By the end of this fiasco, I’d met an 80’s era Chippendale model, a hack dance group calling themselves the V.I.Ps, and witnessed a man fail to hire a hooker. Welcome to NYC @ 3AM.
There I was, standing at the locked entrance to Grand Central Station in NYC 20 minutes after the last train home had already left for the night. After meeting a couple friends in the city earlier in the evening, and trying to make the last train (which I admittedly thought ran later than it actually did), I found myself stranded in NYC until 5:30 AM, when the station was set to re-open. It was about 2AM.
To kill some time I made my way to a local club near Times Square, which I already had a hand stamp for from earlier in the night. I got a water and considered staying, but it was super packed and there was an obnoxious circle of 30 something year old white dudes jumping and hollering to Nikki Minaj like it was Beastie Boys at the frat house all over again. An interesting picture against the rest of the patrons, who were decidedly black.
I left and made for Times Square, which is incredibly bright and completely packed at all hours (clothing stores and restaurants are open 24 hours). My feet were hurting, so I took a seat on a red chair with a slew of other generally tired and lost looking people. Little did I know I was about to be treated to a special performance by a group of talentless hacks calling themselves the V.I.Ps. A girl of about 13 seemed to be the ringleader, with a younger brother who was maybe 8, and a younger sister who was probably 7. Their mother was sitting in a chair several tables away with a baby stroller, staring vacantly around Times Square.
At first, the V.I.P’s were leaping around the immediate vicinity, doing cartwheels and backflips as young energetic kids do. Then they saw me and must have thought I looked like a good audience, because the boy suddenly sprung in front of me and declared, “I can do anything!” before doing a handstand. He then marshaled his sisters. The oldest sister came over and shouted, “We are the V.I.Ps, and we can do anything!” This was supposed to be a signal for the younger girl to do a dance, but she laughed and pranced away saying she was too embarrassed. After her siblings encouragement, she finally obliged. “We are the V.I.Ps, and we can do anything!” the oldest sister said again, and this time the 7 year old girl began to dance in front of me.
I immediately became uncomfortable because of the particular style of dance she chose to do four feet in front of me. I looked around. Very few people were watching. I looked over to the mother, who could hardly be bothered with what her kids were doing, let alone what types of dances they were learning to perform for complete strangers, this one particular stranger (me) who happened to be a male.
So I got up and left before the NYPD decided to arrest me.
I decided to do another lap around Times Square. There’s a somewhat dark part of the square near the north west corner of it, as you are approaching the backside of those stadium-like seats. Along this dark route, there is an ATM and a green sign flashing above it that reads “ATM”.
As I approached, I barely noticed the two people standing in front of it. Like any guy, though, my attention was quickly drawn to one of the people, a tall black girl in heels, a glittery short dress, and bright lipstick who was, simply put, gorgeous. Too gorgeous, I thought…especially for the short wire figure guy in navy blue cargo shorts and blue t shirt with his hand awkwardly patting her ass. I wondered how could this be and stopped to observe.
She was clearly agitated and he was clearly struggling. Either the machine wasn’t working or his card was being declined. I watched him jab at the machine a few more times, his left hand never leaving the ass of his partner as he looked around helplessly. She became more impatient. I took a picture, which I thought would go good with the popular #hookerproblems caption. He looked at her in a pleading way, but she just stood there. Then they parted ways.
I went back into Times Square and watched a time lapse video of NYC taken from the Upper Bay. Then I got a pizza slice at a place called Roy’s. The greasy slice of goodness cost me 5 bucks. I sat there for a while, then said F it, I’ll head back to Grand Central and see if there is somewhere I can sit this out.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t. So I stood outside the station for the next two hours. I was offered a $300 cab ride to my destination at least 8 times by 8 different cab drivers. One asked me how much I would pay, if not 300. I said, “Not pay.” He nodded knowingly and then said. “Ok, well if you can throw me some money, I’m going that way anyway.” I declined because it sounded too good to be true, and because I didn’t know exactly what “some money” really meant. I didn’t want to rip the guy off either, especially if he wasn’t actually going “that way” and just trying to sucker me into his cab.
As time rolled on, I watched more and more people pile up in front of the station, most of them taking to sitting, or in some cases, SPRAWLING on the filthy NYC sidewalk (another picture I took, and thought #whitegirlwasted would be the best caption). I was so disgusted by the prospect of even sitting on the sidewalk that I remained standing the entire time despite my aching feet. At around 5:00, a guy took up standing beside me. He was in his mid fifties wearing jeans, a bright orange t shirt, a purple and white striped vest, and a backwards hat. He was of average build, certainly not overweight. The first thing he said to me was, “Look at these people. You couldn’t pay me to sit on this filthy sidewalk.”
I laughed and agreed, telling him I’d been there standing for hours to avoid their sad fate. Earlier in the night I had washed my hands about 10 times for no other reason than I was in New York City. And I’m not really a germ freak at all.
This guy was all chat, and I felt bad that I wasn’t. He told me he worked as a doorman at the Hilton and today (Sunday) was his day off. He was heading up to his vacation condo to meet his wife. I asked if he lived in the city, and he did. I asked where he was from. Jacksonville. I asked how long he’d been living in the city. Since 1982, he said, when he was 21 years old. What brought you here? He laughed and extracted his phone. He pulled up some photos of a gigantic muscle bound hercules with bronze skin, wavy hair, and a bow tie around the neck.
“I used to be a model,” he said. “That’s what I came here for. Ever heard of Chippendale’s?”
“I used to work there,” his thumb flicked across the cell phone screen. Picture of him flexing. Picture of him looking cool on a motorcycle.
“Wow, no kidding,” I said, genuinely, because it really was him. But I was mostly stunned by the way a man looks 30 years removed from his prime. I suddenly felt that time was moving faster, slipping through the hourglass as I stood there gawking at this man who was once a 240 pound titan. I asked him how much he weighed now, and he said 200.
He then looked at me very seriously, as if he were reading my mind. “There’s no rush to get married. When I was your age I was pulling in women day and night. I didn’t get married until 51.” He flipped he screen on his phone again. A picture of a cute young Asian woman appeared. “And that’s my wife. When I first saw her, she was with some other guy. I asked her if she was with him, and she said no.”
It was 5:30 suddenly and the doors were unlocked. Everyone stumbled over to the ticker to see what track their train was on. The retired model and I shook hands, introduced ourselves by name, and parted ways.
On the train, I found myself half asleep but sitting by four girls who were dressed nicely and had likely suffered the same fate as everyone else on the early Sunday morning train. I asked them if they were trying to get home in time for Church. The joke seemed to go over well. I’ll use it again if I ever find myself on the first Sunday morning train out of NYC.