Times Square is still there. Ventured out last night with a minimal setup. Didn't get there till after 1:am, so I wasn't expecting much, especially on a Monday night. Sure enough, it was very quiet. The caricaturists almost outnumbered the people with only a couple drawing here and there. I stayed 2 hours and didn't get a nibble. I did get to wiggle eyebrows with a lot of Chinese acquaintances. It's been at least 5 years and I still recognized every artist I saw.
I set up a quarter block from the largest cluster of artists, sat down and lit my pipe. It wasn't two minutes before a chinese guy I remembered being one of the best came and set up 10 feet from me. He nodded guardedly, producing a cigarette. I gave a nod back that said, "I got no issues, I remember the code." with a flickered smile of "It's good to see you again." These guys are not expressive characters and I try not to jangle with their composure. I stared off down the block.
"You got light?" He was approaching me.
"Yeah." I stood up fumbling in my pocket. This was a good sign. I didn't expect him to be anything but indifferent to me, but here he was, honoring me with a chance to be the provider. I handed him a lime green bic. "Long time, no see!" I said cheerfully. He half nodded and then set to lighting his cigarette. "Must be about 5 years." I added. This was too much. He put one hand up and if to ward off anything else I might say and gave back the lighter with the other. Then backed up nodding and went and sat down. On reflection I should have held my peace until he'd gotten a good puff and then waited some more to see if he'd initiate some conversation. Call me Mr. Eager.
We sat awkwardly for 10 minutes. Till a lot of noise came from a small crowd across the street and this guy packed up and zipped over. Emboldened by our interchange I carried my set up to the middle of the nearest cluster and took my place as 'one of the gang'.