Entry for October 09, 2006: H.S. friends visit, fondue, and RenFest…

Friends, I hope you've had a good fortnight. On Saturday, 23 September 2006, Damon F.P. and Steve M., two friends of mine since high school, drove up to New England from metropolitan New York. Since Archbishop Stepinac H.S. didn't have a 20-year reunion (a 25th anniversary celebration for the class of 1986 is planned), we got together to reminisce on our own instead.

"Frater Po" and the "mountain man" made good time from Damon and family's new home in Lake Carmel, N.Y. (Steve lives in western Connecticut, making the "Westchester crew" label no longer valid.) The guys, Janice, and I took a commuter rail train from Needham Heights, Massachusetts, into downtown Boston. We had lunch at Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall's international food court, walked along the Freedom Trail past historic sites such as the Old North Church and Paul Revere's house, and had a snack in the North End, Boston's equivalent of Manhattan's Little Italy.

We also walked around the Boston Common (our Central Park) and stopped at the ''Bull & Finch" pub, the model for Sam Malone's bar in the popular "Cheers" television show, although we got cheaper drinks at another bar later. There was also a gathering of alternatively fueled vehicles by Government Center. Despite some clouds and passing showers, we were lucky with the weather, with temperatures in the mid-60s F. We paused a few times for Damon, whose endurance was poor due to some medication side effects, and we also passed through the theater district and the stores of Downtown Crossing before returning home.

Janice made her famous sloppy joes and chocolate chip cookies, which we all enjoyed. The next morning, while Janice volunteered for her weekly shift at a local animal shelter, Damon, Steve, and I walked into "downtown" Needham, although most of the shops were closed. Damon and Steve did get to see our pleasant residential neighborhood, and after another feast (roast chicken), they drove back southwest. I'll try to post the few pictures we took to my Yahoo photos page.

At work, ongoing technical challenges have forced longer workdays (some from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.) as regular end-of-week deadlines approach, and my boss Michele L.D'F. has been on vacation in Italy for two weeks. I've also been busy with various games and the start of the regular television season. I'll discuss them in more detail in other postings, but suffice to say for now that the D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands: Halmed Desert" fantasy campaign is now under way, including new role-player Otis D., who has come with some baggage from Dan A. and James B.'s group.

We left the D20 "Mutants & Masterminds" 2nd Ed.: "Drake's 7" summer scenarios with something of a cliffhanger, as the Player Characters obtained sanctuary with the X-Men from the Metahuman Registration Act (partly inspired by Marvel Comics' "Civil War" crossovers). David I.S. and Steve M.R. have finally taken the first steps to joining Dexter V.H. and me in the "City of Heroes" online multiplayer superhero game. While Carolyn M.P. has unfortunately ended her involvement in the play by e-mail group, Byron V.O., with Greg D.C.'s help, is exploring ways to teleconference into our face-to-face D&D3.5 sessions from St. Louis, Missouri.

"Veronica Mars" and "Smallville" have returned with decent episodes (no major plot revelations yet, but the repositioning of characters has been interesting), as did the SciFi Channel's revived "Doctor Who" and revisionist and increasingly dark-toned "Battlestar Galactica." Janice and I are still watching "Heroes," which has yet to fully set up or fall into the story arc traps used in "Babylon 5," "The X-Files," and "Lost." We're also watching various animated supehero shows, such as "Legion of Superheroes" (an O.K. successor to "Teen Titans") and "The Batman" (much improved with the addition of Robin).

On Saturday, Sept. 30, Janice and I met Thomas K.Y. and Cliff & Eliza Y. at the "Melting Pot," a new fondue restaurant in Framingham, Mass., and part of a national chain. We had four courses: a cheese course, salad, entree (meat), and chocolate/dessert. The food was very good and filling, but the high price (about $40 per person including drinks and tip) means we probably won't go there very often. It was also nice to catch up with Thomas, who dropped out of the gaming group for now after the shift from the D20 "M&M"2e: "Drake's 7" supehero scenarios to D&D3.5, and with Cliff & Eliza, who are expecting their first child!

Speaking of children, Janice's and my niece Ava has recovered from her latest ear infection, our niece Laura has been diagnosed with a pre-epileptic condition, and Janice will be visiting her extended family in Pennsylvania early November. Dexter hopes to come to Boston that weekend, and I'll probably host our annual Halloween costumed game then. I'll be visiting my family in Virginia after my father's latest surgery in two weeks. Janice and I plan to spend Thanksgiving with her immediate family in Upstate New York.

This past Saturday, Oct. 7, Janice and I took advantage of so-called Indian summer by going to the King Richard's Faire. It was the first time we had been to the Renaissance festival on Massachusetts' South Shore in two years. The fair food was tasty; the garbed attendees (including myself) and entertainers were, well, entertaining; and our favorite weapons and jewelry/artisan vendors were in their usual booths. We also saw the tiger and bird of prey exhibitions, the joust, and various carnival games (we were rusty with archery). My wardrobe of costumes and garb, plus my sword collection, continue to grow.

Yesterday, we caught up on chores such as mowing the lawn, vacuuming, and doing laundry; watched some football and reruns of "Star Trek: the Next Generation"; and caught up on reading magazines and newspapers. Janice also made chocolate chip pancakes! This coming weekend, I'll be helping Janice at a fund-raiser for the shelter where she volunteers on most Sundays. As you can see, there's always something going on!