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After Work: Let's Meetup

…There are meetups on tarot card reading, yoga, computer programming languages, wine, gourmet dining, scrap booking, cake decorating. You name it and, chances are, somebody’s formed a meetup. Angels, astral projectionists, miracles…

Dona Gibbs explores a way of using the computer to get off the computer.

To read lots more of Dona’s friendly words please click on

Let’s say you crank up “Stompin at the Savoy” and jive around your living room all by yourself. Fun, huh?

But did you know that fun could be multiplied many fold if you jived over to your computer and typed in “Meetups”. There, if Meetups have hit your area yet, you could probably find a swing dance group where you could show off all your fancy footwork and pick up a pointer or two. Or if swinging dance isn’t your thing, you could browse through the hundreds of sites of things that might be fun to do.

There are meetups on tarot card reading, yoga, computer programming languages, wine, gourmet dining, scrap booking, cake decorating. You name it and, chances are, somebody’s formed a meetup. Angels, astral projectionists, miracles – you’ll find there’s a group people who are enthusiastic about it. “I think they’re doing a wonderful job of offering events to the pagan community, “ one quote gushed. And, with the outré, are the everyday interests –knitters and stay-at-home moms.

The idea behind meetups is that they are a way to “use the computer to get off the computer,” as Heiferman puts it. The New York-based company now boosts more than fifty employees and has thousand upon thousand of subscribers.

These groups aren’t solely another way to meet a significant other, they’re communities formed around common interests. Meetups are now proliferating around the globe, although the big cities incubate most of them. The idea is the brainchild of Scott Heiferman. The Meetups company was launched in 2002 and came to widespread attention during Vermonter Howard Dean’s run at the 2004 Presidential election. Grassroots meetups sparked his early popularity. Political meetups are still one of the mainstays of the site.

Name practically anything that’s legally and morally O.K., and chances are, there’s a meetup group. When an interviewer asked Heiferman what the weirdest group was he’s seen, Heiferman replied, “Dumpster-diving meetups are very popular.”

A great believer in participatory journalism, I decided to try out a meetup. I went online and typed “Ukulele” into the appropriate box. I found two groups in New York City. One was closed to additional members but the other was open. I took a deep breath and signed. There were no event scheduled for a couple of weeks, which was just as well since it gave me time to learn two more chords and ruminate over what I’d done.

Meetup day arrived and I navigated to the location. I arrived at the address on a dark, grimy block filled with wholesale discount supply stores at the storefront level with music and dance studios on the upper floors. If you need to know where you can buy a wholesale wig in a garish hue at a bargain price, I know just where to steer you.

Whew, there were other people assembled in the studio, tuning their ukes and chatting.

Now the uke isn’t one of those cool, mainstream instruments like the guitar. No, the uke conjures up associations of the nerd, the outcast of the high school lunchroom, the guy with a dopey, over-eager grin and thick glasses.

I found this group to be an affable mixture of urban folk. All but one of us put on reading glasses to see the sheet music. Everyone seemed amused to find themselves there amidst others who shared a similar interest. The group organizer was a very upbeat woman who also teaches Polynesian dance. Getting everybody to smoothly switch from chord to chord was an extension of getting her dance students in synch. “Right hip, right hip, left hip then circle”.

Were we diverse? Somewhat, but no more so than who’d you’d meet at any community coffee hour.

I thought our strumming away would make a interesting photograph. The stark studio and the intent, but contented players sitting in the mottled light of a Sunday afternoon was a snapshot of community in a 21st century city.

It was then I reached for my camera, and it was then I broke a rule.

“Hey, what are you during?”one player snarled.

He wanted to remain anonymous. That was the opposite of what I thought meetups were all about.


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