United States

7 Reasons Why Times Square Sucks (Bucket List #139)

New York, New York, USA • May 2016 • Length of Read: 6 Minutes

At the heart of Manhattan Island lies Times Square; colloquially named the Crossroads of the World. Having its name changed from Longacre Square when the New York Times newspaper moved its headquarters to this location in 1904, Times Square acts as the hub of the Broadway theatre district; is the location for the country’s iconic New Year’s Eve countdown; and is one of the busiest pedestrian thoroughfares in the world.

For these reasons, and more, it was therefore highlighted as one of my 'must-do' things during a recent trip to New York. I’d had reservations as to whether it would actually be as mesmerising as I’d been told (I mean, it’s just a square right?), however I never quite imagined how much of a let-down the entire area would be. Here are my 7 reasons as to why I think Times Square is a little bit shit:

1) It’s Not Even a Square

If you’re going to name something, then at least have it make sense. Not only is Times Square not even a square, it doesn’t really resemble any geometric shape at all. Among other absurd suggestions, its general area has been described as a rough-polygon; two inverted triangles; a sand-timer; and, a bow-tie shape. OK, perhaps I should have done a little more research prior to my visit, but I was busy. This leads nicely on to my second reason...

2) The Selfie-Stick Wielding Tourists

Ever wondered what it’s like to be crushed in a mosh pit at a death metal concert but don’t like the music enough to buy a ticket? You’re in luck. Times Polygon is the perfect place to experience the displeasure of strangers’ sweaty bodies rubbing aggressively against you without the accompanying screaming angst. It being pointless to try and swerve around the stereotype, Chinese tourists, with their 6 ft long selfie sticks and 15-person group photos, were largely to blame for the congestion during my unfortunate visit. Dark lyrics aside however, noise pollution is still prevalent, and that’s primarily due to...

3) The Construction

Never have I set foot on an island with as much construction taking place as Manhattan. There are more than 100,000 people employed as labourers in NYC, and I don’t think a single one of them had called in sick or taken a holiday during the week of my visit. The pneumatic drill seemed to be the weapon of choice for these hard-hat wearing, slang talking, workers; closely followed by the wonky-wheelbarrow. Nobody could debate their hard work, but with Times Polygon seemingly going through more repairs that a recently bombed middle-Eastern state, they didn’t exactly have time to dilly-dally; Na’ mean? At least most of this construction could just be covered up by all of…

4) The Billboards

This is a health warning: If you suffer from latent epilepsy then please keep your distance from Times Polygon. The annual electricity bill for this small block of streets must be higher than that of Belgium. Hundreds of electronic billboards cover every square inch of the leering skyscrapers that border it, advertising the latest movies; beauty products; fashion trends; [insert consumer product here]. I’d imagine you’d be hard pressed to find a room overlooking Times Polygon that actually has a functioning window. If you are a cautious driver then I’d also heed maximum caution when navigating around these streets. As well as the large number of roadworks; blacked-out Chevrolet Escalades; and suicidal businessmen, there are also a large number of…

5) Street Performers

OK, I’ll admit that the Naked Cowboy is pretty cool. Almost all of the other street performers who brace Times Polygon however are, at best, mildly irritating. Take the fat man dressed as a giant baby who does nothing but wail for hours on end, for example. Or, how about the entire cast of frozen who, because they are wearing the costumes of loved Disney characters, feel that this gives them the right to be your best friend. At least they don’t invade your personal space as much as…

6) The Leafleting and Flyering

If I'd collected and bound every single leaflet and flyer that was shoved in my face, I swear the resulting book would have been thicker than Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix. Hello? I'm in New-fucking-York, there's already quite a few things going on. Even if I'd been visiting York, United Kingdom, however, I doubt I'd ever get to such a loose end that a three hour one-man re-enactment of the 'life and times of so-and-so' would sound like a good way to pass the evening. If you did find yourself being involuntarily dragged to such a performance however, one way of getting out of it would to eat some of...

 7) The Food

I'm now going to address a second cultural stereotype in this short post; that being the one about Americans having shit diets and eating too much. The food choice available in-and-around Times Polygon is comparable to that of a state penitentiary, with the hygiene standards being on a par with those found a zoo. There is also an obsession with rushing diners through their three courses as quickly as possible. One evening I ate at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and before my brother had even finished his starter they threw his main course on our table like it were a smelly turd. It also tasted a bit like a smelly turd. Not that I'd know what a smelly turd tastes like...

This goes to show that not all things on my bucket list will turn out to be'call home and ring your friends to tell them how good of an experience you had' awesome. And I never expected it to be. The bucket list is more an expression of: 'Hey, these are the really cool things that I’d like to experience and undertake at some point in my life, and regardless of whether they turn out to be enjoyable or not I'll still be happy to have done them'.

Thankfully the rest of my visit to New York turned out to be a roaring success.

Top of the Rock

New York, New York, USA • May 2016 • Length of Read: 4 Minutes

Having spent the majority of my 25th birthday wandering around Downtown Manhattan under a baking late-spring sun, it was suggested that we head skyward come nightfall to get a different perspective of New York City. Riding the elevator to the 70th floor of the Rockefeller Center’s highest building, one can walk out onto an observation deck that stands 850ft above terra firma and get a remarkable vista that truly encompasses why the world’s second largest metropolitan area has been dubbed ‘The City That Never Sleeps’.

Making our way across Tribeca (triangle below Canal Street), and up through SoHo (south of Houston Street), we reached the entrance at 50th and 6th slap bang on our ticket time of 9pm. The observation deck is such a popular tourist attraction that you get given an allotted half-hour time slot. Miss it and tough luck. We joined the queue at the metal detectors, and after going through the rigmarole of taking off our belts and emptying our pockets of any change we then found ourselves joining an even longer queue at the lifts. Here we were treated to the type of free show that could only be broadcast in The Big Apple.

“You’re dressed so sloppily, that you look like the type of person who sells shoe laces for a living,” hollered one of the black security guards at his colleague scanning our tickets. The fact that they both had on the same uniform didn’t seem to make this put-down any less credible in his mind.

“Oh, yeah? Well you look like the type of person who sells pillowcases but not pillows,” retorted his co-worker.

I turned to my brother. Were we just about to witness a battle rap?

“Oh, yeah? Well you look like the type of person who sells used batteries.”

This was getting creative.

“Oh, yeah? Well you look like the type of person who sells dirty linen.”

 “Oh, yeah? Well you look like the type of person who sells Capri Suns without the straws.”

“Oh, yeah? Well you look like the type of person who washes car windows whilst they’re stopped at traffic lights.”

Not only were my brother and I in stitches at this point, but, much to the disgust of the Chinese family behind us, the two friends were also creasing themselves with laughter at every new insult. Never mind that their job roles involved the serious matter of preventing terrorist threats, they were having way too much fun battering childhood insults off one another.

“Oh, yeah? Well you look like the type of person who sells things for which you need multiple parts, but you only have one part.”

A smile stayed on my face the whole elevator journey up to the Top of the Rock; remaining there as we stepped out towards a truly remarkable view. The whole skyline was lit up in front of us, neon beams jutting into the sky light light-sabers from the Empire State Building, Bank of America Tower, and One World Trade Center. Time seemed to stand still.

The Rockafeller Center is home to a number of late-night talk shows, so following our descent we wandered through the NBC studios where Jimmy Fallon was playing host to Blake Shelton and Kit Harrington for the evening. Unfortunately I didn't manage to meet the man who is one of my country music heroes, but I did manage to press the button of Blake's replica judges' chair from The Voice.

When I told my friend Carly I was going to New York, she said that there was one thing I had to do. More than anything else, including going to a Broadway show or visiting the Statue of Liberty, I needed to get some street-vendor falafel. I'd initially frowned back at the beaming face on the other end of my Skype conversation, but she remained so steadfast that by the time I'd landed the seed had been firmly planted.

Back in the hotel lobby my brother called for the lift whist I stuffed my face with the vegetarian delight. It might not have quite matched our view from the Top of the Rock, but it was sure damn tasty. Almost as tasty as the woman who followed us into the lift once it arrived.

"What floor are you going to?" my brother asked the short, tanned, 30 year old, beauty squeezed in beside us.

"34 please," she replied with a pearly-white smile. "Where are you guys from? Your accent is so cool."

"Scotland," said my brother. "What about yourself?"

"L.A. Can you understand me OK? Because I can only just make out what you guys are saying."

"Yeah we can, but from experience most people from L.A. aren't worth listening to anyway," I joked.

"I'm not even going to try and defend myself," she giggled. "My city is full of air-heads."

The lift made a *bing* as we reached Floor 12.

"Well this is our stop," I smirked. "It was nice meeting you."

"Enjoy the rest of your trip!" she winked.

As the elevator doors shut behind us I stood on the landing and sighed. It was love at first sight.