Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Big Wheels, Hammocks and Ralph's Ices

This past weekends weather made me think about three things...Big Wheel's, Hammocks, and Ralph's Ices. There are always things we think about when the weather gets need for a jacket, bring out the short sleeve polo's, put the top down on the car, hit the park, go for brunch somewhere you can sit outside...I mean we all have our "go to" things when the weatherman brings us good news. However, what if you could choose only 3 things. Now, I'm not a fan of "what ifs", especially when coming from the girlfriend or even worse, job interviews, but lets stop, think, and really think. What are your three? Well, mine are Big Wheel's, Hammocks and Ralph's Ices.

When I was a kid, the coolest thing to have was the Big Wheel. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, imagine a tricycle made of hard plastic with fat rear tires and an overly large front tire. They came in all different themes, from Cartoon characters to TV shows (the CHiPs one was the had a handbrake. If you knew how you could do burnouts). Mine was green and black and had this little yellow speaker box with a button which you pressed to make it roar like a lion. There was nothing like opening the garage door, feeling the sun hit you in the face and tearing outta there like you were the fastest thing on three wheels.

When I got a little older I experienced my first hammock. That was it. Forget lounge chairs with all their unfolding and positioning, just hop in and relax. Towels? On the hard ground? Please. I'll take a hammock over those any day. Unfortunately, I live in an apartment and the idea of putting a hammock in is not very practical. So, I've been working my buddy to put one in his backyard for when I visit. I'll keep you posted on the results. When he is ready, or if you are currently looking for one, I suggest Pawley's Island Hammock down in Greenville,NC. They've been making hammocks here in the U.S. since 1889.

Last, but certainly not least is Ralph's Ices. As far as I know almost everyone has had Italian ices. Most of us in New York City have their "ices" from the all famous Marino's. It can be found in either the little yellow cup you eat from with a flat wooden spoon or more frequently from local pizza shops in a paper cup. There are others like Lemon Ice King of Corona or maybe even Rita's, but nothing compares to Ralph's. With more flavors than Baskin Robins, and lines equal to those at opening day at Yankee Stadium, nothing cools you down like a Vanilla Chip ice. In my neighborhood they had a truck, kind of like Mr Softee or Good Humor, instead of that constant bell dinging the Ralph's truck would play local radio stations...much cooler. You could hear that truck coming a mile away. I think it was the only thing that could get me off my Big Wheel (or hammock).

Thanks for listening. Now if this rain can get out of here....

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's my dad's birthday...

It's my dad's birthday today. I began thinking about all the things he's taught me over the years. Here are just a few...

Cars. From as early as I can remember, there was almost never a discussion that didn't include cars. Whether talking about his first...a 1965 Olds 442 convertible or the canny ability of naming the make, model and year of a classic by the smallest detail such as a piece of a tail light or door handle.

Whenever we were in the car on our way anywhere, he would always narrate the route we were taking as well as other possible ways to our destination. I've later come to realize that his sense of direction is as poor as mine.

When I was 15 yrs old he bought a 1956 Ford Thunderbird. It was "Ford Club Green" with a white hardtop and Continental kit. At the time I had never seen one before and thought it was one of the coolest cars I had ever seen. He would enter it into car shows and take home awards. These events were an education in the appreciation of the automobile. This is also when I obtained my love for Corvettes (specifically a 1963 split window).

He also taught me how to drive a stick shift. In a parking garage in a car that had a broken tachometer and speedometer. The gauges broke during a snow storm and hadn't been repaired yet. It was a brand new Mitsubishi 300GT and I was petrified. He has a rule that still stands today..."you can drive any car I own, just bring it back fueled and clean...and don't be stupid. Cars can be replaced but people cannot". Lets just say that rule enabled me to drive his Jag XJS and Corvette convertible on many a road trip.

College. When it came time to go to college I was told no matter what you are going away for your freshman year. I did. He took me to go visit my first choice in Boston. However, we didn't book a hotel prior and when we got there couldn't find a room anywhere. Turned out it was the Boston Marathon that weekend and there wasn't a room in the entire city. We took a nap in the car and drove back the same day.

After a few attempts at a few schools I made the decision to not continue my education. Rather than freak out and threaten to disown me, he backed my decision but gave a few parameters. The biggest was i wasn't going to "live off him". He didn't want me to become a "bum", which I thought I shouldn't be living on the streets. He then went to the video store, sat me down and had me watch Frank Sinatra in Come Blow Your Horn. I highly recommend it.

How to dress properly. My Bar-Mitzvah suit came from Barneys. Not the one everyone knows today uptown on Madison Avenue, but the original, downtown, on 17th and Seventh. I learned the importance of a tailor, how to match a tie to a shirt and a shirt to a suit. How to tie that tie. Cuff or no cuff. Where my pants should break on my shoe. Collar stays to him are like no wire hangers to Joan Crawford.

He was wearing jeans with sport jackets before I was even born. He was wearing Stan Smiths while Stan Smith was still playing tennis. Wore the same style of Cole Haan driving shoes till the cancelled the style a few years back. Denim shirts with REAL pearl buttons. His original LV attache. The mans got style.

Now, don't get me wrong. There have been both ups and downs over the years. Quite a few actually. I guess as one gets older the downs aren't as important as the ups. Plus, he's always tried to ensure I learn from each and every mistake he's ever made, but its his birthday and you're not gonna hear about those...

Like I said, these are just a few.

Happy Birthday Dad. Thanks for all the gifts you've given me.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

If only I had a dog...

This may not be the first thing one would think to use carbon fiber for, but hey, why not? It was designed by bike designer Sky Yaeger, who's been designing bikes for 37 years. Apparently, she had 600 of these made in Taiwan a few years back and now can't sell them. Matter of fact, so much carbon fiber was used that bike makers couldn't get their orders filled.

Like I said, if I had a dog I would be on the phone right now ordering. It sells for $65.

You can order by calling Swobo at (831)459-0542 and ask for the Splash B Go dog bowl.

Photos by Jim Merithew/

Friday, April 17, 2009

Where did all the great car movies go?

Being both a movie buff and a car nut I find it hard to believe that with everything that can be done in movies today no one has been able to produce a true car lovers film. The most recent release of Fast and Furious just reinforces this thought. How much of this movie are the actors actually driving the cars? Better yet, how much are these cars driven at all?

Now, I haven't seen F and F, and probably won't, however, I did see the original and thought it was decent for what it was supposed to action movie with some cool effects...but it left me wanting more. More engine rumbles, more rubber burning, and most importantly, real cars doing cool shit on real streets.

There have been some pretty cool movies that have done those 3 things. Most are from the sixties and seventies. My favorite of all time is "Gumball Rally". I can watch it over and over. Classic moment when they tear through a 1976 New York City. This movie along with "Cannonball!" were the predecessors to movies like "Cannonball Run" and "Smokey and the Bandit".

Everyone has their favorites, and I am not telling you which are best, just which you should seek out.

I can watch these over and over again with the volume turned up:

Bullit: No list is complete without this one.
Vanishing Point: Just all out driving, nothing else.
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974): Special effects??? What are special special effects?
Gone in Sixty Seconds: Take out the bridge jump scene and you have a pretty damn good movie.
American Graffiti: I can look at those cars all day long.
French Connection: A '71 Pontiac LeMans vs the NYC subway? Come on.


Days of Thunder
The Bourne films

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Just got back from the barber...

Just got back from the barber and found out it's second generation family owned and has been there since 1926. Made me think, how much time do these old school barbershops have left? Everyday we hear about another "Mom & Pop" shop or independently owned business shutter due to all these "Big Box" retailers taking over. Thankfully the Supercuts of the world haven't taken over. Yet.

Thanks to A Continuous Lean for getting me hooked to the LIFE Archives where these photos were found.