Soapbox: The Value of Co-Working Spaces…

Mercury Studio in downtown Durham, NC!
When my wife and I moved into a 500 square foot studio six months ago it didn’t take long before we realized that, as much as we loved the vast reduction in living space, we needed a different space to work in. When the small space that you eat, sleep and play in is also the space that you create and work in, you often can feel the walls closing in. Or, at a bare minimum, you at least feel the need for a change of scenery.

At first we thought we’d seek refuge in our favorite coffee shops or even the library. But we both found that when we went to those places, that focus quickly became an issue. Distractions were abundant and those spaces in general were unpredicable at best. So when public spaces didn’t pan out, we ended up looking at alternatives. It was around then that Mercury Studio here in downtown Durham, NC found us. We saw a Tweet about a local writing workshop being held there, so we signed up an went. We didn’t know it was a co-working space at first and, furthermore, we didn’t know what to expect.

The night of the workshop we walked in and were immediately greeted with smiles and folks eager to give us a tour of the space. There was the café area near the front door that had ample chairs, tables and comfy retro couches and chairs to sit in, a kitchen with a sink and fridge, two bathrooms, a coffee and tea section (with an über fancy burr coffee grinder), lockers for members to put stuff in, a space specifically for artists, individual desk areas for folks who needed their own space and a larger area in the back for folks to have group gatherings (that could also be rented).

Mercury Studio in downtown Durham, NC

Basically, something for everyone.

And that, with the combination of the awesome fellow creatives that are members there, completely sold us on getting a membership. There’s a really wonderful energy at Mercury that makes you feel like creating. It helps you focus. And when you do take a break to talk with other members there, you almost always come away more inspired than when you arrived. All members here are creatives in some way – photographers, web developers, yoga instructors, accountants, freelancers of all kinds, writers, published authors, social media gurus… the list goes on and on.

It more than accomplished what I needed from it as well. I wrote a huge chunk of a novel there (which I have since finished), have launched client websites there, created many-a-blog post, edited video, attended parties, gallery openings, crowd-sourced funding events, live music, movies screenings….

It seems cliché to say that it’s AMAZING, but it really is!

What started as us taking a chance on a place that we had a hunch would help us give more to world, ended up being a lot more. Up until then we had never even thought about co-working spaces. Now, going forward, I can’t imagine living somewhere that didn’t have this as an option.

So if you are on the fence, or are simply seeking a better environment to do what you love, I definitely recommend seeking out a co-working space. They are a popping up everywhere now. If you live near downtown Durham, NC and are looking for a coworking space, come check out Mercury Studio and if your are looking to donate to something exceptional, be sure to check out their indiegogo campaign they started recently.

They are trying to make everything they do, even better!

Soapbox: Independent Theaters

Ok, so, I haven’t done a “Soapbox” post in a bit, but recently, I felt compelled to do so.

The topic:

I have absolutely no data to back this up, just sheer observation, but the state of independent theaters is pretty damn sad. More and more of them are closing because they simply don’t make the money that the huge twenty screen, IMAX enabled mega-cinemas make. Sure, these “Davids” may make enough to keep the lights on for a few years, but that lately doesn’t seem to be enough to stop the “Goliaths” (read: land owners) from bulldozing them to build another Harris Teeter.

Because clearly, we obviously need more Harris-frigging-Teeters down here (/sarcasm).

Okay, so where am I going with this?

Earlier this week I went to a double feature of The Evil Dead 1 and 2 at the The Carolina Theater here in downtown Durham. I am not going to lie, when the lights came up, I walked out with the biggest dopey grin on my face! I was completely bathing in nostalgia!

Memories of VHS tapes, dark living rooms, my friends and I eating popcorn slowly, waiting to be scared out of our minds…. Those were some of my favorite times growing up and to have the opportunity to watch 35mm copies of those movies again in a theater, just as they were shown when I was way too young to see them originally, meant a lot to me. As if the opportunity to see them was a gift. And, to me anyways, it truly was.

I know, I know I can hear you all right now…

“Awwww, Tad likes spending time watching movies on shitty screens with crap sound systems in ancient musty buildings that smell like my old aunt Mildred’s house. That’s SO cute! But what’s the point?”

The point is this. I am 99.9% sure the double feature that I saw the other night would never be shown at one of the mega-cinemaplexes you see stamped out across America today. The Evil Dead movies are too old, the acting is too cheesy and they aren’t “classic” in the sense that “Citizen Kane” is considered a classic. But here’s the thing, they were shown here that night and that’s entirely because the Carolina Theater is independently owned. It isn’t run by a corporation and it isn’t beholden to anyone except its members (and public ticket sales of course).

Put simply, outside of porn, they can show whatever they want really. And in the case of the Carolina, they often do.

It’s hard to remember for a lot of folks but, this is the way movie theaters used to be and nothing makes me more depressed than knowing that a lot of today’s youth probably won’t ever get a chance to set foot in one. And even if they did, I doubt at this point they’d appreciate it. Their parent’s home theaters are too impressive as is and when they aren’t there, all of their friends are getting dropped off with thirty bucks to spend at places with stadium seating, bigger, higher resolution screens and sounds systems that make your skull vibrate.

So again, why should they? Or more over, why should you?

The point…

Well, for me it goes well beyond the nostalgia I waxed about above. For me, it’s about not losing the threads of where things came from.

So much of pop culture today is completely ripped off by media from the past (and yes, I say this knowing full well that my father would say the same). That doesn’t make today’s stuff irrelevant, but it does put it into context and context is something that is often overlooked nowadays.

In the case of film, I love knowing the history, I love learning about its DNA: the directors, the cinematographers, the cameras used, the actors, the soundtrack composers, the time periods and the methods that were used to make the film…

…there’s a purity in it all. There’s value in the ritual.

It’s the same reason why so many of us still seek out vinyl, actually pay to have our laser disc players serviced, or, more recently, get excited when a vintage functional 8bit NES is up on eBay so that we can still blow into the damn cartridges.

It’s those things that attach us back to everything, and everyone else that came before us. So much of everything that everyone loves today is linked to something that someone was equally passionate about from the past. It’s the essence of human connection. So yeah, in my humble opinion, it’s really, really important. If you ignore the past, you might as well ignore the present.

Supporting these theaters may seem trivial. And while this all may not seem important right now, trust me, it will become important when it’s gone.

I’m not asking for the world really, I am just asking that when that next movie you want to see pops up on your radar, try seeing if it’s showing at an independent theater near you. Give it a shot! These old relics might surprise you! (And no, none of the places I’ve been to smell like aunt Mildred’s and their equipment is often WAY up to date)

In short:

We need to stop, breath, and take time to remember how we all got to this point. Because let’s be honest, wasn’t the ride kind of incredible?

Linkage to other indie theaters in the NC, Triangle Area:

Feel free to hit me up with other indie theaters in the comments below!

Soapbox: On being a Locavore…

Raleigh Farmer's Market
One of the things I have tried my best to sustain in my day to day life, is the act of buying things that are created as locally as possible. This practice makes sense more than ever now. With the economy being what it is and everyone striking out on their own to making a living, it is pretty much our civic duty to support each other and our communities. Purchasing locally made products keeps the money and, by proxy, the livelihood, around you. This eventually provides a better society and a neighborhood that is closer, more tight-knit. When you care for your community, they end up caring for you right back. Even if that equals just a smile walking by on the street.


In the case of food, it also benefits you greatly. Not only do you get something that is fresher and (often) healthier than anything you could get at a big box store, you also meet the cultivator of that food. When you shake your local farmer’s hand, you are making a distinct emotional connection. One, I have noticed, that they often do not forget. In this deep electronically connected age, it is amazing how disconnected we have become to the immediate space around us. Everyone looking at screens on the street corner, on the bus, in the elevator, at the dinner in the restaurant… I’m guilty of it too! But the cool part is that it honestly doesn’t need to be this way. At least not all of the time. There are a lot of ways we all can make a difference with minimal effort. Be it through our local farmer’s market or food coop, a local music store, breweries, general stores, restaurants, clothing stores… there are a lot of options for us all to pitch in for very little to no additional cost.

I could go on about the ethics of this situation, but I think we can all agree: helping the people around you is a good thing.

One great use case scenario of this came from the last long weekend I took with Melinda in state. We were in a beer and wine shop and, being a local beer enthusiast (something North Carolina is quickly becoming renowned for), I was looking for a few bottles of something new to kick back and enjoy during the hot afternoon. There were dozens of domestics and imports but my eyes fell on on a new local beer I had not tried yet. In fact I had never even seen it before. I picked up a bottle and before I could even read where it was from, the person running the shop piped up and said that her husband brewed that beer right here in town and that it is bottled and distributed just south of where we were.

Sold! It was pretty much the freshest beer I would ever find outside of going to a brewery and drinking right from the tap (which is also immensely enjoyable!). I grabbed a six pack and thanked the kind lady for keying me into buying her husband’s beer. It was the perfect situation! It was a product I knew I would enjoy, supporting a local craftsmen, putting money into a shop that only they owned, in their own home town.

Of course this is not possible for a lot of people. Depending on where you live, it may not be an option to get to a farmer’s market (though they are popping up everywhere nowadays), or even into a town center that can provide any local options. If that is the case, buy regional, or even national. I guarantee you will not be able to do it every time you are out shopping. But if you can do it when you are able too, it always makes a difference.

This shouldn’t be about national pride (though it certainly can be), or some latest fad (which would be something I could actually get behind). It should be about lending each other a hand and not ignoring the world around us. It could also be about living healthier as well.

All good things.

Not too long ago, in the grand scheme of things, this is how the human race took care of themselves and each other. We were all only as strong our communities. While I do not think we have forgotten that completely, I do think we have pulled way back from what we once were. Progress is always good, but not at the expense of complete isolation. The cost of constant convenience is common place now, especially with the current generation. Kids and young adults know so many things that I didn’t even conceptualize when I was their age. I actually am in the camp that thinks this is a good thing. It is how we evolve as a society and it’s amazing to see us all foster a global community through our technology.

But again, it is incredibly important that we keep that sense of local community as well. And we do this by supporting each other. Because while ones and zeroes can enhance our lives to unthinkable levels, they can not replace the reality that is “you” and “I” breathing in the same immediate space. They can not replace the reality of “us”.

At least not yet anyway. ;)