I sincerely thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. I’ve spent the last few years writing things for other people, but I’m excited to return to writing for myself. I will use this platform to tell stories, explore ideas, share information, and play you some of my really dope mixtapes like this funky little DJ set. In the early 2000s, I wrote a column called Heller’s Corner where I’d illuminate on the everyday ephemera of college life in the obnoxiously drunken tone of a frat bro who believes that he’s the funniest person at the party. There’s something remarkably cringeworthy about that time, but publishing consistently improved my craft and was responsible for launching my literary career. I’m still not sure if what I do is literary or if it’s even a career, so I appreciate your willingness to join me as I figure that out. If you enjoy this newsletter please forward it along to anyone else who might want to subscribe.
Ok so last week was really really really busy. I started a new weekly podcast with my friend Erika called 2 Jews Talking. I used to sit next to her at my old job and to the chagrin of our coworkers we really couldn’t stop talking. Out of it came the idea that when you’re Jewish everything you experience and do comes out Jewish. We are so proud that 2 Jews Talking is part of the HeadGum podcast network, run by world famous Jews Jake and Amir. You can listen on iTunes or HeadGum.
I recently returned from Quintana Roo, Maureen and I spent ten days on the Yucatán peninsula avoiding lines at Mayan temples, eating salbutes y paunchos, lounging on secluded beaches, and walking around Sanborns. It was an affordable and incredibly relaxing vacation. Taking a spring break is an important way to briefly escape the monotony of routine. If you are unsatisfied with that routine a break reminds you that there is life beyond the drudgery. If you are satisfied with that routine a break gives you the necessary time to let your mind roam and imagine how to make what you’re doing even better. There is value in separating your year. Think about the time between breaks as semesters. If there’s a break on the horizon it’s easier to finish your tasks. When you return everything feels new. If you can’t fly to a turquoise beach, you can still celebrate spring break by setting time aside to interrupt your routine. You can stay at a friend’s house or go camping or just turn your phone off for three days. But if you are planning to take similar trips drop me a line and I can send you some tips.
So I was back in Los Angeles for four days before I took the train to Ventura County. I traveled to Oxnard to speak at the North American Travel Journalists Association conference on the subject of social media. On the panel we discussed how travel writers and destinations can use these tools to tell stories and reach new audiences. In the program, I described myself as a “creative influencer” which I assure you is a very very very prestigious position. Aboard a paddlewheel riverboat I drank liters of wine with old school travel journalists who showed me pictures of themselves partying with Rick Steves. I skipped the guided tour of the Reagan Library as an act of protest! and also because I was really hungover. I walked to the international food court at the Oxnard harbor to eat highly-rated Japanese food. While I was walking back to the hotel I unexpectedly ran into my dad cousin from Cleveland. She kept saying that this chance meeting was bashert as she reminisced about my grandfather and my family. She insisted that I order something from the cafe even though I had just eaten some curry udon. I took my Chinese chicken salad to-go. I walked back to the hotel along the dunes and stopped on the beach to stare into the infinite void of the foggy sea.
This was a whirlwind week that had me packing for the coast and the desert. After I left my visitor’s bureau-sponsored stay at the Embassy Suites, I traveled by taxi, train, and car to the suburbanized fringes of the Sonoran Desert. There I met up with my extended family at Cactus Jacks off Highway 111. My cousins were in town to celebrate my grandfather’s life. He passed away last week at 91 in Riverside County. My grandfather was born in Brownsville, Brooklyn in 1924. He fought in World War II, returned to Brooklyn to marry the love of his life, had children, relocated to California where he witnessed Silicon Valley blossom from the orchards, and eventually retired to Palm Desert. He was stylish, well-traveled, tech-savvy, civically-minded, proud of being Jewish, and very funny. He was able to attain The American Dream of his era.
In 1943, before joining the D-Day forces at the Invasion of Normandy he traveled to The Golden State for the first time. In MacArthur Park he met a co-ed who invited him to ride horses on her family’s ranch in Riverside. This Brooklyn Kid had never been horseback-riding before but was interested in the girl, so he went along. While riding through the orange orchards, a branch smacked into his forehead. He was dazed for a moment, but then looked up and saw a flame-colored orb. He pulled it from the tree, unpeeled a portion of the leathery rind, and bit into it. An immensely sweet and tangy flavor engulfed his mouth. A feeling of enlightenment spread throughout his body. With that bite he knew that he must someday return to California to make his life. If that prophetic citrus had not been bitten into 73 years ago, I would not exist today. Thank you grandpa!
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