Friday, August 31, 2007

A Real Grass Roots Effort To Defeat FP&L

A few months ago when Florida Power & Light announced their plans to run high tension lines through North Miami's residential neighborhoods Monkette got a bit upset. When they said that the lines would be strung up on humongous concrete poles as high as 120 feet tall
she got very upset. Then they announced the proposed route and Monkette realized that when she sat in her little chair looking out her bedroom window she'd be staring right at one of those poles. I never realized that a cute little toy monkey knew such language! And in Espanol and Kreyole too! That girl can sure cuss!
Councilman Scott Galvin organized what was probably the first placard waving street demonstration since we pulled out of Viet Nam, and Monkette was right there with her own protest sign, although I think that she misinterpeted the exact meaning of "mobilizing the grass roots" in the begining. But she was soon up out of the grass and waving her sign at passing motorists.
Since then FP&L hasn't budged one bit from their original plans. Scott has continued his efforts to mobilize the citizens, but FP&L is probably most concerned with what Monkette might do,such as mobilizing the duppies that live here in town. That's likely the reason behind their enlisting the services of the evil fairy Aletha to try and cast a spell on the citizens of North Miami. Monkette says not to worry. Between Monkette, the magical powers of the duppies, and a bit of help from Scott, FP&L will soon be looking elsewhere for a route, running tail between their legs down the rail road tracks towards Miami Shores.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Damn! Aletha Is A Fairy With Magical Powers?

While a whole bunch of us have been protesting FP&L's plans to run high tension wires on 120 foot tall concrete poles down 135th street old Monkey decided that Monkette could carry his little sign for him. Monkey was going to do some heavy duty on-line research, trying to find out some information about our opponents.

When he Googled "Aletha" he came up with this link which includes " The three characters are Raiko a ninja warrior, Aletha who is a half-fairy, and Katzhai a bird-man. Each of the characters have specific fighting techniques and will develop new techniques with practice."

It hardly seems fair for a big powerful corporation like FP&L, complete with lawyers and lobbyists, to bring in the supernatural as well. Well, OK we have a couple of toy monkeys working on our side, true enough, but they're hardly in the same league with fairies like Aletha Player. I always figured that fairies could simply wave their magic wands and "POOF!" the wires would be underground!

They really ought to consider the safety and well being of Katzhai the bird-man. Can you just imagine the mess he'd make all over 135th Street if he flew into those wires at night? At least if they used the Florida East Coast R.R. right of way we'd just have Blood On The Tracks, and that's been around since 1975.

(Thank you, Bob Dylan)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Mystery Of Aletha Player, FP&L Area Manager

Councilman Scott Galvin got a letter from Aletha Player, area manager for Florida Power & Light (FP&L), as a follow-up to the meeting on Monday. She reiterated that it's a Done Deal, FP&L is going to put their poles wherever they please, residents be damned.

It's kind of difficult to photograph electric poles that will range from 80 to well over 100 feet tall when they've yet to be installed. This photograph was shot at the demonstration we had a month or so ago. To the left of the Hess station is West Dixie Highway, and N.E. 135th Street is to the right. The only poles in the photo are the aluminum street lights. and they don't have to stand up to the wind load on a couple hundred feet of cables strung between them. Their power supply is underground. How tall are they? Good question. Based on my own estimate, aided by my camera's rangefinder, under 50 feet.

Aletha Player, imagine a massive concrete pole, at least TWICE that height, a few feet outside of your bedroom window on the much narrower 14th Avenue right of way. Listening to you and the other FP&L execs and experts was really inspiring. It never ocurred to me before that I'd be blessed by a fantastic view of modernistc concrete and copper sculpture of artistic merit rivaling some of Joan Lehman's much sought after metal sculptures, but on a much more imposing scale. Lucky me! (Perhaps you'd donate one for MOCA Plaza?)

Wait a minute, you didn't say that, did you. No, what you really said was that it was a done deal, the public hearings were only a smoke screen to cover up that fact. Well, you didn't exactly say that either, now, did you? The thing that bothers me the most about that public hearing is that nobody with whom I've spoken knows exactly what the hell you guys did say, beyond Done Deal. I will give you credit for one thing though, Aletha Player. You're really, REALLY good at tap dancing, better even than your skills at obfuscation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Enjoying The Night Air

Sometimes I like to just sit alone at night. I've had my fill of people and idle chit-chat. I shot this a few days ago just before Starbucks closed for the night, but I made sure that my cup was still near full when I left for home. I love coffee and no, it doesn't keep me awake. I'm immune to the stuff, but it sure tastes good!

This evening I'd continued with my "New Image" ploy, put on a different suit and tie than I wore last night, and went to the city council meeting. I stayed just a bit longer than it took for the council to rubber stamp the decisions we'd made at the Board of Adjustment meeting a week earlier. Most board members don't go to the council meetings, but somehow I feel that if the council sees me sitting there staring back at them they're more likely to go along with our decisions. Probably not, but it sure makes me feel good, and they did go along with them. Then I went and had my coffee.

When I got home I discovered a new comment posted on my blog.

"Andrés Borbón has left a new comment on your post "Girls In Black Dresses...": Nice shot... really nice. That 15mm lens is a miracle. I've been reading your blog since... Oh mi God!... six hours! It is a great volume of personal thoughts, a terrific amount of Photographical expertise... It is really enjoyable... Congrats, from Mexico Posted by Andrés Borbón to The Price of Silver at 5:05 AM "

That made me feel really good! Thanks, Andres! I tried to check out your blog but I don't read Spanish.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Surveying The Road Home From Hell

Hell would be having new giant concrete poles from 80 to 110 feet tall running through North Miami's residential neighborhoods carrying high voltage lines connecting a substation here with one in Miami Shores a few miles to the south. Florida Power And Light (FP&L) decided to route it first north, then west, before heading south again. Hardly the shortest or most direct route. A lot of residents are extremely upset about it. I'm one of them. One of those poles will be right next to my house.

Councilman Scott Galvin has been the major force in trying to get FP&L to reconsider its plans. The logical shortest route would be a diagonal, and fortunately the Florida East Coast RR tracks are within a few yards of the North Miami substation as they head southwest towards the Miami Shores substation. The RR right-of-way doesn't go near schools or places where kids play, and for the most part the surrounding land is commercial/industrial, not residential.

This morning there was a public hearing at city hall arranged, it seems, for the convenience of the FP&L executives and a representative from the Florida Public Service Comission (PSC). Why else schedule it for 10 AM on a Monday? The average resident with a real job would have to take time off from work in order to attend. The FP&L executives got paid for "working". They gave us a little presentation consisting of essentially the same rhetoric in different words by their executives and legal counsel. Then Scott started asking questions. The FP&L folks started tap dancing. They danced all around the issues but never came up with a straight answer.

It seems like FP&L and the PSC had already cut a deal, their minds were made up, and...etc., etc., but there just might be a solution!

Scott, get together with the city attorney to draw up a new ammendmant to our zoning ordinances requiring all concrete poles in the city to be painted a bright flamingo pink, require that the paint be maintained in good condition, and that any graffiti be removed or painted over within 24 hours. We could probably hire a couple of new code enforcement officers with the fines from FP&L alone. (If they'd prefer a dusty rose color to match my shirt they can apply for a variance.)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Left Hand Doesn't Know What The Right Hand Did

Sunday morning brunch at Starbucks. Sometimes I actually take a few pictures that don't include me! It might be because I want to give them a copy, or they request that I shoot a photo of them. Sometimes it's just to prove to myself that I can still do it the old fashioned way, looking through the viewfinder, but this isn't one of them. A few posts below this one is the same group of people plainly showing me in the picture. The ones that include me are so much more fun to do. I get a big kick out of the"acting" part, and worrying about how my hair looks. In this case I just plain screwed up, though. I misjudged the framing, and there's just a hint of my profile on the far right.

A few days ago I shaved off the beard mostly to give some variety to the photos. Frankly, shaving every day is a real pain. I guess that's why I keep growing the beard back. The next big decison will be whether or not to get a haircut. I'd love to try a ponytail, but what a bushy mess it'll be for months before it finally gets long enough to pull back!

A New England Upbringing Clashes With CPT

Growing up in New England I was constantly bombarded with Olde Sayings. "Waste not, want not." "A penny saved is a penny earned." "Patience is a virtue." I heard them from my parents and grandparents, my teachers at school, the old guy at the news stand up the street from my dad's clothing store, everywhere. Promptness was expected. If you were supposed to be someplace at six you allowed time for the possibility of getting a flat tire on the way while still arriving ten minutes early. People would then chat about who'd had a baby or whose son got a perfect report card, yesterday's Red Sox game on the radio, or that the first run of bluefish had showed up in the harbor.

Then I moved to The South. Well, I suppose Miami was never really the south, being largely populated by recent arrivals from the midwest, New York, and New England, but for the most part they soon adopted the more laid back Southern attitude. Black folks joked about CPT, colored peoples' time. After Castro took over Cuba the Hispanics tried to claim the term CPT with Cuban people's time. Within a few years the concept of getting anyplace "on time" became meaningless.

Here in North Miami public hearings and official meetings are lucky if they start only ten minutes late, when we've achieved a quorum of the board or the council, and often a member or two will wander in quite a few minutes later. Even the city attorney or city clerk won't always be on time and everybody just sits around staring at the clock until we can get things underway.

Here I am, Mr. New England Promptness, a couple of minutes before when the meeting is supposed to start, and it seems that even the audience is on CPT. Fortunately it was a short agenda and we all got out early anyway.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Copyright Notice

Please note that all photographs on this site are copyright (c) by Al Kaplan unless credited to another photographer. The stories and captions on the photographs are also copyright (c) Al Kaplan. Reproduction or copying of any content of The Price of Silver without written permission is a violation of copyright. For additional information on using the contents of The Price of Silver please contact Al Kaplan at: Thanks.

Friday, August 24, 2007

No News Is Good News?

I fix my coffee, grab a couple sections of the morning's Herald that I haven't read as yet, and head out to the "smoking section". Some mornings I get to read the paper. Some mornings somebody will join me and we'll get into some good conversation. More and more, though, it seems that a cell phone will ring and I end up staring at another person chatting away with someone else.

It really puts me in quite a quandry. On the one hand I don't want to appear like I'm eavesdroping on the conversation. Contrarywise, would it be impolite to just pick up the paper, ignore the other person and start catching up on the news? I guess the ideal thing would be for the guy on the phone to cup his hand over the mouth piece while telling me something like "Go ahead and read your paper while I'm on the phone."
Unfortunately it never happens.

In this case he got off the phone, ran inside and got his coffee, then told me that something had come up unexpectedly and he was sorry but he had to get going. I lit a cigarette and read my paper.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Sunday Morning Shmooze

Sunday morning seems to bring out a different crowd. There are still the usual folks showing up for a morning coffee while reading the day's Herald, or the New York Times, as is the case with Doug, but the college kids are missing. Too much partying the night before?

The different crowd is made up of families, multi-generational gatherings of people taking advantage of the juice bar next to Starbucks and the bagel shop a couple doors to the north of that. The children tend to be small and well behaved while the adults catch up on what's going on with one another. "Small talk." Shmooze is the Yiddish word for it, although no two people (or dictionaries, for that matter) will seem to agree on an exact definition.

The youngsters get to spend some time with their grandparents and nobody has to cook or clean up afterwards. The one thing missing is donuts. There's a Dunkin' Donut shop a bit over a mile to the north and another one just under a mile to the south, but I live due west, so they're both out of the way. It's just as well, I suppose. I'd fill up on the damned things and have no room left over for the healthy stuff like Whoppers, pizza, and fried chicken. The way I eat it's a wonder that Dr. Katz hasn't pre-signed my death certificate.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Girls In Black Dresses...

...project such an image of sophisticated sexuality that there's no mistaking it for anything else.

Here's another example of the new direction I'm attempting with my self-portrait series, vertical compositions with the 15mm ultra-wide angle lens shooting about straight down on the top of my head. There's no give-away facial expression to look at, yet here I think it's pretty obvious exactly what thoughts are churning up the neurons under my shaggy mess of curly hair.

All day long I had a line from a song bouncing around in my head. I guess it had been on the radio this morning. "Knights In White Satin" kept repeating and repeating over and over again. When I saw the photo that Todd had posted suddenly day turned to night, and the words became "Girls In Black Dresses" to the same tune.

A few days ago I was drinking coffee and chatting with a young lady wearing a faded blue denim mini skirt. Awhile later one of her friends joined us and she too was wearing one. I've often noticed that pairs, even groups, of girls will all be dressed much alike. I asked the two them if they'd coordinated their outfits via a "and what are you wearing?" phone call, but they both denied it. They said it happens all the time, though. They had no idea how or why, just that it happens. Another mystery about women for us to ponder.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I'd Rather Be Fishing, Really!

I'm pretty sure that this photograph was taken after a recent budget hearing at city hall. It was over quickly, before full darkness enveloped the city, and I was chatting in the rear parking lot with city councilman Michael Blynn, civic activist and member of several city boards Mike McDearmaid, and the guy on the right, I just can't think of his name off hand. I've been putting way too much time into city business again, too many advisory board and council meetings, plus the recent election campaigns kept me hopping for a bunch of weeks this spring.

Tonight I decided to do something I haven't done in awhile, go to a fishing club meeting. Capt. Bouncer Smith was the speaker and I hadn't seen him in ages. He used to keep his boat, Bouncer's Dusky, at the Keystone Point Marina a few blocks away, lived close by, and was one of the founding members of the South Florida Fishing Club. I'd run into him twice a month at the least. Now he lives and docks his boat about a dozen miles south of here and hangs out at the Miami Beach Rod & Reel Club. I rarely get to see him anymore.

Bouncer and I don't do much of the same types of fishing. He likes fishing offshore in the ocean and I'm more of a bay type guy. He's a live baiter while I prefer casting lures on light tackle. But when it comes to consistantly guiding his charters to tournament winning catches and landing world record fish Bouncer is the man to beat! I always manage to learn something new from listening to him speak. He knows the waters, he knows the fish, and his anglers are rarely dissapointed. Tonight he talked about fishing for swordfish, everything from what baits to what hooks, and how deep to fish at various times of day or night. He also told about guiding a young girl angler to several world record fish.

On the way out I chatted with Dr. Barry Schugar. I hadn't seen him in ages either. We exchanged cards and plan on doing some fishing together really soon. It'll be a welcome change from endless discussions about zoning changes and the need to encourage moderate income housing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Shake It, Baby!

One or another of the Starbucks baristas is always checking the patio, cleaning the tables, straightening the chairs and tables and checking to make sure that the trash containers are never overly full. This young lady had tied off the trash bag and put the new double bags into the container with time to spare for a minute's worth of flirting.

They all know me and call me Al. In return I have this habit of complimenting them on their latest hair style and engaging them in some flirtatious banter, asking how they're doing in school, that sort of thing. It seems that guys in their age group never seem to notice a new hairdo or pair of earings, and certainly not a new lip color. One of the girls even suggested that I should hold classes to teach the young guys how to flirt.

This picture was one of my first efforts in trying out a new variant on my self-portrait series. So far they've been horizontal and shot from more or less the same height off the ground as my head, with the background usually off to one side or the other. I decided that it might be interesting to shoot vertical compositions with my head towards the bottom of the frame by holding the camera up over my head and angling it down just enough to get the top of my head in the frame. I'm not sure whether or not I'll try to get a bit of face showing.

Since my facial expression isn't lending meaning to the photograph, now it's all up to the subject. She had no idea what I was trying to accomplish when I shot it. I'm sure that somebody will mention it to her when she gets to work tomorrow, if she hasn't already seen it on the blog. Thanks for helping me make a succesful photograph.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Good Coffee, Good Company, Good Conversation

There's not really much of a story here. The sky darkened, I grabbed my umbrella and made a mad dash from parking lot to Starbucks right before the heavens opened up. The two ladies are regulars and invited me to join them at their table. They were in no great hurry to leave for fear of getting their hair wet. We caught up on who's done what lately and bitched about the unpredictable summertime weather in Miami. We discussed what was going on with the local political scene.

A short time later the sun started peeking out, briefly at first, but within half an hour the sky was a clear blue, puddles covered the ground, the blissful relief of the breeze was gone, and the ninety-something degree temperature was augmented by ninety-something percent relative humidity. I said my goodbies and made a mad dash to the air conditioned interior of my truck.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Going On Thirty-Nine Years Now

That's a lot of years for two guys to still be good friends and still get together for breakfast, lunch, or late night snack every few weeks. Jim is an editor with the Miami Herald now, at their Broward Bureau almost at the Palm Beach County line, so we don't get together as often as we did when we were both working for the same magazine or newspaper. Five or six years ago we even shared a house for a year when we both split up with our ladies at the same time. When he got transfered up to Broward it made no sense to do a nearly 40 mile commute, though.

Now we try to meet someplace on a regular basis near the halfway point, and there's a Cracker Barrel that's in the right place. As usual, as I was exiting I-95 to go the last mile or so, my cell rang. The familiar "I'm running about a half hour late. Where are you now?"

I must be the only person in the entire South Florida area who actually gets places on time. It's annoying, but I've grown acustomed to it. While I was killing some time on the front porch I decided to add to my collection of environmental self-portraits. I had no idea that the woman would be caught in mid-stride framed in the doorway like that. It was a pleasant surprise when I looked at the photos. I have no idea who she is.

Friday, August 17, 2007

...and Mommy keeps reading me the SAME section of the SAME book, Day after Day after DAY!

With an air of bored indifference young Master McDonnell entered the rear conference room at North Miami's E. May Avil Public Library, pushed two chairs together seat to seat, climbed in and promptly fell asleep! The night was all about his mother anyway.

Evelyn McDonnell was there to talk about her new book "MAMA RAMA, A Memoir of Sex, Kids, and Rock 'n' Roll". I'd heard about the event a few days earlier and decided that it might be an interesting way to kill the evening. I checked my calender. No fishing club, no city board meetings, no council meeting. What the hell? Before that, I never even knew that the Miami Herald had a pop-culture critic!

Well, this wasn't her first book, and her writings have appeared in Ms., Rolling Stone, Interview, Spin, Billboard, the New York Times, Elle, and Travel & Leisure. She also did a stint as senior editor at the Village Voice. Marriage made her a step-mother to two daughters and resulted in a move to Miami Beach and the birth of a son.

She gave an interesting talk touching on the problems that confront women in the publishing world (and elsewhere). She read several selections from the book, answered a few questions from those of us who'd attended, and sold some autographed copies. I bought one. Her husband was there also, and he managed to stay awake.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Where's Monkey When You Really Need Him?

I'd parked my truck and was walking across the parking lot, heading to Walgreens. Something odd caight my eye and I stooped down to get a better look. This SUV had an odd decoration in the trailer hitch receiver. Three miniature Mercury outboard motors complete with stainless steel propellers sat side by side, just as real ones would on the back of an offshore powerboat.

As I was planning out the shot a heavy set woman in a grey security guards uniform showed up and barked "Just what the hell do you think that you're doing?" When I told her she said that was illegal and I had to stop. I knew that that strip mall doesn't employ uniformed security guards and unless she could prove that she had a right to represent them she had no right to tell me what I could or couldn't do. I told her that I'd taken plenty of photos in that parking lot before.

She started to get really nasty and threatened to call the police. I offered to call the North Miami Police Department's direct line on my cell phone. I explained that they could care less because I was breaking no law, and then I requested her name and identification so I could sue her and the guard company for bugging me. She stormed off, muttering that she'd be back with the cops to arrest me. I finished taking my pictures, the cops never showed up, and l never saw the woman again. Later, when I ran into some cops that I know I related the story and they got a good laugh out of it. "They really need to train those guards better!" was their comment.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Around The World In Forty Years

Stephanie and I moved to Miami in 1967 and I got a job at a photo studio at the Algiers Hotel on Collins Avenue at about 27th St. That's sort of the north end of what today is called South Beach but back then it was a borderline run down area. The glitzy shops on Lincoln Road were mostly gone and and the new fancy hotels like the Eden Roc and the Doral were several miles to the north. Still, there was money to be made by an enterprising photographer. Sandy Silverman hired me after making sure that I could actually use a twin lens reflex camera like my Minolta Autocord and I also knew how to load his Rolleiflexes. He was even more thrilled to discover that I could load a sheet film holder and felt at home using his 4x5 view camera with its 203mm f/7.7 Kodak Ektar lens in a Flash Supermatic shutter. We used the 4x5 mostly for portraits in the studio. Everything else was shot on 120 roll film.

For the few years that I worked for Sandy I learned portrait lighting using conventional tungsten lights and how to shoot a wedding the traditional way with all the stock poses, shooting a total of 100 to 120 exposures. I got paid extra for shooting weddings and bar mitzvahs, but otherwise I had the weekends off.

A place called Fotomart, also in South Beach but located on a run down side street, sold Gevaert Gevapan in 100 roll boxes for $15.00. Actually that Gevapan was pretty decent film. It was about the same speed, ASA 100, as Kodak's least expensive film, Verichrome Pan, at one third the price. Agfa eventually merged with Gevaert becoming Agfa-Gevaert. Fotomat eventually closed its South Beach store and supposedly became World Wide Foto on Biscayne Blvd. in Miami.

I long ago lost track of Sandy, fifteen cents a roll Gevapan is just a memory now, and there's no longer any parking out front on Biscayne Blvd. You have to know where to make a right and a quick left, then drive slowly until you can spot the sign painted on the back of the building at the far end of the parking lot. The back door is now the "front" entrance. As one by one the other camera shops and photo supplies have folded up and gone away World Wide Foto has managed to hang in there. They still have cameras and enlargers for sale and a decent supply of film, paper, and chemicals. They're about the only place left.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More Monkey Business And The Things We Do

Some photographers like to tilt the camera at strange angles. They like the look of it. I don't. I think that I made this exposure mostly because the shutter went off by accident as I was awkwardly holding the camera out at arm's length. It is kind of interesting though, even if I hadn't yet put my face in the lower right.

Also, it reminded me of my late afternoon bike ride today, my first time on a bicycle in ten or fifteen years! I was not too steady at first, tilting this way and that and seeing the world from new angles. While the rain poured outside I finished getting the bike that Doug had given to me into a semblace of working condition. An overnight soaking in WD-40 had gotten the chain pretty much loosend up, and two pair of pliers got the recalcitrant links free and flexing properly once more. The brakes are fine, both front and rear derailleurs function as they should, and the tires hold air. The only thing I still need to do is free up the seat post and raise the seat.

It was a hectic day because I'd already taken Monkette over to Starbucks for an important business meeting with a potential wedding photography client. Actually Jessica is the groom's sister, an unlikely person in the family to be hunting down a wedding photographer. More usually it'd be the bride or the bride's family.

Jessica had no trouble spotting Monkette sitting at my table at Starbucks, and assumed that I must be Al. There really aren't all that many grown men in North Miami having their afternoon coffee with a toy monkey.

We looked through a few boxes of photographs, some of which she'd already seen on this blog, and I told her the stories behind the others. She'd grown up in the Miami area so we talked about all the changes over the years, not just since she'd left but since some of my photos had been taken. One shows some new buildings under construction about thirty years ago in downtown Miami. Now they've been torn down to make room for still bigger ones.

We talked about the Greek Orthodox Church here where the wedding will be held, discussed black and white versus color, and talked about the fact that she was going to be taking some courses in traditonal black and white photography. We talked prices for shooting the wedding and how big the reception was going to be. Now she has to talk to her brother and his bride to be. I left with a good feeling! I gave her a ride back to her mom's house, went home and got busy working on the bicycle. It was a good day. Monkette can't wait to go shopping for a dress.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Always A Bridesmaid, Never a Bride...

For 567 consecutive days I've posted a photo or two and written about it. On this 568th day I'm taking the night off! Instead of writing, I'd planned on going outside on this clear moonless night to watch the Perseid meteor shower. After midnight the sky got progressivly more cloudy. I managed to see one streak across the gap between two clouds, but I soon gave up and concentrated on business. Business at 2 A.M.? Why booking a wedding, of course.

I'd received an Email about 11 P.M. from a woman whose parents still live in North Miami. Her brother is getting married here at the Greek Orthodox Church. I never did ask her how she first found out about me, whether by stumbling across my blog or from one of the members of the church, but she liked my light hearted sense of humor, my photographic style, the way I write about Monkey and Monkette as if they're real people, or what.

I kiddingly suggested includingthe monkeys in the wedding party and she replied that she hadn't quite gotten up the nerve to ask me that...LOL Just think, Monkette in a pretty little bridesmaid dress, or being a flower girl! What great possibilities for some fun photos! She's going to discuss it with her brother and his fiancee. Of course I'd include some more conventional photos as well, like family groups sans the monkeys.

Now I'm thinking that instead of a conventional photos-only wedding album we could do photos and text just like the blog, and print it out with the text included right on the prints. Make it look like a magazine layout. This just might revolutionize the wedding photography business!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

So THAT's The Source Of All That Damned Noise!

The windows were closed and the air conditioner was doing its thing. Most times about the only outside noises I can hear above the AC hum are news helicopters (rare!), emergency vehicle sirens (almost as rare on my street), loud mufflers, and the ocassional teenager thumping out some way too loud rap music. This sounded like none of the above. It was just very loud and annoying.

I grabbed a camera and went out to investigate. This truck had a hose pushed down into a drain pipe and was sucking out some sort of blockage, pumping whatever it was into the holding tank on the truck. The pump was making the noise. The entire procedure didn't take all that long. Within a few minutes they were packing it up and leaving. I never did find out exactly what the problem had been, but it was quiet once more. I finished my cigarette and went back into the air conditioning.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Just Another Little Group Of Colorful Shops

They're everywhere that roads have traffic. Years ago every three or four blocks was the corner store, or perhaps a cluster of three or four of them, within easy walking distance. You could exist without an automobile. The big chains had yet to take over the retail world and towns had downtowns rather than suburban malls.

Every shop used to have its unique flavor, every building its individual look. The big malls want uniformity, all the shops to look alike, with the same style lettering for the signs above the windows and all the exterior walls painted the same color.

A couple of years ago somebody got the brilliant idea that the way to revitalize North Miami's downtown shopping district was to come up with the money to help the landlords redo all the facades and signs, to make the shopping district one color and one style, and the lettering with the shop names would all be one size, one color, and one style. The project is about completed now. It looks nice, it looks clean and it looks extremely boring. I don't think that it's helped increase business at all. Maybe it's time to rethink things, fill the business district with brightly painted buildings and neon signs. Make it exciting again! After all, if people wanted the mall experience they would have gone to the mall.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Recalcitrant Planner

I thought that I'd served on enough city advisory boards over the years and resigned from everything a dozen or so years ago. Amongst others I'd been on the charter review board the last time the city charter was revised, and was vice-chair of the planning comission for a bunch of years. I used the excuse that my mom had just passed away and I needed some time. It was relaxing, a relief, to not have to go to all those damned meetings. I came up with a plan!

I stopped wearing suits and ties, grew a beard, stopped getting my hair neatly trimmed every other week, and started to look like an older version of the faded blue jeans clad hippie freak photographer that I'd once been. It felt good! But it didn't work! When my friend Scott Galvin was elected to the city council a few years ago my protests were for naught. Suddenly I was on the Disaster Preparedness Board, The Board ofAdjustment, a founding member of the North Miami Historical Society, attending Chamber of Commerce luncheons, and on and on.
I didn't give up easily though. I still kept dressing like that Old Hippie, or as my ex puts it, "You look like a homeless street person!" It didn't seem to matter. It only made it easier for people to recognize me. The new city manager, the new police chief, the new everybody around city hall would introduce themselves to me. I had to tell them that it was cool to call me "Al", Mr. Kaplan was too formal.
Last month I put on this suit to attend a board meeting, just as a goof. This morning I sent an Email to Scott announcing that I'd rummaged through my closets and found a number of suits, dress shirts, neckties, and lace-up dress shoes just waiting to see the light of day again. I'm going to start dressing up properly once again.
Now all the guys my age will have something else to be jealous of besides my hair. I can still fit into the same suits I wore twenty or thirty years ago! All I need now is a twenty-five year old girlfriend.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

You Can't Judge A Book By The Company He Keeps

When I first met Ron Book I was in my twenties and he was still in high school. Neither one of us had white chin whiskers and Ron had a decent head of hair. When I'd cover the North Miami city council meetings for the North Dade Journal Ron and his friend Jeff Mell were always there. They were on a mission! They wanted the city to build a first class football stadium for the North Miami Sr. High. Of course the school is controlled by the county school board, not the city, which complicated things, but the city had recently aquired a huge piece of mostly swampy bayfront property known as the Graves Tract. It was several miles from the school but there was plenty of room for a stadium and the requisit parking. But nothing comes easy.

Ron and Jeff graduated high school and went off to college. Ron hooked up with a rising star of a politician from Miami Lakes by the name of Bob Graham who became Governor Graham and then Senator Graham. Jeff ended up running the district office for Congressman Bill Lehman. During the twenty years that Bill was in congress I saw Jeff almost every week and did a lot of photography for him. Ron was mostly up in Tallahassee and I rarely saw him. He used his contacts to build a very successful lobbying business when Bob Graham retired. When Congressman Lehman retired Jeff briefly worked for Congresswoman Carrie Meek, then he anounced that he was going in with Ron up in Tallahassee. I hardly saw him anymore! No more lunches, no more dropping by the office to deliver some pictures or just to chat. Then one day I got a phone call. Jeff had experienced chest pains. He didn't make it. He was 51.

A few weeks ago the speaker at the monthly Chamber of Commerce luncheon was Ron Book. When I found out I marked the date in my book. I told the Chamber that I'd take the pictures at the luncheon for the newsletter. I hadn't seen Ron in several years!

I was walking around with my camera as usual when suddenly he called out my name. We shook hands and exchanged the usual old pleasantries.

And the Stadium? It's been built for several years now! It's even named after Ron Book. He's the guy who did all the arm twisting up in Tallahassee to get the money flowing. It's good to have friends like that.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Proper Young Ladies With Their Parasols

It ain't the sixties no more! Hip hugger jeans and miniskirts might be back in fashion but when it came to a protest march it was T-shirts, faded jeans, and water buffalo hide sandles from India was the summer time uniform of favor. Wearing make-up was unheard of. Proper self-respecting hippie chicks didn't use make-up.

Councilman Scott Galvin, with a bit of help and encouragement from my toy monkey Monkette, organized this street protest a few weeks ago. Those of us who lived in the neighborhood didn't want 88 foot tall concrete poles carrying high tension electric lines next to our houses when they could as well go on the Florida East Coast Rail Road right of way, or better yet, follow the law and be buried underground out of harm's way.

Well, here we are at the intersection of N.E. 135th Street and West Dixie Highway under the brutal summer sun. The girls have on make-up, their hair is neatly styled, they're even wearing skirts and dresses, and the cute redhead borrowed a style straight out of the 1890's with a paper parasol. We ended up with about seventy-five demonstrators and stayed out there until we were cooked a bit more than medium rare. Yes, we drank lots of bottled water!

Things are still up in the air with the Public Service Comission as far as a final decision on routing the wires but we're now doing a letter writing and Emailing campaign. I've been Emailing my blog posts to them. This morning they got to see Monkette holding her own little protest sign.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Grumpy Old Men, Please Spare Me The Details...

Since Monkette got interested in politics earlier this year she's always bugging me to take her to the meetings that I attend. It took awhile to teach her that sometimes there are questions best left unasked until afterwards, when it's just the two of us driving home in the truck together. A few meetings before this one she asked why all the other guys my age have big bellies and are losing what little (mostly grey) hair that still graces their heads.

She's already used to the fact that guys make fun of me for often carrying around a toy monkey at my age, but I told her that thinking and acting young might be a large part of the reason for my flat tummy and profuse growth of hair. That and the near starvaton diet I maintain. For some reason I don't ever seem to get hungry. I eat mostly because I suddenly realize that it's mid afternoon and I haven't eaten any lunch as yet. Then as I think about it, it occurs to me that all I had for breakfast was two cups of black coffee before I left the house and another cup with cream and sugar mid morning at Starbucks. Hell, I live on coffee!

Of course a lot of those guys ask me the secret of staying thin and maintaining a luxuriant mop of curly hair too. Sometimes I tell them that it's hangin' out with young chicks together with all the pot I used to smoke back when I was a young wild and crazy guy. Sometimes I tell them the truth, it's having a toy monkey that loves me. Thanks Monkette. I love you too!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Next Year's Big Name?

I like checking out the artwork in coffee houses. The paintings are mostly by relatively unknown local artists and the prices are quite reasonable. Over the years I've bought a number of paintings by unknown artists and I enjoy having them in my house. Of course there's always that chance that you'll luck out and purchase a painting done by somebody who later becomes very famous and your twenty-five dollar indulgance is now worth a small fortune.

I guess that's always in the back of my mind when I look at a new exhibit because frankly I really don't have any room left on my walls for more artwork. Between my own framed photographs and various paintings, etchings, drawings, and a few vintage photographs by other photographers I actually find myself in the position of occasionaly taking a few things down to put others on display. This particular evening I was quite impressed with some of the pieces, but not impressed enough to take out the checkbook. Maybe I just need a bigger house.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

C'mon, C'mon, Let's Get Some Respect...

As the saying goes "Clothes make the man!" I decided to surprise everybody and actually wear a suit and tie to the Board of Adjustment meeting, just for grins. Strangely enough, while I was the only one in a suit there was another tie in sight.

Years ago my daughter Elena decided that I needed to break free of my hippie image. She gave me a book "Dress For Success" I think it was called. It talked about all the subtle signals that your clothes give to others, and how it's the details that reinforce the image. Brown suits are a no-no in corporate America although President Regan favored them. Blue ties rank below red, although George Bush favors them. (What's with these Republicans?)

Anyway, suits should be natural fiber, correctly tailored to fit properly, conservatively cut, and in dark greys or blues, solid or pinstripe, but for less formal attire a subtle glenn plaid is OK. Ties should be silk and shirts cotton. Natural fibers drape better, and in the case of ties, knot better. Rep stripe ties should have the stripes going one way and not the other. Cap toe lace-up shoes rank higherr than wing tips. Loafers are only for casual wear. So I have this closet full of what was an expensive wardrobe something like twenty-five years ago, and since none of it was the latest in extreme fashion at the time it's all still quite in style. Just as well, too! Trying to buy suits and ties like that at today's prices wouldn't fit in my Social Security check mandated budget.

Suddenly having a beard made me look "distiguished" and nobody told me that I was way past due for a haircut. Maybe I'll try dressing up again come October. It will make a fantastic Hallowe'en costume!

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Meeting Is Over, The Cup Is Empty

I decided to see what would happen if I showed up at the Board of Adjustment meeting wearing suit and tie. Back in the seventies and eighties when I was vice chairman of the North Miami Planning Comission it was common practice for board members to be properly attired, but things seemed to get more relaxed as the years went by.

After a dozen year hiatus of being on city boards Councilman Galvin talked me into accepting a couple of board appointments again and I thought it was cool to be able to wear jeans. Actually, I kept trying to push the envelope, looking progessively more and more unkempt, dressing more and more like a college kid, and as my ex said, wearing my hair like a "street person". No matter, I still have to tell new city staff "I'm Al, not Mr. Kaplan". Time to have some fun. I showed up wearing a suit and tie! Most of the city staff had never seen me dressed that way. I might have to start reminding people that "I really am Al".

The July board meeting was a short one to start with and a couple of the items on the agenda were postponed. The one item we did hear was quickly dealt with. I walked back across the patio to Starbucks for more coffee. In the photo my jacket is draped over my left arm and my agenda packet is in the manilla envelope tucked behind my empty cup. You can see the shadow of the camera and my right arm on my chest. The girls at Starbucks were impressed by my wardrobe but they still called me Al. I guess that's what I like about the place.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Acting 101 And The Big Black Chair

There are three challenges in doing this blog. The first, of course, is attempting to come up with a well composed picture when I'm not able to look through the viewfinder. The second is coming up with something interesting to write for a caption. Sometimes this is about what's going on in the photo while at other times I use it as a starting point to write about something else. Lastly, since I'm in all the photos I have to pay attention to my pose and facial expressions. Like the caption, sometimes this fits right in with the photo and other times it's a complete enigma.

In the beginning most of the photos showed me looking at the camera, or at least facing the camera. I've experimented with profiles, and lately I've been playing around with my face in whole or partial shadow so you really can't see my facial expression. Up until yesterday I was making all horizontal compositions because it seemed best suited to portrayng myself in my surroundings.

As I was looking back through the blog I started to wonder what it would look like if my face didn't appear at all. Would they still be considered self-portraits if they depicted just the top of my head, with perhaps a cigarette visible? That seems best to compose as a vertical, with my surroundings showing in the top of the picture. Yesterday and today I've started working on this new direction. For now there are still plenty of my photos on hand awaiting their place here.

This picture was shot inside of Starbucks. It was raining, so I couldn't sit out on the patio and enjoy a smoke with my coffee. The rain seemed to discourage the usual crowd from showing up. I had nobody to talk with, and I'd already read the newspaper earlier. I sat alone in one of the big black armchairs. I decided to try to convey my lack of joy with my pose and expression, and the large distances between the few people that were there seems to reinforce the feeling of emptiness. At least the coffee was good.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Thank God For Email ~ The Sign-In Table

It seems like every week I end up attending at least one civic meeting, everything from the Central Homeowners' Association monthly get together to a group of citizens organizing a protest of the electric company's proposed routing of new power lines. And there's always a sign-in table.

You write your name, phone number, and Email address. Notification by telephone of another meeting or an update on progress is a rarity these days. It's time consuming for the organization and a nuisance to everybody. It's so much easier for them to just type out one email with dozens of addresses and push SEND.

The downside is that the very ease of the process encourages sending a lot of stuff that's unimportant, but you still have to check every Email just to make sure. After awhile it all just seems to blend together in your mind. They're always held at one of two nearby community centers painted with the same light green paint, pretty much the same people always attend, and the same small group of women (why always women?) "man" the sign-in table. In this photo I'm about to pick up the pen resting on the pad of paper on the right end of the table, sign in, and make a bit of small talk with the ladies. The older ones usually gush on about my thick curly head of hair (their husbands are bald) and they all ask about my new granddaughter. My camera and I are such fixtures here in North Miami that nobody pays any attention at all when I click off a few shots. Looking at this photo I don't have a clue in hell as to which organization this was, or even why they called a meeting.