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My full name is Max Williamson and I live on 211 east 18th street between 2nd and 3rd. Many people come to New York City with high expectations of seeing tall buildings and flashing lights, but to me it’s just home. I have lived in New York City my whole life and can’t believe how much things have changed. The transformation from when I was younger to now has been quite significant. When the economy crashed a couple years back a lot of businesses were brutally affected. Looking back now I would say Starbucks got hit the worst. Realistically no one is going to buy a five dollar coffee when the economy is failing. I used to walk down the street and there would be a Starbucks on every street corner, nowadays there not nearly as common.
Growing up in New York City has been interesting to say the least. From kindergarten to ninth grade my parents sent me to a school where I was considered the “poor boy.” My classmates were big time names like the Rockefeller’s. My parents just wanted me to have a good education and stay away from trouble so they put me in a good school. At the time I hated it but looking back at my experience and the people I met, I wouldn’t trade it for a second.
Looking back at elementary school, I remember all my friends would have their birthday parties at Laser Park in Times Square. It was considered the best laser tag place in New York City. The arcades and game room were epic. A couple of weeks ago I was trying to look up the address of the place and I discovered that it had been shut down due to the economy.
That’s the hard thing about living in the City, everything is twice as expensive then it would be anywhere else. Unless you’re receiving a consistent paycheck to pay the bills it is impossible to own your own place here. I have met many people who have tried “living the American dream,” by starting up their own business but it didn’t work out in the end. I remember this one place called H&H Bagels that apparently just got shut down. I remember begging my mom to bring me to get a plain bagel with strawberry cream cheese every morning. It’s weird to think that a place that once had so much life is now shut down after being in business for so many years, but you have to have thick skin when living in New York City because you never know what is going to happen.
Besides H&H bagels and Laser Park, I was also very interested in the main attractions like Hershey’s and Toys R Us growing up. Although Times Square can be extremely overwhelming there are attractions and entertainment that can really satisfy anyone’s needs. To this day riding the Ferris Wheel at Toys R US never gets out. I will admit though, now that I am older my interests lie in different attractions. An ideal day for me would be taking a walk around Central Park and then going out with my buddies at night. The possibilities in New York are endless so I never get bored.
Out of all the places Ive been exposed to over the years, I can truly say Times Square has stayed pretty consistent in terms of its shops and consumers throughout the years. The whole idea of Times Square and the famous quote “The Crossroads of the World,” has been catchy for decades and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Although it was once the place I admired the most I now find the flashing lights and billboard signs to be quite tacky.
Considering its popularity over the years there has been an increase in tourists. I can’t walk through the streets without getting bumped in the shoulder or snickered at and most of the time the person isn’t even speaking English. Fenders will get in your face and tell you anything to buy their product and get you into their shops. Nothing has changed in recent years. Unless you are mentally prepared for it, Times Square can be extremely overwhelming. However I will say that it has become a much safer and clean area then it has been in previous years. With so many tourists walking through each day it is important to keep the area as clean as possible.
I tend to stick to the areas with the low apartment buildings and town houses. I figure I need to savor places like these because everything else is being replaced by tall glass buildings. I like the feeling of old-fashion things but Times Squares offers the exact opposite. Everything is very modern and flashy. I have seen an increase in chain restaurants in the area recently. Places such as Hardrock Café and Olive Garden lay in the middle of all the attractions. Nail and spa saloons have rapidly expanded throughout Manhattan as well. Whenever I walk through Times Square foreign people are shoving flyers in my face for eyebrow threading and deals on manicures. I have to laugh at all this because I’m a guy, but it is still interesting to me how persistant some of these people can be.
After living here for twenty two years I don’t see it changing anytime fast. New York City is still going to continue attracting tourists and it is still going to be considered a dirty place. Although others see it as a tourist attraction, it is my home. I couldn’t picture myself growing up anywhere else and I consider myself to be very street smart from all the encounters I’ve had with strangers around my area. Although I wouldn’t voluntarily go to Times Square on a day off, I would highly recommend it to anyone else who is not from the city because it has so much to offer and so many different people.
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