“Are you guys stoned?” the police officer asked us.
“No,” we all said.
“Ha! These guys are stoned out of their minds!” the police officer said, as he turned to another officer standing a few yards down. They all laughed at us. Then one of the officers walked with us to show us where we needed to go and told us to get some rest.
We weren’t actually stoned. We were just a few semi-nerdy seniors in high school and it was past 2am on a school night so we were dead tired. But we still ventured into New York City to see a concert by “The Calling” at the old WWF New York in Times Square.
The entire school day we told people how we were going into the city for a concert, and how we were driving in ourselves. It felt cool and grown up.
Before we left the suburbs of NJ, my friend’s mom told us, “Put your wallets in your front pockets so it’s harder for pick pockets to get them. And don’t drink!”
The next day, we told the other kids how crazy last night was in the city. I told people how I had a Mike’s Hard Lemonade and wasn’t even carded, and how I talked to a girl who was a senior at St. John’s University.
Since our first venture into the city went by without any incident, our parents let us venture into the city a bunch of other times. “But stay in Times Square,” they always said.
We would go to the old ESPN Zone and spend our part-time job money on games and dinner. We probably pissed off the servers and skimped them on tips. But we didn’t care. We were living it up in the big city.
We didn’t know what touristy meant. We were just happy to get out of the suburbs. We would always walk past the place where they filmed “Total Request Live” and talk about how great it would be to get on MTV.
Times Square was the coolest place as far as we were concerned. WWF (or The World, WWE, or whatever else it was called), and ESPN Zone no longer exist, but Times Square is still a neat place. Here are 11 reasons why.
1. Iconic New York.
Back in my early twenties, I finally landed a “real” job in New York City after living at home with the folks and working moving and construction jobs for cash for 8-9 months.
The first morning, I walked out of the Port Authority Bus Terminal wearing my neatly-pressed Dockers and blue dress shirt that my mom bought me. I walked through Times Square and looked up at the tall buildings and bright flashing lights.
I felt like I finally made it at that moment. I was working in the big city.
Google images of New York City and a bunch of Times Square will show up. It’s an iconic part of the city and always will be.
2. Great music.
After my first day of work, I walked through Times Square to B.B. King’s to see Tommy Emmanuel—possibly the world’s best guitarist—in concert. It was a reward for my first day at work.
Here’s a video of Tommy Emmanuel playing. You’re welcome.
3. Great, free music.
Don’t feel like spending money on a show plus $20 bucks on a burger at B.B. King’s? That’s fine. You can go to Lucille’s Bar and Grille right next door. It’s free and they always have live music.
4. Hot women that are actually New Yorkers.
Walk on the north side of 42nd St. or the south side of 43rd near Broadway and you’ll see a bunch of attractive women.
What goes on there?
It’s the location of the high-heeled halls of the Conde Nast building, the parent company to some of the biggest fashion magazines in the world.
5. Touristy is good.
What do you want a desolate place that nobody wants to visit?
6. Clean, modern bathrooms. Well…most of the time at least.
Public restrooms in Times Square are usually spacious and modern. Compare that to bathrooms you find on the Lower East Side where your leg rubs up against the side of the toilet bowl when you try to turn around and close the door.
Did they design these for 5-year olds or something back in the day? Forget it if you have to take a crap. Someone is probably already knocking on the door to use the single toilet in the entire freakin’ place!
And what’s with those tin urinal tubs that always spray you with a mist of water?
7. The first McDonalds with a bathroom attendant was in Times Square.
Created by the fun folks at Improv Everywhere.
8. The diamond district.
Smuggling diamonds, diamond rings for mistresses, fake diamonds being sold to suckers, diamond dealers talking smack about other diamond dealers down the road. Think of all the sleazy stuff going on behind the scenes when people are buying and selling a bunch of diamonds.
9. Music row.
The Bobs (Dylan and Marley, not the Office Space consultants) both loved Manny’s Music store on 48th St. It’s no longer there, but Rudy’s is still there. Sam Ash was there, but it looks like it’s not anymore. So I don’t know what they heck is still in business these days. But this is still a cool corner to walk around with some beautiful musical instruments in all the windows.
10. Foreigners love Times Square postcards.
When I was living in Eastern Europe and Russia, I brought along a stack of NYC postcards with me. Whenever I got invited to someone’s place for dinner or tea, I would bring a small gift and write a nice message on the back of one of those postcards.
People were always most fascinated with the bright, flashy Times Square postcards for some reason.
11. The stories we create are what matter most.
Most New Yorkers hate Times Square and try to avoid it. I did too, when I lived there. But now I realize the actual location, or parts of the city, are the least important things when it comes to making something memorable.
Whenever I watch a movie I never say, “Wow, that was a great movie because it took place in New York, or Paris, or London, or Moscow.” It’s always the stories and characters that make movies interesting.
The same goes for places you visit. The stories and characters are what make them interesting.
Times Square is filled with interesting stories and characters.
At least it is for me.