In case you haven't heard, the New York Times chose Oakland as the fifth most desirable place to visit in the whole wide world. It's even ahead of outer space, which the newspaper ranked 20th on its list of "The 45 Places to Go in 2012," though Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's $200,000-per-seat space travel venture doesn't even have an official launch date yet.
Oakland was the highest ranked city in North America. Overall, it came in just behind London and ahead of Tokyo (http://nyti.ms/wFAbYK).
The Huffington Post called Oakland "the coolest new kid on the block" deserving of being on the international radar.
Pretty heady stuff.
Mayor Jean Quan issued a statement touting the New York Times' ranking.
"The buzz about Oakland's growing restaurant and entertainment scene along with our beautiful parks and attractions like Chabot Space & Science Center, the Oakland Zoo and the Oakland Museum of California make Oakland the ideal affordable location," the mayor proclaimed.
It is nice to see Oakland being recognized for its positives in the national media -- for a refreshing change. Like many residents, I get tired of defending my city against Oakland bashers.
Yet as much as I love the city of my birth, I am also not delusional. The New York Times ranking feels a bit like receiving a gift that, deep down, you know you don't deserve. It is so over the top, it's embarrassing.
"New restaurants and bars beckon amid the grit," the newspaper states in its single-minded focus on Uptown -- a tiny sliver of Oakland. It mentions the Fox Theater as a top music venue, then goes on to gush about James Syhabout, the chef who earned Oakland its only Michelin star two years ago with Commis and his more recently opened Hawker Fare. Chef Daniel Patterson gets kudos for Plum and Haven.
"Tensions have cooled since violence erupted at the recent Occupy Oakland protests," chirps the paper of record. "But the city's revitalized night-life scene has continued to smolder."
We are further told that "the city's ever more sophisticated restaurants are now being joined by upscale cocktail bars, turning once-gritty Oakland into an increasingly appealing place to be after dark.''
That may be true in Uptown, but it is hardly the case in vast swaths of Oakland.
On the very same day that the Times ran its top-45 list, the paper also ran an Oakland report by the Bay Citizen -- this one not nearly so rosy. The headline: "Shootings Soar in Oakland; children often the victims."
It is a reflection of the fact that Oakland consistently ranks high on another list -- that of most dangerous cities. Citing the Urban Strategies Council, the story said Oakland shootings had gone up 60 percent in the last five years.
It included a shocking statistic that I had not seen: 2,000 people were shot in 2011 -- 199 of them minors.
Three were small children shot down in the streets -- all apparently unintended victims.
Gabriel Martinez Jr., 5, was buried two days before the Times ran its top-45 list. He was shot and killed near his father's taco truck.
So what's my point?
As much as some folks may wish otherwise, there is more to Oakland than just Uptown.
We can boast the finest restaurants and nightlife there all we want to. We can brag about Art Murmur as a cultural destination. We should be proud of them all.
But we cannot escape our city's ugly underbelly -- as much as some of those who live and work in areas where there aren't gunshots going off all hours of the day and night might have fantasies of secession.
So long as children are being shot and killed in our streets, so long as the city leadership is satisfied to toss around empty buzz words rather than engage in the hard work to produce a serious plan to reduce gun violence, Oakland will never become the world-class city that it has the potential to be.
It's time to stop patting ourselves on the backs and get to work.