I AM WRITING FROM MY ROOM, and it’s morning, and there is a rooster telling me so. Except that rooster isn’t the first one up, usually. All of the other people in the house are already out. I heard that there was going to be some commotion, later in the morning. That people would be coming by to pick up some stuff, and move it out. Somebody else’s stuff. That’s been here since before I was, because this is a new living space.
This is a new chapter.
I guess you could define chapters of your life in that way, huh. By places where you’ve lived. Not just cities. Cities are great, cities are fantastic, but cities, I’m realizing the more I write about the things I care about from them, are no longer the same places they used to be. For me. I can’t speak for everyone, and I certainly can’t pretend to know something. But my particular experiences have led me to see that the city isn’t where, long term, I personally want to be. I think I had a hunch about this in New York City in the late 1990s when I was looking for the big road to the gold and the art world. Just writing that now seems funny and strange, and a little bit embarrassing, too. Growing up on the East Coast, though, New York was ‘it.’ Where you wanted to be if you wanted to be anybody in the arts. That was the programming. That was the conditioning. And now, I think about all that and pore through the pages of The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain, which my boss loans me, and points out the stories that are very good (‘Did you read “A Dog’s Tale?” Did you read “Is He Living or Is He Dead?” I go and read IHLOIHD and I laugh out loud and then blink: it’s the plotline for Posthumous! Then I read ADT and absolutely cry of indignation. I burst out my most bursting-out voice and the boss looks at me, and this time he blinks. Slow. ‘Some rich people are good,’ he says, sagely. That is the thing about bosses. They just know things, somehow.)
But the changing of chapters is where, I think, the good stuff is. Was it on the internet, or in a QM book, where I read: ‘Life happens on the edge of a change of state.’ Like, water boiling into gas, or gas turning into ice. Change of state. Transition. Life happens there. I remember being in Japan, this would also be in the 1990s. When I was studying in Kyoto. I remember Japan, because it was before New York, and I had never even been to NYC before I’d been to Tokyo. The falling-in-love with the city happened there. I know. A lot of people are like, ‘Tokyo?’ But the skylines and the things there were to draw with the line and photograph with the eye were multitudinous and out of my usual scape of seeing. That was why I stayed on, for a little while longer than I’d meant. Got to know the city well, got to hang out in Ueno often, got to see people and build a small life and meet people, and then meet them again, and in this small way, turn the place I found intriguing into a sort of a village. A place I could relax, a little, even if it was extremely lonely, most of the time. That was before internet. I can’t imagine what it must be like, now… I guess the internet is great though in some ways because I can live in a not-big city and run into people and run into them again and meet over time and then feel, in some way, a sense of connection and belonging. Even if this isn’t my town. Even if this isn’t even ‘my’ country. Less and less claim on the boundaries, now. I don’t have to wonder about the ‘where I’m from’ question as much as dive more deeply into the more important one, for me. The ‘who am I’ question. Which, obviously, can rustle people up if you start asking all about it. Who are you? What do you care about? What makes you move, sing, fly, dance, love? These are too big of a place to start with so many people, of course, but I am deeply curious about people and asking is how I learn, so that’s why I got into writing, and that’s why I got away from Tokyo. I couldn’t ask anything. I got away from New York, too, for the same reason. ‘Who are you? What do you want from me?’ F, f, f. So I went home and found the rest of the story waiting for me in the cupboards of the dusty room where I used to be when I was a pre-teen and then a teen and the magazines I’d collected. And then I started cutting them up. Bit by bit. The programming, the conditioning. Snip, snip, snip. The way women are portrayed, the way they are showcased, objectified. Men are also showcased, successified. There is something wrong here, I think, but not in words. I just cut and paste and write little things in comics and wonder if anyone will laugh along with me, but I’m cutting and pasting all winter long and then part of the spring, and then my parents ask me when I’m going to leave, already. So I do. I go away, not sure where. Without a plan. No idea. Thinking about how to turn DK into something ‘else.’ But not doing it, not until I find the right mode, the right impetus, for the thing to come. The change of state. Not just to Washington, but this time, further. Asia. Like, for a while. Like indefinitely. I go on a tour.
SLOWLY, THROUGH THE DISTANCE, the fog clears. This happens in Gangtok. It’s October, probably my favorite month. October 2013. I write a piece called “Cloudy feathers in Gangtok” and describe pigeons on roofs and the feeling of the mist on my face, and the way the light pinkens the tip of Mount Kanchenjunga, sending me into the tizzy that will not let me come back, not ever, to believing in anything I can’t see with my own eyes, or feel anything I haven’t felt in my own heart. There are sweaters in the suitcases in Delhi but those are heavy and far from where I am, and we are, because I always travel with Boss. Obviously. We are carrying around the people and places that matter most to us, no matter where we are. No matter where we go. Going is part of the work, though. Just like we are doing all this emailing to people to ask if they might like to come to ‘N’ in London and Copenhagen and later, Hanoi and Bologna and New York (see the pattern there?) is work in the other kind of way. Practicing the art of being there, showing up. Saying hi. This is hard for me, especially since 2016 has been, so far, a year of introversion. I mean, really. It’s actually not very good. I am the kind of person who needs new input all the time, so that is why the City was so appealing. But trips to Europe in recentish months have shown me that the City of old, the one where there is ‘energy and buzz and cool art,’ is really not that anymore. It’s just a marketplace. All reduced down, in that way, in my opinions. Everything is an opinion, though, that anyone writes. And media isn’t media anymore, or maybe it never was, and social media isn’t newsy, because I followed someone’s recommendation to the wrong part of the city for a snatch of breakfast and it was weird. It was like, ‘So now what.’ And then you go back to that old awareness. Nothing is for real, everything is subjective. An observer, observing a system, changes the system.
MOVERS CAME TO THE HOUSE AND TOOK HALF OF SOME STUFF that’s been stored behind the grand staircase away. I had wondered about it. Because the blockage of the front passageway in a home is bad feng shui. I’m not schooled in feng shui, but I do design spaces, and I’m sharing some of what the feeling of my ‘rooms’ for conversations and the installations and the once-off ‘events,’ which are really more, in my opinion, like ‘happenings,’ which are about people and connection and the shape of space, and the conversation, and the moment and the whohappenstobethere and not overly designed but half improvised, half make it up as you go, those are where I am learning how to place things and create the lighting and set the stage for these great moments to happen. Because it’s design. The architecture of the interstitial. Whoa. If that’s not esoteric, I don’t know what is. And I would never, ever block the front passageway. That just stifles. That stiffens, stagnates. It’s not a good thing. I open the windows of the room and let the air cross-ventilate, when it’s not raining so hard the drops poke their hands in and get on all my bajillions of scraps of this and nostalgia snips and the cut-up magazines from glossies that adorn most any of the many rooms and rooms of the chapters and chapters of the where I go, where I am, looking for Self in the Other, discovering the Stillness in the attentiveness to the Shape of Space. It’s getting there. Slowly, surely. I’m learning and changing, every day. To the journey, then. To boss-men, new old classics, text and the story to come. I don’t know where will be next.
But I’m going to investigate.
And learn. And think about the Next.
Because of course there will be one, and not in the too-far future. The only thing that will need to happen is the deciding and doing part. The beginning, as they say, is half of every journey.
IT IS TIME to go to Viet Nam again.
A lot of conversations in virtual space, lately.
About Ha Noi, and ‘N’, and what that is. And why we’re doing it.
‘You know, if you want people to be interested in what you’re doing, you should show that you are doing it because you get something out of it. That was the number one question I’d gotten, from N in Phnom Penh and Bangkok and in person when I was in London and Copenhagen, too. I wanted to get sixteen people together for a conversation salon, about a topic that would start with an N, and in cities that have N’s in them. That was the criteria. I thought it was a fun game. But you know what people wanted to know?’
‘What’s in it for you, DK?’
‘What the heck is the point of it all? Some were more vocal and opinionated than otehrs. But I think the point of it all is very obvious, to me, anyway. And then I find little bits and pieces that other, smarter people have written and posted about how as human beings what we really do well is connect in person, eye-to-eye, and when that happens we can normalize our own ideas about things and we can feel more lively, alive, you know?’
‘So I know to some it seemed like a social experiment. I got some really strong hate mail from the Phnom Penh person who professed to be a creative person but was totally irritated with me for trying to ask him to come to something and pay a whopping sixteen bucks… that was the first one, and you know, how in Phnom Penh everyone’s so ketchi, yeah?, Yeah. At first these notes used to make me really cringe inside, like I was doing it wrong. But then… then I found out from the OTHER people, the ‘whynotsayyes’ types, that it was a GOOD thing to be of an opinion. That it MATTERED to take a stand, take a side, and ‘push back on the culture of maybe.’ Oh, I want so much to go into the details here… how it got planned, designed, why I am going to be doing it in Ha Noi, and then back to Europe… Bologna…’
‘But what’s in it for you, DK?’
‘Yeah! I know, right? This is the stuff of living, if you ask me. Being around other people who are interested in big questions, but aren’t getting space to ask them because it’s uncool to talk about metaphysics and cool to talk about [DELETED], which has NO bearing on the quality of my life and has no way of adding to it in any way but seems to be the topic of interest not because it’s interesting but because it’s socially acceptable! MORES, and what’s ‘socially acceptable’ IS NOT WHAT IS GOOD FOR US, most of the time, because what’s SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE is drudgery and ennui and living in a box of computing and digital messes and head games and disintegration of integrity and flakiness and banality and the Society of the Spectacle and media outlets that are buying up all the spaces so that the good stuff is getting drowned in the sea of irrelevance that Huxley talked about but OH, I can’t get all… I can’t do that… I can’t get all ENNUI and WOE IS US about HUMANITY, did you konw HUMANITY is ending? This month? That next month the theme for S. P. A. C. E. is swithing to KAIROS? It’ll be good for me to get out of this doomy gloomy spot where I think a lot of artists, writers, and scientists were back when they came up with the A-bomb, back when there was all that sadness around the fact that humanity had this thing to it, this streak, the sorrow… Krishnamurti’s eloquent take on it… the sorrow within us, and then that Dao stuff… I did a lot of research for this sequnce, you konw. I might need to put a little paper together summing it up, a PDF. I’ll do that. I’ll make it available to people who join me at N for Ha Noi, how about that. And maybe for the new subscribers to S. P. A. C. E., too. There is good stouff on the tables, for it… I’m looking forward to it… wow. I’m looking forward to the KAIROS. And N! N is about MAKING IT HAPPEN. Kairos. Framing the moment, designing rooms for great dialogue and connection. Celebrating the urgency of NOW.’
‘Dude. That sounds really esoteric and inaccessible.’
‘Well. That’s who I am. And this is the kind of stuff I make. And I am looking for 16 people who want to talk about a topic starting with N in Ha Noi when I get there. We’ll make it up, together. We’ll do this one differently from the other topic-setting ones. I will ask the people who are asking me, WTF is N, DK?’ And we will design it, together.
ARE YOU IN HA NOI? Want to be part of it?
‘MILLENIALS. I just…’
‘Can’t work with them.’
‘You know. People in their thirties, for example. Mostly those ones. They get all weirded out and want to investigate every opportunity in the universe. But they don’t actually decide on anything. And then, when they don’t, they can’t really… well, I don’t wanna judge or anything, but they seem… really… um… Well, it’s not nice but… confused. Or at least… something that… Hm. Let me put it this way. I wish people could just relax, you know? And notice that if you want less, you can experience more.’
But really I love millenials, I think
‘SO I’VE JUST DECIDED. I’M NOT GOING TO TALK TO THEM. Okay. Maybe that’s not fair.’
‘But really, what it comes down to, I think, what I’ve learned from 20 years of design, is that it’s about editing. What was that famous quote? About essentials?’
‘Simplicate and add lightness?’
‘No, no, the other one.’
‘Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away …’
‘But distractions get in the way. Other options are distractions. FOMO is a distraction.’
‘And phones. PHONES. What really kills me is the phone thing. How a phone becomes a kind of appendage and it’s weird, you know?’
‘I can’t do it anymore. They talk to you while they’re looking at screens. It’s so awkward. How can you have a quality conversation with that kind of stuff going on?’
(you don’t have to take my word. you wanna hear it from someone else? Like this famous white dude?)
‘I’m not saying they have to pay attention to me or anything, well, maybe I am saying that, but yeah. Okay. But I am saying… well, there is this other person sitting there and looking at you and giving you their whole attention and well, it’s just… it’s annoying. I think it’s a different kind of culture. Yeah, if I put it that way, it’s not personal. Anyway, I can’t be bothered.’
‘You sound like you’ve made up your mind.’
‘I think [Millenials] could use some simple framing. Simplicity-making. To get clarity on things. Anyway I like the new young people. The like, 22 year old and stuff ones. They don’t talk with their screens always on and poking at you, like it’s no big deal to call up a picture of someplace to illustrate with a digital thingy what they want to tell you. Like information is more important. Than eye contact. But the younger ones, they actually look at you. And listen. They listen! I’m…. I was really shocked when I met a few, this past trip to Europe. I met them and they listened. Like—without phone-checking.’
‘Phones. Bother you, huh.’
‘Yeah. I don’t have one.’
‘You don’t have a phone?’
‘… wait. How does that work?’
‘It’s not that complicated. It’s like the nineties, is all.’
Phoneless in Phnom Penh
‘YOU ASK THE YOUNG TWENTYSOMETHINGS simple questions and they don’t go all frenetic on you. You can be pointed. You can say, ‘What are you worried about?” or “What’s next?” You don’t have to worry that they’ll take it like you’re their uncle and interrogating them. They accept the challenge of it, and answer honestly. They really do. They entertain the questions and they are careful in their response-making. They don’t waste their breath or get all crazy about FOMO. They just don’t. I like that. I like these new people, coming up.’
‘So what are you going to do?’
‘Okay. Well,. I think I’ll do SELF.’
‘For the Millenials?’
‘Mostly. Yeah. Or for whoever thinks it’s cool to think about things slowly and work out what’s important to them.’
‘What’s it about?’
S P A C E.
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