Tuesday, February 7, 2012

HIRL Today, Gone Tomorrow (Part 2)

Yesterday, in Part 1, I wrote about my first couple of hours at the Hangout In Real Life (HIRL) event this past weekend in New York City. People who only met and spent time together on-line in Google Plus hangouts converged on the Big Apple for a three day party full of events. In addition to finally meeting the people I had come to know well over the past six to eight months, it provided me with some insights and observations I wanted to share with all of you.

photo by Matthew Rappaport
For me it began with an emotional moment as we found ourselves in the same physical location for the very first time. As an aside and further testament to the power of the hangout, the moment was captured by our good friend Ron Jackson who could not make the trip to New York. Instead he opened a hangout and waited for Bruce Garber who was here to join so he could watch the event as it unfolded. My words cannot adequately convey what was happening so perhaps you might enjoy watching the recording. Ron is the voice you hear and on this video you will see the Google lobby, various members of our group and our joy at being together.

In the break between my morning tour group and this second group, I had some quality time one on one with Rodney Pike. Now, we had only been in a couple of hangout sessions so I knew little about Rodney's background. But here we were strolling through Chelsea Market, sharing cups of coffee and swapping stories like a couple of old army buddies. (Just to be clear, Rodney was actually in the Navy.) Here is where I started to sense that the trust on which relationships are built can be gained partly by association. Even though I hadn't spent as much time with Rodney as the others, he was already "okay" in my book.

photo by Boris Gorelik
A little later we regrouped and seven people wanted to head up to Times Square. This smaller group included some avid and very talented photographers. A short subway ride got us in the neighborhood and we walked along 43rd Street to the place where Broadway and Seventh Avenue meet to form this famous landmark. Shutters were snapping all around me as the mostly out of town group tried to capture everything they saw.

photo by Eileen McAllister
Of course, knowing their passion for pictures I suggested we press on a few more blocks where we entered 200 Park Avenue, the Met Life (formerly Pan Am) building and passing quickly through the lobby took the escalators down into Grand Central Terminal. Here there were more "Kodak" moments than you could shake a stick at. And this wasn't even the formal photo walk scheduled for the morning. We'll cover that later in the series.

Boris Gorelik, whose fabulous photos are featured in this column, took the group to the whispering gallery outside the Oyster Bar. Here Shefali Burns and Robert Redl could whisper to each other from across the massive hallway while no one else could hear. It is a really cool spot featured in many films, most recently in the remake of the comedy film Arthur.

From here the troop marched south to 36th Street where a couple of the organizers had secured HIRL HQ, an apartment used as a base of operations and where a dozen or so of the visitors were staying for the weekend. Once inside we met another whole group of HIRLers including Brian McDonald who had created special "Plusports" for everyone to record their travels and collect special greetings from each other. We made it there in time for the hors d'oeuvres being specially prepared for the group by chef Lee Allison.

It was a welcomed break after the tours and our long trek around mid town, and a much needed rest before the triple concert scheduled for the evening.

(Still to come: Live performances at the Living Room, the After parties, photo walk, and final dinner party)

Captain Joe

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