‘THIS ISN’T A BOOK. This is an experience.’
Details by email, for those who pre-order.
Pre-order here: Nostalgia Cà Phê.
‘THIS ISN’T A BOOK. This is an experience.’
Details by email, for those who pre-order.
Pre-order here: Nostalgia Cà Phê.
A NEW BOOK is going to launch on 1 September. It’s called Nostalgia Ca Phe. I’m really looking forward to seeing this one go out into the world. Not your usual kind of book, Nostalgia. It’s a nonlinear interactive experience. I know. That’s weird. (But… if you are smiling, then this was written for people like us.) Science fiction, third-person narrative. Set in Copenhagen, Hanoi, and… outer space.
Set to launch on 1 September…
AT LAST, the picture of our guests at ‘N’ Hanoi: NARRATIVE. What stories do we tell to the world? Which ones do we tell ourselves? In this brief encounter, 16 people whose paths might not have otherwise crossed conversed and wrote, read and listened, in a space of just 2.5 hours. A magic moment. *!
DID I TELL YOU that when you join ‘N’, you get to choose a color from the 256-box color grid that is the RGB palette for web-safe colors? Yes.
GRID. THIS MAY SOUND like garblety-gook to some, but to others, it’s entirely clear. Of course one would enjoy with relish the opportunity: take 16N, which gathers 16 people in 16 cities, and let each guest choose a color, a unique ‘box’ that identifies her or him or no-pronoun, in a way that makes, you know, just enjoy the personalities that come through when we choose a color. So simple and light, right? It helps, I think, it helps us not look at each other as compilations of stereotypes. Stereotypes about people we see, and make calls about, stereotypes that are implicit and unconscious and culturally programmed. Ones that we’re not even aware that we have.
Does it make sense, kind of?
I feel we get caught up in this kind of thing, this kind of thinking, like: ‘Yeah, yeah. I can relate to you, because you’re like ___.’ A ___ that I have some experience with. So I can put you in a box.
Let’s just do that to ourselves, shall we? Shall we put ourselves in the box of our choice? Let’s be colorful.
Owing to that fact that I am in complete administrative overhaul here at DK World HQ, because of some new people joining me and helping me figure out how to be more efficient and smart and life-hack-y, I have gone through and painstakingly organized everything I have archived ever. (Well, at least since showing up in Asia, in 2013, that is.)
There are numerous splotches of paper, blotters, things in diaries, notecards, index cards, post-its, spiral-bound notebooks, looseleaf books, folded-over articles made into new kinds of zines and books to showcase, one day, in a light installation that will be invitation-only here where I am, presently. (Phnom Penh). And so on. But yeah, I also had to go through and put all the numbers for all the hex codes of colors that have already been chosen into a file. One place. Everything goes in a box!, and then, now, I can look at them all, and I’ll make a grid for all the 4 N events so far. That would be… 16 x 4… We are 25% done with ’16N!,’ wow, then what will I do. Hmmmm. Anyway, this is okay, because I want to make sure to show the journey, with you, as we go. Not just talk about it and stuff, but really show. SHOW, don’t tell, right? But I’m telling you that I want to show. What does that mean? Does that mean this is an oxymoron? Wait, what?
SELFIE. ON FRIDAY I WILL POST, at this very blog, the selfie. I’ve not shared any photos from any of the ‘N’ events so far (3 previous to this one), because of… lots of things. But I will, on Friday. At this blog. The selfie! That we took, together, at ‘N’ in Hanoi. That was such a moment of random and spontaneous fun. Let’s take a picture, said one of our guests, a portrait photographer who simply just ‘got’ this idea, and came, it was totally a blind date, like many, many other guests who showed up, not knowing, and it was a 16-way blind date, mostly, well, kind of, for many of us, at least there were bunches of permutations and combinations with new and different others that made it what it was. On the night. ‘Twas grand, like, and I slip into my southwest Ireland accent. Grand stuff altogether, mighty fierce craic. But it… was. That’s why I can say it like that. (You know, if I could just sit down and talk to you in real life instead of blogging here, then we could have the whole intonation and rhythm and eye contact that makes communication so nice, so human, so warm.) In fact, it is so important to me, and to our team here, to move towards those kinds of conversations that I am not blogging as much, I am not emailing that much, and I am only talking with people who are in our online circles in S P A C E. Why? So we can meet. Each other. Together. In real life. Did I say together? It’s so great, when we do. Be sure to join me, if you are in Phnom Penh or in some city somewhere that might have a good critical mass of people who, you know, are interested in things. (Or have an ‘N’ in them.) To the journey! And the selfie! Next!
ON 27 JUNE 2017 in Hanoi, a mix of exactly 16 people got together for ’16N’, a traveling conversation salon on a theme that starts with an ‘N’. This time, our topic was NARRATIVE. ‘What are the stories we tell to the world? Which ones do we tell ourselves?’ and other questions popped to place as we took three floors of Nhọ Nồi, small cafe in Ba Đình, quite by surprise. An installation like no other ‘N’, this one resulted in a flurry of poetry-writing, on the spot.
FEW INSTRUCTIONS ISSUED FORTH, and that, I believe, is why this ‘N’ unfolded as prettily as it did. Days before ‘N’ at our first meeting, guest TN had said, poignantly, ‘Sometimes you have to let a thing happen instead of make it happen.’ Inspired by the notion that nothing needs to be forced (including the number 16), on the day itself, we let it flow. Looser, lighter than any other ‘N’ programme so far, this one gave way fully to the playfulness of our guests, I thought.
[Right, ‘N’ Hanoi? We did that. Didn’t we? We wrote impromptu, we eased into it, found a groove and a rhythm, and wound up having a poetry slam. More soon, in a protected-page post to follow with a certain picture, but for the moment, these are the three poems you all left behind… I thought you might like to read them again. To co-discovery! To meetings of chance! And to… real life. Enjoy, enjoy. More soon. <3]
I have always wanted to be blonde
Does everyone experience Fomo?
Fomo can be a motivation for someone?
I’ve recently started using the word “fomo” as an action verb.
Sadly, nobody understands what I say.
Sadly, sometime, people hate my pictures.
I think you’ll always find people that disagree with you.
I guess it depends only on their intentions—Keep taking photos!
you will be cured
What can you break with the world’s smallest hammer?
Just forget it,
I’m really terrible at remembering names.
LET’S HAVE BREAKFAST
She always loved him making her smoothies in the morning.
Then he popped a mint in his mouth;
I love these flowers
A terrifying hue of violet
‘Can terrifying be a positive description of something?’
‘Yes, if you overcome your fear…’
‘Terrible love cannot be overcome…’
‘Anything can be
I have a life here.
14 people in the world are richer than all the rest, self-evidently
The truest measure of their riches
Is the willingness to fold themselves open
One day you will have all the love that you’ve given
If you have not given enough love, will you not be able
To see the love that everyone
I see what I want to see. And you?
The sound that weasels make playing in a ball pit.
A little known fact: weasels are deaf, they can only feel vibrations.
I wish I was a terrifying weasel
So I could produce terrific coffee.
Such a small thing like coffee
Can change your whole day! Why?
Because of no reason at all
WAKING UP IN A NEW PLACE, not the train and not the bus and not the old house(s). Back in Phnom Penh, but seeing it from new angles. Ahead? It’ll be a different adventure, now, from this point forward. Different people to meet, different scenery to note. I think even new foods might enter into the daily routine, just because that’s what happens when you’re ready for the new. You have to be ready for it, right? It’s timing, largely, these things. When you find your magic moment of connection, it’s not because you’re always open to that-which-could-be-remarkable to fall into your lap, no, no. I mean, there are a few rare birds like that who are, which is super cool (but must be tiring? Hm). But yeah. What I’m noticing, and this is maybe just me, but what I’m discovering is that the moment of connexion doesn’t come just because of design (as I had hypothesized) or *showing up* which I have yammered about extensively to those who will give me an ear. But it’s, kind of, and this is really the new awareness of it, it’s mostly about timing. After an ‘N’, I usually just go into hiding. ‘And now I don’t have to talk to anybody.’ Pattern.
Unlike the earlier blog posts here, about how I make an ‘N’, and just how many interjections in other people’s day-to-day it takes to get enough invitations out there so that just 16 say yes, get tickets, and show up, well, no. Not now. Timing. For me, going into hibernation mode for a bit, now, is on the agenda.
There is no way in a million years I’m going to go out and talk to someone on the street or the bus or on a boat about something they should come along to, so they can ‘get out of their comfort zone,’ and yeah, they should, they should also pay for a ticket, and so on. No, I’m just not into it, right now. Same feeling, when I wrote ‘A new plateau,’ after ‘N’ in London (November 2015).
THE KEYBOARD IS NOT connecting, somehow, so this will be short and sweet. (If you were there, the pic is coming. I’ll email you.) I had such fun meeting you all, individually and then, together. A fuller, more articulated thank-you is in draft and I’ll send, for sure, soonish. A quick thank you here, for now. Many thanks for playing 16N. Okay. Let me get myself to the next stop, the stop after that, and then home. More from there for guests, and then, for those in our online circles of S P A C E. If you were there, to be continued!
FEELING A LITTLE CONTEMPLATIVE, right now. Back at ‘my’ cafe. Probably for the last time, since tomorrow is going-home day. The slow way. Back to Cambodia, this journey. ‘Home’ is there, for now. Some years have passed there. I am looking forward to regrouping, reconnecting with 2-3 people (the people who *show up* for things) when I go back. This two-month jaunt into Việt Nam has been exquisite, eye-opening, restorative… I know what I must do next: keep making S P A C E. Like we all just did, 16 of us, at ‘N’ just last Tuesday here in Hanoi.
Trips. Can be refreshing. I like these kinds of things, these wanders and forays into the area of ‘out of my comfort zone.’ I am really happy that I came to Hanoi. I am really, really happy I got to meet some cool people. Like this cafe owner. I told you, right? She waves now, to me. She’s older, so it’s nice. Generational stuff. It feels like all of Asia is saying, ‘Hey. Welcome. Come on in, sit down. Take a load off. You’re very much welcome here.’ And as I left the United States four years ago, starting the unknown circuit right here in Hanoi, I recall the unsettling feeling that I didn’t have a home. That nowhere was ‘safe.’ Creating space that is welcoming, inviting, engaging, and inclusive of new and different others, to meet in remarkable ways is my goal. Is my work. Is because I want that. Do what moves you, right? A very incredible artist I know told me that. JS. Please yourself first, he wrote. Do what moves you.
11 JULY. Now, there is something new starting. ‘A little S P A C E.’ Discover with us (because we don’t know, and that’s the point for ‘the Art of Not Knowing,’ our journey into discovery and this thing we call ‘N+1’, very esoteric, sorry about that, working on communicating it more forthrightly) what will happen next with ‘N’, and other programmes, as things unfold from here. There are a lot of things that I could invite you to, but I just want to open with this. ‘A little S P A C E’ starts 11 July, and is free. Meet me there? Start here.
IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING, I am sharing more about the just-gone ‘N,’ but in waves. First sharing will be with our guests, then with our online community S P A C E , then at this blog, then maybe *cringe* facebook. There was a selfie. First. Time. Ever, for ‘N.’ Kinda nervous about that, but hey, it’s 2017. But. Instagram? FB? Is that where selfies go? I’m not sure. Someone more hip to social please tell me what I’m supposed to do with the picture. The comment box on this post is open, for now. Thanks! (Speaking of social, is that passé, to just say ‘social’? Anyway, maybe it is. So yeah. Help. Bit by bit, learning. I am trying to use emoji more, and stuff. Checkit. 🐬✨)
Continue reading: To keep reading more of the narration from this journey, here’s what to do. Go here. Will take it from the top when you click ‘Follow N.’ Or, just click this box…
Guests. Were you there? I think, this is what I know how to do, I think I’ll do this… With the selfie… it’ll be shared first with you all, in a protected post to come on this blog soon. Cool? While we are all taking time to maybe reflect on what the heck we just did together, which, wow, that was great, by the way, I hope you will feel free to email me as you like, about suggestions, reflections, comments, links, whatever you like. I forgot to ask you to pick a color, or tell you what the tickets were about. So there is a little more to come, if you want to hear more. Shall we continue? Maybe keep up with our stories in S P A C E?
JUST CONFIRMED our 16th ‘ticket-yes’ guest for tonight! Let’s get ready now with the signs, I’ll take a few pics and post if I can quickly set the venue up. More if I can… Oh, water.
BIT OF FRUIT, some tea just now. Looking out over the rooftops, wondering what stories will unfold at ‘N.’ Many people to thank for helping out with this one, all of that will be shared later, when there’s more time. Going to set up the space. 5 hours to go. ‘N’ starts at 7! Last few reconfirmations arriving now… *!* is the feeling.
DISCOVERED OUR MOST RECENT GUEST today on my visit up to the north side of town. Really fascinating and fun conversation, on the spot, pretty dramatic. Wow. I knew that I was in over my head when I realized suddenly that the person I was meeting was far more practiced in the art of listening than me. Also a little older. A year. Just a year. But she was, clearly, so much wiser, in this particular aspect. Then I lost my hat. I don’t mean that as some kind of expression, (if it is an expression?) Well, I guess these things happen. Losing hats, I mean. Then I caught up with my team. Then we got dinner. Then I came home, and read through the email. Then I saw that our count for ‘ticket-yes’ guests had bloomed to 13 (from the 7 that I reported earlier  yesterday). Things move really quickly the closer we get to the moment of ‘N’. It’s like relativity, and spacetime, or maybe just… deciding. There are some lovely people we will be gathering together, in the shared moment that will be happening at ‘N’ Hanoi: NARRATIVE. Here’s a bit about the journeys here, with ‘N’ in Hanoi, for the last few weeks. First, we had to pick a date. This is how.
THE INVITEES. Tonight, I’ll close the online poll where I invited people to confer on a mutual date. (The first few lines will show you how we landed on Tuesday as a date.) But whom would I invite? It was a matter of gut feeling. If someone frowned, no. If someone avoided eye contact, no. If someone gave me a warm return smile after I said hello, that was a little step towards maybe. After a while, we had a critical mass and a date. Soon after that, I just shared about it here and there and waited to see how things went. The people I met in real life were in cafes, on the street, (I shied away from interrupting people at lunch, but didn’t mind accosting someone who might be walking along on the way in or out of somewhere, like the youth with a trumpet in a case earlier today… hey, if you’re reading, I’m serious about the improv stuff, very). Overall, I looked around as much as I could, walked kilometers upon kilometers, got lost on the buses, found an incredible juice shop on Yen Phu, invited a young lad from the No. 9 to ‘N’ (who responded to the poll above), carried forward, carried on, worried, thought I wasn’t really fit for this since I’m an out-of-towner, took that and owned it, circled around and around, realized it doesn’t matter cause you’re a stranger everywhere and in my case especially in the ‘where I’m from’ places, took a train to the countryside to look at the land formations and rivulets and get lost and wind up… okay, that’s too long a story, then took a few days off, then did a mini-checkin with myself to decide if this was worth trying to do, then kept at it, because what’s ‘worthy’ is what’s ‘noteworthy,’ in so many ways, and NOTEWORTHINESS was our last ‘N’ theme, and wow, did I learn what that means (to me). It’s all relative. What would have been the point if I didn’t try very hard, and if not hard because hey, it’s really hot, and it rains, and it’s hard to get motivated sometimes to go out and talk to people I don’t know, then to try, at least, earnestly. Carefully and honestly, to discover the *new* and *different* by getting out of my box.
WONDERING HOW THIS WORKED? Mechanics are simple. I invite the first few guests to a poll, where we could see if this was even reasonable to attempt, given I have a limited time here (visa). And when we saw some convergence for the 27th, I asked some others to join in on this, too. As the number approached 43, I realized it was time to just ask directly. Emails and personal invitations followed, and the last few lines are those who confirmed just these last 24 hours. For this ‘N’, I tried it a little different from before. Instead of making people get tickets ahead of time, I just thought, let’s start with the date, this time. So I invited people, as I went.
Going along, starting in late May, and continuing through June.
In total, there were 43 people invited to this poll. (I met way more people than that, people I didn’t think were really a good fit. I’m looking for the kind of people who say ‘yes’ to the unexpected, and look for challenges, and are ready to discover others who might be of similar ilk.) Must also tally the people I invited in other gestures, but I haven’t gotten a final count yet. I’m pretty distracted, it’s hot here, and it’s hard to get too terribly excited about what might happen when I don’t know if… well. If 16 will be there. Then again, what do we really ever know?
Of 43 invitees, there were 18 respondents to this poll.
As I write this note at 9.31PM here, 13 are ‘ticket-yes’ guests.
Late registration (USD $27) opens tomorrow for the last three seats.
TOMORROW IS ‘N’.
‘N’ Hanoi: NARRATIVE. What are the stories we tell to the world? Which ones do we tell ourselves? Framing the space.
Let me let that sit for a moment.
It took one year to invite 16 people, people who committed with a ‘ticket-yes’, for ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS last fall. A year.
This time, I just showed up in Hanoi and started walking around looking for people. That was different. Harder, too. Internet is easy, sometimes. Hiding behind a secret identity, and stuff. Who does that, anyway?
An update on where things are, later on sometime today.
USED TO THINK that ‘N’ was about pushing back on the culture of maybe, way back in 2015 when the idea of orchestrating 16N, a 16-way blind date was just a sketch on a napkin.
But, that was early days.
Now, with the learnings from previous ‘N’ salons in Phnom Penh, Bangkok and London, I see that ‘N’ isn’t so much about commitment from the side of our guests as it is about me making the invitation. That is the work: me committing. To seeing if people would be there, be curious, be open. To learning from one another, to listening with eyes and hearts open. Isn’t that where the beauty is? Isn’t the pursuit of beauty the point?
ARTFULNESS. So yes. ‘N.’ Is an invitation. Some reading this, I hope, from other ‘N’ events will appreciate this next link. A poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer with this title, ‘The Invitation.‘ (It’s on the left-side sidebar of that page, check it out.) As passed on to me from someone I just happened to meet, happened to get to know, and happened to have that feeling, ‘Yes. I need to invite this person to N…’
Selected excerpt from ‘The Invitation’
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.
Read the whole poem at the poet’s site, here >
IT IS SUNDAY, 11.20AM, here in Hanoi just west of the Botanical Gardens. Not too hot, and I have one hour to get all the information together for everyone who is registering for ‘N’ Hanoi. I’m going to share the meetpoint, now confirmed, and set everything up for everyone who is making a commitment to themselves and to one another. So we can all show up for ‘N’ on Tuesday.
That’s like… This week.
WRITING FROM MY CAFE, ‘my place,’ I like to think of it. It’s under-designed, unpretentions, relaxed, and there’s a TV behind me that I’ve learned how to tune out. That bit reminds me of being at my parents’ house, where I learned to perfect this skill. This cafe is relaxed, a bit smoky for me, but chill. The people who run it, the women who seem to be related, are starting to know me. Today someone even said hello and waved me in. This is nice. Showing up has its merits. So being comfortable in a place starts with showing up enough times to get used to it, to be welcomed. The welcome is a big part of the design of high quality conversation-space, I feel. Even if today, right now, that conversation is with you, reading there, hey hey, the important part for setting up the space to write here begins with feeling like I’m in a place that’s relaxed, comfortable, where I can trust I’m safe. Welcome.
Since late May, I’ve been going around the city discovering little venues, small shops, tiny restaurants, and most importantly, new people. For the journey of ‘N’, the more I write publicly about it, isn’t so much about the ‘making N happen’ as it is trusting the process of discovering that, when you just go ‘out there, wherever there is,’ as RH put it so nicely that one time in Phnom Penh, then you just… you just happen upon the things you are meant to find, discover the spaces and learnings as and how they happen to make themselves revealed.
I promised to share on this blog about the programme for ‘N’. So you can see what’s going to happen. That’s… one way to see. But if you are wondering what ‘N’ is really like, I invite you to read a guest post from the lovely SR, who had attended the first ‘N,’ in Phnom Penh… Read what S said, in her guest post, ‘Skipping the awkward ‘get to know you’ phase’
BELOW IS A PIC from that same ‘N,’ originally posted on instagram by ‘N’ PP guest KGM, and shared by permission here. I almost never share pictures of what these events are like because… we have this one thing, where we ask people to put away their devices and phones and focus, instead, on being there. Real life. Conversation. Plus it’s hard to convey what ‘N’ experience is like. Since it’s about, at least for me, the being there, and the moment of connection. Impossible to put into a digital summary, but hey, this pic, we thought, was pretty darn great. 🙂 K is, after all, a pro. More soon, especially if you’re on the invitation list already for ‘N’ Hanoi. TUESDAY, 27 June. (No? Get in touch to request an invitation.) To the journeys!
READYING. For ‘N’.
Checked out a couple of venues over the last few days. Looking for something that would work well for the guests whom I have met, in person now, by running into them. Looking for the chance encounter is tough, though, and today I’m going to just lay low. Write some things. Reflect on this trip to Hanoi (almost two months). And see if I can share what I have discovered about ‘narrative,’ about the lenses we use to look at things, and maybe tell you some more, too, about the programme I am designing for Tuesday’s ‘N’. More on the way.
I’m sharing the exact location of ‘N’ only with people who are registering… So if you are curious, do get in touch.
At the time of this writing, 11 people have said ‘yes,’ and we are moving to registration. And I’m passing on the twenty something unclaimed invites, in the hope of gathering 16 of us, no more, no fewer, for 16N.
Who’s coming? Surprise.
Where will it be? Also a secret.
What will happen? That, yes. That I can share.
The programme for ‘N’ Hanoi: NARRATIVE, up next.