On Sunday, we gathered in Austin for Kaleidoscope. It was a magical evening.
The idea for Kaleidoscope started last year with the news that Marius would be traveling from Bergen, Norway to Austin. Marius has been pouring his considerable design skills into Uncommon since the beginning. He's become a great friend and since this would be our first opportunity to meet in person, I felt the occasion deserved a celebration.
But a party? That idea didn't come up until late one night last November. I previously told the serendipitous tale of how Radhika became part of this community. Though her band, Resonance, was based in London at the time, I had the gumption to ask if she might be able to perform at a gathering in March, an ocean way. It was absurd.
Just a few hours later, I received a reply that I will always remember: "I'll be there."
With that, Kaleidoscope was born, despite the fact that I've never organized an event, rented a venue, or helped with a sound check. I was completely out of my element and had to be convinced regularly that I hadn't made a huge mistake :)
It was this living, breathing community that came together to make Kaleidoscope happen. Andy designed the page. People from near and far signed up, invited others, and sent favorite questions and songs for the playlist. Bethany rented the amp and mic. Four different people helped create the handwritten question cards. Lori made dozens of delicious desserts. Ben painstakingly assembled the playlist. Andy planned the evening's art project and Marius volunteered his photography skills to capture the event.
Everything was in place as the sun began to set. The door opened and we welcomed the first friends. Soon, the shop was filled with conversation and laughter. We handed each person a card with someone else's favorite party question as a conversation piece. The eclectic playlist ranged from Bowie to HAIM, Coltrane to Röyksopp. Desserts and fine espresso and chai were enjoyed as people took turns exploring the kaleidoscope's shapes and colors. One by one, we added our unique contribution to the poster that would serve as an artifact of our time together.
Next, we gathered around for a truly mesmerizing performance by Resonance. Her voice, guitar, and lyrics combined beautifully and powerfully, both on her own songs and on two amazing U2 covers. It was incredibly special to enjoy a performance by a member of our community, someone who had traveled great distance to be with us.
The night came to close as the playlist reached its end and our temporary home emptied. To everyone who couldn't be there, please know that you were missed. We would love to have other gatherings in other cities, maybe close to where you call home.
We hope everyone left Kaleidoscope more connected to one another and this community. We hope that's the case with every dispatch, visit to the site, and gathering to come. Thanks to each of you for helping shape something beautiful, lasting, and truly uncommon, together.
News and such
After Kaleidoscope, the majority of the Uncommon team was able to work together for the first time. We had great fun talking, planning, learning from one another, and making significant progress on the next release of the site. Just being able to enjoy coffee and conversation around a table as opposed to chat rooms spread across multiple timezones was wonderful. We're eager to share what we've been working on with you.
Last week's dispatch asked, What is the most memorable flight you've experienced?
I was 15 years old, traveling alone with a couple hundred dollars in my pocket, waiting to board my connecting flight to Oregon as instructed. From there, I was to be taken into custody and delivered to a correctional program for "at risk youth". I could have run away. I could have disappeared forever.
This particular one-way journey took me from Hong Kong to London via Singapore. It was memorable because I literally sobbed all the way from Hong Kong to Singapore before falling asleep with fatigue. Sobbing because it only sank in at the moment I entered through the gate in the departure hall waving goodbye to my loved ones, that I had not set a return date. I was 20 and took a loan from my grandma to move to the UK, the loan was not enough to cover education and living so I knew I would have to improvise. Even though my family see me as someone strong-willed, I definitely felt small and scared during that flight to the world of unknown. The cassette tape on which my then boyfriend recorded a hour long message did not help either - it only added to my mixed feelings! How embarrassing now to think of it, 11 years later. But then crying is perhaps a good way to kill time on a flight.
During this flight, mountains were on my mind as I had just been to Alaska (my first true mountain experience). I suspect that this is what brought about what I saw as I was flying from Vancouver to Philly, an hour out from PHL. Coming out of a cloud, I saw a grand, majestic hall of clouds. There were floor clouds, pillar clouds, clouds that looked like giant figures of immense strength and power. In the center was a giant column with a tiny cloud sitting atop it. It was incredible, awesome, amazing, spectacular. No description does it justice, I'm sorry. But just know that for one instant the clouds were alive, and I saw it. Even if nobody else did, I saw it.
My most memorable flight was when I was flying home for Christmas from New York to Los Angeles one year. As we were flying across the country, we were able to see the Northern Lights and luckily I was on the right side of the plane to enjoy them for a long time. It was a beautiful and unexpected Christmas surprise.
I've enjoyed many memorable trips. The most memorable flight was an American Airlines leg between DFW and MSP. I really only remember the final three minutes. Back then, I traveled constantly for work, so I had sufficient upgrade credits to fly only first class. Our plane approached in extremely bad weather that included fierce winds, and, as we neared the runway, we could hear a loud, automated "Wind shear!" warning that kept repeating from inside the cockpit. A flight attendant who was facing us on a jumpseat started crossing herself and praying. The plane groaned and struggled, we could feel it, as the pilot tried to keep it from veering hard sideways, as we basically fishtailed through the winds over the runway. I suppose we were too close or it was otherwise deemed unsafe to pull up and try again on another pass. Thankfully, the pilot and technology overcame the adverse conditions and we touched down, with much more impact than usual but safe nonetheless. Louis CK was right btw.
The most memorable fight I've experienced was too recent, too painful and too embarrassing to share in any detail. What I can share is that it was the first time I set my boundaries with this person and told them they were upsetting me and that I was going to hang up. Then with shaky fingers I hung up by pressing the End button on my iPhone. Hanging up sure isn't what it used to be.
A few years ago I was working as a general-purpose media creator and director for a medium-sized church. Halfway through the process of constructing a new meeting space, one of our members who frequently flew his own plane to meetings in other states offered to take me up so I could get some aerial photographs of the building. I had gone up in a small local plane once before, as a young teen, but I still found the process of preparing for even such a short flight as ours fascinating and maddening in its deliberate tedium. Once we had left the ground, though, I quickly forgot my impatience as I watched the once-familiar landscape drift by, now foreign and nearly unrecognizable. We soon arrived over the building site, and I put my 300mm zoom to good use, pressing the shutter as rapidly as I could every time the pilot banked right so I could shoot directly down toward the building. Some of those images turned out blurry or poorly-composed, but I still thought they were some of the coolest shots I had ever taken, and I would jump at the chance to shoot from the air again.
December 2008, a midnight flight from Singapore to London. 14 hours in economy. Sounds like a recipe for disaster but it was beautiful. Why? Three reasons: 1. I was heading home for Christmas after an amazing 4 month backpacking trip that started in California and took me across the South Pacific - a mix of great memories and the anticipation of seeing family and friends. 2. I slept for 10 hours of the journey. Sleep seems to be rare for me on long haul flights but I got to the airport early, used the last of my money to have a long hot shower in Changi Airport and put on a set of comfy, clean clothes I'd been saving for the occasion. 3. Waking up after my slumber I asked the guy next to me how long was left of the flight and was delighted when he said "under 4 hours I think" - I promptly watched Batman Begins whilst being served breakfast and then we landed.
My most memorable flight was because of my most memorable landing. I was on a flight to Dallas, and it was windy. Warnings from the forecast and then the pilot didn't seem dire until we circled the Metroplex in search of an approach. Violent gusts were bending the plane's normally smooth turning arc into a jagged and jittering mess, with tiny lights on the ground bouncing in and out of view. A woman sobbed. The man next me gripped the arm rests with white knuckles. I chuckled to myself: what a bizarre experience to be had. We finally stopped turning and came into what I assume was supposed to be a straight line for our approach to the runway. The pilot tucked the nose of the plane down and leaned us to the right, like a bull shouldering into a vicious and unseen aggressor with all its might. I could see the airport grounds underneath us, free of traffic and waiting for us, so still. The nose of the plane came up as one would expect before the final touch down, then whoosh from the south came a mighty gust and we were blown far to the left like a tiny feather. I could see the runway now: off to the plane's right side and presumably not also in front of us. Suddenly the engines screamed and my head thudded back against the seat. We struggled to regain altitude while being tossed around like a tug boat on a stormy sea. Several people screamed. We waited. The pilot calmly—one can only imagine—brought the plane back into another arc over the flat expanse of blurry lights to ready another approach. We steeled ourselves; everyone was quiet. Once again I saw the airport grounds come underneath us and once again we leaned to the right, fighting off the punches, one by one, just seconds apart. The engines went silent and the right wheels touched first, quickly trading with the left as we were shoved off balance. Our determination, though, was resolute. We slammed down hard into the ground with both feet firm, pushing the suspension further than we knew possible. The wheels stuck, and remained attached. We slowed, sighed and many people clapped. I've never felt such gratitude for a pilot and I suspect my fellow travelers felt the same. I chuckled again to myself. What a ride.
This One's for Me by Frank Chimero:
Most of the time when I give advice, I’m unconsciously doing a poor imitation of my mom, which is fitting, because she was probably the wisest person I’ve ever met. She’d say: be kind to yourself and others, and smile if you’re able. Take care of the people you love, and try to make yourself known and understood. Dial it down, work with your hands, keep it quiet, and share what you know.
What is your most uncommon spring break memory or destination?