This past weekend I was a featured guest speaker at a fundraiser for the Boiler Room – a youth-oriented community coffeehouse in Port Townsend, Washington.
As a 23-year-old college graduate I spent many days and nights at the Boiler Room working as a programs intern. I coordinated local musicians and traveling national and international acts for performances. That experience was one of my first forays into a career in public relations and I later leveraged it on my resume when applying for my first public relations job.
But something also worth highlighting is the way the Boiler Room encapsulates the idea of community. The Boiler Room was a safe place for me to spend my time as a teenager, and the only place open late into the evening for teens in that small town. At the Boiler Room I was exposed to new ideas, interesting thought leaders and life lessons that I may not have experienced otherwise.
Diverse local “alternative” cultures would congregate in the Boiler Room. Kids would be off in the corner writing journal entries to sort out their emotions, or logging the collective history of the venue. A young couple might be holding hands in the corner, an earthy woodsman might stride through the door trailed by the musk of a hard days labor. A wide-eyed hippie with homemade clothes and bare feet might frolic in to the sound of bells with a creative project tucked under one arm. And occasionally a yuppie couple on vacation from a neighboring city might wander in and be treated no different.
It’s funny to think about, but I’m the yuppie now.
I remember one Boiler Room regular in particular whose polished musical talents seemed to be on another level. When she played a prominent role on the soundtrack for the film Juno just a few years later, I was both blown away and not too surprised at the same time.
The Boiler Room was important to me because it provided an outlet to test and develop my own musical chops, something I was very passionate about at the time. First during open mic nights, and later during featured performances.
I recall one teachable moment when I was performing a new song of unrequited love with incredible misogynistic undertones. As I belted out my unfortunate lyrics, the great Phyl Sheridan (RIP) grabbed a plastic bowling pin and hurled it at the stage. After my performance he approached me and wrapped his arm around my shoulder and told me that I cannot talk like that about women, and gave a very convincing argument as to why. That moment was instrumental in the process of reshaping my worldview, retiring several songs, and was the type of experience that young men have in an environment where generations interact freely with older adult role models.
Congrats to the Boiler Room for all of its success. I’m excited for the continual value this organization will provide to the community in Port Townsend – helping kids to learn valuable life lessons and life skills; offering a safe, judgment-free space; enabling a venue where people may interact with their community; and even offering a foothold to future careers. Thank you to all of the adults who continue to act as mentors and role models for the next generation of Boiler Room kids.
If you’d like to donate, please click here.