Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What About Baltimore, Travel & Leisure Magazine?

"Did you know that Philadelphia was voted the ugliest city in the country?"

My co-worker, whom we'll call Former Math Teacher, is a Washington, DC native and has a penchant for non sequiturs. We'd been speaking about the achievement levels of a school district in Pennsylvania. And no, it wasn't Philadelphia.

"Really? I don't see how that's possible. There are some neighborhoods that are scary," I said, remembering the shoes dangling from power lines on Broad Street like ghetto mistletoe. "But I don't think it's fair to say the city is ugly. Haven't they been to Market Street? Or the the museum downtown, or..."

"Not the city. The people."

"Oh. Well, that's just mean. Who's voting on this?" I asked. I've been to Philly a number of times, and there's nothing especially unattractive about the City of Brotherly Love.

"Travel & Leisure Magazine. And they said that Washingtonians are mean and ugly, but not the ugliest." I could hear her flipping the pages of the magazine.

"Wait, doesn't The Hill do that 50 most beautiful Hill staffers article every year?" I asked. "That alone has to refute the ugly thing about DC." As for the 'mean' part...well, I've been elbowed out of the way by commuters clambering onto the Metro too many times to dispute that.

"I just think the whole article is unkind. Anyway, getting back to what we were talking about..."

And we resumed our conversation about achievement levels. But I wanted to dissect the topic further, so you, Gentle Reader, get to hear all about it.

The article in Travel & Leisure is just a slam book disguised as journalism. But, like a slam book, you're compelled to flip to your page to see what people really think. Problem is, the article didn't even include Baltimore. The indignity!

Baltimore is the 21st largest commercial market in the country. So, how about it, Travel & Leisure? Where are we? I wasn't able to find the selection criteria, but I think there are two reasons that Baltimore wasn't included:

1) Despite the renown of the Inner Harbor, most folks think that Baltimore is a super scary place. I won't say this is undeserved. I love the city of my birth, warts and all, but the warts can certainly taint the overall complexion. Why am I using a yucky skin analogy?

Anyway, editors likely don't want to feature a city that's closing in on 300 murders for the calendar year in a magazine that's ostensibly about travelling in pursuit of a good time. Not only that, but Baltimore's reputation in pop culture hovers somewhere between Detroit and Deadwood. In television shows like Homicide, The Wire, The Corner, and even Roc, drugs and crime exist as characters, not just story lines.

Compare that to, say, New York, which has enjoyed much love from Woody Allen, Friends, Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother, Will and Grace, All in the Family, Futurama, Spin City, Felicity, NewsRadio, Sex in the City, 30 Rock...well, you get the picture. Even if you tot up all of the crime dramas, they are only a fraction of the New York representation on television. Most of the rest are of the "look how fun and exciting it is to live in New York" ilk.

2) It's possible that the magazine thought they were including Baltimore since they ranked Washington, DC. Many, many, many (too many) people see Baltimore as a suburb of Washington. The most recent example I've come across was in this past Sunday's Washington Post, in the section called the Sunday Source. Every week, they take picture of someone in or around the District who's workin' a personal style that the newspaper digs. This week's fashion plate was found in BALTIMORE.

Grrr. This is just a subtle way of saying that Baltimore is part of the Washington Metro area, and not it's own independent city.
Ah well. In the end it's probably better not to have been ranked. I just needed to say my peace about it.*

*Sidebar: Is it "peace" or "piece"? I've seen both in print. Obviously, I fall into the "peace" camp, but I like to know if I'm coming off like a dummy.

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