Michael directs (and frequently produces, sometimes writes, and periodically acts in) theatre, film, and large-scale events. You’ve caught him in the middle of rebranding and building a new website at WhoIsMichaelSchwartz.com. (Know any great web designers?) So for now, you can visit his blog of Everyday Adventures at TheAdventureAddict.com, or you can follow him on Instagram @BoatAshore.
What’s your historical San Francisco and New York connection?
I was born in San Francisco to New York born parents. My Dad’s from Brooklyn, Mom’s from Queens. I grew up in the Bay Area, making trips to New York throughout my childhood to visit relatives in New York. Well, my parents wanted to visit the relatives. I really just wanted to see Broadway shows. By the time I moved here in 2007, New York thankfully didn’t feel so foreign. Actually, funny enough, the Upper West Side, where I’ve lived now for 7 years, did indeed feel foreign to me when I first arrived, because growing up, we always stayed on the East Side. So the West Side felt like a brand new city to me. I live just a few blocks from where my parents lived about 45 years ago.
Describe your experience in SF and your experience in NYC.
I find my experiences in both cities to be polar opposite. New York brings the Type-A out of me, the restlessness, the neuroses. In San Francisco, everything is much more relaxed, more nature focused. I (unfortunately) say “yea, man” and “totally, dude” far more often. None of this is surprising, of course. Wouldn’t it be far more interesting if I always ran around tirelessly in San Francisco and then came to New York to explore nature? Whenever I complain about the lack of real nature in NYC, my friend Kate yells at me and tells me to go to Central Park. I tell her perfectly planted trees and paved pathways do not nature make! I need dirt roads and mountaintops. But if I didn’t have the hustle and bustle, I’d probably get antsy quick. I guess I really do need both.
What was the biggest challenge of moving between NYC and SF?
Where the heck am I supposed to put all my stuff?
How can NYC and SF best engage with each other?
Well, to get a little more specific, I’ve been splitting my time between entertainment and tech this past year. (I consult for an incredible non-profit called All Star Code, which connects young men of color to the tech industry.) I’m really interested in how the Arts and the tech world can benefit and work with one another. NY and SF are the two most perfect places for this conversation to be taking place. While San Francisco is the tech capital of this country, and New York is the Arts capital, Silicon Alley in NY is growing. The slow but steady building of an Arts district around Market Street in San Francisco is happening as well. Both industries, and both cities, are meccas of forward thinking innovation. There are business models in tech that the Arts can take a cue from. There’s methodologies of audience engagement in the Arts that tech could learn a lot from. Not to mention that the American Arts are always in need of private funding, and doggone it those coders need a break from their computers and something fun to do on a Saturday night!
Favorite SF secret spot
I wish I could offer up some super cool, underground bar for you to check out. Truth is, I often just go wherever my best friend Jesse takes me. He’s a walking Zagat. I’ll tell you this, however. Every time I go back, without question, the first thing I do, is pretend to be a guest at the St. Francis in Union Square, glide past the concierge, and ride one of the glass elevators to the top. It’s still, after all these years, the best feeling in the world.
Favorite NYC secret spot
There’s a very specific reason I’ve never left the Upper West Side. I have a tradition. Every other day, be it in the dead of Winter or the stench of Summer, I walk down to Riverside Park, head under the tunnel, and stroll to the running path along the water. I have a specific bench, under a street lamp, and this is where I go to breathe, ponder, and day dream. It’s the best. It’s relatively quiet. I like to look out on the water, across to Jersey, and pretend I’m in a different city, often times in Europe. Today I’m in Dublin. Tomorrow I’ll be in Vienna. Sometime’s I’ll put accents on. Hm. Some of the neighborhood must think I’m the local schizophrenic. Well, one of them at least.
If you were not where you are now, what would you be doing?
European travel writer/photographer, or social worker at a mental health retreat for teenagers in Montana, or trapeze artist in the British countryside.
Roadtrip Entertainment: tell us what song/album, TV show, podcast, or web videos you’ve been watching lately.
I’m listening to Spotify constantly. I have this game with a few friends where we share upbeat Spotify songs with each other via text, maintaining a conversation via song titles along. It’s stupid fun. Let’s see, what did I share today: Grimes, Robert DeLong, the Mowgli’s, Chet Faker, alt-J, the Weeknd. If I have an immediate physical reaction – if my chest expands, if my hips start rolling – then I know I have to share it. I’m also on a Nancy & Lee kick lately. Don’t know what that’s about.
I just re-watched Stories We Tell, one of my favorite films from last year. I can’t recommend it enough.
In the middle of Orange Is The New Black Season 2. (I’m really just counting the days until Homeland comes back.)
Theatre-wise, I’d say the daring Fun Home and the lush Bridges Of Madison Country were my favorite two shows from this past season. Both are closed, but you can get the recordings!
And web wise, I legitimately spent a full two hours recently watching epic fail videos on YouTube with a bunch of friends. It’s weird. When I was a kid, I never understood why people laughed when someone fell down the stairs, or got a pie in their face. I was always concerned that they were hurt! Now, people falling off of boats while “Turned Down For What” blares through the speakers makes me laugh uncontrollably….Ugh. Just tell people I listened to Radiolab or something.
From the 2905 Miles newsletter: connecting NEW YORK CITY + SAN FRANCISCO