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Breaking Open the Barrier of Small Talk

BE Staff Member -Miles-

On the occasional Monday night in late summer and early fall, the staff members of the Black Elephant like to go out for a night on the town. Normally this looks like walking down the street to a karaoke bar called the East Ender. The spot is what you’d expect it to be, a little bar/restaurant tucked into an old brick building that looks as if it’s been around for a few hundred years. I’ve lived in Portland all my life, but I had never heard of the East Ender until this year. It was a co-worker of mine who put me onto it and started getting me to go.

On these Monday nights we typically ask anyone sitting around in the common room to face a fear that is common within all of us and go sing in front of strangers, and it is very common for a group of three to turn into a group of ten on the spot. Suddenly a group of people that have never connected, people from all corners of the world and country, all have one thing in common, which is “Shit! What do I sing?” As we walk the block and a half down to the bar, people that have sat in silence, or mingled with just one or two people, start to open up. All of these people have the same nervous feeling including me, even after going for months now. The stereotypical hostel questions of “how long have you been traveling?”, and “what did you do today?” start to fade away, and something that brings people together from all around the world, music, starts to become the main topic.

The country fans find their singing partners, the Billy Joel singers warm up their lungs, and for the most part, the nervousness floats away. All of a sudden the person that was sitting next to you in the garden reading a book is a friend that you will probably never forget. The people you found mysterious become more understandable, and that kid working behind the desk all night who you thought would be a terrible singer turns out to be after all, a terrible singer.

The main point is to take a chance during your stay here. There’s a possibility that us folks who see all the turnover in this mysterious building will be going out and inviting you along, but most nights it’s up to the guests to figure out how to break the small talk barrier and have a real experience. That karaoke bar, The East Ender, is open every night, and if you ask around the hostel you will likely find some people who are interested. The hostel attracts a lot of peculiar people, and the person cooking dinner in the kitchen could be a lot more interesting than you would think. If you step out of your comfort zone while here, you will likely be rewarded with good experience.

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