As New Yorkers, we are conditioned to hate the "tourist traps," Times Square, Rockefeller Center, but what does it mean when we don't?
By Lara Paquette (Writer)
I love Times Square. That's right, I said it. I'm a New Yorker and I love Times Square. More specifically, I love Broadway theater, which happens to coincide with Times Square. As New Yorkers we are trained to hate Times Square. Hate the lights, and the noise, and the Disney World quality, and the fact that tourists think that Times Square is an accurate portrayal of the rest of New York. The tourists specifically are supposed to get on your nerves (and they do!). They walk super slow in their sensible shoes and their purses hanging in the front of their body and then they just STOP right in the middle of the sidewalk so you have to side step and try not to bump into them and/or push them over. Tourists are the worst, but I understand where they're coming from. If you don't see those huge tall buildings and the lights that make it feel like day time at 11pm, it is pretty astounding.
I am lucky to work near Times Square and get to see it every day. Mostly I put my head down, walk on 43rd Street instead of 42nd, and don't really take the time to look around me. The other day, though, I ended up having to walk directly through Times Square and I was flooded with memories. When I was a kid I desperately wanted to be on Broadway. I loved seeing musicals and I was dying to one day perform on the Broadway stage. As I got older I realized that in order to be on Broadway you have to pay your dues: work really hard, keep really strange hours, fly to Kansas at a moment's notice if that's where the job is. You don't just graduate and walk on to a Broadway stage. Frankly I like stability too much. Hence, teaching. But I digress.
Even after I decided that I didn't want to be an actress, I never stopped loving Broadway. Every time I was in the city when I was in high school I would find away to walk through the theater district (and most of '98 and '99 were spent outside of the Richard Rodgers on 46th street). When I first got to NYU my roommate, who was from Colorado, and I would go and get cappuccinos at the Marriot Marquis, looking down on Times Square and not even believing that we now lived in New York City.
Now that I work in the Times Square area, I try to take a different street to my office every day so I can see a different theater and keep up with what is happening. The other day I watched the crew load in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to the Richard Rodgers (I can't just abandon it!). I watched Motown loading in to the Lunt-Fontanne. A crane was fixing the sign for Kinky Boots at the Al Hershfeld. Sometimes I take pictures, sometimes I stand and just stare through the open stage doors. I love feeling the proximity to greatness, feeling the excitement of what is to come in those spaces. And it never stops, there is a constant movement and rotation, constant preparation for the next step.
New Yorkers move really fast. That's true, it's not a stereotype or a misconception. We are constantly preparing and planning for what's next. But sometimes when I walk through Times Square I slow down a bit (no doubt, angering the fast-paced New Yorker behind me), and I look around. I remember the 15 year old me, desperate to belong and how I found my community in theater. I feel excitement being exhaled from the theaters. I am not bothered by the map-readers, or the hustlers dressed like statues and Sesame Street characters. I look around and see the lights the way the tourists do and I am in awe.