Q: Are you, like, really a travel writer?
A: Like, totally. But I prefer to think of myself as a food and travel writer because I'm trying (successfully) to get fat and to ruin my liver. So I figure the best way to do that is to make it part of my job.
Q: [Awkward pause] Um, okay. So who do you write for?
A: I'm a Contributing Writer at AFAR, and I also write for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Conde Nast Traveler, Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, National Geographic Traveler, Playboy, New York, the San Francisco Chron--
Q: Wait! That's mostly all old school media. Have you ever done the blogs?
A: I have. For a while I was blogging for WorldHum.com, the New York Times' travel blog "In Transit," and, for the last couple years, AOL's Gadling.com.
Oh yeah, I'm also on the twitter.
Q: So what's the craziest thing you've ever done, Mr. Food and Travel Writer?
A: Hhhmmm….I once fasted for five days. Oh wait, you said "craziest," not "dumbest." I once partook in a pig killing in the Czech hinterlands. The story that I later wrote about the incident won a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award.
Q: Since you (not so accidentally) brought up the topics of accolades, anything else we should know about?
Well, since you asked, in addition, in 2013 I was given a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award for a food/travel story I wrote for AFAR magazine ("Mama Knows Best"). That same year my story "Vietnam's Bowl of Secrets," which was also in AFAR, was published in The Best American Travel Writing 2013. I've also won a couple Solas Awards, given by the publishing house Travelers' Tales, for stories that were published by AFAR and WorldHum.com. But if you hadn't interupted me, I would have told you about the the craziest thing I've ever done.
Q: I'm listesning....
A few years ago, I moved to a medieval hilltown near Rome for a year or so on a quest to find the lost foreskin of Jesus.
Q: Get. The fuck. Outta here.
A: Okay, I will. But first let me say it was indeed insane, but one of the most fun things I've ever done. I talked my way into the Vatican Library where I unearthed centuries-old documents dedicated to Jesus'...uh, manhood; I hung out with hippies and artists who are the majority of residents of Calcata, the village where I lived for a year; and then I wrote a book about it: An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town, which Penguin/Gotham Books published in 2009. And as if that experience wasn't pleasurable enough, the book was named one of the best travel books of 2009 by the Los Angeles Times and won a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for best book of the year. A couple years before that--since we're on the topic of books--I co-edited an anthology of travel essays about Prague called Travelers' Tales Prague and the Czech Republic: True Stories, which does not mention the word "foreskin" in it (in English, Czech or any other language) at all.
Q: So, exactly how does one study to become a Holy Foreskin expert?
A: It was never my intention to know everything there is to know about Jesus's miraculous membrane, but I did study history, getting a B.A. from University of California, Santa Cruz and an M.A. from San Francisco State University.
Q: Congratulations. That all sounds fine and dandy, but have you ever, like, had a real job?
A: I have, depending on your definition of "real," of course. In high school, in Los Angeles, I was in a rock band playing Hollywood clubs when my peers were going to high school dances or at home studying for exams. In college I worked in indie record stores where I judged and sneered at customers for buying uncool CDs (remember the Jack Black character in High Fidelity? Yep, that was me). In Prague, I taught English for three years. In Rome, I flirted with becoming a tour guide. In San Francisco, I was an editor at a weekly pop culture magazine. And in New York I've worked as the Nightlife/Restaurant Editor at BlackBook magazine and the New York City Restaurant Editor at Gayot.com. And for the last seven years I've been teaching writing at New York University. To come full circle, I'm now the one being sneered at for buying uncool music.
Q: Ooh, you're totally hot. Have you ever been on TV or anything like that?
A: Thanks! I have been going to the gym a lot lately.
Q: No, I mean you're totally sweating. Gross. You must be hot.
A: [awkward pause] Oh [wipes brow]. My book was made into a documentary by National Geographic (click here to see a clip). Also, I've been a "travel expert" on the Fine Living network, but the producers were so smitten with the Royal Asics shoes I had matched with my vintage sport coat, they ended up filming my shoes more than my face. Or maybe it was because I was sweating so much. Other than that, my voice has made multiple appearances on NPR and other national radio shows, as well as, the BBC. I've also lectured to hundreds at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC on Czech history and have been on numerous panels discussing traveling and writing and travel writing.
A: Anything else we should know about you?
Q: I've watched this video of Wilford Brimley saying "diabetes" more times than I would like to admit, I once yelled "The Woodster" at Woody Allen who was across the room at a party (I was immediately shushed and then shunned by a majority of the party-goers), and I host a quasi-monthly travel-themed reading series called the Restless Legs Reading Series.
lindsay.gordon AT us.penguingroup.com
rutman AT sll.com
Sterling Lord Literistic
email me @: david.farley AT gmail.com