This Jim Geraghty post about Bill Clinton’s NYC nostalgia reminds me of my own reaction to Times Square. Right after college I was looking for work in NYC (didn’t find any, because it was 1993); I walked through Times Square once during that time. Once: even at noon on a winter’s day the pimps were incredibly aggressive. Fast-forward four or five years; more-or-less tossed out of grad school*, looking for work again in the City (a lot easier in the late 90s). Was in Times Square during that and had a moment of extreme confusion because I did not recognize anything. It was like they stripped out the squalid despair right down to the bedrock, and rebuilt. The result? Gaudy, corporate, somewhat crass – and a place where you could have your kid in tow and not be a justifiable case for intervention by Child Services.
There are actually people who are bothered by this. Speaking as somebody who is actually a productive member of society, I’m not one of them. And as the previous sentence might suggest, I’m not really impressed with the “But it had character!” To which I reply**: so does a overstuffed bag of garbage after three days in the hot sun.
*Which had the practical effect of bumping my starting salary by about ten grand. Turns out that while they pay actual librarians crap money, having that particular skill set and a clear reason why you can’t go back to that life makes HR departments perk right up. Go figure.
**I must have stolen this from somewhere, but I can’t remember from whom.