If you ask native New Yorkers about Times Square, they’re apt to make a face: tacky, tasteless, a side show for the tourists, they say. And most of that is true — Times Square, New York is a place that defines the phrase “over the top”. Once just a noisy showcase for the city’s famous theatre district, it has become a blinding video parlour, burning megawatts of electricity to proclaim the latest shows and products on giant screens.
And yet, there is something compelling about Times Square. You can’t visit New York without at least swinging by to take a look. And when you do, it’s hard to stop yourself from being swept up by the energy of the place: the pulsing lights, the multicoloured images, the throngs of tourists getting their pictures taken in front of the iconic One Times Square, or just looking around in wonder.
It is, in some strange way, the heart beat of downtown Manhattan. And there is a good reason to come, aside from buying tacky souvenirs and posing with a guy in a Statue of Liberty suit. Times Square is still the gateway to the famous Broadway theatres that showcase the best plays and the biggest names — Bette Midler is holding forth currently in her own show, among others. And it’s the place to come if you want to have a drink in legendary establishments like Sardi’s, where the caricatures still line the wall and the waiters wear monkey suits.
The city of New York is a huge, diverse, dynamic place, at the same time sophisticated and raw. And Times Square, New York is the nerve centre where all that restless energy comes bursting out. To walk through the square at night, when the bright lights dazzle and the streets teem with excited tourists, is to feel the pulse of the city beating beneath your feet. In any other city it might be a crazy anomaly; in New York, it seems necessary.
Note: as usual, you can click on the photo to see it full size