Sunday, September 4, 2016

I am Pokemon GO

Let's agree about New York City.  It's the entertainment center of America, "if I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere."  It's the financial heart.  It's the fashion mecca.  Artists flock there to create their art and maybe create a thing that is big and popular and forever in the cultural forefront, like a painting or a play.  New York City is also the Pokemon GO place to be.

Pokemon GO is the sensation that melds catching Pokemon with a GPS.  People walk around trying to catch Pokemon which they can evolve into stronger Pokemon and then stronger Pokemon still.  If my sister and I turn on our phones at the same time, we see the exact same Pokemon.  If my niece is sitting a little to my left and she gets a Pokemon, I might have to wave my phone all around her in order to get the same Pokemon but said Pokemon can be had.

Before I left for New York last weekend, my sister told me New York was the only place where you could find a Charmander.  I was going to New York to see hotels and didn't want anything to get in the way of that.  Fortunately, with Pokemon GO you can walk from one appointment to the next and collect Poke balls and perhaps a Pidgey or a Rattata.  You get some exercise -- seven miles on Saturday, as it turned out -- which is part of the Pokemon GO deal.  The GPS finds you and tells you what's nearby.

I visited the Museum of Modern Art, one of the great art collections in the world, free on Fridays from 4pm to 8pm it's free, courtesy of Uniqlo, the Japanese clothing store.  Thanks, Uniqlo!  But it was so stuffed that being there was stuffy, slow going, and kind of uncomfortable.  After 30 minutes, I'd seen Van Gogh's "Starry Night," and a zillion people looking at that painting, including 10 minutes to work my way to be in front of it.  It was a clear night and I returned to my hotel so I could have some water and a little rest.

I needed to visit the Apple Store, a block from my hotel, so I walked.  Why are all those people sitting by the statue of Sherman?  I'd heard rumors that this might be ground central.  I went and had a seat and Pokemon came to me because of a Pokemon lure.  I was very excited to catch things.  I talked to people near me.  One man was from Ohio and his son-in-law got him hooked on Pokemon.  "Have you seen a stampede yet?" he asked.  I asked what that was.  Someone will spot a rare Pokemon on their phones and everyone runs to get it.  I asked if just young people ran and he said no, everyone who wanted that Pokemon went.  He was about 50 and he had participated.  "I'm going back to my hotel in a minute," he said.  "I've been here for a while."  I went over to the Apple Store and came back 90 minutes later. Ohio man was sitting on the steps of the statue."Still here I see," I said. "I am going back to my hotel right now." he claimed. I walked away.  He wanted some Pokemon.  I know the look. 

On the northern side of the Sherman Statue -- which is at the Southeast corner of Central Park -- is the place where the Pokemon GO Meet Up group convenes.  Every Friday night at the Sherman Statue and every Wednesday night at Union Park, like-minded fans get together and collect Pokemon.  The guys who run it do it for free, for love of Pokemon GO, and bring a charging station.  He had a Poke Ball backpack from the late 90s that he'd bought on ebay.  He said it was usually in his backpack and everyone plugged in there but this evening he'd set it up right by the statue and several people were getting a charge.  People from all over were congregating -- Japanese tourists, a family from New Jersey, me, the guy from Ohio, adults and their adult children.

And then it happened!  A sighting of a rare Pokemon!  People ran across the traffic of the street that curves around the statue without looking -- thus explaining the police presence -- and continued running into the park.  At 9:30 pm.  In the dark.  Disappearing into the darkness.  Roughtly 50 to 75 people took off with them, including me.  One of the warnings when you log into Pokemon GO is "Don't enter dangerous areas at night."  So much for that, I thought, as we followed whatever signal it was that said there was something rare inside the park, right by this lagoon.  This is evidence there is safety in numbers and the gods really do watch out for fools.

The rare one wasn't to be found but the night air offered up a Bulbasaur.  I tried to capture it but found out that I had run out of Poke Balls so I turned around and left the park.  I returned to the Meet Up guy and he asked me if I got it.  "I ran out of Poke Balls," I said.  He looked genuinely disappointed for me.  "Oh, man, you can't run out of Poke Balls.  But it was a false sighting anyway.  The radar they're using is faulty."  Yes, there are several radars to be had and one of them likes to give fake readings.  It didn't matter to me because it was so great to be a part of something so culturally current.  The stampede is one of the coolest things I'd done in a while.

The next evening, the day of the seven-mile walk, I was sitting in Union Square, right before I went to dinner, having a short rest and snagging some Pokemon.  A man approached those of us sitting on this stretch of bench and said, "We're going to be shooting a skyline shot of New York from here," and then explained what would be in the shot, including us, that we shouldn't look right at the camera, then turned to get ready to shoot.  Some people got up and left without a word.  The two couples on my left were excited to be on TV.  I said, "I just want to catch Pokemon," and walked away to catch a Beedrill and a Dodrio.  I think I got the better of the deal.

Target is also Pokemon GO

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