something that happened in my life – andrew w’s dinner party – november 6, 2011

hearst-castle-3

one of the pleasant-er surprises of an always hellish family roadtrip (i think it was an average of 4 hrs/day in a car; SF->hoover dam->vegas->grand canyon->LA->SF) was hearst castle, somewhere in the rolling hills between SF and LA. it’s pretty incredible in terms of its decadence and artifacts and beauty all concentrated in this one incredible mansion.  breathtaking views, beautiful pools, ancient tapestries, egyptian sculptures, the list is endless.

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while the tour guides do an excellent job explaining what makes every little trinket in every room significant, what sets hearst castle apart in my mind is the way they make it an immersive experience.  apparently william randolph hearst had famous/interesting/successful people constantly flying into his mansion to be wined and dined.  people “were welcome to stay as long as they liked, although each night, your seat moved farther and farther to the end of the table.” great anecdotes about all these famous people who were invited; it was one of those situations where everything fades to greyscale and you just imagine the ghosts of these people smoking cigars while being served on hand and foot by a bevy of servants.

the invite.

Hey James. Are you free to come to a dinner party I’m throwing next Sunday, Nov 6 at 7 pm? Dont worry, my iron chef roommate will be cooking.

this was about… two months after i happened to meet andrew randomly at one of angeles’s parties.  i was giddily excited.  can’t particularly explain why; i really liked andrew when i met him, but it was more so…. who does dinner parties these days?!?!  it was just such a quirky, magical idea.  like a blind date for friends?!  just jumping in with both feet first and seeing what happens.

upon grilling him on the idea of dinner parties: “i just invite people who i think are interesting who will be able to find common grounds of conversation, and see where it goes from there.” but he had only seen me, diane, and ben, at most twice in his life; all of us were basically strangers.  love it.

the carpe diem, life is an adventure, people are amazing attitude.

this was probably the coolest part.  for the most part, i believe that people fall on a spectrum of preferring “stable, intimate connections with close friends” and “meeting new people to keep life interesting and dynamic.” (more generally, those that want to live life in a comfort zone vs. challenging themselves, although that is an overly simplistic generalization.) (difficult to assign value statements on any of these extremes; suffice to say that balance is always best)

if you know me, as of late, i have been sliding quickly and dangerously from the “close friends” side of the spectrum to the “let’s meet everyone we possibly can” spectrum.  and it’s tough sometimes, because, other than angeles, most of my friends are fairly reluctant to reach outside their social circle.  but andrew (and to some extent, diane) were so far on the “let’s meet everyone” side of the spectrum that it was really great finally being around people who i could really discuss a little bit more about some of the feelings i’ve been having about this change.

who knows who you’ll meet, who knows if you stayed at that event for one more hour, you could have met the person who would change your life. 

god, it’s like my mantra these days, right?  andrew, in some ways, is a very extreme networker (or as andrew prefers, “connector”).  goes to a ton of networking events, always by himself, and just talks to people.  diane has this habit of breaking up with boyfriends the moment things get routine.  andrew (like angeles) is one of those guys that simply LOVES people and hearing people’s stories.  that believe that everyone has a unique story to tell that we can learn from, which is just such a fascinating perspective. (andrew and diane love “never eat alone”, of course.)

chris, who, at least when we were dating, was not too keen on meeting people, messaged me the other day, stressing over this decision of whether or not he should go to this meetup.  he was somewhat apprehensive (potentially using a “can i trust them not to kill me [rock climbing]” as a cover for…. the fact that meetups are just in general intimidating).  but he went!  and he had a great time and made great friends.  okay, will get off the soapbox, lol.

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the people.  as promised, andrew assembled an awesome group of people.  they were “all in” in terms of committing to making the dinner party fun and interesting, and it worked out really well.

jacky. okay, actually didn’t get to talk to jacky that much. but i do have to say that he was incredibly extroverted for a software engineer who didn’t grow up in the states.  that, and he is an awesome cook.

diane. diane is a firecracker.  she has strong feelings about a lot of things (some/most of which i didn’t really agree with), is really passionate about the startup scene and is getting a philosophy grad degree.  used to work at a corporate job making tons of money.  bold political views.

we took the bus back together, and she made this comment about how “anyone can start their own business and be successful, why can’t it be me” to which i replied “that would be the sign of a bubble”, which then escalated into this “JAMES, TELL ME WHY YOU ARE SETTLING IN LIFE.  YOU’RE ONLY 25, YOU’RE OBVIOUSLY A SMART GUY; WAY SMARTER THAN THOSE OTHER BOZOS, YOU COULD BE DOING SO MUCH MORE.” and while i personally have dealt with this question and answered them in a way that i am satisfied with, she was indeed compelling enough to make me rethink my answers. (note: i am not that smart, stanford still carries way, way too much brand equity) (i have also since returned to sanity and know that i don’t deserve millions of dollars/am the happiest by settling.)

anyway.  definitely give her props for taking control of her life, fighting for what she believes in, and going big or going home. “why can’t i be one of those people with millions of dollars.  why do i want to be a cog in a big organization, where i have to work until i’m really old and have no control over my life?!  why can’t i be my own boss?!” something like that.  okay, totally butchered her words, but you get the gist.

andrew.  see above.  but a great host, also.

ben. ben…. is awesome. he’s a former bainie (LA class of 2009), so i gotta represent, but he honestly is incredibly smart and well-spoken on top of all of this.  totally impressed.  i know it’s a weird thing to get impressed by, but he went to a 4 hour session of occupy wall street just to hear their thoughts.  he also watches a ton of movies, which i think is also respectable.

totally irrelevant side note, but ben was weirdly charming too.  he is really good at eye contact and making people feel heard (jason was incredible at this), and he was really good at touching people.  and i know that sounds weird, but breaking the touch barrier i think is such a great way to build a connection (both platonically and romantically) but is something that still makes me feel incredibly awkward when i want to do so (platonically and romantically).  but like a slight touch to get your attention or when he’s adamantly agreeing with you.  man.  ON TOP OF THAT, we were discussing chrome commercials (as an example of why not all corporations are evil), and his first example was the “it gets better” commercial.  god, what an easy casual way for a straight guy to win over a gay guy/have a gay guy sort of crush on you ughhhhhhhhhhh.  (i promise that ben seems like an awesome guy to be friends with, first and foremost)

conversation spanned: exit through the gift shop/tom cruise, occupy wall street, the republican party, drive (the movie), general assembly/khan academy, everything.

training. 

the event sort of reminded me of this one day in RA training, where each training group had to go to SF and went to a cultural center in town (we went to a mosque and the civic center, but there are obviously a bajillion cultural centers in sf) just to talk to people to understand what it feels like to be a minority and interacting/developing a rapport with people who were different from yourself, which is a key skill of being an RA.  and while i think that, from an absolute standpoint, people are in general able to handle small talk situations, in the end, aren’t those the small things that really differentiate yourself?  when you can be slightly more charming or avoid that social gaffe that changes a relationship from a “he seemed nice” to a “let’s meet up again” situation?  being able to engage on different subjects, knowing what jokes work and don’t work, learning how to read people, knowing what you should develop opinions on and read about?  being able to not get “crowded out of” conversations, having the bravery to talk to strangers?  at the end of the day, people are going to befriend you based on what you can offer them (a very james thing to say) — is it witty conversation, being hot (enough for gay friends, apparently), being a good person, owning a car, networking, what!?

i don’t know if i’m getting any better, but one can only hope.  cannot totally justify why this skill is that important.

the “singles party” phenomenon.

was talking to zach the other day, and i was surprised that even zach had difficulty making friends sometimes.  there are just frankly not many ways to meet people platonically.  which then begs the question, “WHY DO PEOPLE NOT HAVE MORE DINNER PARTIES WITH STRANGERS!?”

i group this in with when angeles was ballsy enough to throw a singles party.  i feel like all single people would be really freaking excited about a singles party thrown by a friend, but nobody does them.  why do people not do this?!  anyway.  now i sort of want to throw a singles party.  THINK ABOUT ALL THE SOCIAL UTILITY THAT NEEDS TO BE MAXIMIZED!!!

grub with us – sf

andrew was telling me about this, but basically, i think it’s a way better way to make new friends than meetup.  when attending meetups (not that i am speaking from a wealth of experience), the activity sometimes hinders or sidetracks your goal of potentially meeting friends.  and sometimes, meetups around activities have such a breadth of people that it is difficult to meet people of the same background.  anyway, if i were in the market for new friends, i would definitely try this.

no idea on how you control for “quality of people”.

the unsustainability of it all. 

TC: what does the word ‘friend’ even mean anymore

This loose definition of friendship is something I’ve definitely encountered as I’ve graduated and entered the workplace. On paper, it would seem like my social life has expanded in the past year. I know more people in New York City than I ever have before. I G-chat and send emails with people every day. I’ll hang out with someone I genuinely adore for about a month and we’ll get drunk together, maybe go to a show, and maybe even go to each other’s houses. And then, unprompted, it will just stop. We’ll disappear from each other’s lives, only to make cameo appearances on one another’s Twitter feed. Plans will be made to hang out and maybe it’ll happen or maybe it won’t. The one thing that I notice about all of this though that makes me a bit uneasy is that no one questions the disappearance. It’s somehow implicitly understood that you’ll have these moments with people, only to watch them dissipate. It waxes and wanes. The person you went to the show with doesn’t necessarily see you in the daytime. You can’t really count on them for much and it goes both ways. The funny thing is that when you see each other, you’ll bare your soul. You’ll discuss job disappointments, love life, fears. It’s as if you’re bonded. And then, just like that, you’ll leave.

that paragraph really spoke to me.  definitely have been feeling that way about friends as of late.

i brought this up with andrew and diane, how they can possibly keep so many friends, and the answer is more or less that they know what they want, and they want to keep meeting new people, even if there is no expectation to see them ever again.  which is both liberating and sad at the same time.

week in the life.  don’t think this is directly applicable, nor does this really deserve its own entry, but i wanted to write about it briefly.

monday 10/24 – cooked house dinner/watched tangled with house
tuesday – dinner with matt and watched hanna
wednesday – run club, dinner/survivor with patrick
thursday – bought shoes, happy hour with angeles and co
friday – bristin came to visit!  cooked dinner, caught up, walked around north beach, slumber party
saturday – exercise, mission for mexican/birite with bristin, costco with bristin and patrick, journey to the end of the night with colossal squid, gay rave (by far the most epic day of 2011)
sunday – lunch with sam, dinner with patrick, housemate interviews
monday – more housemate interviews, choosing housemate
tuesday – undercover capture the flag, “epic fail” storytelling with jackie et al, angeles et al
wednesday – east bay to see aaron, watched american horror show
thursday – dinner and dessert with tri, drinks with sam
friday – run/gym, dinner with karen, nana, zach and misfits
saturday – brunch/shopping with mark/wendy, movie with angeles, etan, dinner with dave
sunday – half marathon, lunch/shopping with hannah, coffee/tv with patrick, dinner at andrew w’s
monday – dinner/cheesecake with estela/robert
tuesday – angeles for drinks
wednesday – run club, dinner and shopping with rachel
thursday – run with zach, dinner with patrick
friday – dance class, dinner with dave
saturday – bootie with naoko/patrick et al
sunday – rock climbing with chris, dinner with sean
monday – house dinner/house cleaning
tuesday – dinner with angeles
wednesday – happy hour with dave
thursday 11/17 – dance class with logan

REALLY JAMES, REALLY?!?!  this is just totally unsustainable.  like it’s just not reasonable trying to pursue so many people; what sort of relationships do i hope to gain from which people?  not to mention, i have been feeling really guilty about not studying.  something has got to give. need to start being pickier/need to start saying no?

We collect friendships like they’re Pogs. We collect them until there’s no space left for us to breathe. The question is, which Pog will be worth something one day? Which Pogs aren’t ones we use to just adorn our wall?

It’s hard to find quality friendships in your mid-twenties. Chances are people have already found the meat of their social life and now they’re just searching for dressing. It is what it is, I guess.

originally was going to do a anticipation rating/enjoyment rating for each one, but… probably is the danger of over-analyzing life.  thanks, ohlife!

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