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No, no, no, you say; Kirsten Dunst plays Mary Jane in the ever-popular Spiderman movie franchise. Spiderman does not exist in real life, nor does Dunst even play the character in the movies. However, The Shy Traveler has a little real life story for ya. Doesn’t TST always have a little story for ya?kirsten_dunst_spiderman

This past weekend, The Shy Traveler and friend, Josh Levine, were on our way up Eighth Avenue around midnight when we encountered a man face down in the sidewalk. No, this man wasn’t just taking a seat after a few too many mojitos, and he also wasn’t homeless. He was barely conscious and coughing up things that looked like teeth. The contents of his wallet were scattered on the pavement and he was dangerously close to the street. This man was in extremely bad shape, with no comrades in sight, and in serious need of some help.

While countless tourists, New York residents, and even a police officer tripped over his legs and passed him by without so much as blinking, Josh and I stopped. We hoisted him into the upright position and tried to get some information from him such as “do you have any friends we can call?” and “where do you live, man?” We tried to get his possessions back on his person. After a couple of minutes of readjusting the wilting man, he launched out of our arms into oncoming traffic. (African American man+black leather coat+dark pants+nighttime = p-a-n-i-c.) Cars screeched to a halt in succession inches from hitting him, until he fell down in front of one. I ran into traffic after him and dragged him back to the sidewalk. He kept saying “Jessica…I loved her…” over and over. PL5983Nothing else that came out of his mouth resembled English or any other discernible language. After Josh and I got him sitting down again with both sets of hands gripping the straps of his backpack, a group of four people stopped to help us out. A petite blonde girl and her father, along with two other women pulled over. The girl offered our fallen man some water and called for an ambulance. Her father picked up dollar bills strewn on the sidewalk and gave them back to the man. The group asked us where we were coming from and told us how nice it was that we’d stopped to help. Josh and I had our focus trained on the man and our energy on keeping him away from the street, but we realized after a couple of glances that the blonde girl in the group was Kirsten Dunst and this man with her must be her father. (There was too much of a resemblance for him not to be.) We told them they could go since the ambulance was now on its way, but they insisted on staying with us a good 15-20 minutes in the bitter cold until it arrived.

So thanks to Kirsten Dunst, a good NYC samaritan, and to her father, who seemed also to be a salt-of-the-earth type of person, for your help.

To our fallen man, I hope you’ve recovered from Saturday night and whatever heartbreak Jessica may have caused. I said it then and I’ll say it again now, “She’d be a fool not to love you, man.”

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What do blue clogs, tears, frozen fish, and Titanic quotes all have in common?

Well, in honor of Valentine’s Day 2009, I thought I’d share some of my favorite recent Missed Connections from Craigslist NYC. I can only hope these folks found each other and exchanged some cheap chocolate love today…

1. Blue Swedish clogs FRI 12:30 downtown W blonde – m4w (Flatiron)

2. A Train/Dyckman u were crying & wearing a blue coat with gray fur trim – m4w (Inwood / Wash Hts)

3. Jan 23 – You bought 2 pieces of frozen tilapia, Park Slope Food Coop – m4w – (Express Checkout, 7:30pm-ish)

4. I just cant get over you – m4w

I have my good days and some bad and I thought today might be a good one. Until Titanic came on. “You jump I jump, right?” Whatever happened to that?

Just waiting for the water to swallow me.

love can be elusive...

love can be elusive...that's why there's missed connections

meat_loaf_duetI was somewhere between denial and panic when I entered the Duane Reade on 75th Street and Columbus Avenue last week. I was too sick to really be out of bed but I needed medicine as direly as my bank account needed to be fed its greens, and that required some train travel. Things went from bad to catastrophic in an instant as I descended into the pharmacy and Meat Loaf’s “I’d Lie for You and That’s the Truth” seeped into my ears. I estimated the number of steps to the cold medicine aisle and back. I briefly considered turning around. They didn’t have Theraflu on the Prairie and people survived…sometimes. No, I could do this. A little Meat Loaf might even be nostalgic.  No one could deny that “I Would Do Anything for Love” was golden. (Although what was that “thing” he just couldn’t do? I’ve always wanted to know.) But this…this was just too painful and it made me wonder who this generation’s Meat Loaf would be. The voice so powerful and distinctive it could shake loose years of carefully-built confidence, flattering hair and makeup, and knowledge and respect for world affairs, and reduce one to a kid sweating on a cloth couch in the summer or 1991 in a Hot Topic number, bangs for days, watching The Price is Right and VHI. Too old for Nickelodeon and too young to appreciate the decade that made Meat Loaf a sensation, it was a difficult and confusing time to be alive and young in the world. So who will be this generation’s Meat Loaf? I’d like to believe that ours isn’t the only generation in a stranglehold with one or two artists from our musical past. (I’ll throw in Michael Bolton to complete the picture.) I’m just not willing to accept that the sacrifices we made on sweltering Tuesdays in July were simply to pave the way for the days of formulaic hip hop and innocuous pop. There must be a Meat Loaf among you…anybody? Anybody?

The Shy Traveler’s beloved cohort, travel and arts writer, Jeffrey James Keyes, is heading off to London Town next week. Having been to London twice, I’m trying to piece the city together in my memory after about a seven years away. It gets pretty impressionistic pretty quickly in my mind but I always have a great feeling when I think about it. My first trip to London was a snap of the fingers; I was dating a Brit who was at Hertford College at the time and I fell head-over-heels for Oxford. In all fairness to London, I got more intimate with Oxford. Anywhere you spend time in student housing and with a “native” is bound to be a more intimate experience. In London, my friend managed to pack in a trip that rivaled the tupperware school lunch your mom made. It was compact, well-rounded, and left me wanting more. We did the “Look! It’s Big Ben! That’s Houses of Parliament! The Thames! I’m American, and I see a red phone booth! That’s whimsical!” He was a sport. Then we caught a National Gallery exhibit, did dinner and a West End play. There was absolutely no way he could have crammed anything more into the jaunt. He was a perfect tour guide.london_thames_2

My second trip to London was with a friend. From the anxiety-pill-champagne-emergency-landing flight to the last night rolling on the floor of my friend’s temporary home in Earls Court, bellies full of wine and bags full of department store shoes and vintage bathing suits, it was a very different trip.  When you’re in London with no itinerary you can get into all kinds of good trouble. The liquor store employee on the corner knew us by name toward the end of my stay. We managed to navigate the city on foot without any trouble, exploring by neighborhood and wandering out a bit further each day. My first impression of the food was No decent coffee, no decent pizza. I’m not someone who travels outside of my city and expects the same comforts of home everywhere I go, but good coffee is key. We did find one place called Balans that served French press coffee and fluffy eggs. We were sold. We went back again and again. We stumbled up some uneven stairs and had great curry, saw the darker side of Chelsea at night, sprinted through the Tate Modern just before closing, wandered into little boutiques and chatted up store owners, and gave the local pharmacy guy developing our photos quite an eyeful. Why is it that British editions of books have much cooler cover art? Is it just me? Mind the gap in my pitiful memory. Nah, I’ll wait for Jeffrey’s report. And eventally I’ll just have to go back.

Editorial Humor

"Oops..."

"Oops..."

As a freelance writer and editor, it’s tough – even before my first cup of coffee – to get a choice line by me. I’ve been handed many adjectives over the years, and not all them honeyed, but “immature” has never been among them. (Although Mercury is in retrograde…) Also, I believe that some readers will always read purely for content, and others will always read in “editor head”, consciously or subconsciously, right or wrong, critiquing the writer’s/editor’s choices as they go. Indeed I fall squarely in the latter classification, but even so, I don’t think it takes an eagle eye or even a particularly dirty mind to spot the folly in this choice of words:

MSNBC.com:

“The provision within the stimulus that would allocate money for contraceptive programs through Medicaid will be pulled out of the package.”

I thought, surely this opening line landed on an editor’s desk as some kind of joke. Whether or not that was the case, the line made it to “print” in all of its glorious irony. It was just too good not to share…

It’s all too often these days that you catch a glimpse of an aging rock star or a Woodstock-era singer-songwriter performing live, and what you see makes you wish they had just found a little house on The Vineyard and left you to your best memories of them. Sometimes it’s because they’ve had so much plastic surgery that their once expressive faces can barely manage an eyebrow furl on a good, sad lyric. Then again, sometimes it’s because they are all furled up and seem never to have left their spandex and their bad habits, and now it just makes you sad. There are a few active performers who (thankfully) fall into neither category. Yusuf Islam is one.

It must be just wild to be Yusuf Islam and see the young version of yourself singing “Father and Son” on Youtube, and then – just one click away – a performance of the same song some thirty years later. Both videos are posted below and it’s the kind of side-by-side (or in this case above-and-below) comparison that gives you chills.  In a way, the music has evolved and the song has a new depth that it couldn’t have possibly had before. Islam has grown up and isn’t afraid to show it. But to a Cat Stevens fan’s delight, Islam is still able to deliver all of the treble clef pangs of youth in the recent version. He must have had quite a journey to arrive here. Take a look/listen:

eddie_izzard_shyEddie Izzard…shy? In an interview by Richard Jinman for the Sydney Morning Herald, Izzard copped to as much:

I didn’t like being shy, so I worked out social skills to cope,” he says. “Comedy was my weapon. I’d say ‘the transvestite’s here, the beers are on me!'” He pauses. “That would be a good television commercial, wouldn’t it?

Shy Traveler says: A-hem, absolutely it would. In fact, it has the potential to be the kind of commercial that might make Superbowl commercials good again.
Izzard’s live comedy career has played mistress to a serious film and television career of late, with a standout role in the Fox series, “The Riches”, and even a co-starring role in a Tom Cruise holiday release, “Valkyrie”. The Shy Traveler gives Eddie kudos for bravely wading into the Chronicles of Narnia franchise as the voice of Reepicheep. Despite an eerily lascivious Mr. Tumnus and a less-than-stellar score, the first film in the series, “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” kept me entertained. Sometimes it is just enough to see a well-loved book series up on the big screen.

But…Eddie Izzard, hysterical transvestite, “the lost Python”, shy? Eh, file it under the category, “You learn something new every day”.