Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Final Awards Ceremony Under The Ficus Tree

Well, perhaps not, but it will be a miracle if this tree in front of the North Miami Public Library survives the reconstruction that's surounding it. All those wonderful buildings that were built in the 1950's, added to in the 1960's, and enlarged some more in the 1970's and 1980's are in the process of being torn down and replaced. The armory, the middle school, the senior high, the public swimming pool, and the library will soon be history. I'm guessing that the little bit of landscaping, including this tree, will soon be gone also.

Essentially all the existing public buildings clustered from N.E. 131st to 137th Street running from N.E. 7th over to N.E. 9th Avenue will be gone.
I spent many an afternoon or evening in that library and attended the high school. My daughter Elena took summer classes there so she could graduate as soon as she turned 16 and start school at the University of Virginia in the fall that year.
I photographed the Miss North Miami Pageant in the armory for over a dozen years and attended a lot of balls and city functions there. The annual South Florida Camera Show, a photo flea market really,was held there for many years, but the promoters moved it to another armory this past February. (If you want to get on their Email list: I've made some good buys there over the years.
But you're wondering what's happening in this picture. It's in front of the library. On the far left is Mayor Kevin Burns, Councilman Scott Galvin is flashing his signature grin in the rear, and Councilman Michael Blynn is on the right. I don't see Councilman Jacques Despinosse (he's too big to miss) but I'm pretty sure that's Councilwoman Marie Erlande Steril in the rear of the group, fourth head from the right, not counting the speaker at the podium. Par for the course, the men are all wearing ties and dark suits in Florida's midday summer sun. The students all look thrilled holding their plaques. Next year we'll be taking pictures in front of a brand new library. Hell, maybe by then Scott will have taught Kevin and Michael how to smile properly. Marie seems to have it down pat!

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Stories They Could Tell...

photo (c) 2004 Marc Williams

...if they could only talk. Leica cameras are about as close to indestructable as you could hope for from a chunk of glass, brass, and chrome. All but one of mine was purchased second hand, and I bought them all over thirty years ago. But this is the story of one camera's journey, my "button rewind" Leica M2.

Depending on which source you take as gospel Leitz introduced the M2 in either 1957 or 1958. The initial production had a little push-in button on the front instead of a flip lever to allow you to rewind the film. Within a year or so they came equipped with the same flip lever as the M3. The first time I saw this camera was in the spring of 1968 at Browne's Photo Center, back when it was still located at the corner of NW 22nd Avenue and 79th Street. It wasn't brand new, but it sure was clean and pretty. I'd recently bought a brand new Leica M4 and still had my III-f. No matter how I ran the figures the wife said "No" to the M2. Another regular customer, a guy about my age with curly dark brown hair (I can't recall his name), was preparing to cover the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics and wanted a Leica body for using with wide angle lenses. His Nikon F bodies were used for everything else, plus the Nikons could be motorized. My wayward M2 spent the summer, between photo shoots, drinking tequila, eating tortillas, and likely enjoying an occasional toke of weed while being fondled by the senoritas.

Sometime that autumn I noticed a familiar M2 in the "used" showcase at Browne's. Once more I hemmed and hawed too long, but I found out that a twenty-something blonde lady (again I can't recall her name) that I knew was now the proud owner. She was probably the only female photojournalist in the state of Florida back then, but nobody would really hire her on as regular staff. She managed to pick up plenty of free-lance asignments though.

Fast forward four years! 1972 was an exciting time here. People were protesting the Viet Nam war, and both the Republican and Democratic Parties had scheduled their presidential conventions for the Miami Beach Convention Center. She got asignments to shoot both conventions. Between the conventions themselves and the protest action on the streets that M2 went through a lot of Tri-X. Then tragety struck! Somebody jostled the M2 out of her hands and it fell to the pavement. Everything still worked just fine, but the main prism in the range-viewfinder delaminated. The view through the eyepiece was just black, solid black! Not even the framelines were visible.

One morning Brownie greeted me with "Have I got a deal for you!" before I could even walk over to the coffee pot. He suggested that I could sell my black dial III-f, get the M2 for the same money, and use the M2 for my Visoflex II as well as with my 19mm Canon lens, which required a seperate viewfinder anyway and didn't couple to the rangefinder. He was convincing! I knew that the camera had recently had a factory overhaul and the shutter speeds were spot on according to Brownie's shutter tester. I bought it.

Perhaps ten years later I had Leitz rebuild the body, replace the prism, and install modern M4 style flash synch sockets. Still more recently I replaced the crumbling vulcanite covering with a new "skin" from CameraLeather.

I was photographing for the North Dade Journal in 1972, essentially a neighborhood twice a week paper owned by the Miami Herald. Somehow my editor (and good buddy) Jim Kukar managed to come up with floor passes for the two of us. I remember that I had to submit a whole bunch of documentation to get the requisite Secret Service clearance, but we both had pretty much free access to anyplace we wanted to go. Since then it's photographed several presidents and presidential candidates, and a host of other important political figures. (Maybe even a naked girl or two.) The entire time I was at the conventions I only ran into that woman PJ one time, but the M2 was in her hand.

This photo of me was shot three years ago by Marc Williams at Mikal Grass's wedding as the bride finished walking down the staircase. I had black and white film in my Leicas while Marc shot color in his Hasselblad.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

When The Right Hand Does Know What The Left Hand Is Doing

A few days ago I posted a picture of Scott Galvin at some sort of outdoor event in the scorching late afternoon sun. Naturally he and the other city officials had on long sleeved shirts with ties under their black suits. I was dripping with sweat in a short sleeve shirt, but somehow they all managed to get their turns at the microphone and mostly talk too long. That photo of Scott shows the exact same smile and the exact same gesture, that warm friendly "I'm here for you" gesture that warms the hearts of his constituents, as you see in this photo. There's just one difference. Here he's gesturing with his left hand. In the other photo he was gesturing with his right hand. The short sleeved shirt in that frigid AC didn't faze him a bit!

The guy has talent! He's a great speaker. Give him a microphone, tell him the subject and how much time he's been alloted and he'll spur-of-the-minute come up with a great speech of exactly the right length.

What was the occasion? Hell, I don't know. I said that in yesterday's post. But I'll save you some time looking for his right handed gesture. Click on this:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Remember Matching "Pocket Squares"?

There was a time perhaps thirty odd years ago when you could buy a matched set ~ a necktie and a pocket square to tuck in your jacket's breast pocket, just a nice even half to three quarters of an inch showing. Before that a plain white handkerchief was in favor for decades, although the style of display varied from a casual rumpled "I just stuck it in there" look to a neatly folded and intricately arranged display of three triangular points overlapping one another, with usually the middle point the highest.

Nowadays pocket squares and handerchiefs in the breast pocket have mostly given way to a business card case or perhaps a small cell phone. Oddly enough I didn't notice at the time that his tie and her dress seem to be a matched set also, "cut from the same cloth" so to speak, but maybe it just looks that way in the photograph. In an era when ties are rarely worn and pocket squares gone I suppose a tie with a matching dress makes good marketing sense, and women are already used to having a closet full of dresses that are rarely worn.

So here I am remembering all this trivia of no use to anyone and I can't offhand recall the names of this couple whom I've known for years. A quick Email to Councilman Scott Galvin provided the names: Shelly and Alan Sokol. Fortunately Scott has one of those brains capable of remembering the names and faces of not only every one of the thousands of constituants in his district, but probably the entire county. Just in case he runs for county comission, of course.

For that matter I can't remember the occasion either. I've recently attended too damned many breakfasts, luncheons and dinners , I guess. Tonight I even passed on a free dinner because I was still too stuffed from the luncheon earlier.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sweet Temptations

I don't know why Starbucks doesn't carry cinnamon donuts every day. Their glazed sour cream donuts are way too sweet. Their cookies and cakes are nothing to write home about and frankly, they're all grossly overpriced. The only saving grace of buying sweets here instead of the bakery at the nearby Publix supermarket is the price of gasoline. It would likely cost more money to drive the extra few blocks than I'd save.

Part of my problem is that I can remember the days of five cent donuts, fifty cents a dozen. Hell I can even remember the concept of a "baker's dozen", thirteen instead of twelve. Now Starbucks charges a buck apiece! Publix is ninety-five cents. The bigger savings at Publix is on the other pastries.

Anyway, the view here revealed that the top shelf, center, had no donuts. I just got my usual tall coffee and scrounged up a partly read Herald from the magazine rack between the two overstuffed arm chairs. Then I went out on the patio to catch up on the news and enjoy my coffee with a cigarette. Breakfast would have to wait. (No wonder I'm so fat!)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Back At The Dentist Again

Yup, here I am back in Howard's waiting room. My appointment was scheduled for the next day but Maura had called telling me that there'd been a cancelation. Maura wears three hats. She's the receptionist, the dental assistant, and she's Mrs. Dr. Howard Rosenberg. Anyway, I'd told her that my schedule was loose and since I had the last appointment scheduled the following day, by heading over there now they'd get to leave early the next day.

I stopped off on my way to get a cup of Starbucks and arrived a good half hour early. The lady in the background hadn't been seen yet. I sat down and found a National Geographic that I'd yet to read. It was an easy visit. I'd had a tooth extracted a couple weeks previous. Now that the gum was healed Howard was going to make an impression so the lab could add a tooth to my bridge. Quick and painless, the ideal dental appointment! I'd have to go around for a day or two with a couple of gaps in my teeth but then I'd have my winning smile once more.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Meanwhile, Back At MOCA Plaza...

The City of North Miami has been taking advantage of the plaza next to city hall and in front of the police station and MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art to hold all sorts of events. We lucked out with a very mild winter and so far, at least, the rain seems to be checking with the city manager before trying to solve our drought problem. The sky gets dark and ominous looking but the rain waits until everything is over with.

These days I'm not shooting for the newspaper, nor am I shooting for the city, so I've become a bit of a slackard about writing notes about who, what, where, when, and why. Here I know where, but a few weeks or months later I often don't remember much else...LOL...beyond the fact that the guy in the right forground is me. I can make a pretty good guess that I was using Kodacolor Gold 200 film in my Bessa L with the 15mm Heliar lens. That's about all I use these days.

On to other news:

Yesterday was an unusual day. Herb Otey actually got me to drive more than five miles from my house! He even got me to shoot with my Leica M bodies set up with the 21mm f/3.4 Super Angulon, 35mm f/2 Summicron, and 85mm f/2 Nikkor lenses. I used 400 speed color film. For about 3 hours I got to shoot the James Brown Tribute Band both back stage and on stage. The concert was at the Joseph Caleb Auditorium at 5400 N.W. 22nd Ave. It reminded me of the good old days when I shot for the Florida Courier, a black paper, and I'd often go all day without seeing another white face.

When I went to Starbucks late last night I was greeted with a bunch of "Where ya bin all day" questions, and the universal incredulous question after I told them was "..and you weren't scared?" I'm not sure exactly why, but I've never once had a problem, not in all those years, with being the only white face around. So no, I wasn't scared.

I guess that I should let Herb and the band see the photos first, but I'm figuring on posting a few of them here. Maybe for the next concert we can get a sold-out house, including a whole bunch of white faces grooving to the music. Sound like a plan, Herb?



Herb loved the photos. He's got the discs (Fuji scans at Walgreens) and is supposed to pick out a few for me to post here on my blog.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Future Directions For The Price Of Silver?

Thanks to all of you for reading this blog on a regular basis. I get lots of Emails from you, and some of you read it every day, while other check in once a week or so and read several posts during the same visit. I've met a few of you when you've visited the Miami area, and I'm always interested in getting together with an old friend or meeting a new one. Also, please Email me with any comments or suggestions to make this blog better still. Email is I'm always open to new ideas.

When I started out I never expected for Yahoo to choose this as one of their "Picks". According to Yahoo The Price Of Silver currently rates #70 for traffic in North America, New Zealand & Australia, and Great Britain & Ireland, essentially the entire English speaking world. With a bit of Googling I've discovered links to this blog on websites and blogs from Europe to the Orient.

I'm getting a lot of requests to show more of my older work from the 1960's and 1970's, mostly black and white, and I plan on digging through my 45 years worth of negatives and posting more of it. The photos and adventures of Monkey will soon have some photos made by other photographers who have hosted Monkey while he visited other cities. Monkette will probably be getting involved with another political campaign in the near future, something bigger than the recent North Miami mayoral race. Her candidate won. In the above photo the little girl is Autumn Burns, the mayor's step-daughter.

Monkette was feeling lonely with Monkey off travelling the country and she met a toy weasel by the name of Brad. Soon there will be pictures along with stories about Brad and his adventures around town. Monkette has also developed an interest in looking through my collection of photography books, admiring the works of some of the greats of the past. I'll be writing about that new interest of hers, and including links to some of those photos. (links avoid copyright issues) Right now she's been looking at Farm Security Administration photos made during the Great Depression. Her favorite photographer from that era seems to be Walker Evans. On the other hand Brad seems cool about Evans. We'll be exploring this new interest in depth when Monkey returns home. Is it a male/female thing? Maybe Monkette thinks Walker Evans is a cute guy? Will Monkey agree with Brad that Evans' work really isn't that great? Or is it a difference in outlook between simians and weasels? Stay tuned!

Friday, June 22, 2007

B-Witched, Betwixt & Between ~ The Search For A Parking Space

For seemingly no rhyme nor reason sometimes a parking lot is full and other times near empty. It doesn't matter if it's the post office, Target, or here outside of Walgreens. I just needed to drop off a prescription. I envisioned a crowded store and a long line at the pharmacy.

As I cruised up and down the lanes looking for a parking place I kept an eye on the other lanes nearby in case somebody was pulling out, and hoping I could then get there before somebody else grabbed the space. Then I noticed this license tag "B-Witch" and wondered who might own the car. It had to be a chick to have a tag like that.

I finally got the car parked, walked across the lot, and went into Walgreens. The place was empty, no lines! What were all those cars doing there? The prescription was promptly filled, no "pick it up after five" this time, and I headed back to my truck. On the way I passed an empty space. B-Witch was gone.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Penny Valentine! For Real, Honest!

The lady on the left with the dark hair, always "just so", is Penny Valentine. When I first met her in the late 1960's she ran the North Miami Chamber of Commerce, organizing the luncheons, visiting new businesses to get them to join and bugging old members to pay their dues, attend the monthly luncheons, advertize in the directory, all that stuff, including hustling up door prizes for the luncheons! She also ran the Miss North Miami Pageant which was sponsored by the Chamber back in the old days. Now the city sponsors it.

Back then her husband Bill was a North Miami city councilman but to pay the bills they had a real estate business. Now, nearly forty years later she's still in the Chamber office five days a week, still goes to city council meetings, and you can count on her to be sitting at the front table at various Chamber functions collecting money and handing out name tags. Tonight she was doing just that at a business card exchange at Great Florida Bank. Meanwhile Bill is doing his damndest to pretend that he's retired, but she drags him everyplace anyway.

At the business card exchange I ran into a guy I haven't seen in quite awhile, years actually, Herb Otey, but everybody calls him Otey. These days Otey is a music promoter and now I'm shooting one of the groups he represents this Saturday! And to think, I almost didn't go out in the rain to attend the business card exchange. I not only picked up a gig but I got to munch out on roast beef sandwiches, crab salad, and freshly sliced fruit. Sure beats Burger King!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Consummate Politician

Councilman Scott Galvin has the smile to win the ladies and the gestures to win the votes. In the nearly twenty years that we've been friends he's gone from being "The Kid" with political ambitions to becoming a force to be reckoned with. He's a fantastic public speaker, and he'd even be great on the radio where you couldn't see his smile or his gestures.

The city built this nice outdoor plaza next to city hall (which is behind him here) and in front of the new art museum and the new police station. Since we have the plaza, suddenly everything from swearing in the new mayor and council to the Flag Day celebration has become an outdoor event. No more crowding into the council chambers. No way!

For swearing in the newly re-elected mayor and council it's customary for each one find a prominant person in the community to administer the oath of office. We had the chief judge of the circuit court there, and former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. Scott did something very unique. He had a group of North Miami High School students go up there and administer his oath of office.

Now we get to sit or stand outside in the sunny summertime heat (or hope that the rain will please wait twenty more minutes) while we listen to seemingly endless speeches telling us what a great city this is, how dedicated the city staff is, and how lucky we are to have elected the right people. Seeing them standing up there for a couple of hours wearing black suits in the ninety degree heat, though, makes me wonder just a little bit, just a little tiny bit. It made me think of that line "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun..."

Come winter and cooler weather that plaza will probably be a very inviting place. For now we might consider adopting a variation of that old song as the official North Miami anthem. "Only mad dogs and councilmen go out in the midday sun..." The rest of us want our AC!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

One Dog Night, One Night Stand

I was enjoying my evening cup of coffee at Starbucks when a young couple showed up, dog in tow. Dogs aren't allowed inside the store. They chose the table next to mine and started to tie the leash to the chair so they could go in and get their drinks. The dog was yipping happily at me, all excited, straining against the leash hard enough to drag the chair towards me.

I suggested that they could just hand me the leash and I'd entertain the pooch while they went inside. She immediately jumped up on to my lap and did the obligatory sniffing around before standing up and licking my face. She then settled down and let me know that she preferred having her sides stroked to being tickled under her chin. After the couple returned I assured them that she was no problem and she stayed on my lap for another ten minutes or so. Then she got restless and we said our goodbyes. I was drinking alone again.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Four Dedicated Parking Places ~ That's Dedication

There's a municipal parking lot between the alley and N.E. 8th Ave. behind the North Miami Chamber of Commerce building. Four spaces closest to the Chamber have have signs saying "Chamber of Commerce Parking Only". These days it's pretty rare to have a need those four dedicated parking places. Up until fairly recently the entire lot was fpretty much full. The public library a block to the north has its own lot but across the avenue was a municipal swimming pool, a county fire/rescue station, the city's police station, and a middle school. Parking was at a premium in the neighborhood!

The police department is now in a brand new building several blocks away while new schools and various recreational facilities are under construction. About all that's left standing, and that's temporary, is the old fire station. Without people around nobody needs to park a car.

I stop by about every week, either just to say "hi" and play with Penney's little dog or to use the copy machine. On this particular morning I'd stopped off to check my Email on their computer. A lightning storm had fried my modem the day before and my computer was spending the day at the repair shop. Both coming and going I got cornered by somebody or another wanting to chat about various things. Life goes on...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Can You Really Judge A Man By His Toys?

Hey, it's not my fault that I was given a toy monkey when I was a toddler. I guess that it is kind of amazing that I still have Monkey after going on 63 years now, and he's still a frisky little fellow. A few months ago on a previous trip to the San Francisco area he met up with Monkette, dragging her back to North Miami with him. Now Monkey has wanderlust again and is back to checking out the west coast chicks while Monkette stays with me.

I decided that she needed a bit of excitement so she went with me to the post office, the bank, and we ended up at Starbucks for some coffee. I've known for ages that Monkey was a chick magnet but that day I discovered that Monkette also posessed The Magic!

This lady came out to the patio coffee in hand and asked me what the story was, why was I sitting there with a toy monkey? I guess you don't see too many men my age carrying around stuffed animals. I started telling her the story and I invited her to join me at the table. She thought it was so sweet that I still had my childhood toy, and she chuckled when I told her about Monkey's travels over the past few months. I supplied her with the link to The Price of Silver and I haven't seen her since. I guess that I'll have to take Monkette out for coffee again.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Saving Soles At The Congregational Church

Rummage sale time at the church around the corner. My ex was a congregant and that's where my kids went to Sunday School. The Rev. Chuck Eastman was a close friend of mine until he died of a heart attack a few years back, still in his early fifties. Most everybody there knows me. In a way I feel like it's my church.

I always manage to find something I need, and the money goes to a good cause. It's a lot nicer looking over the things in an air conditioned hall rather than traipsing through a dozen scattered yard sales in the heat and humidity. I bought some teflon pots and fry pans. Last year it was a collander and an electric broom. The year before I found a nice toaster broiler.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Ninety-Nine Pictures Of Girls On The Wall, Ninety-Nine Pictures Of Girls...

Well, maybe not ninety-nine, but quite a few, for sure. A whole bunch of years worth of Miss North Miami grace the walls of The North Miami Chamber of Commerce building at N.E. 131st. St. and West Dixie Highway.
In this photograph the pictures are largely obscured by glare on the glass. I shot this photo of myself taking a picture by using two cameras. One to actually use, the other serving as a prop.
From the late 1960's until the mid 1980's I photographed the pageant every year. I sometimes wonder what happened to the girls. One of them, Sandra Santiago, went on to star in the hit Miami Vice TV show as the lead female detective, but now with Miami Vice gone ? Who knows...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

And All That Jazz!

North Miami has sponsored music and the arts for as long as I can remember (too long?) with an active city sponsored group, The Society of the Arts, which for many years sponsored The North Miami Arts Festival for a week every spring in Griffing Park. In later years the name was changed to Arti-Gras as a huge tent was put up containing a stage featuring everything from puppet shows for the children to plays, and live music, ranging from classical to folk to Jazz. When the city built the brand new building to house the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) by city hall a short street was blocked off and repaved to look like tile. There's also a brand new Starbucks next to the patio.

Just about every week there's a concert of somes sort, with the group playing on the Showmobile while well over a hundred people sit on folding chairs enjoying the music and socializing, while others meander through the museum checking out the latest exhibit or sample the coffees at Starbucks. Along the main road, N.E. 125th Street, which runs along there are a number of art galleries that often stay open late on concert nights.

The city even publicizes the events on a bus bench in front MOCA Plaza. If you look carefully you can just barely make out my face on the lower part of the photo just to the left of center. Here's where to check out what's happening:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Pony Ring Is Saved! Shirley Chance Got Her Insurance

I'd like to thank Todd Frederick for posting the message that my computer was down for a couple of days. The message is gone now and I'm back.
These Florida East Coast Railroad tracks are a few hundred yards east of the pony ring that I wrote about a few days ago. It's now located inside The Enchanted Forest, a public park, and the city wanted her to have liability insurance. She was finding it about impossible to find an insurer to write a policy but finally, a couple of days ago there was an article in the Miami Herald announcing the good news.
As for the FEC rairoad tracks, they used to have a pair going in both directions, and North Miami even had its own railroad station. That was back in the days when far more people traveled by train instead of flying. Now the double track has been reduced to single, and it only carries freight and makes a lot of noise. I think that the old wooden ties connecting the tracks made less noise than the new concrete ones. Wood is better at damping vibrations.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Juke Joint

A few days ago I posted a photograph that I took in front of this classic 1940's style diner as Dawn and I joined the waitress for a cigarette on the front steps. You can't light up inside these days. The black and white checkered floor, red vinyl stools and booths, lots of shiny stainless steel all screamed "Classic Diner!" The final touch of authenticity was the juke box. All that was missing were ash trays and a cigarette machine.

Once a fixture in diners and coffee shops, yes, bars too, juke boxes defined an era. A hit song in 1950 was "Music! Music! Music! (Put Another Nickel In)". The opening line was "Put another nickel in, in the nickelodeon". A nickle would get you a song, a quarter would buy six, and probably last you through a leisurely breakfast or a harried lunch. When I was really young they played 10 inch 78 RPM records, but with the introduction of 7 inch diameter 45 RPM records the machines could be made smaller and hold a larger selection. The price per play soon jumped to a dime each, three for a quarter, but what the hell, coffee was no longer a nickel either. First it doubled to a dime, then floated up to a quarter where it stayed for quite a few years.

Eventually remote selectors were at every booth, connected to the juke box by wires. You no longer had to get up to spend your money, but the experience wasn't the same. The sound quality from almost hi-fidelity speakers on the wall was much better but the fancy chrome machine with its brightly colored neon tubes had been replaced by an automated tape deck and amplifier hidden somewhere in the back. These days most places just PLAY music, no charge. These days the cigarette machines are just a memory also. I sure wish they'd give out cigarettes no charge.

A bit of history about diners can be found here:

Monday, June 11, 2007

Donna Tiger ~ We Love You

When I took this photograph Donna was probably 17 years old, a student at Palmetto Sr. High. A year or two earlier she'd cut her nearly waist length hair so it was now just below her shoulders. She, and most of the other Miccosukee girls, had started wearing make-up and wore the same fashions as the other girls. In addition to her beauty Donna stood out because of her height. She was probably about 5'10"

Color negative films back then were nowhere near as good as they are now. Color slides ruled and some of the big New York mail order places were importing "grey market" English and French made Kodachrome II and selling it for only $3.79 a roll including processing by Kodak. One big advantage of Kodachrome films is the long term stability of the dyes. Projecting them often would cause fading but stored in the dark the colors stayed true. On the downside the slide films in general had about no exposure latttude. You had to expose exactly right. For things like landscapes you could bracket your shot, making several exposures at slightly different settings. For photographing people or action there'd be too much chance that the best photo would have the wrong exposure, and there was no Photoshop back then to try to save one with a computer. Hell, nobody had a computer either!
I'm pretty sure that this shot was taken in my back yard in open shade. I was probably using a 105mm f/2.8 Vivitar T-4 lens on a Pentax body, shooting wide open. I loved the way that lens rendered the out of focus background. The last time I saw Donna was maybe a dozen years ago at her dad's funeral. I found out from Florence a couple of days ago that Donna had passed away earlier this year.
Florence also told me that her husband Spencer had died in 2005 and the oldest sister Linda had died in 2004. Of the five brothers and sisters that only leaves Janice, still living on the Brighton Seminole Reservation by Lake Okeechobee with her husband John Wayne Huff.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tigers, Gone Too Soon

In the early 70's Laymond Hardy introduced me to Bobby Tiger and I was soon good friends with his oldest son Robert. My wife Stephanie and I would spent weekends with Robert and his wife Betty at their house on the Tamiami Trail Miccosukee Reservation and frequently hung out at Bobby and Louise's house nearby, with the ladies trading recipes and our little daughter Elena playing with Robert and Betty's daughter. They were within a couple of months of one another, about three years old. One Sunday we were out there visiting. Robert had just bought a new motorcycle and was out on the Trail riding it. There was a knock on the door. It was the Florida Highway Patrol. He'd flipped the bike at high speed and died on impact.

We stayed there until late the night, Stephanie making pot after pot of coffee as everybody stopped by to pay their respects

Bobby's two youngest, Donna and Spencer were about 14 and 16 in the above picture. The car was parked out behind Bobby's house. With Robert gone I didn't see too much of the Tigers for a few years but Spencer grew up and was going to school in town. He met the kind of "nice Jewish girl" from Miami Beach that my mom always dreamed that I'd fall in love with. Florence and Spencer got married and lived near me for several years, but then they moved to the south end of the county, about forty miles away. Since then the only time I'd heard from them was maybe ten years later when Florence called to tell me that Bobby had passed away, and I got to see everybody at the funeral.

A few months ago I got an Email from a mutual friend who now lives on the west coast. He was trying to locate Spencer and Donna but all his Google search turned up was my name in connection with the photographs. I had no better luck than he did in tracking them down. Then only about a week ago Claudia, my ex, mentioned that it had been years since we'd seen or heard from any of the Tigers.

Yesterday I heard my name called out as I stood in line waiting for my coffee in Starbucks. It was Florence Tiger, Spencer's wife!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Careful, Now! Don't Throw The Pony Out With The Creek Water! A Ranch In North Miami.

I'm standing on the west bank of the north branch of Arch Creek where the kids come to ignore the "Do Not Feed The Ducks" signs. Thirty odd years ago this whole area was slated to be cleared for development, but a group of concerned citizens rallied the troops and got the city to put a bond issue on the ballot to buy the land for a park. A couple of the property owners, a pre-school and a pony ranch, were against it but they agreed to sell if they could keep the school and the pony ranch where they were. The people thought that was a better deal than more high rises, the bond issue passed, and The Enchanted Forest park was born. Generations of kids have ridden those ponies and lots of birthday parties have been celebrated there.
If the developer's plans had prevailed the historic creek, site of an early white settlement as well as hundreds of years of Tequesta Indians living there, would have been leveled, the creek converted to an underground pipe with storm drains letting the water from paved parking areas enter it, and the ancient live oaks destroyed.
Day before yesterday I posted a picture of my daughter Elena riding one of the ponies at the Rock-N-Ranch. This morning on the first page of the Miami Herald's local news section was the headline "Lack Of Insurance May Rein In Ponies".
The City of North Miami requires the owner, Shirley Chance, to carry liability insurance. Nobody wants to write her a policy. She's upset!
We live in an age when if a kid falls off a pony the parents sue. When I was a kid we KNEW that you could fall off. Our parents knew. Even the lawyers knew, and they would be laughed out of court for even filing a suit. Hell, any self respecting judge would probably cite the lawyer for contempt for wasting the court's time. Not anymore! Today if a kid gets bitten while standing there with his folks feeding a pony right in front of the "Do Not Feed The Ponies" sign some greedy attorney will gladly take the opportunity to drag Shirley to court. Since it's on city property, a potential "deep pocket", the dollar signs will glow neon in a lawyer's eyes. Don't feel bad for Shirley Chance. Don't feel bad for the ponies. Feel bad for all those hundreds of children who'll never get to ride a pony.
Here's a link to the Herald article, but these links usually don't stay active for more than a week or two:

Friday, June 08, 2007

More Burns, More Monkey Business

It was still a few weeks before the election and Monkette decided that she didn't really need another coffee just yet. Instead she directed me to park the truck facing U.S. 1 with the the back of the truck not only facing the outdoor patio at Starbucks, but putting it in a perfect position for everybody going through the drive-through lane to see her waving at them from her perch on the seatback between the two campaign signs. She gave everybody her big silly grin as they smiled back at her.

She complained about the early morning chill and the air conditioning blowing on her back. I took one of those black Kevin Burns For Mayor T-shirts and wrapped it around her and over her shoulders. Then she bitched because nobody had thought to order any in medium or large monkey sizes. There's just no satisfying some monkeys. Maybe it's just a woman thing.

Now she's all excited that Nadine O'Hara is sending Monkey back here next week. Monkette has really been missing him bad! We should be posting some of Nadine's photos of Monkey's latest trip pretty soon. Then Monkey will be going to Winter Springs, FL for a few weeks of photography and adventure with Bill Carpenter.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Happy Birthday, Elena Kaplan!

The pony ring is only about a quarter of a mile from the house and Elena would get excited every time we'd drive by. She loved pony rides! She had just about turned three when I shot this photo of her. I think that this was her first solo ride around the ring, with no teenager leading the pony by the reins. She was so proud of herself!

The pony ring is still there, in the same location, and I drive by it every day. Whenever I see it my mind fills with happy memories of when Elena was young and the world was full of wonder, and how five years later her younger brother Jonathan would experience many of the same things. All wonderful memories!

Now the kids are all grown up. Elena is living in Atlanta, a succesful tax attorney, and just like her daddy she's involved in her community and local politics. A few months ago Elena became an aunt. Jonathan and his wife Deborah had a girl by the name of Gabriella. Now when I drive by the pony ring I think about Gabriella visiting her Grandpa and riding those ponies in a couple more years. I just wish they all lived close by so I could see them more often and celebrate their birthdays with them. Today is Elena's birthday!

Thanks for all those great memories, Elena. Have a Happy Birthday, and many more.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Mario the Baker, Now Number One In North Miami

I've been living in North Miami too long. In 1956 the Italian restaurant that everybody raved about was Marcella's, a couple of blocks from here on the other side of West Dixie Highway. Marcella was a character but she made the best pizza and was famous for her garlic rolls as well as her spaghetti baked in a bowl with melted cheese on top. I was 14 and on nights my mom had to work late she'd give me a dollar for dinner. A small pizza or a bowl of sphagetti and garlic rolls was seventy-five cents, a 12 oz. bottle of ice cold pop was a dime, sales tax was 3%, and the waitress got the twelve cents change.

The city had a sizeable Italian population and everybody likes pizza. Soon Marcella had a small fleet of three wheel Vespa motor scooters (made in Italy, of course) zipping about town delivering pizza. She opened another location across town, and then one in Freeport in the Bahamas. An empire in the making! Then the IRS felt that there were some irregularities in her bookkeeping procedures and for awhile we were all afraid that the best pizza in town would soon be just a memory.

Marcella managed to weather the storm and remained in business for quite a few years, but a new building was going up on a vacant parcel down the street. When the sign went up everybody wondered at the sanity of anybody who'd dare challenge Marcella right there on her home turf. Some people liked Mario's food better, others insisted that it wasn't as good, but for several years we had the choice. Marcella was getting older, the fight with the government had taken its toll on her (no jail though) and it was the kind of business where Marcella WAS the business. It couldn't survive without her.

Now when I get the urge to smell like garlic the choice is Steve's Pizza over on U.S. 1, where slices are the specialty and there's about no room inside so you better hope for good weather since you'll be sitting outside, or else it's Mario the Baker. The decor is spartan with Formica tables and tile floors, not much of interest on the walls, but the waitresses are friendly and scurry about making sure that your food is hot when it arrives, and your drink is always full. They still shape the dough by hand, tossing it into the air, all out where you can see it.

I ordered spaghetti with meat sauce. There was plenty of ground beef in the sauce and the portion was so big that I took half of it, along with a few of the rolls, home with me. In the morning I had garlic rolls wth my coffee. The donuts would have to wait!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"The Price of Silver View Blog 500 Posts, last published on Jun 5, 2007"

That's what it said as I was setting up to post today's blog entry. The photograph of me with the pelicans flying overhead was the one that I used on the very first post, when I first started The Price of Silver 500 days ago. Since then I've been posting at least one photo and a few paragraphs of text, which is usually about the photo: who, where and when, what was happening, why it was taken, and very often some info on the equipment I used to take the photo. In this case it was my Voigtlander Bessa L with the 15mm f/4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens. I was holding the camera in my left hand aiming b'guess and b'gosh as we used to say. The pelicans picked out their own places in the sky. The location was North Miami's Bayfront Park on N.E. 123rd St., at the beginning of Broad Causeway leading across Biscayne Bay to the beaches.

I started this blog for two reasons. The first was that I was made to feel uncomfortable on's Leica Forum for stupid things like actually using film and Leicas for most of my photographs, as I had done for over 45 years. The hecklers seem to be friends of the forum owner and are above reproach. They do as they please. I needed a place to post my photos and what I write about them.

The second reason is that a lot of people had been (and still are) encouraging me to write a book about my life as a photographer. I kept starting, but nothing ever really got underway. The blog allows me to write in short spurts, one adventure at a time, and then later perhaps edit it into book form.

I always thought of myself as a good photographer but never had the ambition to own and run a studio, nor did I enjot travelling to the corners of the planet. A twenty-five mile radius from my house seemed just fine. It wasn't until I started writing and posting over on, and corresponding with people that I was meeting there, that I realized that I'd met and photographed everyone from counter culture author Allen Ginsberg to civil rights activist Rev. Jessie Jackson to President Bill Clinton. Ballet stars and rock & roll stars. Several governors, a few presidents, bunches of congressmen and senators and mayors. I'd been the photographer for Barry University and the City of North Miami and Congressman Bill Lehman for a couple of decades.

When my son Jonathan was here last year he remarked at how everybody knows me, whether its the baristas at the local Starbucks or the people at city hall. Wherever I go I hear the familiar "Hey Al". It's a nice feeling. The self-portrait series started out as a way of documenting myself in my day to day travels about town, the places I go, the people I know, the things that I do. Those are mixed in with the older photos from my life as a photographer. And sometimes I'll just use a photograph as a take-off point to rant on about something totally unrelated to what's in the picture.

This blog became a Yahoo! Pick on July 31st last year, and a bit of searching found links to and praises of the blog at numerous other websites and blogs in other countries. Here's Yahoo's top 100 U.S. list:

It's also on the Yahoo top 100 list for UK and Ireland as well as
the Yahoo top 100 list for Australia and New Zealand:

On the one hand it's all very flattering but on the other it makes for a tough row to hoe, trying to maintain at that standard day after day. It keeps me on my toes, it keeps my mind active, and it's resulted in my meeting a lot of fantastic people, some just on the 'net but many in person also. Don't hesitate to email me with comments or suggestions, or to tell me you'll be in Miami and would like to meet for coffee.

I have some new directions I'd like to try on the blog over the next few months and your comments and input are welcome. Thank you all for your help in making The Price of Silver the success it's become. Special thanks to Todd Frederick for his Photoshop skills in reviving the faded images of some ancient color slides and posting all these pictures. Thanks to my old buddy Jon Sinish for occasional advice on making this place more "Google friendly" and catching the occasional grammatical or spelling error that slips by me late at night.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Amarillis Flower ~ One Day Of Glory

Claudia had returned from her annual two weeks in Germany to visit her parents. I went by her place to welcome her back and give her the messages from her answering sevice, explaing which calls I'd returned and what I'd said to this one or that one. Claudia and I are still good friends even though we've now been divorced for more years than we were married, and I know all her regular clients from her antique restoration business.

I was greeted by her dogs, Prince and Caeser, then she showed me the huge bud on her amarillis plant next to her front porch. She said that she was so glad that it had waited for her to get home before blooming. Then over a fresh cup of coffee I went through the ritual of putting a fresh roll of film in her Minolta X-700. She had that camera when I first met her about 1982 and still doesn't feel comfortable changing the film by herself. We chatted awhile about her trip and her folks, finished my coffee while petting the two dogs, and as I was leaving I told her to call me when the flower bud opens and I'd take the pictures for her.

Two days later the phone rang first thing in the morning and I rushed over there, about a mile away. I was greeted by happy dogs, a thrilled ex-wife, a cup of fresh brewed coffee and home made cake, but first I had pictures to take!

The blossoms were huge, maybe 5 or 6 inches across, bright red with a touch of white on a couple of the petals. I shot about half of her 24 exposure roll in the Minolta and then thought I'd have some fun with my 15mm lens on my Bessa L. This is one of the Bessa/15 photos.

Bright and early the next morning the phone rang. It was Claudia. Somebody had come in her yard during the night and neatly cut the flower off at the bottom of the stem. The amarillis was gone. All she had left were the photos.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Blowing Smoke/Blowing Ten Grand? Checking Out The Leica M8

photo (c)2007 James Mitchell

Yes indeed, I got to try out the long awaited digital Leica rangefinder camera, the M8. James Mitchell was here in Miami yesterday and we went to lunch, and then we spent part of the afternoon together discussing the state of photography and the state of the world while I was checking out the shape of some cute young lady's legs who happened to be sitting nearby at Starbucks.

When he was last here several months ago he had one of those Leica mount digital Bessas, the Epson RD-1s, with a 90mm f/4 Macro-Elmar. He decided that f/4 was too slow so he traded it in for the new 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit. The Leica M8 had finally reached the stores also, and he was able to snag one and get his lenses "coded" to tell the camera which lens it was looking through.

The M8 body looks like a Leica, has the finder windows and neck strap lugs right where you'd expect them to be, as is the shutter release and what looks like a standard dial to set shutter speeds. About the only things missing are the wind lever and rewind crank that you'd need with a film camera.

Naturally, since the back of the camera has an LCD screen it's like there must be a law requiring people to check it after every shot. No more shooting to the end of the roll and waiting to check the negatives later.

Back at my place I shot a couple shots just to feel how the shutter release felt and hear how silent it was. No quieter than any other M body I've used over the years. James then knocked off a couple of shots of me blowing smoke. Today he Emailed me the file in both B&W and color. I liked the B&W version better. It makes me look more sinister. Next time he promised to use more care in focussing, and not try to hand hold the camera at the relatively slow shutter speed of only 1/12 second. Considering just how sharp that 90mm Elmarit lens can be, next time we'll really be able to see my craggy face and grey hairs in excruciating detail.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Newspapers Today~ Out In The Middle Of Nowhere

I'd gone to meet my friend Jim for lunch. He now works as an editor at the Herald's Broward Bureau, not too far south of the Palm Beach County line. There's not much out there, that far west. Just a few years ago, before some massive drainage projects, this was the Everglades, sawgrass prairie with a foot or two of water, wading birds and alligators to feast upon them. Mosquitos too, to feast upon the people.

Now there's the newspaper office and the North Broward Detention Facility across the expansive parking area. I don't imagine that the inmates get many visitors this far out from civilization. On the other hand an escape would probably require a ten mile hike to find a bus. We had quite a long drive just to find a restaurant to eat lunch

Friday, June 01, 2007

The School Bus

The school bus has nothing to do, really, with womens' fashions. As I was sitting and chatting with this young woman I could see it coming down the street. I guess it was a game to see if I could catch it more or less centered in the space to the right of the Starbucks building while not looking through the finder. But then I about never do look through the finder.

I struck up a bit of a conversation with the woman inside at the register, and as we both smoke we were banished to the "smoking lounge" on the patio outside. I don't have a clue at this point as to what we were chatting about, but whatever it was our chat went on for half an hour or more, we both smoked a couple of cigarettes, and then either one or the other of us had to get someplace else and we said our goodbyes. I haven't seen her since.

Now looking at the photo I find myself intrigued by the directions taken by womens' fashions of late. Not so many years ago strapless bras were common, and tops had wide enough straps to hide the bra straps beneath. Now you see them poking out at odd angles, and in colors chosen more to be noticed than to blend in. For many years bras weren't supposed to be noticed. Their two functions were support and making women look like breasts didn't have nipples. Then over thirty years ago, in the era of Womens' Lib, the in thing was going braless, perhaps even wearing a knit top that emphasized the nipples.

Another increasingly common fashion statement today is wearing a "little nothing" dress, but rather than wearing sandles or heels with bare legs the dress becomes a top for jeans and athletic shoes. Here we have an attractive woman in baggy jeans and athletic shoes letting the world know that she owns a dress and wears a bra.

Oh well, after half an hour of good conversation and watching me shoot some pictures one handed while striking these seemingly "off in another world" poses with matching facial expressions she probably thinks that I'm a bit nutty myself.