In past blogs I have discussed some of my friends. Just by first name so as not to cause them undue celebrity. Avoiding those nosy reporters can become very time consuming. However this time I have to reveal the complete identity of my friend, Dr. Michael Binder. Why you ask? Because Mike is the current World Champion of a very interesting game called Diplomacy. And that's what this is all about.
Mike and his wife Amy live in Florida and every summer they visit Amy's parents who have a beautiful home on the beach on the north shore of Long Island. Not as ritzy as the Hamptons or Sag Harbor but still a most relaxing place to spend time. I generally visit with them at this time but I was committed to work at the US Women's Open golf tournament (see previous blog) and I was so exhausted that I couldn't make it. Mike understood but I was upset. Then he said that he was going from Long Island to Philadelphia (by train no less) to play in a Diplomacy tournament. I said I would meet him there and hang with him. He said there wouldn't be enough time for serious hanging out but I was committed to see him. I made a reservation and I was set.
Now I have never really been a big fan of Diplomacy but I figured the best way to learn to like it was to understand it and I figured the best way to understand it was to watch it. Now I understand it and it is fascinating.
The game takes place in 1901 Europe. Empires are being built and power is being brokered. Your goal is to dominate the map. How do you do this? With guns and bombs? No. Through negotiation and backstabbing. Basically you talk to the other players (in closed, secret meetings) on a 1 to 1 basis and create alliances. Then when it suits your needs you turn on them. But what if they beat you to it? That is the fascinating part of the game.
Anyway the game consists of 15 - 20 minute negotiating sessions followed by 5 minutes of moving the pieces (everybody moves at the same time). As fascinating as it is to watch I decided to go out and walk around Philly for a little bit. I was staying on Broad St just south of City Hall and the area has a lot going on. It is also very gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's actually one of the primary reason there's a lot going on.
I walked and window shopped, bought an ice cream cone and people watched. And I got hit on. Twice. I guess I still have it. At least for middle aged gay guys. Very nice. As I got back to the hotel I saw Amy talking to a really tall (6'6"), incredibly buff guy. She introduced him to me as an old high school friend named Marcus. He was wearing a skin tight cycling outfit and he had a very expensive looking bike.
We made some small talk and I mentioned that I had walked around the area. The first thing out of his mouth was that it was really gay. Now it wasn't hard to figure out that Marcus was probably gay and he may have been doing this to gauge my level of homophobia. I just said that I didn't really notice the guys holding hands and making out. This kind of threw him for a loop. He looked at me a little funny and didn't really talk much more. I said good night and went back to the Diplomacy tournament.
The next day Mike, Amy and I went for breakfast. On the walk to the restaurant Amy mentioned that I was rude to Marcus. Now let's get one thing straight. I am capable of being extremely rude (and obnoxious) but this comment threw me big time. How was I rude? "Well you made fun of him being gay" she said. This floored me. I am at a loss to understand it but all I can say is I must not have been very diplomatic.
In the world of diplomacy, some things are better left unsaid.