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Transcript for Jon Runnfeldt: Our Next Neighbor

Jon Runnfeldt Intro

Power is being able to change people's minds by what you do and what you put out. When I've seen a really great work of art or really great player movie, and it's changed me fundamentally that whoever made that is so powerful to me. I mean that's, that's the hand of God.


Arielle Nobile

As you'll hear in this episode, Jon Runnfeldt and I go way back. And yet what I find so fascinating about our connection is that while we ran in parallel circles, to some extent. It wasn't until recent years that we truly began our deeper connection to one another. Our friendship feels kind of like discovering a really good book that has been staring at you from the shelf for a couple decades that you've finally decided to pick up. And then you want to linger reading it for another decade.

At the start of COVID, Jon started to cohost and produce his own podcast, The Jonny Spot which we'll link to in the show notes, of which I was an early guest. I have spent many an hour over the past year and a half walking and absorbing the reverent, absurd, and often laugh out loud hilarious show. Jon has been a professional performer since the age of nine.  

Jon has been seen on stages all throughout the Chicagoland area. He currently serves as Creative Director at Books of Life in my hometown of Wilmette, that specializes in preserving personal histories through photography. Hello, hello everybody. Welcome to another Belonging in the USA Podcast episode.

Today we have my podcast guru, Jon Runnfeldt.  

Welcome I know you are the one who helped me discern and decide how to do the technical elements. I have my, my Scarlett Solo Card right here.

Jon: I didn’t do anything but say you should buy this, and you did.

Arielle: I did, and Jon has his own amazing podcast The Jonny Spot, but I have been a guest on.


Jon:  Yes, you have. You were on Episode Five. Wow, right in the beginning, early on and you should come back on again soon.


Arielle: I would love to. It was a very spooky episode.


Jon: There was, you've had a lot of spooky.


Arielle: But I would say, yeah, if you want to laugh and learn. I think that's laugh I learned and sometimes this be like, it's a little bit like a Seinfeld.


Jon: The other day I was saying, it's kind of a mixture of Jonny Carson needs Jon Waters, so it's like if you were doing the Jonny Carson show through a Jon Waters weren't totally, you've got the Jonny Spot.


Arielle: So, check that out. So, I wanted to have you on, because I have never gotten to, I've known you for a long time since high school.


Jon: Yeah, we were both in summer show for freshman year.


Arielle: Okay, we were in summer show, and I was totally intimidated. I said, I sang, Baby, Baby.


Jon: Did you really?


Arielle: Yeah, I sang the Amy Grant song. We've known each other for a long time, but I feel like you've gotten to know each other more. In the past few years since I've lived in Chicago again. So, I'm just going to ask you the question that I asked at the screening of the Michael D. McCarty film which by the way I just rewatch today in the afternoon.


Jon: It was, It's so great.


Arielle: Thank you. When you came to a screening, I believe that you came to the Oak Park Library screening way back in the day.


So that was one of those unique screenings, so usually at a screening, and everyone who's listening, and we have this questionnaire of questions that we ask the audience to ponder that gets people into sort of a head and heart space but masquerading since I wasn't running it, I had to let go of control and just sell the film and have none of the sort of workshopping this about it. But this is the first question I always ask audiences and I also asked the people in my documentaries this question and I just want you.


I want to hear your take on it so when I say the phrase Belonging in the USA. What does that evoke for you?


Jon: See, I should, I should, I could have prepared for this one I could have seen that one coming. Well, you know, of course I, unfortunately, it makes me think right about the Trump era. Because I, but I have too much knowledge of you creating this kind of around that. But that was the first real time that I started to think about how many people don't feel like they belong in the USA. Purposely they've felt pushed out of the picture.

So, it makes me think of trying to heal that. And now we're on this healing path with this new administration, I hope. Belonging is such as now we want our deepest core, just to belong to a community to anything.


Arielle: So, now getting a little more personal. As a kid, where did you or when did you feel you belonged?


Jon: You know, this is, that's something interesting because I was a child actor.  I was a performer early on. And because of that and because I flourished, that I felt very much like I belonged to that artistic community. And it's interesting in hindsight, looking back at some of my other peers.  I won't name any names, but that have a different perception of some of the early years we had together because they didn't have a place like that, that I had to go to be praised.  To be “oh my god-ed”, “look how good he's doing” and whatever they didn't have that so that really was so important to my self-esteem and to my feeling of being okay with myself.


You know I have I had tons of issues, but I feel like I sidestep some of, some of the tropes because I felt confident in myself and I felt like I belonged to this group of people that was, you know, my parents are artists, too. My parents’ business was an Interior Design that was given to them, or inherited by them from my grandparents, so I come from a long line of creative people. There were always gay people around, interior design, upholstery, theater, I mean, so that was always in my world. And so, even though I saw them not necessarily being fully accepted and raised all around. It was still okay to be gay.


Arielle: When did you know what gay was, I guess is a question?


Jon: I don't know why we had an awareness that there were men that was more feminine. Fabulous type of man. The fact that he was having sex with other men, that wasn't on my radar.


Arielle: As a kid.


Jon: Yeah, it was just a different kind of reality, where this guy was married to a guy, behave differently, you know. So, whatever that was very early on I was like okay. Yeah, I'm probably in there with those people.


Arielle: And it sounds like they were perhaps lucky enough that your family wasn't bracing “those people” so you knew that it wasn't going to be, ok.


Jon: Right and I got to see that they weren't accepted, which is so unfair.


Arielle: A major case of churches.


Jon: And to this day, not everybody has that support.  I was just on Tik Tok the other night, which is my new obsession.  Now days it is Tic Toc, Tic Toc. But this poor kid was his teenager and was being thrown out of his house. Why on Tic Toc? He was being kicked out, for telling his parents he was gay, in Gurnee, Illinois. And I'm like, [Arielle] in 2021 [Jon] in 2021. Yeah, so we've got a long way to go.


Arielle: Absolutely. And thank you for sharing all that. And I, I feel like there is something that sounds like what you were describing a little bit also assists having spaces of almost validation of itself, like, yeah, so something about the theatre community.

Jon: Yeah, and I didn't have stage parents, they never wanted to be doing this, but I kind of got in. Have you ever seen A Chorus Line?

Arielle: Actually no.

Jon: Well, you should. You should. There's the one part who he talks about how he got into theater, through his sister. He was always going to sister's dance classes and my sister was a ballerina, and a professional ballerina very early on, so my whole super early life, I was constantly at her ballet classes just watching.

And the first way I got roped into doing theater was, they were like can we, we need a child can just come and stand here and do this and then next thing you know I was in, I was in the ballets.

And the thing when I was a kid, when I was taking ballet class was always, you know, the Chicago Bears take ballet.


Do you know, like, that was the big thing is that athletes took ballet because it was so fundamental to just conditioning your body, and it was so good for your balance and this and then the other, but that's still so much in my head that that's the knee jerk reaction to even tell a kid nowadays. But you know, super straight athletes play.

They do take ballet, it's like who cares, right?

Why do we have to?

Why do we have to justify it?

Arielle: Absolutely. Just follow your heart, whatever your heart is telling you.  Because that is, I mean why do we still have to question our own passions so much?

Jon: The world is constantly giving us cues that it is okay what you're doing.

Arielle: But we are going to change that in this conversation.

Jon: Right in this episode.

Arielle: You will know that you no longer must worry it. Whatever you're feeling, whatever you want to do, whatever you're passionate about.

Just do it.

And who cares.

I think you and I've talked about this ultimately; the worst critics and the worst voices are in our head. Right?


Whatever we were stigmatizing ourselves to, right, because ultimately once you step outside of that fear and face it and just go through it, you're going to be able to take what comes to you. Doing your podcast was a huge leap of faith during COVID.

All these things and it's been so incredible, and I know it's helped people listening, because, it makes me laugh out loud, walking on the street cackling like a crazy person and that's a gift.  Because to be able to make people feel joy in a pandemic is huge.

Just getting kudos for that.

Jon: We just started doing it just because we want it to. And I think that's a big part of why it's still going and, we're still doing it. And it's going well is something that I never thought would happen. In the past I tried to do a podcast or put together something like this. I'm always trying to figure what do people want, what should I be giving people?

That I don't have anything to say about this and I'm going to say about that, so I shouldn't even talk. We were just trapped in our houses, I said let's just start rolling. And I think that's the key to creating is if you can really get in your head about trying to do something new.

Arielle: Perfectionism and worrying about what other people are going to think. The thing, I mean once you create the thing, then maybe you can worry. But even then, you can't control it. You can't control what people think. Other people will judge you. Some people will love it and some people will hate it.


Jon: But that's the best art in the world that's what they do. You see an amazing movie and half people hate it; half people love it.


Arielle: It makes you feel, and it evokes a feeling. A lot of the stuff I watch now.  I feel nothing. Yeah, and I'm like, I know I'm not numb. I feel a gamut of emotions and every day so wasn't very good.



Jon: Yeah that makes me think about the person that gave me a review. I would have preferred a one-star rating but a three-star rating on my podcast. Because I understand, give me a one, I understand hate me hate me, but hear me, give me a three. Oh, that's cruel.


Arielle: Well, I think you're a 10.


Jon: Oh, thank you.

Arielle: So where do you feel the greatest sense of belonging, these days?

Jon: In the artistic community. Still to this day, even though I haven't been Theatre in 15 years, those are my people 15 years God, that's an old statistic it's even longer than that. I think the last time we did a show was 2009, but I'm still, that's who I am. I'm a theatre person.

Arielle: It's only 12 years.

Jon: Wait, no, no, I'm totally flipping the nine, it's more like a 2006.

Arielle: Okay. That makes more sense.  

Jon: That's totally fine because my niece is 15.  She was one at the time.

Arielle: But that says so much about that community too that even after not doing performing in that you're still a part of a network, a group space that holds a community that holds you. So, what is freedom to you?


Jon: Not being worried about people, what people think, not being worried about freedom. Freedom would be freedom for them, I worry a lot.

Arielle: So, it's a win. Where have you ever felt freest?

Jon: Well, here's the thing. I'll say too. Is the other thing I was going to say group. I feel connected to this recovery community because I've been sober for like 12 years. So right around when I stopped acting, I started really drinking a lot, which led me to stop drinking. But so, with the recovery community and people that I have gotten sober with and stayed sober with, I feel very at home and at peace with.


Unfortunately, I felt a lot of freedom, drinking, which I don't do anymore. But I only felt freedom through drinking to the point where then stop working, which I think is the trap that a lot of people that are addicts get into is that.

I think a lot of times, you know, we don't give enough attention for people that have gotten sober and that are, how much it works when it works, you know, when I drink for a reason. It helped.


Arielle: Oh, they're defining.  It's all about how we define things right, and you're deciding freedom is not worrying and ranking helps you not worry or help to get out of your head. Yeah. And of course, that would have been when you felt the freest right when you were just drunk or out of your mind right like literally that phrase, “out of your mind”.

It's an interesting phrase because I feel like on the spiritual level. One of my biggest goals is to get out of my mind, right, right, but it's like how you get out of your mind while still being present in your life. Right?


Jon:  Right. And this is why I think so many artists use drugs now, because when it works, it works. And when it stops working, it stops working.

Arielle:  What if I asked you the question differently. What if I asked you what is liberation?


Jon: And liberation makes me think more financial. Liberation makes me think more like that.  I didn't have to worry about paying bills in capitalism and making money.  What would I really be doing because it'd be very different?


Arielle: Well, and that's one of the questions Michael asks in his film is. That's how he became a storyteller, he said, he asked himself what I would do if I was independently wealthy? He said he would tell stories and so that's what he went to do. Right?


Jon: Somebody who I can't think of the name of this quote is from but it's the problem with not having money is, it takes up all your time.

Arielle: Something like that because you'd have to worry about it constantly.

Jon: You're constantly doing things just to survive. Think about this world if people didn't have to just constantly be doing things they didn't necessarily want to do, just, just to survive.


Arielle: What would we really be doing when they create it?


Jon: I mean yeah, what would we create?


Arielle: And what if we valued things differently? What if what you were able to just do all day was sing and make podcasts?  I don't know I'm just guessing if those two things are things you love to do, right?


That was so valued, that I don't know you received a stipend for that every month and you just, that was just how it was so I mean I love when I talk about universal income all the time isn't obviously idealistic but a beautiful concept in that there is so much wealth in the world and if it was able and I'm not a socialist, because I don't really think that there's any system that we have thought of so far that works.

Yeah, but I do think that there's something to just this idea of like, valuing everyone for the inherent gifts that we've given birth basically and letting those be enough.


Jon: Because none of the money stuff makes any sense. The word that why people make a lot of money is not because they're working harder.

Arielle:  Because they're better or they deserve it. Men are counted as worthiness issues but we acquainted with so many people will equate self-worth was, you know, self-esteem and really that's my cell phone sorry network with self-worth. That's what?

Jon: that's why so many artists I think stop doing art is because it gets so tangled with, you know.  This a lot of the reason why I stopped doing theater because it's like wait, I must now.  I have to really do this to survive. I got to pay my rent, I got to get enough to get insurance.

Arielle:  I got it. That's why I stopped doing theater too and I had to come up with a way to make a living as an artist, doing something creative.  I was clear that theater was never going to be the thing I could survive on. It was like doing theater was like bleeding for your art like you're just going to suffer and not ever make enough and it's almost like if you wanted to make money in that world. It was frowned upon like you're greedy for wanting to make a living, right, which is, you know, it needs to be. I think there's so much poverty consciousness in the arts in general, until you reach a certain level and then it goes the opposite way right it's like swinging to the other side.

Jon: Yeah well it's because, I mean, you're giving it you're selling something that is there's no, it's not a commodity, it's not a, I'm doing this I'm marking it up and I'm selling it for this much, it's like your whole being, and you're selling all the time so artists don't even know how to wrap their head around putting a price tag on. That's I think a lot of info on some very bad spots.


Arielle:  Oh, and capitalism knows how to put a price on that though, put a price tag on everything but I was just as again as watching the film today I was thinking like this podcast, anything creative like anything that we're doing now. This whole creative industry, that is something that machines can't do.


No, technology can't solve, it's coming from this beautiful sort of human potential portal that is inherently what we are as human we're creative beings and we all have something we can contribute and create in that way and it's not going to look the same and if you were to make. If you were to sit down with Michael D and interview him and try to make a documentary made you would make your documentary be totally different.

Jon: Yeah, I was just saying this the other night about the Billie Holiday Movie I don't want to get into it but [Arielle] haven't seen it yet, [Jon] just about how different lenses and storytelling, you get a completely different perspective, and this is what they wanted to tell.

Arielle: Yeah. Yeah, that's why people that voice in your head that sort of says, well, who am I to do this? Well, who?  You know, you can only and you're the only person who can do it the way you can do it this way.

So, you must do it if you have an idea to do something, do it because nobody else is going to do it like you do, even if there's 1000 million podcasts out there, nobody can do Jonny Spot, nobody can do the Belonging in the USA Podcast, the way I'm going to do it and it's just you just have to leap into that.


Jon:  It's the only stuff, that sort of content is the only stuff that helps us make sense of it all helps with the existential crisis is of life is, lets us see each other in different ways, like I was just thinking this the other day I was like if I, there were done, the medium of movies, I'd probably be dead. I would probably be dead.

Arielle:  You know, I've learned some music.

Jon: I mean without music or without art, I guess, what would be the end of art itself.


Arielle: Well, I guess I'm curious, I'm wondering if making your podcast or making things or even being in a shower, like that experience, does that make you feel freer, or more alive, because I guess I equate freedom with a lightness, too. And there's an edge to it too.


Jon: Right. Well, freedom of freedom is creating, creating something that never was there before and being like, here it is, here's a new thing that wasn't here before.


Arielle:   I mean, well freedom so my next question is what is power?


Jon: What is power? Power is, is being able to change people's minds, by way you do and what you put out, possibly.  If you can put out a piece of content or art and people are like, wow, I never saw things like that. We want bigger power is that you're literally changing the direction of their life you're, you know, I'm not saying anything that I've done but I'm just saying when you see it when you might have seen a really great work of art or really great play or movie, and it's changed me fundamentally that whoever made that is so powerful. I mean that's the hands of God.


Arielle:  Absolutely, and even, even back to music too, like, I don't know about you but there are songs that when I hear them is so central to my journey on this planet, and it can take me back to a moment to a place that I haven't been in 25 years or, you know, or to a person or to an entire experience, just hearing a song. It's the soundtrack of our lives, right it's such a cliche idea but it is, it's like tapping into this level of reality that only art gives us instead of no way we're going to go down this path, but I really didn't.


Jon:   I had no idea either.


Arielle: But I love that. But I love that idea and that's kind of why I asked you the power points in the run up to that because I think there is something about the power to create the power of being.


Jon: I mean I think it my default answer would be, you know, having tons of money and being able to, you know tell people to do certain things but that is not. That's false power. Yeah, that's what people think power is but to me if you can change someone's heart for the better or for the greater good of humanity.


Arielle:  Did you see my directing project? [Jon] What was it again? [Arielle] It was The Name of the Hanging Man by Francesca Lia Blanca was a book I adapted. It was about Terra; Terra was involved with it.


Jon: No, I didn't.


Arielle: Well, there's a line in it that I that I still think about all the time which is that the main character said, “I want to make people feel, I want to make things that make people feel the pulse.” And that's like them sort of my, I think that line is just always stuck with me like, again coming a lot and I think are witnessing other people's creative expression, pulls us in a direction that is powerful to have our own it's like it's a mirror for us to be like. Oh, I can do this!


Jon: What as an artist? Whatever that is, that we want to create that does that to people, we can pinpoint put on it.


Arielle: No no no no no, I love my favorite question to ask people, especially because I'm really an introvert I just pretend to be an extrovert.  I don't even think I'm an ambivert anywhere COVID has proved that I'm pretty much introverted, but at a party, my go to question to make myself feel comfort because I hate small talk is like I go up to someone who I feel drawn to and I just say “what's your story?” And they tell me they bare their souls to me, and I love that. Yeah, it's, it, I guess there's a way in which that feels like a gift and a power, right. But there's something about yeah just drawing out the simple story because when you're asked to tell if I was sad, would it be okay, you know what's your story in five minutes, you could tell me a version of your life.

Jon: Yeah, and it'd be different, every month you asked me, we're always altering our stories, you know.


Arielle: Well, I just interviewed somebody for this podcast last weekend, and she already wrote to me and said I have different, and I thought more about your questions, I already have different answers and I'm like, of course you do. Too bad. Yeah, I mean I'm saying different answers to every time. Because we evolve hopefully, we do change our minds and we're allowed to me. It's hard with you because I just want to have. I just want to talk right because I love talking to you, I'm going to ask you more questions so, what have been some of the greatest gifts are moments that really did put you on more of a path, purposeful path in your life.


Jon: You know I always think of life as like that movie sliding doors, there's some moments where I feel like, oh my god if I hadn't walked through and done that thing to be that person. My entire life would be so different. I'm just having what at the time felt like the worst times of my life and feeling like I was losing my mind. And all this horrible stuff was happening. But in hindsight, these where you know the forks in the road to take me, other directions. So, some of the low points.


Arielle: I mean getting sober, I would guess what.  


Jon:  Yeah, totally, totally. Yeah, so really low times and then just really, and then just every everything good that's happened to me in my life is a result and I know this is nothing unique to me but doing something that I didn't want to do. I really think about that is some of the best theater experiences I had. I, I can, I could give you a person that I was, you know, communicating with around that timeframe that would say, Jon, you remember you said I do not want to go to this. I have a bad feeling this is not going to, you know, be a good experience I probably pushing my luck with going for this one or so fear will push him through the pushing through that fear, you know, all the good anything good, that's happened in my life is the result of me having a moment where I said, Is this a good idea.


Arielle: And then continuing, doubting, questioning, and then just doing it anyway. I mean at least what I always tell me is, that's what courage is.


Jon: You have to. We've talked about this too, you know, but following your intuition and stuff, when that little sneaky voice, sort of, masquerading as intuition, like is that my intuition saying this could be a really bad idea. No, that's something else, jumping in and that's fear. But it's hard to decipher between the two sometimes.  


Arielle: so hard sometimes, and what to do when you're not sure.


Jon: Probably just need to do it anyways. I don't know. I guess if you have a really bad intuition, probably shouldn't.

Arielle: Oh, but I think it's also I don't know if it is about fear of mistakes right like we kind of inherently avoid messing up or making fools of ourselves or like those things that we're like, Oh, rats, I mean, yes, if it's life or death and you think oh gosh I shouldn't want that let's probably listen to that because, right, okay, you can go around to the other street but I feel like making a fool of myself.


Jon: I think that's generally what it is when I think back on shows that I was like, shit like I got this part, should I really do this, it was that I don't want this is gonna be the time where I do this show and I do a horrible job and I get a bad review and everything will spiral out of control because this will happen and this will happen. And that's the kind of stuff. That's bullshit, even if it is intuition. Doesn't matter.


Arielle: You can't control the outcome and ultimately what you're saying to is probably those were some of the best most joyful, wonderful that you probably met amazing people and yeah, and I'm sure you didn't get those bad reviews and feared.


Jon: I think it's just you know I have a memory of when I was in a professional show when I was a little kid, I was probably in fourth grade, I was at the Marriott Lincolnshire and with Peter Pan, and I was one of the Lost Boys, and I was so excited opening night, and The Girl Who Played Wendy, whose name is Jessica Bovary, I think that's your she's married but that's still her, her stage, they went on to do tons of Broadway and very successful. She was like 16 at the time, and she was like, I'm so jealous of you I don't have that anymore like I was so nervous tonight, but just the fact that how small that window is and you're just like whatever this is a ball, this is fun, it's exciting. Yeah, and it's like that it turns it's like, oh, you mean people could say bad things about me. But I think that that's, that's freedom is being able to do things, not saying I'm not going to get, I'm not going to get the bad review, but that if I get the better view. It's not going to matter anyways; I'll still do the next time. I mean that's how you have to function.


Arielle: We're gonna start me well and I mean I would guess, even just switching to back to like the recovery part, even in that people relapse all the time, right, yeah. And so, you relapse, doesn't mean you're done for. Right, like you just start over, you just start over. Yeah, and it's like it's never done life until life is done, it's not done, it's never done like that


Jon: I'm slowly starting to claw myself out of the perception that one day I'm going to hit that rainbow and it's gonna be like we did it, fish, it was, roll the credits, everything was beautiful. Thanks for coming to the show. But you just even when you hit those points in life and you're like, Okay, I did the thing, then you got it, then you're up the next day with a higher bar.


Arielle: So, what. Okay, we've talked about this a bit polarization, you know, in the Trump Era especially everything became so Us and Them and Democrat, Republican, all this stuff, what, what are some solutions you see to shifting that paradigm away from us in them.


Jon: Solutions that I see all is that art isn't seen a film about other people or reading a book or having some story told you about other people. Isn't that how we learn, and transcendent.  


Arielle: Yeah. So do you feel like you're doing that in any way, have you analyzed that or and again, sometimes you can't see in what you're doing but to feel like your podcast is doing any of that during that any depolarization, creative.

Jon: Yeah, it's ever evolving. So maybe next week it will.

Arielle: Now, that will be the new 2021 Focus. What do you do like day to day, rituals, practices, meditation, whatever you do to help keep you centered motivated inspired to keep going to have daily practice?

Jon: No, I don't, you know, I tried to get better with that just even recently. So here's my new one. I'm eating breakfast.

Arielle: Amazing.


Jon: Do you know how much that helps me?


Arielle: Well, no, that's like a thing for people.


Jon: I know I'm like wait a minute I can think when I'm actually giving myself the right amount of calories during the day. Why am I a lot of anxiety around food.

So, I just would overthink what I was supposed to eat so much that I did then just wouldn't wear then I fell into I mean we could go on a whole other side thing, but I figured out reefs recently that I have a real eating disorder that's called nighttime eating syndrome that I actually always do I did, but I didn't fully know what it was. And I only put a label to it like a couple months ago.

And through that, that's why I'm eating breakfast now because I realized that part of the reason was that


I wasn't getting enough good calories during the day, that I'd wake up in the middle, like, three o'clock in the morning and eat the majority of my calories. And this is not good for our body.

So, kind of like, I had one therapist that had a phrase that I always think a lot, that is a mantra of mine is don't try harder. Try different, so I can't tell you for years I was like tonight I'm not going to eat tonight I'm not going to wake up in the morning, tonight I'm not going to wake up and do it again and again and there I'd be filled with regret like I did it again. So, the different thing I had to do was I had to start eating during the day better.


Arielle: That's beautiful, and I know somebody else who had that for a while and also recovered from it. Yeah, it's like you were putting your body in a state of starvation, probably.


Jon: Well yeah, and for the first time in years, I haven't been doing it, and the shift in perspective is not that I'm not going to do that, but that I am going to eat healthily during the day.


Arielle: That was lunch, dinner, even in small meals, and it's huge and that's, I'm so glad I asked this question because I'm sure someone else listening is going through this or has been through this or, you know, I feel like I used to smoke cigarettes instead of eating a lot.

I smoked for a long time, and I know it was a way to not eat. It was, yeah, you know, I would eat as much as I could get the flavor and then I would smoke so I would, you know, have that nasty flavor.


So, this is interesting because I feel like I'm trying to bring it all home but there's a power in control like there's a difference between control and power, right. Yeah, like a lot of addiction and a lot of freedom is based in power control too right like Do you have the control over yourself. Do you have the autonomy to make these choices differently?

So, bravo that you are eating breakfast.


Jon: But quite honestly, I mean this is kind of new to me, so I don't even know why I'm talking about it but, but repositioning. Oh, I have a problem. This is an eating disorder that I have, and I have to have actually compassion for myself and treated versus keep beating myself up for falling short but I'm not setting myself up for success. I'm not going to beat myself into a hole.


Arielle: I wonder that I'm going to ask you this, maybe weird question about your recovery. I imagine your mantra can't be don't drink, don't drink, don't drink it has to be something else.


Jon: At this point I don't even think like that anymore. I mean that's what it is, but you're correct in the early days, that's why in recovery, they suggest 90 meetings in 90 days, because you don't want to just be sitting around thinking okay, just don't drink. Just don't drink too so straight to filling your crazy head with content. So even if you're not taking in anything that's happening at this meeting, you're there at the certain time in the room, and for that hour you're not drinking.


Arielle: It's go to the meeting, go to the meeting, meeting, yeah, it's like, eat breakfast. Eat breakfast.


Jon: That's not the content of the meeting even at that point it just be there in the chair.


Arielle: No but then probably over time you see the value of it and it's just like eating breakfast I'm sure at first, it's just this, do this positive thing, but I'm sure you're now feeling the effects of your blood sugar being more regulated. Just having a clear head and a drink water too because water is great for the body.


Jon: Oh my god that's the new thing, too, I'm drinking so much water now. You know how much water they want you to drink, nowadays?


Arielle: A lot. It's more than you think.


Jon: An incredible amount of water. I'm considering wearing diapers. [chuckle]


Arielle: Well, I always have to pee, I know where all the bathrooms are everywhere because I, I can pee before I leave my house and I always have to pee even if it's a five minute drive afterwards cuz I've been a lot of water so much water and with COVID It's been really hard because if we go to like a playground, the bathrooms are all locked. I've had to do a lot of nature moments.


Jon: Glad we can talk like this…good friends. Yeah, when I started realizing how much water one is supposed to drink as a, as a person. I'm like, I was really dehydrated, a lot of years of my life. Maybe a year in there that I think I probably only drink alcohol. Like, once in a great while I drank a water. Maybe coffee.


Arielle: My intuitive teacher I mean that's one of the things to tune into your intuition more. You have to drink water and when you have conversations that are draining, or you just do any intense concentrated work. You need to replenish your whole energy.


Jon: I try to keep one big thing of water on my body at all times.


Arielle: What do you mean like a big, big?


Jon:  Yeah, Yeah one big water.


Arielle: We're all a big water amorphous being that just happens to have bones and flesh.


Jon: Right


Arielle: So, you've lived in the same town.


Jon: No, I've lived in Illinois my whole life, but I've lived a lot of places in Chicago.


Arielle: Like Chicago and Chicagoland, their whole life. Yeah. So how do you think about the concept of neighbor or being neighborly are both of them sort of the ideal and practical and like, as a heartbeat of that question, I feel like I can do those long questions for you. How much of an impact did Mr. Rogers have on you?


Jon: Mr. Rogers specifically. I didn't like Mr. Rogers. No, I did not. But now I do. I love the movie and love the documentary and I love everything he stood for. At the time when I was a kid I found him, creepy. Yeah, it did. I was I like Sesame Street, but for some reason something about him, the way he did his shoes and the outfit. I just was not liking him.


Arielle: That's like sacrilegious here.


Jon: I know now, I love him in hindsight but I'm just telling you as a child my knee jerk reaction was no no no, turn it off. [chuckle]


Arielle: It’s like a clown.

Some people were like, oh, yeah and some are like heck no.

But like now when you think about his conception of neighbor, right. Will you be my neighbor? And this is this idea of being a good person, really. Yeah.

How do you relate to that?

How do you treat that neighbor? Do you know your neighbors?


Jon: You mean my actual neighbors? I mean, neighbors that I like knew. I mean, the girl across the way the one place, but not really.

Now, we know where my neighbors are, I live with my neighbors are my friend at Starbucks, my friend at Walgreens, my friend, where I get my salad.

I like, I have a lot of friends and places like that.


Arielle: So, you think of them more as a friend. I like that.

Jon: Yeah.

Arielle: Isn't even performing as a form of connection with an audience, there's a way of trying to give this pleasure. Sure. So, you relate to people, you have bright energy will be hard not to like.


Jon: I don't want to call them the weird little people, but I like the weird.


Arielle: I am with you. But if you were to as a gay man.


Jon: Excuse me. [chuckle]


Arielle:  When you walk into a space, or have a sense or read or have somebody made you feel as if you don't feel welcome?


Jon: Oh yeah. Oh, what, what is what is what lets you know, You feel looked at in a certain way, you feel like objectify others that objectified but just that you're I mean I remember being in Indiana, with my boyfriend years ago, and, and I had never been to such a small town Indiana type town, and people were literally pointing at us like little Mormon children.


Arielle: Were you holding hands or something?


Jon:  No, we were just there, and we had our highlights in our hair, we had our bootcut jeans, and which we looked like we are out of towners. Yeah, so people like literally kids are pointing like, whoa, what's that, that didn't bother me. I mean it did bother me, but it didn't. It could no way be compared to what a black person must feel like walking into somewhere where they're clearly whitespace and made to feel unwelcome.


Arielle: But it gives you an empathy in a different way and I think that what I'm hoping can become a part of white culture that we're building together, a better white culture has to do with maybe as white people putting ourselves in positions more often, where we are the other, not as a new position of like you all teach me what it feels like but just being willing to not always be like you're saying the leader or the head person or the this or the manager, and to actually get a sense of not always being the majority.

Yeah, because it's not going to be true very much longer anyway if it even is that the white people.


Jon: We really need a straight, white man in this circle to tell us how to really, because I mean you, you have that every day as a woman, and me as a gay guy.


Arielle:  I guess what I'm saying is it's kind of like, instead of being a tourist in those times, like it's not like, you know, go to a mosque, like when I just was right really remembering this, when the Muslim ban happened.

Okay, I took one of the first things I did, I felt was important was I took Miay to a mosque, that I was invited to. Okay. It was like an open house at a mosque, because I just felt like I want her and we have other friends who are Muslim, they don't live in Chicago.

But I wanted her to have some moment or memory or connection with just a positive, fun experience with an entire group of Muslim people where she was the other.

And I mean she loved it. They had her and we had a bunch of vegetarians, it was great, but I feel like more times. One of my most important things when I have screenings.

When I host them is to have people feel immediately welcome and immediately feel like they belong. And that is extremely more complex than it would seem, because especially when you're doing multiracial, or multi-generational or, you know when you have this sort of mix of steam and soup of identities and one seeks to create that sense of welcoming and belonging has to be conscious, like you have to Yeah, isn't about, it's a soul-to-soul thing.


Jon: And you as a creator can only do so much to, because anybody walking in is going to have their own.


Arielle: But when I saw when I do my screenings, which I've only gotten to do a handful, let's say, literally greet each person. Okay, even at a 300-person thing I did that, wow, because well I had a few people doing it, but I have I wanted people to immediately feel like they were really they mattered that they were there.

And I feel like I wish that as a white culture we could create that kind of space and community where every person that you cross paths with felt that there was this mutual just welcoming, because I think part of what white culture represents now is the absence of that, it's the other thing, it's the, I mean I don't even as a, that says a woman but honestly it's sometimes.

I can't say it's been overt but I, even as like somebody who was raised Jewish. Sometimes I felt, oh, these aren't my people, and I don't even feel like always. These are my people when I was Jews right it's not like I always automatically have an affinity with other Jewish people but.


Jon: Well, that's the thing about community and why I say, you know, like with the recovery community, it's like you walk into a meeting of recovering addicts, everybody's got the same spirit experience shared, to some extent, everybody's got the same thing they're there for.

And it can be any color, but you go to a meeting in the city and it's like you've got a homeless person and you've got a CEO sitting right next to each other, and they're both like, I'm fucked up. Help me.


Arielle: Well, and basically, it's like shared humanity, in all its glory,


Jon:  But people just trying to help other people with no other incentive, no capitalistic incentive of like if I do this, I'm going to get this, it's not transactional, it's not transactional, it's only transactional in the way that you know you're helping yourself by helping other people, but it's that's the purest form of transaction.


Arielle: So maybe that's what we have to build them when you're talking about just this sort of base like what if whitespace is where spaces where everybody felt like they could come and be welcomed and be able to tell their story without.


Jon: I mean, I wish there was something like that for everybody, something like recovery meetings, or even, you know group mental health meetings where everybody's on the same everybody's just sharing at a core level of humanity.

And it's not about what they're wearing, or what their job is, or their status. Yeah, there's no status, it's just about people helping people for the pure reason of helping people.


Arielle:  I mean that's what and when you help people, you are helping yourself with everyone who does anything like that anyone who has ever experienced helping someone knows that feels really good.

So, yeah, like let's create a culture of that so what would you say most these days lifts your spirit gives you hope. And where do you find the most inspiration lift your spirits, gives you hope?


Jon: Just, specifically, film and MTV lifts my spirits and gives me hope on a daily basis, that little escapism by watching other people's faces, yeah creations that specifically so that, and just the idea of are, they're being made that I've yet to be yet to see an experience and I mean that really gives me hope the idea of it that it hasn't all been created.

We're not done that, literally, like you were saying, you get to tell the same story from different miles and get a completely different experience. So that alone is such a hopeful thing.

We're not going to run out of music, we're not going to run out of movies, we're not going to run out of it because it's constantly changing and evolving.


Arielle:  I usually ask people to give me some of their favorites, like what they're reading. Are you a big reader?


Jon:  I'm not a big reader I'm, I am. I did start reading something now.


Arielle: What are you reading?


Jon: You’re gonna like this one, cohost Alexandra, got me on. It's called East Square by Pam Grout. And it's about it's like, it's like, manifesting practical things like little lessons and manifesting things that will actually happen, and I'm just starting out, so I don't know what's going to happen, but people seem to love it.

But me and Alex on the show we talk a lot about manifesting stuff, and about how we'll say something one week and then it'll be real. The next week and sometimes I joke about oh my god I made that happen.

So, trying to hone in on the magic of that and how to how to replicate that.


Arielle: See that's why I wanted to ask you about building a better white culture because we're gonna manifest this.


Jon: You probably just find this by starting the dialogue, we are as we're manifesting.


Arielle: Instead of having to imagine, to be able to articulate and imagine that we even want to happen. Yeah, I mean before anything is a movie or before anything's a book or any of these, these are creative ideas. They have to be articulated. Yeah, they're in the ether.


Jon: While going back to something we talked about earlier with the manifesting like I'm trying to work out because I believe in that I really believe in it, but it worries me sometimes. Because, like I was saying with things that I've had success and I've worried about manifesting that to its full level because I'm like, what does that look like, what, what do I really want that.

So, I feel like I'm able to manifest smaller things much easier than like, I want it because I don't know if I want to do it you know I'm saying just like, like we were talking about how some of my best, everybody's best times comes from their worst times. I'm not going to sit here and say that if I was a movie star and I had this and that this mansion and blah blah blah, that that would, that's what I want to do, because that could be Twilight Zone. Raw hell, it could be hell.

Exactly. So, do I want to manifest that No, but I want to manifest something different, which is the ability to be open to whatever is good and right for me. You know, I mean, even with the podcast I said this to Alex and I'm like, I'm not sure I want us to be super super successful, because then people are gonna be listening and commenting and critiquing roles and my, it's like do we really want that like it's kind of nice where we are right now in the sort of middle place and it's so.


Arielle: This is full circle though back to your definition of freedom right like being free from worry, right, like so manifest that.


Jon: One like you were saying before worry the condition of worry is to keep us safe from death, and physical harm, and you know that's what that instinct is for, it’s not to keep us safe from humiliation and from putting on a bad piece of art.


Arielle: That's not what worry is for when I get tomatoes thrown at us. Have you ever had that happen?


Jon: No, they still do that?


Arielle:  I don't know, I've kind of always liked the idea of having that happen that I do to set that up for an old school, I can come to your house and throw tomatoes at you. You can put it on a normal. Well, these are some normal times.

Well, thank you so much for everything.


Jon: Thank you so much. This was so much fun.


Arielle: Everybody check out the Jonny Spot and we will post in the show notes where to find it.


Jon: You can find us in many places, we record live yes to a small studio audience.


Arielle:  Check it out and he has an amazing Instagram feed.


Jon: Yes, famous on Instagram, I gotta pee so bad. Thank you so much water.


Arielle: I'm going to keep you on for another five. [chuckle]

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