When I was on vacation, I started noticing a lot of angry mentions of Condé Nast Traveler from locals on Facebook and from local blogs. I was, however, on vacation, so I just said “hey, Amy, remember to look into this at some point” and saved one of the links as a reminder to myself. (I really try to stay away from angrification while on vacation. Why would you WANT to purposely upset yourself when you’re on a vacation which is geared to lower your stress-levels and blood pressure?)
I then promptly forgot all about it, because I’m Amy and I forget things ALL. THE. TIME. Seriously. I’ll remember something that slipped my mind weeks ago and feel TERRIBLE but how do you fix it, other than telling the person “I’m a huge dork with too much going on, I’m so sorry. Please don’t hate me. Or, if you do, please don’t tell me you do. Because I don’t deal well with all the hatred, it makes my stomach hurt.”
But NOW, well. NOW, here I am. I’m just not very TIMELY.
Condé Nast (a very fancy publisher in charge of such things like The New Yorker, GQ, Vanity Fair, Bon Appétit – these are all, interestingly-enough, known as “magazines that are way too effing fancy for Amy to even touch because she would most likely leave smeary fingerprints on the shiny, shiny covers”) has a magazine called Condé Nast Traveler. I don’t know much about this magazine. I assume it’s all travelly and shit. For rich people. Like, “14 Greek villas you MUST stay in before you die” or “How to travel Europe on $100,000 a day.” Mostly, I’m trying to buy a ticket to see Andreas for less than $1,000, yo, I don’t care about Greek villas.
So Condé Nast Traveler did a feature last month called “The Friendliest and Unfriendliest Cities in the U.S.”
I find things like this ridiculous to begin with, but we’ll go more into that in a bit.
According to the site, the results of this feature came from their annual Readers’ Choice Survey:
For more than 25 years, Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards have been a coveted seal of approval for hotels, cruise ships, and airlines from the world’s most discriminating travelers. Tell us where you’ve traveled and what you’ve loved (or not)—47,000 of you participated last year to make this list what it is.
So a bunch of fancypants fancy people went and voted on what’s best and worst and from those votes, this high-falutin’ magazine made a list of the “friendliest” cities in the U.S.
I’m not going to draw this out. Here’s the listing:
Friendliest (from #1-#10)
Charleston, South Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina
Unfriendliest (from #1-#10)
Newark, New Jersey
New Haven, Connecticut
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Los Angeles, California
Albany, New York
I take a little offense at the whole situation, but a LOT of offense at #7 on the Unfriendliest list.
AS I LIVE THERE.
According to snooty old Condé Nast Traveler, or at least the READERS of said magazine (or internet trolls, as I suppose you don’t have to subscribe to vote):
To be fair, Albany is probably better known as a through-station than a tourist destination. That may be why it scored low on our survey. Still, some readers had strong opinions: The “not-so-nice” northern New York city was described as “dull” by one reader, and others said it was best to avoid, “especially in the winter.”
We’re the CAPITAL of the STATE. We are the SIXTH-BIGGEST city in the state. (And I mean, come on. Like we can compete with New York City. None of us even TRY to compete with New York City. We’d just lose, so why bother?) We are a city of theater and arts and government and architecture and history; we have both urban sprawl and beautiful green spaces you can get lost in; we have sidewalks and lawns, concerts and plays, museums with mummies and a gigantic river running right through the middle of us.
And I’ve been to a lot of cities over the years, and you know what?
We’re friendly as hell.
(No, I don’t mean that in an ironic way, even though it sounds like that. We’re really very friendly.)
People look you in the eye when you walk past them on the street. People smile randomly; there are a lot of small kindnesses. We pull together as a community when things go bad. We pull together as a community when things go well, too. We don’t discriminate against small towns around us; we’re all the Capital District. We’re all good enough.
I got here in the summer of 2002 without ever having been here. I knew nothing about the area. I’d never even been close. I thought it’d be – well, you know what? Like the survey says. A through-station. I thought maybe I’d live here a couple of years, get my head together, move on elsewhere.
Until friend C. took me on my first tour of Albany and I felt that click. That chest-slammingly right feeling. That feeling that I’d lost something, and I’d never known it was missing, and here it was. I’d found it. And how had I ever gone without it?
That feeling, it’s a feeling you only feel when you’ve come home.
Call my home unfriendly, if you must, you fancy magazine. Call it “dull” and say people should avoid it in the winter. (Listen, that’s most New Yorkers with money, to be honest. We call ’em snowbirds, because they fly on outta here the minute the flakes start falling.) Say it’s “not-so-nice.”
But you’re wrong.
And, furthermore, you’re wrong about ALL those “unfriendly” cities.
A city is as friendly as what you put into it. This is true for a lot of things. You need to give in order to get. You’re not going to get very far in a romantic relationship if all you do is yell at your partner and tell him or her they’re not good enough; you’re not going to get very far at work if all you do is complain about the workload; you’re not going to get very far at learning a new skill if all you do is read one sentence and then walk away frustrated.
All of those “unfriendly” cities (and all of the “friendly” ones) are filled with – shh, I’m telling you a huge secret – people. Yes! People! With good days and bad days, hearts and lungs and brains and memories and feelings.
Walk around in any of these cities with a good attitude, as if you’re there to have an adventure, with a smile on your face – well. I’m pretty much guaranteeing the city’s going to be friendlier toward you.
Walk around all “grumble grumble grump DAMMIT THIS PLACE IS SURE SLUSHY AND DULL!” and probably people aren’t going to go out of their way to be kind. Because you’re being scary. And, let’s be honest, a little weird.
Maybe you like where you currently live. Maybe you hate it. Maybe you’ve found your home; maybe you’re still looking. But anywhere, anywhere at all, can be friendly.
Albany is the friendliest, most welcoming city I know. It’s the city that gave me a home when I didn’t know what home was; it’s the city that gave me a community when I needed one. It’s got my whole heart.
I don’t need some magazine I’m too daunted to purchase to tell me it isn’t.
Because I know they’re wrong.
(Come drop on by and visit us, fine people of Condé Nast Traveler. You can’t look at The Egg without breaking out into a smile; you can’t see Nipper or watch one of our foolish local commercials without grinning; you can’t read the local arts listings without thinking “wow, there’s a lot of heart in this town,” you can’t walk through Washington Park and see the kids playing without thinking how vibrant and full of life the city is. I dare you to try. You’ll lose the bet, though, and you’ll owe me a cone from Kurver Kreme. Until that time, however, I’ll just be here, enjoying the best city I’ve ever had the opportunity to know. I’m perfectly content with where I’ve chosen to wait.)