Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Gallivant II: The UN and BBQ

Third day of Jason's visit to NYC.

In terms of experience, this was the best day!  What did we do?

Hold on tight because there are a lot of photos, and I know you all like those!  

Chris suggested that I sleep "under the stars" which was what Vera did when she stayed with him.  That is, on the (comfy but very narrow so no turning for fear of falling off) sofa with the blinds open.  There is a wall of windows looking out to Manhattan and no matter how often I visit, I never tire of snapping photos.

The sun rose at 7 am sporting all sorts of lovely colors.  It was impossible to sleep after that, with the light, and the reminder that I was missing so many pretty pictures, so finally at 7.30 I jumped up, took a pic, then closed the blinds and slept again until 9.30 when Chris marched in and opened them back up and put on the heating.  Which meant it was time to get up.

The sun was a little higher by 7.30, so only the Empire State Building was pink.  Nice touch.

Of course the view is much closer in real life, but photos never show the full visual in-your-face impact of such things...*sigh*.

We ate porridge for breakfast and because there were three of us it took 3 hours to get ready.  

While waiting for the bathroom, we played the addictive Japanese game Katamari Damashii in which you, a little prince, have to collect into a rolling ball all sorts of random things from insects to hairdryers to people, according to your size ("the earth is full of things") so the king can recreate the stars, which he destroyed on a drinking spree.  Oh my lord, I think they were smoking mushrooms when they designed that game.  The King of All Cosmos with his psychedelic barrel head and his rainbow yawn ("I feel a swoon coming on") is only the start of it ("BA-NA-NA").  The music is awesome, and the parts where the king talks to you has music that reminds me of Clockwork Orange.


We went to Battery Park, where Chris hunted high and low for the cruise we went on when the gang came over from Houston in August, to no avail.  Meantime Jason and I took pictures of the waterfront, where we could see Jersey and the Statue of Liberty.  You saw those pics in the summer so I won't repeat them.

The following is one of my favorites out of the entire batch.  I approached to take a shot of this seagull at rest on a pier in front of the USCG building, but the bird was suspicious of my pointing lens, so after eyeing me sideways for a second he unfurled his wings.  I snapped immediately, and was pleasantly surprised to see what I'd captured:

With no water tours available, we opted to try the free Staten Island Ferry, but as we looked at our watches and noted it was already 2 pm and we wanted to see both the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum AND the United Nations, we decided to drop the ferry and get moving.


We took the subway to Times Square and from there needed to catch the bus that has the Intrepid on its western terminal and the UN on its eastern. This was my assignment - to get us to the Intrepid which was not far away.  However, in reading the bus maps, my eyes only saw "UN".  I totally forgot we needed the Intrepid and we ended up at the UN further away.  In the end, this was just as well because we booked into the last tour of the day.

When you enter the United Nations, you are no longer on US soil.  Isn't this an amazing concept?  Likewise, in London, when you enter the US Embassy, you are no longer on UK soil.  I find this endlessly fascinating.  Also, the statue of JFK in London is standing on a little piece of American soil.

Olivia, tangent.
Back to the UN.  

Piccies galore (pun?) for your viewing pleasure:

It might be 1960s brutal governmental architecture, but it sure makes for good photos.

I ran the following photo through the Russian Lomo effect.  I think it really suits the modernist glass and concrete:

On our way to the visitor's entrance, we passed this section, which I believe may house the circular Security Council chamber. It certainly looks like a bomb shelter, doesn't it? It is usually part of the tour but is closed for the next 5 years for refurbishment.

We waited in a long line for the airport-style security screening, but it moved quickly.  Meantime, another Lomo style pic.  This is one of many 
Sfera con Sfera sculptures by Arnaldo Pomodoro found all over the world.  I first saw one in the courtyard of the Vatican museum.  Another was damaged outside the World Trade Center and now sits in Battery Park, a warped golden egg.

Right inside the entrance there is a
Foucault Pendulum, another UN object found worldwide.  I've seen the two in the science museums in London and Houston, and the original at the Pantheon in Paris, of course.

As for the squiggly blue paintings, Chris claims he was trying to tell me (but I wasn't listening) that this painting goes - *sigh* seemingly like everything else here - all over the world.  Not sure how and can't be bothered to find out right now, but I believe him because he doesn't forget a thing.  Neither does Jason.  My cousin tells me I have Alzheimer's, I'm so forgetful, but Jason and Chris are like having a walking diary.  Just like how I'm Vanessa's walking encyclopedia, well, if there's an entry I'm missing I can just ask one of them.  And Jason will be able to recite verbatim any one of our hilarious conversations a year from now.  Did I mention, they were still making me laugh too much?

Incidentally, speaking of things going all round the world, there is a huuuuuuge Flemish tapestry in one of the open spaces outside the General Assembly.  Our guide told us that if unravelled, the yarn would circle once around the globe.  Something that hangs on one wall in the UN could do that!?!?!  Boggles the mind.

This is the wall of UN Secretary-Generals.  There have been only 8 since 1946, starting with Trygve Lie of Norway.  The first one I remember in my lifetime was Boutros Boutros-Ghali but Kofi Annan served for much longer.  Which one do you remember first?  

If you were to look closely, they would look like pointillist paintings.  This is because they are carpets - prayer carpets, in fact:

Chris:  "Oh my God, I look so much like Ban Ki-moon!"

Jason took this photo downstairs.  His comment:  "Yep.  Good enough for government":

Early in our tour, we were encouraged to glance over a wall filled with modern tapestries depicting the tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  I could relate every one of them to a human condition or to an historical origin, but I shall put that aside for now.  They are all very noble ideals, but the UN has neither the power nor the resources to enforce them.  If every nation in the world had a constitution based on this document, we would probably be living as close to Utopia as this world is likely to accomplish, human nature aside.  [Can someone please improve that sentence for me?  I don't like the wording.]  If I remember correctly from school, Eleanor Roosevelt had a hand in the development of this document, and it reminds me very much of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Take a look at them - what do you think?

The UN General Assembly:

A center of great power and proclamations.

After exiting the Assembly, we were shown a variety of sumptuous objects in glass cases, gifted to the UN by the governments of assorted countries over the years.  A 300-pound ivory carving from China (given a few years before the ban on ivory trade came into effect).  Golden filligree temple box/bells from Malaysia.  A scale model of the King's barge from Thailand. An abstract brass representation of New York City from the King of Sweden.  And so on.  I wish I had taken a photo of the Soviet-looking tapestry in flaming colors on one of the walls.  (The tapestry in this collage is not it.)

Does this not look to you like an abstract flailing man?  Does it perhaps represent the abundant flailing that undoubtedly goes on within these walls?  I am sure it stands for something completely different, but we were being escorted out of the tour area by this time to hand over our badges, and I was snapping at random.

The next one is a bit tricky.  It was dark when we went outside, but we were able to take some interesting photos.  I like the stark lines in this one, but mostly I was thrilled that Venus was bright enough to send some light through my camera lens, and here you see it:

It had been an eventful and exciting day, though probably not as prolific as we'd intended.  And we were hungry.  So we walked westward into town in search of dinner.  


On our route along 42nd street we saw some perfect art deco office buildings, like the terra cotta Chanin Building - a real gem - and the New York Daily News Building, complete with globe, where Clark Kent worked in Superman.  Later on we came across some brass plaques lining the sidewalk, depicting these and other landmark buildings in the area.

I've never seen a city with as many artistic brass plaques in the sidewalks as NYC.  Earlier in the day when we were downtown on lower Broadway or "The Canyon of Heroes", we noted the commemoration of each ticker tape parade since 1886 is actually set in brass letters on black granite at regular intervals on the sidewalk.

Luxury department store chain Lord & Taylor in its Christmas finery. To think I used to shop there once upon a time!

The Empire State Building on its Christmas light schedule.

Sorry, that was another tangent.  


Chris's original idea had been dinner at Chevy's Mexican on Times Square, but when a few blocks south of there we passed some Korean BBQs, I made a decision.  This was also on the list, but as the next day would be Jason's last in town, I decided that Texans should never come to NYC to eat some mediocre so-called Tex-Mex when they can get the real thing at home.  So I suggested we pick a Korean place - right now.  Chris remembered that he'd met some friends once at an out-of-the-way place last year round there, and they had all enjoyed it.  I remember I was supposed to go but couldn't because I was at my cousin's place.  We circled a couple of blocks and found it surprisingly quickly.

I can honestly say it was one of the best meals of 2008.  I am no fan of beef, and the last time I ate some it made me unhappy, though it's usually ok as a burger.  As a result of this dinner, I have resolved that the only time I eat unground beef will be at a Korean BBQ.  The tender cuts of angus beef were just perfect.

Beef has just been placed on the gas-fired copper grill. There is my cold saki and a glass of blackberry wine.  We are sitting trying not to demolish the plates of seasoned nori (seaweed), kim chi (spicy cabbage pickle), bean sprouts, and daikon (radish), which were to be wrapped in the lettuce leaves along with the beef.  I drool just thinking about all of the wonderful fragrant food and aromatic delicacies, and how happy your stomach can be without carbohydrates.

We did have starters.  The beef was so outstanding, though, that I can't remember what they were.  Steamed dumplings?  And a complementary plate of something battered?

Jason doesn't usually like to be photographed, and regarding a photo of the three of us, he kept saying, "Eh, we'll do it tomorrow" at which I knew it wouldn't happen.  I noticed that Jason was always quick to jump out of frame, but Chris was not, which is funny because he usually whines about being photographed - he certainly did in London last year.  Still, he appears a few more times in my frames.  On Facebook, Chris pointed out that we never did take that pic of the three of us, and Jason said he'll just have to come back sometime so we can take it. Most of my friends stopped reading this blog when I moved to Facebook, so I can say all sorts of things about them here and they won't be embarrassed!


We decided we were going to get drunk at home.  Ever since I can remember, we've failed at this - yes, at university - therefore I have never seen any of my Houston friends drunk.

So we put on our jammies, drank Grey Goose vodka (impressive!) with cranberry juice, and settled in.  In the end, we each had only one glass.  I know, what?!

I battled valiantly with my eyelids for a while, but fell asleep during the last half hour of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.

I loved how every time Jason brushed his teeth, he came out of the bathroom to talk to us unintelligibly, or Chris walked around in the morning tucking in his shirt and asking me if he should get a pinstripe suit.  This is what happens with people you've known for 10 years.


AmitL said...

Hi,Olivia-mesmerizing-is all I can say to the lovely pics-what a nice insight into everything and place from Times Square to the UN..Tks!

Flighty said...

This, as was Part 1, is a terrific post with some great photos.
Thanks for the guided tour which has proved most informative and interesting! xx

meimei said...

I have always wanted to see the UN.

Palm Springs Savant said...

Why yes, I DID enjoy those photos! Loved the one of the seagull, well done.

The Moody Minstrel said...

It's a shame you never made it to the Intrepid Museum, but I'm sure there'll be another time for that.

That seagull pic is a classic. Lots of other good ones, too, as usual.

(Too bad this comment is so &$%#* cliche...)

steve said...

Give me a few hours and maybe I coud improve on the Utopia sentence. But to get in all the ideas you've put in there, it would be difficult. One problem with the idea: the old Soviet Union had a constitution that pretty much guaranteed human rights. The U.S. Contitution has done better, though the Cheney-Bush administration has been very successful at chipping away at the Bill of Rights.

I agree with you about the U.N. Building, though it's less brutal than a lot of the architecture of the era. It looks a lot like the monolith in "2001: A Space Odyssey." I wonder whether Kubrick intended that effect.

Olivia said...

Amit - can you see the pics now?? Great!


Flighty - I feel guilty sometimes for writing such long posts! xx


Mich - it is really worth a visit if you are ever in NYC.


Rick - thanks :)
Am rather proud of it myself in case you couldn't tell :)


Minstrel - yes, Chris and I (and hopefully my roomie) hope to go before the end of the month.

Don't worry, I wrote much too much to really comment on.


Steve - thanks for popping by. Great comment, by the way.

Re: the Utopia sentence: that is why I added the clause "human nature aside". I don't believe human nature would allow for a true utopia. We can imagine it in our minds, hence all these systems of government look great on paper, and it makes for nice science fiction...but rarely work to their full potential because human nature is once again the obstacle.

On the other hand, without our inherent nature, we really would be living in a bland, guileless, blithe world and wouldn't be human any more. Rather, some author's version of Martians...?

Jo said...

I don't eat beef and that Korean Barbecue looked awesome! I wonder if you could toss a couple of butterflied shrimp on there...

The statue does look like a flailing man, or one doing that sort of matrix-type bullet dodging move!

The UN is awesome, though!

CafeMark said...

Wow! How do you get time to do all this stuff AND post it all? Hope the New Year is shaping up well for you. Regards, Mark

Anonymous said...

Oh wow Olivia!

You go to such great places, in the city! I love the picture of the Empire State, in the morning. I hate it, when camera's don't catch what you see either.

You should publish a coffee table book. Olivia About: Pictures From a City Gal!

Olivia said...

Jo - I'm sure you could, but I was eating with boys remember, and when I saw the beef in the marinade I was not sorry for agreeing to it.

Haha, yes I like the Matrix bullet dodge simile.


Mark - because I'm posting about two weeks after the event!

There's a long way to go, but I will get there, thanks.


Miss Fluff - so glad you like, and not done yet! Next instalment coming right up!

Installment? That's the US spelling I think.

Selba said...

I really enjoy looking your pictures...

Ah... so most of people are into facebook than reading blog these days....

Um Naief said...

Happy New Year my dear!!! Sorry for the late comment on the event... I hope you had a fun filled evening.

Haven't read thru all of your blog to catch up... was wondering if you went downtown to watch the ball drop... guess I'll have to read to find out. ;)

Wonder what it is about ppl who don't like to have their pictures taken? I HATE to have mine taken and always hate them after... I guess coz I feel fat now.. but you know, I've never liked it... so can't use that as an excuse.. altho, it's a good one.