5 Things I Learned From 7 Cities

 

Last of the travel musings I promise!

 

Spending a few weeks on the road with no specific business agenda provides a great learning experience. And while I had an amazing time, in retrospect, what’s sticking with me are the undercurrents that are not so rosy.

My travels took me to Minneapolis, Tulsa, Denver, Boise, Twin Falls, Wendover, and Salt Lake City. Each of those cities has its own unique vibe and flavor, but I also observed that there are more similarities than differences these days. Technology and social media makes for much faster spread of trends and information. Unfortunately, much of what we share is not particularly uplifting.

 

Scroll down for what made the biggest impression on me, starting with the most cheerless – and we’ll work our way up from there!

 

homelessness, drugs, mental illness

Salt Lake City

I wrote last year that I would not return to LA until they had put a dent in their homeless problem. It appears to be getting worse, not better so no LA in my immediate future.

I’ve also been afraid that people would start leaving NYC to escape the rampant problems of homelessness and drug addiction that is taking over our streets, subways, and other public spaces.

But what I discovered was that all of these big-city problems are just as likely to be found in smaller towns, e.g., on our first day in Boise, over breakfast, we saw this young guy, flat on his back on the sidewalk, being attended to by some firefighters. The front desk guy at the hotel, informed us nonchalantly that this was nothing new, just a routine OD. And, by the way, the woman who was with this guy as he passed out, hightailed it out of there in an Uber as soon as the EMS arrived.

Boise OD

Of all the cities we visited, Salt Lake City had the most significant number of homeless on the streets and probably the highest number of mentally unstable ones, e.g., it was not unusual to have dinner while a homeless guy is taking his pants off and staring you down through the window of a restaurant.

Minneapolis, on the other hand, appeared to have the least amount of street homelessness.

 

 empty storefronts

Minneapolis, Loft District

 Unfortunately, I didn’t take too many photos to substantiate this, but it was evident in every city I visited. Hate to break this to the apocalypse naysayers, but the retail gig is up.

And I don’t think it has much to do with greedy landlords. It’s a major culture shift in how we want to spend our time and our money.

 

e-scooters

Boise

 

As many of you know, I loathe these suckers. They are an abomination, and yet they are EVERYWHERE. They’re littering up the sidewalks in every town that I hit up over the last month. Most riders are on the younger side and many are using them to bar crawl (often two to a scooter). Salt Lake City had the most aggressive riders, almost all of whom only ride on the sidewalk, pedestrians should be on high alert.

That said, e-scooters are clearly a major trend (at least when the weather is good). Way more popular than I would have anticipated they would be.

 

cannabis/cbd

 

Denver, of course, is the epicenter for the emerging cannabis industry. Virtually every retail block contains at least one dispensary or other weed business.

Denver’s International Church of Cannabis also claims to be the city’s #1 tourist spot. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it was fun to visit.

The only city that had no dispensaries from what I could tell was Twin Falls, Idaho. Salt Lake City has an Urban Hemp and Cannabis Company that recently opened, but it’s not as lively a market as I saw in Tulsa, Minneapolis, and Boise.

 

vibrant food and bar scene

Top: Hodges Bend, Tulsa; Bottom: Duet, Amelia’s

 

One of my favorite activities while traveling is checking out new restaurants. And I must say most cities recognize that having a great food scene is a big plus in attracting visitors as well as businesses.

I was especially impressed by the quality of the restaurants in Tulsa and Boise – both cities offer world-class food. I’m still dreaming about the dinner we had at Petite 4 in Boise. So good!

Petite4

 

Conversely, I was shocked at the lackluster food scene in Denver and Minneapolis – they have places that look good but have nothing in the kitchen to back them up.

 

Bottom Line.

I’m normally a pretty upbeat and optimistic person so I recognize this post is a bit of a downer. Even writing it made me depressed.

But it’s a sign of the times. The U.S. is not in the ascendancy at the moment. As much as I loved this trip, it also brought home to me the many problems facing our country. And I don’t see it getting better anytime soon.

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