March 2000
s m u g
by Heidi Pollock

Note: We are currently seeking solicitations for Mysterydates: Field reports from places most people don't go - like CONS, boat shows, livestock auctions, large public niche events. If you have something in your area you'd like to write about, please write the editor at

No one in New York City goes to Queens. Except of course to take the airplane from JFK to get out of there. Being one-stop from midtown's Bloomingdale's, somehow Queens is "too far away" to visit. Being the largest boro of the bunch and the single most ethnically diverse county in the United States somehow there is "nothing to do" there.

People who live on the island of Manhattan can be so small-minded sometimes. They may very well be living in one of the largest, greatest cities on the planet but the minor subsection of the city (and the world) that they occupy is staggeringly slight. To understand how tiny the area that they, we and all of Hollywood generally thinks of as the totality of New York City is to understand a lot more than just geography. Sadly this understanding is lost to many people because the one tool capable of their enlightenment is housed in the aforementioned far off land of Queens.

The Panorama of the City of New York is a full scale model of the entire City of New York. It is a permanent attraction at the Queens Museum of Modern Art in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. And it is mind boggling. Awesome. Unparalleled. It's a real, honest-to-goodness  f u l l  s c a l e  model. Little buildings, parks, roads, schools, housing developments and national monuments are there in all their glorious, teensy, freakish accuracy.

To quote the brochure, it's a "9335 square foot 800,000-building model of the 320 square miles of New York City." The Panorama was built for a World's Fair, the raison d'être for all manner of architectural oddities it would seem. It's original specs called for less than one per cent margin of error between model and reality and this was frequently checked against aerial photographs and updated as needed. In the 1990s a major overhaul brought the model in sync with the havoc wreaked by the 80s real estate craze. In short, if you look closely you will probably be able to spot all the buildings you've ever been inside.

Around near the southwest edge of Flushing the Plexiglas walkway is close enough and the lighting is bright enough so that you can get down on your hands and knees and look through the floor and really make out the frightening level of detail which makes up the Panorama. At first the pieces seem fairly standard. The pastel houses are all pretty similar and the ant-sized cars all seem to be the exact same model. There aren't any weeds in the lawns or potholes in the roads. But just as your inner critic is beginning to get bored with the Panorama you look up and see hundreds and hundreds of feet of model covered with the same houses and cars and boats and roads, all positioned according to some maniacal scheme and you realize, "My god, this is insane."

I love the Panorama. I visit it all the time. It makes for a great day trip: walk through the desolate Corona Meadows Park, marvel at the enormous stainless steel Unisphere which graces so many television commercials, stop for some Indian food in Jackson Heights. A jaunt out to the Panorama is the perfect date not because it is exotic and strange and vaguely educational but because there is inevitably one point during your visit while you stare speechlessly at the immense creation that you will become really and truly scared and find you and your companion clinging together for comfort.

First is the fright that comes as you are faced with a product of magnificent stupidity. There is a certain fear which accompanies the sinking feeling that perhaps the human race is just too dumb to survive, that our priorities are clearly skewed as evidenced by such a monument to our unproductive impulses. It's while you're weak with your fear for humanity the Panorama hits hard. Suddenly you imagine all the millions of people milling about throughout the model's real life urban counterpart. You can feel each and every one of them sharing that special bond of idiocy which so characterizes our species. Your eyes search in vain for the model's own replica of the Queens Museum of Modern Art so that you can find yourself and find your bearings within the melee but woe to those who do spot the Museum building at this point. Nothing sends chills to the pit of your stomach like having to confront how teeny, tiny and insignificant you might be in the context of such a vast throng carrying out incomprehensible, redundant and ridiculous activities. You grab your date and hang on for dear life.

Pretty soon the overwhelming dread dissipates and are once again able to mock the dorky airplanes "flying" in and out of the cartoon airports. You start to argue about where SoHo is hiding amongst the crush of structures grouped together on one end of an admittedly impressive island. Fake nighttime falls and miniature street lights turn on and phosphorescent paint glows in the dark and the Panorama is fun again. Big, weird, ungainly and surreal it's easy to laugh at and admire and utterly impossible to forget.

in the junk drawer

feature car
ac/dc gun
decomposing dice
compulsion vise
posedown cheese
and such
and such
blab fan

·feature· ·net worth· ·ac/dc· ·smoking jacket· ·field recordings· ·feed hollywood· ·target audience· ·decomposing· ·compulsion· ·posedown· ·the biswick files· ·mystery date· ·and such and such· ·blab· ·kissing booth·

·contents· ·freakshow· ·fan club· ·archive·


copyright © 1996 - 2000 fearless media