The black barbershop is one of the last frontiers of in-the-flesh community left in this increasingly virtual world. I’ve learned to appreciate what can be a frustrating 3 hour long Saturday afternoon visit. There are always several people ahead of you along with that one dude determined to distract the barber all day while never actually getting a haircut.
Despite this, the barbershop is a special place where complete strangers come together and celebrate the culture they share (debates over Lil Wayne vs. Kanye, Beyonce vs. Rihanna, Kobe vs. Lebron are just some off the usual topics of discussion). Recently while hanging out at Cake Shop, a cafe I frequent, I realized I was having a similar indie community experience.
Cake Shop is a coffee shop/record store/music venue in the lower east side. I’ve seen shows there, had coffee during the daytime, and yes, have had their cake selections. In the age of social networking where you can listen to Pandora, chat with users anonymously on Arcade Fire’s message board, and read gorilla vs. bear at home in your pajamas and bedroom slippers, Cake Shop stands out as the perfect place for music enthusiasts to debate whether Is This It? is a better record than White Blood Cells while having a chocolate vegan cupcake with ginger lemon tea.
I love going there early in the afternoons when I have a day off. That’s the best time for eavesdropping on random conversations. Which, let’s face it….is what everyone does in a coffee shop! You’ll hear some pretty cool banter….especially when a band from out of town comes in to set up their gear (I love overhearing the “I have 3 shows in NYC” over the “next week and I’m couch-surfing at different places each night” discussion). If you’ve ever been to SXSW, live in Brooklyn, or have gone to concerts in Brooklyn you can pretty much have something in common with 98% of the people that walk in and its people of all walks of life…hipsters you’d find on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg….preps, punks, alt hip-hoppers and older folk like myself who share at least a sliver of identical music selections in their IPods.
As the world becomes more virtual, these types of places and experiences become all the more precious. The solitary discovery of art that moves each of us is special but incomplete without the experience of sharing it with others. Here’s to hoping that similar places of community will continue to thrive in the future!