Update: S P A C E members are invited to weigh in at this page.
TWO PEOPLE will know what the title of this post is about. Two. Just two. I met them yesterday. A and T. The question I posed to elicit these answers is a private one, something I won’t share outside of my innermost circles. (That’s just a handful of people, around the world, with whom I connect deeply and talk about ideas with regularly, over time. For progression and depth. More about that in a second. But together, we call this journey, a foray into S P A C E). For now, I need to say thanks. To A and T.
Thank you both for being there, on the rootftop, for sharing with me and admiring as we, who are tenderhearted and questing, the view of the half-moon beneath the clouded, darkened, past-dusk, and past-nine polluted skies and the redness of that lunar orb: vague and yet, alluring.
For the last few years, I’ve been focusing so much on how to ‘design’ for these kinds of moments. So much, that I forgot how to just let the universe lead me straight into them. Which, of course, is how I first started. Running into this: the magic. The art. Oi, but it’s getting big. Already. That’s okay. That’s where the good stuff is.
INTRIGUE. There was the mystery of it that drew me to that exact spot, to contemplate it for a bit. But also: stopping. Standing still, for a moment. Atop the world, there, or, at least, atop Phnom Penh. I’m not much of a going-out type of person, but I’ve made a pact with myself to ‘try new things’ more often, especially in the town that’s been where I’ve been lucky enough to stop for a while and take stock of the things that, for me, have been sieved out to be the clear, wide understandings that say, together, ‘This counts.’
Like I said, there was another moment, in another bar, on another roof, in the same town, on the same topic that you and I, A and T, together, explored. Because I’m a sort of nerd about relational art, I have to bring it up: I have to think about how that thing that was rests next to this thing that is. (Is this reality?) More about that another day, maybe when we all get better acquainted.
Progression, complexity: depth
Then as now, Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh, as I fondly call the series of conversations on rooftops in bars around here, sometimes, not often, sometimes, well, then, as now, there are occasional gleanings of deep, beautiful resonating gems of something that reminds us, ‘We are here. Together. Now. This is real. This is now. I can trust you, completely.’ We just met, but the feeling is there.
Or, we met again, and the feeling returned. As was the case, when the previous RTP, the most memorable of the lot, seemed to reconfigure itself on another rooftop in another part of the world. That time, the setting was completely new but the people there were the same: can you imagine? Replant the collection of people and just change the roof (a tower of wooden structure, not too tall, but atop a giant overlook) and the view (fields and forests, in the northern part of Finland). I talk about this a lot because this is the stuff of an upcoming story, ‘Arctic Circle.’ I’ve been writing it for the last few weeks, since returning to Cambodia from Malaysia and before that, Finland. A lot, I know. Movement, though, is one of my great needs. I’m a Pisces. This is how it is.
Simply talking. Simply being. Simply thinking together, out loud. Asking ourselves how to deal with the global pictures and their consequences that leave ripples in the ponds that become big circumferences and change the fluid dynamics of all that we, here, locally, will be experiencing. You told me, T, that you have seen the changes here in Phnom Penh over the years. Me, too. I’ve seen them and not known what to make of them. I, too, feel a sense of shift that is moving Cambodia away from its core identity: that happens, that is the same thing that has gutted the core of most of the cities that I used to love, on my travels in younger years, in Europe. Is it getting older that makes us more jaded? Or is the fact that you go to NY in 2012 after being there in the late 1990s and see copycat haircuts, shoes, glasses, striped shirts, and the same same same of the so-called ‘brand name’ shops, which really, are the same copycat bags, luggages, watches, blouses, trousers, shoes, shoes shoes that you see all over the world in all the big cities. A woman driving me and two others, C and SJ, to a lake so we could glimpse the lunar eclipse (this summer, in the village about two hours south of Oulu where I was staying to make zines and get people talking together in real life about stuff that maters, um, yeah, that was my project), well, she looked at me saying this very thing, in the rear-view mirror. Me riding int he back of her car, spewing on and on about why I chose this part of Finland, when she’d asked, ‘What made you come here?’, of all places, right!, and I said the same. Namely, to avoid:
The ever-present, overwhelming, indistinguishable catapulting everywhere towards some weird. conformity: some sense of ‘belonging,’ that is dictated by outside companies, ideologies, evangelists… and not internally woven. Not internally grown. Not internally contemplated, reflected upon, or, as they used to say in Ireland, ‘sussed.’
Suss it, lads.
Perceptions and shifts
GO AND SEE. Experience and do. Be there. As you both had said, ‘You have to go there. You have to see it. Smell it. Experience it. Be there.’ Yes, yes. Yes. Exactly what I had been talking about earlier in the evening, on a call with J. Who is probably like, ‘Why are you mentioning me on the blog?!?’ But doesn’t know, or maybe does, that talking with him, at length, in great deals of volume and paragraphs that could be written, I believe, in an array of chords and in the rhymed stacks of meters, one day, if I was that way inclined, but I”m not musical, but I love music, especially jazz, but no what I heard last night. Save for the guitarist from St. Petersburg (‘I used tog be in a bebop band,’ and ‘You should go to St. Petersburg! Great jazz there’) well, save for him, I had zero interest in the musical lineup. Except, wait. I’m being unfair. That ‘Happy Birthday’ song had a nice lead-in intro. That was nice. Not really worth staying for three hours for, hell, but I think that when I just gave up and said, ‘F it. I’ll just circle the roof one more time, because when the heck am I ever coming here again? Unlikely,’ and went out there, getting a smile of compassion from the staff who looked at me before and asked me, ‘What are you looking so sour about,’ more or less, because I’m a bit acid sometimes, opinionated. ‘Phnom Penh? Where isa he jazz, man?? Where IS it? And I’m not talking about this French gypsy jazz nonsense, pardon me, Django!, but no! I wanna hear the stuff of being in the moment, in the zone, in the small clubs that I love, where people just hang out and listen, and jam with the music, they’re not there to drink and shove one another into selfie shots. In Ireland, I remember, the Cork Jazz Festival, sounded as loud, and I was mad then, too. ‘Listen to the music, lads!’ Maybe they were European tourists. Had to be or they were Irish but just didn’t get into jazz… I understand. They like the craic and stuff, but maybe not this kind of craic. I know the musicians play int ehe bus and everyone goes quiet with respect. CMat DeBarra’s, that was great, and also, JS and also, F! of Interference, great stuff, grand stuff, this stuff, but always my heart goes to Fran Hayes who sang a song for me at my going-away, Lakes of Pontchartrain, and who has the best voice in Ireland, like. Wow, I’m getting misty-eyed, ladies and gentlemen. But yeah, at the Cork Jazz Fest, no one was listening.
That was, what they call over there, ‘a piss up.’
And so were my two little forays to Open Mic sessions, which should really have been called ‘piss ups’, here in Phnom Penh in recent days… All of them… were really… well. Be nice, DK. Okay, okay. (Granted, I have a pretty high bar. Someone the other night introduced me as ‘a jazz snob.’ Cool. Well, guess I am. Then again, I’m lucky: I’ve been able to see live concerts in some of the wacky, small joints that you have to know about because you get invited to them, because they’re about the music and not the sales of drinks, which is fine, I guess, I mean I know business matters and yeah they’re providing space and everything, but does it have to be so blatantly one-sided? I mean, does it have to be that the music is just a lure…. Baited. Can’t it be the other way? Can conversation and music and art be the main event with the drinks just accenting that, instead? Thinking of the Gatsby parties I read in Great Gatsby… lights, twinkly, conversations, people… jazzy… Jazz. Drinking… drinks… make people, I don’t know… get into this strange behavior that, you could just be honest about being yourself… and you don’t need this lubricant of…
Well, I did have that wine last night.
And that Cambodia draft, the other day.
And another little half-glass of something or other, the time before that. Where? Oh, oh. That place. That too-French Frenchy place. (But ! Thank you, M. If you find this blog, know that I appreciated the chat, and wish you a safe return to Bali. I’m glad you liked ‘Here Comes the Dance.’)
Problem isn’t that people gather for music. Problem is that the scene and the playing ‘at’ the people is what grates. I don’t wan tot hear amateur musicians playing as if they’re in a band, and act like I’m at a show. If it’s a jam session, make it a jam session. Limit the people, keep it cozy. Probably this should happen at someone’s house. I guess that person should be me. I should organize it. C had said it: ‘You should have jazz parties.’ Well, I’m not that organized. I’m having a hard enough time keeping my notebooks in order. I’m not the person to make big parties, or connect people, or whatever. I do like the mini-party, though: I do like public space. Making the third spaces part of what… we can… go into, every so often, but more often than just a couple of times. year. I mean, like weekly. We need that. We need space. S P A C E for progression to happen. Things to go places. Not just stop. Not just end. Of course endings are important, too. We need to let go of the maintenance work so we can make room for exploring and learning new things and in new spokes of veiny discovery and co-discovery. This matters. I know that. I’ve always had a hard time letting go of old acquaintances and sometime-friends, but the time to make cuts is looming, ahead. I see it. Clear and steady: like the brightening that happened when the dark of night took over and the bright of the city below, all its glittery, that you see when you take off from Phnom Penh in the evening, but from a new vantage, here, well, yeah. The dark shows us the light. The light, the dark. It’s like that. It works.
Found and lost
WHAT ALL THIS SEEMS to be pointing towards is, ‘It’s time for a new journey.’ Of course it is. It always is, for me, if I’m staying still for more than seven weeks in one spot. In fact, I’ve got a ticket booked. I’m going to KL next week. Then Singapore. Then back here, in Cambodia, for a moment. Why? A movie role… don’t even… ask…
Getting challenged by new people has been an experience for sure. Of course I’m going to go on my rants about social media getting all int eh way of people just being real, being themselves. Facades! But not everyone is constantly glued to their phones. A few talked to me. Not many, but a few. Okay. And here’s what happened.
Social norms, blah blah. Gender roles, argh. you play the part, the part is played. Then, if you can, as soon as you can, you junk the part. And go into S P A C E.
I do this.
And: the people asked me questions like, ‘You’re tired of people? Tired? Why?’ and ‘You don’t like that guy? Why??’ and ‘French people, like, too many of them in this place and you’re gonna bolt? Whyyy!?’ Well, all of that is fair to ask. Of course it is. But: I’m just… Uh. Opinionated. I guess that’s a problem. No, no. It is a problem. Of course you can’t generalize. You can’t. Someone might come along any day and shoot down all the assumptions you have about that whole group because, why, because they’re a counterexample and a paradox. So yeah. At one of the Rooftop Philosphy mini parties I met one, for example. O. She was French. Is, still, I guess. I don’t know where or how I’ll ever see her again, but we had one smashing good conversation that evening at RTPPP. I swear, it’s a cool thing, when the internet helps me discover exactly the kind of people I want to find. People who are seekers. Seeking something more. Ready to go out into the new. Not always, of course. No one can be that way al the time. And sure, you’re gonna run into duds: people, occasions. Get bored, get jaded, get mad. Whatever. You will. But! The rooftop happened.
I’ve veered quite a bit from where this started. But suffice to say: the night before one of the rooftop philosophy events I had written a massive ‘artist statement’ for my personal website. It’s since been rewritten a million times, but it wast he first go at it, the time that you felt like, ‘Yeah. I’m on to something.’ Writing can do that. Writing your way towards the center of your feelings. The pit of your core, the heart of your beliefs. Yes, we have to trash our beliefs sometimes because if we cling to them without remaining open to other people’s views, we can stay stuck. Without even knowing….
A, last night, you said a lot. I can’t remember everything. That wine. Was stiff! But, I remember, you pointed out, that we just want to be able to feel connection. As humans. It’s a need. And that technology, while it itself isn’t at fault, it has made it harder for us to be human. Be. Human. And you also said, people don’t know what they don’t know… And that struck me… and os many other things. That is why I wanted to leave you with some small token of appreciation. I hope you like the small collection.
For me, paper is a way.
To make a memento. Of a moment shared.
That’s all, for now. I am glad we met. I’m glad we shared. I’m glad I showed up.
As far as hitting up the people I had come to see, well, hell. I’d only met them the day before. Easy come, easy go, no? Except… no. That’s not right, either. Interestedness. Has to be there. ‘Mutual interest,’ after all, is the next on the list after ‘Bounded Box,’ for my 7-point checklist that I call ‘The Quality of Space.’ Design nerd, that I am, I have to have a blueprint. We hit it all, though, yesterday, didn’t we? A high quality, highly intriguing, bounded-box mutual-interest, and the other things on my checklist, which I’ll tell you about, should we find the communications continuing, somehow, through this two-way beautiful thing that the internet has given us a chance to do: connect. Meaningfully, not trivially. Well, well. Here we are. To the journeys, then. To the new, the near, the now and the next.
Comments are open, for a bit.