Sunday, October 29, 2006

An Easter to Remember

Bo Dereck had just made the movie Ten (or was it "10"?), braids with beads were suddenly the height of fashion, and none of the beauty shops catering to whites had a clue as to how to do it. My friend Frederick Meyer owned The Hair People, a salon about a block away from the Playboy Club, and at the time he was also president of the local hairdressers association. I did a lot of photography for him, photographing new hair styles and covering hair shows. It was a time when racial integration was finally making inroads into the business community and he'd introduced me to Mr. Ralph.

Ralph had a salon in a more upscale area of Miami's black section, and at one of the shows his stylists demonstrated braiding and plaiting techniques to a mixed race audience, but Ralph thought that perhaps some photos for his newspaper ads might draw some white customers if the photos showed a white person with Bo style beaded braids. I'd already done some other photography for Ralph and my daughter Elena had visited the salon a few times with me.

Elena was eight or nine at the time. We explained to her that it would take three or four hours sitting in the chair, and the braids were started out really tight and might hurt a bit in the beginning and be uncomfortable for the first few days. She was game. We set up a time and went to Ralph's. It was a few days before Easter. She didn't complain about the discomfort at all. All she could think about was how great she looked with her new hair style. Ralph was thrilled with the pictures.

I think what really made Elena happy was the reaction she got from her friends' mothers who were all jealous of the style, knew that it would likely cost over $100 to get their own hair done that way, and were too damned chicken to go to a black shop in the middle of the ghetto.

I shot this picture with her brother Jonathan in our back yard. Yup, I have some where he's posed nicely, but this shot, the priceless adoring expression on his face, beats any every-hair-in-place nicely posed photograph that I made that day. I love it!

Thanks to Todd Frederick's Photoshop skills for getting a semblance of believable color back from a badly faded quarter century old color print.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Graduate - My Daughter Elena I figured that Elena had already written a very good biographical sketch about herself, from the schools she'd attended, the degrees she'd received, her legal career, and her community involvement. She'd written it for her campaign website earlier this year so I just posted the link rather then rewriting the written. I love the way she writes about going to city council meetings with me as a young girl, and how that first got her interested in politics. She used to go everyplace with me and we were very close. I have some great memories. Thank you, Elena!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Bike Rider

Photo (c) 1991 Stephanie Brundage, M.D.

By the early 90's my ex-wife Stephanie had moved to Myrtle Beach, SC where she took this photograph of our son Jonathan. He turned 15 that summer and bike riding was his passion. When he came back to North Miami for the summer the bike came with him, and every day he was out riding for hours.

That was his last summer of "freedom" from having a summer job. Other than mowing the lawn, fishing with me, and the obligatory visits to my mom, "Grandma Ruth", his time was his own. Soon Hurricane Andrew would change the landscape of South Florida and a year later my mom would die.

The following summer he got a job working for the City of North Miami. He was offered a choice of counselor at the day camp or working on a garbage truck. The latter offer was probably a joke but Jon asked what the pay was. Slinging garbage cans and trotting after the truck paid about double working at the day camp. He opted to be a garbage man. I heard later that there were bets around city hall as to how many days he'd last on that job. It's a killer job in the hot sun, working straight through, no breaks, until the work is finished. The city let's the workers go home as soon as the last route is complete, and they still get 8 hours pay even if they only worked about 6 hours. They scurry, they run, and they hustle. Like I said, it's a killer job. Jonathan made it through the summer no problem! But boy, did he ever stink when I'd pick him up at the motor pool every afternoon. All that bike riding and working out had put him in great shape!

Thanks to Todd Frederick for his Photoshop work on the scan of the Polaroid print. The direct overhead mid-day sun had Jonathan's face in complete murky shadow, just a black blob.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It Happens To The Best of Us

Every once in awhile you shoot a picture, usually with flash, and somebody's got their eyes closed. I try to avoid getting a closed eye photo by shooting two or three exposures of the subjects. In this case I'd handed the camera to somebody else to get a photo of myself with Pam Solomon, the City of North Miami's public relations director. Whoops! Just one exposure, and there I am with this gorgeous young lady and the flash caught me with my eyes closed!

No, we weren't on a date. It was the city's annual board appreciation dinner disguising itself as a luau. Every year the city has a dinner for the people who serve on the various city advisory boards and I'm on a couple of them, the Board of Adjustment and the Disaster Preparedness Board. I didn't have a date, and I guess Pam didn't either. It was a rather casual affair but I opted to wear a suit anyway, along with a sort of "casual" tie with a bunch of little brightly colored fish printed on the silk.

Pam had her digital point-and-shoot to get the few pix she needed for the city newsletter and I brought a Leica because I feel naked without one. Just habit really. All the other photos turned out just fine.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Monkeying Around Again

Here's another shot of James and Valerie with Monkey at Starbucks. For some strange reason lately I've been running into Vanessa at Starbucks a lot. She's always asking where Monkey is. I'm sure that he'd like to get out more, but at nearly 63 years of age he's a bit frail. I should plan out a day to take him a whole bunch of places for photos. I keep wondering what people would say if I was sitting up there at a North Miami Board of Adjustment meeting with Monkey sitting next to my microphone and name plate.

My original plan was to take him to events like that, city council meetings and such, but my ex, Claudia, said that as "a respected member of the community" I shouldn't be carrying a toy monkey with me everyplace I go. Yet when I do take him he's always a big hit with the ladies.

He got into a bunch of photos that I shot today. My soon-to-be wife, Dawn, was doing a major cleaning of the house today and invited her friend Paula over to help with that and painting as well. Then Patty Ho Chan Motro, an old friend of ours stopped by, as did the ex, Claudia. That led to a call by Patty to my first ex, Stephanie up in South Carolina. All these women, all getting along, joking, having fun working together, and Dawn decided that a picture was in order so of course Monkey horned in on the act. Now I'm wondering if perhaps we should have called Valerie.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Shooting Myself

I'm not really sure who did this photo of me. A lot of people meet me at Starbucks for coffee and I found this print in a pile of stuff on my desk as I was trying to make order out of chaos a few weeks ago. I think it was Karl Georg Wolf when he and his wife were visting Miami from Germany a few months ago. It shows how I hold the camera in one hand while shooting my self-portrait series with the 15mm lens. A whole bunch of them are here:

I've been having a lot of fun with this still ongoing project, documenting my everday life, the people I know, the places I go, the things I do. There are still dozens and dozens of them that I've yet to print. This is one of the few shots showing me and how I operate the camera in one hand. Some of my photographs are done right handed, others left handed, depending on what l want in the background.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Polly Wants A Cookie

My daughter Elena used to love going with me on photo shoots, whether it was some boring shots of golf clubs for Industry Publishers or President Jimmy Carter speaking at the community center. From Congressman Lehman's office to Barry University she tagged along, got friendly with the editors and publishers, the big wigs themselves, and charm everyone in the office. When her Girl Scout troop was selling cookies, and the other girls were knocking on doors up and down the block, Elena was nobody's fool. She'd sell 20 boxes at this office, 37 at that one, and instead of endlessly trudging to deliver one box to this house, maybe two to that, she got driven around by Daddy to drop off cartons full of cookie boxes at various offices around town. She outsold the other girls by about five to one. That accounts for the shirt, which she proudly wore everyplace!

My then wife Stephanie was one of the troop leaders, and she took the girls to Parrot Jungle on an outing. The parrots are pretty tame, and it's easy to get them to pose like this. This print came out of one of the albums I have. Stephanie used to like to buy her film from Dale Labs. It was reloaded Eastman 5254 motion picture film and very cheap. They'd make you both slides and prints from the negatives for a very reasonable price. She had a Leica IIIf and a Vivitar SLR at the time, with a few lenses for both.

Photo (c)1983 Stephanie C. Brundage, M.D.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Gotta Love Them Older Broads - The Beauty Pageant

For over twenty years I photographed the Miss North Miami Pageant, first for the city and then for the Chamber of Commerce when they took it over. It meant photographing head shots of all the girls for the program, then shooting the rehearsals so we could give publicity photos to the newspapers in the weeks leading up to the pageant. The night of the pageant I'd have to shoot all the girls during the "talent" part of the show to make sure I'd have pictures of the winner. Usually all the girls would buy some prints, so it was a real money maker for me. A number of them would call me months or years later to photograph their weddings.

When my kids were little they always seemed to enjoy going along on photo asignments with me. Here's my son Jonathan, a few months shy of turning six, proudly wearing his first real suit and tie at the Miss North Miami Pageant Coronation Ball. He had a great time that night, and all the girls wanted to dance with him.

The "older woman" thing seemed to stick, and a couple of years ago he married a girl a few years older than himself. Three weeks ago they had a baby girl, so I'm a grandpa now! Thanks, Jon and Deb.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Glory Days

Sometimes it seems that looking at the more absurd aspects of reality is about all that keeps me sane. When I decided to post this photo I'd just been listening to the song Glory Days on the classic rock station, about how as we get older we glorify the things we did in our youth. Well, somehow the sofa brought back memories of other sofas, other times, of the girls who joined me on those sofas, and the heat we'd generate between us. No, we never got hot enough to set a sofa on I said, sometimes I conjure up the more absurd aspects of reality...

What really happened was that I was newly seperated from Claudia, she'd bought her own house, a divorce was in the cards, and I took in a room mate, a guy I'd known for twenty odd years, a house painter by trade. Larry left the proverbial cigarette burning in an ashtray, it rolled out onto the sofa after he'd left the room, and POOF!

The fire station is nearby and the fire was soon out. It had been confined to that small area of the livingroom. Nobody was hurt. Smoke and water damage were the main problems until it came time to dealing with the insurance company. They'd only make the check out to me AND the mortgage company, and the mortgage company insisted on my hiring a general contractor. Since I'd only paid $13,500 for the house about twenty-five years before, and it was a thirty year mortgage, I owed next to nothing. I paid off the damned mortgage in full.

The settlement, without having to enrich a general contractor, was enough to install new windows and doors to current hurricane code all around the house, install new ceramic tile floors throughout, redo the kitchen with all new cabinets, paint the house inside and out, purchase a new sofa, and upgrade the plumbing and electric as well. Not a bad deal after all. Now bring on those girls!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Matching Hair Styles? Al and Sophia

There are a few Starbucks regulars that never drink coffee. Little Sophia always get a small cup of water though. If she's already there when I arrive she gets all excited and can't wait for me to get my coffee and sit down. If I'm there first she jumps out of the big purse in which she travels and bounds over to me, yipping with joy. Then she stands up on her hind legs and prances around on just the two feet for minutes on end.

Her companion is a slender blonde lady with an odd accent, almost but not quite Germanic. She says that she's from northern Italy near the Swiss border. She's about always dressed the same, wearing one of her ankle length wrap around skirts and matching tube top. A few days after I shot this the dog got a haircut but I'm still growing mine.

Dawn is talking about giving it a selective trim next week when she's back in Miami again. I really like the look of that messy collection of ringlets on my head but she says it needs "shaping". "Yes Dear, whatever you say Dear!" She already has me wearing that ring on my ring finger. I may as well get used to saying all the right things.

Once more I was shooting with the 15mm Heliar lens on my Bessa L on Kodacolor Gold 200 film.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Some funny reading here ;-)

I was going to skip today. My buddy Jon Sinish thinks I should cut back to every other day, and what with wedding plans to formulate I've got lots to keep me busy. When I ran across this story I decided to post the link. The more you get into it the funnier it gets. No wonder Kodak flourished and Ansco was always second (or third) place.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Drinkin' By The Drive-Thru

Late afternoon at Starbucks, coffee time before chasing down some dinner. This is the outdoor patio where it's still legal to smoke a cigarette, and it's amazing how many people still do. There's more than twice as much seating area here as there is inside. Of course not everybody out here is smoking. Some want to be outside, some want to be with their friends who smoke, but often there are more empty seats inside than there are out here.

That boxy brown thing in the back is the menu board for the drive-thru lane. Sometimes I get the feeling that those of us who linger over our coffee are actually the "attraction" that makes people driving up the highway notice the place. First they see us, then they spot the Starbucks sign. The drive-thru lane really does the BIG volume. It seems like there's always a car or two, at least, waiting for their coffee.

While there's a wide variety of people who come to sit, chat, do there homework, and smoke, at any given time of day you can pretty much count on the same regulars being there, and they're not always what you'd expect them to be at first glance. That's me, of course, in the right foreground, using my left hand to shoot with the 15mm lens on my Bessa L. Lately I've expanded my "self-portrait" project to include some color shots.

In the background, with the beard and the stars tatooed around his elbows, is a guy who loves to work out, Jordan. He might not look the part but he's a bright pre-med student and a "nice Jewish boy" to boot. The youngster in the center is Peter. He's the younger brother of Samantha "call me Sam", another pre-med student of Chinese ancestory. Then there's officer Lee, a county cop who takes his coffee break here about every afternoon. His big thing is seeing a healthy person pull into a handicapped space. No warnings with him. Just a big fat ticket. From where he's sitting he can see the handicapped spots.

Monday, October 09, 2006

North Miami Public Works Screws Up Big Time

( Ain't it lovely?) And this is the ONE corner of the FOUR at the intersection that has NO BRAND NEW STORM DRAIN. That's my truck and house on the left.

A guy from public works sat in his idling air conditioned truck for days on end monitoring the contractor who installed the storm drain system along N.E. 14th Avenue, and repaving the intersection a few inches higher to retain the water on my swale. Just lovely. Thank Mr. Collins for us. Dawn just loves being able to ruin her shoes, the car filling with mud, the tracked in dirt in the house.

That's the same Mark Collins who has left the problem of the "doesn't meet code" too high fence at 1375 N.E. 133rd St., right next door to me, fester for nearly three years now, since January 27, 2004. That's the fence issue which "dropped off the radar" altogether from March 18, 2004 until August 10, 2006, during which time no action was taken. Yet I was constantly assured that steps were being taken. The roosters living behind the fence? A major code violation. "We can't see them over the fence" said the code compliance officers.

Finally, after screaming loud enough, and long enough, they decided to get one of the lazy bastard code guys over there at 4:45 A.M. when the roosters were awakening the neighborhood. Maybe they couldn't see them. They sure could hear them!

Then another contractor, also working on the house without a permit, and his men beat the shit out of me for legally standing on a public street and legally taking photographs on January 29th of this year. Check my blog entries for photos and details. The cops did nothing. "We have to see it happening" they told me.

Finally action started moving forward about the fence. I suspect that it was because I pointed out that the half built garage directly behind the house with the fence was half built because they stopped the construction for lack of a valid permit. The code guy was ignored until he came back a second time with a cop.

So I suspect that the lack of a drain in front of my property is Mark's way of getting back at me, making me park in a puddle whenever it rains or the guy with the fence scrubs his driveway. He does that daily. Somehow the city allowed him (I guess) to pave over most of his front yard. There's no place for the water to go. It makes a lake in front of my house.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Bounty of Fish in North Biscayne Bay

Fishing for tarpon is probably the most exciting thing you can do in North Biscayne Bay. Fish in the twenty to forty pound range are fairly common in some of the deeper areas, with a resident population year round. A few fish in the hundred pound and over category are common enough to always be a possibility. Sometimes they'll move up out of the dredge holes, which were created for fill to convert swamp land into housing developments, and fan out over the grass flats in search of shrimp, mullet, pinfish, and other small edibles. Other times they'll stay in the holes, usually suspending at about 25 feet down in the 40 foot deep water.

Sonar, commonly called "fish finders", actually isn't reading the presence of a fish so much as the air filled swim bladder in the fish. Tarpon give strong readings because they have huge swim bladders. They can use this as a lung, and are constantly swimming up to the surface and "rolling", gulping fresh air, which makes it very easy to tell if there are any in the area.

Most people, though, are looking for food fish, something to catch for the frying pan, like the pompano (top photo) or one of the numerous specied of snapper (lower photo), grunts, or seatrout. Drifting over the shallow grass flats or along the channel edges will yield a wide variety of good to eat fish as well as several types of not so good to eat but exciting to catch species like big jack crvalles, barracuda, and at times tarpon. The channels themselves often have Spanish mackerel, cero mackerel and immature kingfish as well as bluefish.

The common way to fish is with live shrimp or pilchards, or with pieces of cut mullet, but I've found that a 1/4 ounce bucktail jig will catch about anything that swims in the bay. I like to retrieve them slowly, giving them very little action with the rod. In deeper water I let them sink down to the level of the fish before starting the retrieve. On the flats I start the slow retrieve almost immediately so the jig is swimming just above the top of the grass. My favorite color is pink and white with a green chartreuse being a close second. For seatrout I've found that dark purple always seems to catch the biggest fish.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Waiting for Dawn

Yup, that's what I'm doing right now. This photo was shot last spring at a South Florida Fishing Club outing. I'm not sure at this point just who was sitting across the table from me. They picked up my camera and clicked off one frame. I guess I was hamming it up for the camera. I don't usually walk around with that expression on my face.

But Dawn just called a few minutes ago to tell me she was loading the car and should be here from Tampa in about five hours. The expression on my face, the dreamy look in my eyes, seems to express my feelings right now. Hence the title of the post.

The SFFC outing was the annual kingfish tournament. I like to fish inshore, mostly in Biscayne Bay, because I get seasick if it gets rough offshore. Not a problem if it's a nice day with a light breeze and the decision to head out through Haulover Cut is made at first light, but to fish the tournament means agreeing to team up with somebody weeks ahead of the event. I won't do that. So I'm the guy who is the club weighmaster. I get to stay ashore, hang the certified scales, write down all the fish on my clipboard, then announce the winners. Somebody always offers to give me a mess of fresh kingfish steaks, so I show up prepared with an ice filled cooler in my truck. Next SFFC kingfish tournament the new Mrs. Al Kaplan will either be keeping me company waiting at the dock or more likely be out there fishing with somebody on their boat. Then I'll be eating Greek fish recipes for weeks. Yumm.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

In Church

Photo (c) 1981 Leon Finklestein

People keep asking to see pictures of my son Jonathan. I've posted lots of photos of my daughter Elena, but far fewer of Jonathan. As I search through the boxes and envelopes there aren't all that many casual shots. Unlike Elena he had a stock smile, and he always wanted to stand stiffly facing the camera. Here he looks a bit more relaxed than usual as the two of them walked up the aisle at the Homestead Air Force Base chapel in 1981. The occasion was my wedding to Amelia Ward. The marriage didn't last very long. My friend Father Philemon Payiatis performed an Episcopalian ceremony.

I guess I should have taken his advice way back then. It seemed that as soon as he heard that Stephanie, the mother of my kids, and I were divorced he started in on the "You should marry Dawn!" Dawn was a member of his congregation. Of course had I done that I never would have met (and married) Claudia, nor would I have had a great ten years with Vivette. As each relationship in turn ended Father Phil was there to remind me that maybe I should marry Dawn. But in the end Father Phil was right, it seems.

This weekend when Dawn is in town we're planning on visiting Father Phil in the nursing home to tell him that Dawn and I are finally getting married. Dr. Dawn Carageorge will become Mrs. Kaplan.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Look of Love in Our Eyes

When Dawn arrived at my house last week after the drive from Tampa she was hungry and I'd yet to eat anything at all that day myself. She did "The Woman Thing" and checked out my fridge. Butter, milk on the verge of curdling, half a dozen eggs from chickens that had likely seen the stew pot sometime last year, several partial loaves of bread too hard to crumble up for the birds, McDonalds bags with petrified french fries. Typical Guy Stuff. I said "How about we run over to Denney's?"

We were soon seated and quickly served coffee but since we were starving it took about forever get our orders taken, and then I think the cook took a half hour break before fixing our food. I'm NEVER going back to that place again. It reminded me of the service in the Miramar IHOP a week or so earlier. Maybe they fired their cook and the North Miami Denneys hired him?

At least the food was good, standard Denneys fare, but I've always liked their food. We sat and chatted and drank coffee until we couldn't wait to light up some cigarettes, then headed back to my house. Baby, my cat, greeted Dawn before she paid me any attention. Dawn had passed The Test.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fencing With Government Agencies ~ Hair Raising Experiences

Some days I'd just really like to go fishing, tarpon fishing if possible, but something or another is always is always getting in the way. My 84 year old friend Mary Poh, sitting behind me in the red dress, needed a ride to apply for some sort of grant to help her with her electric bill. Driving over there, waiting while paperwork got filled out and phone calls got made, then a stop at the supermarket on the way back to her place consumed the entire morning. Don't I look thrilled? Hey, she got the grant and the tarpon got a reprieve. I got bored.

On the Good News front I think that my problems with North Miami Code Enforcement, or lack there-of as it applies to my neighbor's illegal fence is finally coming to an end. Hooray! I called this morning to see if it was to be on this week's Code Enforcement Board agenda. Last month it was postponed because the city's attorney thought it had been charged under the wrong section of the code. She was to check with the City Attorney herself! I played telephone tag for days trying to find out if the two attornies had ever even met. Crap! They BOTH work for the city. What's the problem?

As expected, this morning I got shunted from the City Clerk's office to Building and Zoning and was finally told that Hans, the guy handling the case would "get back" to me. I left my cell number. A couple of hours later he called. Seems the City Attorney decided that the charge under whatever section of the code it was had been the correct one after all. They should have heard the case last month. A month wasted! More of my time, WASTED! Probably a few hundred tax dollars too.

In the meantime, Hans told me, the neighbor reactivated his fence permit and has until November to bring the fence into compliance. Today he was out there scrubbing his driveway again, a daily ritual. No work started on the fence. Dawn tells me that when she gets back from Tampa on Friday she's going to talk with the neighbor. She's an amazing woman but I'm not sure that'll do much good. What it will take is a proper hearing and imposing a $500 a day fine on Mr. and Mrs. Vicente Carvajal. This crap has been going on now for 34 months. This should have been over with two years ago, long before their contractor beat the shit out of me or their roosters woke me up at 4:45 every morning for weeks on end. The strangest thing is that I have a print out of the city's action against the Carvajals. From 03 / 18 / 04 to 08 / 10 / 06 nothing was being done, no entries at all. Yet I've been complaining the entire time. Mark Collins might be a decent enough Director of Public Works but he sure can't manage code enforcement. Let's see if he can get that fence into conformity with code before three years is up...LOL. In my book he's the one responsible for all those mornings the roosters woke me up. He's responsible for my complaining about that contractor working without a permit, the one who was part of the gang who beat the crap out of me. I'm still having dizzy spells from the beating my head took. I still wake up every morning with sore ribs. It's been nine months now, but every day I'm reminded of Mark's handling of this still unresolved situation. Thanks Mark. I'd really rather be tarpon fishing! Without sore ribs and dizziness!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Dawn of a New Era ~ Jack Sprat and his Wife are Changing!

Here we are, Dawn and I, at the supermarket last week, one of several trips we made as she cooked up a storm and filled my freezer with Tupperwares full of precooked one meal portions of her great Greek cooking. She wants me to stop living off of fast food, cookies, and ice cream until her return to Miami this Friday. The soon to be Mrs. Kaplan is hoping for at least a twenty year marriage with a healthy husband. We visited the meat department, bought a bunch of fresh veggies both for cooking and for salads, and picked up some fresh baked bread at the bakery. I actually have sacks of raw potatoes and onions in the kitchen rather than leftover onion rings and french fries in the fridge.

She seems intrigued by the fact that I can go all day on a couple of cups of coffee, sometimes even black with no sugar, and don't feel hungry enough to even think about dinner. She's the type that doesn't just eat until she's full, but rather until it's all gone. She told me on the phone yesterday that she's now serving herself by the portion and just eating two meals a day. In a week she's shed twenty pounds! Of course the first pounds come off the quickest, but she's planning (hoping?) on getting back to where she was when I first met her thirty some years ago. And she's made me promise to eat two real meals a day, good balanced meals, with protein, carbs, and fats, and to take my vitamins also. I'm trying to be a good boy! I'm even eating some fresh fruit every day.

On the other hand I'll be 64 in less than six weeks while having only a few scattered grey hairs in a full bushy head of curly hair, a bit more grey in my beard, a flat belly and a firm throat. I must be doing something right.