Happy Third Birthday, Restless Legs Reading Series
Travel Blog • Jim Benning • 07.14.11 | 11:49 AM ET
I was happy to find myself at New York City’s Lolita Bar last night for another installment of the Restless Legs Reading Series. As usual, it was a good evening: About 50 travel writers and readers chatted around the bar before heading downstairs to hear Tony Perrottet and Elisabeth Eaves read from their new books.
As it turns out, the reading wasn’t just another date on the Restless Legs calendar. It was the series’ third anniversary.
David Farley had been organizing informal gatherings for years, but in July 2008 he decided to make the events official. He envisioned Restless Legs as “a reading series for the wanderlust stricken” that brings “travelers, travel writers, and the people who love them together for an evening of sharing tales from the road, gossiping, and general debauchery.”
He expected a good turnout for the first event: It was mentioned in local media and on travel blogs, and he invited all his friends. Lolita Bar’s little basement was packed as Tony Perrottet and Cullen Thomas read and answered questions. Farley was pleased, but he wasn’t necessarily optimistic about future readings.
“I thought by the fourth month it’d be dwindling to a handful of people, because that’s how a lot of readings are,” he says. “But after almost three years of doing it seven to nine times a year, I’ve been really surprised that it’s been almost full capacity every time.”
What are some highlights from the last three years?
“People who’ve done things other than read,” Farley says. “Mike Barish did 10 minutes of travel-themed standup comedy. Kim Mance sang a travel article that she wrote, accompanied by an acoustic guitar. David Grann read. He’s one of my favorite writers and he’s a pretty big deal.”
We teamed up with Farley for a World Hum-themed reading in October 2008.
The readings are the focus of the gatherings, but I suspect many come as much to hang out with like-minded travelers and writers. In fact, some wind up at the bar all evening and never make it downstairs for the reading. Farley thinks that’s a little disrespectful to the readers. “But then when I think about it, I’d like to be up there sometimes, too,” he says, “so I can’t give anyone a hard time about it.”
How long will Restless Legs continue?
“Who knows?” Farley says. “There’s no termination date. I think people really like it. if I decide to end it, someone else would start something similar. If I somehow perish, someone will decide to keep it going.”
Upcoming readers will include Dan Saltzstein and Brook Wilensky-Lanford Sept. 15, and contributors to Slate’s Well-Traveled series in November.
Long may you run, Restless Legs.