I went here yesterday, on Sunday, the day after my going away party, because my friend invited me to come with her. It was an auspicious day in every regard. We took the 1:30 PM ferry from the Pier 11 on Wall Street all the way to Rockaway Beach. The ferry was at overcapacity, and I was the last one allowed on the 1:30 PM ferry even though I arrived 20 minutes early (the next one was at 2:30). My friends arrived later than I did, but they managed to cut the line all the way into the front.
So we were allowed on the ferry, which took us to Rockaway Beach. Fort Tilden, in particular, is a beach slightly further from Rockaway, where tops were optional. As such, there were a couple of people who were topless.
I never really understood the appeal of going to beaches since I didn’t exactly have the tradition of going to beaches growing up. But it was 80 degrees Fahrenheit when I went to Fort Tilden Beach that day, and the breeze graced my body pleasantly as I layed in the sand. After I applied many layers of sunscreen, I fell asleep while listening to my On Repeat playlist on Spotify. It was a great nap, probably one of the best I’ve had in my life. The sun warmed me up. The breeze kept me cool. And behind the bass, there was the sound of the waves. Insert Virginia Woolf reference, which also popped up in conversation.
When we woke up, we played Rummy 500, talked about why toplessness is considered to be a transgression, and what is the line to be drawn between toplessness and bottomlessness. We left to go to dinner, shortly discovering that the A was not running that evening. If there ever was a transient day to conclude a dream, this was probably it.
I went to Per Se with my parents after I signed my offer to join a hedge fund in SF at the end of July. It was a stressless dinner, reminiscent of the time I got Olive Garden with my parents after I graduated high school with plans to go to Penn in the subsequent fall. I don’t think I did anything when I graduated college, mostly because my graduation was cancelled due to COVID, and most of the surrounding restaurants were closed as well. There are so few truly “stressless” dinners I’ve had with my parents. There aren’t that many opportunities in which i am able know how the next couple years of my life will turn out at a given point. This was one of them, and I cherish that.
Part of the reason I chose Per Se was because I also wanted to go to a three-star Michelin restaurant before I left New York. After all, what else does New York represent more than excess and consumption? And since my parents have never been to a Michelin-star restaurant before, I thought what better time than now, since I’ve just received my signing bonus? I had a couple extra hundies in the bank, and if I don’t use the money now, I’ll probably just save it in ETFs instead. It’s one of those important moments of life because of what it symbolizes, as opposed to the experience of going to the restaurant itself.
I was curious what this allegedly elite dining experience would be like. I thought I would be underwhelmed, and what can I say? I’m underwhelmed. I’ve been to a couple of Michelin-star restaurants before (namely two, L’Appart and Jungsik), but I have to say Per Se leans more into the pretention of everything a lot more than the rest. There were a lot of people who seemed to be in business settings there, and its menu and presentation seems to have this concept in mind. It’s safe, high-end corporate food. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but I often heard 3-star Michelin restaurants being a life-changing experience, whereas my experience was just that of consuming good food.
My parents have never been to a Michelin-star restaurant because we grew up frgual and conscious of our expenses. They didn’t have an elaborate wedding, just a nice meal at a nice restaurant, which I don’t think was Michelin-ranked either. Excesses such as a $400 per head meal was never in their calculus under acceptable consumption, and I don’t think they ever really seriously thought about eating at restaurants like Per Se.
It highlights a generational difference between me and them. I try to be frugal whenever possible, but I have noticed that my preferences have become a lot more extravagant ever since I started to work in finance. The sad reality is, I am making money now, which makes me less guilty in spending money, whereas I used to feel extremely guilty purchasing a Sweetgreen salad on my parent’s time. Per Se has been traditionally hailed as one of the best restaurants in New York. I personally don’t really care about going to Per Se, but I do care to treat my parents to food they would never purchase themselves.
It’s my last day in New York, and I’m sitting on my futon late after getting dinner with a couple friends I made this past year. I’ve been here for the past year, and it’s been filled with a lot of growth and happiness. Unlike other times in my life, I have been going out to eat pretty consistently in New York. I think it’s a product of the fact that I have money now, which allows me to actually go to restaurants as a social event. As such, I have a lot more meals with feels than I did with other cities such as Philly or London or Dublin.
I don’t think I’m going to comment on the food I’ve had over the past year other than to broadly state that they were memorble both in company and food. I think at this point, I don’t remember the exact circumstances that have surrounded certain meals. I also don’t have the same willingness to push myself and remember the context in which I ate. All I know is that this past year has been filled with some good food. Meals with feels. It is a time in my life where I have friends (and money) to go out and eat. And at this point, there is literally too many meals to recount, and I can’t exactly approach this series in the same way I did in college, when I didn’t have friends or money.
I decided to skip my college graduation and go to EDC on a whim, which I thought was “on-brand” at the time. But now, after one scare of missing my connecting flight because of a 5-hour delay, I’ve finally arrived at my hotel room and realized that coming to Vegas for this music festival might have been a bad decision after all.
My rationale at the time was that I would have just finished taking my CFA, and I would probably want to blow off some steam. There was a little planning here and there. I had to book a hotel, get a flight ticket, and find a rental car, all of which was more money than I was comfortable spending, but I justified to myself saying if I didn’t come this year, there might not be a next year, so I didn’t linger too much on whether I should go. Instead, I just took action and made all the necessary accomodations to go. And after taking my CFA, I just rode with the plans I made earlier, and now I am here at the Excalibur in Las Vegas.
Part of the reason I didn’t want to go back for commencement was that I didn’t think I had any friends to go back for. I realized recently after a couple of friends from college reached out to me that maybe I had more friends than I think I did. I’m not sure that changes anything — I still think that it is more “on-brand” to not go to commencement — but I’m almost certain I would be less unhappy if I just took an Amtrak back to Philly instead of flying here to Vegas to feel lonely.
My hotel room is at the end of the hall, far away from all of the other hotel rooms, which is good because it saves me from all the noise that I would have to otherwise deal with.
It’s no surprise that one of the biggest motivators for me in life is to be attractive. People who came for EDC were usually pretty attractive. Everyone else in Vegas was, for the most part, is not that attractive. And I think that’s what Vegas sells — the image of opulence without the actual life behind it. All I see here is a sea of people trying to act cooler than the, trying to live the life of models and influencers without being attractive enough to actually be one. I also fall into this camp, as I also try to seem cool and attractive without actually being cool and attractive. If you think about who actually has both the money and time to go to EDC, it’s either children of affluence or new-money types working in finance, consulting, or tech.
At the airport, when I was eating dinner, I chatted with this girl said she was flying back and forth the venue on a helicopter. She seemed very sociable in a way that reminded me of my interations with the sales desk and paid with an Amex Platinum card. While I was waiting for my Uber, I overheard a conversation of a banker talking about a deal she was working on with two of her friends, who I presumed also worked in finance or consulting. It’s these interactions all over the place that give me this impression that EDC is just composed of people who have money or have come across money. And when you are rich, you can usually afford to be attractive, which is why people who go to EDC are usually attractive.
The motto for EDC is “All are welcome,” and to be fair, EDC is genuinely a pretty welcoming place. The vibes are distinctly better than all other concerts and festivals I’ve been to, including other EDM festivals. People are just very nice in a way that makes me wish more of life is filled with nice people. But this is just a space with a $500 wristband that gatekeeps this space fromo the rest of the world, not to mention a shit ton of drugs and alcohol.
I tend to think about how attractive a lot, and being at EDC isn’t an exception. Although, while in most spaces I consider myself one of the more attractive people in a given randomly selected room, I think I’m thoroughly below average at EDC. I don’t think I was unattractive here, but I don’t think I’m quite attractive either. I, like most people, fall into the middle camp where I am not too ugly to be noticed but also not too attractive to be noticed. I just go unnoticed, but I don’t want to be unnoticed. I want to be attractive, and that requires both being physically attractive and associating with attractive people.
EDC stands for Electric Daisy Carnival, and something that I didn’t realize was that it was literally a full-blown carnival. There were rides everywhere. I didn’t go on one because I didn’t want to wait in the line alone, but I would probably go the next time.
When I went to Salt Lake City for a month, I noted a difference between places that you don’t really need friends with and places you really need friends to go with. There’s not much to do in Salt Lake City except a few tourist attractions and a lot of nature, so I would put Salt Lake City into the category of places you don’t need friends to go with. Las Vegas, on the other hand, is pretty much the opposite. I think I am actively not having a great time precisely because I didn’t come with a group of people. And while I will meet up with a few friends here or there at EDC, there’s a difference between that and planning a trip together.
I like traveling because it completely resets my habits. EDC is overnight, from 7 PM to 6 AM, so it completely destroys my sleep cycle, which I kind of need at this point my life, honestly. I don’t know why I came to EDC, on a personal enjoyment sense, beyond the symbolic importance I outlined. But I think this is the last thing I’m going to do by myself for awhile. All I want are friends to go to music festivals with, but that’s hard to get.
I feel close to people based on a set of different criteria than what most people considered normal. It’s not based on how much time actually shared together but on how much I think they have changed me. I feel closer to people who have changed me the most. This explains why I still feel close to my exes despite having not talking to them forever. It’s not so much the specific time I have spent with them as opposed to how much impact have they had on the creation of my current personality. I’ve never had a problem with this approach, but I think this weekend is making me rethink how I mentally index intimacy.
In terms of how I mentally weight the people important to me, I think I should prioritize less the abstract change that people have caused and more on the specific interactions. After all, people can change you without caring too much about you, and I’m starting to realize that not all change is done with my best interests at heart.
Some pictures from this weekend:
Something I learned this weekend is that I have surprisingly high tolerance for not sleeping, supplemented by Red Bull, of course. I found it amazing how I could completely destroy my sleeping cycle for a weekend, jumping around from 7PM – 6 AM consistently and be okay merely a day later, even when I could not fall asleep after.
I’m back home in Manhattan now. I’m tired, which isn’t surprising since I’ve just been jumping up and down all weekend. On balance, I’m glad I went, although I’m not sure it is an experience I would like to repeat in the near future. The vibes were geniunely the best out of all the concerts and music festivals I’ve been to, and the beautiful lighting and set designs really convince me that EDC is the most unique place on Earth. I cannot imagine another space with as much friendliness and aesthetic captivation as EDC.
I think all I want at this point in my life are people to go to music festivals with. I’m not really interested in building friendships that don’t lead to that possibility because I don’t really think friendship outside of that is meaningful to me, with exceptions. The question is, how do I build that? And I don’t know. I think it’s been the same problem for a long time now. I used to think that being interesting and attractive and whatever would help me make friends, which it has, but I still don’t have the people who are willing to travel with me for a music festival.
I hope I don’t have the same issues or insecurities next time, but nothing is ever certain.