Entry for August 07, 2008: 40th birthday bash

Friends, it was good to see so many of you at this past weekend's gathering! On Saturday, 2 August 2008, Janice, Thomas K.Y., and I drove from Massachusetts to Upstate New York for the 40th birthdays of many in our cohort. Although we encountered traffic and heavy rain on the way, we made good time and arrived at Damon F.P. & Nicole P.'s place in Carmel, N.Y., by midafternoon. The Potenzas had done much of the work of organizing the celebration and picked up people from the train station.

From there, we went to the Chuang Yen Monastery. The Buddhist shrine was peaceful (and was probably even more so after our large group left). We then went for a short walk on the North County Trailway, while David I.S. and Brian D.H. were on a longer hike. Steve A.L., Steve M.R., and Stuart were there without their families.

Those of us staying at Heidi's Inn in Brewster, N.Y., included out-of-towners such as Dave, Steve M.R., Janice, Thomas, and me, as well as downstate New Yorkers Stuart C.G., Brian, and Erik B.L. & Wei T.L. and Emma M.L. We checked in while the others cleaned up at the home of Damon & Nicole (and their children Aaron and Katie, as well as prize-winning rabbits Oreo and Cookie) in preparation for the buffet dinner.

We reconvened at Maria Bonita Mexican Restaurant for the main event of the weekend. Damon's sister Corinne and her daughter Bianca, as well as one of his neighbors, also joined us. Newlyweds Dexter V.H. & Linda N. arrived late to applause, and we had a great turnout of about 25 people! The main purpose of the walks, meals, and late-night hanging out was to give everyone an opportunity to catch up with one another.

Our conversations ranged from families and travel to politics (mostly, but not exclusively, liberal), technology, and genre entertainment (speculative fiction, fantasy, superheroes, mystery, and horror in books, comics, television shows, movies, and games). In particular, we talked about the current presidential campaigns, potential visits, and Doctor Who's recent season finale. I was pleased that everybody got along and had a good time, even those who hadn't met before.

Aside from weddings, this is the first time in years when so many of my friends were together! I met Carlo R. (and his brother David), Damon, and Steve M. while we were students at Archbishop Stepinac High School in Westchester in the early 1980s. College chums from the State University of New York at Binghamton included David I.S., Steve A.L., Ron J.K., Dexter, Stuart, Janice, and Brian.

Brian, who was also a roommate when I was working for NYPIRG at Queens College-CUNY, pointed out that presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) also worked for the New York Public Interest Research Group.

I've been pals with Steve M.R., Erik B.L., and Jen R. since graduate school at the George Washington University in Washington D.C. in the early 1990s, and for the first time, Thomas and Beruk A. helped represent the current Boston-area social/gaming groups!

Of course, the circles of acquaintances, or "F.O.G." ("friends of Gene") as Erik has dubbed them, are now more likely to meet in their respective regions — metropolitan New York, around Westchester County, in Upstate New York (such as David I.S. and Damon), in Northern Virginia (Steve M.R. was the lone representative this time), or in eastern Massachusetts.

After dinner, some people went home, and the rest of us met back at Stuart's large room at Heidi's Inn. Damon & Nicole and Steve M. filled the refrigerator with hard iced tea and lemonade, Steve M.R. brought some beer, and Brian picked up munchies. Dave, Janice, and I made a late-night run to a nearby Carvel Ice Cream for "flying saucers." Steve A.L. later got a ride with Damon to the train back to Brooklyn.

Dave also set up his PlayStation 3 and demonstrated Guitar Hero. Erik and I weren't particularly good at the video game, but Brian picked it up quickly and impressively. Janice and I had brought board games, and early plans included the possibility of going out to the movies or into Manhattan, but we had more time to chat without going out.

Speaking of games, this was also the first time that a majority of the "Dimensional Corps Online" supergroup for the City of Heroes online game had met face to face. Role-players Dexter, Byron V.O., and possibly Stuart hope to visit the Boston area in late September.

On Sunday, Aug. 3, Damon & Nicole and Katie met the inn crowd at the Carmel Diner and Restaurant for brunch. Dave, Brian, Thomas, and I shared a Reuben in addition to our omelets. Unfortunately, Steve M.R. had to get his car unlocked after leaving his keys in his trunk, and Dave left for another hike. The Potenzas and Lutwins went to a nearby park in Cold Spring, N.Y. (rather than Bear Mountain State Park, as originally planned). Overall, I thought our 40th birthday bash was a success.

Thomas, Janice, and I also had to leave after the meal because Janice and I went to the wake in New Hampshire of a co-worker's spouse who had died unexpectedly and tragically of a heart attack last week. Our thoughts are with their family.