Monday, April 30, 2007

The Blonde In The Black Blouse

I think that this might have been very the first time that I was in this bank building. I've been a customer for nearly twenty years. When I first started using the place their office was half a block from Claudia's antique shop and I was still married to Claudia. By the time we got divorced and I was living with Vivette they'd moved the bank forty blocks north and it was directly across the street from Vivette's hair salon. About the time Vivette and I split up the bank built a brand new building right on U.S. 1 about half way between the hair salon and the antique shop, and by then Claudia and Vivette were best friends.
Donna is the regular teller at the drive-through and I see her a couple of times a week on the average. This day, though, I'd ventured inside because it was time to order checks, I'd put it off until the last minute thinking that I still had another box (which I couldn't find) and I wanted to save the few days it would have taken to order by mail.
During a lull in the drive-through traffic Donna came over to see just what had brought me into the bank. She then informed me that she could have handled it at the window, and there was no need for me to go inside. A few days later I made a deposit and she stuck my box of checks in the drawer along with my deposit slip. When I got home I checked the numbers and sure enough there is a box of 200 unused checks someplace in my office. I've looked everyplace. Oh well, I guess they'll turn up eventually.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Analog Time, A Time From The Past

You about never see wrist watches anymore. It's almost like a return to the early years of the twentieth century, except instead of pulling out a big pocket watch by its chain and flipping up the cover you have to dig it out from where ever and open it up. There, in little tiny numbers, it says the EXACT time, brought to you by the cell phone company.
Half the time it's too dark to see without actuating the light display, and all the time you're still dealing with those tiny little numerals. Good old fashioned clocks and watches used hands pointing to the minute and the hour around the dial. Analog time, not digital. The human brain soon becomes adept at glancing at the position of the hands, and knows the time whether or not you can see well enough to read the numbers. The brain is an amazing thing.
The brain has allowed us to manufacture time pieces of incredible precision and accuracy, even send the information from the phone company to the cell phone or elsewhere. It changes itself from standard time to daylight savings time without our intervention. So how come the time on my phone is exactly five minutes slower than the time on my computer? Which one is correct?
And what about those people that at first glance seem to have gone mad, walking solo down the street, seemingly talking to nobody while gesticulating wildly with both hands? They have a little phone attached over their ear. Look Ma, no hands! How the hell do they ever see the time? Such is progress...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Starting A New Day, Contemplating The Plan

It wasn't my first smoke of the day, and I'd already drank some coffee at home, but I was still trying to kick start my brain into high gear. The morning's paper had an article about the effects of nicotine and caffeine on the brain, how they give us a pleasurable sensation while increasing our ability to think clearly and solve problems more easily. How they seem to work best when both are present together, and how nicotine at least seems to slow down and perhaps even reverse the ravages of Alzheimers as age takes its toll on our brains.
A lot to contemplate so early in the day! Suddenly smoking might just be good for me! A seismic shift in the medical community's attitude? Perhaps. A few months before I'd read an article about moderate smoking having an effect sort of like a "suntan" on the lung tissue, protecting it from a plethora of damaging toxins in the atmosphere that might otherwise give it a "sunburn". Was it just a matter of months before Starbucks would start supplying me with free cigarettes, and actually be paying me to help the non smokers think clearly? Probably not, but it's an interesting thought...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sophia, A Dainty Little Handfull

Gloria love teaching tricks to Sophia, and the little dog really seems to love the attention it brings her. There are a number of things that Sophia will do for other people, those that she knows well enough, like walking and dancing on her hind legs.
Here she's sitting upright in Gloria's hand, something she'll do only for Gloria, and then only while facing Gloria, their eyes in contact the entire time. She acts like she's scared of falling, which makes little sense really, because she can easily jump to the ground if she wants. She does just that when Gloria tells her to. I keep trying to get her to sit in my hand but she gets really hyper and nervous the instant I start to loosen my hold on her with my other hand. I guess it just takes time to win a girl's trust. I'll keep trying.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Just One Big Happy Family Riding To The Vet's Office In Her SUV

The last couple of weeks before Claudia's annual trip back to Germany to visit her parents are always kind of hectic. She usually gets me to deliver some of her antique restoration work to her customers in Dania near Fort Lauderdale, pick up some checks, make a deposit or two, and I have to promise to keep current on her telephone messages, telling people that she's out of the country and when she'll be back.

We've been divorced for sixteen years or better but are still best friends. A brother/sister relationship would probably best describe it. We have keys to one another's cars and houses but at the same time the people we might date don't feel it's a threat to any new relationship. Which brings us to the dogs.

They've known me since they were tiny puppies and they get all excited when they hear my truck turn onto their street. They obey Claudia and they obey me. I'm "Daddy" in their lives. This was the day when they were going to the vet for a check-up and their shots. They get all hyper and excited in the waiting room with strange dogs all over the place, plus all the cats in cat carriers.

The dogs weigh 65 and 85 pounds and there's no way Claudia could handle both of them herself if they decided to get rambunctious, so that's where I come in. They both behaved nicely, with each of us holding one dog on a leash. The vet said they were both healthy, gave them their shots, and then we headed back to her house.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Smiling Face Will Brighten The Day

I read something a year or two ago about the fact that smiling doesn't only reflect the fact that a person is happy, but by itself can make the person feel happy. It seems that when we smile the act of arranging our facial muscles just so somehow releases a brain chemical that makes us feel happy.
I keep trying to figure out how I do it, but I can usually manage to put a smile on a young lady's face. In this case I see her all the time yet I never can remember her name. The most fun though, is putting a smile on the face of a harried cashier who looks like her boyfriend just dumped her. Not that I'd wish THAT on anybody, but just knowing that I'd brought a bit of joy into her life makes me feel good too.
This morning found me sharing a table with an older woman (yes, there are women older than I am) that I've never seen at Starbucks before, but I've known her for years from the Greek Orthodox Church. She asked me when Dawn was making the Big Move from Tampa to Miami, we talked a bit about Father Philemon Payatis's health (pretty good,it seems), and then she asked me if I could take a few photos for her. It seems that she'd gotten a ticket recently at a nearby intersection that she didn't feel was justified.
We drove over there, all of two blocks away. It's a convoluted intersection incorporating a guard gate, and a bunch of streets come together at crazy angles to one another. She was charged with not stopping AT the stop sign, which was set back a good 20 or 25 feet from the intersection. She'd stopped FOR the stop sign at the point where she could actually see if there were any oncoming cars. It seems that a car directly in front of her did the same thing, was also pulled over, and not issued a ticket, just a warning. I shot a dozen or so photos from various vantage points and gave her the roll along with a coupon from Walgreens good for a free upgrade to 5x7 prints. She insisted on at least giving me a few bucks for the film.
She was hell bent on not just mailing in the ticket with the fine. She wanted her Day in Court! I told her that there was a fairly good chance that the cop wouldn't show and the case would be dismissed. When we parted company she was wearing a lovely smile.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Playing Hide And Seek With The Sun And The Wind And The Rain

Part of the patio is under a roof but without walls on three sides, the rest depends on these umbrellas for protection. The patio is exposed to the east, south, and west so if it's a sunny day the umbrellas offer scant shade and their shadows are constantly moving. People seem to always be moving tables and chairs around to stay out of the sun.
When it rains the umbrellas are far too small, and the wind always seems to blow some drops under the roofed area also. On the chillier days of winter the breeze itself sweeps through, making everyone miserable. Still, I guess that's better than being pelted with rain or drenched in sweat.
This morning it was just right. A light breeze, a hazy sky, mild temperatures, and only the threat of some rain later in the day. I guess I can't look happy unless I have something to complain about...LOL

Monday, April 23, 2007

Unwinding In The Afternoon

I never know whom I'll run into when it's afternoon coffee time at Starbucks, but often as not it's an international get together. Lumumba, with his raised hands, is from the Transvaal in South Africa, Gloria is from extreme northern Italy near the Swiss border, and Petr hails from the Czech Republic. Gloria's little grey poodle and I are from the United States, seemingly a rarity here in South Florida.

The dog is the only one of us who doesn't drink some variety or another of coffee. When Gloria goes in for coffee they always give her a little cup for the pooch, which Gloria then fills with bottled water from her purse. No common tap water for this spoiled little cutie! No way. Nothing but the best.

Petr, an avid tennis player who plays almost every day, got into a heated discussion with Lumumba about which country in the world produced the most top tennis players. When he discovered that yes, Lumumba plays also, they talked about getting together for a few sets. I'm hoping to be there to photograph the action.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Long Time Friends, Not Old Ones

I'm always meeting new people at Starbucks but once in awhile I bump into somebody I've known about forever. Oft times they recognize me. I still have my hair, the hair is still mostly brown, I've had a beard before, and I'm still skinny as a rail. I've known Maureen since some time around 1970 and the only thing about her to change is her hair is now silver . She's one of those brave women who realizes that dyes and chemicals do your hair no good, and the color always looks fake. She's still a damned good looking sexy woman!
She was always a civic activist, showing up at city hall whenever there was a meeting dealing with any kind of environmental issue. One of her causes years ago was preserving Natural Bridge over the North Branch of Arch Creek. The original Dixie Highway, U.S. Route 1, went over the bridge about a hundred feet west of the current U.S. 1, also known as Biscayne Blvd. The old road was barely two lanes wide winding its way through the oak trees while the new one is a multi-lane divided highway that runs right in front of Starbucks. That white building in the background is located on the bank of Arch Creek.
The oak grove was on the coastal limestone ridge, and somehow the creek had found its way to errode a path through it rather than over it, leaving the Natural Bridge used first by the Indians and later by settlers heading south along the coast. The road was no longer being used and a number of civic activists wanted to buy the surrounding land for a park and block the bridge to automobile traffic.
About the same time the Florida East Coast Rail Road had replaced the old wood ties with concrete ones. Somebody, the state I guess, bored a series of holes, like perforations in a sheet of postage stamps, across the road at both ends of the bridge, and stood old R.R. ties in them to block it off to auto traffic. A few days later, probably from vibrations caused by the trains going by but 20 feet away, the bridge collapsed right along the "perforations". I got a frantic call from Maureen and went the few blocks from my house to photograph her dejectedly looking down on the collapsed rubble that for thousands of years had been a bridge.
The bridge has been rebuilt using the rock and concrete but it just isn't the same. The oak trees remain. West of the creek is a City of North Miami park, the Enchanted Forest, while the state bought the land east of the creek to make Arch Creek Park, but it's really just one park.
We drank our coffee, exchanged tidbits about where this one is today and that one, who got married (or divorced), who died, talked about the things we'd done together all those years ago, that sort of thing. And I didn't say it, but I thought about the fact that back in 1970 grandmothers didn't look so damned sexy!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

That's Funny. You Don't LOOK Jewish!

Lumumba hears that all the time. You can tell when it's Friday night or Saturday because he doesn't work on the sabbath, and he dresses in a suit rather than his work clothes. I ran into him last evening (Friday) before dusk and he was wearing faded camo fatigues. His clothes, his face, and his hair were spattered with little drops of beige paint. That's what he does, he paints, and he also does a bit of other "handyman" work as required in connection with the painting jobs.

He drives around in a shiny mid-sized black SUV not more than a couple of years old. He seems to have an assortment of otherwise out of work guys that he uses on these jobs, staying right there and working along side of them to make sure the work gets done correctly.

Often he'll take a late morning break if he's working nearby, and stop at Starbucks for a coffee, but I mostly see him there after work, in the late afternoon or evening. His hair is always in the same spiked style, "locked" into what the Jamaicans would call short dreads or dreadlocks, but somehow it always seems to look relatively neat.

So how did a guy that hails from the Transvaal in South Africa become Jewish? He claims, and there's ample historical documentation to back him up, that his ancestors are one of the "lost tribes" of the twelve tribes of Israel spoken of in the bible. They settled in Ethiopia, where there is still a sizeable Jewish population. His own ancestors, along with others, then gradually migrated south along the east coast of Africa, finally settling in South Africa, where his family owns a large farm in the Transvaal.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Signs Of Old Friends

About a week ago the filing deadline for the city election had passed with nobody filing to run against my friend Scott Galvin for his council seat. Since I have a pick-up truck I offered to help with taking down some of his signs all over town. Claudia called me on my cell and needed me to transport something too big to fit in her SUV so I drove to her place, and we had to take out a couple of the large Galvin signs that I'd already "rescued" to save for the victory party.

Claudia mentioned that she still had a few John Patteson signs from his campaign sixteen years ago, and did I want them? I decided that first I'd get a picture with the two signs, for no particulary good reason. It was very windy and she had to help me hold them down. John won't be re-using them because six or seven years ago he moved up near West Palm Beach and sold his house here. The old fashioned looking lettering on his signs fits in with his gunslinger image. When I first met him he was working at John Ek's gun and custom knife shop. That was followed by a few years of owning his own gun shop, during which time he got all the needed state and federal licenses to do "special effects" for the motion picture and TV industry.

When they started filming Miami Vice here in Miami he was the armorer, the guy who is in control of all the guns and ammunition, as well as the guy who makes things go BOOM !!!!, like when a car blows up in the middle of the street. John decides how much explosive is needed, how and where to place it, and then he "pushes the button" at the right time. He was back in town a year or so ago when they filmed a Miami Vice movie.

John only had to run in District 2, not city wide, because after Scott and I both lost the previous election, which was city wide, we successfuly got a charter amendment passed to divide the city into four districts. Unfortunately that not only made the campaign easier for John, but it also made it easier for the guy who beat him.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Surgery To Remove Excess Growth From My Head

As a kid I hated barbers as much as I hated dentists. Hair itself has no nerves in it so the cutting doesn't hurt, but before "barbers" became "Hair Stylists" (and doubled and tripled their prices) they used to just cut it dry. Now you get a double shampoo followed by conditioner, the hair is towel dried, then cut while still wet.

Wet hair when cut off tends to stick together in little bunches while dry hair falls helter skelter in individual strands. The worst thing when I was a kid was getting a "crew cut" where the barber did all the cutting with electric clippers. Each succeeding pass of the clippers would turn another eigth of an inch or so of hair into tens of thousands of little double ended needles. No matter how tightly the strip of tissue was wrapped around your neck, or the cape around the tissue, some of that hair would find its way into your shirt.

Then just to make sure that you'd spend the rest of the day itching like crazy the barber would shake some powder on a brush and brush around your neck as first the cape and then the tissue was removed. Even more bits of itchy scratchy hair found its way down into your shirt. Putting your jacket on dislodged some of it, so it could work its way lower still inside the shirt, and by the time you'd walked home it had figured out how to get past your belt and you were itching in places where a proper young gentleman doesn't scratch when in polite company.

Maybe I'll risk another trim next year. Maybe not.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Man In The Yellow Cape

For about fifteen years I got my hair "styled" by my friend Frederick Meyer, owner of The Hair People. About the time that he sold the shop I met Vivette Thomas, owner of Vivette's Ultimate Hair Design. Problem solved! We were soon fishing together and living together. While Frederick cut my hair a bit full to cover the tops of my ears Vivette liked it shorter on the sides but with a bit of a tail in the back, just an inch or so, rather than tapering it in to my neck. She cut my hair for about fifteen years also, but the live-in relationship ended after about nine years.
She didn't want me living there anymore mostly because of friction with her older son, but she wouldn't let go. Finally, a year ago last October I decided to cut off all contact. About the same time I'd been going through my photo files and run across some photographs of myself back in 1973 and 1974 with shoulder length curly hair. I decided to stop getting it cut!
I also decided to let my beard grow and soon had a full beard. I was slowly heading back to shoulder length hair also. My ex, Claudia, kept telling me that I "look like a street person! Go cut your hair." I didn't know where to go.
One day I was coming out of Walgreens after dropping of some film at the one-hour lab. I noticed the Ray's Barber Unisex sign down at the end of the row of shops, next to the Radio Shack. What the hell! I had cash in my wallet and an hour to kill. I went in.
I don't like it, everybody kids me about it, the women (and a guy or two also) tell me I looked better with the curly mop of unruly hair like in the photographs above. Claudia loves the new haircut. A lot of good that does! She's my ex...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bounty Of North Biscayne Bay

This scan of a photocopy of some little color prints looks like crap, no doubt! I have another hat that I wear at times. In addition to being a photographer I'm Captain Al Kaplan, a fishing guide in north Biscayne Bay here in Miami. I belong to The South Florida Fishing Club and one afternoon the phone rang. A panic stricken voice said "Tonight's speaker just cancelled! Can you be the speaker at the club meeting tonight?" "Sure" I replied. "No Problem. See you a bit before seven."

I pulled a bunch of photos from the album and rushed over to the Chamber of Commerce office to use their copier. I made about fifty copies to hand out just in case, even though an average meeting attracts perhaps 25 or 30 people. That's why I still have a few copies a dozen years later.

The lady in the left two pictures, Vivette Thomas, was the love of my life for many years. Both she and her younger son Craig loved fishing as much as I did. That's me in the upper right. The rest are of Craig. What I wanted to show was that there was some quality fishing in the shadow of those urban skyscrapers and the palatial waterfront homes. All of these specimens would be considered decent size, or even large for their species, and the two left hand pictures of Craig show him holding a black grouper (top) and a king mackerel (bottom). Neither one is commonly thought of as an inshore fish. They're mostly caught on the reefs off shore in the ocean. Vivette's spotted sea trout (lower left) and mangrove snapper (upper left) are the biggest I've seen, and the lookdown Craig is proudly displaying on the extreme right is about as big as they get.

I talked about where to look for fish, what techniques work best, and which lure to use under various conditions. I never fish with bait. The right lure correctly used seems to out fish bait every time.

Best of all, I never had to say "Look at the camera and smile". Those smiles were real.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Look Ma! No Hands!

Here's another shot of me straight out of the shower with my still wet hair combed straight back. Yuck!

When we were kids and first learned to ride and steer our two-wheelers by balance alone we'd call out "Look Ma! No Hands!" with all the pride we could muster while poor Ma was about to have a heart attack, terror struck that we'd surely kill ourselves. Well, I survived, but I could hear the little kid in me shouting out the words when I first looked at this picture, just a trace of impish grin on my face.

When I started doing these "self-portraits", holding the camera in my outstretched hand, the arm was cut off at the shoulder. There was only one hand showing in the picture. Sometimes the left one, other times the right, but only one, never two.

It was a bright clear sunny Florida morning and I remembered the time when Florida meant picture post cards showing girls in one piece swim suits, orange trees laden with fruit, flamingos wading in the shallows, but most of all, palm trees! I decided that I wanted those palm trees in a photo with me! My arms are only so long and I usually take up a fair amount of the photograph. I'd either obscure the palm trees or overwhelm them. In order to get a more distance between the camera and myself I set it down on the square base of the closest column and used the self timer to release the shutter.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Grey Beard Guy

Before my recent haircut I'd shampoo my hair, add a bit of conditioner, towel off the excess water, and like a wet dog just give my head a good shake. When it dried it looked like it does in the next post below. On this particular morning for some unknown reason I'd decided to comb the wet hair straight back and see if it would dry straighter, be a bit more manageable. It did dry straighter but it was even less manageable. I tried again a few days later, then decided a good fast shake was the way to go. While I do have a mostly grey streak in front, when it dries into its normal unruly mass of curls that seems to blend in with the rest of the salt and pepper. The grey becomes less obvious and the slightly receding temples are covered. It's all about vanity.

I finally gave in about a week ago and visited Ray's Barber Shop. Now Claudia, my ex, doesn't keep telling me "You look like a street person! You're a respected member of the community! Get a haircut!"

So this morning I'm reading the Sunday paper, drinking my morning coffee on the patio at Starbucks, when I hear my name being called. It was Mayor Kevin Burns, who was about ten feet away in the drive-through line. "Why'd you cut your hair? I almost didn't recognize you! It looked better the way you were wearing it."

We chatted a few minutes about the upcoming May election, I got some more Re-Elect Kevin Burns For Mayor stickers, and I promised that I'd let my hair grow back. After all, I get paid ten bucks a month for being on the city's Board of Adjustment, and all I get from Claudia is the occasional cup of coffee.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Brown Skin Girl

I've always been attracted to black women, not to the exclusion of other women, but an attractive woman is an attractive woman regardless of her complexion. I've dated some women of Chinese ancestory as well as those who's ancestors came from India, and a Native America or two. Probably the biggest love of my life (at least according to my fiance, who's of Greek ancestory) was a Jamaican woman that I met sixteen years ago. We lived together for about ten years.

Back in the 1950's there was a hit song by Harry Belafonte, a Jamican singer, called Brown Skin Girls. I loved his singing and the syncopated rythm of the calypso music. I guess that stayed with me all these years, the fascination with brown skin girl. Today there was an article in the Miami Herald on how common interracial marriage has become. I'm not sure how long this link will last. The Herald doesn't keep them forever.

I remember 16 years ago when Vivette and first started dating we would go into a restaurant and people would look at us, stare really. Today I see lots of bi-racial couples. Nobody pays any attention at all anymore. At one point I'd asked Vivette to marry me, but she said that we both had grown kids and we weren't planning on making babies so why get married. But that's all in the past.

This was the here and now. Here I was enjoying my evening coffee at my usual haunt, the Starbucks down the street, when this gorgeous young woman sat down across the walkway from me. My eyes were drawn to her, and she kept looking over towards me. We exchanged a few pleasantries but I never attempted the move to the vacant seat at her table, nor did I invite her to join me at my table. Part of it I guess is that I'm already planning on marrying Dawn, and a lot has to do with the fact that I'm old enough to be this young lady's grandfather, with room to spare! Oh well, a man can dream, can't he?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Cultural Anthropology In North Miami

"A city is a place where there is no need to wait for next week to get the answer to a question, to taste the food of any country, to find new voices to listen to and familiar ones to listen to again." Margaret Mead

The thing I love the most about living here is the people, the ever growing variety of people. Until we started getting these litle outdoor cafes a couple of years ago there was a whole different feel to getting a cup of coffee. When you went inside a place you came and had coffee alone or you came and had coffee with your friends. An invisible wall surrounded every table. Now we're encouraged to move tables and chairs, even umbrellas, around to suit our needs of the moment.

Outdoors, life is so different. People you've never seen before nod hello. People you've exchanged nods with in the past ask about your health or comment on a recent haircut or praise the beautiful weather. Conversations start and near strangers, still nameless people, end up sharing a table and exchanging names as a prelude to deeper conversation.

On the days when few others are around I might read the paper or just watch the people strolling by, trying to guess which languages they're speaking. Invariably, though, I end up sharing a table and conversation with either an old friend or a brand new one.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Invasion Of The Little Green Women

Well, what do you expect? It's the season for St. Patrick's Day, Scott Galvin was kicking off his re-election campaign for city council, Galvin is an Irish name, all his signs are green, so one thing leads to another and you end up with Judy Feldman all dressed in green. Feldman is hardly an Irish name, but the saying goes that on St. Patrick's Day everybody is Irish.

Me, I'm just lurking on the sidelines as usual, continuing my photographic record of the North Miami political scene just as I've done since I first started shooting for The North Dade Journal way back in the late 60's. Monkey couldn't make it because he's out in San Francisco on a photo shoot, but I'm thinking that I might just take Monkette to some of the victory parties after the election next month. I already told her that if she wants a green dress she should talk to Judy!

Meanwhile, Monkey has scheduled two back to back weeks of photo shoots with two different female wedding photographers in the S.F. area, then just tonight I heard from a couple of guys in Orlando who'd like to host Monkey for a photo shoot, so Monkey will probably be coming home via Orlando. I also heard from a guy in Chicago complaining about the lousy weather, but so far no invite for Monkey to go to The Windy City.

If you'd care to check up on Monkey's cavorting with the California girls then click here:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Monkey Business!

When my favorite childhood stuffed toy animal, Monkey, flew out to San Francisco a few months ago to visit my friend Todd Frederick he came back with a gold earing in his ear, and brought his new girlfriend, Monkette, back with him. I'd tried to arrange for him to go from one photographer to another, visiting a host of cities, maybe even a foreign country or two, in one continuous trip, perhaps even circling the planet, but it didn't happen.

Instead, a few weeks after the two of them got back to Miami I got an Email from Danielle Stolman, another San Francisco area photographer. She wanted to use Monkey in some photographs, so Monkey climbed back into the box and flew Priority Mail back out to the west coast again. I heard from Danielle this morning. She said that Monkey was fine and wanted to spend another week with her. Monkette wasn't thrilled with the idea but agreed to go along with it, keeping the peace.

In the meantime Monkette and I have been spending some quality time together, just the two of us. Here we're having our afternoon coffee at the new Starbucks by the plaza in front of the Museum Of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in North Miami. We both miss Monkey. Life just ain't the same around here without him!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Waiting Room

The first thing that strikes me whenever I visit Dr. Howard Rosenberg's dental office is the decor. It's just so Nineteen Sixties Moderne, for want of a better description. Everything from the hanging lamps to the dark paneled walls with the strange geometric mirror panels to the black upholstery looks like it was done by a decorator trying to impress decorators rather than to sooth the nerves of aprehensive patients contemplating uncomfortable dental procedures. The only thing that's changed in the nearly forty years that I've been visiting the place? The ashtrays are gone. Now you have to tell the receptionist that you're stepping outside for a smoke.

Howard maintains a fairly decent supply of up to date magazines, but somehow sitting there with the beginnings of a toothache, reading wasn't much of a priority. Also, I hate getting halfway through an article when I'm called into the inner sanctum, never finishing the story. Some people just steal the magazine, I suppose. Others, like me, just don't bother to start.

One odd thing to me about medical waiting rooms is that nobody ever starts up a conversation with anybody else. Nor do you ever really get to meet anybody new there. Even people coming there together never seem to be talking with one another, and if you run into somebody that you do know the conversation is reduced to the most perfunctory of verbal exchange, not much beyond "How's Sally and the kids?" I sat there another few minutes admiring the decor and then it was my turn.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Meeting Of Minds, Sharing A Smoke

I can never manage to finish reading the newspaper at Starbucks, whether it's eight in the morning or eleven at night. Sometimes I don't even get to start reading the paper at all. This morning I lucked out and was joined by Doug, New York Times in hand, and we each got to skim read the first section before Petr (That's the correct spelling. He's from the Czech Republic) showed up and the conversation soon wandered off in the direction of the latest Bush foibles in the Iran Iraq quagmire.

This photograph was taken a week or so ago, and the still unread part of the paper was sitting on the table along with my cigarettes. I'd gone there for my evening cup of coffee, and the young lady at the next table needed a light. I never see guys asking a woman for a light, but sometimes it seems like a lot of women never carry a lighter in their purse. I guess it would seem to be too forward to be hitting guys up for a smoke, but a light is a great opening gambit for meeting a fellow. That's probably why some men who don't smoke always have a lighter on hand, just in case.

Any way, we chatted awhile but nothing jelled. The magic just wasn't there. It might have had something to do with the fact that I was old enough to be her grandfather or it might have been something else. I went home with my half a cup of coffee where I finished catching up on the news.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Howard G. Rosenberg, D.D.S. ~ The Extraction

I always hated dentists as a kid. It was an era when getting braces on your kid's teeth was a status symbol, and my mom was very much into the status thing. Sometimes the dentist would decide that a baby tooth needed to be pulled so my adult tooth could grow in straight. Every few months I'd have to get the braces adjusted, pulling this tooth one way and pushing that one another way. The dentist had my mom convinced that I should get cavities filled in baby teeth that would be gone in a few months anyway. My dad was making lots of money, my mom wanted only the best for her precious little Alan, and the dentist saw my mouth as the source of Carribean vacations and fancy cars.

I didn't mind the X-rays, but the shots, the drilling, the extractions, and the braces didn't thrill me. Sometimes I just wouldn't keep an appointment and I'd go to the movies after school instead. Being yelled at was better than that trip to the dentist. When my braces finally came off there were new cavities on the teeth where the braces had been. Oh thrill. More needles and drilling. After I "grew up" and moved out on my own I stopped going to dentists.

Fast forward twelve or fifteen years and I was working as a photographer for The North Dade Journal. One of my teeth started to act up. It had gone well past the point where a couple of aspirins, or those little tubes of pain killer that you squirt in the cavity, would do any good. My editor and good friend Jim Kukar suggested that I visit Dr. Rosenberg who was just a few offices west of the paper's office.

Howard was about the same age as we were, actually a year or two younger I think. He'd only recently started his practice, but Jim assured me that I wouldn't be a subject for Howard to "practice" on. The sexiest young dental assistant I'd ever seen took the usual X-rays. The late 60's was an era of miniskirts, and female medical personel were still wearing dresses back then. That did a lot to take my mind off of what was about to happen. Then I clenched my fists and got prepared for the worst, but Howard took a cotton swab and put a dab of something to numb the gum a bit before gently pushing the needle home. As the numbness spread he painlessly made a few more jabs to make sure that he'd gotten the Novocaine to all of the nerves leading to the tooth. I relaxed somewhat and closed my eyes, leaning back in the chair. Howard left the room to give me time to get good and numb. When he returned I kept my eyes shut, but opened my mouth when he told me to "open". "Just checking" he said as he poked my gum, testing for numbness. Suddenly he said "you can open your eyes now. Bite down on this gauze pad". The tooth was out! I've been using him ever since.

This photograph was about two weeks ago. Another tooth was at the point where I just knew that I was within days of another tooth ache. Time to see Howard! After the painless extraction we chatted about the kids, and he mentioned how he'd recently run into the formerly sexy young thing that had been his dental assistant nearly forty years ago, now an overweight grandmother. Then I wrote out a check that probably would have paid for a Carribean vacation back in the 1960's.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Councilman Scott Galvin Negotiates Peace Accords With Former Rebel Leader Al Kaplan

Actually that headline is a bunch of malarky! But looking at that wild mop of hair, the beard, the rumpled shirt, and the look on my face, it just seemed to fit. I've since trimmed the beard and I got a haircut, but it's been fun doing these self-portraits with a variety of hairstyles and facial hair, and I just love the "acting" aspects of appearing in all of these photographs.

Scott had been gearing up his re-election campaign and I'd shot some recent photographs of him. I was at his office to drop off the photos and discuss the upcoming campaign kick-off party. I told him that I still had one of the 4x8 foot signs from the last election and he was elated. Nobody else had saved one! I promised that I'd bring it to the party where we put it outside the community center, just in case somebody wasn't quite sure where they were going.

The party was a big success. Scott has been doing a great job on the council and everybody seems to like him. He's now got his whole district supplied with yard signs and mini-billboards. You can't go a block without seeing a few of them. I guess that scared off anybody who might have wanted to run against him for the seat. The last day for filing came and went, and Scott was declared the winner. Now I guess I have to steal one of the new big signs and save it for the next election. Congratulations, Scott!

Friday, April 06, 2007

New Kid On The Block

A month or two ago a new Starbucks opened in North Miami. We've got two now. This one is a bit further away from my house, but it's right downtown, just half a block away from city hall, so I'm frequently nearby anyway.

I was really surprised at just how different the ambiance is. I already knew some of the employees from the other location, and they made me feel at home. The crowd is a lot different, though. Not so many college students with their laptops and their piles of books, studying in silence. About no older folks reading the Miami Herald or the New York Times. Conversations conducted mostly in unaccented English rather than Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, Thai, or Chinese. It was almost like being back in the United States rather than the United Nations.

The other big difference is the stage area, complete with sound equipment and lighting. Now there's a place to go that features live poetry reading and folk music. I don't remember who this was but it was Open Mike Night and several people got up and played and sang. I guess I didn't feel quite at home there, though, because I left myself out of the photo.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Typical Highland Village Mansion

This is an unusual shot, a photograph with my 15mm lens and I'm NOT in the picture. I used the lens because the extreme wide angle perspective exagerates the distance from the camera to the subject. In this case I was perhaps two feet from the mailbox and another ten feet from the trailer, yet the yard looks relatively spacious. Until two weeks ago this was Mary Poh's home, the place where she lived with her little dog Spuds and an unknown number of cats. Lots of cats!

Then her mind started slipping, and she went into the county hospital for evaluation. I came by just to take one last look at the place and get a photo or two. I won't be dropping by for coffee anymore, or taking her to her doctors' appointments, or shopping at the grocery and drugstores. I suppose that a new tenant will soon be moving into the trailer.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Waiting For The Waitress

This is one of those "mystery photos" that we all take. The place looked interesting, begging for a photograph to capture the all too typical Diner Decor, and I know that it was shot within the last two or three weeks. Beyond that? I'm drawing a blank!

Looking at the picture I have no idea which diner, or where it was. It's certainly not one that I visit with any regularity or I'd recognize it. I'd bought the morning paper and was waiting for someone, but I have no idea who. It might have been Jim Kukar, since we meet for breakfast about once a month or so, but we tend to keep meeting at one of the same few places we've been frequenting for years. This isn't one of them.

From a photographer's standpoint it's interesting that the light fixtures have tungsten bulbs with their warm orangy glow rather than the more common flourescents with their ghastly greenish light. Oh, well, mysteries keep life interesting.

In another few days you'll notice a change in these self-portraits. I got a haircut and trimmed my beard. Actually, I'm toying with the idea of shaving it off altogether, except for the moustache. My hair is well flecked with grey but the beard is over-run with it, and down around my chin it's about all white. I guess at 64 I should just be happy that I still have all that hair, but that doesn't mean that I have to look old too.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

SCOTT GALVIN RE-ELECTED to North Miami City Council

North Miami elections are just five weeks away now and I hadn't heard of anybody challenging Scott Galvin for his seat on the city council so far. The mayor, Kevin Burns, has competition though.


Well, the filing deadline has now passed and I just got an Email from a very elated Councilman Galvin. The campaign is over! There is no challenger for the seat. Scott's in for another term. Congratulations, Scott!

This picture was right after the campaign got under way. One day I came home and found the Galvin sign on my fence, but I was expecting it. The next day I found it bent over upside down like in this photo. I have no idea if it was neighborhood kids or somebody who doesn't like Scott. The very next day I had a 4x8 foot Galvin sign on my front porch...LOL. I'd saved one from the last election, and then Scott asked me if I could bring it to his campaign kick-off party. I guess after this election I'll get a new one. They're all over town.

As for this one, the bent over one, I straightened the wires and the sign has been sitting there unmolested ever since. It's a good location, on the corner of a semi-main avenue. If somebody swipes it I'll just replace it with one of those Scott Galvin 4x8 footers! Now that the election is over with what else can he do with them?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Prelude To Chanel, A Sexy Brunette

I usually have my morning coffee with one or the other, often both of these guys. Rudy has a sign shop at the other end of the strip mall while Peter (Petr, actually), a Czech, is always getting ready to play tennis. I've yet to see him hot and sweaty afterwards, though. Well, it gives me an excuse to avoid reading the Miami Herald's daily coverage of crime, corruption, and conflict.

This afternoon I was sitting in the very same seat I was in when I shot this photo. In the back, where that other guy is sitting alone and reading, was a gorgeous young woman with warm brown skin and long black hair, obviously expensively dressed in a floral print dress and heels. I remembered seeing her there on numerous previous occasions so when our eyes met and she smiled I said "hi". Soon we were sitting and chatting at the same table. Her name is Chanel and she's in charge of membership for a club in downtown Miami.

She was intrigued by my Leicas, and by the fact that I still used film cameras. I guess by that point she could smell the chemicals on me too, as I'd just gotten out of a six hour session of developing a mess of black and white film. She mentioned how much she loved working in the darkroom when she took photography in school, and wanted to know if I lived nearby. We exchanged cards and I promised that we'd soon get together so she could check out my darkroom. She said that she was planning on shooting some black and white film again. I was thinking that I'd really like to photograph her.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Sexy Blonde From Pittsburgh

I first met Mary over twenty-five years ago when I was looking for some furniture. She had an antique shop across the street from the North Miami city hall. We soon became good friends, and we discovered that we knew a lot of the same people, from Laymond Hardy, a naturalist and author, to Bill Morganstern, a condo developer and antique collector. It was the antiques that caused Bill to know Mary. Laymond, like Mary back then, had a fairly sizeable piece of property and they both raised rare fruits. Bill and Laymond were both about the same twenty years older than me, just as Mary was.

Well, I was between wives at the time so every few weeks I'd take Mary to Corky's, a deli style restaurant, for a hot pastrami on rye. One night she asked me why I thought that Laymond never asked her out, or Bill for that matter, but it was obvious that Laymond was the object of her desires. I guess it's a generational thing, but it had never occurred to Mary that the guy living with Laymond at the time was his "significant other". It was the same story with Bill. She didn't stand a chance! Bill passed away a few years ago and Laymond is living in upstate Florida. I spoke with him a few months ago.

Mary and I have remained close friends and we continued going out for the lunch or dinner once a week or so. A few years ago cataracts made her give up driving and I started taking her to the doctors and on a weekly shopping trip. Here, two years ago we were on our way, and stopped off at Starbucks for a cup of coffee. As usual, Mary had fixed her hair, wore a freshly ironed dress, and put on a touch of make-up for the occasion. The conversation likely included the day's news, from what was going on in Miami-Dade County to the world situation. She always read the paper cover to cover. She was sharp as a tack! Then about six months ago she started getting extremely forgetful. When I picked her up I'd either have to remind her to bring her checkbook or pay for her groceries and get a check from her when we returned. She nearly stopped eating and lost a lot of weight. She became convinced that people were breaking into her place and stealing her valuable antiques, all things she once owned but had sold years ago. She was driving the police nuts! Finally, a few weeks back, she was taken to the psych ward of the county hospital for evaluation. Unfortunately she's still there, but it's probably for the best. I miss her.