Thursday, December 09, 2004

Pearls, poodles, and hipsters

There's a nice article in Slate condemning the Time Out guidebooks for their ongoing war against all that is cliched or touristy. Sometimes, writes Elisabeth Eaves, you visit a place looking not for the undiscovered, but for the things you yourself haven't seen. Not the new, but the new-to-you:

[I]t seems that the landscape is strewn with cliché bombs. In the book's food section, I'm warned to leave my preconceptions about Andalusian food behind. (Who has preconceptions about Andalusian food?) In the literary section, the great poet and playwright Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) gets a rap on the knuckles because he "did much to perpetuate the romantic clichés about Andalucía." If the Time Out writers ever stooped to buy a souvenir, their tone suggests, it would be with layers of irony I couldn't begin to understand.

Eaves is right that clichephobia is irritating in a guidebook. Sometimes the undiscovered is undiscovered for a reason. And sometimes (and this is definitely true in New York) the non-touristy places are filled with locals who are unfriendly even to other locals who do not fit in with their sub-sub-culture's manners and aesthetic. While it is useful from a sociological standpoint for the visitor to see such places, visiting a place for the first time, especially with strict time constraints, seeing the sites can be more fun than getting glared at because no one in City X is wearing low-rise jeans anymore, what were you thinking?

My own experience with the Time Out guide to Paris was that I had to assume all had been written from the perspective of someone looking for the local hipster scene and trying to avoid not only the touristy areas but also the less cutting-edge residential ones. In dense cities like Paris and NYC, a "residential" area will still have cafes, shops, and people-watching, and visiting such areas provides a sense of what a place is "really like" that doesn't involve seeking out needle-in-haystack underground bars where fanny-packs are only worn ironically. The Time Out guide to Paris dismissingly referred to the 16th Arrondissment as pearls and poodle country, but I decided I wanted to see how the pearls and poodles lived. And they live it up, with streets lined with used designer clothing stores, beautiful residential buildings, awe-inspiring patisseries, and (as in all of Paris) plenty of fabulous shoe stores, not to mention one incredibly good and not incredibly expensive conveyor belt sushi place, which, I guessed, is where the locals go when slumming. There I saw a boy of about 15 who was better-dressed than anyone I have ever seen in this country. (And I mean that with no anti-American sentiment, and with no impure thoughts about the underage).


jessiecarmellabarcelona said...

haha so fucking true. I'm living in barcelona right now (2 weeks in) and your observation very much mirrors my thoughts right now...

cialis online said...

this is really truth because most of time when we visit someplace we look for something totally different, that's like a kind of cliche.