It’s right over there…
I was walking on Park Avenue yesterday when a tourist with a map in their hands asked me how to get to Grand Central Station.
I pointed up the street and said, “just walk through the Pan Am Building and there you are”.
As they walked away, I realized that the Pan Am building had not been that for a very long time. It is the Met Life Building, and it has been Met Life for maybe 20 years.
Unfortunately, to me it will always be Pan Am, even if Pan Am is gone.
As is TWA.
As is Polaroid.
As is Lehman Brothers.
As no doubt soon will be Chrysler, The New York Times, Ford, Kodak and someday in the not too distant future, CBS.
What were once seemingly immutable and eternal icons of our culture, the anchors, in a society known more for its mobility and lack of cultural roots, are rapidly being swept away before our eyes.
Gone in the blink of an eye.
Pan Am once seemed so indestructable that Stanley Kubrick made the shuttle to the space station a Pan Am Clipper.
In the future, we would all be rocketing off to Jupiter on board Pan Am Clipperships. Kubrick had Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester) arrive on Space Station 5 (there were four other ones!), and then place a videophone call to his daughter in earth via a Bell Telephone videophone. (Ma Bell!)
Dr. Floyd then heads off to the moon, where the great mystery of the black monolith is revealed. (or sort of revealed. In those days, this film, accompanied by a hit of Mr. Natural went a long long way).
In any event, the premise behind the film (I think) is all about mankind taking another evolutionary leap. But Kubrick, ironically, does not apply the same rules of evolution to technology or corporations.
(And these were the days before product placement)
Here are in 2009, 8 years after 2001. We don’t have trips to Jupiter. The ISS doesn’t look too much like Space Station 5, skype has replaced videophones for free, and eaten Ma Bell along the way, and Pan Am is gone.
2001 was filmed in 1968, 40 years ago.
One can, I think, safely predict that 40years from now, if not less, seemingly immutable instutions such as CBS or IBM or Microsoft may all go the way of Pan Am.
As I look east out of my livingroom as I write this, I am staring directly at the Citicorp Building. I have little doubt that in a few years, that too will carry a different name.
The only thing you can count on for sure is change.