There is no square

· Music

The only night I had unbooked during my brief New York jaunt tis summer was last night (Friday). That’s probably not surprising, since this whole thing was short notice and that’s the night people were most likely to already have plans. After a nice dinner with my parents at home, I looked through some entertainment listings and saw that the Greg Osby Four were playing at Birdland, the legendary nightclub.
I caught his 11 pm set, and it was great. I’d heard of Osby but never heard him perform live. I’d recommend his group to anyone who likes adventurous jazz somewhere on the spectrum from bebop to contemporary, difficult but melodic. It often seemed like the drummer, stand-up bass player, pianist, and Osby on alto were all playing in different time signatures, but somehow it worked.
It was so nice out even around 1:30 or so when I came out of the club, balmy and warm, that I decided to stroll around Times Square a bit. No longer the thrilling furtive cesspit of my youth, the area is now something akin to Fisherman’s Wharf, with arcades, wax museums, and other tourist-y attractions. Lots of people out at that time of night, many of them young – teenagers or young adults, all ethnicities, all nationalities. Plenty of tourists, of course.
This beautiful young Italian woman walking with her tall handsome boyfriend stopped me and asked me they way to Times Square.
“You’re in it,” I said.
They looked puzzled.
“Was there something specific you were looking for?” I asked, trying to be helpful.
They looked at each other, hesitated for a moment, and then both said, “the square.”
“Oh,” I said, thinking quickly. “There is no square.”
They still looked confused. “This is all you get,” I said. Then I headed off for the subway.
Later I wondered if I should have pointed them toward the giant famous neon intersection at Broadway and 7th, but I still think they would have been disappointed. There’s nothing in Times Square like the plazas you find in Italian cities.
This morning I was talking to B about this, and our conversation ranged from the history of Times Square to Herald Square to Union Square, to Union Square and Washington Square in San Francisco, and to other intersections and roundabouts, such as Piccadilly Circus in London, which we’d visited once, the night we ate at the Metropole during the mad cow square and the entire wait staff thanked me vigorously for ordering the calf’s liver.
I mentioned how the circus in Piccadilly is the roundabout itself (what they to call a traffic circle in New Jersey), and that there’s no circus there in the sense we mean today when talking about Barnum and Bailey (coincidentally, my father mentioned that P.T. Barnum used to have a hippodrome where Union Square in New York is located now).
“There’s no circus in Piccadilly Circus,” I said to B. “There’s no square in Times Square….”
“Isn’t that a Cole Porter song?” she said, reading my mind.
“If not,” I said, “it should be.”