"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, June 10, 2005

My US Trip (2005)

Day 5 - Westpoint-Hyde Park

Previously featured:
Flight to Newark, Day 1 - Newark-Princeton
Day 2 - Princeton-Philadelphia
Day 3 - Gettysburg-Lancaster-Ephrata-Alexandria
Day 4 - Alexandria-DC

We set out early in the day just after 5:30am on our way to Westpoint - but not before getting some Krispy Kreme doughnuts for breakfast! It was interesting to try the assorted varieties, but Original Glazed was the best, so instead of the 1 Original 5 Assorted mix of the previous day, I ordered 3 Original and 3 Assorted.

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Somewhere along the way we had some hoagies from Wawa. Mmm...

After many hours, we arrived at Westpoint - a real military institute attended by people who actually want to be there (their acceptance rate is 13%). Many of the buildings near it had banners reading: "Congratulations Class of 2005". One banner added: "Go Crazy". One day I should rent a building opposite SAFTI MI (Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute Military Institute) and put up a banner reading: "Congratulations 62/05. ORD Loh!", or something.

Outside the Westpoint Visitors Centre was a sign notifying visitors that: "This area is monitored by closed circuit TV but not on a continuous basis". The rationale for that puzzled me. This would not placate those jealous of their privacy, yet it would encourage those the CCTV was meant to deter.

Unfortunately, Westpoint was not giving any tours that week since it was graduation week. We resolved to come again the next week, and looked at their museum in the meantime.

The Gettysburg battlefield guide had made a clear distinction between what he called military generals and what he called political generals. This made me think of our own exalted armed forces, which just possibly might have the greatest number of the latter in the world.

There was a nice collection of arms in the museum, and not only from the Western gunpowder tradition. Unfortunately, the SAR 21 was not included in the assault rifles section. Aww.

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At one side, instead of 'please do not touch', the military instincts of the curators came into play: Hands Off!

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Napoleon's sword and pistols

According to one exhibit, aviators in World War I used darts because they lacked bombs and synchronised machine guns, and they were still being used during the Korean War. Erm. There were also 77mm German Army message shells to fire from the front line to back. I wonder what happened if they hit people. And the armour of World War I sentinels and machine gunners was medievalesque.

We wanted to visit the Culinary Institute of America, which was in the area, but they only had a ridiculous 3 tours a week.

For lunch, my brother in law and I went to recce Dong Fang Chinese restaurant. As usual, my sister hid in the car, refusing to get down and walk all of 40m to the restaurant. Deciding we were pressed for time, my brother in law ordered takeaway, and we got Mooshu pork (cabbage, carrot, leeks, pork and egg fried together and wrapped in a pancake), shrimp in lobster sauce and General Tso's chicken (like sweet and sour, but slightly exotic).

Of course, when we returned to the car, she started scolding my brother-in-law for being an idiot, since the Moo shu pork had to be rolled manually, and this was impossible in a moving car. Thus began the latest episode in an interminable tragedy: my sister always makes my brother-in-law run errands, and when he screws up (as he often does), he gets scolded endlessly. Never does my sister seem to clue on that maybe she should do things herself or at the very least supervise since my brother-in-law lacks common sense. Or more probably she does, but is simply too lazy to do anything, preferring to scold my brother-in-law for the Nth time. So this scenario, though it has happened countless times in the past, is doomed to be repeated countless times in the future. An alternate theory to laziness is that she knows she herself might screw up, and so she makes my brother-in-law do it, so he can be the scapegoat.

Since I was in the back seat, I was entrusted with managing the food, and holding it when we were done. Unfortunately, this meant that stuff started leaking onto my pants. Lucky it wasn't a fresh pair. And later, when I poured water from the ice keg, ice suddenly fell out in a cascade - and onto my pants.

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Fumbling with Chinese food on the highway

We paid 59 cents for a 2 litre bottle of 'Tubz Old Fashioned Root Beer' from "Save-a-lot supermarket", a really el cheapo chain. It was almost as good as A&W which is, as far as I'm concerned, still the root beer to beat. Flavoured with the infamous High Fructose Corn Syrup though it was, I couldn't tell the difference (giving more credence to the theory that it's psychological).

After lunch mostly eaten in a stationary car, we drove to Hyde Park, home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the gift shop was this poster: "Gee!! I wish I were a man. I'd join the navy. Be a man and do it. United States Navy recruiting station", as well as a FDR action figure complete with cane (but no wheelchair?!), with the doll vocalising 25 choice soundbites. Amusingly, the museum had a panel making a snipe at conspiracy theorists who claimed Roosevelt knew about Pearl Harbor in advance: "This argument defies logic" (but then what's new?)

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With sister on balcony

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FDR bust

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FDR's house

There were also some groundhogs on the grounds, so we went groundhog hunting. The damn things kept disappearing down their holes, so I suggested that we cover some of the holes and pour water down others - that would surely force them to come out!

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We passed by "Salisbury School, est 1901" which was in the middle of nowhere (not being near Salisbury, even), and there were cutouts of figures planted on the grounds. By the pond, for example, stood a fisherman. Damn private schools.

We ended the night drive at a Motel 6 near Hartford, Conneticut. We would spend the rest of our nights patronising this chain due to their low prices. However, their motels were also very far from the towns or cities they purported to be near, but this wasn't a big problem except for New York since we always drove, and didn't often stay at an outlet for more than one night (ie Using it as a base from which to explore the surrounding area).

Nearby there was a "Big Y" supermarket which billed itself as a "World Class Market" (and indeed had that phrase emblazoned all over the outlet - perhaps they'd come to Singapore before). What *was* World Class was their whole aisle of ice cream, divided into "Ice Cream", "Premium Ice Cream" and "Novelties".

My brother in law was sulking since after a long drive and late on that rainy night, my sister made him go on a wild goose chase for food that wasted a lot of time even though there was a cluster with McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC and a few more within easy reach (something that she did more than once when we wanted to eat at a nearby food outlet, though it did result in us discovering Giovani's later), so when we asked him if he wanted any food he said no, but later happily tucked in, so the amount we bought ended up being not enough.

Sister's food diary: "Day 5 : 5.45am breakfast at Krispy Kreme, another half dozen donuts. Brunch en route at WaWa - hot roast pork hoagie, BLT, soft pretzel. Late lunch at Dong Fang, West Point. Mooshu pork, shrimp in lobster sauce, General Tso's chicken. Supper at Taco Bell - chicken and bacon chalupa, spicy chicken burrito, cheesy potatoes."

The Ben and Jerry's in a convenience store we went into was $3.99 a tub. After currency conversion, that works out to a markup of almost 75% here. Argh! And they had 2-3x the flavours that we have here too.

US food generally comes in bigger portions (even at the cheaper two of the 3 Chinese food joints we patronised). Even the Coke cans are 355ml as opposed to the stingy 330ml we get here.

I don't know why Americans like to put chicory in their coffee, like kopitiams here. I'm not a coffee fan myself, but chicory stinks. And apparently American coffee sucks. That might account for why Starbucks is so big there.

They have water coolers everywhere. How considerate.

US hotels all have ice machines. Lovely.

I think I'll just say screw it and upload my photos to Imagestation. I already have the full-sized copies anyway, and in the unlikely event that someone else wants them I can always email them over.
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