The Friendship Project: Peoplescape (Part Two)

January 8, 2010

When we last left off, Maria Scileppi was describing some of the most notable friends that she met while working on her Peoplescape project, a year-long social experiment. The project culminated in an exhibition at an art gallery last June. To read the first part of this series, see part one.

Who were some of the most memorable friends that you met while working on the project?

I met Kelly, my July 9th, at a strip club. A friend of mine tested me and said I should meet someone at a strip club. We walked into the all nude club and were immediately approached by several women. I was trying to sniff out the friendly-will-talk-to-us-for-awhile vibe. Finally Star, a girl-next-door type, came up to us and sat on my friend’s lap. We talked for a while and I remember being really blown away by how normal she was. She did not seem like a stripper, hard and jaded. She had only been dancing for 6 months and talked about the shadiness that goes on between strip club and employees. She also drives a Cadillac and lives in Wilmette. That image cracks me up. Anyway, we talked for a good 40 minutes and she opened up about her life. I was surprised she spent so much time with us, considering she wasn’t making any money. Towards the end I felt a little unsure what to do. Now that I knew her would it be weird to get a lap dance? But is it worse to not give her any money since she spent so much time with us? She gave me a lap dance and I gave her $20 and a hug.

I met Charles, my July 29th, on the streets of Old Town. It was a Sunday, the hardest day to make friends and I had been trying all day. I was in public spaces hoping to make a friend. I never force it. It was now 10pm and I had just turned to a friend not sure what to do next when Charles came up to me and asked for $15 so he could stay at a halfway house. I thanked the Universe for delivering Charles to me. I asked him to join me for a drink and to tell me his story. He had just gotten out of jail that Thursday. He was convicted of murdering his uncle because his uncle molested his child. He had been in for 11 years and had never been on the internet! He recited some beautiful poetry he’d written while locked up. I gave him my business card which he promptly put into his bible. I realized afterward, that I had just given my business card to a murderer. I was quite embarrassing to tell my boss the next day but I haven’t seen Charles since.

I met Dusica, my August 5th, on Craigslist. I was looking for someone to play tennis with. I answered her post and we met at Oz Park. Turns out she’s really good at tennis and I’m not. We hit the ball around and she told me her story. She is from Serbia but went to high school and college here. She was also planning on opening a crepe shop. After our tennis game she took me to the future home of her crepe place. We decided to go to another crepe place in the neighborhood to do some recon. We met several times to play tennis or to see blues music. She has since opened her “Couture Crepe Cafe” and it is doing well.

I met Bridget, my August 9th, at a Media Bistro networking event. I was fascinated by her career and had a million questions. We became good friends and started hanging out several nights a week. I introduced her to my “October 20th” and they just got married last week in Paris. He is Parisian and they now live in France.

Do you continue to correspond or talk with some of the friends you met on the project?

Yes! I have about 30 people from the project in my phone. I have several that are very good friends and I run into people in my project about 70% of the time I go out. I went to a party this past Saturday and saw 3 people from my project. One guy, my April 18th, is from Australia but I met him in Barcelona. He was on his way to Dubai and I to Paris but we spent a few hours at a pub. We stayed connected through irregular IM chats. He was visiting the states for the first time and passing through Chicago. He asked about hostels but I offered my couch to him. I only knew him for about 5 hours, two years ago and now he’s sleeping on my couch! I do feel a bond with people in my project no matter how fleeting the moment was.

Did the Peoplescape project exceed your expectations?

Hell yeah it did! I had no idea how many people cared about the concept. Pretty much everyone I tell is fascinated and has many questions for me. It has also gotten other people to take on projects of their own, many have taken on 365 day projects. I also learned a lot about myself, I had no idea I had this in me.

What are some of the things you’ve learned as a result of this project?

It has changed my life and it will never be the same. I have created a rich world around me through the people I connect with. The project also taught me to dream big, sounds corny but I never believed I could do anything I set my mind to, until I tried. The project also helped me realize that I have something powerful to offer the world. I don’t have to live a cookie cutter life like so many other people. I can leave my mark on the world and make the world a better place in my own way by encouraging and promoting friendship and connecting with others.

Would you consider doing this again?

No. Absolutely I could not do it again. It was the perfect time to do it because I had just moved to a new city and had no friends. I had nothing else to do with my time. I also was naive (which I think is a great weapon) about just how much it would require.

For anyone reading, do you have any recommendations about how to meet more friends?

Yes. Most of the time people came up to me and started conversations. I think it was because of my body language. An “open” posture draws people in and lets them know it’s okay to approach you. Show up to life. I said yes to pretty much everything I was invited to. I used and lot and heard about things going from Craigslist, and Time Out magazine.

Is there anything more you want to say to anyone who wants to learn more about your project?

Please visit my website for more info: or feel free to email me

Once again, I’d like to thank Maria Scileppi for taking the time to tell her story. She has inspired me to get out there a little bit more and has reminded me that I need to work harder at maintaining my existing friendships. The fact that two friends she met on this project have since been married also reminds me how interconnected we really are.

How about you…other than the internet or other social media tools, where do you go to meet new friends?

1 Lori January 9, 2010 at 11:55 am

Hi Tim and Maria,

I’ve taken in both installments (Part 1 and Part 2) with hungry eyes. Great questions, Tim, I really enjoyed this feature.

Coming from a farming background, I learned to be comfortable talking with whomever happened our way – including waving at those passing by in cars or on motorcycles. It was just assumed that when you pass, you wave, say hello, or even stop by to ask about the farm or how things were going – even with complete strangers. Dad would strike up a conversation EVERYWHERE he went with WHOMEVER – thus, to this day, I have no trouble meeting people or striking up a conversation with people I’ve never met prior.

I found it interesting that most people approached Maria, as opposed to the other way around. I think Maria’s point is important – a lot has to do with body language. I agree.

The other reason I really enjoyed this interview – and Maria’s project, is that I truly believe everyone has interesting stories to tell – it’s the human experience! I think her message is a very good one – and my take home is that truly everyone has a great story. And, the more we can connect with others, the smaller the world becomes.

Thanks for this, Tim. And, thanks for sharing your stories, Maria. Best to you both!

2 Lance January 9, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Like Part 1, this whole story is something I find completely fascinating. Especially the idea that there was someone new every day! And then to think that two of these people got married…two people who would have never met – wow! Our world (and really her people) are so, so amazing! And all these stories are deeply good to read.

3 Tim January 9, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Hi Lori: Thanks for stopping by and sharing…one of my closest friends is a lot like you in the way that she can go out and meet people easily. I think that is not just a skill but also a gift. I’ve gotten better at this through the years and I’m very thankful for this. But I was flashing back to when I was younger (especially my teens) and I was a tall, skinny kid who spent a lot of time riding buses and trains throughout the city by myself. Part of my defense mechanism was to tune people out when I encountered difficult, crazy or confrontational people. When I did this, people left me alone. I would call this defense through extreme non-confrontation 😉 I agree with you about people and their stories and our world getting smaller through our connections. Thanks for sharing this great comment and have a great weekend!

Lance: Thank you as well for sharing your insight and appreciating these stories, too. I was blown away, as well, to learn that two of her friends got married…makes me realize how interconnected we are. I remember a couple years ago I connected two people in my network for a business opportunity…something that would help both people. It was a rush to bring them together. Thank you for stopping by and have a great weekend!

4 Nadia - Happy Lotus January 10, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Hi Tim,

Thank you for continuing the talk with Maria and sharing it with all of us. I loved how she said that body language plays a part in meeting people. I have found that to be true too.

As for your question, I just go with the flow and wherever I am, I talk to whomever I meet. I have made a lot of friends just by being out and about in the world. So many people are looking for friendship. There is a lot of loneliness out there.

5 Tim January 11, 2010 at 8:34 am

Hi Nadia: Yeah, there’s so much non-verbal communication we give off before we even say a word. It sounds like you are a people magnet too, which is great. It seems that approachability, which Scott “the nametag guy” Ginsberg talks/writes about a lot (see blogroll) and Maria mentioned in her story, is king. While we might not want to wear a nametag every day like Scott, we could keep the friendly attitude that we often have when we wear the nametags. Thanks for sharing and have a great week!

6 Ryhen | Mind Power January 11, 2010 at 10:43 am

Hi Tim,

I hope you welcome strangers like me on your blog. Like Maria, I’m just trying to make new friends. It’s such a coincidence that I came across this article because I recently made it my objective to visit as many blogs as I can every single day and establish as many friendly relationships as possible. I do have friends in the physical world, but I find that meeting people on the internet is much less stressful.

Anyway, I think your interview with Maria was great. I’ll probably won’t be able to do something like that in real life, but it’s sure is a fun thing to do here in cyberspace. =)

.-= Ryhen | Mind Power´s last post…Cause and Effect: How To Really Change The World =-.

7 Tim January 11, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Hi Ryhen: Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, you’re certainly welcome here. Since starting this blog, I have become friends with several people and I can say it has been a very rewarding experience for me. Thanks for your good words about the interview, as well…her project was certainly ambitious and I felt good that I was able to share her story. I popped by your site and was impressed with some of your content and subject matter…I’m all for increasing the size and strength of my synapses. I’m sure I’ll be back.

8 Jason @ January 15, 2010 at 8:12 am

This is really a great story Tim. Thanks for sharing it. I have two projects I am starting very soon. One next week as a matter of fact.

The first is called “My Grandma’s Blog”. My grandmother left a lifetime of diary when she passed. I’ve been wanting to go through her life and learn about her. “Grandma’s Blog” is me sharing her life with my readers. Should be pretty cool and the rest of the family will get access to her life in the process.

I will be releasing the details on the other project very soon. I’m really stoked about this and should be clarifying the details over the weekend. Once I have everything panned out I’ll let you know what’s going on. I’d love to give you an opportunity to help me out with the project if you like it.

Again, great post and I look forward to coming back.
.-= Jason @´s last post…If you register your site for free at =-.

9 Tim January 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Hi Jason: Your projects sound interesting, especially your grandmother’s diary. I remember when I was in high school and working on a family tree project, my grandmother shared a lot of information and stories. I still remember that summer day sitting in her driveway on folding chairs. It was pretty mesmerizing and very cool to learn about the family. I’m interested in hearing more on your other project, as well. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

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