Day 3 in NYC: Sat, 6/29


Me at the Unisphere waving a Pride flag

What a day. I can’t remember the last time I stayed up until 1am, but that’s how this day rolled. With a service commitment at 7:15am, it was long and full on more than one level.

I got up about 5:30 and managed to get the blog up before I went downstairs but no time for breakfast. Somehow I’d signed up for 3 service commitments today (my goal had been one a day so not sure how that happened) so there wasn’t much down time throughout the day. The first one was to help with a guided meditation session that began at 8am.

The session was led by Digby who I had met before. The other helper was a guy named Joe who I had met standing in line at registration on Thursday but hadn’t seen since. More about him later. Digby told us what he needed – people would need 3 different index cards and colored markers as they came in – I helped with some other setup and quickly ran downstairs and across the street to Starbucks for a triple latte and blueberry scone. Digby was also treasurer for the conference so he asked me to deliver some things for him about 9am while the session was still happening, so that Raffle and the Shop had what they needed.

I’m generally not one for guided meditation but I have to admit this was good. Digby is a minister – again, each of our facilitators so far has had some professional tie to the topic – and he brought some interesting things to it. There was contemplation and some short writing exercises mixed in and all of it was very effective. This kicked off an interesting day in my head, all of which will get some serious attention in a journal one day soon, but this is not the time or place for that!

The 10am session was called Common Ground. It was an interesting exercise done in silence. Everyone stood on one side of the room where there was a literal line placed on the floor off center. Digby again was the facilitator. He asked a series of questions and if you had a ‘yes’ response to the question, you crossed the line. Everyone looked around to see who was where and thought about what all that meant, then all returned to the same side for the next question. I don’t know how many questions there were, 30 maybe, some tougher than others, but all very interesting, and very emotional for some. Just some examples: Cross the line if you’ve lost both parents; or you could straddle it if you’ve lost just one. Cross the line if you’ve ever abused alcohol or druges. (duh!) Cross the line if you know you’re responsible for someone catching an STD.

So it was a light morning :). That session ended at 11:30 and my next commitment started at 12:15 so I just went back to the pizza place for lunch.

Pepperoni stromboli and garlic bites
Pepperoni stromboli and garlic bites

This time I had pepperoni stromboli and it was incredible. The mozzarella was thick, rich and chewy just like I like it. There were a couple of other guys from the conference that showed up so we all sat and visited while we ate. We are easy to identify with the badges and lanyards, and at every group meeting they remind attendees to reach out to anyone they see by themselves. It’s a good news / bad news thing for me, this time it was fine. (The prior night at Junior’s I’d actually taken off my badge because I really just wanted to be alone! I saw some guys in one corner of the restaurant and hoped none of them recognized me! They didn’t, or left me alone if they saw me.)

Rocks to drop!
Rocks to drop!

The next session was Drop The Rock. There wasn’t much to do from a service perspective, but someone else came up and asked for help getting supplies from the meeting room on the 9th floor being used for storage to the loading dock to prep for parade stuff. Bottled water, snacks, etc. A couple of us went and it took I think 3 trips with two carts each to get everything down, but we made it back just in time for the session to start at 1:30pm.

If you are in recovery you are likely familiar with Drop The Rock, a popular book which focuses on Steps 6 and 7 (identifying and releasing character defects). I’ve read the book twice over the years and almost didn’t attend this but am glad I did. The presenter was a life coach who is also LGBT and in recovery, so very familiar with this content, the audience, and was absolutely hilarious. I’ve really appreciated how much I’ve laughed at this conference. At any rate, it was another very interesting session for me, more to journal about, and I’m glad I did it.

So what’s up with the rocks? Everyone was encouraged to identify one thing they were ready to let go of, write it on the rock, and to carry that rock around through this evening to continue to contemplate it. Tonight it will be released as part of the final event, so more on that later.

There was another session after this on Emotional Sobriety, a favorite topic of mine, again led by a member who was also a psychologist. It was good but I was so tired I actually was dozing off sitting there. I got out of there quickly at 5:00 when it ended because I had my final commitment at 5:30 (again wondering what I was thinking…). So guess where for dinner?

Amazing lasagna
Amazing lasagna

I’d never even noticed the menu before, was always just ordering what I could see. But they had a nice pasta selection so I got the lasagna. For $12, it was probably the tastiest lasagna I’d ever had. I wished I had more time to enjoy it.

There are many things that have impressed me about this conference, one of them being the management of moving people. For this commitment, I was part of the team that would be staged across the city to usher 500 guys over to Flushing Meadows in Queens, the famous sports complex where our evening event was to be held. Guys were paired up and placed at strategic points along the path waving Pride flags to be easy to spot, to steer the crowd in the right direction. My partner was another Steve, from Burbank, and we were placed at the first stop, just after you swipe your Metro card at the station at 42nd Street and 8th Ave. We were there about 30 minutes before the big crowd came through but there were lots of guys traveling on their own that were glad to see us to confirm they were on the right track.

What was most fascinating about this assignment was the interaction with the public, which was surprising and fun. Steve was wearing the “Hug Me” button we were encouraged to wear (I’d forgotten mine) and I lost count of the number of straight women who couldn’t resist! I also lost count of the number of times we were asked for directions – some gay some not – most trying to get to Stonewall or other places in the Village. (And I actually knew the answer!) One older Indian guy said anxiously “Is the parade already starting?” We assured him no, it’s the next day, we were just directing traffic for a conference we are attending. The most interesting interaction came from a a guy for whom I don’t believe English was his first language and I couldn’t always understand – but was very religious and made it clear he was both not supportive yet not condemning. It was the most interesting olive branch I’d ever encountered.

Once the big crowd of conference guys came through – identified by blue glow sticks carried by guys at the front and back – we were free to join them and pick up the other guys marking the path along the way.

Subway platform, heading to Flushing Meadows
Subway platform, heading to Flushing Meadows

This was my first time to Queens, unless you count to/from airports (both JFK and LGA are in Queens), which I don’t. Flushing Meadows is part of a huge sports complex that includes Arthur Ashe tennis stadium where the US Open is held. And, while probably not technically part of the park, Citi Field, home of the Mets, is across the subway from it.

Long walkway from the subway to the park
Long walkway from the subway to the park
Trains near Flushing Meadows, Arthur Ashe Stadium
Trains near Flushing Meadows, Arthur Ashe Stadium
Long walkway at entrance to Flushing Meadows
Long walkway at entrance to Flushing Meadows

Once you got off the subway, it was still another good 10 minute walk to the venue.

The Unisphere
The Unisphere

This beautiful landmark was built for the 1964 Worlds Fair that was held here.

Me at the Unishpere - a huge hollow globe sculpture in an even bigger water fountain
Me at the Unisphere
Me at the Unisphere waving a Pride flag
Yea, I know, I can’t believe it either…
The stage in front of the Unisphere where our meeting was held
The stage in front of the Unisphere where our meeting was held

This is an incredible venue to hold a 12 Step meeting I have to say! Everyone was pretty impressed. Opposite where i’m standing is a long series of pools, at the end of which is a huge sculpture that looked interesting so I walked down to to get a closer look.

Beautiful and huge statue in the park, of a man hurling a rocket
Beautiful and huge statue in the park, of a man hurling a rocket

Space science was a big theme of the Fair, and this guy was part of that. What’s he called? The Rocket Thrower. What’s the tagline for this conference? #ROCKETED Coincidence?

Joe from the Stonewall riots
Joe also had the most sobriety all those present

One of the opening speakers was Joe who I’d referenced earlier. That’s him on the right. When we were talking this morning he’d mentioned all the interviews he’d been doing for CNN, etc. In an almost joking way I said “what, were you at Stonewall or something?” “Yes, I was” he said. And that’s why here was here, to talk about how the riots went down on that historic night. Fascinating stuff. He’d done that earlier and I’d forgotten to take a photo so was glad he was back up there, this time for a different reason.

It’s tradition at a conference to do a sobriety countdown and, in that, identify 2 people: the one with the least sobriety, and the one with the most. The tradition is for the one with the most to give a copy of the Big Book to the one with the least. Joe got sober in 1975, and had the most sobriety of those present. Below is him presenting the book to a guy with just one day.

Big Book presentation
Big Book presentation
Margaret Cho
Margaret Cho

After the meeting came the incredible Margaret Cho as the entertainment. I’ve seen her twice before in person (like 2002 and 2006) and have watched most of her specials. As a member of both the LGBT and recovery communities, she’s always been a favorite of mine. In her general audience acts she touches on those themes in generic but hilarious ways. This evening, she was on fire because we were her audience. All pretense was gone and she could make references that wouldn’t make sense to a general audience. (“I’ll have to do a 10th Step on that later…”) It was a tight, raucous, obscene-at-times (duh, it’s Margaret) 30 minute performance that had everyone in tears we were laughing so hard. What a terrific treat.

Citi Field, home of the NY Mets
Citi Field, home of the NY Mets

That ended just after 10pm and we made our way back to Midtown.

Drag Queen Kay Sedia leading the Raffle
Drag Queen Kay Sedia leading the Raffle

It took awhile for everyone to gather for the final thing of the evening, the raffle of many great prizes – literally thousands of dollars worth – put on by Kay Sedia (say it out loud please), who apparently has been with this conference before as many seemed to know her. Another laughter filled session with many guys winning great things. Alas, I was not one of them. Good thing I’d handed over that $50 as a donation from an expectation perspective!

I’m exhausted just reliving it. But it was an incredible day. Today, I’m sure, will be another one.

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