September 8, 2010

Manhattan: Ankhs, Aircraft, and Oddities

Saturday, August 14, 2010--I decided to spend the day in Manhattan to see a few of the things that had been on my mind. After a relaxing train ride and a brisk walk up Broadway, I came to my first destination: Discovery TSX to see the King Tut exhibit. As I turned the corner at 44th Street, I could see a statue of Anubis towering above the entrance with staff in hand. This massive jackal-headed Egyptian deity certainly gave the museum curb appeal and set a clear tone for the exhibit.

After buying my ticket, I was ushered into a room where a brief film about the life of Tutankhamun was shown. Then, the doors in front of me whooshed open upon Ancient Egypt. I stepped into the year 1923 and took a journey with Howard Carter into the Valley of the Kings. The museum showcases 10 galleries set up to resemble
the sanctums of the Pharaoh's tomb. King Tut's treasures are the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities ever unearthed. I strolled among displays of golden jewelry, canopic jars, statues, and even a replicated mummy. I'm so glad that I got to experience the exhibit; after this stint in NYC, the treasures of Tutankhamun will be returning to Egypt forever.

After leaving the Discovery TSX, I walked several blocks to Pier 86 at 46th Street on the West Side. This is the site of the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. The pier houses 3 attractions: the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, the submarine USS Growler, and the British Airways Concorde.

I got in line first for the USS Growler. There was a 20-minute wait, but I knew that the line would only get longer as the day progressed so I opted to be patient. On the deck of the sub, I saw the 32-foot-long Regulus guided cruise missile, which actually looks more like a small airplane. Once inside, I strolled through the confines of the sub passing torpedo tubes, navigation compartments, crew members' quarters, periscopes, and the control room. It is a very cramped space and I wondered what sea life must have been like, seeing that each member of the crew was allowed only a two-minute shower once every three months. As the submarine tour ended and I stepped back on to the pier, I saw immediately that my patience had payed off--the line was now doubled in size; the wait was one hour...

Next, I set my attention on the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid. A glass elevator took me up to the Flight Deck. It was from here that propeller-driven planes had launched over the Pacific Ocean in World War II. I was standing on the very deck where Japanese kamikaze planes had crashed landed, taking a terrible toll on both ship and crew.

Today, the Flight Deck houses over two dozen classic airplanes from around the world, all authentically restored to their historic splendor. These birds are fascinating, to say the least.

Next, I visited the carrier's Hangar Deck. This area holds most of the Sea, Air, and Space Museum's displays. Here, I found many hands-on exhibits, flight simulator rides, artifacts of ship's technology and crew life. I even got to visit the ship's forward-most part, the Fo'c's'le. This area stores the massive anchor chains.

The last sight at Pier 86 is the British Airways Concorde. This sleek plane is capable of reaching speeds up to 1,350 mph, mach 2, and has a cruising altitude of 60,000 feet. It is said that a ride aboard this record-breaking airliner is a silent experience as the plane travels faster than the sound of its own engines.

From the pier, I walked over to 42nd Street to see the Ripley's "Believe It Or Not" Odditorium. I've gotten to visit Ripley's Museums in Florida and Niagara Falls and I can honestly say that I love these places; so much fun! In this one, I got to view a wooden car, meet an albino giraffe, stand next to the world's fattest man, observe the power of centrifugal force in a liquid tornado, hear the story of the chicken that lived for 4 years without its head...

But, of course, no Odditorium would be complete without a medieval torture chamber that includes some ghostly figures in chains and an Iron Maiden. While the atmosphere in this part of the museum is quirky and fun, the idea that such cruel devices were actually used on human beings at one point in time is quite horrific.

I finished up my day in Manhattan with dinner at an Irish bar and grill called the Mean Fiddler. A plate of Bangers and Mash. A slow amble back to Penn Station. A peaceful train ride back to Long Island as the sun was setting behind me. And my Saturday was perfect...

"Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun."

~Psalm 37:5-6