It's a travelogue (including cheapskate prices), safe to ignore:
We checked into the Mariott Marquis at Times Square, New York City on a weekend before Christmas.
An hour later we were out on the street to find our way impeded by a bunch of blithering idiots (BI s), hundreds of them, jamming the sidewalk, jumping up and down, waving their arms. At first I thought there was a celebrity they were excited about. And then I saw that they were actually waving at a giant flat screen (as big as the side of a house). That's when I mentally branded the people wildly flailing their arms as BI s. And in less than a New York minute, I became one myself.
Here's How: The approx. 25 ft by 60 ft flat panel perched above street level, displayed the crowd in front of it. At first I did not find myself on-screen so I did a tiny wave of my right hand. Still not able to pinpoint my position on the screen, (where was I, why wasn't I up there?) I started waving both hands. Next I jumped up and down as wildly as I could. And when I found myself on the gigantic screen, I went nuts and my vocal chords came alive.
Should I state here that my sane, quiet, dignified and right honorable wife and child (a teen who excels in acting cool) did not do as I did, but kept their hands glued to their sides? HAh!
You have to be in Times Square (TS) to feel its vibe. Words fail to capture it. My senses were pummeled and brought alive at higher than an awakened level, especially my visual circuits. Trust me, Ginza, London and Paris pale to insignificance in comparison. Each year, as technology evolves, TS adapts to it. At night it's possibly brighter than at mid-day. Corporations spend uber dollars on interface, design and display of their products. The lights dazzle and dilate the pupils. Humans are drawn to them as insects are drawn to fire.
In the summer I've seen the crowds grow after midnight through 2 am. In winter, the crowd appears to peak at around midnight.
My auditory nerves caught sporadic cheering (for no particular reason), general merry-making punctuated by the sounds of horses (hooves) pulling carriages over tar and asphalt. I heard vendors and vagabonds hawking their wares and the general humdrum of languages from afar.
Wafting odors from street side stalls of roasted chestnuts, cashews, toasted pretzels, skewered delicacies, corn, flowers and perfume filled the air.
TS gets scrupulously cleaner every year. There are people discreetly cleaning the streets even in the middle of the night. And to my untrained eye, it appeared to be safe, no matter what the hour was, with officers (and cartoon characters) milling around.
They've closed off sections of Broadway and 7th Avenue and put down red round tables and chairs on the streets for people to relax. We missed the traditional naked cowboy but saw a replacement naked dude and there was a naked cowgirl by his side. They were in their underwear, smiling and posing, while I was in three layers of clothing with a jacket on top. Starbucks, Swatch and other stores are open till the wee hours of the morning.
Times Square is a dynamic, colorful and vibrant place to be and I'll be surprised if you don't feel the energy it dissipates. Even if you're alone, you'll be part of a living communal organism.
I got a call from Shona Mony from Calcutta. I showed her views of TS from my phone. She was our maid (aka child labor personified); she swept and wiped the floor of our house and washed our dishes daily for decades. She was dumbfounded by the views of TS and asked me to be careful in case fires broke out.
At the MOMA museum, the next day, they charged us $25/- admission per person. Then they credited the amount back when my missus showed her government id card.
I, the uninitiated, asked a museum guide if two side by side displays I had seen here 15 years ago of fruits painted by Picasso and the exact same depiction of fruits painted by another artist were still on view. He read my mind and gently corrected my nomenclature. "You mean 'Still Life' by Picasso and 'Still Life' by Braque? They were contemporary cubists you know."
Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' revealed itself layer by layer before my eyes as I listened to the audio track. It seems the subject is not screaming but the environment is and he is just responding. (It reminded me of the time when I couldn't understand why the Mona Lisa was so famous until a knowledgeable french guide at the Louvre, explained the significance and the painting gradually opened up in front of my rookie brain).
Our teen was unable to do justice to the Rothko paintings as he had done so spectacularly at the Guggenheim (Bilbao). As we admired one of Picasso's mistresses in “Girl in the Mirror," depicting a confident luscious lady expecting his child gazing at an uncertain image of herself in a mirror, I explained to my teenager that President Clinton could not get away with what Picasso did because he lacked artistic license.
We were packing In too much and I was too late for a beer at the Christmas Market in Bryant Park. There was spontaneous cheering from the market crowd as a light smattering of snow commenced. We sat swinging on a suspended long bench in the Christmas Market for a long long time.
Hotel Details: The NYCity Marquis is a large and exciting hotel. We've had the privilege of staying here quite a few times and it's in a different league than all the other hotels we've used at TS.
Being the cheapskate I am, I'm going to out the dollars involved. Though the room rates are listed at hundreds more, we got our room for $199/- a night. The Crossroads Restaurant at the Lobby Level is a delight. Lunch for five (my cousin and his wife graced us) along with champagne set us back less than $175/- including 20% gratuity, and each item on the menu that we tried was delectable. The presentation and taste was undoubtedly refined by an inspired chef.
The ambiance of the restaurant in an atrium setting, though, is the main attraction. The drink and dining area overlooks Times Square through a giant curved glass wall with tables right next to it.
Room Service is expensive. A single dinner for guess who – our teenager – added $76 to our bill.
The lobby is on the eighth floor and is simply dazzling. It's a town within a city, and affords a view of the atrium with a bunch of sleek express elevators swooshing up and down. The elegant expanse of the floor has a dozen check in desks, bell captain services, a concierge desk, stores, and as I mentioned a restaurant plus a mile long (just kidding) curved bar overlooking the bright lights of TS.
Our room was on the 21st floor (the hotel has 56). All rooms have a floor to ceiling glass wall looking over Times Square or the Hudson river (blocks away) or have street views. We changed from a TS view to a river view because the first room had a faint odor of smoke. The ambiance of the room is enhanced by the view and light through the glass wall and hosts different moods during the day and after dark.
I have a little trick of tipping early instead of after check-out. I put a 5 dollar bill down the first day and came back to an evening room done snappily up with three white beds with an abundance of toiletries in the bathroom. The pillows and blankets were to die for. The next day the missus poked her head out and requested extra coffee as the maid was passing by. She came back with a big smile and a bag full of coffee selections, ceramic cups, et all.
On to Fifth Avenue, Central Park, Strawberry Fields - a tribute to John Lennon, the Rockefeller Center skating rink and Christmas Tree, the World Trade Center Memorial, Christmas Carols at Washington Park, and dessert at the corner of Bleaker and McDougal.
If you have not seen the glitter of nocturnal New York from the roof of Rockeller Center, you've definitely missed a stunning experience. But be warned, especially if kids are involved that there is quite a price to pay in terms of patience.
We're back to regular life in Silver Spring now, and waiting for the Times Square ball to fall. A million people, minus me, will attend and officially start off the new year.