I miss the Times Square of my youth. Sure, it was a bit seedier, although it’s still seedy, just in a more family-friendly way. Maybe seedy isn’t the right word to best describe the area when I was younger. Grittier, maybe? It wasn’t always a place that you really wanted to be at and while that may still be the case for many New York denizens, I suspect the reasons are different today. These days, Times Square is usually teeming with people looking to bathe in the warm, noxious glow of neon and gigantic LED displays. As you walk from one end to the other, you’ll undoubtedly be solicited by at least seven different Marvel superheroes, a naked cowboy and a gaggle of topless girls with the US flag body-painted on, all pandering to have you take a photo with them for a fee. Don’t get me wrong. It’s something that you must see at least once… and maybe only once.
When I was a kid, we used to sling insults at each other about how “I saw your mom on the corner of 42nd street,” indicating that she was a lady of the night. During summer camp, they’d take all of us to a broadway show one night and as we’d drive by Times Square on the way to the theater, all of us would have our faces plastered against the yellow bus windows, yelling at the guys and girls standing on the corners, dressed in all manner of salacious outfits. It simply was as it was for the time. That Times Square is now a distant memory. The city did a good job at cleaning it up only to have it supplanted by an even more tawdry knock off of grit. Imagine if Disney was given the task of recreating what Times Square used to be in its image. That’s what you have today.
But when I found myself recently perched over the ledge of one of the skyscrapers overlooking the area, something changed. From all those feet above everyone, I gained a sense of appreciation for the chaos. From up there, all of the agendas and motives for why things are the way they are down there vanished. All I saw was a collection of people and things in motion and it was quite beautiful. Maybe Times Square isn’t so bad after all.