Saturday, November 22, 2003

This blogger has become blogged up. Did I read somewhere that most blogs fall the wayside like seeds upon stony ground?

Biki was here for 10 days and that was tough, as having a houseguest in NYC always is. Not as if I have a 9-to-5 so I can give him set of keys and directions to the Statue of Liberty - which is actually what happened the first day. So perhaps not quite the turn of phrase I was looking for.

But an old friend is a good friend and I am glad we connected now, a few weathered lines on our brows and some life experience under our ever-expanding belts. Of course I did what I usually do with my guests - take them to everything I go to and leave them to their sightseeing. Gerard made some arch comment about some unusual picture of NYC Biki must be getting when the three of us went to see Oren Safdie's overdetermined but cerebrally engrossing new play about architecture at that spanking new architecture center at NYU. Or is it not part of NYU?

I did make some effort however - like the Halloween party overlooking the parade. Something I would not have been caught dead going to but decided to do it for B. We had a great time with a view of the parade that couldn't be beat. Of course, I indulged in another bad habit by inviting all the people I wanted to see to someone else's party but, hey, there was a $10 donation. So Manuel came with his delightful 10-year old and Kathy (without Roberto who begged off, silly man) and some of her artist friends from the Bay Area. Funny thing was H (Where was she? Did she not recognize me in my blond wig?) told me it was going to be a benefit for a Shoshone Indian dream circle group with some minor celeb called Brown Bear but was that a joke? It was all gay and not an Indian in sight - me perhaps but whether am I more dot or feather, I know not.

A bit unnerving since even my lowpowered gaydar picked up (Halloween, Chelsea, bare male body parts...oh, come on) since I had Biki in tow. Saw Robert Riachrds and was asking him if we were indeed in the right place when Kathy came out. So there we were at Biki's first gay New York party. He took it in his stride and we had a ball. And he and Manuel talked about how they both had to rush back to their farms for their harvest in two weeks as it turns out Mamnuel has a small one in Chiengmai.

Biki's new ID I forged for him kicked in. Boy, is introducing him as a farmer, complete with new business cards I made for him using Appleworks, like honey to the fruit and flies of the city! Not that he wasn't already a rice farmer. of course, but I think he now sees what he's been doing with new eyes, not unlike M. Jourdan dscovering he'd been speaking prose all his life, hehe.

Our discussions about marketing organic and heirloom rice and tea came partly out of my being unable to leave him to his own devices and spending a lot of time talking. But I think T's and my long-discussed idea of doing some importing biz to finance our arts projects may have found roost after all these years. I admire Biki as he was the only truly productive person I met when I went back to Manipur after 13 years. So his business savvy is a boon.

So now we have this new project. I am calling it Farming Culture as it will include cultural projects too. The idea is to market small quantity, high-end heirloom and organic tea and rice. I took Biki to Rice in DUMBO and, of course, the pretty waitress sat down with us and made Biki taste all 6 varieties of rice. Biki agreed that if they can market Bhutanese red rice we can do the same for chak-hao, taothabee, phouren. He knows quite a lot. David the owner came hurrying in, after hearing there was an Asian rice farmer in his restaurant! Ah, New York, gotta love the place.

David is a charming entrepreneur on the same length as we and a slow-food person. I turned the conversation to heirloom wild tea, picking up the thread from my conversation some years earlier with Les, who liked the wild tea I sent him after we got back from Indonesia.

So now we have a new tea. A whole new category perhaps. Named the one I have Tamenglong. Let's see how we can shape it. D suggested we meet his tea importer friend and, of course, such is my life, it turns out I knew him. Zette and my former volunteer on the Tibet Film festival a decade ago! So Sebastian now has a great business importing fine teas, as we found out when David drove Tomiyo, Biki and I to the shop in Williamsburg. S has found a great way to make In Pursuit of Tea a way use his essential wanderlust. That was a fine afternoon, sitting around tasting all those teas. Pu-erh. Monkey-Picked. Oolong. Darjeeling. White.

What appeals to me about Farming Culture is that it may give the opportunity to create something new with what there is. A new tea. A new rice. All from the existing and the traditional. I think we will even get to name things anew, decide on their attributes and plant them in people's heads. Much like anything else I am doing right now I suppose if you think about it: trying to connect existing dots in new ways to make a new picture. I like that. Fun fun fun.

I think this can be exciting, Farming Culture, one seed at a time. Tomiyo took Biki to Dean and DeLuca, Gourmet Garage and the markets in Chinatown; I took him to Gristedes, Kalyustan's and got him Zabar's holiday catalogue. What's on the shelves? How are they priced? What will appeal? How to package? How to create a niche? I showed Biki the film on Orchids and he is now eager to find out for us the myths, folklore, customs and art that surrounds traditional rice species. His being a lit. and linguistics major helps. Tomiyo talked to Lata and got some low down on imports and tariffs from her cuz. She's great at that. Now Biki is all wound up and admonished me not to drop things after he leaves as he is serious now and i have some many things in thw works. But I think we have a good picture of how to give new worth, economic value and modern image to the traditional.

Next blog: Appalachia! Old dots. New pictures....