It's 10:46pm California time as I sit down to write this. But I'm not in San Pedro. I'm somewhere near Saint Marks Place in New York City, and the only sounds in the room are the tapping of two Apple keyboards and the rattling dull whine of air filters sucking the cigarette smoke out of the air of a spacious loft replete with a machine gun and a glass-encased model of the Bismarck. On the chairs at the bar hang three jackets, with a black, non-descript number in the middle. To its left is a navy blue Red Kap work jacket with a lakes modified roadster screenprinted across the back, reading "GEARHEAD." To its right hangs a high-visibility orange example sporting a rearing horse patch on the sleeve denoting a foreign police agency.
The night before, I'd been talking to Wert at the Manhattan Classic Car Club. In classic fashion, he looked out the window only to see a man in that same jacket smoking a cigarette and began to mildly panic. "Davey. Davey! I think the fire marshal is here!"
"Ray," I replied, "That's not the fire marshal. That's Alex Roy."
For the last few months, I've been helping the longtime friend of (and occasional contributor to) tha Jalop whack his upcoming memoir into shape. He swears he's finishing the last two chapters tonight. I swear I'm going to get this draft of "Fast as a Shark" done before I rest, despite being entirely sleep-deprived.
Coming off of a lackluster New York Auto Show, Alex's Polizei jacket and my Gearhead jacket hanging there as we attempt to tell stories worthy of publication, got me thinking about the contrasts between circumstances that create the awesome and ones that contribute to the black hole of suck.
For my money, best part of the New York show was the Taxi 07 exhibit, featuring the RIDES Crown Vic hi-riser, the Smart Design Kia Rondo cab concept, and the ungainly-yet-fascinating Standard Taxi. Being a California boy, I've never had much use for taxis, even in San Francisco. In New York, when one is pressed for time or has a bat's chance on Saturn of immediately grasping the lay of the land and figuring out bus and subway routes, cabbing it is simply a fact of life. But even for non-New Yorkers, the yellow cars are a symbol of what's regarded by many as a town to rival the Londons, Parises and Romes of the world, and indeed in the production of items of cultural import for both export and consumption at home, its only true rival is Los Angeles.
On the other hand, it's a telling thing when your auto show's only truly fantastic booth is one celebrating something that's basically a workaday appliance — something willingly admitted by the Standard Taxi representative to Spinelli and I yesterday.
Otherwise? North American premieres of exciting vehicles we'd seen unveiled at other major auto shows; Johan de Nysschenn using derivatives of "precise" too many times (I'm beginning to think Audi execs do this just for exposure on this site), Emil Rensing, Spinelli and I spending too much time speaking in German accents and Subaru's unveiling of the most uninspired-looking WRX in the marque's storied history.
The best parts were ancillary. The night I arrived, Herr Roy and I exposed two young bucks to the glory of Rendezvous and watched their minds enlarge in real time. Bumbeck and I had a nice chat with an incredibly drunk girl during a frigid walk to a bar where Black Flag's "TV Party" blaring from the outside speakers enticed us to stop in. We listened to elder statesman of the profession David E. Davis orate and pontificate and had a guffaw-riddled end-of-press-days chat with the Autoblog boys. Of course, best of all was finally hooking up with Krucoff, Dana of #1 Hit Song fame, Jeff Musical, The Highly Official Phillip A.V. McCarthy and the rather dashing Larry Forney.
In short, the awesome in New York was to be found in the human stories; the stories behind the carbon-based life-forms behind the cars; behind those who sell and market the cars and those who drive the cars. Ostensibly, the recent auto show season has been about rethinking cars. But the overarching subcurrent in New York seems to be that the automakers have currently thought themselves into a corner and are looking for a way out. Oddly enough my two favorite reveals at New York were the Chevy minicar triplets and Ford's Flex family hauler. The last Chevy concept that excited me was the SSR, a car that never should gone into production. But if freaking Chevrolet can come up with designs as fresh, interesting and exciting as the Beat, the Trax and the Groove, it could well mean that the bar is about to move again. Dear Titans of Industrial Might: stop trying to make the people drink and instead sing a siren song to lure them to the water. I say this to the automakers, in the spirit of the words of the mighty D. Boon: Get your hands in there and feel what the awesome is all about!
Thanks for listening. Sorry we told you we'd see you next Wednesday last Wednesday. But really, we'll see you next Wednesday next Wednesday.
"Fast as a Shark" is a weekly electronic broadside aimed at what has been historically right and terribly wrong with the autmotive industry and culture. And yes, when we once had had a diminutive German metal singer as our IM icon, a drunken friend thought he was talking to Alex Roy.
Fast as a Shark: Cannibalism in Pursuit of the Elusive Awesome [Internal]