Wondering what magic will happen

In the end, Evel Knievel and Arthur Fonzarelli are at least partially responsible, though perhaps not in the legal sense.

These daredevils were a fixture of my youth. It seemed every few months, Evel was performing another hold-your-breath stunt. There was a strange fascination with driving over things. Motorcycles and cars were airborne with surprising frequency, jumping over cars, people, and, when that grew routine, canyons.

Another fixture of my youth was Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. My friends and I each had our own carefully curated collections. When combined, we could craft a narrative worthy of a great bank heist flick, complete with getaway cars, police in hot pursuit, firetrucks to tame the inevitable fiery crash, and ambulances to take care of the wounded.

Deeply in tune with the zeitgeist, Happy Days had the perfect daredevil in Fonzi and long before the incident with the shark, he was seen wreaking havoc in demolition derbies (it was an odd time) and jumping over barrels on his motorcycle.

With stunts, real and fictional, continuously escalating, our boyhood storylines were missing a certain something. We needed some flair.

What we needed was fire.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to catapult our cars through actual flames? Yes, it most certainly would!

So, we began preparing for the big event. We picked the cars that would work well in the scene, but wouldn’t be ruined by a little damage. We found a suitable shoebox. (At the time, 90% of all childhood play involved shoeboxes. I’m pretty sure our Death Star was a shoebox.) We gathered newspaper and matches, made a tunnel out of the shoebox, and set out.

Knowing my mother wouldn’t approve, we decided to set the scene inside my large garage, which was really more like a barn. We sat looking nervously at each other, the materials spread out in front of us, our bare knees on the cold concrete. That was the peak, actually. It was an idea best left unrealized.

The shoebox was much harder to light than expected and when it did begin to burn, it was more subtle than flames should be, really. There was a lot of smoke, certainly, but the cartoon inferno was nowhere to be seen. I went first and flung my car through the smokey tunnel. Instead of bursting through the other side, flames nipping at its plastic wheels, it hit the wall half-way through the shoebox with a dull, cardboard thud.

The next car, of course, just hit the first car.

We stared at the slow-burning fiasco, unsure of whether to put it out or fan the flames, until we heard pounding on the garage door.

The doors had a row of glass you could look through. Pressed up against the glass was the furious, mustached, vaguely familiar face of a shouting man. The word "burning" was mentioned multiple times.

Like the Cunningham family before us, our garage also had an outside staircase that led to a second floor. That’s where there was a small one-bedroom apartment that we rented out now and then, most recently, to the shouting man.

It seems the smoke from our Hush Puppie’s bonfire had begun to fill the apartment above us.

He left to find my mother while we poured water on our little piece of performance art. When she entered, we were staring motionless at a pile of soggy cardboard, newspaper ashes, blackened cars, and puddles of water that had nowhere to go.

It was the angriest I had seen my mom, spurred by the potential danger (did I mention the gas furnace and water heater located a few feet away?) more than anything else I suspect. I tried to shift her allegiances by revealing the shocking news that the man had sworn during his tirade, something I’d never heard my mom do.

“I’d swear, too, if I found a bunch of kids burning things underneath my apartment.”

It wasn’t too long before our Matchbox cars and Star Wars figures were replaced by basketballs and baseball gloves. We were ready for new storylines.


The last dispatch asked, What's your favorite morning routine?

Sarah wrote:

My favorite morning routine is to go out onto my deck and free-write three pages, long-hand, as per Julia Cameron's morning pages practice. Then I make myself some breakfast and eat it on the back porch with a book. The combination of words and the outdoors makes every day full of possibility.

Clare wrote:

My favourite morning routine used to be a bit of leisurely time at my computer to catch up on the news as well as social media happenings over a bowl of cereal; this was traditionally, my only look at such things each day, my mechanism for trying to keep all-too-common websites like Facebook in check. But now with a one-month old baby in my life, I have no routines at all, be it morning, noon or night :)

Adam wrote:

Coffee. Filling the electric kettle with water. Grinding the beans. Putting it all together in the beauty that is a Chemex pot. It's involved enough to prevent any attempt at multi-tasking. It's deliberate enough to remind me to slow down for a few minutes before multi-tasking and moving fast become a necessary aspect of the day. Some days, I make a second cup immediately after the first. :)

Radhika wrote:

My favorite morning routine is to settle into my studio with an English Breakfast tea and a notebook, wondering what magic will happen. When those things come together, it feels good.

Drew wrote:

Coffee. I love to sit with a cup of coffee at the end of breakfast and think about the day to come. It may be only a few minutes but it lends a certain grace to the beginning of each day before I get blown away by the winds of others ' demands and my own expectations.

Adam wrote:

Every morning I get up first, feed our cats, and make coffee for myself and my wife. My favorite part of the morning, and often my favorite part of the day, is the smile on her face as I give her her coffee in bed.
My least favorite part of the morning is how the cats yowl in my ear at four o'clock because they think I should be gettng up now, not in an hour. I mean, come on, guys. One more hour won't starve you.

Ryan wrote:

Unquestionably, my favorite morning routine is shaving. I shave with a straight razor, so it takes me about 20-25 minutes to complete the entire process of honing the razor (if necessary), stropping it, preparing the lather, wetting my face cold water, and passing the blade over my face several times to achieve maximum smoothness. It’s become a very rhythmic, unthinking event, where my hands do most of the work, leaving my mind free to listen to podcasts or audiobooks, or sometimes, just think.

Brad wrote:

An iced mocha from Vintage Heart Coffee, a quick commute to my downtown office and clearing out my email to start the day fresh with an empty inbox.

Uncommon reads

The Myth of Quality Time by Frank Bruni:

There’s simply no real substitute for physical presence.
We delude ourselves when we say otherwise, when we invoke and venerate “quality time,” a shopworn phrase with a debatable promise: that we can plan instances of extraordinary candor, plot episodes of exquisite tenderness, engineer intimacy in an appointed hour.
The surest way to see the brightest colors, or the darkest ones, is to be watching and waiting and ready for them.

Table for Six

When this community began three years ago, we imagined an experience centered around three ideas that seek out the uncommon we have in common.

First, sharing our 10 Favorite Things and the story behind them, first with postcards and now online.

Second, lovely stories and candid reflections sparked by Prompts big and small. We’ve shared these through the dispatch, postcards, gatherings, and soon, on the site itself.

The third idea is Table for Six, inspired by those dinners you wish would never end, when the dimming light and empty plates leave space for memorable talk about meaningful things. Table for Six is a way to enjoy uncommon conversation and leave connected to new neighbors and perspectives.

Table for Six can take many forms, from in-person gatherings to week-long conversations online. But like the original postcards, we wondered if there is way to explore Table for Six and dream up what’s to come in a slow, uncommon way?

With a phone call, of course :)

There’s something simple, human, and warm about telephone conversations. We listen closely to match voices with names. There’s less performance and more imagination. It seems a fine place to start.

Our inaugural Table for Six conversations will take place this weekend, September 19/20. A group of adventurous souls is already game, but there’s room for more.

If you’re an Uncommon member and want to be part of this new chapter, reply and let us know. And if you haven’t joined just yet, no worries! We’d be honored to welcome you to the front porch. A year membership is $24 and you even get to bring a friend along with you :)

Your turn

What were your favorite toys growing up?