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Naked Buskers in Times Square

Times Square is the heaviest populated tourist area in the world. It draws approximately 39 million visitors annually. Most come to gawk at the giant billboards and the neon and LED-lighted ads, but a lot more come to take their photos with one of the naked buskers who roam the area. 

Times Square near rush hour on last Friday was a slow-moving sea of people who clogged the sidewalk making locals rushing to catch buses and subways do detours into the street just to get round them. That’s the Times Square I was prepared for. I wasn’t expecting to see so many street performers but I should have known. The unusually balmy October afternoon drew almost everyone outdoors.

I spotted Elmo, the giant Statue of Liberty, the Transformer Robot, and several naked buskers. Everyone knows about the Naked Cowboy, the granddaddy of the naked buskers who strolls around Times Square entertaining visitors and locals in his cowboy hat, cowboy boots, tidy whities, and his guitar placed strategically so that it gives the impression that he’s nude.

The Naked Cowboy also has his naked cowgirls, though I didn’t see any. Who I did see, and dubious pleasure of meeting, was $andy Kane, the Naked Cowgirl.

Kane, a former stripper, who looks more like someone’s great-grandmother than a naked busker, has played the Naked Cowgirl for about 6 years. She parades around Times Square, her red cowboy hat covering flowing pink hair, the bottom half of black bikini, pasties affixed to her sagging breasts, garter belts, and flats. A gold-studded bra that looks like it supported someone far more buxom, hangs from her guitar. I don’t remember hearing her actually play.

Kane offered to pose but I told her I only had $1 left. She did anyway. When I downloaded the photo, I noticed she’d given the finger, two actually. But it wasn’t personal, that’s part of Kane’s act, probably from her stripper days.

The Naked Indian and The Naked Cowboy share a moment

The Naked Indian and The Naked Cowboy share a moment

I must have picked the right place (Broadway and 45th Street) to sit as I saw not just one, but two Naked Cowboys. I also saw the Naked Indian, Adam David. David, who’s been operating as the Naked Indian for a little more than a year, recently settled a dispute with the Naked Cowboy over the name. Robert John Burck, aka the Naked Cowboy, holds a trademark and each cowboy pays a franchise fee.

Women were gladly lining up to have their photos taken with the Naked Indian and the Naked Cowboy, and get a chance to squeeze each of their buns. No, I took no photos of that silly spectacle.

The most popular character on Friday was the Showgirl. Men followed her every provocative pose. For $5, you get to take a photo with her. I’ve forgotten now what she said her name is – but when I think of her, I think Jade. If you look closely, you’ll notice that her costume’s painted on. Two guys were with her, one collected the money – she’s got no pockets – and another stood close by, I guess as a bodyguard.

When I told my friends about the female naked buskers I’d seen in Times Square, they wanted to know how they were allowed to perform nearly nude.  According to a New York law, full nudity in public is legal if it’s part of a performance or play.

Street performers are also protected under the First Amendment. They are free to stroll Times Square and to work for tips from $2 to $5 taking photos but they’re not allowed to demand money, sell merchandise or block traffic.

Buskers, naked and clothed, can take home $50-70 a day, others like the Naked Cowboy who’s considered the #1 tourist attraction in New York City, can take home much more.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, Times Square, which is 1% of New York City’s total land size, generates 11% of the city’s economic output and 10% of the jobs. Since 2007, economic growth in this iconic area that lies between Broadway and Seventh Avenue and stretches from 42nd to 47th Street, outpaced the city’s by 13% during the same period.

New York City Skyline

Each city has its own unique skyline and New York City is no different. With skyscrapers that soar to dizzying heights and in different colors and shapes, from a distance, they look almost like they were taken from a pop-up book.

I remember the first time I heard the word skyscrapers. I might have been about 11 then. I could never, not in my wildest dreams anyway, have imagined buildings so tall. When I saw them a few years later, my eyes searched the sky trying to find the top floors.

New York City Skyline

Pop-up-book-style view of Manhattan from Governors Island ferry

New York City has, a various times, had some of the tallest buildings in the US as well as the world. The Empire State Building, at 1,250 feet, was the tallest building in the US when it was completed in the 1930s.

The Trump Building or 40 Wall Street was the tallest building in the world for two months until the completion of the Chrysler Building.

The Art Deco style Chrysler Building, 1,046 feet, was the tallest man-made structure in the world from 1930-31. It is the 50th tallest building in the world.

It’s hard to imagine that the Metropolitan Life Tower, which is only 700 feet, was the tallest building in the world for 4 years until the Woolworth Building was built in 1913. It took a mere 92 feet for the Woolworth to claim the title of tallest building in the world. And it held on to it for 17 years.

All these skyscrapers in New York City and the country have now been eclipsed by One World Trade Center, which you can see on the left in the photo above. It stands at 1,776 feet and is the fourth tallest building in the world.

By far the best way to appreciate the height and beauty of New York City’s skyscrapers is from a distance. My favorite places to view them are from the waterways and islands around Manhattan. Some locations in Brooklyn and New Jersey, especially those that line the coastline, aren’t bad either.

 

Linking up with Travel Photo Thursday, that Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

 

Fete Paradiso on Governors Island

When I saw a tweet last Saturday about Fête Paradiso, I knew right away I had to experience it. Billed as the world’s first festival of vintage French carnival rides and carousels, it debuted on New York’s Governors Island in July and is coming to an end on September 29th. But I had plans though I had some flexibility on Sunday.

I was pretty excited as I left the house early Sunday morning. Riding the subway to the ferry that would take me to Governors Island, I tried to guess which of the other passengers – especially those with kids in tow – was on their way to the festival.

It was a beautiful morning with blue skies and brilliant sunshine, perfect for a day outdoors. The ferry ride from the westside of Manhattan to Governors Island lasted about 5 minutes, just long enough to ratchet up the excitement of the kids, young and young at heart, on board.

I didn’t know where on the island Fete Paradiso would be located – I doubt most people knew – but we fell into groups and followed the sound of the carnival music. Looking down, I noticed that horses had been drawn in different colors on the road. Like breadcrumbs, they pointed out the way and confirmed we were going in the right direction.

It was fun to see the different rides and the detailed work on these rare 19th and early 20th century museum-quality pieces. It was even more fun to hear the kids scream with the delight as they whizzed around on the rides, and watch the parents watch and photograph them.

I put down my camera long enough to take a ride on the bicycle carousel, the velocipede. One of the few carousels for adults and children, I had watched for a moment before deciding to take a ride. I felt like I was flying through the air as we pumped our legs furiously to keep up with the mechanical pedals. After a few minutes, though, my ankle couldn’t handle it so I propped up my foot and kept going until the ride was over. In all, it took about 3 delightful minutes.

Fete Paradiso's velocipede

On the velocipede

As I was leaving the velocipede, the attendant told me that it was created in the late 19th century to encourage Parisians to try out the bicycle, which was then the new transportation kid on the block. Considering how popular bicycles are now, it’s hard to imagine people had to be encouraged to ride but I can understand. Change is sometimes difficult to embrace. This velocipede is just one of two in the world; the other was featured in the film, Midnight in Paris. (I don’t remember seeing it so I’ve got to keep my eyes peeled next time. And now I can say I’ve been on one!)

The line for food, which was prepared specially for Fete Paradiso by the French bistro, Le Gamin, was several rows long but I wasn’t hungry so after my ride on the velocipede, I decided to leave.

Fete Paradiso enjoys its final run this weekend. It closes on Sunday, September 29th, so if you like carousels and rides and you’re in the New York City area, you should definitely not miss this.

Tickets to Fete Paradiso cost $3 per ride, $25 for 10. The ferry is free and leaves every 30 minutes from Manhattan’s Battery Marine Building on South and Whitehall Street. Ferry service is also available from Brooklyn. You can read more about Fete Paradiso here.

 

Linking up with Travel Photo Thursday, that Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

Fall in New York City

I’ve always enjoyed the fall and this year, I get to spend part of it in New York City, one of my favorite places.

After being in Jamaica, where the temperature rarely dips below 70 degrees in most places, I have a new appreciation for the cool, crisp air that fall brings. You can almost feel the switch that comes as the last days of August usher in September and the frenetic pace of summer gives way to the gentleness of fall.

Here are a few of the fall activities that I look forward to doing.

1.     West Indian American Carnival – This annual cultural extravaganza takes place in Brooklyn on Labor Day and signals the end of summer. Millions come out to prance and ‘wine’ and enjoy the vibrant celebration of West Indian culture.

Fall in New York - a Carnival Queen

Taking photos with the queen

2.     Brooklyn Book Festival – Started in 2006 by Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, to give voice to the writers who call Brooklyn home, the BBF has since expanded to include writers from outside the borough. The festival, which is free, will be held on September 22nd at Borough Hall and other venues.

3.     Wine Tastings – Each fall, we drive out to Long Island’s North Fork to meet friends for our usual wine country tour. We try to visit two or three vineyards and have lunch then drive back to the city. I’ve always wanted to check out some of the wine festivals in New Jersey, and might do that this year as well.

4.     Broadway comes alive – Fall also means the new theater season begins on and off-Broadway. Here’s what I’m looking forward to seeing: After Midnight, The Glass Menagerie, Macbeth, Richard III, and Waiting for Godot.

West Side Story

5.     Fall Fashion Week – Not just for fashionistas and big name designers, Fall Fashion Week is a chance to get a peek at they styles that will be in the stores in spring and check out the work of designers who’re not yet household names. Fall Fashion Week is on until September 12th.

Fall is not only about the turning of the leaves or the coolness in the air, it’s also the time I celebrate my birthday. The party lasts all month and usually involves a themed event, and a trip north to Toronto to celebrate with my friends from university.

This post is part of the fall blog carnival hosted by Patti at One Road at a Time. Be sure to check out what other bloggers have to say about fall.