Hood Ornament

“Electronic aids, particularly domestic computers, will help the inner migration, the opting out of reality. Reality is no longer going to be the stuff out there, but the stuff inside your head. It’s going to be commercial and nasty at the same time.”
― J.G. Ballard

Invasion Car Show Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

Invasion Car Show
Deep Ellum
Dallas, Texas

Taking a Picture of a Hood Ornament

“The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world ‘picturesque.”
― Susan Sontag, On Photography

Car Show, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Car Show, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

“To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as a camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a subliminal murder – a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.”
― Susan Sontag, On Photography

Hood Ornament

I’m no expert, but I think this design was originally from a Pierce Arrow.

Not to be confused with a Peirce Arrow – which is true only when everything is false.

The first Pierce-Arrow archers were slight in frame, partly clothed, and helmeted. Later versions depict a helmet-less archer with no clothes and a little more muscle. Both versions are graceful and elegant, which is funny when you consider that a fellow sweeping the floor of the Pierce-Arrow factory was asked to be the model. After attending archery classes to add realism to the pose, Albert Gonas used his broom for the arrow.
—-from historicvehicle.org

Hood Ornament, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Hood Ornament, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

The job of a hood ornament is a tough one. You are out there, unprotected, in the wind.
You wonder what it would feel like to be the Spirit of Ecstasy – even on a Rolls, exposed, fighting the sun and the rain.

And so unappreciated.

Back in the cool days, nobody would think of buying or driving a car without a piece of iconic sculpture rising above the radiator cap. Now they are all but gone. The malfeasance of the modern world in its various manifestations is exposed in the reasons for the disappearance of the hood ornament.
Too expensive.
Too easy to steal.
Too original.
Too personal.
Too dangerous.

The same mysterious forces that saved me from being impaled on the steering wheel also saved the young engineer’s wife. Apart from a bruised upper jawbone and several loosened teeth, she was unharmed. During my first hours in Ashford Hospital all I could see in my mind was the image of us locked together face to face in these two cars, the body of her dying husband lying between us on the bonnet of my car. We looked at each other through the fractured windshields, neither able to move. Her husband’s hand, no more than a few inches from me, lay palm upwards beside the right windshield wiper. His hand had struck some rigid object as he was hurled from his seat, and the pattern of a sign formed itself as I sat there, pumped up by his dying circulation into a huge blood-blister – the triton signature of my radiator emblem.
—-J.G. Ballard, Crash

Red and Blue

Super Soul: And there goes the Challenger, being chased by the blue, blue meanies on wheels. The vicious traffic squad cars are after our lone driver, the last American hero, the electric centaur, the, the demi-god, the super driver of the golden west! Two nasty Nazi cars are close behind the beautiful lone driver. The police numbers are gettin’ closer, closer, closer to our soul hero, in his soul mobile, yeah baby! They about to strike. They gonna get him. Smash him. Rape… the last beautiful free soul on this planet.
—-Vanishing Point

Beautiful Cars, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Beautiful Cars, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Super Soul: This radio station was named Kowalski, in honour of the last American hero to whom speed means freedom of the soul. The question is not when’s he gonna stop, but who is gonna stop him.
—-Vanishing Point

Fender Bender

Sometimes I sit up in the darkness
And I watch my baby as she sleeps
Then I climb in bed and I hold her tight
I just lay there awake in the middle of the night
Thinking ’bout the wreck on the highway
—-Bruce Springsteen, Wreck on the Highway

I was driving home from the library after having dropped off a stack – the traffic was heavy and jittery in a late rush-hour need to get home right now way. Everyone was driving faster than they should. This is on a neighborhood artery – Arapaho Road – six lanes, lots of stoplights, lots of in-and-out. I’ve seen too many fender benders in this sort of tumult so I took a deep breath, slowed down, and kept my eyes open.

I could see a clot of cars ahead of me forming around the railroad tracks. Behind me, I saw a car coming up fast, winding between the commuters, swerving between lanes. It was an ordinary ambiguous American sedan, some unidentifiable dark color, with a long dent, more like a big scrape, all down the left side. I could see the driver’s smooth round head sticking up – at first I thought they must be very short but I realized they were simply reclined, sitting back, one hand idly resting on the wheel. I noticed the nonchalant aggression of the driving, the macho languid position of the driver, and the evidence of past indiscretions and said to myself, “This person is about to have an accident.”

They pulled up to within inches of my rear bumper and as I touched my brakes to prepare for the stopped traffic ahead the car immediately swung to the right into the parking lane and used it to dash if front of me. I slowed down some more and watched as the car darted back into traffic right in front of me and immediately smashed into the halted cars.

There is the ubiquitous sound of accidents. The sudden screech of brakes, the squeal of rubber sliding on concrete. Then a fateful  BANG! – a concussion wave that pushes against your head and drills into your ears. That is the crossing point when you know an accident, not a near-miss, has actually occurred. The irrevocable forces of chaos and entropy have been unleashed. After that the sound of rending metal as all three of Newton’s Laws of Motion work together to run up huge bills at the body shop. Finally, the tinkling coda as glass falls and shatters onto the unforgiving concrete.

I watched the crumpling as the rear of the car rose and then fell back. The trunk of the car in front flew open, forced straight up like a huge metal surrender flag. It wasn’t that bad of an accident, nothing more than the usual fender bender, thousands happen every day, but it is always such a shame. I’m not a car person, but when I see something like this I always think of the thousands of hours that went in to building the car and the tens of thousands of hours spent working to pay off a car loan. There is that beam of pride smile when someone shows off their new ride.

All torn asunder in a moment of testosterone.

A few years ago I was driving back home from the gym with Nick and Lee in the car. We were coming up Skillman and getting ready to cross the LBJ 635 Interstate. That’s a nasty little intersection, with a half-dozen busy roads all coming together in a confusing, curving snarl. Now that I think about it, it was the same time of day – late, evening starting to set in, not dark yet, everybody tired and in a hurry. Coming up to the light at the frontage road I saw that the green light was beginning to get the slightest hint of yellow. Looking ahead, I saw someone coming the other way in the left turn lane. He was accelerating, obviously going to try and cut me off, run the left turn in front of me before the light turned red. I’m not going to play chicken with my car so I started to brake.

Looking in my rear view mirror I saw a custom souped-up compact speeding up right on my tail. I could read his mind, “Oh shit! don’t tell me that asshole in the crappy mini-van is going to stop on that yellow light. I have places to be, I’m not going to wait.” I knew he was going to dart around me and run the light.

I think Nick had just picked up his learner’s permit and Lee was only a year behind. I told them, “Hey, watch this, there is about to be a car wreck.” They perked up, looking a little confused.

The car behind me roared as his glass-packs spewed exhaust when he stomped the accelerator and squealed around me. Meanwhile, the other car made his left turn toward the frontage road.

It was only a glancing blow. A quick POP! and a grind as the two scraped past each other. But the car from behind me lost his front right tire and careened in a quick curve until he smacked the bridge wall pretty hard. His car climbed the concrete and if it hadn’t hung up on the steel guard rail that ran a foot above the top of the wall he probably would have hurtled over and fallen into the eight lanes of heavy Interstate traffic screaming by thirty feet below.

Nick and Lee were flabbergasted. I glanced – their mouths were hanging open.

“How did you know that was going to happen?” they both said.

I did my fatherly duty and explained how important it is to pay very close attention to what is going on, to always check your mirrors, and to not be too aggressive or too fast.I don’t drive through that intersection very often but when I do I always make note of the bent guard rail about a third of the way across the bridge.

I’m afraid I didn’t stop in either case. I do feel bad about that, I kept on driving like nothing had happened. It was obvious that nobody was hurt – and there were plenty of others around that would be more than willing to get involved in a minor traffic brouhaha.

Plus, I may be going slow, but I have places to be too.

Today, I have to go to work. I hate slaving through the weekend. While I’m there, you can enjoy this video: