Saturday, July 23, 2011

The world of Winick: a book review

Not surprisingly since I work in a segment of the book biz, I'll periodically--say monthly--OK weekly--type "airstream"  into OCLC or Baker & Taylor or Ingram just to see what's what.  Last summer I was both thrilled and scared when I learned about Airstreams: Custom Interiors by David Winick.  Thrilled because Winick is simply "The Man" when you're talking Airstream interiors (well Chris Deam is also "The Man" but I'm digressing).  Scared because the publisher is Schiffer Publishing Ltd.  When Schiffer is good  you get high-end production values, full color illustration, and benchmark, authoritative,  books on niche collecting and military history topics.  You also pay for this.  A lot.
But with Schiffer I've found there can also a be another frustrating side.  Titles such as those on WWI and Vietnam War uniforms & equipment that are less an exhaustive guide to the collecting field than exhaustive guide to the collection of the author and his buddies.  Couple this with a propensity for allowing authors to use flabby re-enactors (or worse themselves..or even worse their kids--yeah you Tiger Stripe Guy) and I start getting a whiff, not so much of vanity-press, but of almost narcissist-press.
One author even goes so far as thanking the folks at his local Target photofinishing department for their work on the slapdash, poorly lit, inconsistent pics in his book.  When you pay 60 clams for this sort of product it bugs you.  A lot.
That said David Winick's book is thankfully the former.  At one level it is an exquisite portfolio of his work on 5 different trailers.  But on another level it is the closest thing yet to an actual How-To manual for restoring a vintage Airstream.  He's loaded it with descriptive text and lots of insightful "process" photos.  I find myself reading it over and over, each time unearthing a different nugget that will help on my Cruisette journey.  Winick also shares his sources, the places he finds the wonderful fabrics, fixtures, lighting, and linoleums that have become his hallmarks.  You come away almost feeling like you've dropped by his shop for a day and gotten way more than the nickel tour.
Each of the five chapters is devoted to a different trailer.  We see the genesis of his trailer genius in his first project a 1968 Caravel.  We get the backstory of his commission from Airstream to design their 75th Anniversary trailer.  We also get the low-down on the '50 Flying Cloud, a 1948 Wee Wind, and a '57 "18 Footer".  I've seen the impeccable Flying Cloud in person and the luscious, moody, atmospheric photos in this book more than do it justice.
My favorite chapter was also the most frustrating.  It follows the refurbishment of a 1948 Wee Wind, the immediate ancestor of our Cruisette.  The end result of the project is a completely custom interior, though one that is very sympathetic to the period in which the trailer was built.  The pics are gorgeous and the choice of fabrics materials and surfaces stunning.  The chapter even has a fascinating and very informative digression on strengthening an early style tube-frame while maintaining the original external appearance.  There's also lots of talk about a custom galley, range and refrigerator and what is very likely a quite dreamy, custom-louvered, exterior fridge access panel.  But I can't be sure.  None of us readers can really be sure that those parts are as luscious as I certainly know they are because there's not a damn picture of any of it.  Zip.  None.  Honestly.  Really. 
So in spite of leaving out THE part of THE trailer that I most wanted to see in 144 pages of the freshest, top-drawer trailer porn you'll find anywhere, This book is essential.  Bravo to David Winick, and kudos to Schiffer.  And no, Target was not involved.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Streamline Summer

I had the great fortune to visit NYC on the Library's nickel.  10 hour workdays notwithstanding I was able to scare up some time to see sights. We stayed midtown on 48th so the Chrysler Building sort of haunted my stay, seemingly always within view day or night.   Call it Streamline, Moderne, Art Deco,  what have you,  it is simply the coolest skyscraper on the planet.  Maybe the Solar System.  Its not a public building and the Observation deck and Cloud Club are long shuttered, so the best I could do was duck into a Chase ATM lobby at 42nd & Lex so I could say I was IN the Chrysler Building.

Another Streamline icon of the Depression era was the Burlington Northern "Zephyr".  Like the Chrysler building it was a gleaming vision in chromium steel.  It still exists in Chicago at the Museum of Science and Industry.   I saw it languishing outside when I was a kid, but it was unable break through the "U-Boat Fever" gripping my eight-year old brain.  Its on my short-list of things to see soon.

Something didn't have to be the world's tallest building (for 11 months anyway) or the first, fastest diesel-electric train to exhibit the sensous curves, speedlines, bright colors, or sleek, dramatic optimism of Moderne.  Witness the humble motor-coach:

Dig the curves everywhere and the lovely cream and red paint.   It really underscores how dull and functional the modern bus has become.  Circling back around to Airstream, is a postcard from my collection showing a slick pre-war Clipper on the road and living large: