I’ve lived “here” practically my entire life. I realize that there has always been a public perception that sticking around your hometown and never “going anywhere” is the sign of some sort of moral failing, but I’ve never felt that way. I like where I live, I like the people here, and, ultimately, I don’t ever see myself leaving, if only because I learned a long time that, when I’m separated from the ocean, I wither and die. I suspect I may be part fish.
One side effect of always living in the same place is that I have many memories from the same locations. I’ve walked the same streets and avenues as a child, teenager, and whatever passes for an adult. I have memories of walking with my departed grandparents, long lost loves, and friends that have left this area or the mortal coil entirely. I can barely buy groceries without tripping into a memory hole. It’s amazing my goth phase only lasted as long as a bottle of nail polish.
I distinctly recall 2 AM on January 1st, 2000. We had just ushered in the new millennium, and, after leaving my lover of the time with her overly protective parents around midnight, my friends and I went to Denny’s. Full of fried death, my friends and I decided to hit the local boardwalk. As one might expect at 2 AM on a January morn, it was fairly empty save a few other (likely teenage) stragglers. Being complete nerds, we vowed to hit the 24-hour arcade.
While we walked the boards, we discussed the new day that was dawning. It was the year of our Lord 2000 AD, dammit, so where was our hover car? Where were the moon trips? We’re going to an arcade, so where’s the virtual reality? One of us even commented, “It’s 20XX now, Mega Man should be running around!”
There was no Mega Man to be found. And, incidentally, the arcade was closed. What a letdown.
16 years, 6 months, and 16 days later I decided to take Pokémon Go for a walk on that same boardwalk to that same arcade.
I eventually reached the arcade, and was delighted to find someone had already put out a lure. I caught a number of Pokémon there and during that walk, and acquired a great collection of digital monsters. Seriously caught 85 of the little critters in the span of an hour, because obviously it’s not tall grass that draws Pokémon, but bored, vacationing teenagers.
And a funny thought struck me as I scored some pokéballs off my sixth memorial bench.
Here I stand on the same old boardwalk, in front of the same old arcade, opposite the same old ocean. The arcade and boardwalk are something of a Theseus’ paradox (and, in a way, even the ocean), but all of these things, these landmarks, existed before I did. The boardwalk itself is nearly a century old, and I literally can’t recall a time that arcade wasn’t in that location (even if the games have changed a little bit…). The Atlantic Ocean speaks (roars) for itself. I was here when I was a child, and, well before that, this location saw men and women that drove Model-Ts and sported non-ironic handlebar moustaches.
But here I stand, with my pocket computer catching virtual Pokémon. Socializing (and, frankly, leeching off of) other like-minded trainers. Digletts are poking up through the boards, abras are hanging out in front of the pavilion, and ponytas seem to be congregating at the pier. A grimer is lingering in front of the fudge place… that can’t be good for business. And we’re all here, nabbing every Pokémon that pops up, and helping other trainers that need a hand with their aim. There’s a tangela about a block away? Thanks for the tip!
Same old haunt, same old street, now with a brand new shine compliments of augmented reality emanating from devices we use every day to ignore emails. Places that are older than any person currently alive are now lit up with a hundred gleaming devices all humming the same theme song. Old is new again, all thanks to a twenty year old franchise controlled by a century old company.
Mega Man might not be walking the boards, but it looks like pikachu is. This 21st Century is looking pretty alright.