Tonight I had my first official dinner with my dear friend, Marisa. A fellow MFADT student and one of the first friends I made here at Parsons. Marisa and I met on the first day of school, and since then have become very close. We have been through a lot together here in the city–hurricanes, earthquakes, but above all, fun-filled memories. I brought Marisa Panera Bread because she wrote to me about how it was one of her family’s go-to meals. It is also the go-to meal when we are together and what we bought for ourselves before Hurricane Sandy hit and we spent the week together.
After setting things up, we put our phones in the box to have a technology-free dinner. Although, I did take pictures and record sound to document our experience! I found that ironic since in some ways, that can also be distracting. My thesis has always been about my family rituals and how I am sharing that with others. Once the phones were out of sight, we proceeded to enjoy our meal.
I learned a little more about Marisa tonight. Although we spend a lot of time together, there are some things we don’t get around to discussing. As I shared my family dinner experiences with Marisa and how this thesis has evolved around my upbringing and changes in my life, she told me about her life. Marisa is Jewish, and growing up grew up eating Kosher meals and celebrating Sabbath on Saturdays. I think Marisa is my first Jewish friend, so learning about these customs is very new to me. She told me about how eating certain foods was a treat, but also about how these rituals and values of her culture were important to her and her family. There were also certain foods that she remembers her mom cooking for certain occasions that instantly remind her family meal time. They were never allowed to watch TV at dinner either, but she did listen to the news on the radio! For the first time Marisa and I exchanged conversation about things we didn’t focus on before and it was nice to do that. This also made me see my thesis as more than just me sharing my stories, but receiving stories from other people. The table is the set up, but the content comes from the conversations.
After dinner, it was time to wrap everything up and take my thesis back home. The struggle of getting a box up and down the subway is a welcomed challenged. It is also a great conversation starter. People look at me and I know they are probably thinking “what in the world…” but I also see that as an awesome reaction. I want to do something that not only pushes myself out of my comfort zone but gets questioned by other people.
This afternoon in the subway while I was bringing my thesis up to school to prep for my dinner with Marisa, I met someone in the subway station. His name was Imran, from Chicago, but living in LA. We had a really great conversation on the R Train as I explained my project to him. After this run-in it also got me thinking how this project may not just be about the conversations I have while at dinner with friends, but in transit while moving this box. The ‘big red bag” sure looks like something out of a Santa Claus tale, but also opens up as a topic for discussion for anyone–something that I rarely do here in the city. Most of the time everyone is busy reading, looking down, listening to their headphones and really missing that face-to-face conversation. Tonight on my way back home, someone in the elevator of my building asked if I had my laundry on wheels. I said no, but she responded, “Oh, I thought it was your laundry and thought ‘what an awesome idea’.” So maybe after thesis is over, I’ll repurpose the bag for laundry transport, but for now, I’m excited to see what other encounters and conversations this big red bag, and wooden boxes will have in store for me.