Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas.
Timothy “Speed” Levitch
Actor, tour guide, speaker, author,
voice actor, Kansas City and New York City tour guide, the subject of the documentary
The Cruise, and currently hosting Up
To Speed, an original travel
series created by filmmaker Richard Linklater, premiering on Hulu.com on 9
@HuluUpToSpeed | facebook.com/HuluUpToSpeed
in: New York City
living in: Kansas City, Missouri
1. Famous person (dead or alive, real or
fictional) you’d most like to go on a trip with:
I've often thought about what a
blast it would be to go on a road trip with [French playwright] Antonin
Artaud. It's just that I would insist on doing all the driving and I'd
probably keep him away from the maps, too.
2. Tourist must-see you think is actually a
Alcatraz Island in the
San Francisco Bay. Something mystical is going on with that island.
I mean, for decades, prisoners yearned to get off the island and now people
make reservations months ahead of time to get onto it.
3. Everyone asks what’s #1 on your list of
places you want to go before you die. But what’s your #3?
I'd like to visit the natural terrain of
one of my spirit animals, the cassowary, which is the flightless bird
indigenous to New Guinea. The cassowary is a unique animal, truly formed by its
habitat, so I feel that maybe I'll understand this awkward and belligerent
spirit animal of mine by hanging out in the underbrush of New Guinea. It would
be a dangerous trip, as the cassowary is known for attacking man on sight. Well,
of course, I understand well the frustration of being a bird unable to fly.
4. If someone was visiting your town,
what’s the one thing you’d show them?
I'm currently living in Kansas City,
Missouri, in the middle of the middle of the Midwest. There's plenty to
investigate here, but one thing I'd certainly show any of my guests would be a painting
that hangs in the big art museum in town, the Nelson-Atkins. The painting is a
self-portrait by Thomas Hart Benton who was a renowned Kansas citizen painter
and raconteur. In his self-portrait, Benton portrays himself as a peeping
tom. He's peering, wide-eyed, around a tree, secretly watching a
beautiful, goddess-like lady who is lounging in the nude. I don't know.
Something about this painting sums up daily life here so well.
5. Best celebrity encounter while
I wasn't travelling, exactly. One
night I was leading a tour group up the Empire State Building. It was
pretty late, near to closing time -- the observation deck closes at midnight.
I was on the outside terrace of the deck, enjoying the breeze and the
magnificent view of Manhattan sparkling in the night. I turned to my right
and standing next to me was Paul McCartney. I didn't speak to him. I just
enjoyed that moment of standing beside a man who is a gigantic fountain of
creativity as we looked out and marvelled together at this epic view of human
ingenuity that lay before us.
6. The place you don’t want anyone to know
about but are willing to divulge here:
The Burning Man Festival. My favourite
city on the planet used to be a secret shared by subversives, but its recent
rise in popularity is, I think, good for the world. The Burning Man
Festival is 40,000 life-artists building their own temporary, prototypical
metropolis, Black Rock City. It's called Black Rock City because it’s reborn
once a year on a prehistoric lakebed, in the middle of the Black Rock desert.
7. Travel-related film or book that
inspires you to pack your bags:
Easy Rider. Dana O' Keefe, executive
producer of Up To Speed, thought up a great one-liner to describe Up To Speed
that is actually an inversion of the aphorism that was in the original Easy
Rider trailer. In the trailer for Easy Rider it states, "Here's a story
about a man who went searching for America, and couldn't find it anywhere,”
while Up To Speed, as Dana says, "...is the story of a man who went
searching for America, and found it everywhere."
8. The travel story you’ll never stop
When I was 13 my family took a trip to
Israel for my Bar Mitzvah. It was my first time travelling to the Middle
East. As the airplane was about to make its descent into Tel Aviv, I was in the
back of the plane waiting in line for the restroom. Eventually, I was next and
there was just one other person behind me in line, an elderly Israeli man. Immediately,
as the restroom door opened and I prepared to step into it, the old man shoved
me aside, scurried into the bathroom in front of me and locked the door behind
him. I appreciated the gesture, it was like "Welcome to the Middle
9. Lay on us a priceless bit of travel
advice or wisdom:
We're all tourists, all the time, even
when we're at home. Why? Because we're all ephemeral. We're all in a
current state of just visiting.