CURRENTLY WRITING FROM Johor Bahru, in Malaysia. First time.
Never had a reason to stop here but as I’m due in Singapore very soon to host Atelier S P A C E next weekend, figured it was a good time to visit. Why not. Besides, I was getting really tired of being on my own: another first, for me, being fatigued with solo travel. Really strange. I think it has to do with the fact that I’ve only very recently discovered the joy of traveling with friends. I mean, like, for real. Mostly, what is exotic now about movement with people I know already is the conversation that progresses… which is what I miss, right now. Strange, this change.
I had always loved, loved, even lived for, journeying alone. Which is why I went to Finland for three months, to make the pictures in the zine, ‘The Book of Slow Moment,’ which I’ll tell you about shortly. But. But. But. There’s something… changing now… solo travel is different because people are not there to connect, they’re there to stay connected to what they already know and who they already know… which means, they’re closed to you… you are a random intruder into their scrolling. Which means you’re ‘weird,’ for wanting to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Yeah. So what I’m concluding is, and this is really a jolt, is that to them, I’m weird, to these people, who are on the road, supposedly. Not them. (Exception, S. That was cool. Hope you got my msg on instagram. Thanks!)
How to find more of us?
SO YEAH. Realized it. I’m just not gonna find the curious people out here, on the road. As easily. People are just bored or stressed, and they want ‘a change.’ Which leaves me wondering, what am I doing here? Looking for the story. But… where is it? You can get lost in the places and you can find the stories, reporter-in-the-field, man-on-the-street interview style, by simply brute-forcing it, but you can also get incredibly bored (like just now. A weird encounter with someone upstairs made me locate to this downstairs, just-by-the-window table, where I feel better because no one is asking a lot of nosy questions about how I’m making a living and why I’m able to do this without having a) won the lottery or b) become a ‘YouTuber’. He said, ‘I’m just curious.’ I said, ‘I have things to do.’) Or maybe I was just getting annoyed because this place was a bit too hip for me (read: ‘pretentious’) and, while the coffee was indeed excellent, didn’t really do it for me, designwise. Too much clutter. Too much ‘interesting’. Too instagram-oriented. Too… overdone. Who was this for? What was its objective? The space, I mean. Was it for me? No. It was for the people who want to journey from afar to take a picture of themselves sprawled on the bed upstairs. Yes. Bed.
I’m a snob, right? Oh, well. Owning it.
Make it… a cafe, if it’s a cafe. (Weirdly, there was a sign on the way to that room that says model photography is not allowed. But of course people were there to take pix of themselves. There. In the cafe. The one with a bed.)
Will I be back there?
Choosing when to engage
HARRUMPH. Well, that’s just me being me. Not wanting to engage when I just really don’t want to. Leaving and moving forward when something irritates. The wrong mood, the wrong phrase, the not-quite-interesting direction a conversation takes because that’s the slipperiest-and-least-awkward-supposedly, and doesn’t get hot with the friction of the right sort of conflict; not philosophies of how one gets on in a capitalist world but how one examines and explores life.
Need. To. Keep. Moving. To find more of us. You need to have real curiosity (and social grace, right?) if you want to be able to move towards the good stuff. I mean, really. Be good at conversations and things will emerge. For example, the whole thing I wrote above about getting annoyed and leaving abruptly contrasts very markedly to the other conversations I’ve had in recent days (Phnom Penh, Ipoh): contrast the above awkward moment to the chance encounters and story-relating with O. and N. Where there was an actual interest in one another’s histories, curiosity about one another’s pasts, real eye contact, even hugs and goodbye notes. And not a lot of boring (and I mean it in both senses of the word: boring into one’s personal life by asking protruding questions is just as –or more?–tiresome as a long conversation with someone dull).
Many times I have wondered about Johor–or JB. Writing it down. Writing about whom I meet that is actually interesting. Looking for the story; staying open. Giving myself five days.
Working on stuff
MEANTIME. THIS WEEK IN S P A C E, DK are publishing ‘The Book of Slow Moment.’ It had originally been put together as a photozine in black-and-white for a very (very) small set of people. Small circles. Keeps it interesting. But there was such a great response, I figured it might be a good time to share it again, with members of a slightly larger circle. The circle of S P A C E. Today, I’m sharing ‘The Book of Slow Moment’ again. This time, in color. Enjoying solitude and offline time for the last few weeks here in rural Malaysia, I’ve added a new set of words.
Sharing in the exclusive community that’s coming into shape: you know who you are. And thank you for supporting this work to go and find the stories that don’t get told, the ones about real people, who are young and curious or older and wiser, who are of the kind of mindsets that aren’t popular with the people who decide what goes into the press, with the people who are asking new questions and sending you amazing life tips and opening their hearts. It takes time to discover more of us, but I’m definitely gonna keep going, questing, asking questions, to connect and interconnect us. One. Designful. Moment. At a time.
This post is for C. Thanks for sharing your story with me, you really made my day. Good luck with the songwriting. And send me stuff, if you want. 🙂