Times Square: the cultural hubb of New York
Published in the Epoch Times, Sydney, Australia, 25 April 2006.
It’s midnight, the streets are busy, the taxis are honking, and everyone is walking briskly. There are so many neon lights and illuminated billboards advertising the nearby theatres that it’s easy to think its daylight. A group of African Americans in biblical robes and ancient Egyptian head-dresses are claiming to be the true descendants of the tribes of Israel.
This is Times Square, the cultural hub of New York. But Times Square isn’t a square: it’s more a scissor shaped area formed by the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Broadway . Tickets in the stalls of most Broadway theatres will set you back about US$110: about A$130. If you order the ticket through your hotel, a bicycle courier will deliver it to the front desk: for another US $25. After my second night of theatre going I discover you can queue up at a booth in Times Square and get similar tickets shortly before opening time for about US $86.
During one interval at a theatre, a female usher shouts in a broad Brooklyn accent at the crowd forming to get to the restrooms. “Men over DAIR! Ladies against DAT wall! Can you move it over DAIR!” No please, no thank you. The cattle must be herded, and this is people-skills New York style. After the show I venture back to Times Square. The wind bites through me: Even though the US is having a “mild” winter, and there’s no snow on the ground, everyone I see is wearing a ski jacket or a padded parka, plus hoods, and gloves. Some even have ear warmers. The street vendors are doing a brisk trade in gloves and scarves. I ask a cop on the street which way it is to the Empire State Building. Without removing the scarf from his chin, and without speaking, he jabs one finger briefly south along Broadway, and puts his hand gloved back in his pocket. Speaking would clearly expose his teeth to the possibility of cold.
Once I hit 34th street it’s easy: Look for the only building illuminated in red white and blue. When I get there, the view from the Empire State Building is breathtaking. People are wandering around the observation deck trying to identify two things: “Ground Zero,” and Central Park. Ground Zero is impossible to identify: there are two many other buildings in the way. Central Park is easy. Look north and see the big empty rectangle so dark you think at first it must be a harbour. The next day I walk there from my hotel. People in what look like gym leotards are jogging in Central Park at nine o’clock on a Sunday morning. I guess someone sells thermal leotards. Thinking I may only be here once, I decide to jog across the park east-west, just so I can say I’ve done it.. It takes me fifteen minutes. If I’d gone north-south, I guess it would take me an hour and a half.
My jog lands me smack in the middle of “museum mile.” Fifth Avenue forms the western boundary of the Park, and houses most of the city’s famous art galleries, including the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You could spend three or four days in this area getting “museumed out,” if you wanted to. But by early evening I’ve had enough, and catch a taxi back to Times Square. My taxi driver honks a lot: it’s peak hour and the other taxis aren’t moving fast enough for him.
This time, a little more street-smart , I put up with the wind and queue for the $86 tickets along with the locals. As I look around I notice something funny: it’s not getting dark.