Last week a friend told me about a little cafe.
It's the kind of place you always hope to find when you're traveling. A place to quietly start the day. A place to circle back around to in the evening for a sip and a bite as evening slides into night. It's one of those little neighborhood spots that, for whatever reason, don't seem to exist back home.
Except this one does exist back home. Turns out it's a block and a half from my office. I walk past it almost every day, on my way to grab lunch at the place I always grab lunch. I've never once even poked my head in the door. And that's dumb.
When I'm traveling, I'm a head-poker-inner. I'm a how's-it-going? guy. I'm curious. I converse. I do whatever I can to connect to wherever I am. At home, though, it's a different mode. I'm a get-shit-done-er. I'm a furtive-glancer. I'm still a how's-it-going? guy, but the question is largely rhetorical.
The same evening as the cafe conversion, my wife and I went and saw a band. It was an early show and the follow-up event was Madison's Nerd Nite. As close as I could surmise from the description, it's a monthly gathering of Beer Geeks and, well, plain old Geek Geeks. An unholy union of Ballast Point and PowerPoint.
After the band wrapped up, I was halfway out the door when I changed my mind and decided to stay for Nerd Night. It's the exact kind of thing I would seek out if I was in New York or Detroit or San Francisco. (Even though every night is nerd night in San Francisco. Heyo!!!). It's the exact kind of thing that happens right here at home all the time. But I forget to look.
I'm surrounded by museums and poetry slams and ukulele jams. Gallery wine tastings and film nights in the back of scuba shops. I'm surrounded by a lot of cool shit! But I forget to look.
The traveler/explorer in me usually leads my mind (and my body) to far away places. But the fact is that I'm "here" much more than I'm "there." And there's a lot around here that I've been missing. This winter, I'm going to make a point of finding them. Of discovering the place I've lived in all these years.
Trust me, until you've seen a PowerPoint slide that reads "TRANSCRIPTION CELLS ARE FUCKING AWESOME!!!" in 180 pt yellow type with a purple drop shadow, lighting up a bar full of people who are cheering and hanging out and happy, you don't know what you've been missing.
Nerd Nite is happening in cities all over the country. But there's lots of cool stuff wherever you are. Snoop around a bit and report back. I'll do the same.