BBQ and books in New York City

At Madison Square Park
Near the Empire State Building

To continue my report of David I.S., Thomas K.Y.’s, and my latest visit to Manhattan, on Sunday, 12 June 2011, host Corbin A.Y. got us a classic breakfast at East Side Bagel & Appetizing. After saying goodbye to Andria K.Y. and Maia Y. for the morning, we again headed downtown.

We met Thomas at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in Madison Square Park. (His host Stuart C.G. also rejoined us later.) While mostly college friends had joined us the day before, this time, the “Westchester crew” arrived — Damon F.P., Carlo R., and Ron J.K. Unfortunately, fellow Stepinac alumnus Steve M. was unable to come down from Connecticut because of a train fatality. Fellow Binghamtonians Dexter V.H. and Steve A.L. also eventually joined us.

Dave was pleased to find Dinosaur Bar-B-Que represented, and I enjoyed pulled pork sandwiches, sausage, and beer. The guys, some of whom hadn’t seen one another in years, caught up on relationships, jobs, and computer talk as we chowed down. It’s hard to believe that we’ve all been friends for 25 years or more!

Rather than waddle to the New York Expo or “Figment NYC” for even more food, Corbin graciously took us to his and Andria’s current offices, where we were able to lounge and talk without difficulty. As with “herding cats” the day before, I learned the value of including a private space for hanging out in the agenda for such visits. Who knows — next time, I might even run a one-shot game!

We then walked to the Strand Bookstore, one of the biggest independent brick-and-mortar booksellers left. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend as much time in the stacks as I had hoped, because I had to get Carlo (who had met us on both days) to a restroom after he became ill from something he had eaten. Spicy or fatty food, undercooked meat, and overeating and fatigue are hazards no matter where one travels.

Carlo eventually got his second wind, and we “urban hiked” to more retailers, including Cosmic Comics, which had lots of back issues, and the well-organized Time Machine. Dave didn’t find the obscure titles he sought, but Carlo learned about recent events in the DC and Marvel universes. Both retailers had good indie selections.

Since Carlo and Damon were tiring out, we stopped at a Pinkberry for yogurt snacks rather than press on to Book-Off, Metropolis Collectibles, Midtown Comics, or St. Mark’s Comics. So much to see, so little time! As I noted previously, I should block out time for roaming separately from group gatherings.

As we gradually disbanded, Dave, Thomas, and I found ourselves back on the Upper East Side. We stopped by Corb & Andria’s place and then met Stuart and his sons Sammy and Benji. We first tried to get dinner at Flex Mussels, but that restaurant was full, and we didn’t have a reservation. Fortunately, our second choice, Ithaka, had traditional Greek food. Dave and Thomas lived in Ithaca, N.Y., when they taught at Cornell University.

On Monday, June 13, Corbin escorted Dave and me to Penn Station, where we departed for Albany and Boston, respectively. On the way back, I began reading the fantasy mystery The City and the City, which Janice had read. Thomas planned to grab another dinner with Stuart before catching a red-eye train back north early Tuesday.

Since then, I’ve been busy with my second annual review at work, turnover in my department, and getting over a bad cold that Ron, a co-worker, and I all caught earlier this week. Among other things, I also watched the recorded half-season finale of Doctor Who, which I liked, despite a spotty season.

This coming weekend is Free RPG Day, as well as the opening of Green Lantern (although this Muppet trailer is more amusing). My Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Landstelecom fantasy game and FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures: “Vortexspace opera will also resume for a few sessions.

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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!