I made my television debut this weekend, appearing on Weekend Sunrise, a morning show based in Australia. They asked me to speak about some our new World Heritage travel guides — many of which were selected by National Geographic readers. I learned that the odd thing about doing television is that you’re in an empty room staring at a camera and you have no idea what’s appearing on screen. Or when they’re looking at you or running a clip of some lovely Italian hillside. Luckily, they showed lots of clips.
Archive for November, 2010
Somehow, I feel vindicated. And that much closer to Oprah.
Had a itty bitty little (yet fun) item in the New York Mag Winter Travel issue on the lovely hilltop town of Santa Teresa from my recent trip to Rio. And they made this fun little illustration to go with it! Here we go:
Taking a Trolley to the Action in Rio
To get to the drop-dead-sexiest neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, you need to ride a little yellow time machine. Lurching away from the city’s bustling business district, nineteenth-century trolleys, or bondes ($.40; www.sectran.rj.gov.br), make a precarious pass along the Carioca aqueduct on their way to Santa Teresa, a hotbed of restaurants, bars, and, of course, samba. Bar do Mineiro’s (Rua Pascoal Carlos Magno 99; 55-21-2221-9227) gallery-cum-restaurant serves feijoada and pasteis—addictive fried cheese snacks—into the wee hours. Samba spills into the streets outside Simplesmente (55-21-2508-6007), while Asia Restaurant (asia-rio.com) has the honor of bringing quality dim sum to Brazil. Stay at the new Hotel Santa Teresa, a sleekly remade former coffee plantation (from $450; santa-teresa-hotel.com).
There was a time in my life that I wanted to be an essayist. It started in college, when I discovered that E.B. White was a writer’s writer, and had done much more with his life beyond Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web (though now knowing that he did write those children’s books makes him all the more endearing). I devoured his painstakingly perfect essays in Here is New York, one of the most erudite and graceful books on the city that’s ever been written. I remember reading this exquisite paragraph in the wake of 9/11 and thinking how it seemed to encapsulate the terror and fear and fragility of a place and a time, despite having been written 50 years before the events took place:
The subtlest change in New York is something people don’t speak much about but that is in everyone’s mind. The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sounds of the jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.
I came to realize that the life of an essayist is fairly impossible in this day and age (what, no one will pay me to sit in my room and muse on topics of my own making?), and turned to journalism instead (a far more lucrative venture). But when I was asked by Carlo Rotella, my fabulous American Studies professor in college, to contribute an essay to the literary magazine Post Road, I leapt at the chance. I’d been taking a storytelling class at the time, which had me flexing my nonfiction muscles, and I ended up taking the opportunity to put the same story I had been working on telling aloud down on paper. So I submitted a piece on my time at the Office of Public Security, which was my first real job out of college. It was around before the Department of Homeland Security was created, and suffice it to say that its role as a government office was primarily to calm the public’s psyche. And despite my earnest desire to help with counter-terrorism, I quickly became disillusioned with the entire effort. It was a long two years.
I don’t think I had White in my mind when I decided to write about my security job, but it’s funny now to realize his imprint on my subconscious. It was only when I got a copy of the magazine and recalled my essayist intentions that the two aligned in my head. And I’m glad they did.
I need to go and read some more White.
I had a chance to meet up with the terrific team at National Geographic Traveler China while in Beijing, including their fabulous editor Maggie, and the adorable and sweet Zoe, Moon, Luo Luo, and Tracy, who were amazing hosts and were eager to show me the insider’s Beijing. Thanks so much to everyone for making me feel so welcome!
UPDATE: I blogged about meeting up with the team over at Intelligent Travel, and they blogged back. I don’t know Chinese, so I relied on Google translate: “Janelle is a very fresh and lively American girl, and very talkative.” Pretty much sums it up.