(One last holiday-related post, sorry. But I think many of you can relate.)
I love Airbnb. Also, I hate Airbnb. It makes the sort of travel we’ve been doing in recent years not only affordable, but possible; there’s no way we could have stayed deep in the medinas of Morocco without it. Our last place, in Essaouira, was magical – it looked like the set of a French New Wave movie. The feral cats knocked on the door to the courtyard at 2 a.m., and were somehow charming rather than annoying. The host stopped by one day, and we got into a conversation about the difference between vegetarianism and veganism, both of which he found baffling. In other cities, Airbnb has given us space to spread out, to make simple meals, to take refuge in a place other than a hotel. On a couple of trips, traveling alone, I’ve done the single-room-in-a-house deal, and had not only comfortable lodging but made great connections.
However. When we met friends for dinner in Barcelona, I told her we were staying on a particular street in La Gracia. “Our Airbnb was on that street too,” she replied, and as we walked around the neighborhood, the signs were ummistakable: The doorbells/street mailboxes that all carried the same label, because a management company was renting them all. The “Tourists go home” graffiti everywhere. Airbnb had so infiltrated that charming neighborhood that locals were being priced out of it.
This isn’t a matter of opinion; short-term rentals are driving housing shortages in desirable cities everywhere. And problem rentals, like those in any hot American city where young people hold destination bachelor/bachelorette parties, are a headache for everyone. A friend here lives in Midtown Detroit, another area with skyrocketing rents, especially in Midtown. On a recent stroll down his own street, he said, he realized all the closest blocks were thick with Airbnb. In Detroit.
In west Michigan, a few communities have tried to enact local ordinances governing them, which prompted an influx of Airbnb lobbyists to the capital, who had little trouble convincing the GOP-controlled legislature that their allegedly foundational belief that small government knows best is wrong, at least in this case. Now there’s a law that says you can’t restrict short-term rentals in your own community.
And not all of our experiences have been great. We had to wrangle with our Madrid host, who took one flat and turned it into three, and stuck us in one that was decidedly not the one in the photos when we booked. He moved us after a couple days, which was fine, but the two unpictured flats were likely inescapable in a fire, something I think about a lot, especially in Europe. Our friends who met us there had an even worse experience, arriving to find their building wrapped in scaffolding, and workmen clambering around on it with very loud power tools, starting at 8 a.m. They bolted for a hotel after two days.
VRBO, I’m told, is better, but it’s much rarer, too. (We rent a VRBO cottage in northern Michigan, far from neighbors, and our cleanliness and care with the place inspired the owner to offer to deal with us directly, waiving the VRBO fee, etc. I treat rentals the same way I treat my own house.)
In the end, I feel like Airbnb is one of those supremely irritating move-fast-and-break-things products of Silicon Valley, where some guy says hey I got an idea, more guys shower him with money, and a few lucky people walk away multi-millionaires, while the rest of us get to sort out the inevitable consequences.
Nevertheless, we’ll probably use it again. Sigh.
How was everyone’s weekend? Ours was fine. We’re still working on the house, or rather, Alan is. (I provide domestic support in the form of laundry and meals.) Cooked some, shopped some, went out some. Shadow Show opened for another all-girl band at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, which was an excuse to get out and about. Talked a lot to a random kid sitting nearby, who told me all about his Birthright trip to Israel. I found a reference to a previously unknown biography of Warren Zevon, which prompted me, the Zevon superfan, to look it up on Amazon. Used the look-inside feature to get a sense of it. The epigraph alone put me off:
It didn’t improve. Here’s something I’m always telling writers I edit: Don’t use a quote to repeat something you just said, not in a quote. Do they listen? Maybe some do. This guy didn’t:
And now the same writer is doing a biography of Elmore Leonard. Guess I’ll be giving that one a pass, too.
So. The week ahead yawns with possibilities. So far I’ll be…meeting with a Medicare guru, schvitzing with a swimming friend, taking online training to be a poll challenger. I was going to work the absentee counting boards, but all the training — required by law — was held during our time away. My job is literally, LITERALLY, pulling the stubs off ballots, but I can’t, by law, work without being retrained in how to pull the stubs off ballots. Remember, Donald Trump told you Detroit was a lawless place, “so corrupt,” and that, my friends, is bullshit. So I’ll help out this way.
Good week ahead to all. Don’t use quotes to repeat something you just wrote! Use quotes to illuminate and add dimension to what you just wrote!
Here’s a random Spain pic for you, the high altar in the cathedral in Toledo. Notre Dame looks like a simple country church compared to this place: