As a professional travel writer, I'm trying very hard to maintain some sense of journalistic objectivity, but I just can't seem do it. So I'm not even going to try.
I was always proud of Oakland, California, my hometown, and I could never understand why everyone else didn't feel exactly the same way about the place that I did. But most people didn't.
That's what you get for living in the perennial shadow of one of the world's great cities, San Francisco. No respect.
Pictured above: Fox Oakland Theatre in downtown Oakland, California, at 1807 Telegraph Avenue. Photo Credit: Sanfranman59 via Wikimedia Commons.
Whenever my hometown made the headlines, it was for all the wrong reasons: drive by shootings, gang fights, or sideshows on East 14th Street, a.k.a. International Boulevard.
There were those two spectacular funeral processions down that very same street: one for the founder of the Hells Angels and another for a notorious drug lord. Both made the international news.
A stretch of triple deck freeway collapsed during an earthquake in 1989. A couple of years later, a significant section of Oakland went up in flames during a forest fire. Both events were also widely reported.
More recently, Occupy Oakland managed to upstage Occupy Wall Street, making the international news night after night – I know because I live overseas, and I saw it nightly on CNN, Fox, and the BBC.
About the only time that Oakland ever made the news for something good was when one of our sports franchises – notably, the Oakland Raiders or the Oakland A's – did something good, such as winning the Super Bowl or the World Series, which happened pretty often for a town with such a relatively small population (300,000 plus?).
But that hasn't happened in more than 20 years.
The most recent Top 10 List that I found my hometown listed on was the 10 Cities with the Most Violent Crimes Rates in the United States: we came in third after East St Louis, Illinois, and Detroit, Michigan.
Nothing to be proud of …
But I sure am feeling proud of my hometown tonight!
I honestly never thought I'd live long enough to see little ole Oakland make a list like this – let along score so highly.
How Sweet It Is!
It came as a complete and total surprise when I discovered tonight – quite by accident! – that my hometown came in fifth place in a list of 45 Places to Go in 2012.
And, no, this list was NOT concocted by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, and I can assure you that I did not write it (although I might have if I had thought of it).
This list was published in none other than The New York Times!!!
And, no, the list was not just about obscure, out of the way places – you know, places that you should visit that you have never heard of before.
Oakland, California, was sandwiched in there right between London, England, and Tokyo, Japan!!!
It Gets Better!
And, yes! San Francisco was nowhere in sight!!! Nor Los Angeles nor Beverly Hills nor Napa Valley nor Yosemite nor Carmel . . .
Oakland was recognized for its growing list of “sophisticated restaurants” and “upscale cocktail bars”.
Praise was heaped on the fabulously renovated Fox Oakland Theater, which reopened to rave reviews in 2009 and has now become “one of the Bay Area's top music venues”. No mention was made of the Paramount Theater, which got the ball rolling a generation or two earlier.
Nor Lake Merritt nor Joaquin Miller Park nor Skyline Boulevard nor the Oakland Museum …
But I quibble.
I always thought that my hometown was special. And The New York Times, it seems, thinks so too.
Top 10 Places to Go in 2012
- Panama City, Panama
- Helsinki, Finland
- London, England
- Oakland, California
- Tokyo, Japan
- Chilean Patagonia
- Lhasa, Tibet
- Havana, Cuba