09 October 2011

Gawdy Fawty-Second Street

I do my best to remind myself that not everything new in the City is God awful. I do. I really do. I do, do, do, do!! Like the other night, when I was standing in the middle of 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, loathing the garish vulgarity of the Disney/Giuliani-built canyon, despising the bumptious bumpkins milling their thick, doltish way down the street, obvious to everything outside their gawky, picture-taking, mall-pace-walking bubbles. I stopped in one place and forced myself to look around myself, to gaze up and eyeball the scene with care.

And I did find things to like. The main trick is you have to focus on a small bits of it. Take in the whole shebang and you'll want to throw up. But zero in on a detail, and you might find something to admire. The juxtaposition of the old Chandler building and the glass thing next to it (above), for instance. New York has always been home to such side-by-side odd couples. Or the monstrous, giddy, Las Vegas nutsiness of the Ripley's Believe It or Not Sign Odditorium. (The vertical Ripley's neon signs rotate.) It's horrific, but it is something.

The New 42nd Street Studios, with its fluctuated light show ever playing off perforated stainless-steel fins crossing the front, is actually a breathtaking building. It would beautifully stand out if not surrounded by so much horridness.

Peek behind the massive Spiderman billboard and you'll see the unappreciated, unused facade of the Times Square Theatre. In the reclamation of 42nd Street, developers never found a use for this old 1920 theatre.

Finally, I like this feature of Madame Tussaud's because it furnishes the comforting illusion that these tourists are caught in a mill, forever circling around. It makes me think of "Metropolis," or "Bladerunner."


Tinderbox said...

Yeah, the whole place has a Bladerunner feel in your pictures. That's happening more across the country. I was thinking about Bladerunner last night here in Houston. On the freeways we're starting to see full sized LED (or LCD) billboards that change like huge movie screens. At night it reminds me of the massive geisha advertisements in BR.

Mitch said...

I have to say that I sort of like the new subway entrance on the west side of 7th ave as well.


There's something that has always seems somehow ironic about it - as though it was mocking all the other stupid glitz in the new Times Sq. I mean, what is underneath is still the subway.