Saturday, March 31, 2007

It's Party Time!

One thing that I learned from my friend Jim Kukar nearly four decades ago, back when he edited the North Dade Journal and I was the photographer, was that with a little bit of luck and enough candidates running for office, you could eat free for weeks before an election. A run-off from a close race meant another couple of weeks worth of campaign parties and hoopla. Back then you could also drink free. The booze really flowed in those days. All you could drink and then some. Often there'd be some good smoke :) outside the back door also. Now that's a no-no. Today, at best, you might find a bit of wine, or perhaps some beer, but nobody gets tipsy.

Kevin was lucky last election, getting elected with little effort. This go 'round he has an opponent. The campaign kick-off party was held in a vacant store more or less directly across the street from city hall. I think Kevin is of Irish decent anyway, but it was close enough to St. Patrick's Day to use green as a theme. I'm not much good at planning wardrobe type things so my one and only presentable green shirt was in the laundry hamper that day.

The head honchos from the North Miami Chamber of Commerce were sitting at this table while various movers and shakers of the North Miami political scene filled a dozen more. After the food was eaten we got to listen to a bunch of speakers telling us what a great guy Kevin was and all the things he'd accomplished during his current term as mayor (quite a bit, in my opinion). Then we heard from Kevin himself, thanking us for our support and laying out his plans and ideas for the new term in the mayor's seat. He does have some opposition this time around but I think the odds are in his favor. I'm looking forward to the victory party. I might even dress up in a suit, and I know I have a green tie!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Reuniting With The Lost Tribes Of Israel


Monkette was out of the truck and sitting on the table already when Lumumba stopped by Starbucks for his after work cup of coffee. (To find out why Monkette was was sitting on the table see the story immediately below this one.) I first met Lumumba a month or two ago over a cup of afternoon coffee. Very much like me, he'll start up a conversation with anyone, including complete strangers. Over time I found out his whole name was Lumumba bin Yhwh and he was from the Transvaal Province in South Africa. I remarked that bin Yhwh meant "son of the king" or "son of God" and that led into a discussion on the similarities between the Hebrew and Arabic languages, along with his observation that my name Kaplan means "priest".

I guess I wasn't all that surprised at that point when he told me that his people, his tribe, had migrated over the years down the east coast of Africa from Ethiopia, and that like me he was Jewish. A bit more conversation that day and I had no doubts about it. Their practice of Judaism is a bit different from the way those of us from northern Europe, the Ashkanazi Jews, practice it, but it's obvious that it's just variations of a theme.

He grew up on a large farm that his parents own and he's well educated. He came here a couple of years ago with the intent of making it on his own rather than living off the family's wealth. Essentially he's set up a painting contractor business, mostly subcontracting to other developers, and employs nearly a dozen young black guys "recruited from the streets" as he puts it. He tries to keep them straight, off drugs, and turns their lives around by teaching them a trade and giving them a sense of responsibility. I suppose that his African background and distinctive accent makes him a believeable role model.

That first day we discussed the history of race relations here over the last few decades and I told him how much things had changed for the better, but I had to agree with him that we still had a few redneck cops who can be less than polite at times, and and l told him that if he ventures to smaller towns upstate it would likely be worse.

Since that first meeting we've run into one another nearly every afternoon and had some great conversations. As he puts it, we really are brothers.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Monkette Makes Some New Friends

I was sittng at Starbucks drinking my morning coffee and reading the newspaper a few Sunday mornings ago when two bicycles arrived which were being ridden by a young mother and her daughter of perhaps eight or nine. They came back outside to the patio with their drinks and sat down at the table next to mine.. The girl was still wearing her helmet, but now viewing her from behind I could see that her backpack contained a long armed toy monkey, its arms around her neck.

I went to my nearby truck and took Monkette from where she usually sits in the front seat then walked over to the table where the girl was sitting. I sat Monkette on their table facing the girl saying that this was Monkette and she'd been sitting in my truck when she noticed the other monkey. Could she please join them?

The girl's face lit up, eyes sparkling, with a huge grin! I told them the story of Monkey, how I'd had him since childhood, and about his recent trip to San Francisco where he'd met Monkette. Monkey was sleeping late so I'd taken Monkette with me for morning coffee. I said all of this as if toy monkeys were real people. The girl was now playing with both monkeys, which were sitting on the table facing one another. The mother was fascinated by my story and the girl was fascinated by the monkeys. I went back to my table and my newspaper. We all finished up with our drinks about the same time and said our goodbyes. I haven't seen them since.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Drug Wars ~ New Dealer In The 'Hood

It used to be where a pharmacist would open his own drug store shortly after graduating pharmacy school. Names that come to mind include Peoples' Pharmacy and Howard's Drugs which were nearby while Sandy's drugs was perhaps two miles away. All independents. They had huge magazine selections, hundreds of greeting cards, enough candy bars to rot an elephant's tusks, soda fountains and lunch counters, and Sandy's was noted for its huge selection of pipes and tobaccos. One local chain, Eckerds was in competition with another, Walgreens, but the independants had no trouble serving the neighborhoods.

Eckerds got taken over by Super-X while Walgreens went on a take-no-prisoners expansion trip. As an example, Howard's Drugs built a brand new building directly across the street from their old location, putting them right next door to a supermarket that had been there for decades. A few months later the grocery closed down and a Walgreens moved in. Howard couldn't compete with their prices or advertising budget. As soon as Howard was out of business Walgreens closed the location. It's now an auto supply store.

As Walgreens, one by one, drove the independants out of business Super-X's expansion continued until they were taken over by the CVS Pharmacy chain. Essentially we're down to two drug retailers. There's Costco, of course, but they don't have a store every couple dozen blocks. The one thing I do like about The New World Order is that at least in the newer stores, if you know where something is in the store near your house rest assured that it's in exactly the same place in every other store in the chain. That's a huge conveniece!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

North Miami Chamber Of Commerce - Networking Central

I first became involved with the North Miami Chamber of Commerce perhaps thirty-five years ago, maybe more, when I was shooting for the local paper. They needed somebody to photograph the girls in the annual Miss North Miami Pageant for the pageant book, photograph the pageant itself, as well as the coronation ball. Various local businesses each sponsor one of the contestants, so it was a great opportunity to meet potential clients. Also, I was still at an age where it was kind of neat to be hanging out with a bunch of great looking young women, take them to the nearby park, and shoot photos. The Chamber paid me, the sponsors bought pictures, and not only did the girls buy pictures but they often had me shoot their model composites or wedding albums as well.

I ended up shooting photos of custom jewelry for a local jeweler, tennis racquets and golf clubs for a publisher of trade journals, and some interesting pictures of concrete being crushed for a local testing lab. Photographing the girls was more fun.

As I outgrew the hangin'-out-with-the-sexy-chicks phase of life I cleaned up my act, cut my hair, shaved off the beard, and started wearing suits and ties. I got elected to the board of directors of the Chamber. I guess I was probably on the board at least ten years, but somehow I also ended up on the boards of the local YMCA, the North Miami Mayor's Economic Task Force, and found myself being vice-chair of the North Miami Planning Comission, all at the same time. I kept trying to resign from something, ANYTHING, but I kept getting talked into staying. My life, it seemed, had become an endless series of meetings. Finally I put my foot down and resigned from everything. That was about a dozen years ago.

Little by little Councilman Scott Galvin got me involved with the city's Historical Society, tricked me into accepting a seat on the city's Board of Adjustment, and I'm not really sure how I got on the Disaster Preparedness Board, but I'm on it! How could I ever extricate myself from this mess? Maybe find some time to do some fishing again?

The suits and ties stayed in the closet. I started wearing faded jeans and short sleeved open neck fishing shirts again. I went everyplace wearing deck shoes without socks, let my beard grow, about never get my hair cut, and I still have to remind the city manager and the police chief that it's cool to call me "Al", no need for the Mr. Kaplan formality. It must be the grey hair.

And what brought me to the North Miami Chamber of Commerce this lovely day? That's where the Historical Society meets. That and a free cup of coffee!

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Thirty Year Cycle ~ Keeping The House In Repair

I know that it was thirty years ago because I remember that it was the year that my son Jonathan was born, 1976, the Bicentennial Year, a year full of speeches, parades and hoopla now long forgotten.

The house needs painting every eight to possibly ten years. It needs to be tented and fumigated for termites at about the same intervals. Still, termites do get to do a bit of damage in between, and the rain and humidity can start some rottng of the more exposed areas of wood even when it's painted. Thirty years ago I was younger and more ambitious than I am now, full of energy but with a wallet depleted by the expenses of having a five year old daughter and a new born son. I replaced rotted wood and torn screening, and then painted the house myself.

This time I took advantage of a new city program. Now that I'm collecting Social Security, and the house is paid for free and clear, I can claim a much smaller income, thus qualifying for the money to paint the house and replace the damaged wood. Here a carpenter is replacing some wood around the eaves in preperation for a coat of sealer followed by three coats of premium paint. Such a deal! I love it! Why can't the city beautify the neighborhood even more? Perhaps replace everybody's car or truck that's more than five years old? Hell, the boat is more than five years old too...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ain't Life A Gas? Fill Her Up!

Every time I think of buying gas these days I keep wondering if it really is costing me more to feed this baby's automatic transmission than the old truck with the stick shift was costing me. I never did check the actual fuel consumption on the other one, and now I'm afraid that I really don't want to know just how much this one is eating on a per mile basis. On a per week basis I have no idea whether the extra five bucks or so is all due to higher pump prices or partly a result of the automatic transmission.

I'd just had a new clutch installed, along with brake pads, a muffler, and a brand new set of tires when a woman went sailing through a stop sign and broadsided me. Fortunately she hit the passenger side and nobody was sitting there. Nobody was really hurt. The insurance company totaled the truck. I called my dealer and he had this one sitting there, low mileage and ready to go. A bit of paperwork and I was driving a maroon Toyota Tacoma instead of a blue one.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

My Very Last Visit To Mary Poh's Trailer

When I first met Mary twenty-five years ago she was a vibrant 59 years old and still running her antique shop across the street from North Miami city hall. Even years after she retired she'd spend weekends stopping by every yard sale she could find. She knew her paintings, jewelry and porcelain, and she often picked up some good pieces for a pittance. More than once she shipped off a fifty cent find to Sotheby's or Christies where it was auctioned off for big bucks. I used to shoot the pictures for her to send to the auction houses so they could pick what they wanted her to send.

The last few years her eye sight started to fail, she had to stop driving, and recently she started to become very paranoid and forgetful. I stayed in touch with her councelor, telling her to please let Mary live with her little dog and her trailer full of cats as long as possible. This photo was about three weeks ago. I'm on the right, one of her neighbors is in the center, and almost hidden in the shadows on the left sits Mary. A couple of days later I got the call. They were taking her to Jackson, the county hospital, for evaluation and probable placement in an assisted living facility. Another few days went by and Mary called, cursing me out in language that I never thought that a proper lady of her generation would know. She was convinced that I was the one responsible for her being in the hospital. There was no talking to her. She just won't talk with me. One of her neighbors went to visit her and he called to say that she was doing OK. After taking her to the doctors and grocery shopping every week for a few years, I really miss her.

Friday, March 23, 2007

MOCA ~ North Miami's Museum Of Contemporary Art

North Miami has had an active arts community for as long as I can remember, from a spring arts festival in Griffing Park that included everything from live music and dance to artists' booths featuring their work. The old water department building behind city hall was taken over by the Society Of The Arts years ago as gallery and classroom space. Then perhaps a dozen years ago the city got ambitious. Really asmbitious! An effort was made to lure galleries and cafes into the downtown area. Landlords were encouraged to update, and to some degree standardize, the facades of the old 1940's era buildings along N.E. 125th Street. An art musum was designed and constructed. Along with the new building for the Museum Of Contemporary Art next to city hall we got a brand new police station on the other side of MOCA.

I was talking with Councilman Scott Galvin about all these changes and improvements to the downtown area of North Miami. He was really excited about all the things that have taken place in the last few years. He told me that the city is making a major effort to entice more art galleries to the area. The Luna Star Cafe across the street also has art exhibits, as well as live music and poetry on weekends. The avenue just west of city hall has been bocked off to car traffic and paved with bricks in a continuation of the brick patio next to city hall. A brand new Starbucks just opened on that corner and it too has art exhibits along with live music. The music I really enjoy best is the Jamaican Reggae music but jazz and folk are also featured along with poetry readings. Scott is looking forward to seeing galleries, boutiques, and cafes lining both sides of the street for several blocks.

In this photo I'm reading the paper outside of Starbucks with MOCA in the background. If I'd gotten my hair cut you could probably see part of the new police station on the right side of the photo. City hall is out of frame on the left. The city sets up its Showmobile on the patio and holds live outdoor concerts from time to time. Unless it's a really torrential downpour there are always people outside of both Starbucks and the Lunastar Cafe drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes under the umbrellas.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

PDR ~ Physicians' "Desk" Reference

Every year a new updated edition of the Physicians' Desk Reference is released. Essentially it is a compilation of all those leaflets that come packaged with full factory packed bottles of drugs. If your pharmacist put one in with your 30 pill prescription almost no one would read it anyway.

It's a huge heavy book., the kind of book that you read on a desk, not in your lap, and no way would you try to read it while holding it in your hands. My ex is a medical doctor and I'm on her short list of people to whom she gives an old one from time to time. My "current" one is the 2001 edition but most of the time that's likely to be current enough to read up on possible drug interactions or allergic reactions when I get a new prescription. It's big, but handy to have one at home.

There are a bunch of pre-med students that hang out at my nearby Starbucks and I'd mentioned that the neurologist had me trying a new anti-seizure medication. "Which one?" I was asked. "Lamictal, 100mg once a day" I replied. Suddenly what looked like a pocket calculator was whipped out and being consulted. I didn't learn anything new about the drug, but I did learn that essentially the entire contents of that huge book was inside that little plastic housing. That is progress, big time! Unless the battery dies, of course. Then you'll wish that you had the big full size Physicians' Desk Reference, the REAL PDR, on your lap even if it does weigh a ton.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Who Really Runs The North Miami Chamber Of Commerce?

I first met Penny and Bill Valentine way back before 1970, back when Bill was a North Miami City Councilman and Penny's big thing was putting together the annual Miss North Miami Pageant at the armory. They were also realtors and owned some rental property. I was shooting for the local paper. They always had a dog.

At some point, little by little, they took over the day to day operations of the North Miami Chamber of Commerce. In addition to organizing and sponsoring the Pageant they arrange the monthly luncheons, arrange for the speakers, put together business card exchanges, make sure the newsletter gets written and out on time, sell ads in the Chamber directory, and distribute the directory to members and anybody else who asks. They're always at city council meetings and everybody in the business community knows them. And they always had a dog. Not always the same dog, of course, but there is aways a dog in their lives.

When I stop by the Chamber office I'm always warmly greated by this little feller, and then I have to let him sit on my lap for a few minutes while I pet him before he'll let me get a cup of coffee. I guess he's really the one who runs the place.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Girl With Cat

This is another one of those vintage prints of mine from the 1960's. I have a framed print of it on the wall over my computer desk. It was taken in my back yard about 1968, shortly after I'd bought the 19mm Canon lens. It was a new way of seeing. It was both exciting and stimulating to get this new outlook on the world. For the first year I used that lens for personal work almost to the exclusion of all other lenses. I also found excuses to use it on news asignments and portrait sessions.

I'd been shooting some head shots of this girl when the cat wandered into the yard and let us know that she wanted to be picked up. The soft but directional light under the tree gave good modeling without being overly harsh. I was hoping to get both the girl and the cat to look in the same direction over my left shoulder but the cat kept looking straight at me. I fired off a few frames anyway, then the cat got bored and wanted to be put down again. When I looked at the contact sheet the next day this image just jumped up and said "print me!". I've always loved it. As for the girl, I don't remember her name and I have no idea what became of her. She'd be about 60 now.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Getting Lazy In My Old Age

Come fall it'll be forty years since we bought this house, which was built about 1950. I assume it was professionally painted by the developer at that point, and it looked like it had a fresh coat when we bought it. Over the years I've bought new brushes and rollers, gallons of paint, and repainted it myself just like my neighbors did. A painting contractor was an expensive luxury when you had kids to raise and a wife who was a perpetual student, switching majors from languages to computer programming to accounting to medicine. The marriage didn't survive but the house did.

A few years after we bought it we decided that beige with brown trim was more "in" than the 1950's look of pale green with white trim. Since then it's just been variations of the theme, never an exact match because there's really no way to match a color that's faded more on the sunny side than on the shaded side. Preserving the "theme" made sense to me because everytime we get a hurricane flying limbs manage to chip the paint in places, and on occasion even that yucky green gets to see daylight again from its hiding place six layers down. Still, there's a limit to just how many layers of paint you can pile one atop the other.

Professional attention was once more needed to pressure clean the house, taking most of the chalky old paint off of the walls before sealing and repainting. That was a lot more than I wanted to do myself, a lot more than just rolling on another coat, and I would have had to rent the pressure cleaner and learn how to use it. There was also some rotted and termite damaged wood around the eaves in need of replacement. I'm not twenty-five anymore. Time to call in the big guns! Me? I just watched.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cutting Wood, Cutting Corners?

A few months ago I was attending a meeting at city hall when the subject came up about about rehabbing some of the older houses around town, sprucing them up and painting them. At first I didn't pay much attention until I realized that the city had come into a windfall of money from a government grant just for that purpose, and to not spend it meant losing it. For a homeowner to qualify all that was required was proof that your total household income was below a certain level, which varied depending on how many people lived there. Since I live alone and collect Social Security it didn't seem like there was any way that I wouldn't qualify. They didn't even take into account things like my house is paid for so there are no monthly mortgage payments. Essentially all I had to do was show what my Social Security income amounted to.

Being a concerned citizen of North Miami it seemed like it was my civic duty to fill out the paperwork and take the money so it wouldn't have to be given back to the federal government. How could I argue with a deal like that? I even asked if Uncle Sam would consider the windfall as taxable income, but I was told that since I never received the money (it got paid directly by the city to the contractor) the answer was "no".

A few weeks later and I was picking out the paint colors. The house was pressure cleaned, some rotted and termite damaged wood was replaced, and a coat of sealer and three coats of paint followed. Only a couple of top brands of paint could be used so it would be a first class job.

In this photo a carpenter is trimming a piece of new pressure treated lumber to match an old piece on the front porch roof which had some termite damage.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Same Old Cameras, Different Armory ~ The Annual Show


James Mitchell was thrilled to be in Miami the weekend of the annual camera show at the armory in February. I was less thrilled because they'd moved it from the North Miami Armory about half a mile from my house to an armory at 700 N.W. 28th St., closer to downtown Miami. I was amazed that this armory looked like it had been made from the exact same plans as the other, except that a dropped ceiling had been added at some point.

Nancy Green, who promotes camera shows, probably decided to switch venues because the North Miami Armory is scheduled to be torn down, along with the nearby North Miami Jr. and Senior High Schools. After half a century or so of use it was decided to build all new buildings. It'll be a couple of years before the new armory is ready. I hope she moves it back.

We had a fun time looking at all the stuff we didn't want and didn't need. I'd hoped to find some Leica cassettes at a reasonable price, but didn't find any. This dealer was fascinated by my use of the 15mm lens.

I think Nancy Green had some tongue-in-cheek fun choosing her Email address. Usually "NG" stands for "no good" but those are her initials. If you want to be put on her notification list for upcoming shows Email ngcameras@aol.com

Friday, March 16, 2007

Another Trip In The Time Machine

Here's another one of those vintage prints that fill up so many boxes around here. It's circa 1970, maybe a bit earlier, and I remember it was shot in her lushly landscaped back yard. Actually, probably her parents back yard. I like the contrast between the vertical folds in her bodice and the horizontal texture of the palm tree trunks, the flaring roots reaching for the ground balancing the shape of her skirt. The odd thing is that were you to put that hair style, even that make-up, that dress on a twenty year old girl today she'd be right in fashion.

I wish I could locate some of these folks from my past and photograph them again as they are now, maybe with their children and grandchildren as well.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Intelligent By Design, Revival Of The Fittest



This guy saw me at Starbucks one weekend day and wanted to ask me some questions about "a strange old camera" he had. He'd seen my camera on the table and thought I just might know something about his camera. I forget if he told me that he found it packed away at the house or picked it up at a yard sale. We've reached that point in history that even the name "Polaroid" no longer conjures up the aura of cutting edge technology. An ever growing percentage of the population has never seen nor heard of Polaroid cameras. First One-Hour mini-labs took a big chunk of their business, then digital pounded its nail into the coffin. So it was no surprise when he asked me if I knew whether film was still available for his camera.

Back in the late 1940's, when Dr. Land first invented the process, carrying a massive expensive camera that gave you eight black and white pictures only a minute after the exposures were made was nothing short of a miracle. The film was expensive and you had to coat the prints with some gloop that came in the film package to keep the prints from fading. As the years went by ten second film was introduced, and then coaterless film followed by Polacolor in the early 1960's. Roll film gave way to pack films, and this series of cameras hit the market. The roll films are long gone but Polaroid still makes a few types of pack film. You can't find them at every drug store these days, but I told him where he could pick up a pack. He left happy and I never saw him again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

...and with a swirl of her cape...eternal life!

No, I don't remember her name. It's just another one of those vintage prints, circa 1970, stored away in boxes all these years. I don't remember why I shot it either, whether it was for an acting composite or an article in the local paper. I do remember that the dock was in her back yard in the Keystone Point section of North Miami. I probably made three or four exposures to capture the cape's swirl correctly.

Nowadays most photographers would machine gun dozens of frames with their digital SLR, and pick and choose later. I always tried to catch the peak of the action, and still work that way. Anybody who's not a professional model soon grows tired of endless shooting, and it shows.

I always loved the angular pattern of the alternating light and dark planks juxtaposed with the finer pattern on the piling, the way the one side of the cape curls gently away from her leg while the other side imparts so much life and energy as it bisects the composition. Meanwhile her expression remains serene, perhaps even a bit aloof, with just a hint of a shy smile.

Sometimes as I look back through these old prints and pick one out it makes me wonder if she ever had kids, how many grandchildren she might have, is she even still alive? I guess she'd be close to seventy now.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Master Plan!

The board table is located in the rear of the City of North Miami Council Chambers. Usually at meetings various department heads and members of their staff sit there. The lighting is better and it's handy to have a table for looking over papers and writing notes. Usually at council meetings there are more empty seats than occupied between the board table and the front of the room where the council sits.

This was different. It was time to update the city's master plan. The last time this was done the population was about 40,000 and now it's 60,000. The county school board is planning on tearing down the old high school and junior high, both built in the 1950's, and replace them with a new high school and middle school. A few state roads through the city used to be two lane. They now have four lanes plus a left turn lane. Traffic has increased.

In the late 60's several hi-rise condos and office buildings went up but a citizens' initiative managed to approve a charter ammendment limiting the height of new buildings to four stories, with an exeption for hospitals. One ambitious nusing home tried calling itself a hospital, but they didn't get away with it. Our North Miami General Hospital merged with another, Parkway, located just outside the city and the building is now a culinary institute, so the exeption is meaningless.

The proposed new plan will allow higher buildings in some areas, as well as "mixed use" such as stores and offices at street level, with apartments above. The city is also hoping to aquire some run down residential properties, raze them, and make mini parks throughout the city.

In the meantime we're being treated to a series of packed public hearings with an endless stream of people voicing their thoughts. Others are bombarding the mayor and council with Emails. In the end that map on the easel in the forground, created by the city planners, will most likely be approved with very minor modifications. Things will quiet down for another ten years. The seats will be mostly empty again.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Front Steps At Mary Poh's Trailer

photo by (c)2005 James Mitchell

Mary is 84 years old and I stop by there a few times a week to check on her or take her to the supermarket. One time I stopped by there when James Mitchell was with me and now everytime he's in Miami he wants to stop by and say hello. He was playing around with my Leica CL equipped with a 40mm Leitz Summicron when he liked the composition of me and the cat. Mary was out of frame on the right as I was talking with her.

Mary is very much The Neighborhood Cat Lady, with the legally allowed four cats in her trailer, plus often a litter of kittens as well. Then she feeds a bunch of "outside" cats that hang around for the free munchies. This is one of the relatively tame "outside" cats.

A few months ago her landlord moved her to a slightly smaller trailer a few blocks away. It's a lot newer and in much better condition, as well as being much closer to the little convenience store. I don't know how he plans to get the cat "smell" out of the old trailer, but after all those cats and kittens (plus a small dog) living there for close to ten years they've very much "marked their territory". The place stank to high heaven! Well, at least it was a nice day and we were able to visit while sitting outdoors on her patio.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Remembering The Sixties, Or Trying To

This is scanned off an old print. I posted several photos on the Photonet Leica Forum about four years ago because I'd been writing there for awhile and folks thought I was making up the stories. I needed to start posting photos, and decided to post some old with the new to show that I'd been shooting for a long time, over forty years at that point.

I dug out some old prints from my files and this was one of them. I suppose I could go through some boxes from that era, locate the contact sheet and sleeved negative strip, and hope that there was some information written on one, the other, or both, but I didn't bother. I have the haziest recollections of the shoot. She was lying in front of a widow and holding a giant red crepe paper rose. I liked the way the light rim lit her, with just enough detail in the shadows to show her features. I think it was shot with a 50mm lens on a Leica, about 1968. At that time my 50 was a 50/1.4 Nikkor, and it was most likely on Tri-X and printed on DuPont Varilour BTW, a gorgeous double weight variable contrast paper. Rich luminous tones, black blacks, and brilliant whites. A couple of years later DuPont went out of the photo supplies business. I still use that set of filters to print on Ilford Multigrade.

I don't remember her name off hand, but she'd be about sixty now herself, or close to it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Hot Sun, Harsh Light, A Ray Of Hope

At this point I don't have a clue what we might have been chatting about that late afternoon a few weeks back. This is the time of year when the air is dry and clear, sometimes chilly, and I guess the tables with umbrellas were in use by others. The guy on the left was trying to keep the sun off of his neck. On the other hand the harsh direct sunlight accentuates the lines in my face and makes the white hair growing on my chin positively glow!

These are people I see at Starbucks on a regular basis. Along with others we'll drink our coffee, sit and chat for hours about everything from politics and sports to the weather, yet if they'd ever told me their names I don't remember what those names might be. It's another world here where everyone is friendly and equal, from attornies to truck drivers, medical students and drop outs, from a dozen countries with as many accents. We chat about the good times we've had, the things we've done, old things done and gone.

This morning I got into a casual conversation with a young black woman at the next table, covered with a pile of anatomy books. I ended up moving to her table (she invited me) as she told me of her plans to become a registered nurse. I discovered that she was older than she looked, having a ten year old daughter that she was doing her best to raise and still go to school. She was excited about becoming a nurse!

When she left to get to class I got into a conversation that started with an "Are you a photographer?" from a young blonde woman. I'd soon moved my coffee cup to her table. She was in town to see a client of the graphic design firm that she and her dad own up near Palm Beach. We chatted about how that field has changed so much in the last few years, just as photography has changed, due to digital. She talked about all the wonderful possibilities that the new technology was bringing to the field.

This morning was a welcome change. I might not be around forever but the world has a future!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

No More Shoe Repairs, Carl's Is Closed


The day had arrived at last. Carl's leatherworking machinery had been gone for months, but now someone was cleaning the empty shop, not cleaning out the shop. Carl really wasn't coming back. Here's a picture of Carl before the stroke that he had a bit over a year ago. If you poke around The Price of Silver there are other photos of Carl from as far back as the early 1970's.

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Carl is now living at a rehab place, but even he realizes that he'll never get back to fixing shoes again. He had the stroke well over a year ago. The landlord needs a paying tenant where the shoe repair shop was located for forty years or more. Maybe next time that I'm eating at Jimmie's Place I'll look across the parking lot and see a new sign telling me what kind of business moved in there.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Slight of (A Very Steady) Hand


My friend James Mitchell was in town a couple of weeks ago and we went to Jimmie's Place for lunch. While we waited for our heaping plates of gourmet diner fare I shot a few frames with my trusty Bessa L camera and its 15mm ultra-wide angle Voigtlander Heliar lens. It's not easy catching James with his eyes closed but I nearly always succeed!

Anyway, the rig focusses b'guess & b'gosh. You estimate the distance and set it on the scale around the lens. With an ultra-wide you have a lot of depth of field so I usually just leave it focussed at one meter all the time. Everything from about half that distance to the horizon will look sharp enough.

James had his Korean War era 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor mounted on his Leica, and I decided to see just how accurately I could judge distance. I unscrewed the lens from his Leica and screwed it ito my Bessa body. That model Bessa has no built in rangefinder, nor does it have a built in view finder, so it was doubley b'guess and b'gosh, both for distance and framing. I framed a bit too much to the left, and focussed a few inches behind my usual target, the eyes, but they were closed anyway. The top of the ear is sharp, as is the logo on the T-shirt. If I'd been shooting a news story the picture is sharp enough, and a bit of cropping would center the subject. When I saw the prints I was happy. Shot on Kodacolor Gold 200 with an exposure of 1/125 of a second at f1.4.

What is he doing in the top picture? I guess that's an out of focus creamer in his left hand as he steadies the coffee cup with his right.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

This Won't Hurt A Bit!

I came out of Walgreens and noticed this "Wellness Tour" bus sitting there and the fine print said "Free". I couldn't resist!
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I must be one of the few trusting cheapskates left in North Miami. I went inside and this woman was there alone, ready to check out the state of my health. A few days before I'd written out a substantial check at Dr. Katz's office to get essentially the same rudimentry series of health tests, but it was with a real doctor. I figured that a second opinion never hurts. At Dr. Katz's office I read magazines for quite awhile. A couple of people were ahead of me and they hadn't been seen as yet.

Here the waiting room was empty and I was quickly weighed, temperature taken, blood pressure checked, as was my heart beat. I said "yes" to do I smoke? ...and "no" to do I drink? Then she pricked my finger. That's what's going on in the photo. I don't care what they tell you, that always hurts. When everything was over with I discovered that Dr. Katz had been correct. I should keep on living for quite awhile.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Converging Lines / Converging Lives


I'd planned on writing more about the repairs to the house, then decided maybe I should write about the strange things wide angle lenses do to perspective. At dinner I decided that it might be more interesting to write about some of the various people who've walked through this front door of mine over the past forty years. I'll start with today's visitor.

I first "met" Michael Anthony Clark through one of the photography forums on the internet. He's a Philadelphia based photographer, a youngster really, only 21, but ambitious, bright and articulate. In this day and age he's really unusual in that he hasn't embraced the digital age. He shoots with Leica film cameras. Anyway, he Emailed me that he had a Miami trip scheduled for early March.

Today it was his turn to walk through that door. We chatted awhile about the state of photography today compared to forty years ago when I was about his age. I showed him some framed prints of stuff I'd shot back in the early 1960's and tear sheets of asignments I'd shot in the 1970's and 1980's. He seemed very interested in some of my oddball equipment, like a cheap 400mm Tele-Astranar lens that I'd modified before he was born to get infinity focus on my Visoflex II reflex housing, and as he looked at my ancient Speed Graphic he mentioned that he wanted to get one also. He has a 4x5 view camera but wants something he can shoot hand held.

We went to Jimmie's Place for lunch and he told me about his store, a traditional camera shop, that he'd recently opened. He sells film and supplies, and buys and sells used film cameras and lenses. I wish somebody would do that around here again. He said a lot of his customers are students looking for reasonably priced equipment, and supplies for the photo courses they're taking. Then, of course, there are the older folks like myself that are fed up with on-line ordering. It's nice to be able to actually handle a used camera before plunking down the money, and handy to have a place that carries black and white film, paper, and chemicals in stock and on the shelf. Maybe I can convince him to open a North Miami branch of 10th Street Camera, although I guess he'd have to call it 125th Street Camera. There are three colleges and universities within a couple of miles of here that teach photography and traditional darkroom techniques, so the customer base exists. If you're in Philadelphia check it out. He's located at 264 S. 10th Street. You can call at 215-923-1232.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Resurrection Begins!

It was about time for a resurrection. It's a few months shy of forty years since Stephanie and I bought the house, and it was about fifteen years old at that time. Over the years I've gotten divorced a few times and I've painted the house a few times, upgraded the windows and doors to current hurricane standards, and had the plumbing and electrical completely redone. Still, time takes its toll.

Even though I'd had the house tented to exterminate termites four or five times over the years there was still termite damage to the wood in some places. I guess that made it easier for water to get in to the wood around the eaves and cause rot. Like I said, it was time for a resurrection!

Roy Taylor was the contractor, and his crew replaced the wood fascia and soffits, just underneath the roof overhang, all around. The main 4x8 beam across the front porch also needed replacement. You can see it cut in two just left of the center of the photograph. All the wood was replaced with pressure treated lumber so it won't rot, and hopefully it'll either taste simply horrid or it'll give the termites a tummy ache if they dare to try coming back again.

After a few days of looking like a hurricane had blown through, the mess was cleaned up and the house was painted to look like new again. Now it's good to go for another forty years! Of course my soon to be new wife Dawn thinks that a resurrection should include central air conditioning.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Her Cheatin' Heart


Last year Monkey went to San Francisco for a few weeks. That's a major journey for a 62 year old toy monkey, athough he travelled in comfort via Prority Mail. He visited my friend Todd Frederick, saw the sights, got a gold earing in his left ear, and probably would have gotten some tatoos also, but it's kind of difficult to tatoo plush fabric.

When he got back from his trip I picked him up at the North Miami Post Office and discovered that he'd returned with a new girlfriend, Monkette. He then proceeded to explain that people were wrong. "DOM" doesn't stand for Dirty Old Man! It's short for Dirty Old Monkey, and he likes 'em young! A lot of nights though, he sits home in his chair pretending to watch TV, but mostly dozing. Monkette talks me into taking her to Starbucks with me!

With several nearby universities it's a favored hangout for students, and on any given evening you'll find half a dozen pre-med students pouring over anatomy books or reading up on chemistry, whether drinking coffee or just enjoying the night air. Here Monkette is involved in a heated discussion with one of them on the differences in the articulation of the shoulder joints between humans and monkeys, but really what's going on is she's hoping to find a new gentleman friend with more spunk and energy than Monkey has. I think she's also figured out that in a few years these guys will be making the Big Bucks and she has her heart set on driving around in an Italian sports car and taking Carribean vacations, while Monkey prefers watching the first half of old movies before falling asleep in his chair.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Avacados? Or Avocados? Which One Works?

Both spellings seem to be considered correct so which you choose is up to you. If most words were like that it sure would have been easier to learn spelling. On the other hand, learning to read would have been a confusing mess!

What do avacados have to do with drinking coffee outside of Starbucks on a night in mid February? So far it's been an extremely mild winter in south Florida. While blizzards and freezing temperatures, icey roads and still more snow, make life miserable in the mid-west and New England we've been enjoying nights in the upper 60's to mid 70's. A few nights dipped briefly into the 50's, and out in the western fringes of the metropolitan area one night flirted with the upper 40's for an hour or two just before daybreak.

This is great for sitting outside enjoying the evening, and even better for tourists who come here for the warm weather. For farmers, though, it can amount to disaster. A number of types of sub tropical fruit trees, such as the avacado, won't develop mature flowers until the temperature drops to a certain level, and that has to happen at a specific time in their cycle. If the flowers don't mature then the tree won't bear fruit that year. While we enjoy these delighful balmy evenings the farmers are tearing their hair out worrying about their crops, or lack of them. Food brokers are making arangements to import fruit from Mexico so the markets will have the supply they need. I guess that means that a lot of farm workers will have to stay in Mexico this year if they want to find work.