November 15th, 2017

Charah coffee

Times Square

Times Square, New York City. An incandescent concentration of crass commercialism, the pinnacle of capitalism, the excesses of modern civilisation flashing brightly, blindingly, unnecessarily, along the facades of futuristic skyscrapers that seem to know no limits. 'This is so Blade Runner,' I said to Ivan, referring to the latest Blade Runner movie that I watched with Matt a couple of weeks ago. 'It's set in LA though,' he said. 'But this must have been the inspiration. All we're missing now are connecting bridges and flying cars.'

It was 6pm. The winter night had wrestled away the light of the day. There is, however, an eerie artificial brightness that seemed to shroud Times Square in a strange pulsating glow as the myriad of digital screens flashed, relentlessly, a rotation of products that we don't need. All this brightness, this neonness, these skyscrapers, all-surround; even I felt overwhelmed by the sheer artificiality of it. Pictures and words cannot capture the surrealistic nature of Times Square. Is it even modern? Is it even post-modern? It is capitalism run amok. It is America. It is the blinding indifference of a crude consumerism impervious to its excess because it feeds off these excesses, reinforces itself, perpetuates itself.

I am always struck by the vapidness of humanity when I am faced with such glaring evidence of it. And yet, Times Square was fascinating, like a trainwreck you can't look away from. It was fascinating the way it wore its blatant tackiness almost like a badge of honour, the way it was unapologetic about its superficiality, the way it presented as perfectly normal, even desirable, that we should all chase the money. No worries about the utter waste of energy and electricity that these digital billboards are; we'll do it as long as people can afford it.

It was disgusting. And yet, walking around Times Square and then Hell's Kitchen made me miss living in a big city. There is nothing more invigorating, as if feeding off the life force of the city. I may have just spent my first half a day in New York, but wow, I can't wait to come back again.