chicken, brandy and cold war politics

Jul 10, 2015 | Leave a comment

72FordCourier_blogPictured above is a 1972 Ford Courier, a compact pickup truck made by Toyo Kogyo (Mazda) and imported by Ford Motor Company. The Courier was Ford’s answer to the increasingly popular offerings from Toyota and Datsun so importing from Japan made sense but there was a catch. From Wikipedia: “The chicken tax is a 25% tariff on potato starch, dextrin, brandy, and light trucks imposed in 1963 by the United States under President Lyndon B. Johnson in response to tariffs placed by France and West Germany on importation of U.S. chicken. The period from 1961–1964 of tensions and negotiations surrounding the issue, which took place at the height of Cold War politics, was known as the ‘Chicken War’.” In order to circumvent this tax, Ford had the trucks shipped to the US without their cargo boxes attached thus giving it a cab-chassis designation with a lower 4% tax. The tariff was originally meant to protect domestic manufacturers i.e Ford from foreign competition but there have been arguments that the tax buffered manufacturer’s from real competition and let to bad habits like gas-guzzling SUVs and heavy trucks.
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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.


bears, vinyl and how to see your enemy coming from miles away

Aug 26, 2013 | Leave a comment

rustywagon.blogThis lovely fake wood-paneled station wagon is parked at 73 Freeman Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn so named for its verdant forests with tiny creeks and briny marshes. Many moons ago at the westernmost edge of this street there was a white beach and a high bluff that gave you an excellent vantage point and ideal protection from approaching enemies like people with loads of disposable income who love to brunch. The land was settled by the Dutch in the mid-1600’s after a purchase from the Keshaechqueren Indians who started having kids and wanted more of a suburban life. Now this area is home to shipping containers, a large bear carved out of wood (see above) and a cool record store . Also Mae West, the inventor of personal flotation devices lived here.

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incense and sheba baby

May 14, 2013 | Leave a comment

I moved to New York City on Saturday, May 6, 2000. It was a sunny day and the Carmel car service I took from the airport smelled like a hospital and hot wings. I arrived at my temporary residence which was literally a floor in an illegal storefront apartment on Bedford Ave. The place smelled like a black cat and Nag Champa because there was a black cat (Sheba) in it…and Nag Champa.

lessons in Latin and blackened hearts

May 7, 2013 | Leave a comment

IHtruck.blogThis stretch of Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg is near a vintage motorcycle repair and restoration shop so it stands to reason that there might be cool cars and trucks parked nearby. It’s kind of like shooting fish in a barrel or throwing a rock and hitting a guitar player outside of the Bedford L. Easy peasy. The International Harvester 1210 Eight above was shot the weekend before last and is in the same spot as this truckQuite a bit of graffiti has built up on the blue wall behind it and the artist/poet? cunning linguist (a student of Latin, obvi) has added to it with, “Fear will blacken hearts, drive them away. Leave them lonely.” British folkster, Bill Fay‘s song,Be Not So Fearful” walks a similar line:

“Be not so sorry
For what you have done
You must forget them now
It’s done”

Here’s the clip…


red doors 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. In some religions the red door represents the smeared blood of Christ and that everything inside is good and sacred. My apartment door is painted white and is behind a black wrought iron security gate. Experts say that Albert Einstein painted his door red because he wouldn’t have been able to recognize it. Genius! Oh and I really love this Mercedes S-Class

rza, pigeons, and the ladies auxiliary

Jan 15, 2013 | Leave a comment

Here we have a 1969 Plymouth Valiant Signet similar to a Dodge Dart. Behind the Plymouth we have the Polonia Democratic Club and Ladies Auxiliary in Williamsburg. There was a story a few years back in New York Magazine about a guy who raised pigeons on the roof of this building. Not sure if it’s still there but a recent Google Maps satellite view seems to confirm the coops. When I think of pigeon coops I think of Jim Jarmusch‘s classic, Ghost Dog. The lead character played by Forrest Whitaker raises carrier pigeons in between his hitman/samurai duties. It’s a great slow-burn film with a fantastic original score (CD released only in Japan) by RZA. 

Here’s a link to video taken inside of the Polonia Club:

And a clip from Ghost Dog with Whitaker and RZA:

easy motorcycles

Dec 20, 2012 | Leave a comment

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, and shotgun-toting figures.  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


ryan gosling and PDR12

Oct 26, 2012 | Leave a comment

I don’t know much about this 1962 Dodge Lancer other than it has a push-button transmission marked P, D, R, 1, and 2 and was considered to be a compact car back in the day. I love the fins and script Lancer logo.

On this very street in Fort Greene is Middle School 113 which was used as a film location for the Ryan Gosling movie, Half Nelson. Gosling is a drug addict teacher trying to steer his students in the right direction. Here’s a great scene with Gosling and newcomer Shareeka Epps plus Bed-Stuy native, Anthony Mackie:


noise rock and escargot

Jul 31, 2012 | Leave a comment

This is a mid-90’s Dodge Caravan Rallye. I don’t expect you would enter this into any sort of race or “rally” but we must look to another definition to provide deeper meaning. “Rally” also means to come together for a common purpose. In this case you and your family or your experimental noise rock band could come together for the common purpose of getting from A to B in a pink ass Caravan with a rooftop carrier that at one point had a little snail as its official logo. Feel free to laugh, cry or both. 

living in a van with fox blanket curtains

Jul 10, 2012 | Leave a comment

Obviously someone parked this Chevy van on this quiet block of Box Street in Greenpoint and decided to spend the night. There’s a wolf blanket for curtains. See detail below. This is almost equivalent to the Chris Farley‘s Matt Foley character “…living in a van down by the river!”
The East River is a stone’s throw away as well as Newtown Creek which was the site of one of the worst oil spills in the US at the time with somewhere between 17 to 30 million gallons of oil spilling into the water. 

A few notable people born or raised in Greenpoint are Mae West, Pat Benatar, Mickey Rooney and one Willie Sutton who according to urban legend said that he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” He denies ever saying this.


weeds, flowers and spills

Jun 26, 2012 | Leave a comment

One of the great things about walking around the city taking photographs is the small details that you see at the street level. You miss things if you cruise past them on a bike or in a car. I’ve walked all over Brooklyn and Queens looking at buildings and cars but sometimes I’m much more impressed by a struggling weed or flower growing out of a tiny crack in the pavement. However this same weed growing in my postage stamp garden irritates the living hell out of me. I want to destroy it. It’s nature’s way of saying, “Fuck you.” But the flowers are saying, “I love you Christopher.” There’s one rampant invasive plant called Japanese knotweed that can completely take over a yard if not kept under control yet I’ve seen it growing as an ornamental plant in a huge botanical garden in Helsinki. The cold winters there keep it in check but in my Brooklyn backyard that bamboo-like plant will grow up your leg if you aren’t watching. One man’s invasive species is another man’s ornamental plant. Which leads me to graffiti…

I like some forms of graffiti and street art like throw-ups, wildstyles, stickers, Banksy‘s stencil art and Invader‘s tile creations but I usually not tags because I can’t read that but that’s my fault. One particular artist’s work keeps showing up under my feet, literally. His name is Paul Richard. He does works in mixed media but I like his portraits of gentlemen on sidewalks using a dripping paint technique that is not too far removed from Jackson Pollock or your morning pancake syrup masterpieces. On the sidewalk right behind this 1969 Dodge Sweptline D100 pickup truck is one such portrait. See street view shot. I love their simplicity and I often mistake them for spilled paint which is exactly what they are. Click on his name above the link above and search for the Works on Paper. 

on fillmore place: henry miller

May 29, 2012 | Leave a comment

The first time I walked down Fillmore Place I felt as if I was on a movie set. The narrow street of mostly Italianate buildings seemed like the idyllic NYC street scene. Except for the graffiti, you wouldn’t have to do much set decoration in order for it to look like late 1800’s Brooklyn. Author Henry Miller who lived nearby described the street in his book Tropic of Capricorn:

It was the most enchanting street I have ever seen in all my life. It was the ideal street for a boy, a lover, a maniac, a drunkard, a crook, a lecher, a thug, an astronomer, a musician, a poet, a tailor, a shoemaker, a politician. In fact this is just the sort of street it was, containing just such representative of the human race, each one a world unto himself and all living together harmoniously and inharmoniously.”

It would please me if an astronomer owns this mid-60’s Chevy Nova SS but I’ll settle for a candlestick maker.

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

skinnier with rubber

Apr 24, 2012 | Leave a comment

The second 1800 series Volvo  in Williamsburg, Brooklyn within a few blocks of last week’s offering. This one has the original hubcaps plus a skinnier bumper with rubber guards. Here’s an article about record holder Irv Gordon. Oh and by the way, Diana Reyna did win her re-election. She is a member of the city council and the first woman of Dominican descent to be elected to office in New York State. 

thelonious monk, swedish design and danish fashion

Apr 10, 2012 | Leave a comment

Here’s a nice late-60’s Volvo 122S hot off the presses. I shot this one on Sunday as I was roaming around the ‘burg searching through the bins of record stores for my white whale, otherwise known as a copy of Thelonious Monk‘s Monk’s Time on vinyl. I found the record btw at the trusted Academy (Annex) Records. Check out this clip of Thelonious Monk commenting on his band member’s new pants. 

I like the smooth lines of the Volvo 120 Series along with the wedge-shaped P1800 (coming next week) as opposed to the boxy (or rectilinear as they like to say) shape of later model Volvos.  Graffiti by DANO.

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.

pardon the paronomasia on oronoco

Feb 28, 2012 | Leave a comment

Over the next few weeks I’m going to feature some vehicles that I shot in Alexandria, Virginia. I would have never guessed this little town to be a hotbed of cool automobiles. Here’s a nice early-70’s Ford F-Series Ranger. I love the pun on the awning which leads me to comment on some of the more interesting ones in my Brooklyn neighborhood …the former fresh seafood joint on Bedford Avenue called Off Da Hook and a new pet supply shop on Halsey St. called Who’s Your Doggy?. Fantastic.

bird watching and champagne

Feb 14, 2012 | Leave a 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. 

a jeep grows in brooklyn?

Feb 7, 2012 | Leave a comment

I have no idea where I shot this Jeep Cherokee. Red Hook? Williamsburg? Maybe one or two of you budding location scouts could troll around the Brooklyn map in street view mode and find it for me. UPDATE!! Location has been found. This was shot on Van Dyke Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn. Thanks to Lisbeth Salander for hacking into my metadata!
It’s been said that the Jeep Cherokee gave rise to US automakers designing more SUV’s. I wish they would have taken their inspiration from the stylish, original Land Rovers. Jeeps were supposed to be true utility vehicles, not style-icons but this one certainly looks cool with it’s blacked-out-for-stealth purposes. Sort of like a post-apocalyptic vehicle that runs on Willie Nelson‘s marijuana stash.

putting out fires in austria and ladies dresses

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 pizza-stuffed 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.

ma bell and safety vests

Jan 17, 2012 | Leave a comment

I think this Chevy van once had a life as a Bell Telephone utility vehicle but now it’s being used by a hip Williamsburg resident. I watched and waited as he parked in this spot. I knew I had a good shot but the oncoming traffic was tricky even on this slow morning. I carefully stepped into the street and made my shot. Maybe I should start wearing an orange safety vest like Bill Cunnningham. I came across this same van before in Greenpoint, Brooklyn near where they built the set of HBO‘s Boardwalk Empire but it lacked this nice brick background. I often pass up nice looking cars because the surroundings aren’t quite right. Note: Bell also used Corvair Rampsides and Ford Econolines. See below.

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.

i coulda been a contender…and had a muffuletta.

Dec 28, 2011 | Leave a comment

It is easy to see why I like this setting in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The fantastic green color from the fence and doors to the dark blue of this 1976 Mercury Cougar XR-7. The building behind the car houses the Red Hook Neighborhood School mostly for kids from the nearby housing project. During the 90’s LIFE magazine named Red Hook one of the worst neighborhoods in America. Now it has an Ikea which as you know is the yardstick by which all neighborhoods are measured. Either that or having your neighborhood depicted in Grand Theft Auto IV (renamed “East Hook” in the popular video game.)
I take a lot of photographs in this half-residential, half-industrial neighborhood and usually stop by Fort Defiance restaurant for a sandwich. They once broke my heart when I was denied a reverse-engineered Central Grocery-style muffuletta. Got there too late! They also make great cocktails and use perfectly shaped KOLD-DRAFT® ice cubes. Leave it to Brooklyn to fetishize ice.
Interesting note: Red Hook was the setting for the Marlon Brando movie, On The Waterfront although it was filmed in Hoboken, NJ. In that film you can see the ill-fated Andrea Doria cruising down the Hudson River. Another famous ship, the Queen Mary 2 docks in Red Hook. So there.