Walking out the front door without a plan is my usual M.O. With no destination, I step into Limbo, walking on a whim. This method has lead to spontaneous creativity, synchronistic encounters, adventures, a handful of citations, a restraining order, jail time, and a liver the size of a Buick.
This is often a lonely road, upon which we sometimes catch a flash glimpse of the perfect sanctuary. The oasis…the archetypal hangout with lively atmosphere, inside art, outside garden, refined beverages, and characters all sizzling with inspiration. Wit spews from the lips like rabid rivers of lava burning and drowning us dead and awakened into our dawning enlightened life (which is a nice way of saying, I get tanked and puke in the alley with the Ghetto Shaman).
It’s not the place, it’s the state of mind, and yet an establishment can institute an atmosphere, character, and quality that encourage this state of mind.
The true greatness of a coffee shop, brewpub, bar, or diner should be assessed primarily by its potential to facilitate cultural experiences that are spontaneous, dynamic, and profound. This intangible quality is the most important element of any hangout.
As a cultural facilitator, my job is to turn parties into art exhibits and art exhibits into parties. There are certain criteria to consider. The social etiquette should encourage a free flow through any and all social circles. Within the established hangout a person will feel comfortable to move about freely amongst different social circles. We are encouraged to follow our intuition. We can read or reflect alone, spontaneously jump into a conversation with strangers, or lead a naked conga line with the Wal-Mart midgets.
In order to stimulate the spirit of enthusiasm, an establishment should play good music that compliments the atmosphere, characters, and mood. They should also provide quality goods and services, and they should expel anything that inhibits our goals of dynamic cultural experiences (such as the, aforementioned, alley vomiting).
Electronic gadgets distract people from the possibility of authentic interactions. They have no place in social settings. I don’t even like to see cell phones in public. I once sat at a bar where two people on either side of me were both talking on their cell phones. I think they might have even been talking to each other!
Look people; if you want to isolate yourself inside the grid, please do it at home. I’m here to party. Take the television for example. There is no possibility to mingle amongst different social circles or spark unplanned adventures if everyone is hypnotized by the boob tube. Regarding televisions, I have two pieces of advice for all bars: 1.) unless you’re trying to be a sports bar, don’t allow any televisions onto your premises, and 2.) don’t try to be a sports bar.
Fifteen years ago, I vowed to never pay for cable again. This was the greatest decision of my life. Along with this choice, I have simultaneously taken steps to better tune my awareness to the spirit of authentic culture. Throughout these years I have continued eliminating electronic gadgets and machinery from my life. Even my pacemaker is on borrowed time. The Ghetto Shaman has offered to rip it out of my chest and offer it to the Owl People (very tempting).
Some have argued that my position is reactionary and irrational—like Zano’s—and will lead to a decay in my living standard. Certainly these technologies bring their conveniences, but at what cost? Commitment to true art must take priority over comfort, social status, family, friends, and even my own biological survival (hoot, hoot). So now, with no TV, no cell phone, no internet (not even e-mail), no car, no phone, no video games, and no electronic pocket massage toys (well, I haven’t given those up yet…).
What were we talking about?
Oh yeah, social inhibitors to dynamic cultural experiences.
Spatial limitation can also strangle the life out of festivities. Be careful to consider the feng shui of the place and encourage a flow that keeps the energy circulating. Time limitations also inhibit enthusiasm. This ‘last call’ experiment has proved to be a real bummer. Some of my best festivities don’t get full-flailing until dawn.