Go Nowhere In Manhattan: Times Square

The one thing that BfD needs is another series. The previous statement may or may not be sarcastic. Interpret as you please. This is the first installment of a series that chronicles my Manhattan-bound wanderings. Consider it to be a deranged travel guide. That’s what I’m calling it. You probably should, too.  At first, the name was dedicated to a piece of more self-discovery driven meanderings, in vain of An Autumn Fever Dream and that one sentence that I wrote. To spare you all of teary-eyed psychobabble, I decided to bring this series of writings to you, in full color.

-This was going to be a story about hate. Now it’s a story about love. This is a story that I love to hate, and it changes 3-4 nights a week. This story was once going to include a man named Cheesy Greasy, who swung his penis around because life wasn’t easy, but this is no longer in the story. That, my friends, is a different story. But this story may still be worth salvaging. This is because everything that happens will probably happen in this story. And if it isn’t in the story, then it just wasn’t worth telling.

However, this isn’t actually a story.

Because narratives don’t occur in mid-town. There are merely moments and glimpses, but nothing that really glues together to make something coherent.

Or maybe it is a story.

This story stars when I was 6 years old. I ate an Almond Joy, and it was delicious. I didn’t think it would be that great. There’s the plot twist and ending.

-The story I’m about to tell starts when I was 7. I was browsing through an old back-issue National Geographic, when I was struck and awe-inspired by a photo that displayed a far-away land. It was wild, exotic, and very foreign to my little mind. The photo was not of the Amazon, the Sahara Desert or of Quebec. It was Times Square. As a child growing up in a small hole in the wall, I was convinced that someday I would be in the center of it all. If not by luck, then by force. Because, really, how doesn’t want to be in the center of everything? As far as I was concerned, Times Square was mecca. I thought that every New Yorker worked there, relaxed there, vacationed there, and had an immense amount of respect for it and what it stands for. I knew that my worldly travelings would take me there someday.

-As I grew older, I started getting more and more earfuls from my liberal teachers and even more liberal peers about the dangers and evils of advertising. In West Michigan, an anti-media attitude is just as common as an appreciation for jam bands [which I also hated]. If you looked at any bumper that had a “Kill Your Television” sticker, you would be hard pressed to not also find a sticker for Ultraviolet Hippopotamus. Getting back to the point, some of these extremist viewpoints must have seeped into my brain, and places like Times Square became places that I wanted to avoid. My viewpoints as a child were turned upside down, as my social sphere started to gag at the thought of such intense and glorified advertising.

-On a breezy October night, I arrive in New York City. Within 2 hours, Joe and I are standing in Times Square. These things just happen. Although I was mystified by the pretty colors, and more than fucking ecstatic to see a giant Mr Peanut, the 15 hour car drive has stunted my tolerance for anything. So we walk into the M & M store.

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. This is not a giant advertisement, but an actual 3 story M & M wonderland. And by wonderland, I mean shit factory. I don’t even think a kid could have a good time here. You must be thinking to yourself, “An M & M store with 3 floors? Am I dreaming? Is there other Mars products there? Flavors we haven’t seen before?” I can’t even begin to list how many things are wrong with this place, so lets list off the top 5 things wrong with the M&M Store:

5) There are more employees than customers. They are all illegal immigrants, and they all look miserable.

4) The security staff is very concerned with you stealing things, as if there were things to steal.

3) As you make your way up the floors, the place becomes more and more bleak. By the time you reach the top, you find it’s toxic restrooms, which are much dirtier than any other public restroom (outside of a beach) in the city. And on the wall of the men’s room, the blue M&M is painted on the wall, and he’s writing graffiti that says “Blue wuz her”. I got really choked up, and realized that the man who thought of that idea in 1997 must be really fucking sad now.

2) As you would find in most multiple-story stores in NYC, it’s a narrow clusterfuck. Almost akin to a hall of mirrors.

1) There’s hardly any fucking candy! There are a couple of dispensers, in which you can mix and match crazy colors together, and pay over $20/lb for. This is all well and good, but it’s a fucking store dedicated to M & M’s and they hardly sell any candy! On top of that, they have the brittle scent of stale Mars chocolate seeping through the ventilation, so the whole fucking place reeks of M&Ms! It’s almost like they’re trying to trick us. They are luring us into going on a wild goose chase to find out where the real candy stash is. Only to find out that the place is filled with candy-themed merchandise. Not candy.

To this day, I have only walked into one other store in Times Square. [And I have an explanation for that later] I learned my lesson with the M&M fiasco.But apparently, I didn’t learn enough.

– I visited the city again in late April with my sister. For reasons mentioned above, I had no desire to even step foot in Mid-Town. Luckily, nor did my sister. Just the thought of walking among the zombie tourists made me queasy inside. It wasn’t until a week after I moved in that the idea of maybe giving it a second chance came to my mind. It may have been boredom, but I’m still determined to blame the drugs. I was sitting around my apartment, toasted to the point of stupefied, and I thought about how great life was when I was 16, and able to cruise with the city lights of downtown Saginaw. Or how much of my breath got taken away when I got blunted out and rode along US-131, completely mesmerized by the Grand Rapids skyline. Before I knew it, my dazed ass was aboard a Manhattan-bound C train at 12:30AM. [In hindsight, this probably wasn’t a good thing]

– I arrived at the Port Authority-42nd St. stop at an ungodly hour. And my bladder was ungodly full. I stagger around the underground maze, trying to find an outlet of relief. There was none to be found. I would find out later that, unless you are willing to spend money, there are no public restrooms in New York after midnight. [However, there are plenty in the daytime: one at the information center, one a block over at Bryant Park, and one in the Times Square subway terminal, which requires an attendant to buzz you in. On top of that, you have to talk to the guy, and tell him that you really need to pee. The man gets pissed if you wait by a door for someone to come out, and then snatch it before it closes. I got lectured about it once. The whole thing is one big shitshow.] After 20 minutes of dead ends, failed explorations and wrong turns, I finally make it above ground. I see what I’ve idealized this whole time. Bright lights, neon colors that I never thought possible, unnecessarily oversized advertisements for TV shows that I’ll never watch. I actually made it, and I’m actually in the right mindset to appreciate it. I feel a certain warmth from my childhood, and walk sleepfully further into the light.

– That night, I discovered an interest of mine, one that I’ve had for a long time, that I never was willing to admit to anyone or myself. I am entranced by advertising. It keeps my brain centered. I can still place moments of my life in relation to what ads were big at the time. I remember more about the ads during Super Bowl XXX than the actual Super Bowl [Neil O’Donnel was there?!?!?] This is not because I am a sheep, or avid consumer. In fact, I rarely ever buy things that I see advertisements for. Most of the time, this is because I can’t afford to. [But there’s always the coca-cola argument] I am moreso affected by advertising in a way that it fascinates me how easily they affect other people. There’s a delicate art in telling people what to do, and the ads in Times Square do this best. I became so amused that millions of dollars and millions of tiny little lights convinces millions to drink Budweiser products. Every. fucking. day. I was completely struck by the zombie that was trying to sell Swatches. As I marveled at all these ads, I decided to sit down in an empty chair. Since it was so late at night, there were only a handful of sleepwalkers wandering around. The atmosphere was surprisingly serene. As I looked at everything around me, I became convinced that I was part of one big advertisement. And I was right. It’s all one big advertisement. That is why most people hate it. And that is why I love it. And hate it. And love the hate.

– After my sublime encounter, going on adventures to Times Square became an extremely guilty pleasure. Most nights, I would wait for Roscoe and Erin to retire to their room, and sneak out of the house. It’d be the same story every time. Hop on the C-fail to find a bathroom-sit in a chair-repeat. I started to take business with me there. I would write letters to people, keep in touch with old friends, basically I would treat Times Square as my own personal office. I also find it quite fun to hear the reactions of people when I tell them that I just talked to them for 45 minutes while sitting in Times Square. It’s a good one-two-punch. Also, for some reason, the people there fascinate the shit out of me. It’s home of the most touristy of tourists, and all the locals that hang out there are batshit insane. People are at their most extremes in Times Square. When a tourist reaches this destination, they are fulfilling the stereotypical image of New York that they had in their minds the whole time the trip was being planned. The only way to one-up this image is to seduce the Statue of Liberty. This also means that lots of pictures are being taken. I am confident that I am in the background of at least 50 Facebook profile pictures. And these people will take pictures of ANYTHING! They take pictures of cracks in the sidewalk, homeless people, the Quicksilver store, fucking anything! One night, I took a seat pone table away from the gold man. [A guy that’s painted gold?] He had his head down on the table, obviously because of a long, long night of entertaining. Although he was like this, people were still standing in line to have a picture taken with his sleeping ass. Tourists are vultures, and the more flashing lights you install, the more ravenous they become.

– Then there are the people that work Times Square. They don’t work IN Times Square, but they actually WORK Times Square. Meaning that they will bother as many people as possible to try to advertise the place or event that is paying the person 40 cents above minimum wage to advertise. All night, you will hear

“Comedy show!”

“Get your picture drawn!”

“Hey guys, would you like to go to a comedy showcase?”

“Get your picture taken tonight, come on, get wild!”

“Comedy Central showcase!”

Yes, it is nothing but comedy shows and drawing. That is the only thing that happens in Times Square. Comedy and shitty art. Like the shitty art you would find at a kiosk in the mall. Like Will Smith in an elf costume. Shitty. Also, the food in mindfuckably overpriced. And the Walgreens may be 4 stories high, but it’s impossible to navigate through. Some spaces should never be inhabited. Like a blank canvas that becomes invaded by Will Smith in an elf costume. Come on, GET WILD!

-In the past 2 months, I have been to Times Square about 15 times. This is a very sad statistic. Despite this, I must argue that I get a lot out of it. I obviously enjoy wandering at night, and Times Square is one of the safest and most entertaining places to do so. My ad fascination is always fulfilled. It’s a good place to reconnect with old friends. Navigating through the crowds is good preparation for the looming zombie apocalypse. And I guess, the most appealing aspect is that it doesn’t bore me yet.

And to me, that’s really fucking important.

Go Nowhere in Manhattan is brought to you by Skyline Chili and Canada Dry. Future installments will include: Washington Square Park, 34th St., SoHo, Bryant Park, and Go Nowhere To Manhattan: A Tale of 3 Bridges. If you have any questions or comments, you can email TeeCoZee at troyturnwald@gmail.com.