Friday was a pretty great day. Milled about, played some retro games (Sega Collection for the PS3 (yes, that's right, with the power of two deskstops, four laptops, two PS3s (enough technology to rival worldwide computing power in 1975) we played games which were ports of 80's arcade games made for 90's consoles then retrofitted for 00's consoles)), some PC games, and attempted to play some card games.
Then it was time for BBQ.
We headed over to Ralph's place which was situated in some patchily gentrified portion of Brooklyn. There were Hasidic Jews everywhere, and African Americans, and Hispanics (I'm sure this breaks down further, like how in Vancouver "Asian" covers a wide array, I'm sure there were Senegalese and Mexicans and Chileans and Puerto Ricans etc). Slightly less hipsters.
This dizzying array of multiculturalism, and there was something about the alternately well-worn and tumbled-down nature of the neighbourhood with newer bits, mom-and-pop shops and Banana Republics, every cranny filled with urban decay or the American Enterprising spirit (large and small), that it seemed to fill that bit in my mind when people say "America". America : You Know, Pretty Much Fricking Everything In One Place. Not pithy, sure, but fitting.
So, we get to Ralph's (well, 5 of us take a car, the rest walk. It's not a short walk. We who took the car will bear the Mark of Shame forever). And it's, well, it's like the front for the lair of the protagonist of an 80's action TV show. One suspects that there is a military grade prototype of a street-bike stored behind it, or a man who's secret identity is VR Man.
It's a solid metal plate. Curb appeal brought to you by the A-Team. All around the door it's not so much a neighbourhood as the blasted out remnants of an industrialization experiment gone horribly, horribly wrong. Suitable fellow tenants would be chops shops or Vietnamese tailors who make 100 dollar suits for you with suspect materials and excellent craftsmanship.
But, through the door. It was amazing. This pretty, nicely proportioned house with exposed brick and skylights and all sorts of rich history that is a regular occurrence in America. Again, the wild difference between NYC and Vancouver become apparent, since for us, 'rich history' means architecture that slightly predates Hypercolour Shirts. Ancient history being anything before colour television.
But back to the house. An open, uhm, courtyard, is that the right word? I mean, to describe abodes not from the French Restoration? An open air area past the blast metal plate, then the house, then behind, a backyard made for cookouts and memories and animated discussions about Derrida.
It was an amazing BBQ. The food was great, the people were fantastic, nerds of every shape and colour milling about, drinking and chatting and not having to steer the conversations away from the dreaded question, 'so, do you have any hobbies'?
About 50-90% of our communication is non-verbal, so that makes the meeting of people who spend all their time communicating over voice or typing, something of an event. Lots of silence at the start. Then, as all gatherings tend to go, the conversations started flowing and we're all having a hell of time.
There you are, in the middle of Brooklyn, in a secret lair of nerdiness, drinking expensive alcohol and talking about how goddamn cheap the Spy is and how so-and-so never uses sticky bombs but still dominates the server. It's a small moment of feeling part of a larger whole. The tribe, the nerd-herd, the grouping that's separated by geography but connected by geekery and the perenially societal maligned hobby, video games.
We setup the webcam to connect to the other gamers who couldn't make it. And it gets even better. There are our other friends, zipping through the internet, joining us from their homes from across North America and Europe and Asia. Ecstatic to see us all together, teeming with pasty complexion and awkward social graces.
Hell of a night.
We had to leave, eventually. Things got a little bumpy then. But that's for another post.