There’s this really cool trend taking place of shared communal spaces. Grand Central Market is nothing new but it’s undergone a sort of revamping swept up in the downtown renaissance/gentrification (whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it is unarguably a thing). The Anaheim Packing District is a newer polished streamlined version of the concept. These places are like mall food courts on steroids. Sleek modern fancified steroids. I happened upon Long Beach’s new SteelCraft endeavor by chance. A smaller version of the above concept, eight different food/drink vendors to choose from and a communal space of wooden tables underneath open skies and patio lights. Craft brews, coffee, pizza, burgers, ramen, shaved ice, baked goods and even waffles.
I started writing this before the real magic happened. All the pieces are in place for some real alchemy to occur. I did not happen to be utilizing them. The place was mostly empty, but began to fill up as lunchtime rolled around. After writing the above paragraph, I set my phone down and just sat. Alone. Looking around and taking things in, enjoying the little patch of sun hitting the long picnic table I sat at. I realized the whole place was made up of cargo containers. I know it’s become a thing in recent years to build homes out of the containers, but this was my first time seeing it in person and it’s really cool. Just then a woman approached the table and asked me in disbelief, “did you know these are containers!?” And I laughed because I had just come to the same realization. The entire place is indeed constructed from used metal shipping containers from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Knowing that now, I don’t know how the heck I did not notice it instantly.
But that is when the magic of the communal table was set into action. Robin and I sat and talked for nearly an hour. Then two more women stopped by for lunch (they work in a finance office up the street). They already knew Robin and we got to chatting. One of the girls is from Gana and has a brother who is a talented animator doing it just for fun, though he’s good enough to submit his work to festivals and start animating for hire. It’s always fascinating to me all the different jobs in the world and the people who do them. My Dad was a police officer and my Mom was a dispatcher, so I had a very clear idea growing up of what they did day-to-day. As a kid, I didn’t like to play house or school, but I did love to play office. I had no idea what people in offices did, so I did my best with a “briefcase” filled with papers and tried to imagine what one would do with said briefcase and the contained papers. I still have no idea what people in offices do. Please, by all means, if you’d like to tell me about your job, I would love to hear it. You may not find it fascinating but I guarantee you I will. Every new person and new job I learn about makes me feel like I’ve unlocked a piece of this massive puzzle that has puzzled me for as long as I can remember.
Anyway, my work is very solitary and it’s not even necessarily in my comfort zone to commune. At times I crave it, I think it’s wonderful, I think it’s rare. Everyone tends to be so absorbed in their own bubble, pacified by cell phones and gadgets, and at times I hate it though I’m one-hundred-percent guilty of it myself. But if Robin had not struck up a conversation I probably would have spent my afternoon sitting alone enjoying the patch of sunshine. Which can be fine, but given that I have so much time to be solitary and introverted it’s kind of great to sit in a communal space and actually commune. Try it out. Get out of your comfort zone and strike up a conversation with a stranger. I’ll challenge myself to do the same. The way I see it, nobody has the same story as me so I almost always find them interesting and intriguing, especially in the span of thirty minutes. It also makes the world feel a little smaller. In the best kind of way.
SteelCraft is currently open for business, though their GRAND opening is Superbowl weekend, February 3rd. The coffee was great,Robin and Co. dug the Pig Pen burgers and tater tots. I’ll absolutely be back to try each of the new spaces because there’s no way I can do them all in one visit.