Weekend blog: Items from the past, #3.
June 9, 2002.
Woke early yesterday [June 8, 2002] and drove to O'Hare, where I faced a long line to check in at American Air. Smooth on-time flight to NYC, but some wait for a shuttle bus to Manhattan ($12), to the Hotel New Yorker. Ate a decent hamburger at the Tick-Tock, a "diner" attached to the hotel, though curiously without a clock to be seen anywhere, not even a neon-based novelty clock.
Striking out on the streets of Manhattan, I made my way circuitously to Times Square, which as ever fills the eye with its stories-tall lights. I had a lot of time to examine these commercial tawds, since I waited on line for discounted theater tickets. The line snaked around for an hour, and in the end I decided to buy tickets for Cabaret at Studio 54.
Afterward, killed some time walking around, ducking into a couple of interesting churches -- first St. Mary's, which is very near Times Square. [The church of St. Mary the Virgin, an Episcopal church built in the late 19th century by heirs to Tractarianism; the building is in French gothic style.] Then I wandered over to St. Patrick's, the Catholic cathedral on Fifth Ave., where a crowd was gathered outside to see the conclusion of a wedding. Someone near me asked: "Is someone famous getting married?" "No, people just like to stand outside after a wedding," was the answer.
Studio 54 is now a theater, and was very likely a theater before its time as a disco, considering its theater-like configuration. The only nod to its disco fame was a pair of dim mirror balls hanging close to the ceiling, far off and forlorn-looking. My seat was far to the right, in the balcony, but it was a good view. The show was excellent, and included a couple of recognizable faces (for those of us not steeped in Broadway, but television) -- Jane Leeves, who was as vigorous as the part of Sally Bowles demands, and Hal Linden, who played the part of the Jewish merchant who falls in love with Bowles' landlady, a part not in the movie version. Kevin D. told me that, during a production of Cabaret at the Chicago Theatre in the late '80s, Werner Klemperer played that part, and got the biggest applause of the night. "Everyone knew it was because he played Col. Klink," Kevin said.
Up this morning [June 9, 2002], ate doughnuts and walked generally eastward to Grand Central Station, past the Chrysler Building -- got a glimpse of its restored art deco lobby for the first time -- and arrived at the UN at about 11. Along the way, I saw the preparation for the Puerto Rico Day parade on Fifth Ave., crowding the streets. Upside to this: a lot of fetching women out and about, dressed for summer. Not quite like walking into an episode of Caliente, but not bad.
At the UN, an Iraqi woman gave the tour. Speaking of fetching -- she strongly resembled Maria Bartiromo, but with darker hair. Our tour group was too polite to question her about her connection to the Iraqi regime, though surely there must be one. Saw the Security Council and some other rooms famous in the realm of internationalism, but not the General Assembly chamber. Closed for renovation.
Down in the basement of the UN is the gift store and post office. I wanted to send a handful of post cards from the UN, with UN stamps on them, for the novelty of it. The mail boxes there are the only places in the Western Hemisphere that recognize UN stamps, so I had to buy UN stamps at the UN post office, write the cards there, and mail them there. Naturally, I was stuck in the stamp-buying queue for a while behind a stamp enthusiast who was buying and buying and buying. The UN issues stamps honoring every conceivable international good cause, it seems.
Overall impression of the aesthetics of the UN, especially the artwork: mediocre, for all their lofty aspirations, and dated -- '50s internationalism just doesn't age well. But what do you expect from a place designed by committee, with a good many members of the committee wanting to kill each other?
After the UN, I took the subway to Brooklyn to see a real international community, namely the borough itself, and spent the bulk of the afternoon in Prospect Park -- designed by Fredrick Law Omstead [he did Central Park, too]. It's a lush park in June, excellent for a walkabout, and very popular on a Sunday. People playing games, picnicking, sunbathing, walking, running and bicycling. At one point I parked myself under a large shade tree and witnessed a nearby outdoor wedding in which all of the participants and most of the guests were black.
In the early evening, I made it to the beginning of the National Association of Real Estate Editors convention. I mentioned to some associates of mine, who happened to be Manhattanites, that I'd spent part of the afternoon in Prospect Park -- you know, in Brooklyn. Judging by their reaction, I might as well have said that I'd popped over to Outer Mongolia for a quick visit.