I usually tend to be pegged as a risk taker… and I’ve never really been one for the conservative side of things. The majority of the time, this backfires… without fail. But for some reason I still find myself chasing the uncertain… looking for my next adventure. This time around in New York City, the situation was no different.
The original agenda called for me to fly into Newark to cover Wekfest, which you’ll find later in these pages. In addition, I had planned on shooting a feature car the day before and after. Yet, as the way things usually go, my first shoot completely fell through and I was left searching for content. I quickly got on the horn and began reaching out to any and everyone I knew within the northeast scene. After about a dozen calls I finally got a lead on an “invite only” pre-meet being held by a blog called “SNTRL” that would begin in Spanish Harlem and end after cruising through Times Square. A meet leading through Times Square? Yea, I’m in!
I punched the address into my phone and cruised into the city around 6 p.m. where I was greeted by an array of cars parked underneath an old Harlem overpass. From built Hondas and stance warriors to Lambos and JDM legends, it was all there. I socialized for an hour or two and I also had the opportunity to speak with meet organizer, Kenny Bascon. I was informed that this was in fact the second year the meet had taken place, and that the “invite only” headline was to keep the group top notch.
Shortly after, I was handed a sheet of paper with route directions for the roll-out, though honestly, it looked like complete gibberish to me. Without a final address I had no way of actually knowing where these roads were and when they would be coming up. But I had a plan. See, I figured the ultimate move would be to have a local buddy drive my rental while following the group as I shot out the window. Specifically, I wanted to make sure I was able to capture the cars rolling through Times Square at the perfect moment and not have to concern myself with parking, directions or timing.
As engines began firing up and cars started rolling out, my driver was nowhere to be found. Just my luck, right? Frantically, I began searching around for a familiar face, someone I could trust to drive. With only a few cars left, I threw my bag in the car and realized at this point I could either go home or I could leave the situation in the hands of fate. I quickly began running around asking if anyone would drive my car for the evening. Initially, my attempt definitely aroused a few odd looks, but just when I thought all hope was lost for covering the story, a random guy hopped out of his buddy’s Aristo and shouted, “Yo! I’ll drive you!” YES! I was in luck! Let’s go! Sketchy? Possibly. But for some reason, I was up for it.
Just as I started feeling confident that everything was finally coming together…we lost the pack on the first stretch of the byway. About ten minutes later after weaving around a load of cars we finally found a few stragglers toward the back of the pack, and just as we hit downtown, the lights started gleaming and the night was officially on. I began hopping out of the car for every red light, dashing through traffic, allowing my new friend (Mete) to pilot the car as I periodically returned for a few lengthy green lights. All while carefully keeping an eye on the surrounding NYPD as I stood in the middle of the street. The adrenaline was flowing—I had never seen a group of cars in an environment like this before, and then, just as the actual Times Square intersection came up, we hit a solid green light. DOH!
For some reason, I wasn’t bothered by it. I know I had been stressing this “Times Square” image all evening, but I felt what I had just experienced was just as extravagant. I was content. Yet Mete had other plans for me. He said, “One does not experience NYC until he experiences the Halal Guys.” “Food? Let’s get it,” I replied. And once again, we were off into the night. To our surprise, there were about half a dozen other cars and ruckuses from the meet parked on the side of the road when we arrived. All stuffing their faces with the white sauce smothered chicken and lamb goodness.
By 12 a.m. I was tired and definitely a good hour from my hotel. But just as I stood up to leave, I caught wind of an “after meet.” I was told a group of cars would be heading into Queens to a “secret” spot to hang out for a few hours. “Sure, Ill go.” Why not, right? I hopped back in the car and followed the pack throughout the city as the fellow “ruckers” blocked the traffic and led the way. We finally pulled into a dark alley, which led to an empty riverfront parking lot overlooking the NYC skyline.
After a good bit of socializing, the games came into play and the capable cars began squirrelling out, drifting next to the water, and doing donuts with human center pins. I quickly got a few shots in and decided the responsible move would be to leave before the police came and smelled the smoking rubber. Though it was difficult, I called it a night.
In retrospect, I could’ve easily taken the cautious route. But no, I had to take a risk and again, chase the unknown. At the end of the day, I experienced the Northeast’s scene through local eyes and I made new relationships with complete strangers and I could not be happier with my decision. Keep an eye on the Northeast. You never know what’ll happen.