I visit Times Square in New York City.
Of all our aimless wandering, visiting the jam-packed Times Square at night was by far the most exciting.
Big-name brand stores lined the crowded streets, with air-conditioned interiors inviting consumers inside. We wove in and out of the clothing and entertainment empires, admiring the great lengths to which companies would go to make the insides of the buildings unforgettable.
Most stores we entered as merely tourists, not actually intending to buy anything. One place I couldn’t resist, though, was the Hershey front.
This particular façade gives a pretty good feel for what every single store looked like. Looking back, I wish we would have glanced inside the Disney store to see how they had outdone themselves. All the buildings were at arms, constantly battling to outshine one another.
Hershey’s did not disappoint. Multiple levels of candy. Every type they’ve ever sold. With larger-than-life decorations exploding with color at every turn. There was a Hershey’s bar so large, I could probably live off of it for three months. The wrapper could have easily been fashioned into a Laura-sized dress.
M&M’s store was very similar, with customizable stations and candy-coating colors I had never imagined were possible. Of course, there was also a fair amount of M&M art.
In contrast to the multi-million dollar corporation storefronts, hundreds of street vendors were selling their wares on the asphalt, shouting out to passersby for business. Caricature artists, hot dog carts, musicians, spray paint artists, and people in character costumes measured up to pedestrians about 1 to every 10.
For the most part, none were particularly impressive. Counterfeit watches and generic caricatures didn’t offer anything new. The elmo costume was matted with dirt and probably sweat. Artists performing modern methods of art (i.e. spray-paint on canvas) I had already seen in other cities. While the throngs of vendors and performers definitely added positively to the overall atmosphere, nothing exceptionally interested us.
However, one vendor caught our eye. A quiet man with a plain grey T-shirt sat in a chair along a row of art vendors. His face was well-worn and sun-wrinkled. His customer sat in a metal foldable chair in front of him, and a small crowd of pedestrians were stopping to watch for a few moments.
He was a caricature artist, but instead of using pastels or paints, he was sculpting. A perfect grey-clay bust of his recent customer was taking shape in his delicate hand.
I decided to give it a try.
It took a while, and my parents left in shifts to go explore various shops. The man worked quietly, and the only thing he said to me during the whole hour or so was, “You have… very cute nose,” quietly and in accented English. It was a very simple thing to say, but looking back, it was one of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten.
The person before me, that had convinced us to have our busts taken, had curly hair and a beard, and sort of looked like Seth Rogan, which I think made his bust look very obviously like him. More so than mine at least, but that may be because I’ve never seen myself from another person’s perspective.
Whether or not it’s accurate, I love that I got the experience of being immortalized in clay by a complete stranger.
Vendors and performers and shops are all well and good, but as I said before, nothing quite beats the adventure of wandering. The shining lights and loud streets were so energizing.
It’s very rare that people WANT to see ads, but I think Times Square is an exception. The broadway billboards and fashion displays were massive and colorful and awe-inspiring.
One in particular won the crowd over. There was a jumbotron, which was nothing new or uncommon here, that would transition in between advertisements. One of these advertisements (and no one really cared what it was) got peoples’ attention by displaying the crowd on the screen. Everyone would crowd around and wait for the junbotron to switch to the massive pixellated mirror.
At the end of Times Square, there was a large raised staircase, which merely served the purpose of letting people get a better view. It was fun to climb up the stairs, which I had seen in so many New-Years ball droppings on television. They were lit up with red light that cast a surreal glow on everyone.
Suddenly, there were gasps and cheers, and I looked just in time to see that a marriage proposal was being made (she said yes). This probably happens multiple times every week, but it was so exciting to witness it actually taking place.
Times Square is probably one of the most epochal locations in America. Every year it is the epitome of modern American culture. To witness it in this exact decade, with these exact fashions, and these exact values, is something that is extraordinarily unique. I am so lucky to be able to cross it off my bucket list.