1988

All posts tagged 1988

I’m nearly certain that our 1988 trip to Baltimore was the second time I’d been there. The first time would have been our 1980 trip, when we visited Washington, DC, I think, and we stayed overnight in Baltimore at a Holiday Inn that was off the beaten path and I think we went to Fort McHenry, but don’t quote me on that.

This trip, we stayed at a hotel closer to the Inner Harbor. I remember taking the Skywalk (which they are apparently demolishing, much to my dismay) from our hotel to the Inner Harbor. We spent a lot of time exploring the Harborplace mall. When I was 11, we moved from our small house to a larger one in the town next door. The people who bought our old house wanted us out immediately and the people who owned our new house didn’t want to move until early July. Fortunately, the people who (31 years later) became my ex-in-laws offered to let us stay in their house for a few weeks of that, beginning around the middle of June. That still left us several weeks without a home. We ended up staying in one of those motels that had those little cottages during this time. Watching the four walls of our cottage drove my folks crazy and so we started visiting shopping malls just to get out of the house. We called this activity “malling” and we would occasionally “mall” in travel destinations. So when we found a new (not just new-to-us, but it seemed to be recently constructed as well) mall in Baltimore, of course we malled there. Why wouldn’t we?

One of the oddest things about the Inner Harbor is the World Trade Center building. The Inner Harbor area is paved with these large red sort of cement flagstones, and suddenly, in the middle of this big open area, there’s the World Trade Center. I don’t even recall the building being labeled. It took me years (until after I got the Internet) to figure out what that building had been. I wondered briefly if it was an apartment building of some sort, but it was locked up really well, which seemed like it might be a danger to the residents if there were a fire. There’s an observation deck at the top, but I don’t think I’ve ever been there when it was open. Maybe on a future visit I’ll get a chance to go up there.

We also visited Westminster Hall and the grave of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was originally buried at the back of the graveyard, near his grandfather, but the grave grew neglected and a schoolteacher, Sara Sigourney Rice, spearheaded the effort to buy a new headstone for the grave. They didn’t just put up a new headstone, though. They exhumed and moved his entire body. So today Poe is buried near the front of the graveyard under a large four-sided monument with a bronze medallion of his face on one side.

Constellation in Baltimore 1988

The USS Constellation with the World Trade Center behind it, 1988

Our purpose for being in Baltimore was to visit the USS Constellation, the last sail ship built by the United States Navy, and the place where my paternal grandfather trained when he joined the Navy. How did my grandfather train on a ship that had been used in the Civil War? Well, the Constellation had been in service for nearly 100 years when it was finally retired in 1954. However, my paternal grandfather was also born a long time ago. As you can probably surmise from some of the things I’ve said, I’m no spring chicken, and my father was, not old, but not in the first blush of youth when I was born. My grandfather was almost the age that I am now when my dad was born. So, yeah. He trained for the Navy on a sail-powered ship that had been used in the Civil War.

The tour of the Constellation was very interesting, but it made me glad that I didn’t have to travel like that. I would like a yacht someday, so that I can travel to other countries with my critters, but that’s a yacht and not a Civil-War-era battleship. The Constellation seemed kind of claustrophobic and it didn’t seem like there would be a lot of air circulation in there (windows weren’t a high priority in the 1850s, apparently).  In 1994, they declared the Constellation to be dangerous and took it completely apart to repair it. They put it back together looking better than it had when we were there. The inside is now brighter than I recall it being, but it still has that pesky lack of windows that make it not someplace I would like to spend an entire ocean voyage.

I started writing this, thinking that Independence Hall would have been our first stop once we got our bearings, but apparently we went to Christ Church first.  I considered bumping this back and running Christ Church first, but that puts this post as launching after we get back from Utah/Montana/Wyoming/Colorado, and I really need to queue up the posts for when we’re gone first. By the way, assuming that our flight out goes as planned, as you read this, Alex and I are in a rental car driving from our hotel in Montana to Dinosaur National Monument.

Alex and I didn’t get to Independence Hall in 2015. After the debacle of getting to Rome in 2014 caused us to lose somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 (you’ll hear the whole story later, but for now, bad weather caused us to miss our connection out of Atlanta, which put us into Rome 10 hours late.  Unfortunately, I’d only booked the train tickets about six hours after our plane was due to land, so we missed the train (with nonrefundable tickets) by four hours), I hesitated to book too much in advance on the 2015 trip. Even buying the train tickets to Philadelphia made me nervous, and that part of the trip was planned for the Saturday of a trip that started on a Tuesday. Long story short, we walked around Independence Hall and I gave Alex the $0.05 lecture on the significance of the building, but we never actually got inside.

Fortunately, I have gotten into Independence Hall. I cannot remember if we got our tickets ahead of time or not, but I suspect we didn’t. This was the days before everyone had Web access in their homes. I do remember that we bought our Statue of Liberty tickets the morning of the trip out to Liberty Island, so we probably picked up the Independence Hall tickets the same day as that tour, as well.

For those not in the United States (or for those in the United States who have forgotten their United States history), Independence Hall stands in Independence National Historical Park, which also includes (but is not limited to) other sites such as the Liberty Bell Center, the First and Second United States Banks, and the President’s House, the archaeological site of the presidential mansion from the final years of the presidency of George Washington and the early years of the presidency of John Adams. The President’s House, which was excavated in the early 21st Century (and thus we may have walked right over it without knowing it in 1988), is also a monument to the African-Americans who lived in enslaved conditions in colonial days. Particular focus is put on Oney Judge, who had been “on loan” to George Washington and who escaped from the President’s House on May 21, 1796.

Independence Hall was the first capitol building of the United States of America. It served as the meeting place for the Continental Congress.  The building is probably most famous for being the site where the Declaration of Independence was signed, though it is also where the Constitutional Convention was held.  Originally, the founders passed something called the Articles of Confederation, which lasted for about eight years.  When their first attempt turned out to be a big failure, Congress reconvened and passed a whole new set of laws providing for a whole new arrangement for the government, and that is the constitution that the United States of America has today.

Independence Hall has changed much over the intervening centuries.  They added a clock to the side of the building, then removed the clock, then put the clock back up.  They apparently completely gutted the building at one point. The interior that we have today is relatively recent — the National Park Service did a major renovation on the building when they took it over. The project took from 1951 until 1973. I’m looking for pictures of what the building looked like prior to the renovation. I have a horrible thought that it might have had one of those drop ceilings with the foam acoustic tiles, but perhaps since the renovation started in 1951, the building was spared that indignity, at least.

Independence Hall, 1988

Independence Hall, 1988. You can’t see it, but the Centennial Bell (in the steeple) was ringing as I took this picture).

We stayed in a hotel close to Independence Hall while we were in Philadelphia, and so I got used to hearing the Centennial Bell ringing. Knowing that it would be the last time I’d hear that sound for quite a while (it ended up being, what? 27 years?), I took the above picture as it rang on our last day there.

On the tour, they talked about the history of the building, including the renovations.  It’s still neat, though, to stand in the building where such important stuff happened. And sure, you’re not standing in exactly the same place as the founders stood when they did their founding, but at least you’re looking out the same windows?

Alex and my trip to New York City covered pretty much everything we did in New York City in 1988, with two exceptions.  1.  the United Nations, and 2. The American Museum of Natural History. We fit a lot of things that we didn’t do in 1988 into our 2015 trip, though, and you can see them all under my 2015 Vacation category.

So, today we’ll focus on the United Nations.

At least in the United States, we tend to glorify World War II. At least in Europe, the United States was clearly on the side of the good guys. The Nazis were killing their own citizens by the millions.  It’s really hard not to be on the side of the angels when your enemies are that bad.

During the war, the “Allies” as they are commonly known (the countries that were fighting against Germany, Italy, and Japan) decided that they needed to find a way to avoid wars like this in the future. They began in 1941 with the Atlantic Charter, an agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom, and then about four and a half months later, 26 countries signed the Declaration of the United Nations. By the end of the war, the United Nations included 50 countries who signed the Charter of the United Nations in 1945. Of course, eventually Germany (then the nations of East Germany and West Germany), Italy, and Japan did join the United Nations.

The stated goal of the United Nations was to avoid a conflict like World War II from ever happening again. As an attempt to avoid all wars, it has been a pretty spectacular failure. The United States, in particular, has taken up arms in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, at the very least, in the years since 1945.  Other countries have had their own conflicts, as well.

Has it avoided World War III? Perhaps the situation hasn’t arisen that would have ended up being World War III, but I like to think that just maybe it has. Unless, of course, future historians decide that the conflict in the Middle East that began in 2001 and involves something like 40 different countries, has been World War III, which I don’t think is an impossible development.

My own interest in the United Nations started in the 1970s, when Diana Prince (civilian alter ego of Wonder Woman) worked there. When I ended up being pretty good with foreign languages (a trait I inherited from my maternal great-grandmother, who spoke five), I thought about majoring in a foreign language and becoming a translator and perhaps I would have been good enough to get work at the United Nations.  We’ll probably never know. As I told you in my previous post on our 1988 trip, I was beginning to date the man who is now my ex-husband at that point.  I opted not to major in a foreign language because I knew that I was already only going to be able to see him every few weeks. I didn’t want to have to live in a foreign country for a semester (or more!) and miss seeing him for 16 or 32 weeks.

Delegates' Entrance to the United Nations, 1988

The old Delegates’ Entrance to the United Nations. This sign, at least, was gone when we were there in 2015. I think that the delegates now enter with everyone else.

When we visited the United Nations in 1988, we walked from our midtown hotel to the UN building. We walked down 45th street, so close to Grand Central Terminal that we could practically touch it.  Grand Central was on my list of places that I wanted to see in person, but we were on a schedule, so my folks and I kept walking. We made up for that in 2015.

The original hope for the United Nations was that they would find someplace unclaimed by any nation to hold their headquarters. That ended up being impracticable, so they decided on New York City as the location.  John D. Rockefeller bought an 18-acre parcel of land that used to hold a slaughterhouse and donated it to the United Nations. The United States ceded the land to the United Nations, so the headquarters is no longer part of the United States, though all of the laws that apply in New York City are enforced at the United Nations. The United Nations headquarters uses the US dollar as its currency, but it has its own stamps.

When we visited, none of the various organs of the United Nations were in session. This was bad because we didn’t get to see any of the activities of the United Nations, but it was also a good thing because our tour guide was able to talk about the General Assembly and the Security Council and things in the chambers themselves, which made it more interesting.

One of the most memorable parts of the tour, though, was the disarmament room.  This room has various artifacts in it, most notably coins and a statue that were in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the nuclear blasts there. Our tour guide told us that the delegates had to walk through that room to get to the General Assembly chamber.  I don’t know if that was true then, and I am less certain of that now that the delegates apparently have to go through security with everyone else.

Alex and I are planning a return trip to New York City as part of our 2017 trip to Canada (which I’ve already saved up for).  The United Nations is going to be the top of our list of things to see if/when we do make that return trip.

I read a lot.  I also was exposed to the usual amount of other media (movies, television, music, etc.). And about half of those movies and televisions shows (and a fair number of books) are set in New York City.  As a result, they throw out names of landmarks like they’re things everyone should know.  As just one example that sticks out right now, in Tootsie, Michael and George (his agent) meet for lunch at the Russian Tea Room. Well, George doesn’t know that it’s Michael he’s meeting, but that’s beside the point.  But they just drop that name there — Russian Tea Room — like it’s something we should know.  Other names are dropped into media, like Central Park, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building*, and Grand Central Station and I desperately wanted to actually see them. To visit them and make them real to me and not just names in a movie/television show/book/song**.

And besides that, I have always loved Chicago.  When I was growing up, the only city in the country larger than Chicago was New York City.  So I kind of figured that if I loved Chicago, I should love New York City, as well. And I wanted to go to see if that held true (and it really does, though I still love Chicago more).

Back in 1981 when we went to Niagara Falls, I asked my folks if we could go to New York City while we were “there.” Of course, they aren’t actually that close together; it’s still a six-hour drive. Niagara Falls is, however, a heck of a lot closer to New York City than Chicago is. My mother was actually disgusted by the idea. She had been to New York for the World’s Fair in 1964 and she said that the city was dirty and disgusting and she never wanted to go back.

George Washington Bridge, 1988

The George Washington Bridge, on our way into New York City from New Jersey, 1988

In 1988, I started dating the man who’s now my ex-husband (and I really need him to pick a pseudonym — otherwise I’ll just start calling him Thomas (I used a random number generator to pick a number between 1 and 100 and then consulted a list of the top 100 names from the year he was born and that’s the result). We’d been dating for about six months by then and that was the longest I’d ever dated anyone. My mom was pretty sure we were in it for the long haul and so, since this might be my last family vacation with them (I actually went on one more, in 1989), she asked me where I wanted to go. There was really no competition. I asked for the one city I’d always asked for — New York City. And, finally, I got my wish.

Oh, by the way, my mom said that New York City was much nicer than she remembered and that she wished we’d planned to stay another couple of days.

* In the song “Hard-Knock Life” in Annie, they mimic Miss Hannigan saying that the floor should shine like the top of the Chrysler Building. I was 13 or so the first time I heard this and I asked my mom. She didn’t know, but obviously the audience was expected to.

**Or idiom in the case of “Grand Central Station,” which has come to mean a busy place.