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Our 2011 Road Trip #19: The Long Road to the United Nations

Chrysler Building!

Hi, I’m the Chrysler Building! You might remember me from such films as Armageddon and Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla! I have a terrible agent.

[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context.]

On this trip we limited ourselves to two modes of transportation: walking and subway. Cabs and buses are popular options with some folks, but cabs are expensive and buses…frankly, I have no idea why we avoided buses. Soon we would learn that New York City’s subway system is extensive, but it doesn’t make every attraction an easy convenience, especially not in 90-degree temperatures.


Taxis!

In Indianapolis, cabs are so uncommon, you have to call for a pickup. You can’t just go outside. close your eyes, toss a rock, and hit one in any direction like you can in Manhattan.

The walk from the Metropolitan Museum of Art back to the nearest subway station felt twice as long as it had earlier. We passed the time chatting up an older lady with a German accent who described herself as a tourist from “upstate New York”. I had heard this phrase before back home — my supervisor at the time was likewise from “upstate New York”. It took me a while to figure out that the state of New York is divided into two sections: the five boroughs of New York City; and everything else, which is all labeled “upstate New York”. There are no more individual cities, towns, or other subdivisions. If you’re from New York state but not from NYC, no one cares about the specifics, and no one offers them. Buffalo seemed like an exception when we visited there in 2004, but I suspect they consider themselves an honorary Canadian suburb.

From the 86th Street station we subway’d down to 42nd Street and walked due east through the Turtle Bay area to knock out a few famous attractions all in a row, spotting a couple of signs along the way for Anne’s collection.

Madison Ave!

Not every inch of Madison Avenue looks like someplace Don Draper would be caught dead or drunk.

Park Avenue!

Anne and I remember the day when Arnold and Willis used to live up on Park Avenue with their kindly white savior, Mr. Drummond.

The Chrysler Building had been an intrusive Easter egg all week long, appearing in nearly as many of our photos as the Empire State Building did. For once it was in the shot on purpose.

Chrysler Building!

Sadly, the Chrysler Building has no observation deck open to the public. Their landlords are just leaving money on the table.

We wanted a shot of the Daily News Building, where scenes from Superman: the Movie were shot, but we were at an awkward angle, the outside isn’t all that memorable, and even if it were, it was under construction like so many other sites this week. As we walked in, the guards laughed about something, but one shushed the other as we approached the giant globe in their lobby. If they thought one of us looked funny, I hope it was me, and not Anne just because of her Superman T-shirt.

Daily News Globe!

This needs a tiny Christopher Reeve action figure hovering over it and smiling.

At the far end of 42nd Street is the famous Headquarters of the United Nations, along the East River shoreline. This is where the peace happens, if we want it.

Secretariat Building!

The 39-story Secretariat Building. Most movie scenes that allegedly take place inside the UN — e.g., Superman IV: The Quest for Peace — weren’t actually filmed there.

What my maps failed to explain to me is that the famous UN Building is very, very far from the nearest subway station. We’d already had a long day of walking and more walking. By the time we got there and got through the most exhaustive security check-in of the week, none of us cared anymore about taking the tour — which would have meant even more walking — and seeing the famous room where all the foreign dignitaries sit around and watch their translators take potshots at each other while reenacting all those boring Galactic Senate scenes from The Phantom Menace without the flying booths. We found a bench, we rested, we listened to all the unusual languages spoken by the other visitors around us, and we split without taking a tour. I don’t even know if they had any tour tickets left anyway.

Sputnik!

Inside has more architecture than art, plus this Sputnik replica dangling overhead.

Outside has art. Behold this gift to the UN from Italy, one of sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro’s “Sphere Within Sphere” works that occupy spaces at several notable locations worldwide.

Italy Globe!

If you squint, you’ll notice this is the only selfie of the entire trip that contains all three of us.

And this gift from Luxembourg, not to be outdone by larger, snootier nations.

Non-Violence.

Sculpted by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd after the death of John Lennon. Eagle-eyed readers may recall seeing another NYC site in his honor in a previous chapter.

On the return walk, west down 45th Street, we could see glimpses of the various foreign embassies in or near the neighborhood.

Uganda House!

Lucky Uganda has a prime location right across the street from the UN.

Further west, diplomacy gave way to dilapidation, and less inspiring sights such as this presumably unauthorized garbage dump between buildings. It never occurred to me that a place as legendary and ostensibly notable as the UN Building would be down the street from Oscar the Grouch.

NYC Trash.

A million TV ads with a million crying men from a million tribes might inspire Americans to clean this up in a million years.

…on second thought, let’s end this chapter focusing on dreams of world peace and solidarity and getting along and accomplishing good things and whatnot.

UN General Assembly!

The UN General Assembly brings you flags. I hear you can take one home for free if you promise never to mention Superman IV on the premises ever again.

To be continued!

[Historical notes:

1. Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd just passed away in May 2016. Didn’t know that till just now.

2. On our 2016 visit, of all the events we attended that offered advance ticketing, the U.N. tours were the only option I investigated that were sold out online.

2. In 2016 we also learned to like Manhattan buses. Not love them, but like them well enough. A few of them were helpful and came along just when we needed them. At least one bus in particular was the opposite. As for cabs…we took two cab rides and wow, were those educational experiences…]

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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About Randall A. Golden
Hoosier since birth, geek since age 6, father at 22, Christian at 30; launched Midlife Crisis Crossover at 39. Full-time service rep; part-time internet contributor; former message board admin; inhabits Twitter as @RandallGolden. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of any other corporation, being, or party line.

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