A revolving door of conversations, introductions, and reunions

With nephews around last week, I had the chance to bring out a favorite possession, a rather epic kaleidoscope. It was one of my father's few indulgent purchases. An eclectic toy shop prominently displayed it to entice visitors and start conversations. When he found out that everyone loved it, but no one had yet been willing to pay the substantial price, he mischievously decided to be the first.

This kaleidoscope has a separate glass sphere filled with liquid that sits at the end of the brass tube. You can turn the sphere or shine a light through it. A small twist changes the view entirely.

I'm fascinated by shifts in perspective. Is the restaurant empty or intimate? Are we full of ideas or unable to concentrate? Is it stagnation or deliberate craftsmanship? Are the holidays brimming or overwhelming?

New perspectives often arrive at unexpected times and by surprising means; an off-hand remark by a friend, a photo or lyric, a memento from a different time, a new route. Turn the sphere, shine a light, and relish the changing colors and patterns.


Last week's dispatch asked, Where are you a regular? I want to visit them all.

Cal wrote:

I'm a regular at a speakeasy just a hop and a skip from my office. I've been going there long enough now to have seen bartenders come and go, and I've helped the ones that have stuck around name a few of their seasonal drinks. The last time I visited was shortly after proposing to my longtime girlfriend, and the bartender and the managers greeted us with champagne and congratulations. We've shared drink recipes with one another and indulged in the art of cocktails together. I always wanted to be a regular somewhere, and I'm so thankful that I've settled in a place that cherishes a good drink.

Melissa wrote:

Last week I found out that I'm officially a regular at my coffee shop. I just buy beans every 7-10 days. But they know me. "6 oz, ground for pour over, from wherever?" Sometimes I get a decaf latte too. I always tip. I used to try to remember what beans I had had the previous time, but usually they've moved on to new varieties and everything they have is good. They're the only shop in town that will grind me less than 12 oz at a time, but now I'm a loyal regular, and I don't even ask other places.

Rok wrote:

I am regular in Santa Cruz, for its authentic people and the ocean which frees their spirit. And when in Santa Cruz, I am regular in Cafe Brasil. I go there for an avocado smoothie. I respect these people, because the way they run their place: they're open only 6 hours per day, but those hours, the service and the food are outstanding. For the rest of the day, they chose life. So healthy, sustainable and welcoming.

Sasha wrote:

I am a regular at Thunderbird Coffee in Austin, TX. I don't live in Austin currently, but during those increasingly-infrequent visits, I spend roughly 5-10% of my time in a familiar booth drinking the order that the baristas still remember after four years. There's no environment quite like this one, for me, that heightens my writing abilities and caffeine level - a year away from graduating college, I have a sense of deja vu as I apply to jobs in the same place I applied to schools. — written from Thunderbird Coffee Koenig. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Asad wrote:

When I'm back in the city of Kingston, which is nestled between Toronto and Montreal, on weekday mornings I hop on my bike (which is a safety hazard) and making sure that my landlord leaves for the office with his helmet on, I zip over to a student-run cafe shop called the Tea Room. The music is always great, not too loud and not too quiet. The espresso here is great, but what I look forward to the most is the roundtable that my 61-year-old best friend and mentor has established over the last few decades pre-dating my birth. A revolving door of conversations, introductions, reunions, and punnery. It is my favorite place to be at 8:30 am on a weekday. Part of what my perfect day would include for sure.

Akira wrote:

This is a hard question for me right now, as I move from city to city, every month or so. But being a "regular" has always been an aspiration for me, and I do try and pick out a place to frequent when I land. For the most part, before we got to India, it was a good coffee shop, where I could grab a cookie and a cappuccino, and sit and while away time. Right now, though, it's where I sit. Home.

I'm staying at this most wonderful homestay I could possibly conceive of, in a tiny border village in India (Pakistan is just a few miles away) called Preetnagar. People stop us—me, an ill-kempt Japanese, with a boy with vaguely Nepali features—and speak Punjabi to me, like it's the only natural thing to do. There's nothing but farms all around us, with nothing much to look at except for the daily sunrise and sunset shows. Cafes are out of question. It occurs to me, though, that we are regulars here in this house, in a sense that at every meal and chai time, we sit at the same table, and share whatever is on offer with everyone else in the household. And it feels wonderful, after being shuffled in and out of hotels, restaurants, towns and countries, for the past six months or so.

It's only been a week and change so far, but this feels quite like home and I feel blessed to count myself a "regular" here, if only just for a time.

Joel wrote:

The Regulars at Mozart's, Fridays. Hoover's on Manor. Russell's Bistro on 38th. Taco Deli on N Lamar. JuiceLand on 45th. All found in Austin, TX.

Paul wrote:

I'm a regular at church on Sunday mornings and fortnightly in the evenings. There's a bit in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that goes like this: "There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day, [The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] suggests, and try it. [...] If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phylum and/or personal inclination) or a bomb going off in your vicinity, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner."

The trick with being a regular at church is not to get into a routine or a groove and just go through the motions which is like hitting the ground. You need to find that thing which will distract you and then you're concentrating on God.

Sam wrote:

I love being a regular. Since we just moved to Iowa -- I'm in process of trying to figure out which place will become my regular spot, which includes Saturday morning daughter/daddy date with my girls. Cheers had it right, there is something about a place where "everyone knows your name."

Which reminds me of the places I've been a regular: Oklahoma City: Cuppies and Joe & Coffee Slingers; Salt Lake City: Tulie Bakery & Caputo's on 15th; Des Moines: Mars Cafe.

Dipika wrote:

It's been a long time since I was there, but I was a regular of a pub in Clonakilty, Ireland, called Scannell's. It used to get all done up at the holidays and that's why I loved it. I happened to land in Ireland through a series of random coincidences, but the best one got me connected to a small startup alternative paper based in that part of County Cork. Miss my friends from those days and the rounds we used to have. You knew the end of the evening was coming when pints of Murphys, that's what you get in Cork, turned into sparkling Ballygowans. But the warmth, the fire, the round tables and low stools, those were the things that kept you cozy. No matter where you were from or what weird circumstances had brought you there (for me, eloping with Akira), people always made room for you at their table. Slainte!

Brad wrote:

As if on cue: I'm a regular at Vintage Heart Coffee, perhaps the cultural or emotional center of Uncommon in the physical world. It's a simple place with excellent coffee and friendly people. It pleases me greatly.

Uncommon reads

The Internet: A Welcome Distraction by Marie Myung-Ok Lee:

At any given moment, 99.9 percent of [the World Wide Web] is extraneous, irrelevant, but that’s exactly what I need: an endless pool in which to wallow and do the backstroke.

How Twitter Hijacked My Mind by Kathryn Schulz:

Ask me what I love most in my life, and how I want to spend what limited allotment of it I have, and I will tell you that I want to be around friends and family, or reading, or writing, or in the outdoors, body and mind at play in the world. Ask me what I did today, where all the hours went, and — well, check out that chart.

In Search of Woody Guthrie’s America by Freda Moon:

So this summer, as I planned a coast-to-coast road trip from Brooklyn to my hometown, Mendocino, in California, Guthrie’s lyrics kept leaping to mind, running like a ticker across every imagined scene. Before long, they started to shape the route itself. I wouldn’t be able to go to every place in America that inspired his music, but I could go to a few where he experienced pivotal creative moments.

Your turn

As the year draws to a close, let's celebrate some of our favorite things from the past 12 months, starting with...

What is your favorite thing you've listened to this year?