Tag Archives: New York

Day Thirteen

‘sup?

Today is, more or less, day thirteen of my self-imposed quarantine/isolation. I’m not sick, but as someone who’s in a position to take themself out of the equation of contagiousness, I elected to do so. Social responsibility and all that.

In the time since, New York has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US, with the City itself being a hub within it all. It’s a lot to take in; like knowing that a few neighborhoods over there’s a hospital that’s operating in crisis mode. I’m lucky in that me and mine are safe and sound, some of us are working from home, some are on paid leave, but some have had to file for unemployment. But we know it could be worse for all of us, and we know that others aren’t nearly so lucky.

I go on walks now and then, both because I’m told I need sunlight and exercise, but also because I need groceries and wanna get takeout from places that are still offering. Being outside in my neighborhood is surreal. Lots of places are closed, which is sad to see even if they’re places I usually don’t frequent. The diner I go to most weekends stopped offering takeout earlier this week and has a sign on their door saying they’re closed indefinitely. So too went the ramen joint I like and the restaurant I live over.  A coffeeshop I adore and served me many a ginger-tinged coffee during NaNoWriMo is selling its beans in bulk before they close this weekend.

Throughout all this, I can’t help but wonder how this will all look when the pandemic is finally over, whether it’s several weeks or several months from now. Will that diner reopen? Will the staff still be there? It feels a selfish question, but it’s a place where I know a lot of the staff by name and have holed up with a book and endless coffee for hours, and truth be told, I miss that. Plus, I’ve a soft-spot for hole-in-the-wall eats and I’m loath to lose one, especially one like this. Feels like there’s so much in the air right now.

It’s funny. There’s a part of me that’s taken pop-culture’s obsession with New York as being just a trope that works. Yeah, aliens invade the City; yeah, that’s where the Ghostbusters operate; yeah, that’s where all the supervillains are for Spider-Man to fight. Seemed like Washington State was gonna be the big one for the Covid outbreak, but, no, it’s here in New York. Guess there is some truth in television to it all.

But again, I consider myself lucky. The supply chain to New York is robust, so I’m not worried about running out of food and other supplies. So long as the infrastructure holds up, FaceTime and Google Hangouts can afford a sort of companionship. I’m not worried about myself making it through this storm, but I do worry for those who aren’t as privileged. For those who still have to go in to work at grocers and hospitals, for those out of a job and those who might not have a job when this is over.

I don’t know what sort of conclusion to draw here, at the end of this rambling blog post. But be thankful for what you’ve got. And please, if you can, stay home and stay safe. Let’s get through this whole thing.

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I’m Swinging Here

It wasn’t long after I first moved to New York that I found myself really wanting to be Spider-Man.  Not for having spider-like strength or the responsibility entailed; nah, what I really wanted were those web-shooters. Confronted by the architectural chasms that make up the city’s downtown, I figured that being able to swing from building to building would really help me get to class quicker. I’m sure there’s something to be said there for how ingrained the mythos of Spider-Man has become in my consciousness that that was my first response to figuring out a quicker commute (and not, I dunno, a bike), but this isn’t what this rant essay is about.

This one’s about New York.

I played The Division because it was set in Manhattan and I wanted to explore a virtual recreation of it. Much of my disappointment of the game is due to its failure to really capture the essence of New York. Granted, The Division is set in an apocalyptic envisioning of the city, where society has very much gone to the dogs, but there’s still something missing. A lot of this has to do with the visuals; the draw distance of the game is frustratingly short, with anything more than a few blocks away obscured by the fog. This means you can’t look up and see the Empire State Building poking up above the buildings over the horizon, and a lot of the sense of place that New York can afford is hampered due to the sameishness of buildings and neighborhoods with drab colors (again, fitting for the genre, but disappointing that it’s a staple). New York didn’t feel like New York. It felt like it could be any old city, albeit one with certain landmarks. I know the city, and I didn’t really recognize it.

 

Enter Spider-Man, a new game by Insomniac that just came out. It’s, obviously, set in New York because, well, Spider-Man. To my immense joy, the New York of Spider-Man feels like New York. The big question though, is why.

 

Part of it’s the vibe. When you’re on the ground there are people everywhere, yelling at you or ignoring you (as New Yorkers are wont to do with any oddity). You’ll find people doing yoga in the park, hanging out on rooftops, and stuck in traffic. Food carts are all over the place; there’s that verisimilitude that makes the city feel real.

But let’s strip the city of its people; as Spider-Man you’re swinging through the city and seldom walking the sidewalks. What is it about the virtual city that makes it feel like the real one? Why does it feel right?

The New York of Spider-Man is far from a 1:1 recreation. Washington Square Park is way too close to Houston Street and Union Square is tiny, with the blocks between it and the church south of it excised entirely. It’s totally fine, though, because Spider-Man knows it can’t possibly recreate New York exactly and instead aims to capture the feeling of the feeling of the city. There’s just enough of it there and in the right place to evoke New York; a vision of the city authentic enough to please, well, me.

As Spider-Man, I’ve swung myself up to a rooftop and used the relative location of the Empire State Building or the game’s ersatz One World Trade Center to quickly orientate myself. While exploring downtown I tried to get my bearing and noticed a building I’ve walked past countless times in real life and instantly knew I was on Houston and Lafayette.

The game keeps you moving, the swinging mechanic is so much fun that exploring is a delight in and of itself; Propel yourself up in the air and you’ll see buildings all the way to the rivers and tall landmarks (including fictional ones like Avengers Tower!) tower over their surroundings. As Manhattan whizzes by, though, you see the neighborhoods change. FiDi looms over downtown, Chinatown’s signage is appropriately in Chinese, the High Line is there running near the Hudson. Because traversal in the game is so much fun — and fast — you will see so much of Manhattan and, much like in the real city, you’ll stop paying too much attention and suddenly find yourself in a new neighborhood with a new vibe.

I actually haven’t played too much of Spider-Man’s story. Every time I start up the game I get captivated by the city and swinging it around. Part of it is because, like I said before, the mechanic of swinging is so much fun. But a lot of it has to do with that wish fulfillment of the game; finally I’m able to swing from building to building and maybe get where I’m going on time. It’s in a game, yes, but it’s in a game that captures the New York I know and love.

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