Manhattan museums and herding cats

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art
At the Met's temple of Dendur

Friends, I hope you’ve had a good week. I’m taking a break — the first of several this summer — from the usual games and genre entertainment reports as I catch up after a visit to New York City. I enjoyed seeing friends from high school and college through grad school and beyond, but I was also reminded of why it’s important to plan when juggling various groups of people.

On Friday, 10 June 2011, fellow blogger Thomas K.Y. and I met at Boston’s Route 128 train station, where we boarded Amtrak‘s late-morning Northeast Regional. We chatted and read on the way, and we met David I.S. (who came from Rochester, N.Y., by way of Albany) and Stuart C.G. at Penn Station in New York. I normally don’t like being bothered by cell phones, but they were useful here.

Since I grew up in and around the city, I was glad to be surrounded by diverse throngs. We walked to the offices of Corbin A.Y. & Andria K.Y. in downtown Manhattan. They introduced us to their boss Franz J., a dynamic and personable speaker and expert on innovation.

From there, we went to the Museum of Sex, which was interesting and definitely not for the uptight or underage. Some of the exhibits reminded me of Isabella Rossellini’s lighthearted cable television shows Green Porno and Seduce Me. Thomas then left with his host, Stu, whose two sons (Sammy and Benji) were waiting. Their mother Zoe was out of town.

Corb took Dave and me to his new apartment on the Upper East Side, only a few blocks from Stuart’s family. We met Andria and happy Maia and checked out the pool and the impressive vistas from Hampton House‘s roof deck before going to dinner nearby. Dave and I were happy to get New York-style pizza, among other things, at Italian Village.

During each night of my visit, Dave, Corbin, and I would chat on Corb’s balcony and enjoy the views of the city until about midnight. The next morning, we met Thomas, Stuart and his sons, as well as Carlo R., Steve A.L., Brian D.H., and Erik B.L. & Wei T.L. and young Emma L. at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Since the weather was cool and rainy, we went into the museum rather than to the First Avenue Street Fair, the 116th Street Festival, or the Puerto Rican Day Parade. I hadn’t visited the Met in several years, so it was nice to see familiar exhibits, such as the temple of Dendur, musical instruments, arms and armor collection, or the Chinese Garden Court.

On the other hand, the crowded galleries, impatient children, and the fact that the museum wasn’t everyone’s first choice of venue did make it difficult to keep our group together. We had some good conversations about history, politics, and more, but I also found myself “herding cats.”

For lunch, our party of 12 went to Shake Shack, as Brian and others had recommended. I’d compare the small but growing hamburger chain favorably with Five Guys, although scarce seating (the rain didn’t help) led one patron to try to pick an argument with Wei.

As planned, we headed downtown by subway, aided by bicyclists Brian and Steve’s expertise in local geography. Stuart, Sammy, Benji, and Thomas left us at a Barnes & Noble to screen Super 8. They later reported that they enjoyed the retro alien-invasion flick. Wei (like other wives Janice, Andria, Michele, and Zoe) had other commitments. I was flattered that, despite their interest in the movie, Carlo, Corbin, Steve, Brian, and Erik stayed with us.

Dave and I were interested in comparing notes on comic book and game shops, so we visited Jim Hanley’s Universe, which had friendly staff, and the more touristy Forbidden Planet. We also went to the Compleat Strategist, a gaming chain with branches in Falls Church, Virginia, and downtown Boston, both near places I’ve lived. I picked up a few back issues and role-playing supplements.

In hindsight, meeting at the museum was a good idea, especially given the inclement weather. On the other hand, even it was crowded, and only a few people were interested in the various stores, so we could have managed our time a bit better. Next time, I’d try to have a few rendezvous points and less time roaming.

For dinner, we had good Ukrainian cuisine at Veselka (I had seven different pierogi),  followed by rich desserts at Vaneiro’s Pastry Shop in the East Village. Dave and I had been craving ethnic food, and we were not disappointed. Brian helped us get back to Corb’s place, but our weekend was only half over!