Bedford-Stuyvesant

civil rights, patience and emu farming

Dec 6, 2013 | Leave a comment

blueeldorado.blogI have been waiting for about five years for this Cadillac El Dorado to be parked in a good spot. Patience has finally paid off. I love the huge doors on this car and the cross hatch shadows created by the fire escape.

The car is parked on Marcus Garvey Avenue in Bed-Stuy and is named for civil rights activist, Marcus Garvey of course. Black nationalism and black pride as concepts originated with him and his efforts inspired others like Martin Luther King, Jr. and the recently departed Nelson Mandela.

Bed-Stuy has a rich history and my street in particular has many individuals who have played interesting parts during the civil rights era. My neighbor Abdullah Razzaq once known as James 67X and before that as James Monroe King Warden was an aide and secretary to Malcolm X for many years. Mr. Razzaq was present at the Audubon Ballroom when Malcolm was killed. He’s a wonderful man and peppers his conversations with quotes from the Bible, the Quran, Noel Coward songs and Japanese tongue twisters. I love talking to him because you never know which way he’ll steer things. One minute it’s emu farming or raising mules and then the next it’s about the beauty of having a repetitive task like painting a wall to focus your mind. I’m lucky to know him.

Also a former neighbor Lamont Pittman was the only black Marine in the honor guard and part of the caisson escort team for JFK‘s funeral procession.

Below is a portrait of Abdullah Razzaq and his late brother, John Warden taken with a Polaroid 330 camera.

abdullah

red doors, virginity and geniuses

Feb 1, 2013 | Leave a comment

bluemercedes.blogIn Feng Shui, a painted red door invites the chi into your house. Positive energy and abundance can find its way into your dwelling. That’s pretty cool. And if you’re Catholic the red door represents the smeared blood of Christ and that everything inside is good and sacred. Always dramatic with those guys. My apartment door is painted white and is behind a black wrought iron security gate which means there are virgins inside and that you must have a key to unlock the inner chambers. Experts say that Albert Einstein painted his door red because he wouldn’t have been able to recognize it. Fucking genius! Oh and I really love this Mercedes S-Class

motorcycles, hippies, whores and shotgun-toting rednecks

Dec 20, 2012 | 1 Comment

dodgevanjackson.blog

This Dodge Ram 250 van belongs to a sweet old man named Jackson in Bed-Stuy. He’s the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet and always has a kind word or blessing for you. During the warmer months of the year he sells watermelons and house plants and when the temperatures begin to drop he moves on to pumpkins, Christmas trees, and poinsettias. Jackson has always wanted to drive down to Mardi Gras in a big Cadillac so I might take him up on his offer to ride down with him one day. It will be our version of Easy Rider except without the motorcycles, hippies, whores and shotgun-toting rednecks.  The famous café scene (see clip below) from that movie was filmed in Morganza, LA and features a local cast that were all friends with my family. In fact my uncle was married to Girl #5 (in the green dress), Cynthia Grezaffi. Word is that Dennis Hopper invited the girls back to his Capitol House hotel room in Baton Rouge to smoke weed. That didn’t go over too well with the sheriff much like in the scene from the movie.  Easy Rider has always been a favorite film of mine especially because of the Louisiana locations and as a child we would always pass by that iconic café on the way to my grandmother’s house.

Below the Capitol House (now the Heidelberg Hotel) in Baton Rouge, LA

Capitol_House_Hotel_Pool

imported from iraq and the variety of 99 cents

May 8, 2012 | Leave a comment

This 1982 FJ45 Toyota Land Cruiser was imported from Iraq and belongs to Saraghina owner, Edoardo Mantelli. He always comes up with great rides so I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next in his stable of coolness. The P & G Variety 99 cent store is closed now but I’m glad I was able to capture the yellow and red sign pairing nicely with the graphic pinstripes on the Toyota. Next week I’ll have a yellow pickup up that sort of matches this truck. Stay intertuned. Since today is my birthday I decided to post a pic of me arriving home in a sweet 1965 Chevrolet Malibu

larry fink and soul extraction

Apr 3, 2012 | Leave a comment

Instead of going on and on about this fine Cadillac on my street I thought that I might just let my fingers move across the keyboard and see where it takes me… Last week I met photographer Larry Fink and heard him talk for an hour on a wide range of subjects from flash photography to digital camera shutter lag. He likened the latter to blowing up like a puffer fish and waiting for that moment when you can let it all out i.e. release the shutter. One irreplaceable instant as he says. Larry had grown accustomed to the immediate and solid punctuation of his film camera but the 1:1 shots I saw taken with his small digital Ricoh GR in Argentina further confirm that it’s really never the camera. His hour long visit was a mini course in not only photography but also a peek into how an artist views the world. Larry has soul. I could tell from the minute he walked in to the room and started blowing a harmonica. His photography reflects that and he can extract your soul just by talking to you let alone capturing it on film or digital sensor. Larry’s got my soul and keeps it in a Mason jar at his farm. Check out Larry’s blog.

bird watching and champagne

Feb 14, 2012 | 1 Comment

I’ve been watching this ’76-’77 Ford Thunderbird in lovely Metallic Champagne color for months now. Keeping track of its movements and patterns, marveling at the wonderful color and aerodynamics, but I’ve never been able to capture it in its natural habitat. This past Sunday I found this rare bird all alone. I moved in close taking extra caution not to disturb the nest and snapped my shot.
I could probably do a mini-show just on my neighborhood’s cars alone but I need to find the right spot just like my subject matter. There is a new men’s barbershop opening up in what was previously a house of worship of some sort. Maybe they could let me grace their walls with these cool cars. I could invite the owners of the cars to come by, park out front and get a shave and a haircut. Check out the vintage Thunderbird ad below. 

putting out fires in austria and why I shouldn’t wear a dress

Jan 31, 2012 | Leave a comment


If you are going to drive around New York City then you might as well do it with style and panache. This Land Rover has that in spades and so does its owner, Edoardo Mantelli. In addition to being owner of the fantastic pizzeria, Saraghina, Mantelli also runs the women’s fashion label, Tocca. In fact I’m wearing one of his dresses right now. Not really but I would if I could squeeze my fat body into one.
Getting back to the Land Rover, this particular vehicle was presumably once in the fleet of the Freiwillige Feuerwehr Thaur, the volunteer fire department of Thaur, Tirol, Austria. I love the bold color against this dark background and a little snow on the ground. So to recap, the owner of the pizzeria and designer of women’s fashions drives around in a fire department truck from Austria. That’s the kind of life I want to lead. 

you just haven’t earned it yet, baby

Jan 27, 2012 | Leave a comment

Haps Friday peeps. I’ve been hooked on The Smiths lately hence the title but here are photos I wanted to share with you of the Saragina pizza and octopus salad mentioned in this week’s earlier post. Audio/stills clip of the late Kirsty MacColl’s version of YJHEIYB.

the dancing prostitute and the neopolitan pie

Jan 24, 2012 | Leave a comment

This 1965 Ford Econoline pickup is owned by Massimiliano “Kiko” Nanni, the one-time, part-owner of the Bed-Stuy pizzeria, Saraghina which he named after the dancing prostitute in Fellini‘s . I shot this photo last year when the truck was parked right in front of the restaurant. I have a shot of the other owner’s Land Rover in pretty much the same spot. Last year the Auto Ego section of the NY Times ran this story about Kiko and his Econoline with lots of great photos. I encourage anyone who has never visited Bed-Stuy or anyone who just loves pizza to come out and try Saraghina. I highly recommend the capocollo pizza and the octopus salad. In fact if you get in touch with me ( I live in the ‘hood) I’ll be your personal tour guide. Word is that Kiko has a new Mediterranean place called Celestino a few blocks down from the pizzeria. Like.

suckers to the side I know you hate…

Jan 10, 2012 | Leave a comment


…my 98. Well it’s not really mine but Chuck D of Public Enemy sang about his 98 in the song “You Gonna Get Yours”. Here’s a nice Oldsmobile 98 that the owner is in the process of restoring. I’ve been waiting for him to park against that newly painted wall. This photo is a little too dark for me but I still love it.

your teddy bear and mr. jimmy

Dec 20, 2011 | 3 Comments

This Lincoln Town Car is owned by Mr. Jimmy Leary who owns the candy store on Tompkins Avenue in Bed-Stuy. Officially called Jimmy’s Candy Store, this place is more of a museum of curiosities and old candies like Squirrel Nut Zippers, Mary Jane and Black Cow. There are two wooden phone booths in the front of the store that have had the payphones removed but now provide a nice perch for the official store cat. Most Sunday mornings I get the paper here and have chats with Mr. Jimmy about his car and the neighborhood. He’s been in the same spot for over 30 years. I’ll never forget the smile on his face when I showed him this photo which is now framed and sitting behind his vintage wooden display cases. Next door at 404 Tompkins was another candy and novelty shop that back in the day was the birthplace of the original Teddy Bear. You can read about it and this store in James T. & Karla Murray‘s excellent book that I mentioned last week, Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New YorkWaddaya mean you haven’t bought it yet!?!

deuce-and-a-quarter

Sep 16, 2011 | 1 Comment

Sometimes I’ll get lucky and meet the owner of a car I’ve photographed. I never know how someone will react when I tell them, “I shot your car.” Most seem okay with it and are more than happy to offer up a story. I met the owner of this Buick and gave him a small print, much to his surprise.

This car is a Buick Electra 225 or as its known on the street, the Deuce-and-a-Quarter. It measures 225 inches bumper-to-bumper.

I took this shot very quickly, not caring too much for the framing.  I didn’t think it would work because the background was too busy. I try to stay away from signs and awnings. But once I looked at it on a larger screen it came to life and became one of my favorites.