My Intrepid Nephews

March 29th, 2009

captainssm.jpgCan you imagine New York’s $44M, 66-year-old gray behemoth, USS Intrepid, through my pint-sized, toe-headed nephews’ wide eyes?

This thing’s 900-feet-long and 190-feet-wide and loaded with thirty aircraft, including a Navy F-14 Tomcat (as in, “I feel the need, the need for speed!), Harrier Jump Jet, F-4 Phantom, Israeli Kfir, French Etendard, Russian MiG-15, 17 and 21, “Huey” helicopter (“I spent over 3000 hours in these things,” one elder gentlemen said) plus the freakin’ Concorde. The Intrepid weighs 27,000 tons, and contains 20,000 miles of electrical cables, 10,000 lights, 1500 doors and hatches.

In its heyday, 3,448 crew called the Intrepid home. It carried 1.6M gallons of fuel oil, and 300, 000 gallons of aviation fuel: enough to heat the average American home for over 400 years. The kitchen burned through 130,000 gallons of fresh water, 6000 potatoes, 42,000 eggs, 200 pounds of coffee a day.

One more crazy detail? Intrepid’s steam catapults (the track than launches the planes) could — if pointed vertically — send a 3000 pound automobile 6000 feet in the air.

The Intrepid served in WWII’s Pacific Theater of Operations, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and as the recovery ship for a Mercury and a Gemini space mission. Today, it rests perpendicular to the West Side Highway in the Hudson River.

Little of which, it seemed, was of much interest to Ethan and Edward. They were all about turning every nob, flipping every switch, climbing every ladder and seeking out every hidden compartment. And asking questions. Why are the wheels so big, Daddy? Where is the engine, Daddy? Why do the wings fold, Daddy? Can I have this 1:100 scale replica, Daddy?

“And where are we going to put that nine-foot, plastic Intrepid, Ethan?”

“Um… the bathtub?”

My favorite moment? Holding Edward’s hand as gingerly stepped down the near-vertical stairway. My least favorite? Peeling him off of a 3D flight simulator. “No! No! No!” he screamed, scissor-kicking his legs in the air before breaking free, running away and collapsing on the floor.

“It’s either time for a snack,” I told Chris. “Or time to go.”

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