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What Am I Doing In New York City?

This place sucks (now).

New York City
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I’m sitting in my car on the side of street near my apartment in Astoria. A lady is sitting in her car in front of me. A few cars behind me a guy is just sitting in his car. I’m eating breakfast — a bowl of Greek yogurt with figs, blueberries, peanut butter, pecans, and pumpkin seeds. I settled in and relaxed. I’d be going nowhere soon — we’d all just be sitting in our cars on the side of the road for the next hour and a half until either a parking cop or street cleaner arrives.

NYC has alternate side parking so that the streets can be cleaned. This was suspended throughout the pandemic and had just started up again this week. The problem is that a huge amount of people still haven’t returned to work / are now working from home and restaurants have taken over parking spots in the street to provide more outdoor seating. It is difficult to find a place to put your vehicle in the best of times but with one side of the street off limits for cleaning it’s now impossible. So hundreds — probably even thousands — of us just sit out in our cars on the wrong side of the road and keep a look out for traffic cops.

I see one! She walked up to ticket the vehicle behind me. We scatter like flies. I go to the next block. 10 minutes later a street cleaner turns the corner. I start my engine and pull out in unison with a half dozen other drivers. I return to my street and park in front of my building. A lady in nurse scrubs pulls up behind me and just sits there. A guy in a business suit sits in the car in front of me. I watch as drivers fill in the blanks all down the street.

The weather gets hotter. I sweat through the back of my shirt and into the seat. What am I doing? I ask myself. Why am I here? Why do I want to be in a highly regulated city ruled by a hypocritical autocrat where masses of people have to sit in their cars for an hour and a half each week because there’s no room to park?

I could be upstate planting a garden. I could be on the beaches of Oaxaca. I could be in the hills of Taiwan. I could be in a free state that values civil liberties and doesn’t imprison their constituents in a disgusting game of partisan politics.

What am I getting out of being here?

I can’t say that coming to NYC was a mistake. No move in travel is a pot shot — some will hit the target and others won’t. NYC was always a gamble, something that was clear from the start. But what I could never have planned for was a for the city to implode — its rotten core spewing all over everyone. What you get here is no longer worth what you pay for it. I should have joined the exodus out in March.

But instead I violated the core precept of travel: always be moving to where the grass is greener.

When 10am hit we all quietly stepped out of our cars and walk off to do our days.

Filed under: New York City, USA

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3619 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York

21 comments… add one

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  • Apol Danganan July 3, 2020, 3:57 pm

    Nice to be back in this blog! 🙂
    Take care in NY Wade.

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    • Wade Shepard July 6, 2020, 10:25 am

      Hello Apol, Excellent to hear from you again! Thank you!

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  • Lawrence July 3, 2020, 4:45 pm

    Dang….I feel sorry for you. I hope you get out. I feel ya. I have chosen the sit near the ocean, plant a garden and watch whales phase. I couldn’t imagine sitting in my car just to move it…but who knows it could be coming for me in a couple of years.

    You are completely right, this is all petty partisan games but very few seem to stand up. I can’t figure out if people are scared, accept it, stupid, obese, or biding their time to make a move. It is disgusting really. I went through a bad stretch for a couple of weeks, unfocused and arguing with people about the lockdown and the different standards held to protests and people who want to live their lives. But I let the media do it for me now. Nobody with half a brain can watch the news and not see the utter hypocrisy on display. But sadly, that doesn’t seem to translate into any rationale action. Maybe I am too pessimistic. As you said in a previous post. One old guy croaks in Melbourne and we are back on border restrictions, mass testing, cancellations of sporting events. This is not ending anytime soon.

    Get to Mexico and if Australia ever opens its borders to anyone other than New Zealand, I will come and visit and we can go see some Lucha Libre.

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    • Wade Shepard July 6, 2020, 10:37 am

      Definitely. It’s so wild how the MSM has people so dialed into what they say and how they can’t sift out the BS in articles. It seems like they WANT to feel scared and they WANT to claim the moral authority to force compliance on other people. It’s a weird short-circuit in our biology that must have served some productive function at one time. An article came out in the NYT today that basically said “12x the number of people had Covid than what is recorded so the infection fatality rate is much lower than thought but this means we can still have 2 million deaths in the USA.” WTF? There is nothing in the data indicating their conclusion, and key elements were left out — such as the limiting effect of herd immunity (like in NYC) or the varying rate of spread due to variations in population density (rural areas will not have the same infection rate as urban, etc). They KNOW their audience is unwilling to think for themselves and won’t see through the fact that the media sources like the NYT make A LOT of money off of Covid. They don’t want it to go away.

      Yeah, no point in arguing this. It’s apparent that more people prefer the feeling of moral superiority than the freedom to live their lives. We seem to love the power that comes from telling other people what to do.

      I agree, this isn’t ending anytime soon. It’s not about science, it’s about control.

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  • Rob July 3, 2020, 6:25 pm

    You asked “what am I doing here?”
    Everybody has to be somewhere …. Sometimes that’s just how it works out.
    When this all started I believed what I was hearing/seeing on all the media, it scared me. After awhile I stopped to look around. I read a little history on the last couple of pandemics and even the last couple of flu seasons, I looked at the numbers and the on going coverage…
    If this calmed down by the middle of November I would not be surprised.

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    • Wade Shepard July 6, 2020, 10:43 am

      “Everybody has to be somewhere”

      That’s true! Everywhere probably sucks a little right now. There are good aspects about NYC too. Like the fact that the city has basically acquired herd immunity to Covid so it’s not really a thing anymore. Today phase 3 began.

      “When this all started I believed what I was hearing/seeing on all the media, it scared me. After awhile I stopped to look around. I read a little history on the last couple of pandemics and even the last couple of flu seasons, I looked at the numbers and the on going coverage…”

      Excellent, man. I know that you had reasons to be a little concerned at first. What’s crazy to me is that very few people have done what you did … even though all of the information is readily available.

      I agree that this is all going to mysteriously go away in the USA after the election.

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  • Trevor Warman July 4, 2020, 10:36 am

    Yeah what are you doing in NYC??

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    • Wade Shepard July 6, 2020, 10:46 am

      No idea anymore, man. It was supposed to be a jumping off point to elsewhere … but there’s not really anywhere to go. I need to get back to Asia … but those walls are still up. And there’s no way that I’m depositing $3,000 into a Cambodian bank and taking the chance of a two week forced quarantine to visit. Fuck that.

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  • MRP July 4, 2020, 6:55 pm

    Hi Wade.

    What a mess the US is in – looking from the outside at least; seems visions of disintegration are on the horizon…

    Anyway, I’m still roaming China – 🚐🏞🍺 – now in Sichuan. But who knows when a 2nd ‘real’ wave hits here (parts of Beijing got locked down again recently).

    RE: Your last post. Mexico could be the answer as it seems like Eastern Europe may now get a harder hit (although in Serbia, you and Trevor could share chat, beer and pizza for at least a week).

    Once upon a time … the life of a global nomad seemed so expansive, exciting and carefree.

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    • Trevor Warman July 5, 2020, 2:07 am

      Sichuan ;)) never went there…. dt they have spicy food there?

      Found a floating bar at the confluence of the Danube and Sava 2.20$ for 0,5l draft Heineken .. not keen on the local brew…

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      • MRP July 5, 2020, 8:19 pm

        @ Trevor. Yeah, spicy food with humidity and rain – feels like SE Asia.

        Enjoy Belgrade! Don’t hold back on those beers – you deserve a tanker-load 🍻🍻🍻

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        • Wade Shepard July 6, 2020, 11:06 am

          @MRP, man, you are probably in the best region of the world for “micro-travel.” Sichuan has so many different regions and environments and things get even more diverse when you get down into the jungles of Yunnan nearby. Man, you nailed this pandemic. Next time, I’m going to wherever you are!

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          • MRP July 7, 2020, 10:07 am

            Cheers Wade. Wish I could say that it was all mapped out, but the truth is I have just been lucky.

            Would be good to catch up again in China for beers, and tequila 😁(thou, I’m a total Baijiu convert now; only the rural- made shit, mind you).

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            • Vagabond Journey July 7, 2020, 1:02 pm

              Sounds excellent! Looking forward to it. I believe it’s time for me to rediscover Baijiu.

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      • Wade Shepard July 6, 2020, 10:56 am

        Sweet! I used to go drink around there. I always went for Stella.

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    • Wade Shepard July 6, 2020, 10:55 am

      “What a mess the US is in – looking from the outside at least; seems visions of disintegration are on the horizon… ”

      Haha, for real, man. However, this is just the way the country is. The place is pretty batshit crazy and we get these weird flare ups from time to time. Like most big countries the place is really too big and diverse to be one nation, so you get a lot of conflicts, etc. But at the end of the day, even those assholes tearing down statues and rioting, shooting people and being shot … it’s still a pretty American way to act. You know how when you see those fat kids in China that yell and scream until their parents buy them an ice cream? That’s pretty much my entire country haha.

      It’s looking like I’m going to have to take a trip out there to find out what’s going on.

      Oh yes, once upon a time in the good old days of … 2019, haha.

      Happy to hear that you’re still roving around. Yes, I would be concerned about a second wave in China. The country didn’t properly allow it to spread the first time and they are nowhere close to herd immunity. Here in NYC everyone who can get it has pretty much already had it. Same goes for a lot of other parts of the States. In China though, man, they are just beginning.

      I guess that was one benefit of our inept leadership haha.

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      • MRP July 7, 2020, 9:59 am

        @Wade. Thanks for excellent, insightful replies. RE: My comments about US disintegration. Friends and I discussed this issue back in NZ during the 1990s, and thought 2050 was a fair date ( also the time China – 2049 – will confront the USA) ; any thoughts about the Boogaloo movement, etc? And US splitting within the next decades?

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        • Vagabond Journey July 7, 2020, 1:01 pm

          Yes, all countries fall sometime, I guess. I’d say the possibility of civil war is now very real. Elements in the Democratic party are overtly supporting the riots and some cities have given implicit permission for people to destroy public property and have hamstrung the police and legal system from doing anything about it. I would not be surprised if there are close ties with China among some of the movement’s leadership. Basically, this seems to be getting more “for real” by the day. However, sometimes things get nuts in the USA … but the support for these things from the administrative mainstream … well, that’s something new.

          The Boogaloo movement? I believe right now that their impact is overblown.

          What is interesting is how many major news outlets are covering the protests and rioters. They clearly support them, which is very odd as they are now killing people, attacking police with explosives, setting buildings on fire, and an entire host of other things that they usually clearly condemn. It seems as if there may be some form of organized collaboration between media, elements of the government, social media companies, and the insurgents, which at this point is what they are. If that’s true then this is something new altogether and what I said before pretty much doesn’t apply.

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  • Sarah BB July 6, 2020, 12:01 pm

    That sounds like a tedious game

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  • Wade's Wife July 7, 2020, 7:54 am

    You are being a grumpy old man. What are you doing here? 1. Your kids. They needed more stability. They wanted school and friends. We wanted them to be able to have an international community, a community that inspired ambition, creativity and success. 2. You wanted to have less financial responsibility so we looked for a place where I could make more money. This frees you up to work more on the projects you are passionate about rather than ones you feel you have to just to make money.
    NYC is charmingly grumpy. Maybe the culture has rubbed off on you too much.

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    • Vagabond Journey July 7, 2020, 9:13 am

      Oh man, just wait until I publish the post that’s coming today! More charmingly grumpy old man on the horizon haha.

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