It was an unusually warm Fall evening when I stepped into the port city of Boston Massachusetts on a matter of business. I was to be lodging in the metropolis for some number of days (a week at the least, by my estimation) and I was interested to see what this hub of national repletion had to offer. I had heard many colorful stories about the great Bostonian self-sufficiency and revolutionary spirit, stories so magnificent and inspiring as to have flown all the way up to my weary worn village on the far side of the continent, arriving still full of power and flavor. So, I was energized with a desire to mine the depths of these strange enlightened people.
What manner of newly evolved creatures walked these cobblestoned streets? What new thoughts and ideas lie hidden wrapped in scarlet shawls from the east indies and under purple hats garnished with feathers from an unknown European bird? The land and people were like magic to behold. Wonders upon wonders would be their minds. Regarding clothing alone, my paltry attire (although the best in my collection) was quite austere in comparison to the everyday wearings of the throngs of citizens coursing around me in the streets. It was as if my mere presence were a smudge of grey mud upon the boot heel of such a shining city of dazzling lights. But I cared not for my own impression, as I was here but to learn, to grow and expand in my knowledge of all things metropolitan. I was a rough stone eager to be refined in the tumbling tides of Boston harbor.
I was expecting to be surprised. Challenged. Confronted with my own ignorance and innocence. But I was not expecting to be confronted so immediately upon my arrival. For that first night, I stumbled upon a festival of conflict which was truly illuminative and bizarre.
While walking wide-eyed through the moonlit parks in front of the Old State House, I suddenly caught sight of a crowd beginning to form in the distance. The light was dim along the path, but it was quite clear that up ahead in this darkness there was a galaxy of persons gathering together in a small opening in the hedgerows. As I stepped hesitantly forward several young boys skittered past me and rushed into the growing mob. I could hear shouting and whooping, but no indication of language and as I drew near I found no sign of leader amongst the multitude, which had to number at a hundred or more.
I stepped to the edge of the crowd and timorously leaned myself against a statue near which the group had assembled. The statue was a large granite depiction of a great war general mounted atop his equine champion and raising a saber in defiance to some unseen crown. A fitting symbol to collect together beneath, I thought to myself, as I glanced around at the harshly lit faces.
The mob was comprised of mostly young men and some grim young women. The men were dressed in dark vests and fedora hats (a style I had only just been introduced to in the newsprint catalogs they offered on the train.) They each were focusing their pensive eyes down to their hands where they held a type of small lantern of clearly Asian design. They shook and rattled these lanterns and murmured to their compatriots in obvious distemper.
It was several minutes before I summoned the courage to speak to one of the young men nearest to me to inquire as to what the purpose of the assembly was. Were we to speak of war and make plans for treason? My tone, unfortunately, divulged my excitement at the possibility.
“What?” the yellow-haired young man looked up from the proceedings and narrowed his eyes at me. He examined me up and down once and instantly his judgment of my character was apparent. He had no doubt sensed my standing as a commoner from out of town.
I shrunk an inch or two before continuing in a more even tone. “Does this riot have a purpose which shall shortly be known?”
The boy glanced left and right as if searching for someone else to insert into the conversation, and his mouth opened in a grin, “Where are you from?” He asked with an accent that was obviously local.
“I am from Alaska. This is my first time in Boston, and my first time witnessing an insurrection of this sort. And I must say it is invigorating.”
“What? This?” He motioned over his shoulder. “Nah, we’re just here for the Squirtle.” He turned his back on me once again.
The crowd continued to grow, and some pockets of cheering could be heard on the far side of the courtyard. I maneuvered my way around, so I was in front of the young man.
“I’m sorry, but did you say that you are here for the… Squirtle?” I inquired, unsure about the pronunciation of political figures in east coast urban societies. “We have a city mayor back home. Is that similar in some way to your Squirtle?”
He blinked up from his lantern and glanced over his shoulder as if expecting to find two of me. “What? No. A Squirtle, dude. You know. A Pokemon? There’s a Squirtle here and we are trying to catch him.”
I was taken aback by his blatant admittance of public rebellion. “You are abducting the Squirtle? Here? Tonight? A member of the house of Pokemon? Will he be passing by soon?”
Without looking up from his lantern the boy waved a hand in my direction, “Yeah yeah, no. He’s right over there.”
I spun in a circle seeing nothing save the same crowd of inscrutable youths. They roiled around me, flashing lights into their faces, blinding themselves in their revelry. Alternatively cackling with joy and moaning in painful horror. I tried to turn back to the boy I had been talking to, but he was already replaced by a different young man, this time wearing a black velvet jacket and slicked back hair, at his side was a girl hanging off his shoulder like a loose sack of potatoes. They pumped their fists in the air and cried out in victory, yet I could see no victory. The party was a fruitless ruse. I realized now that for all the noise and bustling of commotion, there was no real action taking place. This was heat without a fire. I had stumbled upon not a rebellion, but rather the very societal opposite of a rebellion. I had walked into a coliseum of games distracting and placating the populous into tired matchstick men waiting to be burned in a richer man’s furnace.
I continued to spin. Around me, there was nothing but a sea of dead backlit eyes. No victory. No progress. I saw none of the fully evolved society that I so eagerly wished to find. I saw no scholarly challenge being made by my fellow man to unite and overthrow the tyranny of wasteful oppression. There was only a dull meandering school of fish, passing through an ocean of night. Passing through the warm air in pursuit of nothing. In search of shadows cast on the ground by the statue of great men of uniform, clothe, color, and creed. I saw only empty vests and tight-fitting jeans locked in the unholy hunt for Squirtles.
I adjusted my plain common man’s suit coat and briskly stepped away down the cobblestone sidewalk. I doubt a single one of them even took note of my leaving.