Almost 20 years ago, I was very privileged to be a part of a community of poets and writers that converged on a bar in Levittown, NY, called Münchaba, where we participated in an open mic night. There were people of such talent there. There were slam poets, comedians, traditionalists, teachers, observers of the absurd, and rejects like me that found their voice reading to an audience of peers and strangers.
And I really did discover my voice. Not just finding the ability to do public speaking, but hearing the cadence in stuff I wrote long before stepping on the stage. I had found a writing style, but never realized it, until I read something older vs. something recent. It was a magical feeling, and even if the audience wasn’t so thrilled when I got called to the stage, I would literally shake with excitement, even after the pre-stage jitters went away as I spoke into the mic and looked out at an audience. Everyone was polite and encouraging, though. There were house favorites, but I went there often enough (and I tipped the servers well) that I was one of the regulars for over a year.
Bars on Long Island have an average lifespan of about three years, for various reasons, and Münchaba was no different. One night when my girlfriend, now wife, and I were there, I overheard the bartender say they were out of Bud Light. My friends, if the bar you go to is out of Bud Light, and it’s not because of some drunken debauchery disguised as a holiday took place the night before, that bar is not paying its distributor. I leaned over to my girlfriend and pointed out the bare spaces in the back of the bar that used to have bottles of booze and said, “They’re going to close soon.”
Münchaba went out with a whisper. That was a sadness.
But during the time that I regularly attended Thursday Night Carnival of the Arts, I wanted to give something besides my shaky voice to the poets and writers that absolutely expanded my mind whenever they read. Hey, I had a website! I can put their stuff on the internet! Which, at the time, was operating at DSL-speeds. AOL was dominant, but showing its age. I think we all had or would have MySpace? But Facebook and Twitter were still over four years out, and there was no particular easy way to share what you wrote to a world-wide audience, but I had the web space, and because the internet wasn’t nearly as filled as it is now, if I put someone’s poetry on my site, Google would catalog it and you could find it in the first couple of links.
It was an uncommon opportunity, which I was able to offer, and some folks at the bar took to it. Their poetry and essays have been on my site for all this time. I made sure to keep the links to their individual pages the same throughout server and software changes. If they sent out an email 15 years ago with a link to one of their pieces, it’ll still work today. However, a security update broke a script of mine that made the index pages, so if you visited one of the authors’ directory page, it wouldn’t list all their writing, just give an annoying error.
And that started about six months ago. I knew I had to fix it, but I am a procrastinator. I have finally updated the pages, and basically took away all the out-of-date and questionable design crust. So, design-wise, it’s bare bones, but the author’s work is all that matters.
The space still exists if anyone wants to contribute. As long as I’m alive, the pages will be there and searchable. They’ve been there for almost 20 years as it is. I also honor takedown requests, if the author wishes.
I’m glad that I was able to offer the space on my site, because each time I come across those pages, I’m reminded of a community that helped me recognize my voice and exposed me to dozens of people who were passionate about their writing. Tonight, I toast spirit of Münchaba.