Interview with Ayun Halliday

Exciting news on the guidebook front. My travel writer friend Ayun Halliday has just published a sweet new ditty: The Zinester’s Guide to New York City, which folks are calling an anecdotal, illustrated, low budget, highly participatory exploration of the greatest city on earth. From Japanese breakfasts, art supplies, used books, and wisteria to punk rope, volunteer opportunities, storefront museums and subway musicians, The Zinester’s Guide to NYC has it all.” I recently caught up with Ayun to field her thoughts on traveling, writing, and points in between.

Why New York City?

I have a strong cardiac preference for New York. I have wanted to live here since I was a little girl in Indiana, where I was once overheard informing a playmate that I was a city dude. For my money, what little I have of it, there is no better city on earth in which to be that dude.

What are your five favorite pieces of NYC-related art?

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side by Magnetic Fields

Next Stop, Greenwich Village

“New York City by Cub,” and the cover by They Might Be Giants

An essay about the General Slocum memorial David Rakoff read aloud on episode 194 of “This American Life,” shortly after September 11, 2001

If you were taking my 6th grade English teacher on a one-day tour of New York, where would you go?

Her? Oh lord. What about a downtown literary whirlwind? The Strand, Idlewild, Bluestockings, Housing Works Book Café, St. Mark’s Books, and Unoppressive, Non-Imperialist Bargain Books. Then because she is a closet Flight of the Conchords fan, I would take her past Bret & Jemaine’s apartment on Henry Street, mostly so we’d have an excuse to pop in Bar 169, because I could no doubt use a drink. Though I could also get my drink at KGB or Happy Ending, both of which have excellent and frequent readings. If she’s intrigued by Happy Ending’s former incarnation as a Chinatown massage parlor, I’ll send her to Babeland or Burlesque at the Beach. She can make her own way home to the Gershwin Hotel, conveniently located by Wholesale Copies and the Museum of Sex.

If you were taking the President of the United States on a one-day tour of New York, where would you go?

I’m going to assume that for him, it would be a relief to be treated like a regular civilian, so we’d start with breakfast at Panya (I recommend the curry pan, fatten him up a bit), then make our way down to the Wall Street Baths (so he’d have to bring his bathing suit). Lunch at the Vegetarian Dim Sum House, followed by a self-guided walking tour of Chinatown with stops for coconut buns and souvenirs for his daughters from BJ99. If he wants some exercise, we can do the Monkey Bars in Columbus Park. Then like most visitors to NYC, unaccustomed to so much walking, he’d probably be pooped, so we could recharge our batteries by seeing a movie at the Sunshine. Then we could go book shopping, or alternatively thrift shopping (if it was Wednesday, I would insist we go to Salvation Army since it’s family day and everything’s half off.) If he’s really into thrifting, we’d go to the Thing in Greenpoint. Eventually, we’d make our way back to Otto’s Shrunken Head for cheap drinks and a spin in the photo booth. We’d get some tacos at the Zaragoza Grocery on Avenue A, and finish the evening at Decibel Sake Bar, where I would not be above using the President’s VIP status to jump to the head of the line. If he’s really into burning the midnight oil, maybe I could be talked into accompanying him to Mehanata, the Bulgarian bar.

If you had one hour to live and you had to spend it doing something amazing in NY, where would you go?

Maybe to the top of the Empire State Building – I’ve never been there before. I’d have to be allowed to go to the front of the line, though. Otherwise, I’d probably just go embrace an arch of the Brooklyn Bridge and sing “New York, New York,” and think about how I’ll soon be flung off it, in ash form.

Tell us about your 11/11 book release party.

The one at Housing Works Bookstore Café, on Crosby St in NYC? It’s going to be so awesome. A half dozen or so musicians from the Bushwick Book Club will be playing original songs inspired by the guidebook. Many contributors will be on hand for the mini-zine fair. If you’re the sporting type, you may wind up vying for exciting prizes in the live ZG2NYC $2 Pyramid onstage game show. It’s my Hoosier homeboy Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday, so there will be a short reading in his honor. We’ll also be reading a few of our favorite listings. And it’s the Day that Most Resembles Corduroy, so please dress appropriately.

One Comment

  1. Mathilda Murray

    What a lovely author! A sweet interview… found another one recently here:

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