Lara Elmayan Untapped Cities Contributor

Every week, we highlight one of our 300+ Untapped Cities contributors worldwide. This week, we’re featuring Lara Elmayan, an editorial intern who spent the summer working out of the Untapped Cities HQ in New York City.

What’s your “day job”?

I don’t have one, sadly. I go to school somewhere far upstate, in the middle of cornfields. I’m only exciting during the summer.

Favorite piece you’ve written for Untapped:

I really loved researching for an article I wrote that traced Patti Smith’s trail in New York, mostly around the ’70s. I thought it would involve me just re-reading her book, but I got so much more into it, and kind of rediscovered that scene and time period through the narratives of others who lived here the time. It was all very easy to romanticize, even though I know that a lot people who made it out of that period and scene alive, like Patti Smith, saw it as kind of terrifying.

What’s the most memorable thing that happened while interning at Untapped Cities?

The very fabulous Extra Action Marching Band came into Tompkins Square Park while I was doing research for an East Village guide there. I think I got a little too close while I was taking photos of their performance, so a dancer/cheerleader with fake hillbilly teeth and very little clothing pulled me in for a dance. My best friend and her boyfriend were there, watching me put my whole soul into dancing with this girl, and her boyfriend was terrified. 

What’s the most surprising and/or valuable thing you learned during your internship?

I learned that local history is crazy and occasionally extremely, scandalously messed up. Thanks for withholding the cool stuff from me, New York State education system.

What’s your favorite Untapped place you’ve visited while traveling?

Years ago, a taxi driver in Belize brought me to his friend’s tiny tortilla factory without asking us if we even wanted to go. When I tried my first fresh, hot tortilla there, I thought, like any good American raised on corn syrup, “WTF? Where’s the added sugar?” But I ate twenty of those things that day, and when I think about those amazing tortillas today, I get really dreamy and nostalgic like 101-year old Rose at the end of Titanic.

Where do you want to visit next?

India is definitely at the top of my list, as is Tibet. I also want to visit Armenia and Istanbul to revisit some family history.

What’s your favorite obscure fact about your city?

The story about the architect who designed the Chrysler Building dressing up like the Chrysler Building is probably my favorite. I think John Cleese dreamed that up and his thought retroactively made it real.

Best Celebrity Sighting:

I passed by Aziz Ansari on MacDougal Street this summer. He was saying hi to someone, and when I heard him, I thought vaguely, “That sounds like the guy from Parks and Rec.” After I crossed the street, my boyfriend told me, “That was Aziz Ansari.” I freaked out and whirled around to try to get a glimpse of him. I didn’t, because he had already disappeared into the crowd, but I resolved to lie and say that that it was an actual sighting in interviews.

What are some of your favorite websites?

The New York Times is the obvious one. When I don’t have time to refer to The Times, I go to The Gist for quick news stories that come with preformed sarcastic opinions that I can claim as my own to make myself seem witty, informed, and alternately passionate and disillusioned with the world.

Follow Lara on Twitter @laraelmayan.