sad Death of London’s Weirdest Tourist Attraction
(Photo by Nick Hilton, all other photos by Mark Duffy unless stated)
For tourists visiting London, the beating heart of the West End isn’t the Eros statue, Chinatown, or the flagship Waterstones book store, or any of the other high-profile TripAdvisor-friendly attractions. It’s the palatial white building that sits between the freak show at Ripley’s and the freak show at the Leicester Square KFC: The London Trocadero.
In his 1968 poem “For the Union Dead,” Robert Lowell describes the derelict South Boston Aquarium as standing “in a Sahara of snow.” The Trocadero stands in a Kalahari of krap. The Baroque restaurant, opened at the turn of the 20th century, is now the home of invasive souvenir hawkers and chain gift shops displaying a level of bad taste that borders on satirical performance art.
It wasn’t always this way. In the 1990s, the historic building was salvaged for the purpose of creating the biggest “leisure space” in London, packed with a Nickelodeon studios, an IMAX theater and its crowning glory, SegaWorld, which was essentially just loads of arcade games and a giant statue of Sonic. It was a feat of uniquely poor planning, and almost immediately developed a rust of crapiness. By the Millennium the Trocadero dream was dead: Sega withdrew their sponsorship and SegaWorld was relegated to something called “Funland,” the IMAX vanished, and the escalators stopped moving, never to be effectively repaired. As a final insult, the place was used as a location for the video of Madonna’s 2005 single, “Hung Up.”
Yet, despite the inexorability of this decline, a couple of years ago, the ground floor of the complex was fighting bravely against its inevitable destruction. An apparently salaried attendant was employed to supervise the bungee trampoline. There were public toilets that charged a full £1 ($1.68) and must’ve made a fortune catching the urine of children who’ve had too many sugary tourist-drinks. There was even a time-warp underground connection to Piccadilly Circus subway station, which was populated, at all times, by a silent Japanese break dancing troupe. They head-spun to their terrible J-Pop while the scent of cinnamon wafted down from the fresh bun store (which shared its premises with a shop that, obviously, sold scuba diving equipment).
Reasons Why Phoenix Is the Worst Place Ever
I am a resident of Phoenix, Arizona.
If you count all the surrounding districts, more than 4.1 million people crowd into this sprawling, suburbanite wasteland, yet no one really likes it here. We really try, but every boring list we dominate (we’re safe drivers, apparently, and we’re a top city for “entry-level jobs.” Whoopee) and every whine for relevance smacks of some deep, inner denial.
This metropolis is squatted in subtropical desert. It shouldn’t even exist. It’s spitting in God’s face. Yet rather than owning our survival prowess like some badass Road Warriortribe, we’ve allowed ourselves to become complacent, as vapid as the arid air around us, too numbed up on prescription narcotics and reality TV to reach self-actualization. There’s also a negative side.
Here are a few reasons why Phoenix sucks:
Everything Is Beige
Like a giant, concrete version of The Thing, Phoenix is a bloated tangle of tasteless architecture that never seems to stop ballooning outward.
The one thing you’ll notice is everything looks exactly the same. It’s an ever-replicating mirage of beige skies, beige walls, beige houses, beige cars, beige people. Sometimes you’ll see a flash of color, but it won’t last long before the local HOA stamps it out like a cigarette butt.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Shopping Malls And Movie Theaters Are Cultural Landmarks
Forget that Phoenix nightlife is so barren you can stagger downtown at 11 PM and find everything empty. “Snowbirds” (rich, white morons from Canada and Michigan who visit during the two weeks of winter) only come here for the fucking malls anyway. Chandler Fashion Center, Desert Ridge Marketplace, Tempe Marketplace, Scottsdale Fashion Square—they all have the exact same names, the exact same stores, and the exact same idiots who wear sunglasses indoors.
1000 Syrian Refugees Are Living in an Abandoned Lebanese Mall
In the central courtyard of an abandoned shopping mall in northern Lebanon, Hamad affectionately squeezes the cheek of one of his younger sisters. She briefly feigns disgust before planting a kiss on his cheek, turning on her heel, and running off into one of the many derelict shops that have become homes for Syrians fleeing the conflict in their home country.
Around 1,000 refugees—most of them Sunnis from the Syrian provinces of Hama and Idlib—currently live in the former shopping center, which is nestled in the small village of Deddeh, north of Tripoli. Most residents profess support for the Syrian opposition, though a number are in favor of the Assad regime and others appear apathetic, more concerned with looking after their families the the politics that led to them having to flee.
"Most of the kids here aren’t enrolled in school," says 17-year-old Hamad, who fled the northern Syrian city of Aleppo two months ago. "Some attend the local mosque for a couple of hours every day and receive instruction in reading and writing, but most of the time they don’t have anything to do and just try to amuse themselves."