Sunday, March 8, 2015

How I Ran Away from San Francisco



Continuing my tradition of writing B-sides to my Hevria posts, here's the latest post and the latest behind-the-scenes story. First, let me apologize for that picture: my friend Harbeer took it on a spur-of-the-moment day shortly before I left the city in 2004. I'd just gotten a college gig performing poems. I had no idea what it meant to have a college gig. They wanted a headshot, so Harbeer and I went looking for the most ramshackle, ghetto background we could find. We didn't have to go far. It was the backyard of his apartment. Later, I used that as the author photo for my first book, Never Mind the Goldbergs. This, I guess, is its third life.

So I really wanted to use the view outside the rabbi's house where I was crashing during this visit. They had the most amazing little room they let me stay in, right on the top of the house, with slanted ceilings where the roof sloped. And outside was an awesome jacaranda garden. But Elad said the picture didn't load -- I wrote the whole post as a draft on Gmail on my phone, which was the first time I'd done that (this is also my first smartphone, and is really new, and I'm still not very good at it, and also that's why there are weird AutoCorrect typos like "mazel tomb" instead of "mazel tov") -- so he stuck that old Harbeer photo on instead.

And I was outraged, and I hated having my picture as the lead photo for something I wrote, because I just want the writing to stand for itself, you know?, or at least use something cartoonlike, maybe stolen from an episode of Scooby-Doo, to show you how funny it's going to be. So I promptly took the photo at the top of this piece -- I happened to be walking through one of the coolest, most graffitied alleys ever at the moment that Elad asked me about it -- because, okay, at heart I guess I am still an egotist.

Anyway, here's the piece. I hope you enjoy it.

San Francisco Made Me Orthodox

BY   MARCH 3, 2015  ESSAY


I’m in San Francisco this week, the city where I grew up, the city where I learned not to grow up. I moved here when I was 22, shortly after I became observant, partly as a dee-double-dare-you to my Creator — I’ll give myself one month to make a living doing poetry, I told G-d, and either you help me out doing that, or I’ll bow out gracefully and go to yeshiva.
Three years later, I hadn’t left yet.
I used to hate the tourists and business visitors. Now, years later, I am one of them. I stay in the convention center for most of the day. I wander around, searching for the rare corner store that doesn’t sell $7 bags of artisan tortilla chips. I keep kosher, dammit. Back when I lived here, you could buy a normal 99-cent bag of Lay’s Potato Chips, certified kosher by the Orthodox Union, totally ghetto and not that expensive. Now if you want a mass-produced kosher bag of chips, you practically have to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. And I don’t have time for that. I’m a professional video game designer. I’m only here for my conference, and another session is starting in ten minutes.

No comments:

Blog Archive