Friday, March 16, 2012

HIRL Today, Gone Tomorrow (Part 4)

Weeks ago I wrote about the New York City HIRL event. This was an event where many people from all over the world who had previously only met in Google Plus hangouts decided to get together and engage in several joint activities in New York.

photo by Boris Gorelik
Fortunately for me I live in New York, so attending each day was easy, and I could sleep each night in my own bed. I have already described in Part 1, 2, and 3 all the events on the first day, Friday February 3rd and my thoughts and observations about them. Of course I could not be everywhere, so I only wrote about those activities in which I took part.

While the concerts and the final dinner were phenomenal, I know the photo walk was a high point for many people, especially those camera wielding, shutter happy photographers. All of them, from amateur to top professional, must have collectively taken thousands of pictures, not only during the walk but over the course of the entire event. So many great photos have been posted over the last several weeks and we have barely scratched the surface.

photo by: Eileen McAllister
I missed out on the photo walk because: one) I am not much of a photographer, and two) I grew up in Brooklyn and worked in South Manhattan for many years so the walking tour was kind of old news to me. Additionally, as a New Yorker, even ten years later, I still find it hard to view ground zero. What is to many an attraction is to me a painful sight to behold. However, I did miss the comradery and fun of hanging in real life with all these terrific people. My wife and I caught up with the group at the Palm Court of the World Financial Center. This is near ground zero, the site of the former World Trade Center towers, and was the end of the photo walk route. By this time the group had scattered and so there were only a handful of HIRLers wandering about still snapping photos, having lunch or coffee. Here I met a few more people I had not met the day before.
Before heading to dinner, we decided to jump in a taxi and visit my son in the East Village. While I had the chance to HIRL with him the night before, my wife had not seen him in a while. We invited my good friend Bruce Garber to come along and we all enjoyed some Dunkin coffee in my son's apartment. Then it was time for the big final dinner party at California Pizza Kitchen. There were over 70 people there sitting in booths, and at small and large tables. We took fully half the seats in the restaurant and I thought the manager was going to pass out when all of us assembled for some group photos. Here is the final observation I want to make. As I looked around at our group in the restaurant, sharing food, drink and stories, it struck me that none of these people had been together before. Eight months ago I knew none of them and most of them would not have known each other. Yet, the atmosphere at this dinner was one of a reunion of long time friends.

photo by: Anthony Quintano
The Google Plus hangouts had enabled perfect strangers, in every sense of the word, to come to know and, importantly, to trust one another. The visual combined with the audio interaction resulted in the formation of genuine relationships and solid friendships.

I wondered at the outset whether post HIRL the interactions would change in some way. As far as I can tell,  the only impact has been to increase the number of people with whom I can comfortably hang out.

Captain Joe
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