We got the how and the why and a touch of the who, now on to the good stuff. The what happened and when.
This year I was much less nervous going to the meet than I was last year. I had already met a handful of the people that would be there, I felt like I had met Kelly and Kris from a series of spoof videos they used to do weekly and I had seen most of the UK hunters on a live feed from the last UK MH Meet. At least I had seen them after I made Skippy drag the camera over to where shy Julie was sitting. I also knew that when I met people in Toronto they were even cooler in person than they were online. I had no reason to think this group would be any different.
So the first person I saw was Corrie. As you all know she had been waiting patiently for a few hours while my shuttle took me to well..who knows where all we went before I finally got to the hotel! Corrie and I are enough alike that she could absolutely pass as my niece or much younger sister. She is just a touch too old, or rather I am just a touch too YOUNG to be her mother, but it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine that if I had had a daughter she would be like Corrie.
Anyway I was very excited to see her face to face again. Like I talked about in the Toronto blogs one of the hardest things that happens when your friends are far away is when you just need to hug them. This year I just needed to hug Corrie. Since our meet in Toronto Corrie had been diagnosed with Thyroid cancer. We kept in touch online, of course, and I knew she was doing really well and the doctors are very pleased and positive but I just wanted to hug her and touch her and make sure she was okay. Happy to report she looks great and said for the most part she feels fine!
The next two to arrive were Skippy and Kat. Our Australian and New Zealand girls. I had just seen Skippy at the beginning of summer but it was still so exciting to see her again and to meet Kat was pure joy! I never thought we would get the opportunity to see each other face to face. New Zealand to Oregon isn't exactly an easy trip to make! This was also one of my favorite first meetings because Skippy is over 6 feet tall and Kat is under 5 feet tall. Just to see them walk in together was great! :-)
Glyn joined us and we were off to find some lunch and make plans for the rest of the day. Now as Americans we sometimes don't pay attention to things and start to take them for granted, those incredible opportunities that are presented to us on a daily basis. I think it must be the same everywhere you go. If you are in London you stop noticing all of the beautiful old buildings just brimming with history. If you are in Australia you find that the gorgeous scenery starts to just blend into the background. In America we tend to forget about such things as the delicacy known as Taco Bell. Skippy is originally from the US and every time she comes home she makes sure to get Taco Bell. There is nothing else like it anywhere else. So off we went to grab some Taco Bell.
New York is different than any place I've lived in a lot of ways, but the one that stuck out to me over and over was the lack of places to sit inside. For instance the Taco Bell we went to shared a space with a Dunkin Donuts and had three bar stools in the window for seating. That was it. Starbucks in Oregon have couches and lounges and tables and in New York, maybe two chairs and some bar-stools. That's it. So we got our food and headed back outside to find someplace to eat. Luckily we remembered a park close by and found our way back to it, unluckily it was run by a group of Mafia Squirrels. Seriously, these were the pushiest squirrels I have ever seen! Now Kat was THRILLED to see the squirrels (Skippy was too last year, until an unfortunate experience with a UK squirrel...) Australia and New Zealand seem to be lacking in them. So at first Kat was very excited. Then the squirrels wouldn't let us sit on the first bench we chose and chased us off to the other side of the walk. You think I am kidding, but these were TOUGH squirrels! Once we sat down they sent over the pigeons to spy on us!
So it could have been the jet lag or it could have been that the voices I was doing and the story about the squirrels I was telling were actually very funny...but either way we were all laughing and giggling and carrying on like the old friends that we actually were. It was a great start to a very fun weekend.
We ended up heading back over to the hotel to meet up with Shay and Kirsten as their flights had just landed. While we were there we caught up with the UK Four (Julie, Paul, Steve and Clare) and Adrian arrived as well! So in a hotel room that had been described as spacious on the website but we soon discovered was really space"ish" I got that same surreal experience of hearing everyone talking and joking and laughing all at once. The chat thread come to life experience. It was great.
After moving over to the second of our rooms in that hotel I got a chance to grab a quick shower before heading downstairs to meet everyone for dinner. While getting ready I had a moment with Kirsten that reminded me of Toronto very strongly. As we were in our own space"ish" room I was reaching for my coat and she was reaching for her bag and she said "Excuse me, Denise" the she stopped and broke out into a huge grin. "Excuse me, Denise. Because you are RIGHT HERE in the room with me! So I need to say excuse me!" Her real and virtual worlds just collided in her head and it was great to witness!
At dinner we were joined by James, Kris and Kelly. We didn't think Kelly was going to be able to make it Friday night so we were all VERY excited to see her. Hugs and squeals of joy and delight were abundant and in Shay's case so were the tears. She warned us that she was going to turn into a "big ole girl" so we had been expecting it. When Kris and Kelly arrived the first words Kris said to me were, "You are so pretty!" as my friend Heaven says..."I keep you." Kris then picked up Cat from the airport and she joined the group as well. It was all great fun, listening to people talk, hearing the accents, the laughter the stories about family and travel and MH. But as my friends from the UK say after my long travel day I was shattered and we were meeting at 8:30 to head out into the city so I was done. James pointed out that though it was 11:30 in New York it was only 8:30 in Oregon but I was done. So off to bed for me with only a quick wake up when Justin arrived for a hug and kiss and off they went to Karaoke.
I am sorry I missed the singing but not sorry I missed the 3:30 (Corrie and Cat) and 4:30 (Justin and Kirsten) bedtimes. I am not now nor have I ever been a night person. And as I only get around 3 to 4 hours of sleep in an average night I have to grab them when they come! When the group came back for the night, morning? we chatted some and then settled back in for some more sleep. Or in my case for some rest and the snore symphony! The next morning when I met Kat in the lobby before we headed out to the Empire State Building she let me know I had probably gotten off easy with the trio in my room as her room was filled with either the sounds of a jack hammer taking out the back wall or Steve snoring. Next time we decided to divide the rooms by snoring/nonsnoring. :-)
Glyn joined us, Cat decided against the early morning trip after the late night festivities and then Kat, Glyn and I were off to see New York City from the top of the Empire State Building. It was a beautiful view, couldn't have been a clearer day I don't think. Then Glyn and Kat were off to the museums to see the King Tut exhibit and then the Natural History Museum as well. I went back to the hotel to wake that group and head out to do some site seeing. Corrie, Justin and I headed for Times Square with Kirsten planning on meeting us there later.
Now while we were waiting to catch up to Skippy, Michele, Franco and Jacob in Times Square (which took much longer than we thought it would thanks to random text message reception)we got to see a Drag Queen Wedding, found Waldo and had a gourmet lunch from Walgreens. All in all not a bad way to spend some time. First Kirsten then Juice joined us in the square and we decided to give up on finding the other group and headed over to Toys R Us for souvenir shopping for those with little ones back home. Right after stepping inside Justin says..."Wait? Is that Skippy?" Ta Da! We found them! What are the odds of finding four people in Times Square? But we did! And then Skippy and Corrie compared texts that had been sent versus texts that had be received and we all wandered the toy store together. A quick visit with a Naked Cowboy a late lunch and then back to the hotel to get ready for the main event that night!
What can I say about the party? It was fabulous fun. Everyone shared stories about how they spent their day. Had more than a few drinks and even more laughs! A lot of pictures were snapped (and not just by me!) and a lot of hunting was done as well. It's the only group where it's not only acceptable but expected that you have your phone or laptop out and active at all times! And since the wifi connection was better in the hallway it was perfectly all right to excuse yourself from a conversation to wander out to change cheese or a trap. Remember what I said about last year and the devs? How we met them, shook a hand and then went back to visiting with each other. Well this year there was that but even better Franco and Jacob were able to mingle in and have fun as well. Michele was one of us before she was one of them so she was always comfortable with the rowdies. :-) But it was great fun to see them having fun as well. And to hear from all of us how much we appreciate the game, not only for the fun we have in playing it, but really for the fun we have in playing it with each other.
Oh and the live feed was up as well! Can't forget that! The devs set up the U-Stream feed they use for their broadcasts and we went LIVE FROM NEW YORK...It's Saturday Night!(yeah, I will never get tired of making that joke!) The excitement as you would see a name on chat that you knew was contagious! "Look!! It's Anthony!! Everybody it's Anthony!" And then there was Mel and Kaz and Doug and Krys and Travis and Sam and Rex and LouLou who Corrie and I tried to decide for awhile if it was our LuLu or not...turns out not, but I am sure who ever she was she was still excited to hear her name and comments called out over and over. And so many others. Chat moves so fast I have a new respect for the Devs and how they can keep up at all during their broadcasts!
It was a late evening for me (I cannot remember the last time I was awake and out to see the time change happen!) and an even later night for most of the rest of the group but it was still too short. My only regret for the weekend was how fast it flew by. I wish I had had more time time during the day to sit and chat with people and a little more time for more site seeing. Someday I will get back to the City and really take the time to see it, and someday I hope to be in a room with all of those wonderful people and really visit some more. Because it is really a thrill after talking with someone for two years to have them put a hand on your leg and say, "I can't believe I am sitting next to Denise Mastenbrook" and to be able to put an arm around them and say, "And I am sitting next to Julie Harrison!" It's just a great feeling and I am smiling just thinking about the whole trip.