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On My Own - NY - 27 MAY 08

For the first time in our NY trip it rained there, on the morning of 27th. But the weather forecast predicted a good day ahead, with mild showers here and there. That's one good thing in US. Weather forecasts are taken very seriously and a whole dedicated team tracking the weather works keep citizens informed 24/7 about weather forecasts. Though I am told that even in US, many times the weather forecasts go wrong. But, as weather is very unpredictable in many cities in the US, you always check the forecast of the day before planning your day. There are also, infact, two separate TV channels that just track and speak of weather, 24 hrs a day!
After a great breakfast at our usual corner - Vienamese Deli on Lexington Avenue - I headed for the United Nations. Now outside the UN building, although its mandatory to have all the member nation flags hoisted at all times outside the UN building, they weren't hoisted that morning, because it had rained earlier. Its only in rains that they don't put up the flags there. A Japanese tour guide took us - a group of around 10 people - through the building complex that's open to tourists. Several things are meant to be seen inside the building - a grand painting that's bifurcated in three parts, one that tells a story of stone age, 2nd part tells the story before World War II and the third part tells the story - thereafter, gifts from Thailand (an exact and one-of-its-kind superb replica of a boat that's used in boat races in Thailand) and China (a Chinese railway model made of Ivory before the material was banned). UN Security Council Hall has been out of bounds from tourists after 9-11, but I went inside United Council of Economic & Social commitment and UN General Assembly Hall.
After the tour completed, I quickly walked upto the spectacular Grand Central Station and took a subway to Fulton Street station where I wanted to go to the South Street Port to check out the exhibition called 'Bodies...The Exhibition'. NY subway is the best way to explore NY city; the next best way is to walk around. It's not as clean as the one in Washington D.C. and probably also not as safe during after-hours, but it's an intricate network that makes it possible for you to any nook and corner of the city, from no matter where you, right across and underneath the river, up to Brooklyn and even New Jersey. Unlike in India, you buy the tickets yourself from the ticket vending machines - they accept credit cards too. Your ticket comes out in the form of a card (like a credit card, etc) that you swipe it in a slot (like in a quick swoosh-like motion) next to the gate through which you pass and one that opens only after you have swiped in your card (valid cards, only) successfully. Even our Calcutta and New Delhi metros have the same system. No ticket-less travellers this way. Our Bombay Suburban system should also switch to this system to check all ticketless travellers. Remember, in the NY subway (NYorkers call it Subway, Washingtonites call theirs, Metro) you've got to swipe your card (ticket) in a particular way. I just couldn't do it and it was a bit embarrassing to swipe and then (hoping the gates to open) bang right into the gates because they just won't open as I didn't swipe it "correctly". But there's nothing like the NY metro network. It's efficient, it's quick, it's cheap and it's a great way to move about in a crowded city.
'Bodies...' was by far the best exhibition I have ever seen. Using live and real samples of cadavers and many such body parts to intricately rebuild the complex network of nerves, tissues, muscles and bones and entire bodies as they would look from the inside - without skin - Bodies...seeks to explain how each and every part of our body functions and what happens and how, if if we do not take care of them. They have preserved real human bodies and organs for the exhibition. For instance, they had preserved liver specimens, one from a healthy person and one chain smoker, to highlight what becomes of our liver if we smoke. I am not much of a museumy-kinda person, but Bodies...was one exhibition that I would strongly recommend. It's the best exhibition I have ever been to.


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