Next to being a space crusader, a backup guitarist for Paul McCartney or a professional Bocce Ball player, there are no other jobs that I would love to do more than travel writing. To be able to march my boots throughout the world, capture my thoughts and be paid to do it would be the kitten's mittens. David Landsel is lucky enough to call himself a travel writer and used his knowledge to recently publish an article titled, "10 Terribly Overrated Destinations (And Where to Travel Instead)."
When I first came across his blog piece, I hoped to gain some perspective into the mind of a person having already accomplished my current pursuit while seeing what he had to say about popular places that fanny-pack strapped tourists frequently visited. However, within the first couple of sentences, I realized by his condescending tone that he either lost his mind from undercooked foreign foods or his profession had gone straight to his ego. Whatever the reason may be, Mr. Landsel decided to take a defecation fit for a king over many beloved cities -- one of which where I happen to reside.
My original inclination upon the completion of the read was to send him a hastily worded comment, but I was happy to see that many people were already taking care of that. Since I also happen to be a blogger for this publication, I have decided to use it as a means to send a retort.
Mr. Landsel, my new friend, you have decided to burn many bridges in that articles of yours, but I have decided to temporarily rebuild mine so I can hurl a royal-sized defecation back your way. To do this, I'm sure you won't mind that I just switched from referring to you in the third person to the second.
I haven't been fortunate enough to visit the majority of the cities mentioned in the article, so I won't dissect every inch of your arguments. Let's just move right to the portion about my current stomping grounds of San Francisco, shall we?
To start off, you grace us with the following words:
"Maybe it'll be different, I tell myself, heading back into town for the eightieth time. Maybe I just need to relax. And then it happens again -- the negotiating of the antiquated public transit, the smell of body odor rising off unwashed pavement, the surly, do-as-little-as-possible hotel employee, yet another restaurant server who just doesn't give a damn, or perhaps a fortysomething hipster who takes her job as a latte jockey way too seriously, burdened with the fervent but misplaced belief that the thing I want most while waiting for my coffee is a lecture on how to order correctly. Sooner or later, I'll end up sitting down down with some other living, breathing bummer, who will at some point in the conversation will mansplain to me why San Francisco is the best and everywhere else is the worst. Suddenly, I'm all, ah, never mind, at which point I get in the car, head across the Golden Gate Bridge and move on with my life. Everybody wins."
Now that I have gotten the readers up to speed, I will start from the top and work my way down.
"And then it happens again -- the negotiating of the antiquated public transit..."
Ah, the public transit argument. I can understand the frustration and have even wrote about my discouragement with some of the city's lines in a previous article. That being said, I take a step back at the word "antiquated." Since you don't disclose in your piece where you currently live, I must assume that you reside in Japan. If this is true, I can understand looking down at the San Francisco transportation system since your country has access to bullet trains and bike parking operated by robots. As for the rest of us, we consider ourselves to be lucky living in cities like San Francisco where there are several efficient forms of transportation.
After I received my driver's license, I never dreamed I would be without a car. This changed after moving to SF when I realized the city has gotten public transit down to a science and owning a set of wheels was no longer necessary. The combination of Muni, Caltrain and Bart can get me anywhere within the boundaries of the city or the outlying areas of the Bay. There is always a simple option in choosing a mode of travel to get me to every nook and cranny of this fine area and is one of the top rated systems in the country.
Until the day that everybody has robot parking, bullet trains or single-person tubes (a la Futurama) to take us from place to place, the accusations of public transportation being antiquated are moot.
On to the next one.
"...the smell of body odor rising off unwashed pavement..."
Have a problem with our homeless population, eh? Well, in a city as densely populated as this one, walking by the homeless is like walking by a Starbucks: there is one on every other city block and are tickled pink when you give them a few bucks.
It is true that the population of the "shelter-impaired" stretches to every area of the city and are ingrained into the culture of SF. However, if you don't spend your time dwelling on the small inconvenience of passing by someone less fortunate than you, then it won't be difficult to realize that there is plenty of fresh air ahead.
"...yet another restaurant server who just doesn't give a damn,"
Insulting the service industry? For shame. I am curious where you spend your time eating and would bet top dollar that you missed Il Borgo in Hayes Valley. The wait staff consists of one Italian lady that instantly treats you like family, speaks in a hybrid language I like to call "Italianglish" and serves the best pasta I've ever had (and I've been to Rome!). Or perhaps you were sleepwalking during your trip to The Deli Board on Folsom. More times than not, the line to enter the shop wraps around the corner. This is for good reason since the sandwiches taste like they were made by the hands of an angel with every bite being a religious experience. Even though the servers are constantly inundated with hundreds of people each day, they always greet me with a smile on their face and make small talk as if we were old friends.
The city takes their food seriously along with the people serving it and I have yet to vow never to return to a place for an unsatisfactory dining experience. Although, for the sake of argument, let's say you did receive bad service at the majority of restaurants you attended. Judging by the demeanor throughout your entire article, my best bet is that the problem wasn't the servers. If things are continuously not going your way, you should look to see if the problem comes from within. Otherwise you're just the kid that doesn't shower and complains that nobody wants to sit next to him in class.
"or perhaps a fortysomething hipster who takes her job as a latte jockey way too seriously, burdened with the fervent but misplaced belief that the thing I want most while waiting for my coffee is a lecture on how to order correctly."
San Francisco is a hotbed for third wave coffee. I had never heard of this movement until moving to the city and find it fascinating even though I'm a tea drinker. For those of us that are not familiar, third wave is essentially taking an individual cup of coffee to the level of alchemy. The cafes that participate in this type of connoisseurship choose carefully selected single-source beans, roast them shortly before they are served, and brew each beverage one cup at a time. This results in a highly refined cup of joe that is perceived as being more of a high-class beverage as opposed to a commodity.
No matter which city you currently inhabit, as long as there is coffee roasting into a single cup, there will be somebody that thinks you aren't good enough to drink it. It goes without saying that you will run into coffee snobs at certain cafes in SF, and when you do, you can throw a dart at a map and be in a block radius of several other places to choose from that have "latte jockeys" polite enough to take home to your mother.
Mr. Landsel, with all that being said, I'm hoping you are starting to catch what I'm pitching. Just as our homeless population stinks, so do your arguments. If you had taken out every mention of San Francisco in your paragraph and inserted New York City (apparently, you are too scared to throw Brooklyn under the bus), the subjective critiques you detailed could still be accurate if people bought into your message, and, in your opinion, sum up the soul of a city.
I will finish off by jumping to the beginning of your article when you say, "Here are ten overrated places I've encountered, some all too frequently, during nearly fifteen years as a travel writer. If I never see any of them again, I won't mind at all."
I am perfectly fine with that. Don't come back to San Francisco. Don't come back to the fascinating museums, the 220 parks, the artists that have complete passion for their craft, the endless music scene, the parades and festivals, the openness of all lifestyles, the culture and history of every neighborhood, the lesser-known tourist spots like Musee Mechanique, the world-renowned restaurants and architecture, and the incredibly selfless population that goes out of their way just to help others pursue their dreams (some of whom assisted in getting me writing gigs at publications like The Huffington Post for nothing in return).
Don't come back. You won't be missed.