Welcome to Elsewhere Café!
Been on the road awhile? Looking for a fresh hangout? Got some stories to tell? Maybe some things you’d like to learn, or other things you’re willing to teach? Maybe that pie just smells really good? Come and set a spell! This is an establishment of happy mutants who’ve come from all corners of the internet across the globe and beyond, for the express purpose of building and strengthening community through mutual support, mutual respect, and the kind of hard-won wit and wisdom you can’t buy through sponsored links these days.
If you’re new enough to these parts that you’re reading this, you likely want to get a feel for who we are and what the hell we’re doing here. I’ll give you our history in the form of a short parable. A while back, a bunch of us used to hang out somewhere else online. I won’t name any names, but in my mind I picture it now as the old Greyhound bus station on Cahuenga in Hollywood. The one and only time I rode into Hollywood on Greyhound (a 20th century rite of passage I wouldn’t recommend), I noticed that in the bus station they had these rows of black plastic molded seats with small coin-operated TVs built onto the armrests. People apparently spent some time waiting around there for their bus (or connection or hookup or whatever), so two bits would buy you maybe 10 minutes of Three’s Company to help pass the time. There were also free copies of the L.A. X-Press, which had pictures of… y’know, I’m getting off-topic. This is supposed to be a parable.
Anyway, so yeah, I imagine some buddy of mine recommending a particularly talented busker who typically plays at the bus station on weekday afternoons, so I go there to check him out. I happen to meet some cool weirdos there at the bus station. I happen to notice those black plastic seats are kinda comfy and not too smelly, and the screens show everything from the better Sanford & Son reruns to interesting music videos, magic tricks, and single-use kitchen appliance reviews. The restroom’s toilets mostly work, a lot of the tourists and commuters passing through are fun and friendly, the staff is eccentric and tolerant and sometimes entertaining, particularly the shaggy redhaired shoeshine dude over by the vending machines, and after a while, whaddaya know, the Cahuenga bus station has become my usual hangout. Some of us play craps in the corner. Some of us welcome new rubes off the bus from the territories, some of us wave goodbye to old pals who finally have to get their asses on the bus to work, or home with the family, or the long haul one-way ride to Muncie.
Things groove okay for a few years, more or less, but then the landlord gets crusty. Stiff-necked. Owlish. He used to engage with us weirdos from time to time, but he doesn’t do well in the dice games. People keep sticking disparaging reviews on his vending machines. Nobody reads his band fliers, people keep turning the TV channels away from his favorite old shows, nobody admires his shiny old German van in the parking lot, and all those people who keep playing the games and planting flowers in the windowboxes and sweeping out the roaches and organizing the poetry slams over by the Departures board never actually seem to buy any goddamned bus tickets… so he starts kicking those people out. “This is a bus station, temporary shelter and minimal comfort for the weary but valid-ticket-holding traveler,” he proclaims. “This ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no roadhouse. This ain’t no art gallery (except for my fliers over on the bulletin board). Greyhound business only. And stop ragging on the snacks in the vending machines. Buy 'em or ignore 'em. Stop changing the channel. Find your own garden, or get on the bus.”
So yeah, a bunch of us left. It was fun for a good while, but… y’know. We’d been getting antsy for a while. Some of the people coming through the bus station had been littering, scrawling abusive graffiti in the john, hanging intolerant fliers on the bulletin boards, but did those guys get kicked out? Not as much as you’d hope. Management was screwy and inconsistent, passionate voices were silenced, dipshittery was prioritized over happy mutation, the mellow was harshed, and the vibe just started to feel… well, like a sketchy bus station in Hollywood. Unless you held a bus ticket, the management didn’t want you there anyway.
So then what?
Couple of the folks mentioned they had a new hangout we could drop in on, one where we didn’t have to worry about the crabby-ass bus station manager. It’s… I dunno, sort of a combination warehouse/rooftop/garden party/pool hall/backyard/rumpus room/rec center/basement bar kind of joint, only with a bookstore/coffee bar/arcade/beach blanket sort of headspace to it. Whatever it is, it has those same strangely comfortable bus station seats, but with better channels on the TVs, and nobody to tell us we can’t stretch out our legs, or collaborate on a screenplay while waiting for our ride, or make out down on the benches by the platform. We have space battles and book clubs and we argue over politics while never letting the mood get poisoned. We generate our own content more than we link to others’, and our mods and management come from within the community, not from Greyhound Corporate. We’re tolerant of the strange and mundane alike, but we have no patience for abuse. We’re simultaneously irreverent and respectful. We’re flawed and funny and we’re trying to improve, and now and then we manage to succeed.
Honestly, I don’t miss that damn bus station at all. It was a space that happened to contain a particular blessed circumstance for a while, one that allowed a couple hundred of us to meet each other. Which was great, especially now that so many of us have moved the party away from Cahuenga.
Hmm. Or was it on Vine? Yeah, I think it was. Vine. Huh. Doesn’t matter. We’re not borrowing space in a metaphorical bus station anymore. We built this community ourselves, and we tend it and cherish it and, with your help, encourage it to grow. So have a look around. See what’s on the screen. Enjoy the air conditioning. Take a load off for a while. You need anything, I’ll be over by the vending machines, trying to tune this zither. Oh, and keep an eye out for the door games. They’re a real kick in the cloaca!
Heh. Anyway. I kinda miss that redhaired shoeshine kid.