Day 1 in NYC: Thu, 6/27


Hotel ballroom for the first meeting

I only slept about 5 hours, waking up about 5:30am. I had coffee in my room while I finished the blog, getting the photos done the night before. I went out for breakfast about 7:00 after looking over Yelp and decided on Junior’s, which is up on 45th St between Broadway and 8th Ave.

Junior's from the inside
Junior’s from the inside

Junior’s has been around since 1950, has another location up on Broadway and 49th, and 3 others in NY, NJ, and CT. They open at 6:30am but the crowd wasn’t there yet. It was starting to fill up when I left.

Coffee and pastry bites
Coffee and pastry bites

A few complimentary bites of pastry were brought with my coffee.

Omelette, grits, rye toast
Omelette, grits, rye toast

This is a very boring photo :). But full of things I wouldn’t normally eat, as I typically reach for the things I don’t see often at home. In this case a pastrami omelette, grits and rye toast.

Inside of the Pastrami omelette
Pastrami omelette

I love pastrami but can’t say I’ve ever seen it on a breakfast menu. This was amazingly lean (which I understand is a matter of taste!) and very tasty; I actually made a point to eat slow to make it last longer, it was that good.

US, Rainbow and Westin flags over the entrance to the hotel
This city is pretty decked out for Pride Week

The entrance to the hotel crossing 43rd Street. Just about everywhere you go there’s a Pride flag.

Welcome message to Gay & Sober conference projected on the wall at the entrance to the hotel
At the entrance of the hotel right as you walked in

This was projected on the wall just as you entered through the revolving door. I thought it was an extraordinarily nice touch. GSM = Gay & Sober Men.

“Rocketed” will undoubtedly strike a chord with many of you. For the uninitiated, it’s from a line in Alcoholics Anonymous, in the chapter called There is a Solution: “We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.” Pretty much describes my life…

I think I forgot to mention this, but on Wednesday when we were working on registration packets, the General Manager of the hotel stopped by to make sure everything was going well and see if there was anything needed. Having chaired a conference before (although about half this size with none of the logistical complexities) even I appreciated that; it’s super important to have a good relationship with your hotel for an event like this and the conference committee seems to have done a nice job with that.

Speaking of registration packets, I went back to that room around 9am and of course they were still at it and could use the help, so I stayed. We got it done about 11:40, just in time to take everything down to the lobby for the opening of registration at 12:30.

Mozzarella, basil, tomato pizza
Mozzarella, basil, tomato pizza

I realized it would be awhile before I ate again so went back to the pizza place up the street for another quick slice. It looks a little unappetizing – all that white is off-putting to me somehow – but boy was it good.

I checked into the conference and went back up to my room to drop stuff off before the first big activity: a bus tour. The conference arranged for 2 buses to take us what was essentially to Stonewall and back, with lots of NYC history and interesting information on architecture as we made our way through Midtown, Chelsea, Tribeca, The Village, etc. Being in a moving vehicle, there weren’t many great photo opportunities and the few I did take I realized were of things I’ll be seeing on foot later so will wait to get better ones then.

And the traffic was typical NYC traffic: slow and loud. What is it with the horns anyway? Baffling to me that they think that’s helpful! And it was hot – 90 degrees and we were on the top uncovered level of the buses. Thankfully not all that humid so somewhat tolerable, but we were all glad to get back to the hotel a little before 5pm.

Selfie from my hotel room
Selfie from my hotel room

I laid down for a minute but realized if I stayed down too long I would never want to get up again. I showered and went out again about 5:20; took a quick selfie before I left as I’d realized I’d forgotten yesterday. (I don’t know why I decided in last year’s first big solo trip that “one a day” was the rule but there it is…)

Patrick's Oyster Bar from the outside
Patrick’s Oyster Bar, 42n St just off of 8th Ave

The conference had arranged for dinner and a mixer at Patrick’s, an oyster bar on 42nd Street a couple of doors down from the BBQ place I was at the night before.

Patrick's from the inside
Patrick’s from the inside

I was sitting at that booth to the left. There was a good turnout, we were estimating maybe 100 people, some of it in shifts.

Calamari at Patrick's
Calamari at Patrick’s

If there’s calamari on the menu it’s a good bet I’m ordering it. It was tasty.

Montauk Grilled Tuna Sandwich
Montauk Grilled Tuna Sandwich

This was actually pretty amazing. The tuna was grilled perfectly rare, so they served it with sushi flavorings: a wasabi sauce seaweed, and ginger.

Hotel ballroom for the first meeting
Hotel ballroom for the first meeting

My service commitment for the day was to help setup for the event that was happening after the big meeting, which started at 8pm. The service commitment was supposed to start at 8 as well but Andrew, my friend that connected me to this conference in the first place, was actually co-host at the next event and suggested it would be fine to be late. And I’m glad I was. It was good to be there for the opening, which was very heartfelt. If you look closely you can see a candle on the podium, lit for all we have lost to addiction and alcoholism, followed by a moment of silence and a member singing “Over the Rainbow” while playing his guitar. I will admit to getting teary-eyed as I thought about how appropriate that song was to that exact moment, so many layers, starting with: Judy Garland as the original gay icon, her death due to addiction, and the Stonewall riots starting on the day of her funeral; here, during Pride week, 500 men in this room committed to sobriety, many just at Stonewall that afternoon; the odd mix of both hopelessness and hope in the lyrics that defines so many people’s experience in recovery. I could go on but I think you get it. Nice job, GSM.

I stayed for most of the opening remarks before the speaker and left about 8:30pm, making my way up Broadway towards 52nd Street.

Novotel Hotel in the center background, 47th Street sign in the foreground
That’s the Novotel hotel in the center; it’s on 52nd Street so 5 blocks to go…

The next event was on the terrace of the Novotel hotel, which you can see in the center of the photo above. It was billed in the program as “rooftop” but I heard one guy get there and say “this isn’t a rooftop, it’s a terrace” and decided he was right so adopted that language!

Novotel terrace - before all the people
Novotel terrace

Whatever you want to call it, it was a great venue. Hard to see in the dark, but is stretched for a decent length along the Broadway side of the building, as seen above looking uptown, and then turned left for about half as long.

Looking back into Times Square from the edge of the terrance
Looking back into Times Square from the edge of the terrance

This is the view looking back into Times Square area from where I was standing above.

Turns out there wasn’t much setup needed, so the first hour I just visited with the other 2 volunteers that showed up. They decided instead to use us as greeters, realizing they needed more than originally planned (street level and up in the bar). So me and one other were literally pointing the way through the bar as folks got off the elevator.

There was one moment that was pretty funny: some guy approached us asking if we were with some other group. When we said “no, this is Gay & Sober Men” he was struck with a look of horror; couldn’t tell if it was the gay, the sober, or both, but I wish I’d had a camera.

Novotel terrace
Novotel terrace

Guys started pouring in about 10pm. It was packed, as seen here and below. The bar was open and there were snacks served, and a “scavenger hunt” game (find someone who…) which is what the papers you see are. I gotta say, it was way more fun playing greeter than it was navigating this crowd! I was standing on a planter box to get these shots, and it was a chore working my way over there. I got down, and worked my way back to the edge where I could breathe. Claustrophobia kicked in big time.

Novotel terrace
Novotel terrace
Novotel terrace
Novotel terrace

I’d chatted with the bartenders some before it all started, and schooled them a little bit on the crowd. It was pretty funny, they’d never had a no alcohol group before and you could tell they weren’t sure how that would go. When I asked for a tonic water the guy said “that’s it?” The girl said “add a splash of cranberry juice” to which I said “that and a twist of lime and it’s perfect!” So that was my drink for the night. Later I asked the girl if she’d ever moved that much Red Bull before. They had buckets of Red Bull on ice sitting out for the taking. “Never. Maybe 5 in a month.”

A group of us walked back around 11pm although the party was still going strong. There was going to be a Midnight Meeting in the hotel but I wanted no part of that. I got the photos off my phone and that was about all I could handle, did the rest of this in the morning.

Today is the first full day of the conference. Looking forward to seeing how it all goes…

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