In an effort to bring you an on-the-ground view of Nerd-culture, our Jason Tabrys is overseeing a series of guest-posts, written by his contributors from the now (sadly) hibernating nerd cult and culture site, WeLoveCult.com. This time, Myles Cockcroft, a New York based freelance writer and stand-up comedian brings us a report from a very interesting bar in Brooklyn that has a bathroom that is curiously bigger on the inside.
I never really got around to becoming a huge Doctor Who fan, though I thoroughly enjoy every episode I happen to see. I’m sure that if I was a true Whovian, the following sentence would have sent me into a frenzy: “Hey dude, want to do a report on Nerd Karaoke at the Way Station? They have a TARDIS.” This was the opportunity presented to me by the good people at Nerbastards.com, and immediately my instincts dictated that I must agree to this and ask questions later.
Let’s get this out of the way, yes, the Way Station does have a Tardis. Yes, you can totally go inside it (it is, of course, bigger on the inside), take pictures, check out Matt Smith’s framed signature on the wall, and check out the cool artwork in it. Hell, you can even urinate in it (they never really explained how that works in Doctor Who, did they?). Because there’s a toilet. Because it’s the bar’s only bathroom. Which is both awesome (it’s the coolest fucking bathroom ever), and not-so-awesome (it’s the only bathroom in the bar). I can only imagine how many time lords have been conceived in that particular TARDIS. But this article isn’t about the TARDIS, necessarily, but what the TARDIS represents.
I was ostensibly at the Way Station at 9pm on a Sunday night (despite having to work the next morning) to report on a “Nerd Karaoke” night. I went in to it expecting some kind of gimmick. I’d heard stories about Nerdmelt’s Cosplay Karaoke in LA and the hordes of singing cosplayers and I was expecting more of the same — perhaps some freestytling in Klingon to the chords of the Mos Eisley cantina song, or a medley of Simpsons classics, with rewards for getting the line “who robs kingfish of their sight?” correct. But it quickly became apparent that this was an ordinary Karaoke night, complete with an ordinary 3-inch thick song binder of ordinary karaoke songs, held at a decidedly un-ordinary venue filled with proudly un-ordinary people.
I wouldn’t say that I was disappointed to find a decisive lack of cosplay going on when I arrived. There were certainly an inordinate amount of fellows wearing bow-ties and fedoras. But frankly, people in New York don’t have time to get decked out in costumes before hitting the bar. I got the impression that these guys would be wearing fedoras and bow ties tomorrow as well, and every other day until hipster hunting is gloriously legalized.
“I like working karaoke nights,” the bartender, Alyssa, says between pouring beers. “People tend to get shitfaced.” As she’s speaking, I notice the nautical themed decor behind the bar, and the 19th century ray gun on the wall. She follows my gaze. “Yeah, we do a lot of steampunk events here,” she says loudly, as a fedora-d man growls through “Ready to Start” by Arcade Fire. “They’re pretty cool, but from my perspective this kind of thing is way better as far as tips. Steampunk kids don’t drink nearly as much as people at karaoke nights.”
“Is that a stereotype about steampunk kids?” I ask, “Do they not drink?”
“I don’t know if it’s a stereotype,” she replies, “ but they don’t drink as much as these people.”
At this point, a large man comes to say goodbye and hugs Alyssa across the bar, he knocks over a row of drinks. This only seems to mildly register with him, and he grins and stumbles out into the night. Alyssa cheerily cleans up the drinks and replaces them. Another person hugs her, and makes a comment about how somebody will, at some point in the night, be singing “You oughta know” by Alanis Morrisette.
Oh, the hugging! There’s an inordinate amount of hugging going on tonight, something nobody else seems to find at all weird. I’ve been to raves where there were less hugs (and more body glitter) exchanged. The Way Station is like the nerd version of Cheers, and everybody’s Norm. There’s a very strong sense of community that the regulars are proud of, as they tell me over the off-key renditions of show tunes (there was a run of about an hour wherein everybody seemed to be singing show tunes. This seemed to be the only “nerdy” feature of “nerd karaoke”, aside from the TARDIS.)
“There’s a camaraderie here,” says Sadie, a regular patron and proud promoter of the bar. “You feel comfortable being a nerd, or a geek or whatever else somebody might call you. Here you can be small and large at the same time.” She points out that the people who hang out here are mostly writers, PhDs, teachers, and artists. “It makes for conversations you’d never hear anywhere else. Not just about shows and comics and Doctor Who…. (Somebody let’s out a “woo” at the mention of the Doctor) But conversations about politics, about culture. You learn something every time you walk through the door.”
I practically strained a muscle scribbling down Sadie’s dissertation, which went on for a few more minutes and when she finished I thanked her for giving me a quote, to which she replied “Yeah, no problem. Did I sing yet?” This is an example of why the Way Station is awesome: it’s patrons get blackout drunk and instead of fighting and puking on you, they drop Carl Sagan quotes and wax philosophical.
As the night drew close to an end, that blisteringly amazing observation in my pocket, I put away my notebook and turned to get a drink, but Alyssa was not behind the bar. She was onstage, singing “You Oughta Know.” It was a karaoke night, after all.
Editors Note: I spoke with the owner of The Way Station and he confirmed that Nerd Karaoke will return to The Way Station, and he also said Nerd Cabaret is on the way. To find out more about The Way Station click here.
Category: Nerd Culture