Jonathan Hirsh is one of those people that when you meet them, you have to curse yourself for not having found them earlier. Not only is he our neighbor, living only 2 blocks from us, but he frequents a few of the same spots we like, and has a lot of the same frustrations and opinions about the TL as we do. Most importantly though, he’s the founder of one of the coolest events in this neighborhood: the Tenderloin Reading Series.

For some strange reason, we hadn’t heard about the TLRS until two weeks ago, when a friend sent us the link to a Facebook event page for a reading happening that same night… and which had started two hours earlier. Although it was a Saturday, we were at home in comfy clothes after a long day of running around and solidly in the chill out zone. After reading this, though, we immediately put on some pants and headed to Koko Cocktails to check it out:

The Tenderloin Reading Series is a quarterly reading series featuring creative non-fiction, fiction, and poetry on or about San Francisco’s infamous Tenderloin neighborhood. Over the last year, the event has brought together known local writers (such as Stephen Elliot and …Tony Du Shane) with the fellow next to you at the bar to share their perspective on San Francisco’s most dynamic area.

That day we only caught the last reading of the night, by MG Martin who closed the night with a song about the Tenderloin (the third segment in the video). But, we got the chance to exchange a few words and email addresses with Jonathan. After seeing him again briefly at the TenderNight the following week, we caught up with him a few days ago at the Geary Club while Lilian the waitress downed shots of Jagermeister over Sam Cooke music from the jukebox. The bar oozes appeal to young and old alike.

Interestingly, Jonathan first got the idea of starting the TLRS after attending Muni DiariesRiders with Drinks event a bit over a year ago. And I say interestingly because that event also inspired us to outright copy it for organize TenderNights.

When Jonathan started the TLRS, he says he wasn’t part of San Francisco’s literary circles. He simply enjoyed the feeling of community at the Muni Diaries’ event, regardless of people’s backgrounds and feelings towards Muni. So through word of mouth, and asking some people he met at a few readings, the lineup for the first TLRS was formed. The subsequent events had readers who were repeating the experience, as well as new ones found in the same way. Some of them come from San Francisco’s literary community and are well-known in those circles, while some others are newcomers talking about their day-to-day experiences.

Jonathan has been writing all his life, and in fact when we shared a beer at the Geary Club he was carrying a little notebook with him. But he doesn’t define himself as a writer, because he’s many things at once. He’s a musician, a DJ, a poet… and a librarian (though not a singing one, as far as we know). In case you’re curious about his literary style, here’s a reading of some of his pieces which all seem to revolve about some girl. Ah, love…

Jonathan Hirsh has a lot of ideas on how to make the Tenderloin “the best possible place it can be”. He says:

I don’t love it here
I fucking love it

He loves many things and many places. For example, Koko Cocktails, where the TLRS take place and also where he’s the resident DJ every Monday night for Black Gold. And that’s where you should be tonight while sipping on something sweeeeet.

  • The next TLRS reading will be during Litquake, on October 9th, at Dog’s Clock
  • Stay up to date on the latest readings of the Tenderloin Reading Series via their blog
  • Follow the TLRS on Twitter here