Entry for July 26, 2007: Levines’ visit; on Bellevue-Camelot

On Sunday, 22 July 2007, Janice and I drove up to the Alewife train station to go into Cambridge, Massachusetts. There, we met college friends Steve A.L. & Michele M.L., their son Nathaniel M-H.L., and Amilcar B., another friend who teaches at Northeastern University (see photo above).

We went to lunch at a nearby "Cheesecake Factory." I hadn't eaten at that restaurant chain in several years, and I had forgotten how large the portions are. Still, the food was good, and conversation flowed easily, as Steve and Amilcar discussed politics in New York, Puerto Rico, and Israel, and Janice and Michele caught up (we saw Steve and other friends last month in Manhattan, but not Michele or Nathaniel).

Poor Nathaniel was a bit restless, so we later walked around the Cambridgeside Galleria shopping mall and along the Charles River. The weather was very nice, with temperatures in the high 70s Fahrenheit. The Levines then headed home to Brooklyn. I hope to see Amilcar more often, but he lives in Boston, and we haven't gotten into town from the suburbs as often as I'd like.

Steve is an alumnus of the social/role-playing cohort known as "Bellevue-Camelot," as certain dormitory suites were nicknamed at Hinman College at the State University of New York at Binghamton in the mid- to late 1980s. It included John Z.G. & Kim M.E.A. (now married), Dave F.B., Bill A.R., Corbin A.Y., several other people, and me. Bill, Steve, Corbin, and I were all roommates of John at one time or another at SUNY-B.

We mostly played "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" in John's "Gwynedd in Greyhawk" high fantasy campaign, but we also tried Beth T./Eve S.'s "1,000-point" superhero game, among others. Bill's AD&D2 "Oriental Adventures: Kara Tur/Dragonlance" scenarios dovetailed with those of Dexter V.H., and my own "Vanished Lands" world continued to develop through this period. Corbin ran an occasional humor game, such as "Paranoia" or "Xanth."

But our merry band had more in common than gaming. Most of the men in our college crew were from middle-class families in metropolitan New York, while strangely, the women were from Upstate New York. Several of us (including myself) found spouses through that group. Our circles shared strong interests in political activism, movies, music, and art, and we've been fortunate to stay in contact in the two decades since our undergraduate studies, even as we moved from New York to Virginia, Massachusetts, and California.

I entered the group through Corb and Bill, whom I met playing foosball. We also later played Laser Tag in the glass galleries and dark catwalks of the then-new fine arts center. Thanks in part to my friends, I became very active in numerous student organizations.

Of course, my sophomore year of college (1987-'88) was also the most turbulent emotionally. While we excelled in our "Folklore and Fantasy," equestrian, and political science courses, the suite at one point became home to 12 people, double its expected capacity! The "pseudo-suite," various relationships, and living in close quarters led to strong conflicts amid the strong friendships.

As a result, I have no desire to watch so-called reality shows such as "Big Brother," "The Real World," or "Survivor," in which people are forced to live together, compete for prizes, and indulge in alcohol-fueled intrigues and short-lived romances. High school and college should be enough for most people to discover their identities and find like-minded fellows.

Still, I have fond memories of that cohort, which is still the benchmark for creativity and fun among my circles of acquaintances. A few groups, such as "the Paragon/Twilight" in Northern Virginia in the mid-1990s or "the Liberators/Dragonslayers" in New England at the turn of the century, have come close in terms of size or interpersonal conflict, but none have endured or affected me in quite the same way. I suppose young adulthood is a similar rite of passage for many people.

Coming soon: More recent games, work, and politics…