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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social clubs, deacon john and tennis court parking

Jan 23, 2014 | Leave a comment

toyota.blogThis Nissan SUV is parked next to the side of the former Valencia Social Club in New Orleans, a country club of sorts for rich teenagers from nearby schools to hang out. Last November its well-loved director, Jay Molony died in New Orleans. During his time at Valencia he hired a lot of local acts like Deacon John & The Ivories and Irma Thomas to play the teen dances. The club fell on hard times and eventually shut down in the late 80’s. Now the building is home to the Children’s Clothing Exchange. In the shot below you can see that the clothing racks on the dance floor and the stage curtains visible in the rear.


Looks like the club’s tennis court is now doubling as a parking space for a Camaro and an odd boat or two.valenciaaerial

Check out this mini-doc on Deacon John. Listen in at 2:11 when he rises into “Many Rivers To Cross” by Jimmy Cliff. 

Also here’s a clip of Irma on American Bandstand…




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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farmer’s wives, irish poets and digging in the dirt

Aug 1, 2013 | Leave a comment

Here’s a 1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS parked on a quiet street in Philly. From the El Camino Wikipedia entry: “The body style originated in Australia. It was the result of a 1932 letter from the wife of a farmer in Victoria, Australia to Ford Australia asking for “a vehicle to go to church in on a Sunday and which can carry our pigs to market on Mondays”. My father owned a similar style Ford Ranchero and is a farmer but he doesn’t go to church because of all that nasty proselytizin’ and preachin’ stuff. I think the old man’s religion is digging around in the country dirt and watching things grow. There’s a real sense of satisfaction that comes with assisting nature in the growing of food and providing it to others. Kind of like The Force from Star Wars in that it surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy together. Plus the old man has been referred to as the Southern Yoda with all of his tidbits of wisdom. One such nugget in reference to how much torque should be applied to a pulley nut on my old VW Beetle went something like this, “Right before it breaks off, stop.” On my 20th birthday he called me early in the morning and said, “Wake up and piss! The world’s on fire.” Not exactly galaxy-binding words but they did stick with me. I’ll leave you with a few opening lines from Seamus Heaney‘s poem Digging which I often quote in relation to my old man:

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man

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…


another post about buildings, film and music

Apr 23, 2013 | Leave a comment

blackelcamino.blogI think this may be the first car photo I’ve shot in Manhattan. A sweet Chevrolet El Camino. Shown here parked on Bleecker Street in front of the Washington Square Village apartment complex that was built in the late 50’s. Across the street from the apartments was the famous Bleecker Street Cinema seen below in a shot taken sometime in the 60’s. It closed in 1990 and the first film on the last night was Aki Kaurismäki‘s Ariel. Speaking of the El Camino, The Black Keys titled their 2011 album, El Camino featuring a Plymouth Voyager van on the cover framed in a very familiar way. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 

The Bleecker Street Cinema, located on Bleecker near LaGuardia Place (photo: Robert Otter)

The Bleecker Street Cinema, located on Bleecker near LaGuardia Place (photo: Robert Otter)

baudles, bangles and beads

Feb 12, 2013 | Leave a comment

Here’s a classic example of the Buick Electra 225 a.k.a. Deuce-and-a-Quarter convertible. Two hundred and twenty five inches from front to back. I shot this one a few weeks ago during my trip to New Orleans after having just inhaled a sloppy roast beef po-boy from Parkway Tavern (see pic below). I needed a nap but I saw this sweet ride and of course had to capture its soul.  When you visit New Orleans you are in a constant state of searching for food and escaping the heat. There are so many great places to dine and so many great dishes that you must have them all. As I type this it is Mardi Gras and everyone in Louisiana is out in the streets going crazy to catch beads and trinkets made in China. Another Tuesday. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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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


cremation, faceplants and old fries

Dec 4, 2012 | Leave a comment

Do you see the aggressively white, Finnish guy with his face planted in the grass? This park is on the grounds of the crematorium which is always a good spot for catching the last of the sun’s rays during the summer if you aren’t actually being burned to dust inside the building. It’s quiet and nicely landscaped with occasional nudity but mostly from guys having a pee on a tree after drinking Koff beer all day. It’s rare to see a huge American car like this in Finland and equally strange that it’s parked in the half-moon driveway of the crematorium. I didn’t look inside the car but if it’s like most station wagons there are probably old McDonald’s french fries under the seat and sticky Creedence Clearwater Revival cassettes strewn about the interior. 

And this next clip to perpetuate the “All-Finns-Are-Great-Dancers” myth:

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:


black and white and Aalto revisited

Oct 12, 2012 | Leave a comment

This is the first black and white photo that I’ve posted. Not a trend mind you but merely because the colors and light were really off in the original shot and no amount of editing would save them. I love this late-60s Citroën 2CV and it happens to be parked on the same street where Alvar Aalto (see last week’s post) lived. He probably drove something cool like this if he drove at all. Here’s a cool ad for the Deux Chevaux:

escape hatches, italian beauties and simple design

Oct 5, 2012 | Leave a comment

I shot this beautifully restored Fiat 600 on the same street as the previous red Fiat 600. As I was shooting that car, a passerby told me about this bright yellow-gold one. Fantastico! I’ve fallen in love with these Italian beauties and the new Abarth version too:

Just behind the trees on the left is the Design Museum featuring many famous Finnish designers like Alvar Aalto, Ovia Toikka and younger talent like Harri Koskinen. You’ve seen their stuff before but you may not have put the name with their designs. I had a chance to visit Alvar Aalto’s home and office that has been turned into a tourist spot. A great place with tons of light and decorated mostly with furniture designed by Alvar himself. Apparently Aalto wasn’t keen to visitors so he had a secret door built in his library that enabled him to escape to another part of the house. Funny that this place is now full of visitors roaming through the rooms with protective shoe covers as if investigating a crime scene. No crime here though, just a beautiful space that is calming and inspiring.

espionage and proper winter attire

Sep 11, 2012 | Leave a comment

Not sure about the make and model of this Jeep-ish little car parked in the working class district of Kallio and neighborhood of  Siltasaari, Helsinki. Judging by the decal on the side it may have been adequate enough for a surveyor or cartographer of some sort. Siltasaari and nearby Töölö seem to be the prime spots for Cold War-era film locations as well as the rest of Helsinki. Check out this clip from Gorky Park filmed in Helsinki. This jeep/truck thingy was shot in front of the reddish brown apartment building behind Ian Bannen and William Hurt

Also shot in Helsinki was the 1967 Ken Russell film, Billion Dollar Brain, the third installment in the Harry Palmer spy series starring Michael Caine. Caine’s character, Harry Palmer meets a spy on the same frozen Töölö Bay right after he goes shopping at Stockmann for a coat and proper hat.

Here’s the what the bay and house look like today albeit without the snow and seductive double agent.

pull up to the bumper

Aug 28, 2012 | Leave a comment

This mid-80s Citroën CX 25 Prestige was the choice model for chauffeurs because it offered lots of legroom and headroom for large egos including French President Jacques Chirac, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and the leggy chanteuse Grace Jones. Check out Jones’ ad for the Citroën CX. Her hair sorta resembles the CX.


crematoriums, heavy petting and the end of days

Aug 21, 2012 | Leave a comment

An early 90’s Land Rover Defender Tdi parked in front of the Hietaniemen Krematorio chapel in Helsinki. There are two bird sculptures above the door to the chapel. Not sure of the significance but maybe because of the many species that live in the nearby Hietaniemi Cemetery.  Buried there is the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and his first wife, Aino and second wife, Elissa. Both were architects as well. I’ll talk more about Aalto in a few weeks. Also nearby is the Hietaniemi Beach that was once a landfill and sand storage area. Now it has a reputation for volleyball, nightly parties and heavy petting which we all know can lead to unmentionable goings-on in the cemetery late at night. Click here to see what the gods do to people who desecrate this beach.

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.


how to hide a double-0 spy boy

Jul 3, 2012 | Leave a comment

There’s no mistaking that this Ford Econoline van parked outside of The Pelican Club in the French Quarter was once part of the Louisiana Coca-Cola Bottling Company. That bold stripe from head to tail begs for a Starsky and Hutch comparison.

On the topic of New Orleans, last night I watched the James Bond film, Live And Let Die.  There were great scenes filmed in the French Quarter and swampy waterways around New Orleans. I always dug this film as a kid especially the jazz funeral that turns into a second line parade. A British Secret Service agent is killed and his body is surreptitiously placed in a coffin as the funeral procession erupts into celebratory dancing. It’s a fantastic scene that took place on the corner of Dumaine and Chartres Street right in front of the fictitious club Fillet of Soul. Its Harlem counterpart in the film, also called Fillet of Soul, was at the corner of East 92nd Street and 2nd Avenue. See screen grabs below. Oh to have been on that movie set with those fine 70’s rides!



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