New Yorkers, I have come to learn, never really need an overarching excuse to get together, tip a few drinks and be social, whether this be for business negotiations, quiet commiseration or just drunkenly arguing over the added societal value of increased usage of portmanteau (or increausortmanteau).
Yet still, I am, by nature, highly skeptical of organized media events — press briefings, journalism conferences, awards ceremonies, any sort of general charlie foxtrot breaking news situation, and the like. All these have done little in the past to dissuade the adage of “hell is other journalists,” whether it be from being pestered for breaking news updates from TV reporters too lazy to do their own reporting or trying to get a question in edgewise to Seann William Scott during a roudtable interview when a woman kept pestering his time with non Bulletproof-Monk-related questions related to the anti-drug campaign.
So it is with this trepidation that I went into the BKBlogs event at Bell House last Wednesday night, knowing full well that any event that involved willfully immersing oneself in a sea of bloggerers and twitterers was a recipe for a hot mess of self-promotion stew.
But Brooklyn, as ever, is full of pleasant surprises. Brokelyn was asked to help host this event with Fucked in Park Slope and Brooklyn Based, with no other intended purpose than to get together at a cool bar and network the shit out of each other and see what the faces of those pajama-clad carpal tunnel-rocked wretches of the Brooklyn bloggerati look like.
People responded well to the event, and a few hundred filled the front lounge of the Bell House, far outcrowding the pink-haired, wallet chained, fedora-adorned Cherry Poppin’ Daddies fans (concurrent concert in the back room. And hey, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies are still around! Zoot!).
I left with a stack of business cards, new friends, a Tiger Woods condom (“Approved for swingers.” Hey, a Cherry Poppin Daddies joke again!), a belly full of McSorley’s Ale and some mildly reinforced feeling of accomplishment that, for whatever reason, at least people recognized the Brokelyn name and had been reading the stuff we all put our (unpaid) time into, even if for just the cheap beer tips and whatnot.
I also saw my first iPad, my initial reaction to which was a sense of annoyed horror that someone would show off their applefanboyism in such a public setting, a feeling that was instantly displaced when I realized I did very much want to touch it and gawk at it (“I figured, if there’s any place I could bring this, it’d be here,” the iPad dad said).
There was lots of discussion about the distinction between little ‘b’ blogger and the big ‘B’ kind (I guess this makes me the latter, I suppose), but the sense of camaraderie between the two was high because, it turns out, almost all of us are doing this for free, out of a calling to document one passion or another, even if it’s just for the small audience of our friends (hey gang!).
There’s something I really liked about that last bit. The crowd was diverse in its purposes: People who documented ironic hipster culture, Yoga fail poses, walking tours, IMDboners, fashion, photos, food, cupcakes, uh, pop-culture themed condoms, etc etc etc. Blog culture and citizen journalism get a lot of criticism for being a slew of unprofessional, unedited, uncurated information fire hoses, and some of that is valid (example: this CNN iReport story about a Michelle Obama visit that’s lacking a crucial comment from the White House, as first brought up by former roommate/coworker Ginny. Other example: all the typos you are probably finding in this post). But still, in an era of vanishing newsroom jobs, shrinking news hole and unanswered freelance pitch emails, there’s something intensely satisfying about being able to hit a fat blue button marked “PUBLISH” anytime you want.
I’ve said this in many a rambling discussion before (see paragraph 1), the thing I love most about New York, and Brooklyn specifically (and web 2.0) is that it’s constantly posing the offer: “OK, so show us what you got.”
If you’re a writer, a musician, poet or dancer, there is a publication, a bar, a performance space, a bookstore, that will at least let you try to do what you want to do. You might not get paid for it (you probably won’t) but you can get your band booked at Market Hotel and fill it with a hundred people, you can find some blog that will let you contribute, some bar that will show a screening of a short documentary you made about the mating habits of dumpster divers, or whatever. Everyone gets a chance to try, and in that flood of aspirations and inspiration and endless blogs about endless topics, you find the essence of passion: the people doing what they love on their own terms. And you find that some of them are doing it quite well.
It’s awe-inspiring (and occasionally terrifying) to think sometimes that with that fat PUBLISH button on the right of my wordpress dashboard, what I write becomes as accessible to read worldwide as the top New York Times story of the day. It won’t be read by as many people, but one click brings you here just as easily as one click brings you to the story about Obama speaking to Wall Street.
The power of the level playing field is a humbling thought, and should remind everyone why we feel the need to show everyone what we got in the first place. In retrospect, the Bell House event was almost like a celebration and encouragement to people who were trying something new, audience or income be damned.