Every town I have ever lived in has had the local, alternative newspaper.  They have the potential to be a great resource for local residents and visitors alike to find out where the cool kids hang out or where the next can’t-miss concert will be.  On the other hand, they can be poorly written rags that are not worth the paper they are printed on.

On this scale, I have to say that the Upstate Be is one of the better examples of these publications.  They feature quality writing and do a great job of highlighting the type of people, places and things that I am interested in.  When a publication shares your same tastes in food, drink and entertainment, I generally consider it to be required reading.   

That said, unintentionally or not, once a year the Upstate Be releases an issue that highlights Anderson, South Carolina’s worst characteristic… public opinion.

We moved to Greenville several weeks ago but we still have a vested interest in Anderson.  We have close family, great friends, a rental property and frequent employment in Anderson and have found ourselves traveling south on I-85 a few times a week since we moved.  Anderson is one of the smallest communities we have ever called home but it is rich in attractions and businesses that make it a worthwhile destination for any Upstate resident or passerby.   We have written about many of these on this site and will continue to do so, regardless of our change in address.  

One thing Anderson cannot seem to shake, however, is the outdated perspective of the general population and the sense that the gene-pool might be just a tad shallower than cities of comparable size and opportunity.  <Hence my favorite term of endearment: Andertucky>

Back to the Upstate Be… Every year they feature a “Best OfThe Upstate Reader’s Choice Awards” where readers are encouraged to vote for their favorite businesses in the community.  I normally do not have a high regard for public opinion but when these votes are tallied the results are shocking even to a cynic like myself who maintains the lowest expectations of my fellow man.  In this poll everything that is wonderful and unique about Anderson gets flushed down the toilet and the old saying “the masses are asses” never rings more true.  

We have a policy about not naming names of places we find fault with so I will not itemize my complaints with the results.  Allow me to make a few broad generalizations before we tell you the things that were missed…

First and foremost, if you vote for a national chain in any local community poll, your vote should be considered null and void.  You are voting for the things that make your community special and you think a soulless, mass market corporation is the best your town has to offer? Okay, forget it, I am dropping names: You think Subway has the best sandwich, Olive Garden has the best Italian food and PIZZA HUT should even be considered in a Best Pizza conversation? Unless you live in a cage in somebody’s basement and these are the only things your keeper offers you on special occasions, you have no excuse for being this blind.  Not only are you completely oblivious to the world around you but you have no respect for the value of small business owners that work their  fingers to the bone to make your community unique.  

Secondly, size does not matter.  Actually, if your wife or girlfriend tells you this then she is just being nice and it probably DOES matter but we are talking about business here so get your mind out of the gutter.  Just because a business has a shiny sign, a fancy building, or big portions does not mean that the quality of the product is worth two red cents.  It just means that they put more into their presentation than their product and if you take the blinders off you might be able to figure that out on your own.  A great product is a great product, regardless of how it is packaged or how far off Clemson Boulevard you have to go to find it.

Finally, just because a place has “been there forever” does not mean it is good. It just means that people are inherently lazy and a business owner has been fortunate enough to capitalize on that.  The grandkids are rich because somebody’s grandpa like their grandpa’s product and people are now too lazy to shop around… kudos to them.  Let’s give them an award on top of their inherited riches.

I will now hop off my negativity soapbox for just a moment and just name a few places that should have received a greater amount of attention…

Summa Joe’s: This should have won Best Restaurant and as many as five other categories. The fact that it never ranked higher than a runner up in any category is a mortal sin.  I do not mean that as an exaggeration. If God Himself had eaten at Summa Joe’s, there would have been an 11th Commandment and Jesus would have had his Last Supper with Amy as his waitress. 

The Corner Bagel & Barnwood Grill:  Neither of these was even mentioned as a runner up in Best Breakfast or Best Lunch.  In our opinion they are both infinitely better than any of the places recognized in these two categories.

Grill Man: No mention whatsoever but they are the Best Burger winner in our book all day long.  For a town that exists because of the big lake, it is ironic that nobody remembered the best place to eat on said lake.

My Taco Mexico:  I actually would have been surprised if the shanty style taco stand received any acknowledgment from the Anderson community.  They are on a side street and do not offer free chips so it is only natural that they were overlooked in the Best Mexican Restaurant category.

Viva Il Vino:  I am not sure a small Italian wine bar off Main Street would ever win a Best Bar award in any community but this place deserves mention.  Best Place That Is Completely Out Of Place In Anderson?  They would win this category all day long. Maybe next year.

McDowell’s Emporium:  Wait, there was no Best Bookstore category? No matter, I suppose.  The masses would have voted for Books-A-Million because that is the only one they have seen on Clemson Boulevard (not that they have ever been in there).

I apologize for ranting but this is a shining example of a syndrome that plagues not just Anderson but America as a whole.  The vast majority of the population is cheap, lazy, and content to settle for the status quo.  People do not want what is good but prefer to settle for soulless convenience.  This is why Wal-Mart is always crowded; you have to wait to get into Chili’s on a Friday night and Justin Bieber is a millionaire. 

The Upstate Be celebrates everything that runs against these trends 51 weeks a year and (intentionally or not) dedicates one issue to proving that most of the Anderson population just refuses to get it.  I guess we should be happy about this though… it just serves as a reminder that we will always have a good chance of getting a parking spot, table, or bar stool on our future visits to Andertucky in the many years to come.