Wesley Yiin Untapped Cities

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

What’s your “day job”?

I am a rising sophomore at Yale, studying everything from Organic Chemistry to Hieroglyphic Egyptian. In other words, I’m undecided.

What’s your favorite Untapped spot in your city?

I’m not sure this is exactly “Untapped” at this point, but I hadn’t been to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park before I had to walk to the southern tip of Roosevelt Island for my piece on former psychiatric asylums. After photographing the Renwick Smallpox Hospital Ruins, I turned around and was literally breathless–mostly because I had walked so much and just climbed the steps, but also because the view was absolutely incredible!

Favorite piece you’ve written for Untapped:

I wrote one of my first pieces on Taipei’s Modern Toilet restaurant. I’d been there a few times before, so it was great to finally be able to explain the fantastically bizzarre establishment to an American audience via Untapped.

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

Gene Weingarten, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post humor columnist, linked to my Modern Toilet piece in his monthly live chat called “Chatological Humor.” Here’s what he said about the piece: “That has been a pretty good lead-in into this spectacular report about a new restaurant in Taiwan. Really, anything I say to prepare you for this would be insufficient. Enjoy: Modern toilet.” I wasn’t sure what to make of the entire statement, so I just decided to take the compliment and brag about it a little to my friends (and now to you!).

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

I wrote a lot of pieces on repurposing (churchessynagoguespsychiatric asylumsbanks, subway cars), and I was really surprised and impressed when researching them to learn about all the creative reuses of spaces. Seriously, who would think to turn a church into a nightclub or shopping mall?

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

Recently, I visited the Taipei Film House in Taipei, Taiwan. Once home to the American ambassador, the place is now managed by acclaimed Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien. The building, which has retained some fantastic architectural elements that are hard to find elsewhere in the city, now functions as an space to promote local artistry of different types and forms while doubling as an independent movie theater. When I went, films being shown included an international film that I hadn’t heard of, a concert documentary, and slightly older American favorites, like Moneyball.

Where do you want to visit next?

South America is at the top of the list: Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil. Untapped founder Michelle Young has given me some great traveling tips for South America, and I’m very excited to try them! I’m also very interested in going to Africa at some point. Lastly–and this may surprise you because I’m a lifelong East Coaster and quasi-New Yorker–I’d like to explore some of the Midwestern cities: Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, etc.

What’s your favorite obscure fact about your city?

In New Haven: I auditioned (unsuccessfully) to be a tour guide at Yale, so I’m prepped with tons of quirky facts about New Haven. Notably, it was the first planned city in America, pioneering the four-by-four grid plan that is now known as the “Nine Square Plan.”

In New York: For my Cities 101 piece on crosswalk buttons, I learned that, at most, only 750 out of the city’s 3,250 crosswalk buttons are functional. (This statistic was taken in 2005.) In fact, in most places crosswalk buttons have no effect. Cities like Orlando, FL, and Vancouver, BC, are exceptions.

Best Celebrity Sighting:

Not exactly a celebrity sighting, but earlier this year, I got to have dinner with costume designer Jenn Rogien, a Yale alumna, who worked on Girls and Orange is the New Black. She may not be on the same fame level as Lena Dunham or Allison Williams, but given the hype over Orange is the New Black, it’s still pretty exciting! Plus, she was super sweet to talk to and inadvertently complimented what I was wearing–or at least I’d like to think so!

What are some of your favorite websites?

I’ll organize them based on interest. My favorite city/urban blogs are The Atlantic Cities and Curbed NY. I love television and indie film, and I usually check Indiewire, The A.V. Club (owned by The Onion), Vulture, Hitfix, and this great new film site called The Dissolve for my daily coverage. I’m trying to go green, and Yale Environment 360 and Grist have been providing interesting reads and inspiration in two very different styles. Lastly, I check Gawker and Jezebel for quick news and the great New York Times’s Magazine and Sunday Review for the in-depth, beautifully-written, and well-opined stories.

Get in touch with Wesley @YiinYangYale.