I've been to New York! - Jazz
The short story: I left on the HMCS Fredericton at the end of April. We spent a week or so at sea, spent a few days in Baltimore, set out to sea again, spent another few days in New York, and then sailed home.
The long story: the sailing part was hard. It was work-ups (training at sea for the ship's crew), so we practiced emergencies day and night. It became more and more difficult as the days drag into weeks.
I could've kissed the ground in Baltimore, I was so happy to get a few days of rest. We were free the first evening in Baltimore, did training the next morning, and then were free to spend the rest of that day and the next in town.
We arrived on a Friday and headed for town as soon as we'd landed the gash (unloaded the garbage) from the ship. The three Canadian ships that arrived together rented buses and we were able to catch a ride into downtown. There was a fourth Canadian ship docked somewhere downtown with a bunch of friends on board, so a friend and I set off to find out where it was parked. We walked quite a ways before we decided it was too far and preferred to go watch the new Star Trek movie instead.
There just so happened to be a theatre along the route we were walking. The show time was a ways away, so we went back to the Cheesecake Factory restaurant on the waterfront. I'd never heard of succotash until then, but mmmmmmmm was it good! And with mashed potatoes and salmon. Oh, was it ever heaven after days of drabby ship food. Absolutely heavenly.
Star Trek was very good. I recommend seeing it in theatre if it's still playing. The audience was completely geeking out as, at the end of the movie, Spock puts his hand up, and the hands in the theatre audience suddenly rose together in the Vulcan salute. Hehehe, cute! I've rarely heard a movie get applause at the end, but this one did.
The next day we worked on the ship for the morning. I had a dentist appointment on the HMCS Preserver who was parked on the dock with us. That evening was less exciting as we hit downtown again and the guys wanted to see Star Trek. I went to see X-Men:Wolverine with another friend instead. It was good but not great. Our movie ended before Star Trek did for the other guys, so we walked into their theatre and I saw the second half for a second time. Hey, I feel the need to break a small rule once in a while to maintain a sense of excitement in life :P
Dinner was a late night at Chicago for some deep dish pizza. Wow, the service sucked. And there was a hair in one person's pizza. And some wrong orders delivered. Wow.
The cab driver tried to charge us double the cost we had paid the night before. Nice try. Although I did feel slightly bad for not giving him what he asked.
There was a baseball game on Sunday to go to - Oriole's vs Yankees. The ship had got a bunch of cheap tickets and made them available for us to buy. We found out why the tickets were so cheap - we literally had the last row in the very top section of the stadium. It was a perfectly gorgeous hot, sunny day for a baseball game. Unfortunately our seats were in the shade of the stadium awning. My delicious dish of soft-serve ice cream froze me to death up there. To add to the shade was the wind that came blowing through the fence that ran around the top row of seats in the stadium. And the altitude had to have taken another degree of the outside air temperature. Brrr!
Everyone else went back to the ship, but a friend and I decided to stick out our last afternoon of freedom before heading back to what can feel like the dungeons in the sunless bowels of the ship. We walked the town a bit before heading toward Little Italy to see if there was anything good for dinner. We found it, but it was a lot of fine dining. So we kept walking.
Then we hit a area resembling the Projects. I'd never heard the term before, but I do now. I had to look it up.
We turned and headed south toward the harbour again. Suddenly we found ourselves in a very old, very cute area with big old trees and classic architecture. We stopped at one of those household items stores that has everything you ever dreamed of having in your house. I went to the sale items and got tea towels for a dollar each, and then hummed and hawed over the cute sushi sets and $75 martini sets. *sigh*
As we walked out of the store, suddenly the ship I'd been looking for two nights before appeared. They got the stinking best spot in town! Right on the waterfront in the downtown with the best bunch of restaurants and shops around - historic Fells Point. What a bunch of bums!
We were really hungry by this time. It was practically a random choice to try the Alexander's Tavern, and it turned out to be the most incredible food. God sure blessed me with some amazing food on this stop. It almost made up for the ship's food.
Then, unfortunately, back to the ship and prepping for setting sail the next day and resuming flying.
I don't remember individual days on the ship very well. They're a blur of the flight schedule constantly changing, eating bad meals with tough meat and wilted salad, reading the Bible and classic sci-fi books with my sporadically working bed light just before going to sleep, waking up at all different hours of the day depending on the flying schedule, offering candy to the flight crew while venting about the day's stupidities, and getting alternately nauseous and horribly tired depending on whether or not I was allowed to take Gravol. It solves my sea sickness but it makes me tired, and I can't take it within 8 hours of flying.
So lets just skip right to New York. YAY!!!
We arrived in New York with the parade of ships. We had to do shifts of standing on deck in our short-sleeve dress uniform. I don't know if I was allowed, but I took my camera out and snapped away. It was probably absolutely forbidden. But what did I know?
Once my shift ended, I spent most of the rest of the day on the bridge so that I could keep taking photos of the passing scenery including the skyline of New York's financial sector. Even though I'm not intimately familiar with that skyline, the absence of the world trade towers is really noticeable because we all notice photos of the skyline with the towers.
Once the parade was done, we bobbed in the line-up of ships to dock at Staten Island. Yeah, we had to take the ferry back and forth to Manhattan. Boo. Before escaping downtown, though, we had to land gash and all the rest. There were four Canadian ships docked at the one pier, so people were just running back and forth visiting all their friends and drinking up a storm, of course. I heard there was a huge supply of candy and pizza being provided just outside the gates onto the pier for all military members, so three guys and I ditched the drink fest and walked down the pier (in the dark by now) to see what we could get. We were far from the first ship to get docked, so we thought everything would be gone.
The pizza was gone, but the candy sure wasn't. We filled every pocket we had with bags of chocolates. We were hungry and thought we'd see if we could catch a cab into "downtown" Staten Island to get pizza. Just on cue, one of the guys' friends drove by in a duty van and offered to drive us to get pizza. Perfect! We ate most of the pizza by the time we got back to the pier - only 5 minutes or so. We were starving!! We made our way back to the ship, every step rustling the bulging bags of candy, the chocolate melting deep in our pockets. What satisfaction!
Staten Island was a little scary at night. Definitely not a place to go walking. The store fronts were all protected with metal grates and pull-down doors and decorated in graffiti.
I had booked a hotel room for myself and my two cabin mates - Tasha and Carmella - in Manhattan's mid-town - close to Broadway and Times Square, etc. - so that we could avoid the Fleet Week rule of wearing your uniform off ship. Between the three of us, the hotel was worth the price of not wearing our uniform. Carmella headed into town as soon as she could, and Tasha and I didn't get away from the ship until about 23:30. In fact, the nice guy who drove us to the pizza place earlier drove us two girls to the ferry. God bless him.
We got to the ferry terminal in New York quite excited. I had snapped photos of the nighttime skyline all the way across on the ferry, but the photos didn't really do the skyline justice. We were permitted to ride the subway for free as Fleet Week participants, and popped out just south of Times Square. What a sight at 3am! The streets are void of cars (and very stinky), no more crowds, clean-up crews everywhere, and the lights are still blaring as bright and obnoxious as ever away at the empty streets.
The first day was glorious! We - me, Tasha and Carmella - went for breakfast at a cute, bustling corner cafe. All the cafes around there had bars. My eating eggs benny for breakfast symbolized freedom from the ship's food again. The ship's senior cook actually got sacked after this sail. I feel bad, but the backbone of the ship's company's morale is in that food he's responsible for. I declared at the dinner table one night on the last sail that I was praying for the food to improve. What an answer to prayer we've seen.
So, off for a day of adventure! We walked through Manhattan, hitting up various famous spots along the way. We saw Radio City, the Rockefeller Center and its plaza, the cathedral from Spiderman 3, the Trump Tower (complete with Starbucks inside and a boutique dedicated to Donald Trump stuff - just too much), Tiffany's (and the Canary Diamond), FAO Schwartz (New York is Schwartz everything), and Central Park to begin with. Most of what I just mentioned was on famous 5th Ave. You can bet we saw every other gazillion-dollar name brand along 5th too. I don't really want to buy any of the stuff, I just wish I was suave enough to walk in and confidently try stuff on as if it were for real. Do I need an entourage to go in there or something?
Us girls had the mandatory and extremely delicious hotdog in Central Park. Alright, so I had a sausage and not a hot dog, but it was darn good. We ventured through the park for a bit, then headed east to walk along its outer limits and admire the mansions along 5th Ave again. We got to the Guggenheim museum, but it was closed. Only closed on Thursdays, of course. What a weird day to be closed.
Then to the Metropolitan Museum. The three of us split up and gave ourselves an hour in which to see whatever it was we wanted to see. It was an hour of flurried frenzy getting through the whole thing, but oh so gorgeous. What a beautiful museum. I don't like museums, but some of their displays were incredible.
We stopped in at the Plaza Hotel for a glimpse at the glitz of New York hotels. Breathtaking.
Then for dinner closer to the hotel. We stuffed ourselves at a place famous for the cheesecake, had cheesecake too, of course, then went our separate ways for the evening.
I stopped in at an antique shop and the owner tried to sell something to me cheap for $600. An incredibly overdressed black woman - complete with feathers - came in with her two kids, glanced around, caught sight of an antique couch, told the owner she absolutely had to have it, and walked out. Wow, what a show of unrestrained and indifferent opulence! Mind-boggling.
I dropped by our hotel room to catch my breath before diving back out. Yes, on my own. New York's main streets are very busy and there was no danger as long as I stuck to them. No more than during the day, i.e. be pick-pocket-proof.
I had found the address for a Salvation Army store that was supposedly near our hotel. I made a run for it - got some great sunset shots along the way - but found that they closed at 18:00. So on down the hill toward the Hudson and to where the Intrepid aircraft carrier is parked. I was hoping to get in for a tour, but unfortunately there was a black tie event happening that evening. It so happened to be the cocktail party someone on our ship would have had to be tasked to go to. Not me!!!
I walked along the Hudson for a while. They have a beautiful walkway along the river, ideal for walkers, runners and bikers. It's separated from the main street a bit with some large foliage between, and lanes for each direction of pedestrian. Very nicely done.
I picked up a drink at a convenience store and continued on. My next goal was Macy's. It was about 20:30 and I was sure they were about to close. The streets were still crowded with well-dressed people sauntering in every direction. At that time of night, they all sauntered. No more business crowds, just summer dresses out in full force.
Macy's was closing at 21:00, so I rushed into an entrance and meandered through a maze until I found the women's section. The first floor was alright, but the second floor was an incredible sea of summer dresses. Whee! I set myself a budget right then and their and decided to come back on Saturday.
I passed through Times Square again on my way back to the hotel and hit the hugest, craziest crowd I'd ever seen. I can't even imagine what New Year's Eve is like.
I finally got back to the hotel at about 23:00 and had to pack up to head to the ship with one of my cabin mates. She and I were on duty the next day, Friday. How poopy. We caught the subway back to the ferry terminal and managed to catch the military bus back to the ship. Poopy, poopy, poopy to be back on ship.
The day of duty was uneventful. A day spent in uniform standing by just in case there was an emergency requiring us to traverse the helo out of the hangar. That's all aircrew stay on ship to do. And tours of the helo, if requested. Let's skip to the good stuff again.
So Saturday morning, I was ready to go into town by 8am. Carmella and I caught the train to the ferry, the ferry to Manhattan, and the subway back to the hotel.
We decided to find this military support centre where you go to get cheap tickets and a free breakfast. We got there at 10:25: breakfast ends at 10:30. Second breakfast it was! We stuffed ourselves again and browsed through their deals books. People actually stand there to help you find what you're looking for.
I could've gone to a gazillion good shows, but I had already decided to go see Wicked that afternoon. That was my one and only (expensive) Broadway show that I was set on seeing. I had actually picked up the sold-out ticket from Carmella who had bought one for someone who bowed out. Lucky me!
The Salvation Army was close by, so we hit it up. Funny thing about the American thrift stores is that they don't have change rooms because people would steal things. You had to try on clothes on top of your own clothes in front of a common mirror. AWKWARD! I found the most incredible red evening dress ever and couldn't tell if it actually fit me because it was over top my shirt. So I got it - $6!!!! Trying it on at the hotel later, I was incredulous to find that it was a practically tailored fit.
We walked by the New York public library. I love how well used all of New York's parks are.
We then headed to Macy's to do our shopping. It took me an hour to find something I was set on buying, and unfortunately not from the sale section. I lost Carmella in the store, though, and we ended up separating ways at that point. I headed to the Empire State building to see how the crowds were. As I walked through the building from the wrong entrance, I met two friendly guys standing outside of their jewellery shop hooking customers. I got talking not out of interest's sake but out of friendliness' sake, and they hooked me right in. Well, after 15 minutes of telling them I didn't want anything, I told them I was supposed to meet someone and would give a thought to the price they were offering me for a bracelet and come back briefly. I walked away for 10 minutes and realized I actually really liked that bracelet. I was stuck in shopping mode, stupid me. I went back and told them no, I wasn't going to get the bracelet. They kept cutting the price until it was something I could stomach, and then bought it. I recently wore it with the dress I had just bought from Macy's, and boy was I satisfied :)
I joined the crowds heading up the escalator to get to the top of the Empire State Building. After going through various mazes and up stairs and stuff, I decided the line-up was too long. I actually wanted to go up to the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center), so I skipped out of the line and decided to wait until another time to go through the craziness of lineups.
I wandered town for a bit, saw the ginormous post office, Pennsylvania Station (for those who play Monopoly) and Madison Square Garden. I was aimed for Grand Central Station, though. I just had to take a subway to or from Grand Central, and I decided to take a ride into the financial sector and see ground zero.
The financial sector was obviously quiet in the evening. It almost felt abandoned. I was kinda hungry, so I stopped in a Mexican food joint where the owner told me that he owned a restaurant at a resort in Mexico and that I was very pretty and should visit his restaurant some day. If I hadn't had to desperately use the bathroom too, I would have got out of there asap, but maybe I wouldn't have been allowed to use his bathroom if he didn't think I was good looking enough for it. Thank goodness because I don't think there's such a thing as a public bathroom in the financial sector.
There was a respectful crowd milling around ground zero. The ruins of the World Trade Center had been completely cleared and all that remained was one gigantic construction site, probably the biggest I've ever seen. My feet were aching, but I decided to walk a little further and see if there was a memorial anywhere. In fact, my feet had been hurting so bad for a while by that point that I'd learned that they can only hurt so much before the pain plateaus. I repeatedly kept coming to moments of decision where the choice was to get back to the hotel and crash, or make the most of a day of my life spent in New York. I couldn't stand to waste time like that.
I got kinda lost circling around ground zero and ended up on a strangely busy street where restaurants spilled onto the sidewalks and a fruit vendor was doing a lot of business. I bought a banana from the guy, and it was so incredibly good I had to go back for more. I bought a whole bag of fruit from him to bring with me on the ship. It was the best banana I've ever tasted next to the ones in St. Lucia!
Finally, I crawled my way back to the hotel, into bed, and six hours later I was up and at it again.
The next morning's breakfast with Tasha and Carmella was at a French cafe with the most incredible real Belgian waffles ever. They were heavy with a lightly crunchy outside. That morning, I learned what Mediterranean yogurt is because Tasha got it with granola for breakfast. What a beautiful thing that stuff is.
Tasha and I headed for the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market where I scored a beautiful dress and a bunch of pashmina scarves for awesome prices. We had lunch at a place close to the Hudson River, and then headed back to the Gershwin Theatre near Broadway to meet Carmella and watch Wicked. It was amazing! The production was very well orchestrated, exactly what I expected to see in a glamorous Broadway show. I wasn't so much for the music - it wasn't catchy enough - but they had some great talent and eye-catching sets and effects to make up for it.
The last thing to do was get to the Top of the Rock. I got to the top of the Rockefeller building, shot some photos, and headed down in time to catch a subway to a church that had been recommended to me for an evening service. I was going to pull out my military ID at the subway to get a free ride, but I couldn't find it. I dug through my pockets to no avail. I was close to freaking out because military ID is one you DO NOT want to lose. I needed it to even get back on the ship without the hassle of being questioned about how, where, and when I lost my ID, not to mention having to get issued a temporary ID.
I ran out of the subway station with my nose to the ground, searching for a dropped ID. I got all the way back to the Rockefeller building and asked the guards if I could get back up because I had lost my ID. They radioed their cohorts, but nothing had been seen. So they let me go back up to look for it myself.
Funny thing is, it was almost sunset - the classic time to be at the top of somewhere high up in New York because after the sun sets, the city lights come on. I had just bypassed a gazillion people to go look for my ID.
I searched high and low for the ID, but to no avail. Just as I was heading down, it occurred to me about it being sunset. So I went back to the top and waited. There was a lightening storm happening way south of the city. I was facing in that direction when the sun set. There was complete cloud cover most of that day so I wasn't expecting a spectacular show, but an odd red glow crept over the city for about three minutes and then disappeared. Very strange.
Then the lights started coming on. Little by little, the city twinkled to life. I was looking right at the Chrysler building when it's lights came on. That was fun.
Well, I was too late to go to church. No matter, I got my fill of awe watching the lightening storm in the distance and the strange red glow at sunset.
That was it. I picked up my bags from the hotel, mailed a birthday package for my sister (better to receive it from New York, right? ;)), and lugged my gazillion pounds of stuff to the subway station, across the ferry, and onto the very last military bus headed for the jetty. *sigh* What awesomeness :)
There's a lot that's happened since, but that's for another post. Ciao!