"Apparently This Matters" takes a closer, off-kilter look at topics getting traction on social media
This week, a photo of "Dr. Mario" graffiti leads Jarrett on a trek through New York
Even the most pointless discoveries online can lead to an entertaining real-world outing
Jarrett's parents didn't let him have a Nintendo -- not that he's bitter
Editor’s Note: Each week in “Apparently This Matters,” CNN’s Jarrett Bellini applies his warped sensibilities to trending topics in social media.
This week I was sent on a three-day work trip to New York because, for some unfathomable reason, these people trust me outside the confines of my cube. Generally speaking, I don’t mind being there. I like my cube. It has Tiki torches.
Nevertheless, they were sending me out on an assignment with real journalistic merit. (Mind you, this wasn’t it. This will make you dumber.)
So, on the morning of my flight I poked around several sites to see what was trending in the Big Apple. Surely there was something locally interesting going on that people were talking about all over the Web – something culturally relevant and noteworthy that could give us a deeper glimpse into the psyche and spirit of New York.
Conclusion: It seems they like a sports team known as the Yankees.
Fortunately, when the rest of the Web gives you Yankees, there’s always Reddit. And after a simple search for “New York City,” I found a newly uploaded photo that was becoming somewhat popular with users on that site. The image showed wall art from somewhere in the city depicting one of Nintendo’s Mario Brothers throwing a vitamin and yelling, “GET YO’ FIX.”
Locally interesting? Not really. Culturally relevant? Doubtful. Noteworthy? Hardly. But it was popular on Reddit, and that’s good enough for me. I have fairly low standards. Which is to say, I have none.
(Seriously. I like Olive Garden.)
Later I learned the art was actually the character Dr. Mario, who I believe was an alter ego of Super Mario – the Italian plumber who got freaky with a princess in the Mushroom Kingdom. I wasn’t immediately aware of this because my fascist parents wouldn’t let me have a Nintendo as a kid. I admit it was a bit of a first-world problem, but to this day I’m still bitter to be the only one from my generation who doesn’t know the secret “Thirty Lives” cheat code to “Contra.”
Speaking of my parents … this is the part of the column where my dad turns to my mom and asks, “What the hell is he talking about?” And then my mom says, “Some sort of video game thing.” And then he says, “This is stupid.”
And he’s right. This is pretty stupid.
But finding Dr. Mario was a good excuse for an urban adventure in New York. And a short flight later I was there, walking through the terminal at LaGuardia, which is the city’s way of immediately reminding visitors to use Purell. Often.
As soon as I checked into my hotel I quickly logged onto Reddit and found that some of the commenters had already discussed the art’s location. This was helpful. Dr. Mario was in Chinatown at the corner of Walker Street and Cortlandt Alley.
Also on that corner? Nothing you ever need to see.
So, after a short ride downtown on the Q train and wandering about with the help of maps on my iPhone, I finally spotted the art off in the distance.
Iceberg! Right ahead! There it was. That thing I saw on the Internet!
Sadly, it was a feeling similar to poking your head through the sun gate at Machu Picchu and seeing the ancient ruins for the first time after four days of hiking the Inca Trail. Only, Machu Picchu is one of the most amazing wonders on the face of the planet. And this was Dr. Mario throwing a vitamin.
Anthropologists won’t be knocking on my door.
But I guess it says something about the spirit of discovery and the possibilities that stem from random curiosities found online.
There’s usually fun involved with a completely pointless adventure. Without Dr. Mario, I wouldn’t have ventured off into this particular part of town. I wouldn’t have enjoyed roasted pork and wonton soup at a little hole-in-the-wall called Wo Hop. And I wouldn’t have met two really nice tourists from Charlotte on the subway.
Granted, I might have otherwise napped and built a small fort out of my hotel bed sheets. So, that was kind of a lost opportunity. But, still … totally worth it.
The moral of the story is this: Somewhere in your city there’s something completely unimportant and you should totally go see it.
Remember, though. The world is a strange, dirty place. So use Purell. Often.