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Farewell NYC: Empire State of Mind turns into Escape from New York

I have no other way to really describe the emotions that are going through me right now, it’s tough to do so in a sentence or perhaps even in words. Here we are, after many years in a city that turned me from a boy to a man. Just today, I took a long walk around Central Park, still realizing I had not seen all of it. Something came over me, sorrow, which I have never experienced as it pertains to a city. I’ve decided that I am leaving NYC and after a couple of months of looking, found a new place in a new state.

It wasn’t easy, it was probably the toughest decision I’ve had to make in quite some time because no matter what happened, I stuck by this city.

The Pandemic came and I saw so many of my friends flee to Connecticut, outside of the city, Jersey, beach towns, Florida, and various other states. Not me, even as my lease was expiring and I saw the city shutdown, I stood by. My lifestyle had done a 180 in the sense that the same me who was partying it up at the bars was now spending weekends indoors, at best meeting up with friends at their apartments. I didn’t mind, I loved this city (and I always will), and I knew it will all be back to normal. Plus, remote work was neat too.

In some ways, I was being irrational for my love of NYC. I was living in Manhattan with roommates and paying a decent chunk for what was a small room every time. Yet, I couldn’t let go, I just couldn’t. NYC had taken this small city boy from an assbackwards part of America and turned him into a man. Dates with beautiful women, amazing friends, fun Happy Hours, nights spent partying at the best nightclubs, and memories I will cherish for the rest of my life.

The straw that broke the camel’s back.

I dealt with lockdowns, I dealt with the city being shut down, I dealt with skyrocketing crime rates, high cost of living, and even rents going up by a lot since the lockdowns slowly started to end. Then, one August afternoon, I heard the news many others heard. The city was mandating vaccines for anyone who wanted to eat indoors, go to the gym, or really do any sort of activity inside.

NYC became the first major city in the US to implement such a mandate as other major cities followed suit. I have very strong opinions on why it was implemented in the city and why it probably has little to do with the safety of people but I will keep those to myself. It was then that I had a very tough decision to make, my lease not ending until the end of this year. My roommate had already done a buyout so I had a two bedroom all to myself at the rate of just my share, pretty sweet deal right? Sweet indeed, but enough to keep me here.

Most of all, the reaction of Manhattan locals also enraged me.

The same people I would talk to at a bar, partied with, and interacted with often just took it. Not only did they just take it, they also became adversarial towards anyone that was not compliant. For some reason, it made my blood boil to the point of anger and me not even being able to sleep some nights. How?

How can these people not see the whole nonsense for what it is? It’s Manhattan, an area of the world which is supposed to attract the brightest people with the best pedigrees. Yet, everyone became compliant and turned on whoever was painted as the enemy by the government and leadership, we all know who that is.

I lost faith, did I just not know the right NYC? Did all of that alcohol and partying to loud music make me oblivious and naive to everything? I have had my eyes opened to just how weak, compliant, and subservient the people of Manhattan who can brave through so much really are during this pandemic. The same people who I looked up to and respected as I considered people in my assbackwards state to be the goody two-shoes.

Worst of all? People cheer on the abuse towards the unvaccinated. I went to a bar where thankfully we got in before it got crowded. Not long after, they started requiring vaccination proof and turned away a couple of guys. A couple of hipsters inside cheered on the rejection and one even said “let em fucking die!”.

Meanwhile, I read similar sentiments on the NYC subreddit which I used to frequently to see what was going on in the city. I saw such hostility and animosity from the naive, progressive, and hypocritical crowd that I had to stop browsing altogether. Such arrogance and entitlement that I had to finally wake up to just how awful a good chunk of people in Manhattan were.

Tensions get even worse.

For anyone who has been keeping up with the news lately, tensions in NYC are quite bad due to this mandate. People are tired and fed up, one side with the other. The majority are fed up with the unvaccinated and given that certain ethnic groups tend to be less vaccinated, it is fueling racial tensions in a big way. Meanwhile, the other side in the minority just wants to be left alone and wants the ability to make their own choice around this topic.

I feel it in my day to day now when I go to NYC. Just a couple days ago, I entered a Starbucks unmasked. In front of me, this Karen was ordering her drink and just about taking forever. I distance myself safely behind her, at least a good six feet and maybe more. As she looks back, she makes a mask gesture at me but I ignore her. Then, she finally finishes ordering her drink not before turning around and saying to me: “You’re vaccinated right?”.

In response, I tell her: “That’s not any of your business mam”.

She gets adversarial saying “It is my business, its you Trumpers who are stopping us from getting back to normal!”.

I ignored her and felt tense throughout it all, not wanting to say much more. Later on she keeps saying how people need to be vaccinated, even going on a rant about it. A few girls near her are pissed off with her ranting until one just gets livid saying “lady shut the fuck up and get your damn drink!”. She called those girls Trump supporters, odd since those girls were all black and African Americans usually don’t go for Trump. Now that went from bad to worse as the girls starting shouting at and threatening her.

All around me as I walk around, I see it. I see this look of despair on people’s faces as businesses turn them away due to not being vaccinated. I see how tough things are for businesses and how stressed out these restaurants owner are as they are asked to play police and host at the same time.

Empire State of Mind turns into Escape From New York.

For those of you who do not get the reference, Empire State of Mind is a rap song by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys. You’ve heard it as back when it was released, it was number 1 on the billboard charts. Meanwhile, Escape From New York is a dystopian film where Manhattan is turned into a maximum security prison.

I remember when I first touched down into NYC, overlooking Manhattan and its tall skyscrapers from the window seat of my flight, and the song played in my earphones. The old me had no idea what life in NYC would entail and the years that followed it would be the best years of my life without question. I guess politics impacted me less because things were normal and you could sort of brush a lot of things off. NYC was the place to be, a place for hope, dreams, friends, fun, opportunity, a chance to work hard, and make a life of your own that you saw fit.

Then, 2020 hit, and I saw the same streets I walked with friends turn into a ghost town as businesses closed left and right. Still, I stood by as my friends left this city in droves. Crime got exponentially higher and tensions flared like none other but I remained strong to this city.

Yet, something about these mandates was different for me, and hinted at a very dystopian future.

No, it wasn’t the fact that you have to get the jab to go into a gym or have a normal life. The mandates seem to come out of nowhere really, especially as things were completely back to normal for a couple of months. I did notice that our former governor was supposedly under a lot of pressure and eventually had to resign due to accusations.

It wasn’t the mandates themselves though, it was this lingering thought in my head of what else can they do?

Now that they have managed to make the population compliant with having to get a jab in order to eat indoors or go to the gym, how else can they make them compliant? What else will they try to do in order to push the boundary now that they have managed to get their inch?

The question ran through my mind quite a lot.

A proof of jab to grocery shop? Well within reason.

A proof of jab to get on a train or cab? Not that unrealistic.

A proof of jab to rent or get a new apartment in NYC? Might as well be right around the corner.

A proof of the jab to even board a plane to leave NYC? I decided I am not sticking around to find out.

But hey, given my love for NYC, I have some hope even if it is small.

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