Tea and sunset

Tea and sunset

POETRY IS ARRIVING. Pictures of Bangkok. Stories in short, short blurbs. I’ve asked guests of ‘N’ Bangkok to send me something ahead of time, so we can create a joint composition.

Something cool is happening—people are writing, thinking, sharing, and in a sort of intriguing way, we are already starting our conversation installation ‘N’. Our theme for ‘N’ Bangkok, which is imminent, is NOW.

Diary of a Bangkok conversation-seeking traveler

YESTERDAY WAS a really different sort of day than the one I told you about with the BTS sign language and tarot stuff. Yesterday was slow and reflective.

3N by DK
3N by DK

The highlight was a little tea place that seemed like exactly the sort of spot to cozy up and become slow and reflective. It’s called Peace Cafe, the Japanese symbol 和. Cool little touches like having a decal on one glass wall on the staircase that makes a shadow. All Tadao Ando-ey but without the concrete. Second floor is a reading room, and that’s where I bumped into SO.

Earlier in the day I’d met someone over breakfast at my business-traveler-friendly hotel, just briefly, a 60-year old Japanese salaryman who confessed he’s dreading the day of his teinentaishoku, or forced retirement, which is imminent. We got chatting away about this and how he feels and he asked me what was I doing. I said, ‘意味のあるものを探しています。’ And he said, with zenzen no judgement, ‘深いね。’ And there was a long, long Japanese sort of pause in which each person retreats into their innermost reflective spaces. So going to another place, after, that’s a Japanese sort of pause-forming space made perfect sense. (I will skip my bad experience at the Aussie-run overly hipster cafe that has a Scandinavian interior, a Japanese name that has nothing to do with anything, and music that makes you want to run into the woods and wail to the moon, because design is sort of sacred, and you really really wanted to like this place because someone had a good eye, but!, but—conceptually it was all over the place. The equivalent of ‘fashion road kill.’)

SO and I have the same language, and even the same cultural references, being compatriots (in a benign way), so it was easier to get a little more deep into the texture and complexity of things that one who is a stranger might say to another one who is also a stranger. I think this conversation that took me through a lot of trails and discoveries and ‘a-ha’ moments that someone who is more evolved than I am in terms of learning how to listen and be compassionate and stuff. I couldn’t have been more lucky to run into just this person in this space at this moment. After our talks—which I still need to process some more, because they entered that ethereal and ephemeral and philosophical space that leads you to things, though only Rilke would be able to describe it beautifully and soundly in some sort of language, and one would only wish one could get a sense of a tenth of that sort of sentience.  We talked so much I forgot to order tea. So today, I’m at a little mall-ified version of the one spot I discovered yesterday. (I’m at Siam Square looking consumerism on full-square—plush and decorative buy-me stuff that is Society of the Spectacle stuff, a lie that material makes you cool, that chases us apart, manipulates, and shuns the better thing: which is free (high-quality time, together). But, no. It’s: ‘Smile for the selfie!’)

Before this gets too long-winded, and I share about the hotel employee at this rooftoppy place whom I kinda asked too many personal questions of, and what happened, or the young people I met at a ‘bar’ that is a plastic table and plastic chairs and knowing people who will give you bottles of beer and spicy Thai dishes, I will say that the after-teahouse hours were mostly simply just enjoying sunset, assuring the staff ‘yes’ I could handle a two-for-one of the hard stuff, wondering if interestingness and conversation space could happen again by sheer random chance.

It would and did, but I’ll tell you about that after finishing this pot of tea. While trying not to notice the clicking of digital pictures of other tables’ pots of tea, cakes, cookies, and waffley-tarty things.

Deep breath.

‘N’ is on. Very soon.

I’m grateful for this project, which lets me bump into sheer randomness, cool people, and intriguing connections by some engineering and mostly intuition and of course, pure chance. Let’s see where and how we can make more sparkling conversation happen? It’s never a given. Walking into the uncertain, though, is exactly what ‘N’ commands. —AS