If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them: A Times Square Photo Essay

One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around. ”  -Anne Lamott


It is in the spirit of A. Lamott that I create this post.

The sun had just disappeared and the sharp pinks, blues and yellows of the billboards and signs, illuminated us at once.  Like Peeps on a rapid conveyer belt, we cruised down pockmarked sidewalks, at times spilling over onto the smoky street. Without warning I was being rushed. Whizzing past my right side, tourists clamored to the street corner, elbows bent like wings, cameras posed as the symphony of snaps and flashes began. Not to be outdone, I joined in. I wasn’t quite sure what I was snapping, but I didn’t want to miss out. It wasn’t until the first two rows of people had cleared, that I discovered I was for better or for worse taking a picture of a man dressed as Edward Scissor Hands as he gave a hair demonstration on the corner of 43rd. Caught up in the enthusiasm, I had become a tourist all over again.

It was Saturday; I was looking forward to a quiet weekend in Brooklyn. I had a bunch of things to catch up on, a yoga client whose session I needed to prepare for, my sister was in town, writing to do, instead, I found myself hastily packing a weekend bag in full flight mode. Quite unexpectedly I was fleeing my Brooklyn apartment so that an exterminator could step in and work his magic. One of the joys of city living and making a home in an old brownstone is the ever-persistent parade of vermin. Since I have Ohm, who is not yet one, and since you can take the girl out of the suburbs, but you can’t take the suburbs out of the girl, we left for a few days to let the chemical residue subside and for peace of mind.

Dusting off my Starwood points I found a last minute deal at the Four Points Sheraton in Times Square. My stomach lurched, Times Square, with its boisterous parade of clamor and glare was not where I wanted to be, then again, neither was my infested apartment. Times Square won, and so it went, that I found myself heading off to my least favorite part of Manhattan, the tourist trap called Times Square on a Saturday afternoon during the peak of its frenzied lunacy.

On a typical day, under normal circumstances, I avoid Times Square by all means. The only exception to this rule is if I am going to take in a show. When this happens, once I surface above ground after riding the train (good luck finding parking), I dart purposefully towards my desired location weaving expertly around tourists stopping too long and most inconveniently to take photos and around vendors attempting to dazzle rather forcibly said tourists into making purchases they don’t need.  After the show, I embark on the same sprint back to the train, where I shuffle down to the village or back to Brooklyn for after theatre drinks and food. Being jostled about and forcibly packed into narrow, neon, noisy streets (hey alliteration), with a bunch of strangers inevitably too close for comfort I find off-putting.

Times Square is not now, nor has it ever been my scene. My weekend of refuge in Times Square has not changed this fact. It has however changed the way I view the area to the extent that I can now appreciate this part of my city, that I had long ago written off.

Times Square is like a flashy but good-natured cocotte. She holds nothing back to lure you in. The buildings are quite impressive. The amount of energy that is compressed into one tiny space, as long as you’re not in a hurry, can be quite invigorating. There is something fanciful about watching a parade of taxis whirl down Broadway. There’s comfort in the sweet smell of roasted nuts, the melodic harmony of foreign languages, and one does get the sense that they can do anything, be anything beneath the spotlight of Broadway theatres (even if Disney has almost taken over). Times Square has her charm, she has her time and she has her place.


If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them: A Times Square Photo Essay: