January has been a good month. Correction. A great month! And it’s not over yet.
Let’s see… I’m working diligently on two projects from Germany – vastly different in style and content, one consumer-oriented creative copywriting, one editing corporate content, and so far, so good. AND, after a hiatus, my US culturally-related project has also resumed – yeay!!! I’m excited. That should start sometime in February, once the other two time-consuming projects have wound down.
On the photo front, getting accepted as a member at the Soho Photo Gallery was such a happy thing. We are joining a wonderful community of photographers – most of whom are long-time photographers, yet amateurs, i.e. they have or had other day jobs – whose work we admire. We’ve attended two meetings so far, a business one, with the nitty gritty of running such a cooperative and gallery, and one where we looked at others’ work and discussed an event that’s planned for the end of the year.
On the family and friends front, it’s been lovely. We kicked off the year with a nice New Year’s Eve celebration at Paula and Chad’s, immediately followed by a family New Year’s Day brunch at ours. Our friends Alex and Max came to town , and we met them at the Whitney. Interesting exhibitions – the Portraits section was my favorite. We were then invited to join one Max’s old friends, Claudia, at her place, for dinner.
Claudia is an artist who does cool, humorous cartoon-like drawings which remind of manga. Her use of simple strokes is very Japanese, I thought. When I mentioned that to her, she said that she was fascinated by Japanese culture and would love to go to Tokyo. To which I thought immediately – ACC grant application? So I sent her the link. A year ago, I wouldn’t have known what that was, so in that sense, it was meant to be.
Now Claudia’s daughter Louna was also there. She is studying at the Peabody at John Hopkins Institute. We got to talking and found out that she was at the New Music Gathering last year and actually saw Gamelan Dharma Swara play. Come again? The one and only time I was at the Peabody, a student who was there and saw us play would one day host Alex and I at her apartment? Wow.
Which brings me to six degrees of separation – the theory that says that there are only a maximum of six steps separating anyone and the rest of the world. I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately, and the older I get and the more people I meet, the more convinced I am that it’s true. Often, you don’t even need six steps. I was thinking about the people I went to elementary school in LA with, and it led me down the rabbit hole of Los Angelians and West-Coasters and the like. I am apparently only two degrees away from the fashion designer James Perse, which is random because until Googling that day, I didn’t even know who that was. But when I passed by one of his stores near the Soho Photo Gallery the other day, it was like, “Ah!”
And a bit more bizzarely, through another El Rodeo connection, I am only three degrees away from the late Armand Hammer, four from Al Gore, five from the Clintons, which led to the Obamas, and in equal measure, to Trump himself. Which is, sigh. Not that I was really looking for it, but I found one (of I’m sure many) ways that I am connected to the current and future President of the United States. Not that it’s that special – we are all connected one way or another. I just never thought to connect the dots for myself. Being in New York, I’m actually surprised that I’m actually that distant to the Donald. I’m pretty sure if I went down the East-Coast rabbit hole – starting with Jennifer from Repeat Roses – there would be a more direct connection. If I went down the McKinsey route, it would be even quicker. But I digress. I would actually prefer to know that a closer connection to Obama exists than to Trump. If I went through my Indonesian friends and family, it will prove to be true, I’m sure.
Networks are everything, and getting in touch with the right people makes such a difference in the course of things. Being in the East Coast has reinforced this understanding, because especially here, when you’re competing with millions of other people, without a network, you don’t get very far. The worst thing you can do to try to get a job, for example, is to apply to one cold, online. It’s a gigantic waste of time, no one will look at your entry. Which is not so in Munich. You actually get real responses to the applications you send out in Munich, which is nice.
Anyways, back to the gamelan performance at the Peabody. It occured to me that I took a lot of photos then, partly for myself, partly to document for Dharma Swara. What if Louna was in one of them? I thought to do it but never really looked, until today. And whadda ya know? There she was, sitting on the floor in front of the instruments, just a few feet from where my mom and sister were sitting. Hard to believe. Life gives you these little surprises once in a while.
What else was nice about the start of the year? Catching up with Rickardo – the second time within a month, no less. He lives in London now and was sent here for work, but our connection stems from his time in Munich. My Munich network is one of the most enduring – I suppose because I formed it in my twenties. It has blessed me with many friends from all over the world who now also live all over the world. Anyways, we met at a vegetarian restaurant called Nix. I had spicy scrambled eggs and a gluten- and dairy-fee almond milk porridge with brown rice, blueberry jam, and bananas. Rickardo had many, many dishes. : ) The food was gooood, will have to go back there again.
That day proceeded with an enchanting Indonesian shadow puppet performance called Wayang Bocor, to which my New York and Connecticut cousins also came. I bought tickets online, but they also went because they wanted to meet up with an old friend of theirs from Indonesia, who was a friend of the creator, Eko. Three degrees separating me and the creator of the show I was watching. Who knew?
At any rate, January continued with hiking and sailing, Perth Amboy, Ocean Grove and Asbury Park – one of my favorite places in Jersey, and Harriman State Park – one of my favorite places in New York. In between were gamelan meetings and delicious meals. And somewhere in between that, was my birthday. We dined at a restaurant on Washington Street with Chad and Paula, which was lovely.
I was listening to an On Point podcast about Hygge – the Danish word for the cozy and comfortable time you spend with your loved ones. Where you gather somewhere together, with candles lit, drinking tea, hanging out, eating, chatting, making music, playing games. Just being. Am not sure how that fits with the New York lifestyle, but Germans (and Indonesians) are good about getting hygge with it. The most concentrated German hyggely time starts at the beginning of Advent and continues on to the Epiphany, or the Three Kings Day. All of those Christmas lights and candles certainly help, I suppose. With Alex’s family, this usually continues to the end of the January because so many of us have birthdays in the month and there are at least one or two family feasts thrown in there. Indonesians, on the other hand, are in a perpetual hygge mode, it seems.
After over a year of being here, it’s starting to become hyggely – our home, our friends, my family, our experiences. I find that it takes a while for me to achieve a certain level of comfort with anyone. But it’s slowly getting there.
At the very least, with all of our sailing, gamelan, and photography activities, we are building up relationships. I am getting jobs and projects. We’re taking new classes, meeting new people and making new friends, and reconnecting with old ones. In that sense, we are working to make sure that it’s really just six degrees, and most likely, even less, between us and the rest of the world. Which is nice to know.
On that note, I will end this post. Hope you’re all well.
Below some photos from the past couple of weeks.