In Which I Wax Philosophical About What Is Essentially a Retail Theme Park

I'm disappointed because Pop Tarts World has closed for the nightHas it been almost twenty years since Nik Cohn wrote his excellent book about the history and character of Broadway, “The Heart of the World“? Christ, I feel old. But all I have to do is walk down that endless, slanting street to feel energized again.

It’s a ritual of mine whenever I’m here; I take the subway all the way downtown to City Hall, or thereabouts, and then walk north along Broadway to Union Square. I drop into Uniqlo; I have a doughnut at the SoHo Dean and DeLuca; I browse the stacks at the Strand and flip through the bins at Academy Music. I grab a Snapple at one of the dozens of Duane Reades along the way. (Never the same one twice, though; why fall into a rut?)

And then, eventually, I wind up in Times Square.  Some people hate it because it represents the excess and narcissism of American culture, and … well, absolutely, it does. But it’s also the place where you’ll see more people and hear more languages spoken at any given moment than anywhere else in the world; not even the United Nations can claim that, with its diplomacy and decorum and people waiting their turn to speak.

Times Square is the promise of America fulfilled — a glorious mess of humanity. Everyone’s here, and they’re all eating pretzels and running in front of cabs and lining up at that accursed Sbarro and taking each other’s pictures and generally having a great time.

Yes, I know it’s a banal observation and people have been making it for decades. Times Square is always like this, all the time. It’s forever drawing new visitors, and they’re forever goggling at it. That’s why I come back every chance I get. It’s kind of beautiful — once you ignore the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, anyway.