National Mechanics

In November I went to BarCamp. Of course, they had an after party. It happened at National Mechanics. At the time I wrote somewhat disparagingly, because of the loud environment. I now realize my error, and felt like I had to write an article to resolve the situation.

Lots of people attended BarCamp. They had a huge party afterward. We filled the place! One could hardly walk. People sang karaoke and played Rockband. It all made for quite a noisy time.

I just can’t stand situations like that, faced by a sea of sound from all directions. I imagine everyone feels this to an extent, but not having sight and therefore relying on my ears makes it even worse. I stuck it out and felt glad I did, but I longed for something quieter. I even talked about forming an alternative to the alternative at a quiet place with good conversation and vegetarian food. I figured I would only go to National Mechanics once or twice a year. I figured wrong.

Last week I joined Indy Hall. Has that only happened eight days ago? I feel stunned. Last Thursday I gave a speech at the Philly Cocoaheads group. Afterward, we went to National Mechanics. I figured I’d come along, since a beer sounded good after my ordeal. To my delight I founded it less crowded and therefore less loud and had a good time celebrating my victory. I even ate a good veggie burger and fries.

Today, Indy Hall had an event for something called Jellyweek. At first I didn’t understand the meme of jellying, but the guys explained it to me. When people meet somewhere with free wifi to work together, they call it jellying. Apparently the guy who originally blogged about it had a big jar of jellybeans at his house, and he’d invite his friends over to work together, so they called it jellying. Now this has spread. From jellying comes collaborative workspaces like Indy Hall. But it all started in a bar.

During Jelly Week, different events go on all around the world to celebrate collaborative coworking. Basically, if you have a laptop, something to do, and a good attitude, you can show up and do some free work. To go back to their roots, Indy Hall went back to National Mechanics. In the beginning they worked out a deal with them where they could come and work during the day, and of course give them business. Things worked out and that grew into the wonderful space we now know as Indy Hall. What a story!

I didn’t know what to expect, but figured I would have fun at anything they did, so signed up. The day started at 11:00. I showed up around 02:00. I had never worked at a bar before. It felt weird to reach over the bar to type on my MacBook Air or browse on my iPad, but I quickly adapted. I finished reading the RubyMotion book, which made me feel good. Then I started working on this article. The afternoon had started getting on. A friend and I stepped out for a smoke. I came in and enjoyed my free drink, a Great Lakes Porter.

While checking in to FourSquare, I learned something cool from unlocking a special. National Mechanics has an iTunes library, and lets you use Apple’s Remote app to request songs. What a great idea! I requested with All TOmorrow’s Parties, by the Velvet Underground. I started feeling really good.

I met a girl named Sonia and her boyfriend Ian, as well as their colleague Jim. They run Paperweight Design Studio. We chatted about all kinds of things, including the Mayan calendar, business, cats, computers, and beer. Sonia asked if I remembered Netbooks. My goddess! I started out on an Apple II/e way back in 1984! Have Netbooks really died that quickly? In the summer of 2009 I lauded them, calling them the end of note taker fascism.

I had started getting hungry. This felt truly novel. I had spent the afternoon working in a space, and now I would just remain and eat. I had one of their excellent veggie burgers and more of their amazing fries. Sonia had a hummus platter and shared a little. I also had another porter. I really felt the vibe now, so requested Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads, a classic.

Things started winding down for us, and heating up for the bar. The Indy Hall crowd had started thinning out. I decided I should go. Sonia helped me catch a cab home. On my way out I requested A Farewell to Kings, by Rush. It felt like a rallying cry for the spirit of Indy Hall and those who wish to build a better space! In retrospect perhaps Closer to the Heart would have served that purpose better, but oh well, I left and the song played.

When they turn the pages of history

When these days have passed long ago

Will they read of us with sadness

For the seeds that we let grow?

We turned our gaze

From the castles in the distance

Eyes cast down

On the path of least resistance

Cities full of hatred, fear and lies

Withered hearts and cruel, tormented eyes

Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise

Beating down the multitude and

Scoffing at the wise