Sunday, May 2, 2010

Car Bomb in Times Square Left Me Homeless for the Night

As some of you may remember from my previous post, I was planning on going to a friend's concert last night. Ill Pastel was scheduled to play a show (or, as my friend put it, melt off faces) at 9 p.m. in Connolly's Klub 45 on 45th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue.

Unfortunately, this location and time frame coincided with a man's (or, to be fair, possibly a woman's) plan to detonate a homemade bomb in Times Square. What. Are. The. Odds.

Of course, prior to the show we had no idea New York was under an amateur terrorist attack.  That was probably the furthest thing from my mind, second only to the possibility of an alien invasion or a talking roach infestation.

It was a glorious day--more beautiful than any day has a right to be. I spent it with friends Kaci and Joel first seeing another friend's improv comedy troupe, Tickles, give a show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, and then sitting outside at a restaurant called Wogie's in West Village sipping on ice cold cider. 

From there we took the C train to 50th street and started to walk towards the Connolly's, excited about the show. It was only a few blocks before we saw the first police barricades. 

"They're probably filming something," I said, and as soon as I said it I was convinced that it was true. Then Joel pointed out a camera crew and further confirmed the normalcy of the whole thing, until Kaci, our own veteran reporter, noticed that camera crew was actually a news crew. 

She whipped out her phone and in seconds through the magical power of cellular phones with internet service discovered the truth: somebody had tried to blow up a car in Times Square using several propane tanks, a couple of gallons of gasoline, and some fireworks for good measure. 

I know you'll think I'm crazy, but my honest reaction was, "Will we still be able to get to the show?"

The gravity of the situation just really didn't hit me. In my mind, this was a minor inconvenience, not a near-missed national disaster.

That seemed to be the general consensus of everyone milling about outside the barricade though. I kid you not. There was no real sense of panic in the crowd, just curiosity and, if tourists were blocked from their respective hotels or Broadway Shows, mild annoyance.

Still on a mission at this point, we walked as far as we could toward the bar until we got to a road block on 45th and 6th and saw the band standing on the corner with all of their instruments and equipment in a pile on the sidewalk. Not good.

The bar they were supposed to play at was within eyesight, but we might as well have been in another borough entirely for all the good it did us. We were stranded. Somebody suggested the band whip out their instruments and put on a street show; they seemed down, but had only brought electric equipment.

Hopeful that the situation would be taken care of soon and that we'd be able to get on with our plans eventually, we waiting around with the band and people watched a bit. 

And there were plenty of people for watching.

All of the Times Square tourist crowd was milling about, taking pictures and participating in other general rubber-necking activities. There was also a troup of Navy men in all white uniforms that showed up looking very young and very unsure of what it was exactly they were supposed to be doing. The crowd also included, oddly enough, a ton of police officers on horseback that must have come down from Central Park. I very much hoped they'd galloped.

After waiting around with the band for a half an hour, it became clear that the police weren't letting people through any time soon. So, I said goodbye to my buddies in the band, told them to text me if they got in at any point, and headed from there to Mont Blanc, an eastern European restaurant with the best $6 homemade fruit-infused vodka martinis you've ever had in your life. At this point, we could all use a drink.

A couple of martinis and everything seemed dandy again. We left the restaurant around 11 and started walking back to my place. After so much excitement, I was ready to call it an early night. Unfortunately, NYPD had other plans.

By the time we were done with dinner, the barricades had been extended a couple of blocks. My apartment was now officially within the evacuated zone, leaving me essentially homeless.

Mustering my liquid courage, I approached a police officer behind the barricade and asked him, in so many words, what the deal was and when I could expect to get back home.

"Not right now," was the most specific he would get. "Talk a walk, grab a cup of quoffee (they pronounce coffee with a "q" up here) and come back in an hour. Mebbe then."

Knowing how the barricades had only gotten progressively more intense since 9 p.m. that evening, I thought that it was doubtful at best that they would lift them in the time it took for me to grab my recommended quoffee.

Kaci and Joel offered me prime couch real estate at their apartment in Murray Hill and I gratefully accepted.

So, not exactly what I expected from my Saturday night, but I guess it's always nice to survive an attempted terrorist attack three blocks from your apartment. Read more about it and see video of me talking to the police officer on Kaci's blog where she regularly reports on breaking NY news! 

She took the accompanying pic of evacuated Times Square. It was a total ghost town behind those police lines. Very eerie. 

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