Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Continuing its reputation as America’s favorite punching bag, New York has just been voted the ugliest city by the oh-so refined readers of Travel + Leisure. (So refined that their magazine uses a sleek plus-sign rather than the unsightly ampersand in its name.) Now, New Yorkers can take a punch – whether it be from Sandy or Osama -- so what the readers of any magazine, whether it be Travel + Leisure or Al-Qaeda’s Inspire say about us is inconsequential at best. By the way, the editors of Inspire recently suggested that its subscribers start firebombing forests in Montana, which seems a bigger vote of non-confidence than whatever any mundane travel magazine can come up with.

Thanks, Tropicana, for making my
ride even more of a headache.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of things in New York that use a bit of rethinking. Televisions in the backseats of taxis, for example – do I really need to keep with the comings and goings of Honey Boo Boo on my way to the emergency room? Or Times Square shuttle trains made over as 30-mph billboards because, gosh, there aren't enough advertisements as it is.  And don’t get me started on $300 tickets to the Radio City Christmas show. (For 300 bucks, I’m going home with a Rockette and a reindeer.)
When the best thing at MOMA is a
helicopter, it's time to rethink the
definition of the word "art."

But let’s put things in perspective. Piles of trash on the streets, for instance. People, you’re looking at it all wrong -- it’s the word’s biggest art installation. Adding empty coffee cups, candy wrappers and empty bottles of Colt .45 is a way for the common people to feel that they, too, are part of a rarefied world usually found only in museums, galleries and the sitting rooms of people with way too much money to spend. And if you've ever dropped $25 to enter the Museum of Modern Art, you'll appreciate free trash that much more.

Those leisurely travelers aren’t fond of our noise, either. Well, let me buy you a clue, folks. I’ve experienced country life first hand, and it’s a non-stop sound effects record. Tractors rumbling past your bed-and-breakfast at all hours. Cicadas twenty decibels louder than your typical chainsaw. And just as you’re trying to catch a little snooze-time, you’re jolted out of bed by birds cackling, squawking and screeching as if getting paid by the note. This is my fourth decade as a New Yorker and I assure you, the concrete jungle has nothing on the cacophony cooked up by Mother Nature.

Question: Which took longer to carve?
But here’s where it gets really kooky. Rated number one by Travel + Leisure for visitor experience? Minneapolis. Yes, the city whose number one contribution to culture is a statue of a tam-tossing Mary Tyler Moore outranks the place that gave the world Broadway, Birdland and the Metropolitan Opera. The city with the friendliest people? New Orleans. Well, of course. You’d be friendly, too, if you were allowed – nay, encouraged -- to drink in public and bring your glass from bar to bar for a refill as you waited outside with the other revelers. New Orleans also gets voted the best shopping experience. Sure, if you want to stock up on beignets, hurricane lamps and voodoo dolls. 

"Reveler" is New Orleans-speak for "boozehound."
So go ahead, Travel + Leisure, keep on publishing those silly rankings. The morning news shows need something to fill up those ticker-tape headlines at the bottom of the screen. We’ll still welcome your readers with a hearty handshake and a warm, Big Apple smile. Just forgive Lady Liberty for not joyfully tossing her crown into the air when she sees you.

If Travel + Leisure readers feel this way now, they should watch this 1941 Encyclopedia Britannica short about New York's transportation arteries. It's almost mechanical cholesterol!

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