Tag Archives: San Francisco

(ON TOPIC) How to Survive a Move

I was already halfway through Beyoncé’s latest album when my phone started flashing. A series of signals were triggered in my brain that in turn started some neurological process involving chemical neurotransmitters and synapses and yada yada yada. In short, my phone was trying to tell me something: I had eight new texts and six new podcasts to listen to. Add this to the two movies I’d downloaded on iTunes, the new Hello Mr. issue, three new books, and 47 new emails. It was enough to send me under the covers of my air mattress with a pillow locked tightly over my head, temporarily paralyzed by the media hurricane that wouldn’t let me sleep. (How does Queen Bey do it all?)

It was the night before I moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and I was trying to distract myself from figuring out how all my personal possessions, now sitting before me in an organized pile of boxes and bags, would ultimately fit in my newly acquired 2000 Toyota Camry. As I welcomed the angelic sounds of Beyoncé into my ears–driver roll up the partition, pleaseee–I wondered whether if what you own, the stuff of your life, signifies the stage of life you’re in. What does it mean that I don’t own pots and plates but have purchased, assembled, and disassembled IKEA furniture since freshman year of college? (Learning about sites like TRNK makes me want to be grown up and living in my dream flat in London, populated by “pieces” that each have a story. Can ya feel the pretension, y’all?!) But before I had an answer, I was in Los Angeles after a six-hour drive full of Beyoncé tracks and tears.

Here’s what moving feels like to me:

Hey! Hi! Hello, friends with which I’ve spent years cultivating a meaningful bond! Hello, city that is the most geographically interesting place I’ve been in years and whose streets make me feel like Dorothy in Kansas, ruby red slippers and all! Hello, apartment that has the most beautiful natural light I’ve ever seen and roommates who don’t annoy me and a perfect puppy who licks me and then falls asleep next to me and subsequently becomes the model for my future boyfriend! Hello, you all! Okay goodbye.”

BOOM.

Moving, in that respect, seems so unnatural. But my most recent move from San Francisco to Los Angeles felt a bit different. My post-move slump was a lot shorter than usual and, in truth, I’ve found myself in many moments of, well, joy. And I think I’ve figured out why.

1) Entertainment

In the opening of Pixar’s Up, an eight-year-old Carl Fredericksen sits in a movie theater, mouth agape and goggles on head as he stares at his idol on the silver screen in front of him. To me, that single image best encapsulates what moviegoing feels like. With very few exceptions, there’s nothing I’d rather do on any given day than sit in a movie theater and watch a movie. Since moving to LA seven weeks ago, I’ve seen nine movies: Very Good Girls, Begin Again, Free Fall, Test, Obvious Child, How To Train Your Dragon 2, The Fault in Our Stars, The Normal Heart, and Stranger by the Lake. I also went to the LA Film Festival and attended a program called I See Music, during which they screened Beyoncé’s entire visual album followed by a Q+A with some of the people who know her best. (I talked to her cousin afterward and somehow managed to keep my fanaticism at rest.) The list would be longer if I had more time, money, and the ability to accept the fact that I’d be compromising my physical and social well-being.

I often go to the movies by myself, which, for me, creates a significantly different moviegoing experience than if I bring a friend along. I like processing a movie on my own after I walk out of the theater, so sometimes it’s nice to exit without a friend asking, “So what’d ya think?!” Bringing a friend also excuses you from the remarks of snickering teenagers who think it’s funny you’re seeing a movie alone, as was the case when I saw The Fault in Our Stars by myself on a Saturday afternoon. In any case, there’s something that feels different about seeing a movie in LA. Maybe it’s the history of this town, where the movie studios born in the early 1900s have since given way to the industry of which I’m now a part. I go into the theater to watch a movie, and then I leave and could very well be walking in the neighborhood where the director or writer or actors live. I watch 500 Days of Summer and then take the Metro downtown to Bunker Hill where Tom convinced Summer that, in spite of popular cultural belief, LA is kinda sorta beautiful. Everything feels just a bit closer to home.

"500 Days of Summer" - Tom & Summer's Bench

But there’s more to Entertainment than just movies. For one, I just finished Season 2 of Orange is the New Black. Did you know that TV is getting good? Because it is. I read an article this month called “Queer as Friends” by Max Mosher and was reminded of how much we truly believe in TV. I’ve had particularly memorable experiences losing myself while watching Sex and the City and Six Feet Under. I came out to my parents the night after the fictional David Fisher came out to his mom and listened as she expressed her frustration over the fact that she was the last to know. Most recently, I finished watching Sex and the City in its entirety because I was too self-conscious as a “straight boy” to watch it when my mom did during its original run from 1998 through 2004. I couldn’t always connect with Carrie Bradshaw’s shopping habits or interior monologues, but there were moments when I truly believed that she lived in that beautiful brownstone–that I, as a NYU student living in Manhattan, could’ve spotted her gracefully exiting her apartment one evening to catch a black car with Mr. Big. “We believe because it makes life easier,” Mosher writes.

2) People

I promise I’ve done more than just consume movies and TV by myself since moving. (It was really hard to write that sentence.) There are people out in the world, too! (It was even harder to write that one.) One of the first social events I attended was a cocktail reception hosted by the NYU in LA Alumni group. I was pleasantly surprised to see a few familiar faces and was quickly reminded of how special it is to be a part of a bicoastal creative community.

I’ve also found myself on a handful of “friend dates.” I have friends from my previous homes in New York and San Francisco who have good friends living in LA, so I asked them to set me up with them. At least once a week since I moved here, I’ve been meeting these friends of friends for dinner and/or drinks.

A few weeks ago I found myself with four new friends, all women. (Not the first time this has happened.) Two were gay, and two were straight, and conversation consisted mostly of their LA horror stories. We spent two hours talking about dating. Whether the date was with a man or a woman, from Tinder or from OKCupid, they all echoed the same sentiment: dating in LA is depressing. In the age of dating apps, everyone is seemingly shopping around for the next best thing. One woman mentioned that she quickly grew tired of women who were on their Tinder app during their date. Others expressed frustration over their ostensible requirement to withhold emotion while dating–over receiving a, “Woah woah. We’re just hanging out,” if they, by some miracle, reached a third or fourth or even fifth date. I couldn’t help but wonder (said Carrie in voiceover)…are we growing increasingly resistant to commitment? Do we even know how to date anymore, or is a fundamental rift forming in this Digital Age of romance? All of these dating apps may not necessarily be working against us, but they’re certainly changing the conversation. The “Don’t ask how we met because you know we met on Grindr” face is my personal favorite manifestation of this evolution.

We noted how Sex and the City our conversation was, but quickly laughed and pointed out how terribly unrealistic that show was and how our lives were thankfully a bit more grounded in reality. As we paid our bill and exited the restaurant, one woman said she’d like to see a show called No Sex and the City, which would feature all the men and women–the heroes–behind the lives of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte who made their lives look oh so slick and shiny. Who cleaned their apartments, for example, and what were their lives like when they went home to a land that was assuredly void of Versace couture dresses and blue satin Manolos?

As I fell on my bed at the end of the night, I couldn’t help but think about how the Entertainment in my life had become inextricably tied to the People–that these two separate things had joined to become the tunnel through which I’d make a smooth transition into life in sunny LA. More important, though, I thought about what would happen if we paid just a little more attention to each other. If we sat down across from someone, silent, ears open, and ready to listen.

I haven’t written a blog post since 2013. As tough and periodically sad as moving can be, it’s got me writing. And for that, LA, I am grateful. May the creative juices continue to flow. For now, I gotta go make a spreadsheet before I fall asleep to figure out which piece of media I’m going to consume next. G’night.

zZz…I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker…zZz….

 

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(ON TOPIC) “The Listserve”

As of this afternoon, I have 100 separate email threads in my inbox from strangers all over the world, most recently an 18-year-old guy from Singapore who’s telling me how nervous he is to begin mandatory army service next year. One week ago, I wouldn’t have seen these virtual conversations coming.

Let’s journey back. About seven months ago, my brother told me about something called “The Listserve.” In short, those who sign up for The Listserve receive a daily email from someone around the world. The topics of these emails vary, as they reflect the journey of the individual who has been chosen by a lottery to share his or her story on that given day. As of today, there are 23,323 subscribers.

TheListserveWebsite_7.21.13

As an example, one of my favorite Listserve emails is from an English teacher in rural Vermont who chose to share wisdom she’s acquired from her students, ages ten to fourteen. Things like:

  • Always wear socks
  • Don’t eat yellow snow (and if you find something brown on the ground, it’s probably not chocolate)
  • Never try to ride a shopping cart down a hill
  • Don’t be mouthy to your parents
  • If you ever love two people, go with the second one because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn’t have fallen in love again

What’s interesting in reading these emails each day is most of them get me thinking about my own life and how I’d encapsulate it into 600 words for over 23,000 strangers to digest. My brother and I once talked about what would happen if we won the lottery. He said he knew exactly what he’d write. I said I had no idea what I’d write in spite of thinking about it every day.

Journey again with me into the recent past as I’m sitting on a beach in Tel Aviv at the end of an incredible 3-week Israel exploration. I vowed to put away my iPhone during my trip, so naturally I was checking my email on said beach when I received the email. The Email—capital “T,” capital “E.” My reaction was surely similar to those of other previous Listserve winners:

Oh crap. Oh crap…Oh crap!

While I didn’t have a computer to type up my response, I grabbed the journal my brother gave me before I left for my trip (Thank you, brother!) and started scribbling ideas, and by ideas I mean incoherent bullet points. My 48 hours was running out. Beyoncé’s “Halo” gracing my ear holes, I buckled down and typed the following on my iGadget:

Ten years ago I saw “Toy Story” and vowed to work at Pixar when I was older. Now two-and-a-half colleges and a dozen internships later, I work there.

Eleven years ago I stood as a bar mitzvah in front of my peers and family members, all smiley Cheshire cats, only to realize that I had no idea what religion really meant to me. Now over a decade later, I’m currently in Israel meeting four cousins I’ve never met because the only truly religious experiences I’ve had since my bar mitzvah have taken place at the four Beyoncé concerts I’ve attended.

Twelve years ago I realized I was gay, or at least different enough to feel defeated when a classmate called me a faggot while playing basketball in gym class. Now I’ve been out to everyone in my life for almost three years and am learning that writing helps me channel my earlier negative anxieties into something positive.

This is all to say that I’m learning about the power of knowing your history, of being able to continually connect your present experience with the past—the now with the then. This has manifested itself in my three-week trip to Israel, during which I cried at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum, while walking on a recovered path from a concentration camp and sat with four Israeli soldiers who explained that conscription requires all Israeli citizens at the age of 18 (with a few exceptions) to enter the military. These soldiers—my youngest cousin included—are in their early twenties but feel to me to be a decade older. I listened quietly as they recounted stories of people like Eli Cohen, an Israeli spy who worked his way into Syria’s political hierarchy in the 1960s until he became the Chief Adviser to the Minister of Defense, which my new Israeli friends believe allowed Israel to find success during the Six Day War. The pride in their voices was palpable. I thought about how while young Israelis are protecting their tiny country, us young twentysomethings are often lost in conversations that are mere regurgitations of things hastily read on our iGadgets en route to a job or internship (read: to the pursuit of an ever-growing career). This makes me wish I would’ve done one less internship and instead explored my family tree to learn more about my great grandparents who moved to America from Warsaw, Poland a long, long time ago.

I feel lucky to have had this time to explore my family roots. Time, that is, to “fill the tanks.” Joss Whedon, the prolific director/writer/producer, uses this phrase, and I love it. He believes in time away from routine to take in a new book, movie, or play. Or, for me, conversations with family members who live 6,000 miles away. I’ve been re-reading Peter Pan on my trip and I love the idea of Mary Darling literally tidying her children’s minds, which are confused and circular and comprised of zig zag lines. I like being open to a certain cultural messiness and taking satisfaction in being confused or surprised or both.

I won’t close with any commands or calls to action, because I don’t know the context surrounding your respective journeys. I will, however, finish by saying that I still can’t figure out how to best close an email. Regards and Best feel slightly cold, Love is often too strong, and Cheers…well I’m just not cool enough to use Cheers.

I hope that this email will serve as the beginning of a larger conversation with some of you.

Beyoncé for life,
Jonathan Hurwitz
jonathanshurwitz@gmail.com
San Francisco, CA

P.S. If you’re lucky enough to have parents in your life, call them and say hello. Then call them one more time because they’ll surely want to talk to you more.

P.P.S. This is totally a command. Sorry I lied earlier.

I didn’t know exactly when it’d be sent out, but I quickly had an answer when my phone started buzzing the next night while watching “The Sound of Music” with my cousin. Rolfe was in the middle of telling Liesl that he’d take care of her, which means I was one happy Jew because pre-Nazi Rolfe is dreamy. In that moment, I learned of the most special part of The Listserve: the responses. While I don’t feel totally comfortable elaborating on them in great detail out of respect for the privacy of those who responded, I’ll say that I’ve heard from fellow gay Jews to a husband and wife who’ve been deciding whether to send their daughter to Hebrew school and who are now, because of my email, sending their daughter to Hebrew school.

The most profound things are inexpressible, so I’m afraid I’ve failed to relay what all these responses have meant to me. In any case, I look forward to continuing some of these conversations with some of my new virtual acquaintances. Will they last? I don’t think it matters. Like a portal, if only momentarily, I’ve been let into someone else’s existence. My virtual path has crossed their virtual paths, albeit briefly, and that’s pretty cool.

So…to Listserve, or not to Listserve? That’s the (21st century) question, really.

Thank you to the Listserve creators—Josh Begley, Yoonjo Choi, Greg Dorsainville, Zena Koo, and Alvin Chang—for making this experience possible. As Woody Allen might quip, you’re all beautiful people and a credit to the human race.

Beyoncé for life,
Jonathan

(SHORT NOTES) The House Hunting Diaries: Part 1

April 5, 2012

Dear Impossibly Cute Couples Who Stole Several Apartments From Us This Week,

I felt compelled to write this letter to you all because, well, my gut told me so. (And Oprah says it’s always good to listen to your gut.) I’ve seen your type at all the open houses my brother and I have gone to during our apartment hunt in San Francisco. (Which, while we’re talking about it, is so Hunger Games, right?! Such a little Katniss/Peeta fight to the death kind of thang!) But anyways. I see you.

Yes, you.

Fighting outside like a typical married couple until those doors open and the realtor says “Come on in!” with an enthusiasm obviously lined with contempt. Your eyes widen, your shoulders straighten, your voices turn a tad higher, and your hands instantaneously become clasped lovingly together like you’d just die if you didn’t leave a crack of fresh air between your two now-conjoined bodies.

I just…It’s just like…I guess what I’m trying to say is…flirting is so not a good color on you. Even you, Pregnant Wife and Slightly Attractive Husband. (Yes, I heard you asking the landlord if he works out to in turn imply that you’d noticed his slightly bulging arms. Congrats on bringing your unborn child into a world of shame!)

So. I don’t know. I guess I should, like, stop before I go all Hulk and stuff on you. Because…see…I’m a NICE person! Really. But you’ve made me this way, and I’m upset about it. So I guess I should just end it there.

Oh wait. One more thing. Jeggings? It’s so not early 2009 anymore. And this apartment? Totally unsuitable for children. There’s a fireplace! And a balcony! I bet your holiday card is going to be, like, totally cute or whatever.

Never Yours,                                                                                                             Jonathan

P.S. Please invite me to your holiday party. I want to see what you’re going to do with that disgustingly small back room that’s advertised as a “cute, quaint sleep space.”