This post was supposed to be about Planet Comicon this weekend, but it ended up being about something different.
When I was 20, I grabbed the yoke of my life and yanked it in an entirely unexpected direction. I was frustrated with everything about myself, unhappy, confused, and only certain of one thing: I didn’t like the person I saw when I looked in the mirror.
After meeting a the people who were NewTek during a Christmas party in 1991 or 1992, I felt inspired by their efforts to fundamentally change the way television was made with the Video Toaster. See, in those days, if you wanted to make anything to put on television, it was insanely expensive, and profoundly complicated. Someone who wanted to make a show or even a short film needed tens of thousands of dollars and an experienced editor who could help them work with huge, complex, expensive machines. And there was no such thing as digital.
The Video Toaster was hardware and software that could, for about five grand, put the same tools professionals used — at a cost ten times greater — into the hands of regular, creative people. It was amazing, and it thrilled me to be part of what we knew was a fundamentally changing who was allowed to make television. We did that, but until there was online video streaming, the revolution never actually happened. I left the company when I was 22ish, and returned to Los Angeles to complete my Jedi training. Soon after, NewTek fractured, and I lost touch with the people I worked with for those years. I think about them often, and what an important influence they were on me.
It was a tumultuous time in my life. I was angry at a lot of things the way a young person who is trying desperately to get the XP necessary to level up to adult is, but I like to think that I had some of the self-awareness needed to work on changing who I was so I could get on the path to who I am.
During those years, I flew in and out of Kansas City International Airport (MCI) a lot. Like, three times a month a lot. It was something like a two hour drive from Topeka (where we lived and worked for NewTek), on a highway that just kept going and going and going and. It was not a drive I looked forward to making, but the world was at the end of it, and knowing that kept me going.
This weekend was the first time I’ve been in that airport since 1993, and it didn’t seem to have changed at all. On my way out of the airport, I looked back across almost 20 years of memory and saw the garage where I parked my car whenever I was there, and a flood of memories nearly drowned me. It was a tumultuous time, as I said, but it was also, on balance, a very good time. I’ll write about some of my memories one day, when I can sort them all out.
I don’t know how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t lived in Topeka and worked for NewTek when I did. I don’t know who I would be or where I would be if I hadn’t turned off the autopilot of my life and learned to fly while I was already in the air, during a thunderstorm … but I’m glad the flight path I took ended up eventually landing me back in Kansas City this weekend.
I have a lot of memories to visit and process.