I remember very clearly where I was when I bought my first urbit.
I was in motion, believe it or not — my phone was in hand. I was heading eastward down 21st street towards the intersection at 5th avenue. It was sometime in the evening and I was heading home after work and a little stressed about spending 200 dollars on a virtual computer of some sort, something that barely existed. Did it exist? Does it exist now?
It was summer in New York, LOT was still shipping packages, I was two years away from quitting my job and a team I loved dearly, and realizing I couldn’t really work on anything normal anymore.
I think if I took some time, I could probably pinpoint exactly where I was when I pushed the buy button. Why did I buy a star? Why did I only buy one?
Right now, I’m listening to door 83, and it’s 5:13 until the end of the mix, and the music is about to crescendo.
I’m writing this when I should be doing other work, but I’ve been taking moments here and there to re-situate myself amongst the last several months of conversations and feelings about this thing we’re working on: A new world? A new body? A new emotion? I’m making myself a reminder to design a shirt that states “Tiki is an Emotion.”
I landed back in New York, coming in from a week in California, early Sunday morning. The Saturday night spent in Daly City before coming home had Mackenize and I milling around at a housewarming party with a group of San Francisco -based “product designers” and industrial designers. The party was odd in that the participants were divided cleanly into two allegiances: Friends of the husband of the house, all from Company A, and friends of the wife of the house, all from Company B. We were the (unexpected) third party finding ourselves amidst the distinct groups. It was an earnestly good and wholesome time, my mind lingers on a handful of conversations I had with people on the nature of our work at Tlon. There’s not much to be said besides our gaining a visceral and very direct understanding of how alien our work and demeanor is compared to the technologists we spoke to. Our understanding of problem spaces worth tending to are quite different.
Before this party, we had spent a week with a majority of the other folks/peers/colleagues working at Tlon. What’s there to say? Despite no strict/intentional programming of our time together, work inevitably found itself percolating to the top of our minds, and then spoken, and then discussed, and then dissected. We spoke about computers on the beach, while huddled on a couch watching Cruel Intentions, while peering into a tank full of jellyfish, while gathering and pressing pears, while road-tripping on the pacific highway. When people talk about computers at Tlon, we talk about our lives, and dreams, and hopes for the future. We talk about our children and significant others and parents and the nascent artificial intelligences budding somewhere in the world.
We also had our rental vehicle smashed and grabbed on the day before the offsite, but all we lost were our week’s worth of clothing for the trip, nothing irreplaceable. Connecting the dots from the robbing, across Pajaro, and to the party of technology workers, I found myself in a sort of circular story of life: Losing something, gaining everything, losing something, heading east.
I intentionally stopped myself from writing about Assembly 2 for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into. I think of writing sometimes as applying a set of filters to my mind, in the sense of a coffee filter, and pouring out whatever’s there onto the screen/page/whatever. I think writing is hard for people for a variety of reasons, probably for infinite reasons, but for me in particular, writing is hard because it feels fundamentally inhuman. I learned my language through various institutions and through my parents, my first language was Spanish but I forgot it sometime early in life, because I was surrounded by English. Language and the expression of language is a bodily thing, it’s a kinesthetic thing, and this is essentially my stance on what good interface design is, or tries to embody, that no one, including myself, can really get right. When I write, when you read what I write, that’s not me. This right here, this is many institutions and influences. The text on a page is a cacophony of voices and influences, it’s a schizophrenic mess to me.
The artistic gestalt of writing (how it appears and is structured on a page) doesn’t do what’s actually going on justice, in my opinion. This is why it was hard to write about Florida in a way that felt true, in the way I want it to feel to you. Taking a month away from any event and then writing about it is like applying a gaussian blur to the event and the moments contained within. Florida is a deep blue and green at night, at the millionaire’s beachside home. Assembly was complaining to Ellie and Jimmy about poor cable management. Assembly was oranges and conspiracy and the thriving life around an oak tree in spring. Assembly was poor attempts at embodying the spirit of the Urbit project through various themed physicalities. Assembly were gun checks at every night club, and wishing I was at the beach at every moment. I think the most real moments of Assembly were the sober discussions in an Uber on the way to a restaurant on the subject of bodies, and what they composed of, and the later recollections of people skinny dipping in the ocean, and the seven of us who went to the movies during the official cocktail hour.
When I named Assembly, a year prior, I was thinking about bricks and the effort that goes into constructing a building, brick by brick.
I got off the plane and began walking, and walked a lot while visiting LA.
You know, you expect something of LA because of its image-like qualities. It’s a city that can be made into an image pretty easily. We were based in West LA for the majority of our stay, which is apparently strange. Some of us got to experience Erewhon for the first time. My favorite snack from the legendary marketplace was some coconut milk richer than anything I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve been blessed a few times in my life to experience moments that reduce the meaning of money to nil, and that coconut milk was one of them. I always love grocery shopping with people from Tlon. We have the best collective taste in these matters.
What else did we do? We worked actually, and got quite a bit done.
We conceived of a last-minute movie night and bought out a whole row for some people at Tlon and the quickest to respond on the network and twitter. It was Crimes of the Future, a movie about micro plastics, self-mutilation, performance art, computers, and Kirsten Stewart. As soon as we left the theatre, we bounced, leaving our guests in awe of our mysterious nature, us garbed in all black, us contrasted against the backdrop of The Grove. I’m hoping our movie nights become a habit, a fixture, a practice, a thing we do. Movies are important.
We went to a party where we were complimented on our simultaneous Steve Jobsian spareness and Balenciaga-like expressionism. The kid in ill-fitting clothing uttering these compliments in question said we were “So Balenciaga”. We were pleased until he turned around literally 2 seconds later and said the exact same thing to someone else arriving at the party. Betrayal. This is why you can’t trust anyone who valorizes LA, or paints over cities with large categorical brushes.
We met some models who distantly appeared interested in Urbit, we received free drinks, I think we perceived a nightcore and rock-n-roll set play out in the middle of a clothing store. Does this read as weird? It was a lot more tame than it sounds like. As it usually goes, we were the strangest ones there.
You know, when it came time to leave LA, I could only think about the truths revealed by walking it.
You know, the trees and other natural life are reclaiming the streets slowly. I witnessed a lot of pavements being pushed aside by roots emerging from the ground. Surely but slowly, a city will dissipate. You can’t learn this from driving in the city, an act or routine essentially expected of you.
Have you ever heard of pace layers? They’re a lot more real than you know.
Urbit Week New York feels like it was a really long time ago. It was only six months ago.
What is there to recollect? New York is a city. Many things happen in a city. People throw parties in cities, talk in cities, and smoke in cities. People scheme in cities and encounter paranormal activity in cities. Sometimes people meet for the first time in a city, sometimes people fall in love in cities. Sometimes people talk about computers in cities. Other people talk about podcasts in cities. Why? Good question.
I’m racking my brain right now for a particularly memorable moment from this week, from the vantage point of six months in the future.
Right now door 79 is playing..
I’m still thinking..
Ok yeah, it was one of the nights we were out and I was talking to someone who had no idea why they were present at an urbit event, or even knew what an urbit was. They asked me what the deal was with the people at the event. I was like “These are the new computer people”. “Computer people?”. “Yeah”.