Our 2011 Road Trip #19: The Long Road to the United Nations
August 4, 2016 Leave a comment
[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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And this gift from Luxembourg, not to be outdone by larger, snootier nations.
On the return walk, west down 45th Street, we could see glimpses of the various foreign embassies in or near the neighborhood.
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.
…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.
To be continued!
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…]
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