Neon lights stay on though no one is home

The corner of 50th street and Sixth avenue is unattended and silent, but the music hall’s neon lights stay on.

A lone security guard rocks back and forth on the soles of his black sneakers. He leans on a broom and dustpan. Behind him, bronze-plated doors are surrounded by guard rails.

Pedestrians keep their eyes to the pavement or look to their cell phones. One couple stops to view a window display. Behind the glass in a dark room are water bottles, T-shirts, hoodies and other souvenirs labeled “Radio City Music Hall.”

Under neon lights, a man hails a cab. The taxi pulls up advertising a gentlemen’s club with flash dancers on its roof. Across the street, matching “I Love NY” shirts are captured in a photo of a man and woman’s toothy grins. Their masks sit below the chin, and their heads tilt to meet with a kiss. Behind them lights read, “Together Stronger, Together Better.”   

On another side of the corner, a boy wraps his arms around his parents. “Thanks mommy and dad for showing me this place,” he says. His father nods, flicks a lighter and pulls a cigarette up to his lips. His mother takes a draw of hers. The smoke — mixed with a nearby food cart’s hotdogs and salty pretzels — lingers on this side of the pavement.

Once both parents reach the butts, the family stands up, reaches for their yellow, “LEGO” printed shopping bags and head toward 50th street.

By now the guard has ventured from his post. Chest out in his white polo shirt, he leans into the street to motion to another guard standing under The Tonight Show’s canopy. Tucking his broom behind the rails, he leaves his post and crosses traffic.

Radio City Music Hall has been closed since March.

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Rachel Roberts, an Arkansas native, is a student at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. She graduated from the University of Arkansas, where she studied journalism, political science and French. She’s interested in covering politics, arts and culture. Twitter: @ratchelroberts

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