Or at least lately it seems that way. I promise I haven’t sought out any of this recent trickle of media attention — I can’t even read most of it — it’s just that with two websites (make that three) I am very easy to get ahold of. So if the Chinese media need a toothy laowai to fill up their pages, why not email the editor of Shanghaiist?
That’s what local weekly glossy Modern Weekly did recently, and I ended up being their American voice for a feature called “Foreigner’s Map of Shanghai,” although all the restaurants I recommended cater more to locals than foreigners. They also interviewed guys from France, England and Japan. Not sure why they didn’t talk to any girls. You can read an abbreviated English version of the story here. The Modern Weekly printed version has a longer profile of me — they refer to me both as “a cowboy” and, naturally, “Matthew.”
Back in April, I was the subject of another Chinese magazine story, this time in a monthly called Shanghai Pictorial. The story was the brainchild of my former landlord Alex Huang, a very helpful man who is both good friends with the magazine’s editor and the kind of guy you really can’t say no to — so I kind of had to go along with the plan, although I really had no idea why they wanted to do a story on me. It could be because Alex, I’m not sure knowingly or unknowingly, has a habit of making me sound more important than I am. I used to work for a small Georgia newspaper called The Times, so he tells people I write for TIME. My last name begins with “Wash,” so according to Alex I have written for the Washington Post. I have tried to correct him, but I think he prefers the more successful Dan Washburn he has created in his head. (I actually did write a story for TIME Asia late last year, only to have it killed sometime this spring.)
The Shanghai Pictorial story got its start more than one year before it was published. The idea was they follow me around and document my presumably exciting life in photos. I tried to explain that on an average day this plan would result in a captivating series of photographs of me sitting in front of my computer in my pajamas. Lucky for them, my friends Brian and Jill were visiting China at that time, so for one of our days touring Shanghai, we had a photographer follow us around as though we were important. And the end result is that a normal day in the life of Dan Washburn appears to be filled with trips to the Peace Hotel, the Urban Planning Center and Jinmao Tower. The photographer met up with us a couple times over the next year (I thought the story had been scrapped) and so it also includes photos of our old apartment and our new one, Fat Dan and Thin Dan and a very small Ozzie curled up on Bliss’ lap. There is also a page of my photos from The Trip. There title for the story was “The City Walker: Dan Washburn.”
- Modern Weekly: “Foreigner’s Map of Shanghai” [PDF, 1.4 mb]
- Shanghai Pictorial: “The City Walker: Dan Washburn” [PDF, 1.2 mb]