Sunday, 30 March 2014

The UN, comedy, and a delicate feeling

I am dressed, today, as I feel: red, blue, and black. I feel like a bruise. I stayed up until closing time last night, which was 4am, and then I went and had some more drinks until 5am. Then I started the walk home. How far is 50 blocks, really? I thought. It'll take me half an hour at most.

It took me an hour and a half.

But we've jumped to the end. Let's start from the beginning, and the breakfast that I faced consisting of:

  • three plate-sized pancakes
  • three rashers of bacon
  • a sausage
  • scrambled egg
It was large enough that we needed two plates for it. I've not had a two-plate breakfast before. It's absurd and wonderful. This massive breakfast was to set us up for a fairly important trip:

Slaying a dragon that is also a rocket. Sound awesome? It was.
We headed downtown for a tour of the UN and learnt about the various organs within the UN, its roles, its missions worldwide and its history. The tour took in the Security Council chamber (ahhhhhhhh!)

Look familiar?

 and culminated in the gift shop, where there was a UN-stamped podium. So we did what political students would do in that situation and did our best to look like leaders of grand nations. 

Pulled off in excellent fashion by (l-r) Lynda Houston, Lucas Svoboda, and Sará Csapó
Following the tour, we were given a briefing by two inspiring people working to end sexual violence in conflict. This is an absolutely fascinating topic, and one I should like to dedicate space, time, and great thought to - but it's also not a whole lot of fun, so I'll probably write it up somewhere else. For the moment it suffices to say that they gave us great advice for getting into the UN after we graduate, and I've now got a whole lot of new things to apply for.

On the way out, we passed the elevator banks that go up the 38th level - the office of the Secretary General - and before we could pass a security guard who had clearly been born of an unholy union of bank vault and grizzly bear held up an imperious hand. We stopped, naturally, because this man's upper arm was about as thick as my torso and his gun was the kind of gun that kills a lot of people very quickly.

As we paused, a small, smiling Asian man swept up, smiled, waved, said hi, and then went into the elevator. The whole episode took about ten seconds, and left several of us genuinely shaking.

All of this, of course, is a long and roundabout way of explaining how 22 smartphone-holding politically-inclined digital natives managed to meet Mr Ban-Ki Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and not take a single picture. 

After this, the group broke up and explored New York. For me and a few others, that meant MoMA, as it's free after 4 on Fridays. The top level was my absolute favourite: if you are a fan of modern art then I absolutely cannot stress enough that you should go there. Since it was free, the building was jam-packed, and the multiplicity of tongues was a magical moment by itself. There are unfortunately no pictures from MoMA: I have a deep and abiding "thing" against people who go to art galleries with a Pokémon mentality, just chasing around the place taking photos of everything and not actually looking at it.

I'm a snob. I'll admit it.

There were, however, hundreds of wonderful pieces. If you're in New York, go. It's wonderful.

After that highbrow culture, I felt in need of something a little more base. Wandering through Times Square, I was accosted and given the most charming combination of hard- and soft-sell I've ever experienced. This person was clearly an absolute pro, because while I haggled her down, I left with the distinction impression I'd lost out on the deal somewhere - and I was right. The seller hadn't mentioned the two-drink limit, and the drinks were not cheap. Not cheap at all.

That being said, when the price for a bottle of beer and a Long Island Iced Tea is the same, you'd have to be a total chump not to go for the Long Island - especially in the US, where the measures are the ones you use in your house. They're large, and they're not really "measured."

The show itself was fantastic: seeing 6 new comics and only finding one asinine and unfunny is an absolute win in my book, and the cherry on the cake was the MC who took absolutely no shit from a sexist Canadian. It was a thing of absolute beauty. It might have been the second Long Island (seriously, the thing was so strong it fought me on the way down) but after the show I managed to chat to her for half an hour and essentially just fangirled: anyone on stage kicking ass and ripping up gender stereotypes is my idea of awesome. I gave her a hug.

This country is clearly affecting me.

On my way home I dropped into an Irish bar where I got chatting to people. I was planning on one drink: I would like that made clear right now, right at the beginning.

As a consequence I will never know why we finished the night with two skittlebombs each before heading back to a hotel room, emptying the mini-bar, and then the party breaking up before I took it upon myself to walk 50 blocks home.

I knew, on a drunk level, that a block is approximately an eighth of a mile, and that 50 blocks is therefore approximately 50/8 = 6.25 miles. What we see here is the difference between knowing and understanding; I knew I would be walking 7.5 miles. I did not really understand just how incredibly far that actually is at 5am.

All together now: I am not a smart man.

It's pretty far.

Especially when you wait at every set of lights because one of your new "friends" told you about the way New York cops love to fine tourists who jaywalk.

Especially when you take a detour through Central Park and realise at night, trees all look exactly the same.

Especially when you realise you are only approximately certain of where your hostel is and the only people you can ask at this time are the kind of people who are either a) just as drunk as you or b) up to nefarious acts, because there's not really any other reason to be strolling around at 5am.

But, as I am sure you're all glad to hear, I made it back. I lived to drunkenly meander through Central Park another day.

This has been an epic blog, but it makes up for Saturday's lack (because Saturday was essentially me clutching my head and being very sad). I hope you enjoyed and I shall be back before long with some more updates.

P.S: It's Mother's Day in the UK, so if your mother's still around please speak to her. If she's not, then my thoughts are with you today of all days.

Love you Mum. I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be anywhere, without you.