Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How Did We Learn Before Laptops?

I'm not much into computers myself although my first wife bought one of the first Radio Shack Color Computers years before Microsoft created Windows. It used to save programs on cassette tapes and it took hours to get a program onto the tape by spending hours typing in ones and zeros. Stephanie and I had different mindsets and at that point I found computers a bore. She also loved playng the computer game "Pong", whether at home or on one of the machines that were in bars and restaurants. You could play for 25 cents a game back when gas was about 30 cents a gallon. On the screen you had a ball moving back and forth on a black and white TV screen, nothing else! Essentially video ping-pong. How exciting!

She also bought one of the first electronic calculators I'd ever seen. She said that she needed it for school and it was only $425, about the price of a used Volkswagen that a lot of the students were driving back then. And a cup of coffee was fifteen cents!

Electronics have sure gotten cheaper and more sophisticated in the past thirty or so years. A simple pocket calculator is just a few bucks if you don't get one for free as an advertizing promotion from your insurance agent. Personal computers load programs off of discs, but come preprogrammed with a bunch of stuff we couldn't even imagine just a few years ago.

Now the must-have is a laptop, but nobody seems to use them on their lap. Pencils, ballpoints, note pads, pocket calculators, all that stuff is obsolete in the twenty-first century. Nobody seems to do homework at home either, and there's no longer a need to visit the library. You can look up about anything you want via the wireless web, and places like Starbucks have tiny tables barely big enough to hold a laptop and a coffee cup. Rows of students from morning 'til night tapping and staring.

Now the city of North Miami is talking about equipping the entire city with wireless web, which numerous other cities have already done. You'll be able to use your laptop anyplace! Can Starbucks survive in the brave new world?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Monkette and I headed over to Starbucks to grab some coffee before heading over to the big street demonstration that Councilman Scott Galvin had organized to protest Florida Power & Light's plan to run high tension lines on 80 foot tall concrete poles through North Miami's residential neighborhoods. When we got there Doug was having breakfast and invited us to join him.

We run into him a few days a week. He always chides me for reading "that worthless paper", the Miami Herald. He reads the New York Times. He doesn't trust anybody else's world or national news. After I've flipped through the Herald's Section A we usually spend some time discussing the latest misadventures of our bumbling president.

Doug rides everyplace on his bike, sometimes riding the forty miles south to Homestead, other times the twenty-five miles north to Fort Lauderdale, and back again, of course. Rain or shine. He's in amazing shape for 73. He also has a job being resident manager and handyman for a row of warehouse bays. He lives in one of them.

Every morning he has the same breakfast, coffee and a bagel. Somehow he manages to bite off chunks and chew them up without any teeth. His gums must have some pretty tough calouses on them!

He keeps telling me that he's got a bike for me, all I have to do is go pick it up and it's mine for free. It's all adjusted, oiled and greased, a 26 inch wheel mountain bike with good tires. I plan on doing just that as soon as the weather cools off a bit. The four or five blocks from my house to Starbucks would be no problem. It might be awhile, though, before I'm in shape for the Homestead trek.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

"One Enchanted Evening...

you will meet a stranger..."

The lyrics are from a song when I was still a little kid. I have no idea who sang it. Frank Sinatra maybe? Anyway, I'm always heading out in the evening, daytime too, and meeting strangers. I try to be a friendly sort, and a guy my age carrying around a toy monkey really has no trouble meeting ladies. Guys give me strange looks for sure! But the women always start the conversation.

This was in the new Starbucks in front of the art museum. I was there for the Friday night concert in the plaza. We went into Starbucks for some coffee and Monkette got all the attention. That's the downside of being pals with a toy monkey. Still, it beats being alone, and Monkette isn't much of a conversationalist, so the hour or so the three of us spent together there was quite enjoyable.

[Todd Frederick Emailed me this information: "Ezio Pinza in South Pacific with Mary Martin. Song: One Enchanted Evening."]

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Keeping The City Intact For Looters

The Disaster Preparedness Board meets monthly around this table in the rear of the city council chambers. I'm usually ten minutes early because that's just me. Marvin has no excuse for being late. His office is right next door at the police station. As the minutes tick by Marvin and I joke about why we even bother! Finally, about twenty minutes after the hour we have a quorum, the city's public relations person is there, and all we have to wait for is the secretary who takes the minutes and Myrna, the chairwoman.

We do get hurricanes, occasional flooding, and the rare tornado touches down, so the city needs to be prepared. For the most part staff does a great job planning for such disasters but we're there to give them direction, citizen input. Things like where we should set up a food distribution center now that the old bowling alley has been torn down. Can we work a deal with the county school board to use a couple of schools? Which ones would be best?

We remind the code enforcemet people to check that the elevators AND the emergency generators in high-rise buildings are working. What about supplying water and ice? Is Public Works ready to get out the chainsaws and crews and trucks to clear the streets for the power company trucks and emergency vehicles?

We set up meetings and seminars to speak to the residents and hand out packets of information reminding them to stock up on canned goods, candles, to have buckets of water on hand for flushing toilets and jugs of water for drinking. Get a few five gallon containers full of gasoline before a storm arrives. It might be days before you can by more. Essentially to plan for the worst.

I tell people to buy canned goods year round, whenever they have a buy one/get one free sale. Buy packs of batteries on sale. Get your pantry full and you won't have to fight the crowds as a storm aproaches. You'll save a bundle also. The time to buy candles is the day after Christmas for red and green and the day after Hallowe'en for orange and black, when they're closing them out for 90% off.

Well, about twenty minutes after the hour we got the meeting started. It seemed that staff had everything under control. We were soon saying goodbye to one another again. I rushed out to smoke a cigarette and headed over to Starbucks. I got a refill of coffee.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Organizing The Campaign ~ Brainstorming Session

We were having lunch at Jimmie's place a few booths away from where Congressman Bill Lehman used to hold court every weekend, with all kinds of people sitting around the big corner table having breakfast and discussing various issues. Bill always picked up the tab for everyone.

Over the years it's been a hangout for numerous local political types so it seemed like a good place to get Monkette's campaign for a county comission seat underway. Still, a of of us felt that while she had the talent and the drive it might be better to start off with a smaller goal. This morning I got a letter from the North Miami Chamber of Commerce. It was the ballot to elect the new board of directors. An individual doesn't have to be a member as long as they're employed by a member.

By the time the waitress brought the corned beef sandwiches (the best around here!) our good buddy, Brad the weasel, was trying to convince Monkette that getting elected to the Chamber's board would be a great start for her political career. The county comission seat could come later.

We decided that I could easily list her as an employee, my creative director and political laison, plus she handles a lot of publicity out in the community. Everybody knows her. She gets invited to all the right parties. Finally, she agreed. I put her name in as a write-in candidate on the ballot. If you're a Chamber member me, Brad 'n her all encourage you to do the same on your ballot as well. Vote for Monkette for the North Miami Chamber of Commerce board of directors. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Aphrodite In The Temple Of The Coffee God

She had a captivating smile and a great sense for color. Her top and my shirt looked like they'd come out of the same dye batch. We sat and drank coffee, enjoyed the night air, and chatted about this and that.

I'm always getting involved in conversations with women that seem so tempting, so appealing, so bright, until I remind myself that I could as well be her grandfather. I can understand why guys my age are attracted to young women but I've never understood why so many of them seem attracted to us. Of course most of them would never actually go out with me if I asked them. They worry about what their friends would say or what their parents might think.

On another level I suppose they're thinking that at some point they'll want to make babies. Some guys my age couldn't if they wanted to. Most of us won't be around long enough to attend the high school graduations. In the end I don't know what their motivation is, but I'm content to just enjoy the moment. I guess she was too. She didn't ask me out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The $17,400.00 Check Arrived...

With all those hundreds of self-portraits I've shot this is one of perhaps only two or three where I used the self timer. About the only mail I get in this box is junk. I use my P.O. box address for the important stuff. Still, I thought it made for an interesting picture, and an excuse to tell this story, although I made the photo a week or so before the story unfolded.

Like most of us ,I suppose, I occasionally get somebody else's mail mixed in with mine, or receive a letter a day or so later than expected, sometimes ripped open and taped shut, with "Delivered to wrong address" scribbled on the envelope. It happens.

This morning as I got out of the truck at the post office I noticed the glint of copper and picked up a shiny penny. My mother always called them "lucky pennies", I suppose because you were lucky that you found one. That was a time when gumball machines were everywhere and you could buy a gumball for a penny. The decal on the glass globe said that the proceeds went to the Kiwanis Club Crippled Childrens' Fund. There was no preventitive vaccine or cure for polio as yet, and there were a lot of crippled children.

I took the stack of envelopes out of my P.O. box, walked over to the counter by the window next to the half full trash bin,and started slitting open the envelopes. When I saw an unexpected check I started thinking "Wow! That WAS a lucky penny!" Then I noticed that it was for 17,400 and some odd dollars and cents! FANTASTIC! Then I noticed it was from some government department in Palm Beach County. The elation started to fade. Finally I realized that it was made out to some construction company with a box number close to mine. I dejectedly walked over to the "Whoops, Wrong Box" mail slot and dropped it in.

On the way home I started thinking that if I'd just had a small pile of checks to deposit I probably could have got it deposited into my account. Donna rarely if ever does more than make sure that I've endorsed the checks when I give her a deposit. From there on it's all electronic, nobody reading names. As I saw it, the big problem would be Palm Beach County. If it was one of our more inept and/or corrupt local governments like Opa Locka, Hialeah, the City of Miami, even Metro-Dade County, chances are nobody would ever notice. Here's a Miami Herald story about tens of thousands going astray:

>>>"Stackhouse received another $75,000 using invoices his former bookkeeper said she created on her computer, according to interviews and requisitions. In all, the newspaper found more than $500,000 in double billing and dubious expenses.
''If it were $500,000 -- and I doubt that it is -- what is that? Five percent of what's been spent,'' Stackhouse told The Miami Herald when confronted in June."<<<

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Site Of The Signing ~ Sex, Kids & Rock 'n' Roll

When I was in high school I used to go to the library all the time. I always liked to read, but most important, the library was air conditioned in an era when most houses, apartments, and schools weren't. It was a small place back in the 1950's, but they first added one wing, and then another, expanding the small rectangular library into a U shape. Finally they decided that "North Miami Public Library" was a boring name.

They named it after E. May Avil. I never remembered her as being a young woman. She was the city clerk about forever it seemed.

Last night I went over there for a book signing/meet the author type of thing. Evelyn McDonnell read a few pages from her new book, told us about her life experiences, everything from being a step-mom to her husband's two daughters to the birth of the son they had together, what it was like working on staff for a variety of publications and freelancing as well. Her work has appeared in everything from Rolling Stone to the New York Times.

She now resides in Miami Beach and is the Pop-Culture critic for the Miami Herald. I purchased a copy of her book "Mama Rama A Memoir Of Sex, Kids, & Rock 'n' Roll" and she signed the title page. I guess now I have to read it and give you folks a review. Perhaps just for old times sake I'll take it over to the library and read it using their AC. It's a hot summer.

Monday, July 23, 2007

In The Company Of Real Power

After succeeding in running the campaign to get Kevin Burns re-elected as North Miami's Mayor and scaring off all the challengers for Scott Galvin's city council seat Monkette was feeling pretty good about herself. She wasn't expecting a new challenge quite so soon, but then Florida Power and Light announced plans to connect two substations with high tension wires on new 80 foot tall concrete poles running right through residential neighborhoods. The chosen route went north on N.E. 14th Avenue. Monkette would have this monstrosity right outside her bedroom window!

She decided that a good old fashioned street demonstration, just like back in the sixties, was called for. I told her that this was Scott Galvin's district and that a lot of people wouldn't take a toy monkey seriously. She decided that success was of greater importance than her ego. She let Scott pretend that it was all his idea, used his name on all the fliers and press releases, and he was there to Rally The Troops on the Big Day. As long as no 80 foot concrete pole went up outside her bedroom window Scott could take credit for anything he wanted. It'd be cool with her.

Here she's trying to recruit another demonstrator. All in all she got at least 75 people to carry signs at the intersection of West Dixie Highway, N.E. 135th Street, and 10th Avenue. Lots of people honked and gave the thumbs-up as they drove by. Monkette got me to hold her up with her protest sign because she is kind of short.

We still don't know the final outcome of where the route will be, and a lot of people want the wires underground. Monkette has been heard muttering something about running for a county comission seat if this campaign succeeds. She's more than qualified. She even admits that her head is stuffed with cotton. The other comissioners all lie about it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

No Longer Stumped ~ Backhoe To The Rescue

Directly behind Claudia's house is a large vacant lot, and just a few feet behind her fence was a great big ficus tree which shaded her back yard in the afternoon. Two years ago when hurricanes Katrina and Wilma paid us a visit the tree fell over. It fell away from her yard but the extensive root system succeeded in destroying her rear fence as the roots were pulled up out of the ground.

She was in a tizzy because her dogs could no longer stay in the yard without somebody watching them. The owner of the vacant lot seemed to be in no hurry to remove the downed tree or the root ball. We went to the Home Depot and got some eight foot sections of lattice to use as a temporary fence, wiring them to the chain link fence well enough to keep the dogs in the yard. Finally a few calls to the city got things started, but it took over a year until a few guys with a truck and chain saws cut up and hauled off the ficus tree. A few weeks later this backhoe showed up and removed the stump and filled the hole with dirt.

During that year and a half wait the wood lattice acquired a nice weathered appearance, and vines grew through and over it. Actually, I think it looked rather nice. We even talked about facing the entire inside length of the chain link fence with lattice just for that reason. She decided not to mostly because after a few years it would rot out and need replacement.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Keeping The World Safe For Coffee Drinkers ~ The Cop Shop

That Starbucks where I hang out is a real Cop Shop! Maybe it's because it's right on U.S. 1 on the corner of 135th St. which is a straight shot west to I-95. We get cops from North Miami, which is where the Starbucks is located, and from North Miami Beach which starts about fifty feet to the north. Then there are the Metro-Dade County cops. Even though there are new and closer Starbucks in the other nearby towns we still get cops coming south from Aventura and driving west across the causeways from Sunny Isles Beach, Bal Harbor, Surfside, and Bay Harbor Islands. A few drive north from Miami Shores and the Village of Biscayne Park. It's also a daily occurance to have a few Metro-Dade Fire Rescue vehicles idling as they get their coffee mugs get refilled.

Nobody has ever given me any grief about photographing there, and last year my photo exhibit at that Starbucks featured a lot of photographs that I took there. That's why I was so surprised this evening when a woman wearing a shirt saying something about "Investigations" shouted at me in a nasty tone of voice "Just what do you think you're doing?"as I took a picture in the parking lot of a strange looking trailer hitch ornament. Imagine three miniature 225 horsepower shiny black Mercury outboard motors in a row, with tiny chrome props that really turn, attached to the hitch receiver on the back of a big black SUV. I thought it was cute and kneeled down to shoot a self-portrait of myself admiring those Monkey sized outboards.

That's when she confronted me. I'd never seen her there before, and I told her that it was none of her business. I said that I took pictures there all the time there and that everybody knew me and that taking pictures was what I do. I guess that I was starting to seem a bit confrontational myself as I stood up and told her that she needed to learn the law a bit better. Looking back at it I suppose I should have shot a few frames of her also before she calmed down a bit and walked away.

Friday, July 20, 2007

More Monkey Business Than A Weasel Can Handle

A week or two ago I took Brad, the weasel, over to Starbucks for a cup of coffee and to meet some of the people that I hang out with over there. Weasels are nocturnal I suppose, and this going out for morning coffee thing wasn't exactly his cup of tea. He'd heard from both Monkey and Monkette about just how friendly everybody was over there.

Well, I guess monkeys are just naturally cute and loveable creatures. Nobody stopped by to join Brad and me for coffee, and only a couple of people as much as said hello. When I shot this photo Monkey was still visiting various photographers around the country and Brad was finally starting to come out of his funk. Here Monkette was assuring him that another Starbucks excursion would be fun as they shared a seat in my truck for the drive over there.

Shortly after we arrived Doug came over, sat with us, and chatted for awhile. Brad finally believed us that there was in fact a scrawny toothless seventy-something guy that rides everyplace on his bike and reads the New York Times every day. There really was! Now I suppose Doug is still having trouble convincing people that he'd had his morning bagel and coffee with a monkey and a weasel.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Character And Charm

Last night was the North Miami Board of Adjustment meeting. I'm on the board, and for the last dozen years or so I've been pretty much dressing this way regardless of where I'm going or what I'm doing. Rumpled unironed fishing shirt, jeans, leather boat shoes with no socks, a curly mop of hair, and a scruffy beard. It doesn't help. I still get board appointments and I still have to remind everyone from the secretaries to the city manager that I'm "Al", not "Mr. Kaplan".

Last night I decided to have a bit of fun. I put on a midnight blue (that translates into half a shade lighter than black) tropical weight wool suit, button down collar dress shirt just long enough to show the requisite 1/2 inch of cuff below the jacket sleeves, and a bright red silk neck tie. Because of staff changes over the years just about nobody there last night had ever seen me dressed that way. I got a few compliments and some questions ranging from "Is that really YOU?" to "What's the occasion?" There was only one item on the agenda so it was a short meeting, and yes, I did shoot a few self-portraits of me up there sitting on the board!

I headed over to Starbucks for my nightly cuppa java. That's where I really shocked people, but I also had some good conversation. I gathered that a few of the folks over there had never believed me when talked about some of the things I do because I didn't seem to dress the part. "Clothes make the man!"

Tonight I went for coffee and it was like instantly that I was joined by a couple of young ladies gushing about how great I'd looked last night. Brooke didn't come right out and say that I was too old for her but she did remind me that she already had a boyfriend. I mentioned that my hair looked a bit ratty for wearing the suit & tie thing but she insisted that I had to promise not to cut it. She wants me to grow my hair long. "I just love ponytails on men!" was how she put it. My hair doesn't grow all that fast but if I eat all my veggies I just might have a pony tail by the time she hits 21.

And the house? Yup, it has character and charm, alright! I just wish I could remember whose house and why I was there.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Treasure Trove Of Trivia

The North Miami Historical Society had this table set up at some sort of recent happening at the community center, mostly showing photographs around town of The Way It Was.

We started out centuries ago as a village of Tequesta Indians (I've yet to meet a "Native American" who liked THAT name) near the mouth of Arch Creek where it enters Biscayne Bay. Natural Bridge over the creek was used by early European traders and settlers travelling north and south along the coast and supposedly pirates used the creek at one time. A few people have searched for buried treasure over the years but about all anyone ever found was pottery shards and animal bones.

Before the name North Miami was adopted the town was called first Arch Creek and then Miami Shores which is now the name of a town to the south of us. At one point North Miami was much larger and included parts of the coastal beach as well.

When the Florida East Coast Railroad was built by Henry Flagler it became possible to ship fresh fruits and vegetables to northern markets in a timely fashion. Tomato farms sprouted in the area, some citrus was grown, and pineapples were a major crop.

We still have a few houses left from the early years of the twentieth century, but the belated concept of historic designation allowed a lot of them to be destroyed. That was really a shame because the early wooden houses were constructed of Dade County pine, an extremely hard wood that even termites leave alone!

My own collection of negatives includes some stuff from the 1960's which I should print up for the Society, and I'm always coming up with obscure facts about the old days, things gleaned from interviews with old timers when I was working for the newspaper in the 60's.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Well Practiced Phony Smile?

Most all of the "self-portraits" I do are with available light using that ultra-wide angle 15mm lens. Here I was using flash and a 35mm lens. I'd been out shooting pictures of some function or another and had some unexposed frames still sitting in the Leica. A lot of times when that happens I'll put the 15 on the Leica and finish off the roll, but the flash won't cover the entire frame with a 15mm lens and it was too dark to shoot without flash. I held the Bessa in my right hand with the 15mm lens as a prop and turned the Leica in my left hand towards myself.

I'm getting pretty good with operating either camera one handed with either hand. Depending on which hand I'm using that means either pushing or pulling the wind lever with my middle finger while my index finger or thumb presses the shutter release. I got the framing pretty good here, but I'd hoped to get a bit more of the Bessa in the picture. Still, not bad for shooting blind.

What I really need to do is get some smiling lessons from Scott Galvin. I normally go around looking like a grouch. When I do smile it always looks like I'm trying too hard to smile. I need to practice having that relaxed "I'm a nice guy! Vote for me" type of smile. Hell, even Monkey and Monkette have more sincere looking smiles than I do.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thank You Betsy Ross

This is another of the photographs that I took on Flag Day a couple of weeks ago. It's been over 200 years since Betsy Ross designed and sewed up the first copy of the American flag which featured 13 stripes of alternating red and white and thirteen white stars in a circle on a field of blue. They represented the original thirteen states. We've since added a star as each additional state has been admitted to the union.

Sparing no expense, the City of North Miami got Betsy Ross to address the audience at the ceremonies honoring our flag and our country. A couple of hundred people showed up at the plaza next to City Hall and in front of the Museum Of Contemporary Art. I used my ultra wide angle lens here as I stood in front of the crowd. I love what its perspective does to the patterns of the pavers in the plaza. Scroll down a bit to see some photos showing that there were some other people here, but no monkeys.

Next year I plan on taking Monkey and Monkette with me, each carrying their own little flag. I think that they'd make for a much cuter photograph than the one that Herald photographer Nuri Vallbona shot of my arm sticking up above the crowd holding my camera.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Al Networking? You Can Bank On It!

I got an invite in the mail, followed up with an Email from the North Miami Chamber of Commerce. Great Florida Bank was having a business card exchange/wine and cheese party at 5:30 to show off their new branch. I seldom do the suit and tie thing in the summer anymore but I did put on a long sleeved dress shirt, shaved, and brushed my hair. This was during that week or so period after I'd shaved off my beard, and before the mayor convinced me to start growing it again. This was about as spiffy looking as I'd looked in months.

This was also the Big Event that convinced me that I really needed to get some new business cards printed up. For a couple of years I'd been hand writing my cell number on an assortment of old cards that had no longer existing phone numbers printed on them. I decided that it was time to join the Twenty-First Century. It was time to include my cell number, Email address, and BLOG, all printed right there on the card.

As usual, I met a number of new people and I caught up on the recent happenings with a lot of folks I've known about forever. I got into a couple of in depth discussions out front during cigarette breaks. I had a couple of Cokes and nibbled on nibble food, but it wasn't enough to fill up. Win some, lose some!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Checkin' Out The Chicks At That OTHER Starbucks

I don't remember if I was grabbing a cup of coffee after some boring meeting or another, or more likely trying to kill half an hour before a boring meeting. This Starbucks is in front of the art museum, sorta next to the North Miami City Hall, with a short section of a street blocked off, then paved with bricks when they paved the courtyard next to City Hall.

Outside, of course, is The Smoking Section. Even though a few nights a week they have live music and poetry readings inside, that sort of thing, it seems that the younger generation around here has more than its share of smokers. For some odd twist of fate the women in my age group have mostly given up on smoking, but it seems that a much higher percentage of young women than men have taken up the habit. Maybe it's because it's supposed kill the appetite and slenderness is a much sought goal?

So here I am, that shadowy sillouette of a face on the right, chatting and flirting with the two young ladies at the next table. Oh well, a guy can dream, can't he? Or maybe it was the girls who were flirting? Damn, I really blew that one, didn't I?

Friday, July 13, 2007

What The Hell Is A "Modem"?

It was the late 1960's and I was attending the annual Wilson Hicks Photojournalism Conference at the University of Miami. Actually I think that it was before Hicks stepped down as head of the photography department at Life Magazine and was taken on by the U of M to head up the photojournalism department there, back before the conference carried his name. It was still very much a man's field, with few female photographers and fewer female editors, but they were making inroads in the art director field. At least nobody called them "Art Directresses".

That's where I met Jackie Foy. We started chatting over coffee between seminars. We were both in the minority there, that rare breed of attendees who actually lived in Miami. She told me that she worked as an art director for the in-house art department at Milgo Electronics. "We make modems."

She immediately launched into what sounded like a well scripted explanation of what modems were. "They're an electronic device that allows one computer to talk to another computer over the telephone." Today it's hard to believe that forty years ago few people had any idea of what computers did or how they worked. Why would one computer even WANT to talk with another?

Jackie said that she needed some photographs for brochures. Pictures of the plant, people building the modems, the executives, the whole nine yards. Within a few days time I was at Milgo's plant west of Miami International Airport, still out in the boonies back then. The drained land was cow pasture, the undrained was swamp, and in the middle of that was a new modern building surrounded by paved parking area. I got the grand tour, saw a computer with huge whirring reels of three inch tape, jillions of IBM punch cards, met the head honchos and went out for lunch and drinks with a few of them. American business ran on drinks and tobacco.

Fast forward thirty-five years or so. Milgo had been bought out by a British firm, Racal, decades ago, about the time I'd lost track of Jackie. A friend of mine GAVE me a computer because his company gives him a new one every year, and he's free to do whatever with the old one. After another four years it decided that it no longer wanted to talk to other computers over the phone. It just stobbornly refused to call them for me. A quick check in the N.M. Chamber of Commerce Directory gave me Solution Computer a couple miles up the road. Two days later I was good to go, tapping the keys as my trusty computer talked with the others once more.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Flag Day In An Ever Changing World

photo (c) 2007 Nuri Vallbona, Miami Herald Staff

A lot of things have changed in the nearly forty years since I used to cover these events for the City of North Miami and the Herald would run the pictures, or for a few years, I worked for the paper directly. I only knew two female pro photographers back then. One did advertising photos in her home studio and the other worked as a stringer for the Miami News because nobody would consider having a girl photographer on staff back then. It was an era of film cameras, and most everything was shot in black and white using Nikons and Leicas. Nobody even imagined digital.

I introduced myself to Nuri Vallbona. She recognized my Leicas, but she'd cut her teeth on digital. Those huge zoom lenses she had on a brace of Canon DSLR bodies probably weighed more than my usual kit of three Leicas and a few lenses. I wondered how she could even maintain her balance with all that weight sticking out in front of her like that. We chatted a bit about the way it was and the way it is.

I was just shooting for fun so I'd brought my light little Bessa L with the ultra-wide 15mm Voigtlander Heliar lens. I wanted to get some photos showing Nuri in action, and I noticed a few times that she was aimed over in my direction.

The next morning, before I'd even left the house, I started getting calls: "Nice shot of you in the Herald this morning!" I got the same greeting at the 7/11 as I bought a paper, and more of the same at the Post Office and at Starbucks. Everybody around here seems familiar with my one handed shooting style. Nobody needed to see my face. The just KNEW that it was me.

The bottom photograph shows Nuri in about the same place where she was when she shot the picture. Her photo and mine were exposed within a couple of minutes, perhaps even seconds, of one another. Nuri, I love the shot! Thanks.

The scan was made off of the newspaper page. That's why it's not exactly crisp looking compared to my shots, which were scanned directly from the color negatives.

(Note: I'm using her copyright photo under the "fair use" provision of the copyright act because in concert with my photo it's educational and I'm receiving no financial benefit from using it.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A new Friend At Starbucks

Everybody seems to know Monkey and his girlfriend Monkette at Starbucks. All over North Miami, for that matter. Ever since she engineered that succesful campaign to re-elect Mayor Kevin Burns in May she even gets invited to all the local political parties and homeowners association meetings. Everyone at the Chamber of Commerce knows her too. Meanwhile Monkey is travelling all around the country acting as good will ambassador for the city.

My ex, Claudia, decided that I looked lonely, what with only one toy monkey in town to play with, and she also thought that I needed a bit of diversity in my life. A couple of months ago she gave me this very lifelike weasel! I named him Brad. Those of you who know the inside joke KNOW, but the rest of you will just have to wonder "Why Brad?" for the time being.

I invited Brad over to my usual hang-out, the nearby Starbucks, for a cup of java, and almost nobody came over to say "good morning". When I'm with a monkey everybody wants to sit with us. Strange chicks come over wanting to talk about a monkey. Gloria's little poodle adores my monkeys. That poodle don' want nuttin' to do with any weasel, no WAY!

As you can see from this photo, Brad was feeling a bit rejected. I told him that folks would get used to him, he'd make friends, life would be good again. Even the poodle would learn that he's really an OK sort of guy. He agreed to give it another shot. Tomorrow morning me 'n Brad are going over to check out Starbucks together, and maybe even get a few photos with some cute co-eds. That should cheer him up!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The First Cup Always Tastes The Best

I suppose that the second cup might be as good if I went to the trouble of brewing another fresh pot, but who does? I really don't like HOT hot coffee so I keep refreshing what's in the cup, but by the time the the last of what was in the little four cup coffee maker gets poured into the cup it's been sitting and keeping warm for well over an hour. Hardly fresh.

Whenever the weather is nice I like sitting on the front porch, watching the kids walk by, the cars, waving at the neighbors, trying to decide what the weather is going to do that day. On this morning we had a hazy sun. I'm facing south. There was no harsh sun light or sharp edged shadows.

There are two blue chairs and a matching foot stool which I keep between the chairs, using it as a table. There was a matching table also, back in 1968 when my mom purchased the set for the balcony of her brand new condo. She died in 1993 and I got the furniture. She gave it very little use, and not only the aluminum chair frames but the vinyl webbing are all still in great condition. The bolts holding the table together rusted out and the fiberglass top was all faded, not worth saving, so out it went.

I have a lot of furniture in the house that had been hers but somehow it's only out here drinking my morning coffee with the first cigarette of the day that I really feel the connection. I miss her.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Enigma

Lately it seems that all I've been doing is writing about toy monkeys! Monkey is still exhausted from his trip and he is resting in his little chair. Monkette went out in the heat this afternoon to join a bunch of residents waving protest signs on a proposed route to run high tension lines through our residential neighborhood. We'd hoped for a good turnout, and it really wasn't bad, maybe 75 or so people and one toy monkey. Monkette even had her own sign to wave made out of a 3x5 index card glued to a stick.

We'd hoped to get some young people involved, but other than one cute 17 year old with fuschia dyed bleach blonde hair who was there with her mom most everybody was an experienced take-it-to-the-streets protester. We'd all protested segregation and the Viet Nam war back in the 60's. The kids today just don't seem to care. Hell, WE cared, WE protested, and we managed to do it stoned out of our minds.

An entire generation went through high school,college, grad school, perhaps DID go to 'Nam, and did it all with a bit of help from the Evil Weed. Now they run the major corporations, the government, the judicial system, our hospitals, the educational establishment. That's the real enigma.

There were several TV crews there, and one of the cameramen zeroed in for a tight shot of Monkette with her sign, shooting about a 15 second scene. I'm not planning on channel surfing to find it. I guess we'll hear about it tomorrow. In the meantime I shot a few pictures myself and they'll get posted here at some point.

As for this shot, hell, I don't remember. That's why the title is The Enigma. I guess I could write a fanciful story about how I aproached the burglar and decided to get off a shot with my Bessa just before I got off a shot with my 9mm Walther P-38. I suppose I could say that this wasn't even my house, but I always like to get a remembrance shot for my album whenever Jose and I break into another Leica collector's house.

Actually I think that this was a few months ago when some guy from the city came by to check out my house, get all the measurements and what not, preparatory to replacing some rotted wood trim and repainting the exterior. I was just watching him and thought that it would make a cool shot!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Takin' It To The Streets! Power To The People!

I received an Email today from my buddy Councilman Scott Galvin with a link to his website http://www.scott-galvin.com/ which contains this tidbit ~ Ah, hell, I'll save you the trouble of wading through his website. This is what he really wants you to see:

"Monday, July 9 - Protest of FPL Transmission Lines. Help your neighbors tell FPL we do NOT want 80-foot-tall transmission lines through our residential neighborhoods. Meet at NE 135 Street and NE 10 Avenue, at the southside round-a-bout. 5:30 - 6:30 pm."

That's right, a good old fashioned protest! Just like the 60's! Takin' it to the streets! I'll be there. The proposed route is right up N.E. 14th Avenue through a residential neighborhood. Those high tension lines will be within scant FEET of my bedroom! Remember all those articles by various scientists a few years ago about DNA damage and increased cancer risk from being in close proximity to high tension lines? Does FP&L care? It sure doesn't seem that way, now does it?

My baby makin' days are probably over with (unless some cute young thing really begs me) but cancer doesn't sound all that appealing, and there are lots of young couples moving into the neighborhood that are still at that stage of their lives where makin' babies is a major goal. Healthy babies with the right number of fingers and toes.

The villages of Biscayne Park and Miami Shores would both offer a several miles shorter route for FP&L's power lines, but their citizens already made a big bunch of noise about routing through their communities. The real solution is to bury the lines underground. Then I wouldn't have to worry about an immense concrete pole landing on my house in a hurricane, bringing with it a jillion volts of high amperage electrons. Nobody else would have that worry either. Nor would we be plagued with so many power outages.

Whether or not you live in the affected neighborhoods please join our protest. Let Florida Power & Light know that South Floridians don't want those oversized poles in ANY neighborhood. That's FIVE-THIRTY PM on Monday where N.E. 135th Street crosses West Dixie Highway (and N.E. 10th Avenue USED to go through before the State Road Department started blocking off half the streets in North Miami. But that's a protest for another time.) JUST BE THERE!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dick Cook, An Old Soldier still Hangin' In There

A few days ago we celebrated the Fourth of July, Independence Day, commemorating the original thirteen colonies defeating the British. A couple of weeks earlier, on June fourteenth, we celebrated Flag Day to honor the flag, the Red, White and Blue, created by Betsy Ross. On May thirtieth we celebrated Memorial Day, to honor all the brave folks who sacrificed their lives to first win our freedom and then to preserve our freedom.

1976 was the Bicentennial Year and the country celebrated its two hundredth birthday. North Miami constructed a Bicentennial Fountain in Griffing Park and the park was renamed Bicentennial Park although most people still use the name Griffing Park. The area near the fountain, though, is still a favored spot on these holidays for people to gather, bands to play, and politicions to give spiritually uplifting speeches.

This was Memorial Day and the tent was about 200 feet away from the fountain. The speeches hadn't started yet. People were still discussing important things, like was it better to be under the tent and out of the sun, or out of the tent where there was some hope of catching a bit of breeze.

Dick Cook, with his trademark bushy white moustache, wouldn't miss one of these occasions for the world. He puts on his vest and his cap festooned with medals. That's him, seated just to the right of me. He doesn't walk as well as he once did but he's proud to be there! It was good to see you again, Dick.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Coffee Time ~ Glorious View

OK, I do like the composition of this photo, and the expressions on Petr and Gloria's faces are priceless. I remember when it happened, but I can't recall the reason why she was showing us her new panties. The color? The print? Just to prove that she was wearing panties?

She hails from Northern Italy near the Swiss border, and her accent is more Swiss than Italian. Petr is from the Czeck Republic and he has a bit of an accent himself, but they're both fluent in English. Even her little grey poodle understands English, which is more than I can say for a lot of the people here in the Miami area.

I've said it before, though. Miami is different. Where else would you spot a smiling woman in a public place looking so at ease sitting like that, and knowing that I was photographing her? Or that Petr was leering at her?

Tech data: Same as my self portraits. Bessa L camera with a 15mm Heliar lens using Kodak Gold 200 film. Exposure 1/250 second at f/11.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Monkey Made It Safely Home

photo (c)2007 Bill Carpenter

One of the high points of Monkey's trip was his visit to the Orlando Camera Club VIP Luncheon which he attended as Bill's guest. Mickey Mouse was in California at the time, otherwise the photo ops would have made even Brad envious!

I knew that Bill had sent Monkey packing on Tuesday, but what with yesterday being a holiday I wasn't expecting his arrival today. Monkette waited in the truck as I went in the post office to get my mail. Surprise! There was a Priority Mail box waiting for me. Monkey was home! As soon as we got in the truck and got the box opened Monkette threw her arms around him and wouldn't let go all the way to Starbucks. In fact she wanted me to leave the two of them together in the truck while I had my morning coffee and donut.

Brooke was working the counter this morning. She'd just started working at Starbucks since Monkey took off on this last trip to San Francisco, and Monkette likes sitting out front but she hates going into the place. Brooke was CLUELESS when I excitedly anounced that Monkey was back. She must have thought I was a complete kook when I explained about my toy monkeys. While I was explaining all this to Brooke, Monkey was busy making a mess of the Styrofoam peanuts and putting an ear to ear grin on Monkette's face. Monkey looked pretty happy himself, but sounded a bit winded.I picked up the peanuts as best I could, sat Monkey and Monkette in a "proper" pose with one another, and went back into Starbucks to show Brooke my monkeys.

On the drive back to the house I started thinking about how intelligent Brooke is, how I love her long blonde hair and pretty smile, her winning personality, and how I'm old enough to be her grandfather. Monkette must have been reading my mind! As she snuggled closer to Monkey she looked up at me and pointed out that there's about twenty MORE years difference between the two of them than there is between Brooke and myself. "Go for it!" she said as Monkey grinned and gave me the thumbs up. When we got home I gave Monkette the gold necklace I'd found last week. She was thrilled and wanted to admire herself in the rear view mirror! I winked at Monkey and whispered "...and you didn't believe me when I said that under the right circumstances women LIKE being in chains!"

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Home Of The Free, Land Of The Brave

Monkette is all excited about going to see the fireworks tonight at F.I.U.'s North Miami campus. Meanwhile poor Monkey is sitting in a stuffy Priority Mail box on his way back home again after a few weeks of exciting adventures from Central Florida to San Francisco.

Ever since she kind of fell into the position of succesfully running Mayor Burns' re-election campaign a couple of months back there's been no stopping that girl! Now she's as patriotic as they come, just brimming with civic pride! At every opportunity she's out there waving that flag, on Memorial Day, Flag Day, and now Independence Day. She even got me to put up a couple of small flags in the hallway, and a couple of even smaller ones on each side of the rear view mirror in the truck.

A couple of nights ago I took her to a meeting of the North Miami Historical Society where she discovered that the place where the old N.M. Middle School was located had at one time been a private zoo. The zoo had sort of grown out of the monkey farm that preceded it. Now she's muttering that she plans to lobby the mayor and council to erect a statue of a monkey on the site, or at the very least, dedicate a bronze plaque in memory of all those selfless monkeys that sacrificed their lives for medical research.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Playing In The Sculpture Garden

Photo (c) 2007 Bill Carpenter

Monkey seems to be having a great time at Bill's place. He'll get the proverbial Rude Awakening when he gets home in a few days and checks out the unkempt mess of a yard out back. What with all the rain we've been having the grass has been growing like crazy. James, the teenager down the street, called this morning to see if I wanted it cut. A resounding YES on my part. He managed to get all the swale between the sidewalk and the street on two sides (corner lot) and the front yard when his mower died. Then I dragged mine out of the utility shed only to discover that it appears that the gas line between the tank and the carburator has a bad leak. He's taking his over to N. Miami Lawnmower on W. Dixie Hwy. at 130st St. on Thursday. I'm bringing mine up to Bob's Lawnmowers at 15270 W. Dixie Hwy.

Whichever gets fixed first, James will use it to finish up the job. In the meantime I keep looking at Bob's everytime I drive by the place. I've been meaning to shoot some photos of both the exterior and the interior. When I first met the artist Tony Mafia, is wife Anne, and their son Soeren they were living there, and it was also Tony's studio. Come Thursday I'll drop off the mower and take some photos of the building almost 40 years after they lived there. http://photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00BXjB

Monday, July 02, 2007

Looking Around

Photo (c)2007 Bill Carpenter

Monkey made it back to Florida OK from his second California adventure. He's spending a few days visiting Bill Carpenter mid state. We thought that it might be good for him to find out that even in some parts of Florida there are still a few English speaking people left in the United States. Sorta readjust gradually. Still, though, I really suspect that on a gut level he wonders why humans can't just learn to communicate with a series of shrieks, howls, and a bit of high pitched chattering. As Monkey puts it, "if it ain't broke don't fix it!" He may be right. It worked for a million years or more!

Now that he has his very own digicam he's been bugging Bill to take him to some of the scuzzier parts of town. He wants to give "street photography" a try. Bill has been trying to explain that you can get great street pix in more upscale neighborhoods too, hell you can even do street photography in color. Everything doesn't have to be grainy contrasty B&W with burnt out hi-lites and inky black shadows. I think about the only thing that's going to get Monkey's head turned around is when he finally realizes that school is out for summer, there's a mess of really cute chicks at the mall, and hip hugger mini skirts are back in style. Monkey is a real sucker for a pair of nice looking legs. And they do look better in color.

While Monkette still has the freedom of playing single girl she's been galavanting all over the place. Tonight she got me to take her to a meeting of the North Miami Historical Society, where we discovered that back before World War II there was a place here that raised monkeys! Hundreds of them! Earlier I'd taken her to the Starbucks by city hall. A man walking by said "You're the guy who does the blog!" and we chatted for a few minutes. He said that he discovered The Price Of Silver in a web search, looking for information on our mayor, and now he reads it every day! At the post office we ran into the bass player of a band I photographed a week ago, and we also bumped into the city's translator in a parking lot. She's having a great time while you're gone! Monkey, you better make sure that you act sweet and loving, and tell her just how glad you are to see her when you get home next week! (And shhhhh, don't mention a thing about sleeping naked with those San Francisco girls.)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Monkey Cons His Way Past Banana Sniffing Security Dog

Photos (c) 2007 Bill Carpenter

After a few weeks in the San Francisco area, his second trip there, Monkey made his way to central Florida, his last stop on his way home. Bill Carpenter shot these photos as he gingerly unpacked Monkey from the bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts while his dachshound Holly performed the requisite sniff test. (lower photo) Bill had sent her to special classes so that in addition to detecting explosives and drugs Holly can now discover the most carefully hidden banana. You can't be too careful these days!

While he was visiting Bill he got to attend a photography class at the Crealde School of Art, and he checked out a meeting of the Orlando Camera Club. I'm sure that in a few days he'll be telling us all about his exciting adventures over the past few weeks. He's bringing a disc with lots of photographs that Bill shot during his visit.