Adrian was in town, so he called an impromptu Power Dinner of the New York TEPs. Mim and Qwidjibo and I showed up, as did a couple of Adrian’s other friends. First of all, it was at Hallo Berlin, which may have just moved to the top of my favorite restaurants in Manhattan. Awesome German beers, and great bratwurst (and other kinds of wurst) (although they were out of spaetzle which was a great disappointment – next time).
Anyway, by the end of the evening, and influenced by beer, the TEPs had degenerated, as always, into telling stories about their time at TEP. And one thing struck us while we were exchanging stories – that the stories, in some sense, remain the same. As is becoming more usual, I never overlapped with these folks at TEP, and yet, the stories were all familiar (and not just because I remain on the various TEP mailing lists). It’s always about our ridiculously intelligent brethren pulling some astonishingly stupid moves, setting themselves or the house on fire, embarrassing themselves in front of guests, or other similar exploits. The nice thing is that the stories are timeless – we could each project them onto the people we actually lived with and imagine them happening.
It reminds me of what I said in my post about ultimate frisbee culture: “Itâ€™s all different people than the ones I played with in SF, but yet theyâ€™re all the same.” The community binds people together strongly enough that the stories are all self-similar in some fractal sense. The names may change, but the people and the community remain the same, so the stories achieve immortality. I told stories about food fights, others told stories about unfortunate eating exploits, and I heard about the crickets for the first time which was awesome.
I feel like there’s some principle in here about building community that I’d like to pursue further. It’s not just about binding people together with a big picture mission statement. It’s about creating the opportunities for stories to bind people together, to generate the (not-quite-so) epic myths that create the reflexive vision of the community. And it’s not just about spending time together, as Beemer rightly pointed out – a connection exists because of the transitive nature of strong ties (huh – I’d never really considered that before, but it makes sense that strong ties would be transitive whereas weak ties definitely are not). I’ll have to come back and pick this up sometime when my brain cells are not impaired.
A very pleasant evening all told. I’m definitely going back to Hallo Berlin – only 10 blocks away from my place!