Rochester, N.Y. visit, Part 2 — fun and games

David I.S. at the Strong Museum of Play
He does everything a spider can!

Please see my previous post for the first part of my belated visit to longtime friend David I.S. in Rochester, New York. We started Sunday, 10 July 2011, strongly with cheddar melts and turkey bacon. I met some cool hipsters at Park Avenue Comics and found a few more back issues in the disorganized but full stacks at Comics Etc. I’m impressed that a small metropolitan area with only 1 million residents can support so many comic shops.

Comics Etc. also had more tabletop gaming books than Millennium Games, but not as many comics as Comic Book Heaven, which reminds me fondly of Hole in the Wall Books in Falls Church, Va. In general, I collect DC’s superhero comics, and Dave tends to like independent and horror titles, but we’ve come to appreciate numerous genres and art styles. I’m glad to have stoked his and his friend Amit T.‘s interest in the medium.

We then went to the Strong National Museum of Play, which I’d compare favorably with Boston’s Children’s Museum and the Museum of Science. It was a walk down memory lane, with old board and video games, antique doll collections, and a superhero exhibit. Fortunately, the museum wasn’t too crowded on a late Sunday afternoon.

The famous Dinosaur Barbeque didn’t disappoint us for a late lunch/early dinner (“linner”). Dave and I ate chicken wings, pulled pork, mojito chicken, plus side dishes. While that may not have been the healthiest of meals, I had tried vegan jerky earlier in the day. It wasn’t bad, and partly relieved my guilt at eating intelligent, delicious animals.

After that, we walked to the Thomson Reuters and art deco Times Square buildings, as well as varied bridges. The Rochester Spillway and abandoned subway in the heart of the city are unique landmarks. We skirted the Genesee Valley Park and the University of Rochester campus before visiting the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

Dave recently got tenure at the School of Interactive Games and Media in the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. He took me to his office and the cool Game Design Development Lab. While I’ve only dabbled in computer and console games over the past 30 years, I respect the creativity and hard work that goes into them. As with wargames, collectible card games, and board games, I still prefer my weekly pen-and-paper role-playing games.

That night, we created comic book dividers and talked about music and health. The next morning, I drove back to Massachusetts. This time, the lack of air conditioning was more apparent when I sat in traffic as the temperature reached the 90s Fahrenheit. I stopped at my sister-in-law Shelly’s house in Utica, N.Y., on the way for lunch and to spend a little time with her husband Melvin and children Laura and David.

Since then, I’ve been busy with work and trying to catch up on recorded genre TV and phone calls from friends before my next trip!

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Rochester, N.Y., visit — food, falls, and funnies!

Dave and Gene, July 2011
Near Ontario Beach

This past week has been even busier than usual. It started with the Independence Day and 300th anniversary events in Needham, Massachusetts, continued through various meetings at work, and included a Pathfinder: “Holy Steeltelecom fantasy game.

On Friday, 8 July 2011, I drove to Rochester, New York, to visit college chum David I.S. On the way west, I realized that the air conditioner in my car still isn’t working. Fortunately, the weather wasn’t too bad, and traffic was light. Dave and I stocked up at Wegman’s and Beers of the World before returning to his current apartment to grill steak and chicken for dinner.

As usual when we get together, we stayed up late into the night talking about family, relationships, work, housing, and our circles of acquaintances. Among the beers we tried were a Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, Rogue Hazlenut Brown Nectar, and Imperial Chocolate Stout. The dark brews went well with the dry-rubbed beef. We also ate vegetable and fruit salads, kamut noodles, and chocolate frozen goat’s milk, among other things.

After sleeping in the next morning, Dave drove me to several spots along the Genesee River Trail. We didn’t have the time (or I the likely endurance) to rent a bicycle or fully explore them. I saw the strange megaliths near Lower Falls, the Fast Ferry pier and Ontario Beach, and Maplewood Gardens. Dave and I did a mix of “urban hiking,” viewing of bike trails, and strolling to take in the sights.

Rochester has poorer, African-American neighborhoods interspersed with more affluent, mostly Caucasian ones. I’m glad that Dave is aware of but willing to cross racial and economic divisions. I’ve said before that the Rust Belt isn’t confined to the Midwest — it begins in Worcester, Mass., and ends in Iowa or beyond.

We had a tasty lunch at Cheeburger, Cheeburger and visited a few comic book and game shops, including the small but well-organized All Heroes Comics, the friendly suppliers at Empire Comics, and the range and depth of the collections at Comic Book Heaven (CBH). In addition to meeting Dave’s local friends Amit T. & Krysta B., CBH proprietor Dan showed us the amazing archives in his old building, and we all hope to help his business.

Dave also took me to Millennium Games, which had a decent selection of role-playing games, if not as well-stocked as the best shops I’m familiar with in downstate New York, Northern Virginia, or eastern Massachusetts. We passed on local landmark Nick Tahou’s “garbage plate” for a simpler dinner at classic Jay’s Diner. That night, Dave enjoyed Superman/Shazam: the Return of Black Adam, especially the grindhouse Spectre short and the western/horror Jonah Hex one.

Coming soon: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!