Monday, October 20, 2008

Flying: Out On A Limb

If you drive east out of New York there isn't much left of the continent aside from a spur of land that runs east and north out into the Atlantic ocean. It's called Long Island. I've been to New York a bunch of times and I've been to places 'upstate' but I'd never been out on to the island itself. On Sunday I had a car and a free day so I headed out to explore some of the island.

If you look up a list of famous New Yorkers chances are that they may have come from Long Island; Billy Joel, Billy Crystal, Walt Whitman, Steve Buscemi, Rodney Dangerfield, Kevin James, Joe Satriani and Howard Stern to name but a few. Many of the worlds rich and famous make their second home in Long Island in what has become known simply as 'The Hamptons' at the far eastern end of the island.

Some famous things have happened on the Island too like the first transatlantic radio telephone transmitter at Rocky Point. The Lighthouse at Montauk was New York's first coastal beacon back in 1796. And Lindbergh made the first solo transatlantic flight from Roosevelt Field to Paris in 1927 flying the famed Spirit of St Louis airplane.

In fact, the history of Long Island is intertwined with the history of American aviation all the way from the early beginnings up to and including putting man on the moon. In the early years of the aviation boom, the golden age - between about the world wars - companies set up shop on Long Island and aviators pushed the boundaries of flight to previously unimaginable lengths. Before Lindbergh, in 1919, a Curtiss flying boat flew from Long Island to England with two stops en route. In 1923 John Macready and Oakley Kelley took off from Roosevelt Field and flew, non-stop, to San Diego - the first non-stop flight across the continent of the US. The flight took them 27hrs to cover 2520 miles.

Companies like Curtiss and Sikorsky opened up in Garden City. Sperry and Fairchild in Farmingdale and, later, Grumman and Republic. These latter two companies served the US military throughout the second world war and all the way up into the most recent conflicts in the Gulf. The Grumman company developed a line of aircraft for the US Navy - the famous Grumman 'cats' - that stretch from Wildcats and Hellcats in World War II, through Bearcats, Panthers, Cougars and the Tiger all the way up to one of the most successful naval aircraft of all time, the F-14 Tomcat, the last of the cats. Republic produced one of the most fearsome fighter aircraft of the second world war, the P-47 Thunderbolt, lovingly known as 'the Jug'. Just as Grumman had their cats Republic stuck with Thunder, developing the Thunderjet and Thunderstreak which saw service in Korea and the Thunderchief, known as the 'Thud', which saw much service during the Rolling Thunder operations of the Vietnam war. By the mid-60s Republic was subsumed into another Long Island company, Fairchild, and became known as Fairchild Republic. Under that name it developed one of the most potent and unusual ground attack aircraft, the A-10 Thunderbolt II lovingly referred to as 'the Warthog'. The A-10 is still in service.

I visited the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale and saw some of their aircraft. Sitting outside are some examples of cold war hardware built on the island, an F-105 Thunderchief and a rare RF-84 Thunderflash reconnaisance aircraft.

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The Republic RF-84 Thunderflash

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A General Dynamics F-111.

They also had a meeting of the local hotrod club.

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Grumman was quite the company on the island once upon a time. At the height of it's cold war defence contracts the company employed nearly 23,000 people on the Island. After a bidding war between Martin Marietta and Northrop, Northrop purchased the company for 2.1 billion dollars in 1994. It was the end of the line for Grumman on the island. Before all of that happened though Grumman won the contract to build the lunar module for the Apollo missions. The actual ship that descended to the moon. LM-5 was called 'the eagle', this was the lunar module that actually first touched down on the moon as part of Apollo 11. LM-12 was flown on Apollo 17 and LM-13 was destined for Apollo 18 which, of course, was cancelled. LM-13 now stands proudly in the small Cradle of Aviation museum in Garden City. It's a lovely little museum that deserves to be visited for it's place as, literally, the cradle of American aviation.

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LM-13, the lunar module for Apollo 18.

After I'd visited the museums I carried on out along the Long Island Expressway, came off on the 27 and headed to Montauk Point, the furthest tip of the island. I arrived as the sun was setting and looked at the lighthouse, the gulls and felt the wind in my face. I wanted to stay and soak it all up but somehow I was just too tired to be poetic.

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This particular road trip has taken it's toll and I wanted to start the long trek back to New York to drop off the rental and get to my hotel. I wanted to get my week started and get home. I got back in the car, pausing only to look at the horses in the setting sun then I took off and headed back to the metropolis.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008


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I like driving. I can drive all day. Yesterday, I did. I drove from Liberty, NY to Charlottesville, VA. I've never tripped through the eastern side of the country. Interesting to move from New York to Pennsylvania to Maryland to West Virginia to Virginia. Finally pulling into Charlottesville around 11pm last night.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Stopped off on my way back to the hotel tonight. At the lake where I seem to keep stopping. The moon is pretty bright and I light painted the trees...

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Thursday, October 9, 2008


Quick post from a shot tonight driving back to the hotel.

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My name is Martin and I've been a coffee addict, now, for a great many years. There, I've said it. Do I feel better? If I could get a coffee, yes.

When you're in the big cities getting a half decent coffee isn't much of a challenge. You can step out of any hotel and straight into a nearby Starbucks for something. Some hotels even skip the outside part and have a Starbucks right there in the lobby.

Sometimes though, it's just not that easy to find a coffee place. Recently I was in Jackson Hole, WY and searching for coffee. I came across a small tucked away Italian restaurant one night. Outside they had a few tables with those distinctive red umbrellas that usually mean one thing: Illy coffee. Sure enough, they serve Illy. The place is run by a great German dude called Alex who ended up in Jackson via Boston where he studied at Berklee. I ate there one night and had, quite simply, the best lasagne I've ever had. Wholly recommended. The coffee was stellar too although note that it's a cafe for lunch and dinner so doesn't open until 11am. If you're gasping for caffeine any earlier than there's a Tully's in the Albertsons but anything after 11, head for Cafe Ponza at 50 W. Broadway in Jackson.

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Now I find myself in upstate New York. The nearest Starbucks is at least 40 miles away and I need coffee. Last year I took a wrong turn and ended up in the middle of nowhere and pulled off into the small town of Roscoe, NY. In Roscoe is a great little cafe called Buffalo Zach's. It's a cafe with a difference.

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It's run by a guy called Peter Swersey. The following is printed on the back of their menus:

Some two and a half years ago, with the help of three of the most prestigious New York hospitals, the proprietor of this unique café decided to fulfill a dream of his by building the first Survivorship retreat and sanctuary for Cancer patients in this country, just outside of beautiful Roscoe, NY. It was the profound loss of three of his family members to the horrific disease of Cancer that drew him to this mission.
This very strong commitment of his had him spend over 1 ½ years in the planning stages to launch what will become known as “Camp Tomorrow”, A Place of Hope, Renewal and Healing; so Cancer survivors can remain cancer free for the remaining years of their lives.

The inception of Buffalo Zach’s Café in Roscoe will serve as a support and foundation for the funding of “Camp Tomorrow”. The opening for his retreat is scheduled in the near future and hopefully will be the beginning of many more cancer survival retreats in the country. It is in this context that the entire staff at Buffalo Zach’s Café would like to Thank You for having the pleasure of serving you, our valued customer. Thank You for entering these premises and allowing us to accommodate you and hopefully making your visit a delightful experience.

So, the coffee is seriously very good, the food is great - if the buffalo chicken panini I had today is anything to go by - and the staff are just wonderful. And the profits go to a good cause. What you waitin' for?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Musical Transportation

Music, more than just about any other sense, is the one that transports me in time and place. I can be just about anywhere and I'll hear a song and I can see and sense just what I was doing when that song was around first time out.

I remember earlier this year driving through Oklahoma on the way to a shoot. A song came on the radio - I forget what it was now - but my memories of that song go all the way back to when I only knew Oklahoma as a musical movie.

It happened again tonight, too. The drive from JFK airport in NY to Liberty, NY is probably about 2hrs straight. I've never managed to achieve that. For whatever reason my brain melts down as I navigate the twisting roads that cross from Queens, through the top half of Manhattan and the Bronx. Wiggling through New Jersey and then back into New York State again. I'm usually tired and hungry from the flight from SF. It's usually dark and cold and, more often than not, a little wet. Whatever it all is, I usually get lost several times before shuffling into Liberty sometime around 11pm. So, I normally try and get some food on the way. Usually that food is some horrid little roadside service station but tonight I managed to find a Chili's by the road in Ramsey, NY.

The food was pleasant enough and there was a Dunkin Donuts next door. I needed a coffee for the road so I called in. As I was waiting for my latte a song came on their radio. It was Spandau Ballet playing 'True'. My mind spun out of control and all the way back to 1983 when that song hit the charts and was played non-stop back in England. I was fresh out of school, I was 16 going on 17 and the world was my lobster. It was the smoochie record of the year but my teens were not a good time for me with smoochie partners so I remember, with some irritation, hearing that song being played over and over and over again on the radio, at parties, discos. You name it, wherever people were likely to be "makin' out", there was that Spandau style sax-break. There was Mr Hadley givin' it his best shot in the crooning stakes. I can still picture all the smooth dudes dressing sharp since Spandau ditched the highland tribesman look and went into full on sharp suit and tie, impeccable hair gelled to within an inch of it's life. All of that and all of twenty five years ago. I had hair then.

I smiled to myself, paid the man and headed off into the night to get lost in upstate New York yet again.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Public Service Post

Even though I can't vote here... I would recommend you watch these. Better yet, send them to as many voting friends as you can.

Link: Clean Version

Link: Slightly Fruity Language Version

Health Issue


Last year the great photojournalist James Nachtwey won the TED Prize. This prize allowed him to finance a story of his own choosing. As with all of his work Jim wanted to make a difference. The result is the XDRTB organisation to combat the pandemic spread of extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB). Pass on the word and increase awareness of this disease.


One last thing, if you think TB only happens in poor countries. My best friend caught TB... in London, England...