things to think about

today i am thinking about: the roar of the crowd
April 4, 2010, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I had a hard day trying to shop and failing in Herald Square. I ended up sitting in a diner, tired with my shopping friend, eating french fries and a bunless turkey burger. He got on the train and I was stuck, walking around, feeling restless, wanting something more.

And uptown I went, up Broadway, hating everything and cranky about the world. That stretch of Broadway is pretty much hell on earth — crowded with people who don’t know how to walk on the sidewalk, vendors, and assorted street show ridiculousness. It opens into a place most actual New Yorkers don’t bother with come hell or high water — good old Times Square, neon and glitter, tv screens and stock tickers. A 24-hour Walgreen’s! Toys-R-Us! Times Square represents pretty much everything wrong with American culture: the excess, the mass-market appeal, the safety, the pretend-edgy repackaging of the same old things.

I know I am supposed to hate Times Square but I find it so comforting. All those people, as much as they drive me insane, are actually really satisfying. I feel safe and invisible; just some freak-haired New Yorker walking in my yellow hoodie, completely irrelevant to everyone experiencing NEW! YORK! CITY! I don’t want anything from anyone there, and I don’t feel accountable to anyone there; I just get to be another face in the crowd. It’s the one place in New York where everyone is staring constantly, gaping, slack-jawed.

My favorite place in Times Square are the steps above the TKTS booth. They are made for sitting on and some of my favorite tourist-watching in the city. Today the evening was mild and the steps were full – literally, actually full. I stood to one side and watched the story. Even in the glitz, even in the destruction and desecration, even in the surreal fakeness of this palace to late capitalism, I still feel good in Times Square. It is good to remember that you are just one little star in the sky sometimes.

Sometimes I have a hard time with people one on one. I feel too prickly and uncomfortable, especially in a mood. But I believe in people in crowds — even though all research says we’re just some other kind of awkward monkey making bad choices. I believe in the rush of all the different stories. I used to throw parties and the moment of satisfaction for me was the moment I got to look out at the dance floor I helped create to see everyone moving together, talking, touching, bringing each of their individual stories along with them but subsumed in something great.

Times Square is so far from those little secret dancefloors. For the most part, the New York of Times Square is in fact antithetical to the New York of my secret parties. And yet I can’t quite fall out of love with it. It’s the same thing as those dance floors — so many people, each with their own complex worlds, jaws agape, trying to make sense of the thing.