New York City, fourteen years later

The last time I visited New York City was in 2009. I was a fresh-faced new graduate interviewing for a job that turned out to be a scam during the worst of the Great Recession. Smartphones weren’t mainstream yet. I was comparing hot dog and dollar slice stands for the one that was fifty cents cheaper. I pinched every penny during this short trip and still worried about going broke because I had no income for the foreseeable future.

Fourteen years later, everything has changed. The student loans that got me through college are gone. I finally have a stable job where the primary dislikes fall under corporate crap I won’t escape by working elsewhere. I own a freaking home. (This last one boggles my mind sometimes, but I come back to reality whenever I hear a weird and potentially expensive noise.) And I returned to the city this summer, not for a job prospect but for vacation and Go Fest.

Seeing a place through new eyes is its own experience, especially when more money can go toward it.

Lifestyle observations

Everything is so fast-paced and I love it. I’m a fast walker, and I worry about how my mindset around this will change as I get older. Most people at home can’t keep up, but in New York I stood out much less. Even more importantly, people actually understand the concept of getting on and off the subway quickly, compared to Atlanta where people take their sweet time like the train will definitely wait for them.

When there are a lot of pedestrians waiting to cross in Manhattan, the moment where a critical number of people decides it’s okay to cross the street feels like one of those trust fall exercises. I’ve jokingly yelled it during raid hour when we cross the street: “They can’t hit us all!” In New York City, it’s true. They really can’t hit you all. Dodging an accident because someone decided it was okay to cross too soon feels like violating some sort of social contract.

New York loves its public seating. Its public restrooms, not so much. Shoutout to everyone at the Whole Foods across from Bryant Park for holding the customer-only bathroom doors open for the next person during Go Fest weekend. Atlanta could learn from the public seating model; everyone benefits from it. Everyone needs a place to sit at some point, whether you have a disability or you’ve been on your feet for eight hours shiny hunting.

People mind their own business more. I hate to say this, but I didn’t get cat-called once on vacation despite wearing shorts and t-shirts and it was a whole new world. Compare that to my train ride home from the Atlanta airport where a guy got on the train the stop before I got out and tried to put his arm around me the way guys do when they think everything is their property. Welcome to Atlanta. (I told him no, stop doing that. Fortunately I was getting out at the next stop. He stuck his head out of the train and yelled at me. What the fuck, dude.)

Times Square is a horrible tourist trap, but it’s a good area for Pokemon Go raids and getting cheap Broadway tickets. (Speaking of Broadway, Sweeney Todd was perfection.)

Central Park is lovely but don’t walk Central Park from top to bottom the day before a weekend of Go Fest shenanigans. This is probably why I spent all day Monday in my hotel room playing video games and turning my brain off before going back to work. Do, however, get lost in the Ramble.

I miss New York bagels so damn much. You’d think cream cheese spread would solve all the world’s problems the way some places spread that stuff on the bagels. I started judging places if they spread the cream cheese like a normal person. And the variety, oh the variety. It may be for the best that Atlanta doesn’t have a big bagel scene because I would be broke.

Pokemon observations

I heard about the magic of playing in Bryant Park for Community Day, so I went to check it out. To be honest, I was a little disappointed. Yes, the spawns were great, but there were so many more normal people compared to Go players that it was hard to spot other players, and the park was much more crowded as a result. Compare to some of my play spots at home in another large city where many people looking down at their phone with a phone charger dangling out of a pocket or backpack or purse are likely playing Go, and unless there’s a large event happening, it’s less crowded at home.

Community Day was also weird because it was harder to talk to people. I like to talk to people, ask how the shiny hunt is going, and spot the other battlers. But the ratio of normies to Pokemon players meant that spotting a player was far less likely, and even when I did, people weren’t up to chatting.

Playing Go Fest there was a lot more fun because the ratio of players to normies shifted to the point where there where the Go players were much easier to spot.

I came across a different problem during Go Fest: doppelgangers. At least five times, I went to say hi to someone I had met at a regional or recognized from some event, only for the person to… not be the person I thought they were. Oops. This kept happening to the point where I saw someone I was reasonably sure I knew but didn’t say hi because I didn’t want to find myself in another doppelganger situation.

If you’re south of Central Park in Manhattan, you never have to worry about having enough for a raid or having good enough raid counters because Manhattan is spoofer heaven. All you have to do is hop into a lobby and wait a few seconds. On the other hand, it’s almost impossible to get your daily gym coins or enter a Pokemon into a showcase. I gave up on earning my free coins that week.

Life lessons

I got one big thing out of this trip: YOLO, but not in the stupid way.

One day I will die. If I’m lucky enough to live a long life, then at some point before death, my health will decline. Physical activities will become more difficult. I’m in my mid-thirties, and walking over 200km in two weeks exhausted me after those two weeks despite being in reasonably good health. It doesn’t take much to wipe out that good health.

I lost much of my twenties and peak health years to being extremely broke to the point where comparing fifty-cent price differences was essential to survival. I’m catching up on lost time with the adventures that others have already had and that I want to have.

I got promoted at work recently, and that came with a lovely raise. I’m financially comfortable, saving enough for retirement, but life is short. There are too many stories about people who have grand plans to retire and then do all the things they wanted to do one day, and then they retire and die the next day. Or they become permanently disabled by something completely out of their control. All those grand plans to see the world or achieve life goals can get shoved aside because of the curse of time or circumstance.

With this in mind, it’s even more important to do the things I want to do while I’m still physically and mentally able to do them. The personal finance bros out there will say to save a raise and not give in to inflation, but after a certain point saving even more doesn’t get you farther, even for the early retirement crowd. Experiences, however, do.

I’m in good shape now (physically, mentally, and financially), so it’s time to prioritize what I value. Right now, it’s seeing people and places before they die or get destroyed by climate change. It’s about making human connections in a lonely world and making the most of what’s left.

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