Homeless in Times Square 1987--- Part I of 2 | Tracy's New York Life | A New York City Lifestyle + Travel Blog Tracy's New York Life | Best Lifestyle, Culture, and Travel Blog in NYC

Homeless in Times Square 1987--- Part I of 2

by Joann Jovinelly

New York in the 1980s--by cristee 12 via Flickr

To profess love for a neighborhood long gone is nostalgic, but it is perhaps how I was first introduced to the city that tells most about how she seduced me

Times Square was where I lost my virginity and became a bona fide New Yorker. Surely there had been some earlier romancing, but by 1987, she began to reveal herself honestly. For two days I walked through her shadows, peeling back layers of grit, getting to know her true self.

Intimacy gained momentum after dark. I waited near buildings that I feared entering, inched past doorways, peered into tunnels with lights flickering, their wiring exposed and stitched together haphazardly after generations of service. I wondered why I had left the Bronx, but I knew, like everyone else, that getting to the island and staying there was all that mattered. It was worth any risk.

Hours passed as I watched who entered and exited the building. A crying woman carried an infant and narrowly escaped getting her shawl stuck in the elevator doors. A group of kids descended on the street with heated desire for trouble --- I saw it in their eyes. 

A drag queen was shooting up in the corner while her pimp was checking me out. Meanwhile, I tried my concentration on the New York Times building across the street, stoic in its formality, as electricity behind glass helped reporters tell New York’s ever-evolving tome of stories.

The preceding year of living behind a camera lens had made me physically smaller. Somehow my efforts to slink around corners, observing scenes until they changed was enough—the thought of actually trying to make some visual sense out of Time Square was a puzzle I wasn’t yet down for. After all, I had spent the last few months of summer wandering the Jersey Shore a bit aimlessly in light of what I expected would be a demanding first year of college.

As I mentioned, I spent that first month with a friend in the Bronx, but even at 17 I knew that Manhattan was all meat and potatoes and gravy…the Bronx was as forgettable to me then as it is today. Maybe I had instigated the argument? I think I had tricked myself into turning the page, even if it meant that I had no place to go.

I took the piece of paper out of my pocket again in what had to have been the tenth time and read the address: 276 W. 43rd Street—the corner of Eighth Avenue—just one block from Port Authority, Dante’s seventh circle of hell reserved for The Commuter. Even though it seemed too close to home, after all the bus to Jersey was all too near, it was a potential solution and a place to finally get leave of my stuff that I’d be toting around for two days.

Soon I got tired of watching who entered and exited the building. I decided that I’d never likely see the people I was supposed to meet later that morning. I had spent the night roaming the city, sleeping on and off through a film feature that was playing on a loop, grabbing some more down time inside Grand Central Terminal, and now it was finally daybreak.

Grand Central Station--by KW Designs via Flickr

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