Pokemon GO-ing for a Stroll Down Memory Lane

Five years ago, I was living in a studio apartment in downtown Bellingham, WA. It had had a long hallway that went from the front door to the living quarters. This hallway took up a great deal of space but was virtually useless because it wasn’t big enough to house any furniture, aside from my shelving units (bookcases and whatnot) that I decided to set up there. As a result, My bed and my foldout denim couch nearly touched due to the lack of usable floor space in the actual living area. My apartment was also right next to a nightclub. I think Bellingham is a silly place for a nightclub. I understand that it’s a college town and college kids want an excuse to get drunk and whatever, but my college town didn’t have nightclubs. When I was in college, my peers went to a bar or just stayed home and got drunk because it was too expensive to go out. Kids these days, amirite? Anyway, it was loud, especially on the weekends, and there were always people puking or peeing under my window.

There was also no permanent parking near my apartment, which also existed above a local burger chain – ‘Bob’s Burgers and Brew’ (insert joke about the popular animated FOX show that quickly became their best offering) – so I had my choice of either waking up early to put change in the meter and risk getting a ticket if I slept in or forgot, or paying a monthly fee to park in a garage three blocks down the hill. I chose the latter, but only after my parking tickets ended up costing more than the garage would’ve. But I was fine using that garage, most of the places I went were within walking distance; the gym was a ten-minute walk, there was a grocery store on the next block up, there were so many delicious food places around me, and I had a bike. Or I did until the apartment manager made the tenants move our bikes out of the stairwell so they could paint it. I, stupidly, thought it would be fine locked up across the street. It was gone the next morning. 

Downtown Bellingham Sign (retrieved from KGMI, Photographer: Dave Walker)

I had a lot of memories in that apartment, even though I only lived there for a year. I vividly recall seeing the news that Trump won the presidential election and almost immediately, a dumpster outside my window went up in flames. An ominous – if not a little too obvious – omen of the four years that were to come. That said, I also look back fondly on one night during the Trump presidency that felt like a positive and peaceful experience, even if it was only a brief respite after an extremely long era of violence, bigotry, gaslighting, and perpetuation of dangerous misinformation. The night in question was when we found out that, after months and months of reckless behavior, the sitting President of the United States (at the time) had contracted Covid-19. It was a magical night of relief and celebration. One of the most dangerous people in the world might suffer the same fate as the thousands of people that he had denied relief to.  Sadly, that feeling was not to last long because, as the sitting President of the United States (at the time), he was afforded the best healthcare in the world (another thing he actively denied people) and was back to spewing blatant lies and dangerous rhetoric that eventually led to an armed insurrection of the United States Capitol building. But for that week or so, and especially the night we found out, it felt like there was world peace. 

The “Trump’s got COVID” night, to me, sits right up there as one of the top three positive shared experiences in my lifetime. Right above it is Lawyer Cat, another brief flash-in-the-pan moment of levity during what is arguably one of the worst extended periods in U.S. (and maybe world) history. At the top of that list, leagues above the other two (which honestly were just trying to recapture the magic of number one), brings us right back to that little studio apartment in Bellingham with the weird hallway. It’s when I was laying in bed and saw a group of people running on the street. They didn’t appear scared or panicked but instead were excited. They weren’t running from something, rather they were running to something. This occurrence, which might normally be cause for concern, instead prompted me to run out my door to meet the group. I opened my phone and immediately saw the reason they had been running. A Dragonite had spawned in Pokemon GO and everyone was rushing to catch the rarest Pokemon in the game, at least at the time. 

The Original Pokemon GO Loading Screen

‘The Summer of Pokemon GO’, in my opinion, was the closest we’ve ever come to world peace. The period right after the game launched is perhaps when humanity reached its peak and it has been downhill ever since. I know that’s not actually true. I can’t present any hard facts to support this hypothesis. There are no ‘Violent Crime Rates Fall During First Months of Pokemon GO’ articles I can cite, so remember that everything in this blog comes from my own privileged experience. But there was such a strong sense of community during that time. Everyone was helping each other catch the rare stuff. People young and old were hopping on the craze. It truly felt universal. 

I originally sat down to write exclusively about Pokemon GO in honor of the fifth anniversary and, in a way, I sort of did. Like most things, even those first few months of The Summer of Pokemon GO, it’s about the journey, not the destination. I remember the excitement of seeing that crowd of people running after the invisible Dragonite. I remember celebrating with the others who were successful in catching it. I remember all of the other times I went chasing after Pokemon with random strangers, or the imaginary feuds I had with random people for control of the gym near my apartment. Maybe Pokemon GO wasn’t the peak of humanity? Maybe it was just another stop on the journey to get there? Regardless, the journey hasn’t stopped. We’re all still just running after that Dragonite, so we may as well enjoy the chase. Right?



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