Saturday, May 17, 2014

Her name is Victoria, and she's a proud old gal...

...from a photographer's notebook

Taxi-to-Taxi - Both Crown Vics, of course. Everything else is a pretender. End of story.         ©2013 Steve Ember

Well, actually it’s Crown Victoria. And all her sisters have the same name.

They had, at one time, an “upscale” cousin, named Marquis, Grand Marquis. He came from the Mercury side of the family, but fancier pretensions aside, they shared the same family resemblance, character, and breeding.

They made – and continue to make  fine taxicabs. Indeed, on the mean streets of Manhattan, and other big cities, they have been the gold standard for years. 

Great cavernous trunks for great bulky suitcases heading with you to the airport…roomy, comfortable interiors, with cushy back seats…big, smooth-performing V-8 engines and bulletproof transmissions that never break a sweat.

The very embodiment of the tried and true large American V-8 powered rear wheel drive sedan. A timeless body style that, at least to these eyes, combined class, lithe good looks and a muscular stance. And quick off the mark, too.

She shows us her classic stance at Duane Park in Tribeca

They are part of the urban landscape. You hail  a cab in midtown Manhattan, and it's most likely going to be a big yellow “Crown Vic.” You step into a smart dark gray Washington Flyer cab at Washington Dulles International Airport, and no matter how arduous the whole process of retrieving your luggage and getting through customs may have been, the final stage of coming home has some class about it, as that heavy duty “Detroit Iron” (in this case, a Grand Marquis) carries you home in style, with nary a rattle or other untoward noise.

I had occasion to be in New York City recently. I’d heard how the city was moving toward a fleet of hybrid taxis, but didn’t pay all that much attention until I was waiting in line for a cab in front of Penn Station…and took in the visual evidence that, taxi-wise, the urban landscape was a-changin.’

The procession remains yellow in color, but the boxy little hybrids that are in the mix alongside of the trusty Crown Vic, were, how can I say it, a bit of a visual culture shock.

My local cab company in Northern Virginia still has drivers who own Crown Vic or Mercury Grand Marquis taxis. They love them, including the fact they’re still soldiering on, solid and rattle-free as a rock, as their odometers march on toward 300,000 miles. I even have this quaint old habit of calling one of these drivers if I’m making a “special” trip, like out to the airport.

But bulletproof and safe as they may be, their end is approaching, as a result of age and mileage rules imposed by the various jurisdictions, and the fact that Ford stopped building the Crown Vic almost two years ago.

Not sure if the mean streets of Manhattan allow Crown Vics to make it out to 300,000 miles, but it’s going to be interesting to see whether those more environment-friendly hybrid taxis will have the “stuff” to compile a reliability record anywhere near as exemplary as the old Crown Vic.

And gosh knows, they sure aren't as pretty. And I can tell you, first hand, they don't smooth out those cratered Manhattan streets like a big, long-wheel-based, solidly built Crown Vic.

Me, I’ll keep hailing these lovely machines, as long as they’re plying the streets of Manhattan…or anywhere else, and will be pointing a camera at the graceful and muscular Crown Victoria taxi cab whenever I can, ‘cause I want to remember her when she's gone. 

Not for many years, I hope. (*)

©2014 Steve Ember
(*) But when that day comes ;-)

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Monday, May 12, 2014


    ...from a photographer's notebook

Just a little smile-maker for anyone who may be in need of one today.

Last June, on a perfect, sunny, low-humidity afternoon, I came upon this smiling menagerie on West Broadway, in the Tribeca section of Lower Manhattan. 

In that great afternoon light, these "floaties" outside the Balloon Saloon presented a festive mix of color and whimsicality that had me smiling and looking for all sorts of angles and settings in which to capture them. Particularly liked that happy looking dolphin! But, of course, having a fondness for toothsome *Crocolators, his pal nearby was also a favorite. And doesn't that "killer whale" turn up the corners of your mouth?

I spent several hours on successive days exploring Tribeca and taking in the vibrant street ambiance, and plan to do more during future visits. If you follow my work, you may have seen some of my "Tribeca Moments." If not, this link will take you to my New York City images on Foto-Community.

Any of my Tribeca (or other NYC) scenes are available in archival gallery prints and as custom printed Photo Note Cards. For more information, contact me at the e-mail address in right column.

Oh, and don't forget to smile - you just might make someone's day...mine included.

* Oh, yes, "Crocolator?" Keeps me from having to guess if it's a crocodile or an alligator!

©2014 Steve Ember

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