I walked in alone, but I knew right away I was among friends.
“Does anyone here know how to tap a keg?” asked the woman behind the makeshift bar at the Tumblr Writers’ Happy Hour hosted by the new Uncharted Books in Logan Square.
Nobody from the dozen or so early arrivals piped up and, being from Wisconsin, I knew this was my calling. Tapping a keg is not hard (in my years at Husby’s, the most difficult part was not knocking myself out by cracking my head on the door frame of our crawlspace keg cooler. It wasn’t uncommon) but it felt good to be useful.
Halfway into my first beer (I should mention that the beer and booze at this writers’ gathering was free, courtesy of Tumblr, a company for which my fondness is growing rapidly) the upstart bookstore’s owner, Tanner, slumped in the front door with jumper cables hanging from his arms and exasperation on his face.
“Does anyone have a car here that could give me a jump?”
I paused. It had, after all, taken me a while to find a parking space. I was fresh off my first $50 donation to the Chicago Department of Revenue for overstaying a spot by a few minutes last week, and I was reluctant to risk moving.
But I was due. I’ve been the guy begging for a jump a good 50 - 60 times in my life. That’s not an exaggeration. In fact, there are certainly friends of mine that would argue that they alone have jump-started my car 50 times. But I’m going to keep my estimate low for the sake of what’s left of my ego and to fend off dis-belief in anyone bothering to read this. If you would like to temper your doubt, just page back to my earlier Tumblr post showing the results of my recent decision to pull out of my driveway in front of a snowplow. Yup, I suck at cars.
So here was my chance to start crawling back to even, and again, it felt good to be of use. I successfully gave Tanner a jump and I even got my parking spot back. I’m finding that this city, so big, isn’t so unlike home. There are a lot of small towns crammed into this metropolis.
By the time I got back inside Uncharted the place was filling fast and the last copy of The Chicagoan (an inspiring literary effort to say the least) was snatched. By 7 o’clock the fledgling little bookstore funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign (I’ll write more on this later) was packed to capacity, the whiskey sours were all gone, and the owners’ adorable little husky could no longer handle the stimulation and had to be taken home. Well, he may have been more buzzed than overstimulated – he had a thing for the beer.
Rachel Fershleiser, who handles outreach for Tumblr, had arranged the event after stumbling across Uncharted’s Tumblr not long ago. Prior to her work at Tumblr she spent six years working at a book store in New York, and her affinity for independent shops has not waned. She got to know Tanner through his blog, and when she knew she was coming to Chicago for the Association of Writers and Writers’ Programs conference here this week, she hit him up about doing a Tumblr promotion at the shop.
I left thinking what a strange convergence the night represented. Here I was, drinking free beer and booze at an event promoting Tumblr in a new independent bookstore launched in a sketchy economy through a blog that led to a Kickstarter fundraising campaign.
It seems, I thought, that we’re starting to figure out how this can all work.
Without Tumblr or the web, Tanner may not have gotten his store off the ground. I almost certainly would never had heard about it. I wouldn’t have spent $16 on a great collection of Chicago stories.
And I never would have had the chance to pay forward just one of the dozens of jumps I owe the world.