07 April 2016

It's About Time They Took Control Of Those People!

There was The Look.

It was knowing and hateful--with a healthy dose of fear mixed in.  The giver wanted to instill fear in the receiver. But the receiver had already done the same:  Something in his walk or demeanor said, "Don't F- with me."

I know it well because I was the intended recipient of The Look.  And I was getting it because I had wrapped myself in psychological barbed wire.  The person who gave me The Look wanted to sell me drugs or his or her body.  Or lure me into a "theatre"--or an alley. Or try to suck or force me into some other scheme or scam to part me with my money and leave me part of the sidewalk or pavement, at least for a moment.

What I have described was an experience of walking 42nd Street from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to Times Square about thirty years ago.  That stretch of "The Deuce"--the street's nickname--was, of all New York City thoroughfares, the one in which a person had the best chance of being the victim of a crime.

Today Times Square has been turned into a cross between Disney World without the rides and a shopping mall.  Fresh-faced families flock to the same sorts of chain restaurants and stores they could find in their home counties--with higher prices.  And, instead of pimps, prostitutes and hoodlums, costumed street perfomers and "painted ladies" accost tourists and ply them for cash.  Some of those performers are even more aggressive than those old denizens of the demimonde I remember from my youth. 

At least, they seem more aggressive. Or, perhaps, they are because they can be to those fresh-faced families, who have no experience in walking by people they have never seen, and never will see again.  They do not have the ability to wrap themselves in psychological barbed wire and be unaffected by The Look.

Now the City Council is scheduled to vote on a measure to regulate those ersatz Batmans and Wonder Women, and all of the other costumed characters who terrorize Times Square.

I used to fancy myself a libertarian. Sometimes I still do.  But I know when regulation is necessary, or at least beneficial.  This is one of those times. I mean, do we want people running around the fashion capital of America looking like this?:



  1. I made the same walk you describe many times in 1968. And then again in '72. I never felt fear. I was scrappy looking enough that the locals passed me by figuring quickly and correctly that there is no money there. Being an anti-war activist was no way to get rich. I also lived a while back then on 10th Street and Avenue B. Abandoned cars were burned out on the street and allowed to go out in their own good time.

    The stuff I have seen on line about what goes on in Times Square feels pretty tame by Western or Northern European standards today. The difference is that the people here in street performance are professional artists presenting works of some power. There is regulation: groups apply for permission to perform on the street and permission might be for three days or one week. And if there is harassment of people and complaints are made there might be a fine and/or the group never getting street art permission again.

    We are both wilder and more regulated over here. I would characterize most of what I have seen from Times Square as pretty much vulgar.

    My answer to your last question: YES, ABSOLUTELY. Want a circus? Go to the high fashion district of Rome. Fellini's movie Roma is just about a documentary.


  2. Leo--You have lived quite a life!

    I find your comment "wilder and more regulated" very interesting. And, from my limited experience with European street performers, I'd say it's on point.

    Oh, yes, Roma: It was a great movie. You realize my last question was more or less in jest: Of course I'd love to see someone who looks like that in Times Square, or just about anywhere else!

  3. Justine,

    I would say that anybody has lived quite a life if they just stop and think about it.