Forbidden Zones
Inside the spire of the Chrysler building and other unauthorized areas

The Macy’s Parade was larger then they imagined. Towering overhead, it was truly a spectacle. Skyscraper size balloons. Flying balloons. So surreal that it didn’t make logical sense. But, there they were, right above them. Travel partners, Seth & Katy met in New York City for Thanksgiving. So far, they observed from the deck at the World Trade Center and saw a taping of Letterman, an opera at The Met with Luciano Pavarotti and Leona Mitchell, and American Buffalo with Al Pacino. One brisk blue Manhattan afternoon, walking to the Fifth Ave NY Public Library from their east side hotel, they passed the Chrysler Building, looked at each other, confirming their shared desire to go inside. Katy was slightly uncomfortable, but Seth’s confidence drew her in and she followed. She was glad she did, the lobby and the elevator doors, each inlaid with wood from all over the globe were meticulous in their detail and execution. On a whim, they got in one and punched a button for the top floor. How cool would it be to look around the private club or the observation room that was once in the spire, where stainless steel arches were punctuated by triangular windows.

Katy grew up in Texas and was one of the brightest students in her large urban high school. Of the scholarships she was offered, she accepted the one to study at Columbia University in New York City. The city slowly grew on her, she made good friends there. With a good job offer from a company in Midtown, she decided to look for an apartment in the city. She never returned to Texas, except to visit her family. The fear instilled in her by her fundamentalist conservative childhood had taken root and encouraged Katy to obey, play by the rules, and avoid confrontation. However, the openness and diversity of the city helped her see that most of her fears were not based on rational thought. She became a new person in the energy that drives Manhattan.

Seth was a Professor of Design History in the upper Midwest, amateur off-site NYC historian, and a New Yorkophile. He loved the big city within minutes of his first visit. He felt grounded - these were his people. This was his place. If not for a teaching job that he loved, he would have moved to the city. He was enveloped by fundamentalist roots in Texas, similar to Katy. But, he went the other way - he rebelled. Seth was more open to exploration and discovery. He was proud of being a rulebreaker.

Seth & Katy did make a great team. Seth admired the steadfastness and stability Katy enjoyed. Katy respected Seth and admired his zest for life. This helped her overcome her resistance of going into unauthorized places.

As shown in maps and satellite views, the footprint of the Chrysler Building in Manhattan has an unusual angle on its eastern boundary that doesn't respect the alignment of the street grid. This piqued Seth’s curiosity. Most unusual. He sought the answer. Most people weren't even aware of the angle and those few that were aware did not know why that side of the building was built at an angle.

Historic maps show a country road angling right along where the Chrysler would later be built. That was the old Boston Post Road, which snaked up past the farms and pastures on the east side, mostly between today’s Third and Second Avenues. Along this road was carried news of the Declaration of Independence to Connecticut and Boston. After the street grid was established in 1811, the city transferred titles of the abandoned roadbed to buyers. When the map of the streets around the Chrysler Building was overlaid with the older map - it was a perfect match. That explains the odd angle on the side of the building. The Streetscapes columnist for The New York Times confirmed Seth’s research and assumption.

The top elevator button read 82. Wow, that has to be up in the spire, Seth surmised. Katy just nodded, although she, too, was excited by their potential destination. They were close to the very top. On 82, they stepped into a hallway that was only large enough to hug the elevator shaft. They realized they sure might be in the crown of the building. They tried a door - it opened. Whoa (this was well before increased security). Seth stepped in, Katy right behind him, and they wandered through the abandoned spaces. There were remnants of Art Deco details in the trim, wallpaper, light fixtures, and what one could see of the carpet. They gazed out the triangular windows to the city below. They felt honored and humbled when they realized how few people saw the inside of the iconic spire.


On the gargoyle balcony

The students huddled on the sidewalk up against the Chrysler building. Some New Yorkers get a bit perturbed if too many tourists block or impede their hurried movement to wherever they’re going. So they flattened themselves against the wall along 42nd Street. Guiding a NYC Study Tour of college students, Seth spoke briefly about the history of the building.

Designed by William van Alan, the Chrysler Building opened in 1931 with Celestial, a star-themed observatory in the base of the spire, on the 71st floor. There were views of the city from all four sides for 50¢. Celestial closed in 1945. Below the Celestial, on floors 66 to 68, was the Cloud Club. Initially designed for use by Texaco (Texas Company), only men were allowed to enter. The club had a barber shop, lockers for members to store their own alcohol, and a wood-paneled bar that hid the alcohol during Prohibition. There was a stock ticker for the high powered financiers. The Cloud Club closed in 1979.

Seth shared the plan - that he had once been up into the spire at the top of the building and he wanted to try it again, this time with the college students. He presented the plan that he thought of there on the sidewalk.
• He described the lobby layout, the location of the guard station and the shortest route to an elevator.
• They had to look like they belonged in the building. Seth often gets into unauthorized areas by simply appearing that he belongs there or that he is authorized.
• Put away all cameras, maps, food, and anything else that screamed ‘tourist’. This was before smart phones with cameras.
• Act professional, as if they were heading to a meeting in the building. Avoid eye contact, appear engrossed in thought. Walk briskly with a purpose.
• Notice the surroundings, but do not gawk.

Once they were ready, Seth held open the 42nd Street door, let the group enter, and walked to the front to lead them through the lobby. They made it past the guards. As they approached the bank of elevators, Seth heard the familiar ding announcing the arrival of an elevator. This gave him a sense of urgency and purpose. Only a couple of people got off and the group slid inside the cab while Seth hurriedly punched the top floor button. The sooner those doors closed, the sooner he would sigh his relief. He tried again to get up into the very top spire but could find no access. Floor 82 was no longer accessible, the button did not light up. Nor did any of them between 82 and 71. On the 65th floor, the button Seth finally pushed, was the Tunisian Consulate, before it had moved to Beekman Place. The door was locked. There was an intercom to speak to someone - receptionist or security. Seth stumbled over his unusual request and emphasized the notion of students in the big city. No luck. Dejectedly, he turned to the students,
"Well, we tried.”
They went back to the elevator.

On the way down, two professional women joined them - they were sympathetic to their mission - design students seeking to explore the top of the building.
"Oh, we work on the 71st floor, go back up and ask Colleen.”
Colleen was the receptionist in their office. On the 71st floor are the balconies with protruding gargoyles that help distinguish the Chrysler Building from the other skyscrapers. Their excitement showed in their thanks to the women. Approaching the lobby level, Seth urged the students to squeeze into the corner that was least visible to the guards. Seeing a group get off the elevator and go right back up would be a red flag that he didn’t want to risk. No one else got on, He rapidly punched two buttons, Floor 71 and Close Doors.

On the 71st floor, there was no hall or lobby, the elevator doors opened directly into the reception desk and Colleen. She looked at them, somewhat surprised by the group and somewhat bothered by the interruption. She was reluctant to let anyone onto the balcony. The only access was through the boardroom, and she was preparing for a meeting there in a few minutes. Seth and the students, of course, cared about none of that and continued their plea. Seth let the students do the talking. Colleen relented, asked to keep the visit to a few minutes, and led them through the boardroom to the window access to the balcony.

It was spectacular. The sun was setting on the towers of Manhattan. The huge stainless steel gargoyles were magnificent in their majestic Deco styling. It was a breathtaking treat. Seth had promised Colleen they would not stay out there long, so they climbed back through the open window into the boardroom, apology shrugged to the two early arrivals in their suits, and thanked Colleen profusely. On down to the lobby, walking smugly past the guards and back to the streets of New York City that the normal person sees.


The Yucatan Observation deck

Seth & Katy spent Spring Break in Cancun. The first day, they rented a car and drove inland to see the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá. They checked in at the hotel next to the site and spent the afternoon exploring the former Mayan complex. Dominating Chichén Itzá is the Temple of Kukulcán. The step pyramid stands almost 100 feet high with the 20 foot high temple on the summit. A Pre-Columbian observation deck.

Around the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, in the late afternoon, a corner of the pyramid casts a series of triangular shadows against the balustrade that evokes the appearance of a serpent wriggling down the staircase, which some scholars have suggested is a representation of the feathered-serpent deity, Kukulcán. Today, a sound and light show replicates that phenomenon.

Back to the hotel for Corona cervesas, dinner, and later that night, the Sound & Light show for an entertaining view of the Mayan grounds and buildings. Mexican time is often on its own schedule. Things happen when its time, not always when the schedule dictates. This, however, was an unusually long wait. Suddenly, all the lights went out. Seth & Katy thought the show was beginning. Staff appeared and apologized. Several times. Finally, someone stepped up to announce that they were unable to restore power. Turns out, the outage covered most of the Yucatan peninsula. Amid the groans of the crowd, Seth & Katy started to walk back to the hotel with only moonlight guiding them. As they got closer to the large pyramid, Seth looked at the staircase and turned to Katy,
“We’ve gotta climb up to the top.”
There was no barrier or signage stopping them. It might not have mattered even if there were. Katy paused to consider the decision, but was encouraged by others following Seth up the stone staircase. She joined the ascension line.

She sat on the top stone step next to Seth, who realized there were likely sacrifices right where they were sitting. Although later archaeologists found no evidence of that - sacrifices were more likely at ground level where sacrificial boys were thrown in a cenote, a sinkhole, thought to be the portal to the underworld. They sat mesmerized by the still night, a dome of bright stars overhead, and the treetops of the Yucatan jungle lit by the full moon. The experience of looking over the top of the jungle by moonlight was so worth the climb and the effort.


Abandoned Mall

Prestonwood Town Center, a mega-mall with 5 anchor stores, ice skating, and movie theaters, had been closed and was sitting empty. Seth and a friend went through Neiman's (the last store to move) to a temporary plywood wall blocking the entrance to the mall. A gap, just large enough to squeeze through, begged their admittance. They scanned for witnesses and slid on in. They had the full run of the large mall in its quiet abandoned state. They each shared fond memories of the busy mall and were now walking the same paths, but now with empty shops and walkways and only the sound of their footsteps and their echoed voices. Even the large clocktower in the center court was silent and still. The natural light coming in from the skylights cast a soft ambiance. Eerie, and fascinating.


In the university underworld

Seth’s room was the gathering spot for the four freshmen living in the northeast wing of the Prather Hall dorm. Almost nightly bull sessions covered all the topics that are standard for freshmen away from home for the first time. This night, they were talking about the movie 2001. About when HAL’s name came up, Marty bust into the room, flushed and excited.

“You won’t believe where I’ve been. There are tunnels underground, large enough to stand up in. Let’s go exploring.”
Of course, the guys were intrigued; they followed Marty back to the tunnel access he had just come from. Next to a power plant, they saw the open utility door, about four feet square. They climbed through it. What lay before them was just astounding: a network of utility tunnels running in multiple directions, probably connecting every building to the steam and power plants located around campus.

The next time they came out in another of those physical plant buildings, through a normal door. Several nights over period of a couple months, different groups of dorm mates would go spelunking. Once, they were walking north through a tunnel and stopped to talk about something, no one remembers what. Lit by a few bare bulbs strung along the ceiling above some pipes, there were eerie shadows and pockets of dark. When they turned to go back the way they came, there was a man standing about twenty feet down the tunnel, just still and silent, standing there and staring at them. They were spooked. They turned to escape out of there. A few steps later, Seth turned around and looked back in the tunnel and it was completely empty. He told the other guys, they slowly retraced their route, but saw no man and no other means of egress other than running straight ahead down the long tunnel and they would've seen somebody running away. They stumbled into each other to get out. They were through exploring for that night.

In his senior year, Seth was being honored, with numerous other students at Parents Day, held in the auditorium of the new LBJ library on campus. At one intermission, Seth went out the side door and found a restroom. While standing at the urinal, an older large man came in and stood at the stall next to him. There were only two urinal stalls. Etiquette dictates that a man always leaves a vacant urinal between two users. The architects made that impossible in this case, only two urinals. Another firm etiquette rule is that a man doesn’t look at a man in the next stall. Seth didn’t need to, he recognized him in his peripheral vision. It was former President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Seth was flustered. “What do I say? Do?”
After a minute or two, before either had finished their business, Seth looked over and said,
“Sir, I would regret it if I didn’t shake your hand.”
Long pause. Seth had finished. The large man silently zipped up his pants, stepped over to the sink, and washed his hands. Then, LBJ turned around and shook Seth’s hand. Seth whispered,
“An honor to meet you, sir.”
Seth didn’t remember if there was a verbal response - he realized he had interrupted the president’s routine. Feeling embarrassed, Seth left the room, noticing as he left, that the president returned to the urinal to finish what he came to do.

The Buckingham Palace Guard talked

Seth was in jet lag. While excited to be in London, he couldn't sleep. About 3am, he quietly dressed, gently shut the hotel room door, walked the immediate neighborhood, and ended up at Buckingham Palace. He walked right up to the fence surrounding the site. There was no one else in sight. The Palace was lit and the fountains behind him performed their gurgling ballet. As he was admiring the design and craftsmanship of the Palace, a guard stiffly approached. Instead of walking away, Seth stayed at the fence, and after they exchanged smiles, spoke to the guard. They're probably not supposed to speak to tourists, but this guy may have been lonely that early in the morning or late at night, depending on his shift hours. The next morning over breakfast, Seth’s roommate asked what they talked about.
“Just guard-to-tourist dialogue. I did ask about the peculiarities of guarding an icon and his interactions with tourists. He did confirm that he is forbidden to speak,
“But, I was so intrigued that someone would be at the gate at 3:30. I had to check. Let’s keep this between us.”


The Yiddish Theater District

That’s Philip Glass, the composer. Sure enough, through the second floor window of a nondescript low-rise building near Second Avenue, the minimalist composer was walking around his apartment. From their vantage point, they could only see his head and shoulders for brief glimpses. Glass seemed deep in discussion with himself or another person, unseen, but likely. Philip Glass is a prolific and influential composer whose compositions exude minimalism, a music format based on repetitive phrases and rich layers of calm joy and introspection.

Katy had pointed him out to Seth as they walked the Lower East Side, heading uptown. Philip Glass was one of Seth’s favorite composers and pianists. He was like a child seeing Santa or any other person bearing toys. The gawking pair must have looked like any number of tourists seeing a celebrity in the city. Though most tourists would not recognize this one by sight, or even by much of his music. His huge library of work is for orchestras, ensembles, soloists, piano, and films: the Koyaanisqatsi trilogy, Hamburger Hill, The Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time, Candyman, The Secret Agent, The Truman Show, and Dracula.

Seth had to get a photo. So, he did. Continuing on their exploration uptown on Second Avenue, they got to Sixth Street and suddenly stopped. On the busy sidewalk, a recognition struck Seth. The banking lobby in front of them was originally for the Fillmore East, rock promoter Bill Graham's companion to the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. This very corner was the center of east coast psychedelic music culture from 1968 to 1971.

The theatre was originally built in 1926 as the Commodore. This section of Second Avenue was the Yiddish Theater District, which once had more than a dozen theaters. When Bill Graham took over the theatre in 1968, it was unused and had fallen into disrepair. A few of the bands that played in the theater where Seth & Katy stood: Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Chicago, Ike & Tina Turner, Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and The Who. Most were accompanied by psychedelic light shows. The Fillmore was razed for an apartment building, now only the marquee and lobby remain, used as a bank.

Harrison Wiseman, designer of the Commodore, designed another Yiddish Theater, now the Village East Cinema. Seth & Katy stopped to admire the ornate old theater. They were at the corner of Second and 12th. This was the last surviving theater from the Yiddish Theater era; alumni include composers George and Ira Gershwin and Irving Berlin. Admiring the building was not enough, though, Seth had to get inside. He confidently opened a door and walked up a brief ramp to the ticket taker standing in an opening in the velvet rope swags. Katy stayed in her comfort zone and hung back at the entrance. She knew New York City better than her friend - he won’t get in. She knew that strangers don’t get to just walk into closed spaces without a ticket or authorization. Seth had neither.

Katy was glancing around the ornate entryway when she noticed a well-dressed woman walk out from the left and up to the ticket taker. She could see the arms of the three of them gesture their concerns. Sure that the manager was explaining why Seth couldn’t go in without a ticket, even to ‘just look around’. Katy was about to smugly go back out to Second Avenue. Seth gestured to her to come on up. He had a slight grin. Katy was unconvinced. Maybe they just want to share some theater stories with them. Before she could get halfway up the ramp, Seth and the manager were already walking towards the auditorium door. Seth waved her on to join them. Katy was still in awe that he had pulled this off. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen in New York City. She got to them to hear the manager share the story of the theater.

This was the Jaffe Theater, built in 1925-26 by Louis Jaffe, a lawyer, developer and prominent Jewish leader. It was once the home of the Yiddish Art Theater, which produced many creative figures of the American stage. Actors, directors, writers and designers. It had a major influence on theatrical form and content. Later, the theater was a vaudeville house, then an off-Broadway theater, housing the original productions of “Grease” and “Joseph & the Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which both went on to Broadway.
She knew her stuff, maybe she had done this before. The three of them turned left and walked down a dark hallway to a pair of entrance doors. She was about to open the door when Seth whispered to the manager he was uncomfortable interrupting the movie in progress. He didn’t want to disturb the viewers. The manager nodded her understanding and, while in the hallway, shared some more history. “The 1,252-seat theater was completed at a cost of one million dollars. You’ll see ornamentation with a variety of motifs - Moorish, Islamic, and Judaic references. The most significant sight, however, is the ornate and colorful ceiling, regarded as one of the most remarkable works of plaster craftsmanship in New York City.” It seemed to Katy that this lady was proud of her theater and enjoyed showing it off. They hit upon the right person.

Stepping inside the auditorium, Seth better understood why the manager wasn’t too concerned - the rear orchestra had been walled off to form two additional theaters. They were standing in front of that wall, right beneath the balcony overhang. The audience was back and above their heads. They weren’t visually disturbing. Seth looked up to see the beautifully restored ceiling detail. An elaborate circular medallion within which is a Star of David and an elaborate double-tiered metal chandelier. Katy relaxed and enjoyed the beauty and craftsmanship of what they were able to experience.

When they stepped back into the city, she asked Seth,
“How do you do that? How do you talk your way into places that are off-limits?”
Seth was already heading over to the Astor Place Subway station. Katy didn’t get an answer.


Union Square roof dome

Katy didn’t need to text that she was in Union Square. That is where Seth & Katy met every time Seth was in the city. Often at the sunlit statue of Mohandas Gandhi, but this time under the shade of the trees around the statue of Abe Lincoln. Katy lived farther uptown and it was an easy train ride to Union. Not named after the Union army, or work unions. It was simply a reference to the open area where several streets and avenues joined and passed on through. A union of streets. It was a beautiful New York day in the park, a welcome respite from city bustle. Katy was sitting on the bench closest to the statue. She was Watching. People watching is one of the main social events in the city.

Walking along 14th Street, Seth passed the site of the Jefferson Theatre, a vaudeville venue that featured the Marx Brothers, Mae West, Jack Benny, and Fred Allen. George Burns called it "the toughest house in New York.” He nodded recognition, even though it is now just an empty lot. He entered Union Square by the chess players, lunchers, and activists; along the tree-lined sidewalks up to the border with the Union Square Market. He turned towards the Abe Lincoln statue and easily spotted Katy. They sat on the bench and covered current events, personal updates, and what to do with the day in the city. It had been a while since Seth was last in the city; they had a lot to catch up on. After about 10 minutes of back and forth chatter, Seth turned to look at Katy, but he was distracted by something he hadn’t seen before. On top of the three story building just beyond his gaze was what looked like a partial geodesic dome. “Look at that!”, he said, interrupting Katy. It would be the starting point of that day’s adventures and he knew they would later continue their conversation as they wandered the neighborhood.

Seth had an app that gave concise histories of buildings along major Manhattan streets, such as this one on Union Square East. The Tammany Hall Building, erected in 1929 for the Tammany Society, was an influential club for Democratic officials. Named after Chief Tamanend, a lover of peace and friendship, of the Lenape who originally occupied New York City, Tammany Hall extensively used Native American titles and terminology - their headquarters was called the Wigwam. The building design was inspired by Federal Hall in Lower Manhattan - Tammany Hall wanted to appear as a stately government building. Tammany Hall built a loyal, well-rewarded core of precinct leaders, but also was a base for graft and political corruption, most famously under William "Boss" Tweed.

Often, the Wigwam was used for other unions' events: firefighters, sanitation workers, the United Federation of Teachers, newspaper deliverers, drivers of taxicabs, and Teamsters unions. That may be why many people think Union Square was named after the unions. Tammany Hall lost its influence in the 1930s; the building was sold to the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union in 1943. The auditorium became the Union Square Theatre; the Theater District was on its decades-long march from Second Avenue uptown to 42nd Street.
“Let’s see if we can get up there.”

Katy’s reaction was to squelch this notion. As usual, she felt sure that they wouldn’t be able to gain access. But she also knew that Seth had a way of getting what he wanted. So she smiled slight approval to the plan. They crossed the street while simultaneously avoiding cars and gazing up to the roof. Katy noticed that the first floor was vacant with For Lease placards in the windows. Katy checked a couple doors. Seth explained that the way to the roof would not likely be along the street as that footage facing Union Square was prime retail space. There were some signs of construction but they could see no people inside. They walked along the side street and Seth guessed their way in would be through the last door towards the back of the building. That door was propped open. Seth walked right in. Katy held back for a second.

The deep rectangular room was empty except for a utility desk that looked like it came from a classroom. Sitting at the desk was Celia, wearing a security uniform and busy eating her lunch. Seth acknowledged her authority and, after introductions said,
“Hey, this is a great building. And, there’s a dome on the roof.”
Celia was nodding - she seemed pleasantly sociable. They all chatted a bit. Then, Seth got back to the dome.
“Can we go up and see the roof space?”
Celia apologized and said the building was only for workers.
“I can’t let you up there.”
Seth, as he often does when he enters forbidden zones, didn’t let that sway their mission. He simply responded,
“Yes, you can.”
They all chuckled, maybe due to discomfort, maybe because of Seth’s brashness and determination, but still a chuckle. They had made a connection. Celia paused and smiled,
“Okay, I’m gonna take you guys up there.”

She put her fork down, walked around the desk, and removed the small concrete block that was holding the door open. The door clicked its status as Locked. She led Seth & Katy to the elevator in the back corner. While riding up, Celia revealed that, once the building got its preservation status, renovation preserved the facade while gutting the interior for office and retail spaces and adding a glass dome to the roof. She was sounding like a tour guide now, and, for the moment, she was just that. The dome has more than 12,000 square feet of glass. The dome was designed with classical proportions when observed from Union Square. The dome was completed a year ago, but no one has yet leased the space.
The doors opened and two steps out of the elevator the majesty of the space overwhelmed them. They could manage a stutter. It was beautiful. The views of the park, a large column-free room in the city, and the nature from the park ahead of them. One could see no cars, trucks, or busy sidewalks. Just freedom, sun and sky, and trees. They stepped over a few tools and a few sheets of drywall laying flat on the concrete floor to let the space intrude upon them. They were on top of the former Tammany Hall, across the park was the Decker Building where Andy Warhol had his studio, The Factory. Their attention turned back to Celia and her consideration. Back in the elevator, the three of them raved about such a unique space for the Union Square neighborhood. Thanking her and letting her get back to her lunch, they entered the chaos of the city.

They crossed Union Square to a coffee shop nearby for their afternoon jolt. Something was on Katy’s mind, but she refrained from sharing until they found a table. The line wasn’t too long. They placed their orders and sat in the back area that has a view of the courtyard. They barely sat down when their names were called. Seth picked up their Americano and Cold Brew, each with oat milk, and two oatmeal raisin cookies. Katy didn’t want to talk about more current events or the city. She sincerely wanted to know what gave Seth the confidence to get into places where he shouldn’t. Where he’s not allowed. Where he’s not authorized. Places that are forbidden.
“How do you do that?”

She caught him mid-bite,
A muffled “What?”
“We just got into a closed construction site in Manhattan. Hardly anybody can do that. You did it with ease. How do you do that?”
Seth hadn’t really thought about it before. It seemed to be his nature. Katy’s question made him curious. How is he able to get into so many unauthorized places. Seth,
“Maybe its from teaching problem solving and creativity for 25 years. Creative people must be willing to try new things, take risks, and see the world differently. They go places they’ve not been before. That help?”
“Yeah, a little. You do seem to have maintained a sense of wonder, curiosity, and discovery. Not many adults still have that attitude.”
“What attitude?”
“Things that are easy for children - awe, wonder, explore. But how do you get past the barriers?”

Seth paused to take another bite and a sip. Katy waited patiently. Seth often authorizes himself to enter forbidden spaces. The signs never clarify Authorized by whom? To Seth,
“The word Forbidden is just a descriptor, not a regulation.”
Seth found it hard to convey how to overcome fears.
“Is it that our fears that hold us back and encourage us to follow the rules?”
“Maybe.”
“But, I’ve realized that great experiences often happen outside my comfort zone.”
Katy was looking for something more specific,
“We’ve been to some great places: inside the Chrysler spire, the old Yiddish Theater, Tammany Hall roof deck. Think how few native New Yorkers have been to any of those places, much less all of them. How?”
“I try to convey a non-threatening demeanor. To help put the person at ease. And I smile, sincerely.”
“Okay, makes sense.”

“Here’s a tip: When seeking permission, find and speak with the decision maker who can authorize. If you can’t find that person, just do it anyway.”
Katy nodded,
“Like the old phrase, it may be better to beg forgiveness than to seek permission.”
“Sure, but I rarely have to even beg forgiveness.”
Seth paused again, ignoring his coffee. This dialogue was more intriguing.
“I also try to get people to laugh. Laughter provides a connection and eases some tension.”
Katy had lots to think about. She knew she often held herself back. She would have missed out on some great adventures. They both sat in silence, enjoying the background music and the snacks. After a while, Seth offered,
“Lets head uptown to see what we can find.”

Chrysler Building angled plot line:



Inside the spire:


The gargoyle balcony:

The pyramid at Chichén Itzá by moonlight:


The clocktower at Prestonwood Center in better days:


The tunnels under campus:


Green Park and the fence at Buckingham Palace:


Tammany Hall roof, upper right:



© James Robert Watson, PhD, 1995, 2022
www.jamesrobertwatson.com/storyforbidden.html