YESTERDAY I GOT A LESSON IN TAROT.
Beautiful, interesting game. Cards are lovely, they have all these intriguing hierarchies, so it’s like playing spades, but in a foreign language. Actually it was a foreign language. This was in French. I don’t know what’s happening when things are in French. Depictions of royalty, maybe?
And a lot of other things, some of them made sense, because I’m a big fan of spades and cards in general and wanted to learn this, but much of it was over my head, so I had to excuse myself as the sole beginner and head for the exit before people got annoyed. Then, I got on the train again.
The first time I’d been on the train that evening I’d met a Jehovah’s witness who works with deaf people and knows sign language, which he told me is different, a little, in every country. And then we got to talking about how to ‘say’ the names of cities in sign language. Bangkok is this, he said. London is this. ‘What’s Sheffield?’ I immediately wanted to know, owing to a twenty-year fascination with that city. He crossed his index fingers and started sawing. ‘Knives. Sheffield is famous for knives and metalworks, so, this.’
Intrigued, I asked what New York is. I totally didn’t get that sign. He didn’t either, it’s just what it was. You get to meet people and you learn how to sign their cities. It’s like a separate code, and we talked about code and languages of programming, and then it was my stop and I had to go to this card game. Which I’d thought, mistakenly!, would be a fortune-telling thing. So I just blurted out, ‘You’re gonna tell me I’m gonna DIE!’ And they all were like, ‘Um. Did you read the blurb?’ And I was like, ‘No.’ And: ‘The first line is that you know, it’s not a fortune telling thing.’ ‘So you’re gonna tell me I’m gonna LIVE!’ And we were off into smalltalk and the land of inconsequential gettingtoknowyous which obviously have to happen before you can talk, oh, particle physics and the latest nobel prizery for neutrino oscillation.
Before this particular day, on the way to the next place, before that, on the way to this one, there were other conversations. I mean, there was that guy from Sweden who talked to me good-naturedly in that accent that reminds me in every way of a close friend from that country. ‘Oh, my shoes are from Sweden!’ I said. They are, actually, that’s a true story. I needed some good sturdy shoes because I walk a lot, so I got these clogs. Anyway, I also met a pole dancing freelance writer who shared her lunch table with me at a mall, and then, we got to talking about relationships! (always comes up, not quite sure why). I also talked to someone whom I bumped into the next day, and that was interesting but not really, because you know, some people really want to meet in a regular, networking-festival sort of way.
They want to talk over some hoity-toity buffet, and wear their ties and act cool and have business cards. Which now reminds me of what a guest of a recent event in Phnom Penh said about those kinds of events, which we go to but you know, we all know nothing interesting happens after that. I feel like I spent way, way too much time in these sorts of settings when, in fact, I really rather would have just bumped into someone on the street. Like, back in the 1990s, that one lad from Sheffield. I’ve been talking about Sheffield a lot because I still remember that conversation we had. It was really, really good. It was the kind of conversation that even if you’re completely different from someone, you can still talk together and even enjoy the variation. Which, I think, I have a hunch, is part of what ‘N’ is wanting to make space for.
Celebrate the differentnesses
HONORING DIVERGENT VIEWPOINTS. Unpopular, in modern Western thought. But today I got a challenge to do more of this. This is what my morning conversation was with another person, a lovely person, whom I’ve met here in Bangkok, this time much less randomly, because you know, I have been talking like hell online with people in BKK ahead of ‘N’ which is coming up soon, which is about gathering people who never would have met in ONE moment of conversation, and so, some people won’t be in town but were interested enough to ask me the kinds of questions that made me want to meet them and talk more, in real life, offline, you know? Really great to do that.
They say when you do a kickstarter—and I kind of picture ‘N’ like a mini-kickstarter, in a way—they say when you do it, you find out very quickly who your true people are. True in the sense of, like, this person’s solid. This person gets me. So many times we are distracted by people who don’t—and we’re distracted by something that’s our own preconceptions of who they are, based on say, looks, or their job, or their impression they left at you at that networking-festival, you with your wine glass that’s too expensive for the taste, and you’re like, ‘Um.’
Maybe I can say all this because I’ve just had some vegetables. Yesterday started out okay, I had the complimentary breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, coffee. But the rest of the day was just more coffee, chocolate, an almond tart, a shot of whiskey, and a soda water.
Better to run into people and connect with people who maybe get it that openness and readiness to try things is more like it. You know what else? I’m trying to do that, myself. I’m trying to get into the space of going where I’m not comfortable, and that started with the rooftop game of tarot. Thanks, Bangkok and randomness and internet, for helping me start this party. —AS