Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Reach For The Sky! Reach For The Money!

Reach For The Sky

More damned high rise condos where they don't belong. This used to be a perfectly good mangrove swamp, full of land crabs, shore birds, racoons, and a nursery for baby snook and tarpon. Then it spent a few decades as a "land fill" (read "garbage dump") and a few more lying fallow. It was supposed to become a golf course which was never built. Now it'll be home to a bunch of wealthy condo dwellers, unaware that they paid millions to live in in the middle of a garbage dump.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Choosing A Color

The knocking on the door was so loud it managed to do what two cups of coffee had failed to accomplish. Now I WAS awake! When I opened the door Roy Taylor was standing there. I was going to get the house painted and he wanted a look-see of what was involved and find out what colors I was considering. There was a bit of termite damage so a bit of wood replacement on the eaves was obviously needed. I picked a beige paint with brown trim very close to what it was painted the last couple of times. As he explained the sequence of events ~ pressure cleaning the walls, sealing and priming, the finish coats, etc. ~ I detected a hint of Jamaican accent. That took the conversation off in another direction, talking about Jamaican food and women and reggae music, talking about our families, the fact that both his son and mine played guitar.

I ended up sitting in his truck for about twenty minutes listening to a CD his son had recently made. My first reaction was it wasn't Jamaican music, but as I listened longer I realized that like so many of his generation he'd embraced and mastered the sound of classic sixties rock music. The kid is GOOD! I gotta get me one of his CD's!

Well, Friday the house was pressure cleaned and we're waiting for the carpenter to replace the damaged wood. In a week or two the house will be newly painted. I'm hoping to get one of those CD's and maybe shoot some pictures of the group.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Blowing My Brains Out? Nah! Read On...

One of my long time buddies forwarded this article to me this morning. It's an interesting read about the health benefits of nicotine. Of course there's plenty of information about the health benefits of marijuana also, but even if most medical professionals consider it one of the best anti-seizure medicines available the government still wants me to buy expensive pills at the drugstore so the likes of Pfizer and Merck can continue to pay stock dividends to their shareholders and bonuses to their executives..
---------------------------------------------------------------------January 29, 2007

Bottom Line's Daily Health News BIG BAD NICOTINE -- MAY NOT BE SO I recently came across some astonishing information about the health benefits of nicotine. Nicotine? That devil of a drug that addicts smokers to deadly cigarettes? According to researcher Luis Ulloa,PhD, of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset,New York, I should not have been so surprised, for nicotine actually has a long and rich healing history. In 1560, Jean Nicot, after whom the present name of the tobacco plant Nicotiana tabacum was named,introduced tobacco to the queen of France for her migraines. Nicot promoted tobacco's therapeutic properties for various other ailments as well.Now modern researchers, including Dr. Ulloa, have some evidence that supports some of the theories dating back to the 1500s. They have discovered that nicotine possesses anti-inflammatory properties that ease the symptoms of conditions involving inflammation, such as Alzheimer's disease and ulcerative colitis. It is possible that one day you may see medicinal compounds derived from nicotine beyond its current prescriptive use for tobacco addiction. NICOTINE AND INFLAMMATION: Until recently, no one understood how nicotine affected inflammationin the body. The problem with nicotine was that we didn't know its mechanism of action, and it cannot be used extensively in humans due to the risk of secondary effects, explains Dr. Ulloa. Nicotine is known to be an addictive chemical in tobacco and tobacco products contribute to cardiovascular disease and cancer risk.To unravel the mystery of nicotine's anti-inflammatory benefits and risky side effects, Dr. Ulloa and his colleagues studied its impact on mice infected with severe sepsis. This dangerous inflammatory condition occurs as a complication (secondary infection) after an underlying illness has progressed.While the initial problem in sepsis is infection, this is dwarfed bythe extremely aggressive inflammatory response that follows. To defend itself, the body mobilizes infection-fighting white bloodcells known as macrophages, which respond by furiously pumping out pro-inflammatory immune system proteins called cytokines. Instead of protecting the body, however, this backfires in lethal fashion,resulting in life-threatening tissue damage, organ failure and cardiovascular complications.This is where nicotine comes in. The working hypothesis is that nicotine blocks a pathway involved in inflammation and the production of cytokines by macrophages. In his research, Dr. Ulloa found that the effect of nicotine appears to be mediated by a specific nicotinic receptor. He points out that this is a major breakthrough because researchers can now design specific agonists for that receptor in order to overcome the clinical limitations of nicotine by hopefullyminimizing risky side effects, such as toxicity, cardiovascular and tumor-causing risk and addiction.LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE In the future, researchers hope to develop healing compounds that harness nicotine's healing qualities while limiting its toxicity.While this study focused on sepsis, some physicians suggest that it may be possible to use nicotine patches for inflammatory disorders such as ulcerative colitis. Stay tuned... but don't start smoking. Be well,Carole JacksonBottom Line's Daily Health News if you want to get the latest in health news

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Color Of Smoke?

We were having the North Miami Chamber of Commerce Christmas luncheon at the Miami Shores Country Club last month. There's another shot several posts down with Councilman Scott Galvin wearing his Santa Claus hat sitting on the other side of me. The guy on my right in the striped shirt? We introduced ourselves, chatted a bit, but I honestly can't recall his name. If as often happens, if I do remember it I'll come back and edit it in.

It's probably been 40 years or better since the first time I was in this room. Back then many people smoked. There were no restrictions, no smoking and non-smoking sections. Looking at this photo, especially the ceiling, reminded me of that. The tiles have that discolored look of many years of exposure to the tar and nicotine from cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoke. I guess with heavily textured tiles like these you'd really have to repaint them with a spray gun, and that would end up getting paint everyplace, and require the workers to wear respirators in the enclosed space, plus the woodwork and windows would have to be completely covered. It's easier to just leave them discolored!

If the speakers are interesting (we hope) and the food great (it is) I guess nobody is going to spend much time contemplating the ceiling and remembering the good old days when we didn't have to go outside to grab a furtive smoke.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Good Enough For POLAROID, Good Enough For Me

I used to attend the Wilson Hicks Photojournalism Conference at the University of Miami every year. It was a great place to stimulate my brain, learn new things, and make contacts. One year around 1970 I met a woman who was in charge of advertising and public relations for a Miami based computer company, Milgo Electronics. They made a remarkable new product called a modem so computers could talk to one another over the phone. Computers back then were huge things, filling a room. They stored information on big rolls of 3.5 inch wide magnetic tape, and you put the information into them with punch cards.

Try as I might I can't remember that woman's name, but I remember she and I going to lunch one day with the graphic designer they'd hired to design some ads and brochures, Jon Craine. He was the man who'd recently revamped the image of the Polaroid Corporation with new ads, new logo, and package designs. Jon asked for one of my cards, and the first thing he said was that he didn't like it. He then proceeded to give me a whole bunch of reasons. One was that he didn't like the use of the European style 7 with the line through it. At the time it was seldom seen in the United States, although it's since caught on. He just said it was confusing!

He offered to design a new logo for no charge so I took him up on it. A quick sketch on a napkin revealed a stylized AK, my initials, repeated three times into a star pattern. I liked it! A few weeks later I received the completed logo in the mail along with a camera ready layout for new business cards, invoices, and letterheads. I've been using it ever since. Thanks, Jon

Friday, January 26, 2007

Big Decisions ~ Buy Coke On Sale Or Use Up The Pepsi First?

The truth is, it was a no brainer! Even though I'd bought five 12 packs of Pepsi for ten bucks a couple weeks before I really prefer Coke. I went ahead and bought the four 12 packs of Coke for ten bucks. But that was last week.

Today I took Mary to the Publix supermarket, mostly because she was out of food for her cat collection, but I suspect as much because she just wanted to "get out" and be amongst people for awhile. I didn't really need a thing but I took her anyway. I ended up buying fresh bagels, Maxwell House French Roast coffee, and Mullers Vermicelli. It was all on sale for buy-one, get-one-free. Then I went outside, lit a cigarette, and waited.

It took her almost an hour. Like I said, for her it's an Outing! In the meantime I ran into Lenny Schendowich. It must be 15 years since I last saw him. He's still living in the same house he was living in when I first met his family back in 1956. I used to fish with his older brother Irwin. We chatted for a bit about the old days, about Irwin, and about Lenny's monkeys. Real live monkeys, not toys! I should go over there and take some pix. It's only a couple of blocks

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Power To The People!

After Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma came through the area there were a lot of utility lines down, along with the trees and limbs that brought them down. In many areas the utility poles are in the alleys that go down the center of each block. These alleys are barely wide enough for trucks to get through in the best of times. Now they were impassable!

City crews cleared the streets first, then North Miami Public Works sent garbage trucks to the alleys with some guys cutting up the limbs with chain saws while others got the pieces into the trucks. A few of us citizens went out back to help the city workers load the trucks. We figured that the sooner the alleys got cleared the sooner we'd have electric power, phone, and cable service. Blown transformers were the biggest bugaboo in keeping the power from being restored. While some neighborhoods were back on in 2 days others waited almost 2 weeks.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

All That's Left - Scrap Aluminum

Here's part of a screened pool enclosure that Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma had deposited in a wooded area next door. Things like this get blown all over the neighborhoods, often causing still more damage to other folk's properties.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

And She Huffed And She Puffed And She Blew The Thing Down

No, it wasn't the Big Bad Wolf of fairy tale fame. At this point I can't remember if it was Katrina or Wilma, but my neighbor's screened swimming pool enclosure was definately down! A complete loss. A mess!

Folks screen their pools for a variety of reasons, from keeping the mosquitos at bay to keeping leaves from dropping into the pool. It keeps dogs out of the water, and since the bottom few feet of the enclosure is solid panels of aluminum it also helps to keep wayward toddlers from falling in and drowning.

One thing it doesn't keep out is alligators. Usually during winter, the dry season in south Florida, a lot of the Everglades dries up and the alligators head for the deeper canals. Sometimes they swim downstream into the urban areas in search of food and suprise some homeowner who finds one sunning in their back yard. Sometimes they'll even roam overland a few blocks through suburbia under cover of darkness, looking for a tasty kitty or doggy if no racoon or 'possum can be found. Then the urge to return to water overcomes the beast. In their tiny brain a swimming pool is as good as any canal. After all, water is water! So a few hundred pounds of lumbering reptile makes his way through the enclosure and into the pool. The home owner going for his morning swim is in for a big surprise. Between county Animal Control and the TV news guys the pool will be off limits for a few hours. It was weeks before this screened enclosure could keep anything out!

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Caresses of Katrina & Wilma

This is my neighbor's house down the block from me after both storms had come through Miami in 2005. I have the same type of awnings over my windows, which hinge down and secure against the house, covering the windows. The city says that they don't meet current hurricane impact code, and they wanted me to replace them with steel panels when I upgraded all my windows to current hurricane code a few years ago.

I pointed out that the panels were very heavy and a royal pain to put up, while the aluminum awnings were a cinch to pull down and secure, so l'd be much more likely to use them than put up the panels. I also said that they'd been there for about 50 years and had sufficed through all of those years worth of storms, including Hurricane Andrew a dozen years ago that had demolished so many homes. They finally relented and let me keep the awnings. The one-two hits of hurricanes Katrina and Wilma downed a lot of trees and limbs, but most of the damage to houses in my neighborhood was restricted to minor stuff like rain gutter drain pipes, screened patios, and roofing shingles, nothing major. We were all thankful for that. None of my windows were broken. The awnings covering them were sufficient to resist wind, rain, flying branches, and the other debris that the hurricanes hurled at them. Cutting up the downed trees and branches was the hardest part of the clean-up, but a chain saw made it fairly easy.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

You Can't Trust Those GIRLS...

For many years hurricanes had only female names, names like Donna and Camille, but then equality became fashionable. Male names alternated with female names. I remember a Hurricane David that was quite destructive. Andrew was a killer storm of major proportions.

Last year, 2006, was a quiet one and Miami escaped with nothing but a few low pressure areas bringing some rain, but the rotation never really developed and the atmospheric pressure never fell low enough to encourage development into a full fledged hurricane. We were all happy about that.

2005, though, was different. Almost within days of one another Hurricane Katrina, followed by Hurricane Wilma, churned through south Florida shearing off tree limbs, knocking down whole trees even, and demolishing storage sheds and pool enclosures. Tens of thousands of damaged roofs started leaking, shingles scattered across whole neighborhoods, electric and phone lines were downed, traffic signals didn't work, gas stations couldn't pump gas. Bedlam reigned for a few days.

My ex-wife Claudia was lucky and her electric was back on within two days. I'd have to wait another nine or ten, yet I only live a mile away. It pays to stay friends, though. I had showers and hot coffee in exchange for bringing my chain saw over there and cutting up some downed trees and branches. This tree missed her truck but blocked the driveway unless she drove across the lawn to reach the street. There was a lot more to cut up in the back yard but this tree was soon cut into four foot lengths and stacked by the side of the street. City crews, along with crews from the electric and phone companies, soon got the streets and alleys cleared and began working on restoring the utilities.

Then, of course, the second storm hit! Most of the trees that were likely to fall had already fallen. The weak branches likely to knock out wires had already come down. Still, things were a mess for weeks.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I Made It!

I just got the list of Yahoo! Picks for 2006 and I'm on the list for my photography

Welcoming The Year 2007

We used to walk down the street to Cagni Park to watch the fireworks years ago, then the city moved them to the new stadium and you have to drive to get there instead of just walking four blocks. Actually, the city only has fireworks for the Fourth of July celebration and this was New Years eve. This was everday people in the neighborhood firing them off. This particular rocket was only a couple of blocks away.

People had been setting off firecrackers for hours before midnight, but as the Magic Hour aproached the explosions became more frequent. I grabbed my trusty Bessa with its 15mm lens and headed out to the front yard. I'd already spotted a couple of rockets through the front window. The light on me is from the street light on the corner and it was just a matter of catching one of the rockets when it got near the top of its trip and exploded in the air. With ISO 200 color film the exposure on me was about 1/4 second at f/4.5 which is as wide as the diaphragm on the lens goes. The relatively slow shutter speed would alow the exploding rocket to streak a bit in the photo as red hot pieces spun outward into the air.

I got off about a dozen shots before my extended right arm, holding the camera, got too tired. This one was timed just right to catch the exploding fireworks, and yet I was able to hold both me and the camera steady enough so I came out looking sharp in the photo. Well, not perfectly sharp, but more than sharp enough. I was happy when I saw it. Thanks to Todd Frederick for his Photoshop skills in getting some reasonably normal color in both me and the shirt with the odd-ball color spectrum emitted by the hi-tech street light.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sweet Temptations, Irresistable Temptations

It was Christmas time at Starbucks and they had displays of everything from their Christmas Blend coffee to fancy (and expensive) coffee makers to cups and saucers, a few varieties of mugs, and insulated containers to keep your brew piping hot. All, of course, packaged prettily for use as gifts.

The store always smells of the aroma of fresh ground coffee and fresh brewed coffee, but it misses out on one delectable odor that I remember from my youth. When I was a kid growing up in New Bedford there was a shop on Purchase St. about a block north of Union St. (was that William St.?), right on the corner. Lorraine's was the name, I think, and they roasted the coffee right there, with the delightful smell drifting out, and wafting up and down the street. Get within half a block of the place and it made my mouth water, and my brain reeled with the anticipation of having a fresh cup of the brew.

If Starbucks could figure out a way to get that roasting odor at least out to the drive-through...hell if they could get it out to the highway running by the place...but alas, the fresh roasted odor doesn't even exist in the store.

Things are back to normal now. The Christmas specific merchandise is either sold or closed out or packed away for next year. It's back to drinking the regular brew and complaining that the new manager never orders any cinnamon stick donuts.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

'Tis The Season For "Season's Greetings"

Many religions celebrate a holiday about the time of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Early in human history, long before the origin of clocks, it was obvious that for half the year the days grew shorter with the sun not getting as high in the sky, then for half the year they grew longer again. But what if they if they didn't get longer? What if each day it just kept getting colder and colder? There'd be no crops to harvest, no food to eat.

This is the kind of thing that calls out for religion, a way to appease the gods, a way to assure that the world wasn't ending. Wonder of wonders, when the proper rituals were performed, songs sung, prayers recited, and symbols displayed, the days did indeed begin to get longer. The sun got ever higher in the sky, the weather got warmer, the spring rains arrived, and plants once more sprouted new leaves.

Things like mistletoe and coniferous trees, both ever green, gave hope that the world would be right again, reminding us that there was a future. In northern Europe these plants became associated with Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus, after untold centuries of symbolizing rebirth and renewal by the religions that existed there before. It's also the season when the Jews celebrate Hanukah, "The festival of lights" while the Hindus celebrate Divali, also "The festival of lights".

Our traditions here in the United States largely revolve around the Christian symbols, as shown by the Christmas tree here in North Miami's city hall lobby, but in recent years it's been joined by a Jewish menorah with it's eight lights. As our population of Hindus, Bhudists, Muslims, and others of many faiths continues to grow it may be to time to add more symbols to the public lobby. Or perhaps it may be time to just realize that all those symbols are all really in celebration of the same thing, and celebrate together as one.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Visiting Publix, My Coke Dealer

I know that I'm a caffeine addict. I started drinking coffee as a toddler, when my grandfather would put a bit into an egg cup when he fixed his own afternoon brew. I just loved the flavor! I guess I liked the kick too. I still drink it from morning to night, usually nursing a luke-warm cup for hours.

When the weather is hot I drink a lot of cola, another good source of caffeine! I prefer the slightly tart taste of Coke over the sweetness of Pepsi, but I can't turn down a bargain. When Publix supermarkets had Pepsi 12 packs of cans on sale for 5/$10 instead of $3.70 each I picked up 5. A few weeks later I guess I still had 3 left, but Coke was on sale at 4/$10, still a good deal! When Mary called me to take her grocery shopping I didn't need much myself, but it was the excuse I needed to buy the Coke. As Mary wandered the aisles picking up her weekly groceries (mostly food for her cats) I finished my shopping and went out front to have a smoke.

It's just as well that they had all these sales because it's about the mildest winter I know of, with daily temperatures in the upper 70's to around 90, more like summer than winter. I'm drinking a bit less coffee and a lot more cola!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Little Yellow Bugs

Truly Nolen is one of the larger extermination companies around here, and for years they used bright yellow Volkswagen "Beetles" as the official company car. It must have been a trauma of major proportions to the company when VW stopped making them. As soon as the "New Beetle" was introduced bright yellow beetles sporting mouse ears became a common sight on Miami's streets once more.

Well, it was obvious that my house had termites again. You could see the piles of droppings, like sawdust, in places on the floor near wooden things like door frames. About every 8 to 10 years I go through the ritual of calling Truly Nolan, a guy shows up in a yellow VW, inspects the house, and says "Yup, you've got termites!" I gave him a credit card number, signed some papers, and got a date for the tenting where they cover the house with huge tarps and fill it with it with poison gas for two days. I had to remove all the opened containers of food from the fridge and elsewhere, make sure the cat was outside, and hope that no opossum or racoon is camping out in the attic. They can smell pretty bad a few days later!

I camped out at my ex's house for a couple of days, and Baby is an "outside" cat anyway so she guarded the house. The next morning I stopped by to give her food and fresh water. Finally the tarps came off and I'm back home again.

Monday, January 15, 2007

In Honor Of Martin Luther King

Back in 1970 it was a very different world, both for blacks and for whites. The legacy of people like Dr. Martin Luther King was still fresh in peoples minds, officially sanctioned segregation was largely history, but to say there was equality? No way! As the battle continued leaders like the Rev. Ralph Abernathy emerged, following in the path forged by Dr. King. Younger, more impatient leaders came along also, like the Rev. Jesse Jackson (pictured above) wearing his trademark dashiki and big Afro hair style. At the extreme were groups like the Black Panthers and the Black Afro Militant Movement (B.A.M.M.) wanting power now, and some even espousing setting up black controlled areas of the country while others were trying to get a Back to Africa movement going. They wanted nothing to do with Whitey.

You can read all aout my experiences back then, with photos, in the three links below. Things are very diferent today. There are now plenty of blacks (maybe not enough, though) attending college, holding political office, working in science, industry, and education. Neighborhoods are increasingly integrated, and mixed race couples and their children have become a common sight. Thank you Dr. King!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Too Early To Make Any Adjustments

One evening every month I show up at the Board of Adjustment meeting in the North Miami City Council chambers and take the seat at the far right, just to the right of the woman's head in this photo. I always seem to get places early. It was about 6:15, the meeting is scheduled to start at 6:30, and it's unlikely for the full board to be seated before 6:35 at best, so I figured it was a good time to knock off a few frames with the 15mm lens before the meeting started and show what it looked like from the audience side of the dias. William Succup (center) got there about the same time I did. Then we waited. And waited. Bill ended up chairing the meeting because our chairwoman Carol Keys couldn't be there.

We listen to people explain (and whine and beg) why they want a zoning variance. They all claim that they need the variance, but some make sense and some don't. Once in awhile a neighbor or two shows up to protest the granting of the variance, and city staff comes up with their recomendation yeah or nay. Then we ask a few questions, have some discussion, and take a vote. They still have to go before the City Council for final aproval, and on rare occasions the council will aprove something we voted down.

To some extent I am getting bored with all these 15mm photos so I dug out my old 400mm lens. There might be some very different looking pix showing up here in the near future.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

...And Representing The North Pole Is Councilman Scott Galvin!

Another one of those Christmas themed luncheons that make December so exciting! This is the North Miami Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Miami Shores Country Club. Scott is sitting on my left wearing the Santa Clause hat.

I first met him about 18 years ago when he was the uppity 18 year old kid that had the nerve to file to run against an incumbant councilman, Bill Carr. There was something about Scott that impressed me at the time. Even though I knew Bill I went around telling people not to sell Scott short. He had what it takes, full of energy and ambition, and a good handle on the problems confronting the city. Bill, of course, was pissed that he'd have to mount a campaign instead of just getting re-elected unopposed.

I was running for another seat in the same election, but that's a story for another day. We both lost that one, but we realized that we both could have won if the city returned to district elections instead of the city wide at-large elections that had been adopted a dozen or so years earlier. We mounted a campaign to get it put on the ballot and the voters approved it. We went back to district elections.

Scott waited out a couple of election cycles, finished college, got a teaching job with the county school system, and decided it was time to run once more. This time he got elected. He's one of the best councilmen we've had in the nearly forty years that I've been involved in local politics.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Time Machine?

...or perhaps just a memorial to the way things used to be. The days when people used pay phones, and sometimes there'd be several people waiting their turn. A few days ago (scroll down a few posts) I wrote about Superman using phone booths as a place to change his clothes, morphing from Clark Kent into Superman, The Man of Steel! No more. Those booths haven't been around in years.

In those innocent days when comic book heros seemed real to us kids Dick Tracey was a super cop, a fantastic detective. He had what seemed to be something that would never become reality ~ a Two-Way Wrist Radio, the size of watch, or perhaps just a bit bigger. Essentially hardly any smaller than many of today's cell phones, which contain a built-in clock. Even a camera!

Not that long ago if you saw someone walking along, gesticulating with their hands, and talking to themselves you'd get out of their way. They were obviously crazy! Nowadays you look for the tiny earpiece jammed into one of their ears and the tiny microphone dangling below their chin. To be polite you pretend you're not trying to listen in on their conversation.

Just think of all the crimes detective Tracey could have solved if he could have sent digital images from the crime scene to headquarters, or received digital mug shots of criminals with similar crimes straight from the files downtown. Back in 1950 that was as farfetched as men travelling to the moon, pure science fiction. Reality today is that pay phones are history.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Things are SMOKING at Starbucks!

I've never been great with names but usually after I know folks for awhile they "stick", or at least they used to stick. Since developing epilepsy a few years ago my short term memory is fried. This doc says it's a result of having had the seizures while that doc says it's a side effect of the anti-seizure drugs, so whom to believe? Reminds me of a few years ago when the neurologist told me to make sure I didn't drive unless I was on the medication. My family doctor asked me how I'd gotten to his office a few weeks later. "I drove" I replied. He said that I shouldn't even consider driving on that medication. Yeah, right!

Anyway, I run into these three folks a few times a week at Starbucks. I think one of the guys name is Rudy, the other is Peter. Which one? I can't remember. Her name is Gloria. She always brings her cute little grey poodle with her, carrying him in her purse. I still can't remember the dog's name. Gloria rarely wears anything but long wrap skirts but she was wearing pants this chilly morning. She hails from northern Italy near the Swiss border and she has a very German sounding accent. One of the guys also has a German accent. He's from Austria. It's actually unusual for all three of them to be there at the same time, and rare enough to see any two of them together.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Joining The Homeless / A Blog Hiatus

Yup, I'll be homeless within twenty-four hours! It'll be a forty-eight hour adventure that gets repeated every eight or ten years as the exterminator "tents" my house, filling it with poisonous gas to get rid of the termites and whatever else might be living here unwanted.

I guess that beats living out on the street full time. At least I know that come Thursday I'll be back home again. In the meantime Claudia, my ex, offered for me to spend the two nights at her place, so at least I won't be paying High Season winter rates at a motel. I'll probably take her out to dinner though.

Claudia has no computer or internet access at her house so I'll be pretty much off line for a couple of days, hence the blog hiatus. Hopefully I'll be back here Thursday, or Friday at the latest. I will be checking my Email a time or two each day via other peoples' computers until then.

When I shot this photo with my favorite lens, the 15mm Heliar, a few weeks ago, I wasn't thinking of using it for this so much as just depicting the parking lot almost full of cars. I'm not even sure which parking lot it is, although I suspect it was at the K-Mart on Biscayne Blvd. I really enjoy the "acting" part, the making faces and striking poses. In this case I've acquired a certain bum-like quality that seems to fit in nicely with the homeless theme. The cigarette dangling from my lip is becoming a trade-mark of this project, although I can only use it outside these days if I'm not at home.

If you don't see any new postings here for a couple of days have no fear, I WILL RETURN!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Another Year, Another Kosher Roast Pig?

Photo (c) 2006 James Mitchell

We were on a roll here, talking about eating and holiday parties, and I get this Email from my friend James Mitchell featuring this photo of a roasted young pig. Well, it fits right in to the theme of the moment. I guess it was about a year ago when The South Florida Fishing Club had a Kosher Pig Roast. After a bit of joking about "Does that mean that the pig was circumcized?" those of us that eat pork dug in and enjoyed while the others ate hot dogs and hamburgers. Maybe we should make a pig feast an annual event here on The Price of Silver. Both pigs were scrumptious.

Thanks for letting me use the photo, James!

Friday, January 05, 2007

How To Eat Like A Pig And Lose Weight

Here I am at another one of those just-before-Christmas parties, eagerly awaiting the food to be put on the table, the lids on the trays to be lifted, and even though I've been munching on hors'oevres for an hour or more I'm famished. The smell of the food is overwhelming!

For a couple of weeks I was eating at various breakfasts, luncheons, and dinners, feasting at homes and dining at halls, stuffing myself outdoors at barbeques, everyplace I went there was food and more food.

Then Dawn was here for a couple of long weekends, and WOW, can that woman cook! She thinks that I'm too thin. Way too thin. All women seem to think that. They've always thought that. I got to eat her yummy home cooked gourmet specialties, and then she filled a bunch of Tupperwares for my freezer. Last night the microwave heated her spaghetti and meat sauce and tonight my bowl is overflowing with her thick pea soup rich with carrots, potatoes, and generous chunks of ham.

It seems that after a brief after Thanksgiving hiatus all I've been doing is eating for the past three weeks. This morning I got on the bathroom scale after my shower and it confirmed what the scale at the Publix supermarket told me a few days ago. Somehow, with all those calories I've taken in, I've managed to lose 7 or 8 pounds since mid-December! How? Damned if I know. If I did I could make a fortune writing a book and holding seminars. Or maybe I'm not really kidding when I tell people that I teleport the calories to the nearest female?

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Meek looking Clark Kent used to duck into a nearby phone booth at a moment's notice and quickly strip off his suit, tie, and dress shirt, revealing his caped Superman costume underneath. Even as a little kid I used to wonder what he did with his clothes while he was off fighting crime and recuing damsels in distress. Nowadays, for sure, somebody would steal his suits!

Phone booths were everyplace! I guess I date back to nickle days but I really can't remember them being less than a dime. I do remember that in the late 1960's, when I was working for The North Dade Journal, there was a big stink when Bell South upped the price to twenty-five cents. They finally relented and agreed to keep it at ten cents at the phone booths near the schools.

At some point the booths were replaced by weatherproof pay phones on posts, out in the open. I guess it solved the problem of the homeless (we used to call them bums) sleepng in them, or using them as toilets, but it's no fun standing in the rain while making a phone call. Then cell phones came along. Even poor people today can probably find a plan they can afford, when you consider what it cost to make only four or five calls a day in a pay phone.

This photo was shot outside the North Miami Post Office. I don't know if somebody stole the phone (Quick! Where's Superman when you really need him?) or the phone company just decided that it was a money loser and removed it. I guess the post will be gone soon too. End of an era!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Fine Dining At The Community Center

Somehow or another over the years I've gotten involved with too many civic associations and appointed or elected to too many boards, plus I belong to the South Florida Fishing Club. Come December I get invited to too many parties, luncheons, and dinners. Some of them mean Free Food (hooray!) while others mean paying too damned much for what gets served, but there's no getting out of going, it seems.

I tried to resign from several boards years ago but got talked into staying on. Finally, when my mom died a dozen or so years ago, BINGO!, that was the excuse I needed and I resigned from EVERYTHING! Then little by little...well, I'm back.

Which party is this? Frankly I'm not sure. I didn't keep notes on all of the rolls of film I shot, but I'm pretty sure it was at one of the community centers here in North Miami, with the wall decorations done by local school kids.

When I was a kid it was just Christmas time and everything reflected the Christmas theme. Us Jewish kids felt left out. Gradually our country embraced a broader Judeo-Christian way of celebrating the winter solstice, and a huge Hanukah menorah now sits next to the giant Christmas tree outside of city hall. We still ignore the holidays celebrated by all the other religions at this time of year. It's like Hindus, Muslims, and Bhudists don't exist, yet for several years my Muslim friend and fellow photographer Mike Rifai and I photographed the Diwhalli (new year) festival at the Hindu temple together.

What I find really strange about the way we celebrate Christmas is the western European spin on everything, the traditions that originated centuries before Christianity took root there, likely eons before Jesus was even born. Things like yule logs, mistletoe, the "Christmas" tree itself. Both are ever green all through the snowy frigid winter. All of pagan origin, now incorporated into the season's trappings. Anyway, the food was good, I renewed some old friendships and met some new people. It feels like it's going to be a good year! And of course Dawn will soon be Mrs. Kaplan so our house will look like Christmas come December.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Fine Dining At Jimmies Place

When they first built this place back in the late 1960's I was doing photography for the North Dade Journal, a neighborhood weekly owned by the Miami Herald, and the paper's office was in the same shopping plaza as the restaurant. A few doors away is my dentist's office, Carl's Shoe Repair is across the parking lot, and across the street was Jaybo's, a photo lab owned by Jay Spencer, the then newly retired chief of photography at the Big Paper downtown. He had one of the first 2 hour E-6 (Ektachrome) labs in South Florida, did high quality black and white as well as color printing, stocked a variety of professional films including 4x5 sheet film, chemicals, and printing papers, had a reasonable selection of big rolls of background paper, carried Nikon cameras, and bought and sold used photo equipment. North Miami's photographers were really sorry to see Jaybo's close about a dozen years back.

When this restaurant first opened it was laid out much like a Burger King, with a walk-up self service counter, and tables and chairs scattered about the room. It was to be the start of a chain named after some Miami Dolphin football player, but soon failed. Then it became part of a local chain of sit down restaurants named Ranch House. After they went under a few years later several of the locations were taken over by members of one family, but as I understand it they're actually individually owned. What they share is decor, menu, and they sort of share a name. It varies from Jimmies Place to Jimmy's Place to Jimmie's Place, etc. The food is good plain American diner fare, whether it's breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Good wholesome food at reasonable prices with friendly waitresses.

Monday, January 01, 2007

'Twas The Week AFTER Christmas And The Post Office Was Empty

It's amazing how busy this place can be for a couple of weeks before Christmas. North Miami has a sizeable population of immigrants. We have people from Jamaica, Haiti and other Carribean islands, Central and South America, Russia and various West European countries, as well as India, Japan, China, etc., all of which have various religious holiday traditions and dates of celebration around the winter solstice, together with different requirements of just when you positively have to get your gifts in the mail to assure they arrive on time.

On the one hand it spreads out the crush of people coming here to mail their gifts. On the other hand it means that for perhaps two weeks, maybe more, this place is crowded, clerks manning all the stations, and the line snaking out the door. Then one glorious day it's over with. Everything has been mailed and for the most part all the incoming seasonal mail has arrived and been picked up. This was one of those days. I had a 6x8 inch manilla envelope (on the counter next to my hand) to get weighed and mailed, and I was in and out of there in maybe five minutes. Fantastic!