Saturday, January 07, 2006

Coffee Break - The Daily Ritual


Just about every afternoon I drive the few blocks to the local Starbucks for a cup of coffee. Depending on the time it's either crowded or empty. This was one of those days when I could drink my coffee in peace, enjoy a cigarette, and let my mind roam free. Most days when I get there it's over run by students from the nearby campuses of Barry University, Johnson and Wales University, Miami-Dade College, and Florida International University. Oh, there are people from my age group also, but other than a Miami-Dade County cop and a guy from Austria who's opening a sign shop in the plaza I never seem to interact with any of them. Instead I'm always surrounded by young people, either inviting me to sit with a "Hey Al!" or, if I arrive first, pulling chairs up to my table and joining me.


The conversation ranges from politics to rock and roll. For some unknown reason the classic rock of the 60's is the new "in" music blasting from the speakers and they're intigued to hear stories first hand about the rock festivals that I attended, what it was like to photograph Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin, to eat pizza with the Jefferson Airplane and party with The Grateful Dead. They've all seen my photographs on line, and while they're impressed that I've met and photographed a few presidents it's the rockers they want to hear about. Sometimes it gets deeper than that even. The other afternoon I got into a conversation with a young woman about the Beat Generation, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. I had to explain to her that really they were of my dad's generation, already long established writers when I hit my twenties. She was just starting to explore Kerouac's writings and I suggested The Town And The City as a good starting point.

Every February there's a camera show, a photographic flea market really, at the North Miami Armory. A couple of years ago I posted on the photonet Leica Forum that those of us who live in South Florida should meet there and then go out to lunch together at Jimmies's Place, a local diner. One of the guys, Johnny G, shot a photo of me which he posted on the forum. Soon I was Emailed by James Mitchell. He wanted to use it on a T-shirt. I agreed and Johnny G said "do it"! Soon the Leica Forum had pictures from Australia to Europe to Japan and half the states and provinces of North America. Men and women of every nationality wearing their Al Kaplan T-shirts. An old friend, now an editor at The Miami Herald saw one and the paper ran a story. Just about every other paper in the Knight-Ridder chain then ran the story. I've made lots of friends through my writing and posting my photographs on photonet. There's a link here on this BLOG. If James still has shirts (and he'll likely get more made) you can contact him at cvocek@aol.com

But back to reality. I had my Bessa L and its 15mm lens with me as I sat there alone enjoying my coffee and cigarette. The lunch crowd had already left and the afternoon folks were yet to arrive. I was wearing my T-shirt, and my thoughts drifted to what other things I could photograph myself doing, what other places I could visit. It was relaxing, very relaxing. I took the picture.

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