Fleetweek 2015: On Board of the USS San Antonio

Fleetweek 2015
Fleetweek 2015

In adherence to this year’s Fleetweek, I was able to do a by now almost regular activity: Checking out one of the boats docking at Pier 92. A couple of years ago I had been aboard the shining and larger USS Wasp. This year the Navy was allowing visitors to explore the USS San Antonio, hailing all the way from – you guessed it – San Antonio, Texas. Read More »

Fleet Week 2014: The Fun Has Returned!

[This is a belated post on all the good things occurring during a holiday weekend in New York.]

selfiewithasailor3

Every year around Memorial Day Weekend wonderful things tend to happen in this city. Usually, it starts warming up and beach season is called out for the last weekend of May (I said usually, not always, and unfortunately not this year). Then, people get together to grab a hotdog or Read More »

Kicking off Memorial Day Weekend…..

Fleet Week in 2011
Fleet Week in 2011

Today is a good day! Today is the start of Memorial Day Weekend. Three days filled with hectic plans, brunches, and leisure time for most people in the US.

This last weekend of May usually marks the start of the summer season. The beaches are officially open and lifeguards take on their duties. People grab their party gear and head on to BBQs on a rooftop. Friends come together in the park for drinks and food. I’ve so far had three Memorial Day Weekends in the past and each of them have been memorable (word pun not intended) in their own little way. My first year when exploring the crowds at Brighton Beach (and lying next to trash in the sand). My second year when watching the events going on during Fleet Week and petting my first snake at Coney Island. My third year when finally exploring a Navy ship and being part of a BBQ on my friend’s balcony. Yup, Memorial Day has always been tons of fun. Sunshine, hotness, and humidity – that’s what I remember the most.

But this weekend has not really started off that great weather-wise. Today as in yesterday it is rainy, bleary, and cold. All week long we were having some blissful 80 degrees (26 Celsius) but now we’re down to the 50ies (13 C) at daytime. Summer just cannot make up its mind. And while next week it is supposed to be warm once again, the one weekend during which it really matters will not be spent on the beach. Perhaps the first time in ages, at least since I moved here.

On top of some crappy weather, another occurrence will not happen: Fleet Week! That’s right, my beloved sea military week was cancelled soon after I came back from Germany! Bloomberg passed on to the news that the Navy and Marines had already announced they wouldn’t be able to make it. The Coast Guard by itself never made it out here, either. Due to budget cuts, the military was unable to host its annual week full of fun, family time, and great history gadgets. This year there will be no ships to visit, no concerts to watch, no funky uniforms to take pictures of when wandering through the streets. Somehow it has become a tradition for me to look forward to those 7 days in May that are always quite out of the ordinary. And give New York a special vibe.

So I devote this post to what turns out to be a rather awkward beginning into a usually great summer weekend: To Fleet Week, to BBQs, to the beach. But most of all to better weather…

Not seeing this here in 2013...!
Not seeing this here in 2013…!

Have a Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

To see what last year’s Fleet Week was made of, go here.
And to see what 2011 showed during the exact same week, here.
Let’s kick these Fleet Week blues farewell!

Fleet Week 2012 OR A Tour of the USS Wasp


Fleet Week in New York has been over for a good week now already. Time to get this post on before it will be entirely forgotten in the fogginess of my brain.

As in last year (read more here), thousands of navy guys, marines, and coast guard folks came swimming sailing full winds into the City. An average of 6,000 people in uniforms roamed the streets of the Big Apple this year. In 2011 I had been working closer to their ships, so 8th Avenue had been populated with them fairly soon. This year I got to see these three exotics walking past the Empire State Building on 5th Ave towards the Flatiron District.

Air shows over New Jersey and Coney Island, community and park events in Staten Island and Brooklyn, scheduled parades all over the city and state of New York – there has been a fair amount going on in those sweet six days of Fleet Weekishness. All of which I had missed out on, due to work and other beach plans.

Never mind, though, as Sunday was the day I decided to regain responsibility and finally take on Fleet Week 2012. While last year I had strolled Times Square and been part of the music-eager crowd listening to random navy pals giving mediocre but fun concerts, this year I headed towards the Hudson River. Pier 90, right on 55th St and 12th Avenue, is the spot at which you will walk past the Intrepid and see many of the fleet week boats in harbor – ready to be boarded by the average New Yorkers and other tourists. It was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I didn’t have much of a choice so I just rowed myself into a random never-ending line, which closed down shortly after (lucky me). As I found out, it belonged to the queue leading to the popular USS Wasp: The ninth one to date and proudly commemorating its eight battle stars earned in WWII.

I usually wouldn’t recommend anyone standing in line for a full 1 ½ hours in the May heat just to get a peak of what’s happening onboard the Navy liner. But in this case it was worth it. I had always been excited to check out what exactly can be found on those boats and after 90 mins of standing, waiting, and drinking tons of water, I was reimbursed for my hard efforts.

We were first seen over a bridge towards the inside belly of the ship. Past the tanks built up in the body and past a wonderfully selected buffet meant for Navy officers and guest list attendees. Up a steep, steep hill (could be dangerous when walking down again) to the events hosted outside under the blue sky. Colorful flags everywhere. Groups of Navy guys and pilots waiting to tell you more about their job. Helicopters you could climb on and get to know the story behind. All of this conveyed with the beautiful Manhattan skyline in the background.

First I just took pictures. Then I went forward and climbed a helicopter. The pilot told me how it had taken him three years to complete the training until he was able to fly this toy. After looking at all the switches and knobs, I wouldn’t doubt the fact that it could take up to a year to understand only the technical part. After entering a small airplane and putting on the seatbelts that wrapped around my entire upper body, I was impressed. A private event must have been hosted later-on in the evening, as a hundred white chairs were neatly arrayed at the far end of the ship and a guy in a white uniform was desperately trying to get the microphone to shut off.

After the stint outside, I managed to crawl get down the steep hill without incident and to check out what was going on downstairs. I stopped to ask a Navy girl if they really had to march down like this every day and she said, yes, unfortunately, but running was prohibited. Good for them, I can see how accidents might happen!

Different sorts of tanks and guns were built up in the body of the ship. Young Marines were explaining how the ball got inside the machine and was catapulted out again. The technical talk on how to kill an enemy might have seemed heartless or shocking to bystanders listening, but then they never grew up with the military and got to see the other facets of this type of life.

Everyone was friendly and eager to help us out if we had questions regarding certain machines or tasks. Especially the Navy officers on the USS Wasp were very forthcoming and seemed to enjoy their day with the normal crowds that had come to the city to see how our wars are fought.

Fleet Week 2012: It always brings this special vibe and national pride to New York – quite astonishing to see how it unravels. One short week of uniformed sailors marching through the streets, and I wish I had done more with it this time. Oh well, I guess I just have to wait it out until next year when it is once again Fleet Week in NYC!

[To see more pictures on Fleet Week, go to Fleet Week 2012 (Round 1) and Fleet Week 2012 (Round 2).]

Photo A Day: May 24 Through 26

Today is May 27. It appears that this little picture project is slowly coming to an end. I am not sure if there will be a Photo a Day Challenge in June but I doubt I will once again participate in it. Not because I did not like it, just because this blog has a different purpose other than that. I had a blast following the daily suggestions and have definitely come to snap a lot more pictures than I usually do – which is typically already a good amount. I also very much enjoyed seeing the interpretation of these suggestions by other bloggers, even the ones who stopped doing it halfway through the month … HINT!

However, we still have 5 more days to go. Well, four, but I am only posting up to May 26. My day has just started here and I have yet to meet “something sweet.”
So let’s go on and see what Thursday through Saturday held for me.

[Something new]

I finally went to Macy’s again. It’s been raining a fair amount during the week, so I try to spend my lunch breaks inside. Floor 4 holds a pretty awesome collection of things. It is also here where I ran across the new designs of XOXO (yes, kisses and hugs). Don’t these bright colors make you feel happy just by looking at them? I am thrilled to see that their shirts and dresses are in accordance to my taste. I am also anticipating that I will have to stop by a few times throughout the summer to get some hard core shopping done.
On the same note, I finally fulfilled a small dream of mine: I ended up buying a nail color I had eyed since last summer. Not sure it is in fashion anymore but I simply do not care. Go blue is my motto now and I really love how the color matches pretty much everything I wear. Should have done this waaay earlier!

[Something unusual]

Well, this could apply to every day until Wednesday but last Friday was indeed the very first time I got to see them wandering the streets of New York again: It’s Fleet Week! Thousands of navy guys and marines are taking over New York. Concerts, boat tours, and other fun things are going on throughout the entire weekend. I might just have to head to Times Square today to see them perform live on stage. Or go to the Intrepid and take some good shots of the boats that landed over there. I took part in more activities of Fleet Week last year (read more here) but then, to give me some credit, the weather has really not been the best this year, either. Fleet Week will end on May 30 and I am already sad to see the uniforms go. They bring a very special vibe to this city.

[12 o’clock]

Possibly my favorite shot of the week! I had a date with my friends at the beach. We were scheduled to meet at Far Rockaway. On my 1-hour-trip over there on the A-Train this couple sat pretty much right next to me. They were German and also on their way to the ocean. I fancied their bodies covered in tattoos. Even though I could never do this, I still thought the tats looked pretty funky on them. Guess you do become alike after being with each other, right?!
I love how there is always something quite unusual to see on random days during random hours and noon time was that one occasion I wanted to share with you!

So I hope you are enjoying this 3-day-weekend (for some even 4 days) and get a great BBQ on tomorrow!
Cheers from New York!

New York City Fleet Week – May 25 to June 1, 2011

Marines holding random guy

Yesterday was the time to wave 10,000 sailors good-bye as they boarded their ships and went off to their next deployment or duty station.

For one sweet week the City was filled with Navy guys, Marines, and Coast Guards all along Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. I am not sure if they made their way up to Queens and the Bronx, but as far as I can tell they were well dispersed throughout entire New York. It was an interesting time to see uniforms and groups of disciplined people marching around Manhattan among the usual crazy/extravagant/over-the-top people. Maybe it was just me, but they gave this town a feel of both normality and exoticness at once.

To me, being surrounded by uniforms has been a crucial part of most of my life. I grew up around a few military bases and went to college on casernes in Germany. The Air Force and Army has been daily routine from an early age on: Showing my ID card at the gate before entering, buying American products in Dollars (tax-free), speaking English with Americans, and celebrating all major American holidays in this little American community. This was about the only way it was possible for me to grow up bilingual AND bi-cultural, because if you don’t experience it from childhood on, you will never feel like you are a part of it all.

Fleet week brought a piece of these home feelings back to me, unintentionally. Only one year ago, I was sick and tired of seeing “douche bags” in uniforms walking around, and I couldn’t stand the sight of something I had successfully erased from my mind. But now, after being away from bases for well over a year, and having gone through some episodes of homesickness and despair, it felt good to look at people who impersonate discipline, who do stupid things with their groups when they are drunk, and who can have a normal conversation with you (without making you feel they are fake/flaky/or plain dumb).
From Wednesday to Wednesday many events were hosted. For a full list, check out their schedule here. Noteworthy was the parade of ships. I got the chance to check out their boats on Memorial Day and took a few pictures to post. Their size is impressive: The USS Iwo Jima counts 844 ft. length, 110 ft. beam, and 30 ft. draft, and holds up to 1,900 Marines. She also carries 30 helicopters.

Pier 88
Not the USS Iwo Jima but the impressive Intrepid.

A Navy cover-music band entertained Time Square on Saturday afternoon. The crowd enjoyed the show, I found the acoustics negotiable. Their attitude was great, though, so much spirit!

After their first night out, sailors were on a curfew due to a tragic accident on the West Side Highway. A Marine was hit and run over by a bypassing car when trying to get back to the head quarters early in the morning. It seemed curfews were kept stricter ever since that incident happened and, for most of the enlisted, the fun ended at 12:30 to 1:00AM. Therefore, a big percentage of them hung out around the piers, preferably on 10th and 9th Avenue. The bars were jammed full with white and green uniforms. Some made their way out to 2nd Ave, a good walk from the other side of the island. It was a great change to meet them – and I am not even going to mention all those American girls going crazy about guys in a uniform – (which seems to be a generalized reaction throughout the world. Why is that?), to drink with them, and to hear some of their stories. And to realize that they, too, are pretty normal people who carry their very own weight just like everyone else. For example the 22-year-old crew chief, who had just gotten separated from his year-long-fiance because their relationship couldn’t make it through the extensive deployments. It seems rather common for Marines or Navy active duties to break up or separate, especially before and after deployments.By the way, crew chief is similar to pilot (yes, unlike the Air Force – it is a different type of job there) and you have to go through one and a half years of training to make it there.

All in all, everyone was just trying to enjoy New York and have a good time in the Big Apple. We welcome you next year again, and stay safe until then! Ahoi to Fleet Week!