Why a front porch?
I love playing with metaphors, but what does it mean to call Uncommon a front porch for the Internet?
When I think of a porch, I imagine friends and neighbors talking and laughing together. People sit on the steps, lean against the wall, and relax in one of the misfit chairs. A lucky pair temporarily commandeers the porch swing.
There’s a cool breeze as the bright afternoon turns to dusk. A few people drift off to other adventures and others take their place. Each person brings something to share, from a special bottle or dish to an unforgettable story.
Most arrive with someone, but minutes later, they're drawn into conversations with new friends. They’re curiosity is piqued by books, movies, albums, exhibits, and restaurants they are eager to explore. As darkness settles, the talk grows quieter and more reflective. Unusual candor and intimate conversation spark shifts in perspective. The thread that brought everyone together is strengthened.
That explains what we mean by porch, but why a front porch and not a back porch?
Normally when you find yourself on someone’s back porch, you were invited. In many cases, you’re already friends.
A front porch, though, welcomes the passersby; the stranger who just moved in across the street and the neighbor who you’ve only shared polite waves with. The gathering is in the open and the sound of music and smells of delicious food waft down the sidewalk. It's as easy to stop by for a few as it is to stay for hours.
Everyone is welcome.
The last dispatch asked, What were your favorite toys growing up?
I have to say that growing up I loved my Big Trak! I even had the optional basket that attached and you could fill it with stuff and then program the Big Trak to dump stuff. It was really a great toy. It was one of those toys that interested me. Basically, you had a keypad and direction arrows that you would program things of go straight for x amount lengths. Turn 90 degrees right. Pause for 2 minutes. Dump bucket. Fire Laser.
It was rudimentary but I have to say that I became interested in programming because of this toy. You could program some very complex routines and you had to make sure that the routines were correct or it wouldn't work the way you intended. This meant a lot of walking through the steps yourself and then writing them done. I have to admit for such a simple toy it was complex. And it taught me about complexity. Guess why I'm such a geek now.
My favorite toys were always Lego. One particular Christmas, my parents went all-out and gave me a beautiful, huge-for-a-kid, amazing pirate ship. I couldn't believe it. It was a very complex Lego set, and I was a small child, so my dad had to build it for me, which took a few long nights. I remember waking up early with excitement, walking into the living room, blinds still down, and see the ship in the dark, slowly getting ready for me. I still keep this ship intact.
I loved my Transformers, and I owned my share of Lego Toys and Blocks™, but my favorite plaything was a different kind of building toy: Construx. I don’t think they survived long after the '80s, but I had literally buckets and buckets of them, and I played with them well into my early teens. Less fiddly and tiny than Lego, Construx seemed to have been optimized not for looking nice but for making structures children could play with once they were completed. You could sit down with them and have a pretty large edifice in front of you in half an hour—a framework for whatever your imagination wanted to project onto it. I still have all of them, because they’re basically irreplaceable, and I cling to the (probably spurious) belief that my eventual children will still want to play with physical building toys.
I have a small battered car on a shelf in our bedroom but it's not what you'd call the museum of my childhood or even my favourite toy. That would be Lego, which is now mixed up with newer bricks and such in our loft. Our children enjoyed it for many hours, but a couple of years ago decided they'd outgrown it.
Table for Six
We recently added a delightful, surprising chapter to Uncommon’s story: our first Table for Six conversations!
Table for Six is for cultivating new perspectives and relationships with kind, creative people from around the world.
Last month, we decided to give it a go in a rather uncommon way for an online community: with phone calls. We brought together groups of 6 members to talk about things big and small. People joined from Southampton, San Francisco, Berlin, NYC, Malmö, Washington D.C. and places in-between. Our topic of choice was Back and Forth, from travel adventures to routine commutes.
And you know, it was amazing. People described the experience as “unusual”, “inspiring”, “fulfilling”, “peculiarly refreshing”, and “energizing.” The front porch came to life :)
One conversation felt like a high-energy brunch. There were hilarious, elaborate stories of epic road trips and vacation catastrophes. It was incredibly fun.
Another had the vibe of a lingering dinner. I found myself jotting down insightful things people were saying. It felt like it could gone on and on and a few people mentioned they wished it had.
The phone turned out to be an essential element. We had considered video, but realized that we have plenty of time with our screens already. The telephone encourages attention and imagination and makes it easy to join from the backyard, cafe, or wherever you find yourself that day.
A huge thanks to the adventurous people who made the inaugural Table for Six conversations such a magical experience.
The next round will take place between October 18-25 and we'd love for you to be part of it. If you're game, just reply and we'll make it happen. If you're not a member yet, please join us. Each of you makes this wonderful community possible.
What fire wants by Jack Cheng:
Something I noticed for the first time last night was now little eye contact there is around a fire. We talked to each other but we stared at the flames. It’s called soft fascination, E said, in to the fire. It happens with clouds and rustling leaves, too, a lot of things in nature. You can leave the fire and come back to it without feeling like you’ve missed something, without needing to pick up where you left off.
Motherhood, Screened Off by Susan Dominus:
My husband thinks no amount of narration will change the way our kids feel about the phone. The problem, he says, is that whenever I grab it, they know that I am also holding a portal, as magical as the one in Narnia’s wardrobe and with the same potential to transport me to another world or to infinite worlds. I am always milliseconds away from news of a horrific mass stampede near Mecca or images of great medieval art or a Twitter dissection of the pope’s visit. How far am I going, they might reasonably worry, and how soon will I be back?
What food and drink do you love to share with friends?