Last Thursday night my wife and I went downtown to meet up with an old friend who was in town for the week and we decided to walk through Times Square to take some photos. You know, the tourist thing. I even bought a few “I Love NY” magnets at a souvenir shop.
Times Square is always packed but with the weather being so mild, it seemed like there were even more people out than usual. Besides the crowds, it seemed like the number of panhandlers had increased as well. We saw a few “acts”, but in Times Square, you mostly find people who are dressed up in unusual ways that try to get you to pay them for having your photograph taken together with them.
The last time we were there, there were only a handful of people dressed up as animated characters. Now, there are dozens, sometimes with two or three of the same character standing right next to each other. Sort of takes the magic out of it, if you ask me. Not that there was much to start with, but if a kid sees three Iron Mans standing next to each other, how is he supposed to feel excited about having his photo taken? You have to at least let the kid pretend you might be the real deal, right?
There were also people dressed up in costumes to bait adults into paying for photos. A few years ago, there was only one naked cowboy; now there are two naked cowboys, a naked Indian, and some naked women as well. Well, not completely naked, but mostly naked, stripped down to their underwear and, in one case, panties and pasties.
It was fascinating watching my wife’s friend’s reaction to all this. She seemed shocked. I asked her if she wanted her photo taken with the half naked cowboys, with their junk hanging out, and she seemed really disturbed. She had earlier described the hoochie shorts women in America wear, that leave the bottom half of their butts hanging out of their shorts, as scandalous. She probably thought the mostly naked people in Times Square were scandalous too. I suppose it is. People wear less at the beach, but maybe it’s more about wearing clothes appropriate to the situation. And I suppose that’s the point of those people showing up there half dressed. They’re counting on the shock value to pay off in real money that people will shell out to have their photos taken with “crazy people” who are almost naked in Times Square.
We wound up staying in Times Square until around 11 PM. I don’t think we’d ever been there that late before. I was surprised by how bright the area still was at that time of night. Because of all of the electric billboards, it might as well have been noon on an overcast day.