The dark clouds I saw gather as we started our descent into Newark was an omen for things to come. The city was bracing itself for a downpour after a hot and sticky day and it came during the night. The rain continued into the afternoon. The temperature plummeted from the low thirties the day before into the high teens on the Sunday.
It is Memorial weekend here. Memorial Day, being the last Monday in May when America remembers its fallen war heroes, those who gave up their lives for the country over the years. To coincide with this over a dozen military ships which were recently deployed in overseas operations are moored along the various ports of the city to celebrate Fleet week. They came as a parade last Wednesday and are here for the week. It gives the crew a chance to visit the city while the public can take a tour of the ships.
The plan was to leave early as queues to enter these ships are usually quite long. We wondered whether queuing up in the rain was such a good idea and in the end by the time we left home it was quite late. The rain also meant that there was hardly any queue when we reached Pier 90 on the Hudson River. After showing our IDs and going through security checks we were allowed in. Two ships are docked at this pier. The USS Arlington 24 LPD, a San Antonio class amphibious transport dock, is the third such ship named after the County where the American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on that fatal day. It is also the largest on display this week. The US Navy has 10 such ships at present. The LPDs are used to transport and land marines and their equipment and supplies using conventional landing craft or landing air craft air cushion (LCAC). The LCAC, amphibious assault vehicle and high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle are on display on the ship as well as various demonstrations by the military personnel. US marines, Coast guardsmen and Sailors are on hand to answer any questions. There is also a tent and manikin to demonstrate how they take care of the wounded soldiers. The second ship docked next to it is the Royal Canadian Navy’s minesweeper, HMCS Moncton.
I wish I had read a bit about the USS Arlington before embarking on the ship. It was still a good experience to see and get a feel of these battleships. We got some freebies from the ship, a print of a painting done by a World War II veteran and a water bottle that I can take to the gym. When I asked if it was okay to take the water bottle, the soldiers wanted me to work for it. A pull-up on the poles or two he said. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. Murali did it for me instead.
So here we are in the big Apple once again. A place where ‘taxies’ become ‘cabs’, cheques,become checks, tellies -TV, toilets -restrooms, travelling -traveling and many more. Despite this, it now feels like home away from home. So much so that a guy asks me for directions and I point him in my brother’s direction. It is now time to do what the New Yorkers do best, shopping and enjoying life. We get off at one of the subway stations which serves the World trade centre. It leads us to the ‘Oculus’, a four billion dollar train station. ‘A dove in flight’ or a waste of public money, a controversial glass and steel structure. One of the biggest shopping malls I have ever seen. We leave it to visit our tried and tested shopping places. But before that an Irish pub beckons. Bliss, before a few hours of shopping.