I found myself somewhat enamored with the odd looking character off to the side of the room. From across the expansive lobby of the Kansas City Star building he clearly stood out in the crowd but it was apparent standing out in a crowd was nothing new for this guy. Amongst the attendees of the 2014 Middle of the Map Festival Forum was Charlie Mylie, an artist who donned a sequin vest and a matching bowtie, shrouded by the robe of a wizard. On top of his had a gilded dunce cap covering up a head of curly dyed hair and his water color stained fingers were hard at work making people’s wildest dreams come to life on a 4×6″ postcard.
Had you asked me in that moment whether or not I would want to spend time with this person….I probably would have told you “sure, why not.” If you would tell me that this person would be someone I would soon consider a friend…I would call that improbable.
So I find myself sitting in a bar, patiently waiting for Charlie to show up. I don’t remember how we came to exchange contact info but it happened and we were going to have a beer together. In he walks, this time not in a wizard’s outfit but definitely not dressed like me. He’s brought his fiancé Lindsey who is also an artist (possibly for comfort…I imagine him telling her how strange I dressed and that he didn’t want to show up alone). Over the next hour or two (I lost track) we had one of the best conversations I’ve had in a bar. Though our skill-sets couldn’t be further apart our dreams and desires were eerily aligned.
We talked about my new career path and my desire to discover a side of KC people don’t experience every day, they talked about swimming in the fountains of the mansions on Cliff Drive. I discussed my journey to Las Vegas to visit the Downtown Project and they talked about their friends wedding where they canoed down the Missouri from Omaha to KC to hold the ceremony on KAW point. I told them about my mission to make Kansas City a destination young people are proud to call home and they said the exact same thing about young, up and coming artists who see New York as the desirable destination to be “discovered.”
We were worlds apart and neighbors at the same time…
Charlie and I have stayed in contact but out of the blue he sent me an email this week and we decided to get together. The last time we met I showed him one of my new favorite places, The Belfry, a new bar in the Crossroads District. Tonight he suggested we throw darts at the Blarney Stone, a dive bar outside of Westport. The record stopped when I walked in the door. Counting the bartender, I was the 4th person in the place and it was apparent to them that I didn’t belong. No problem, I ordered a Boulevard Pale and sat down. Charlie walked in 2 minutes later, was greeted by name and he promptly ordered a pitcher of PBR for only $2 more than my pint.
Minutes later his friend Tim walked in (a photographer) and ordered the same thing…clearly I was an amateur. We threw darts, drank beer and continued to bond over similar interests. None of us were great at darts but the three of us excelled at getting the most out of our dollars at the juke box finding excessively long guitar solos within classic songs (7 minutes and 28 seconds of The Allman Brother’s Jessica was my pick).
We talked about our days and I found myself growing green with envy at these two guys who will do just about anything, but spend most of their time on what they love. I’ve been searching for a long time for something I can refer to as my craft and these guys are constantly crafting. I have been swinging a hammer lately in my spare time trying to rediscover the pride of building something with my hands. Tim remarked that he probably needs to do a little less of what he loves so he doesn’t have to swing a hammer to pay the bills (he spent a lot of the day outdoors today, the coldest day of the year, doing physical labor).
We enjoyed the company, had more than a few genuine laughs and most importantly agreed to make this happen again.
Community is an amazing thing, most likely one of the most powerful abilities all living things on this planet have developed. It can galvanize people of similar backgrounds, interests or locations. It creates a sense of belonging and can build momentum behind movements. It is a way of sharing knowledge, developing core values and creating culture.
Most often, we consider community a group of people who have something in common. Truly powerful communities have much more to do with diversity than they do with similarities…in fact, it’s possible that the strongest communities are those with extremely diverse backgrounds that are bound by one extremely strong purpose.
Charlie and I have found community in an unlikely place and I don’t know how many more people like him (or his friends Lindsey and Tim) I’ve walked by without a second thought. And I guess that’s the rhetorical question/statement here…what are you doing to discover and create community where it doesn’t exist today, where it (by most standards) shouldn’t exist?
I feel lucky to have found a friend in Charlie and I know we’ll share many more games of darts as we both work to change this city.
Check out Charlie’s work at http://charliemylie.com/
To catch a glimpse of Charlie and his fiancé Lindsey Griffith in action check them out in this project by Concept/OK: