Sunday, September 30, 2007

Where English Won't Suffice ~ Welcome To Miami

The Miami News, an afternoon paper, had folded and managing editor Sylvan Meyer had started to publish Miami Magazine, with my friend Jim Kukar as editor. I'd worked as a photographer with Jim at the North Dade Journal, at an ad agency, and on numerous political campaigns so it was no surprise when I started getting assignments to shoot for the magazine. These were mostly of political movers and shakers, but one day he called with an odd request. He wanted a photo of a hand holding both an American flag and a Cuban flag.

The story was about how Miami had become more and more a Cuban town. We were still a two newspaper town, but the Miami News had been replaced with a Spanish paper. A few years later we became a three newspaper town of sorts when the Herald started a Spanish language edition.

I scoured the stores but I couldn't find a pair of flags that were both the right size and the same size as one another. I ended up photographing two larger flags and making little black and white prints of the correct size. I cut them out and glued them to the sticks. I don't remember whose hand I used. Hell, it might have been my own hand, with the camera mounted on a tripod. One thing I do remember is that the art director gave me a sketch of the page lay-out so I'd leave enough empty space in the right places for the title and the block of text. The smaller picture was used on the table of contents page. The article appeared in the August 1977 issue of Miami Magazine.

Thirty years later Miami is still largely an Hispanic town, but the accents aren't all Cuban these days. We have people from all over Central and South America. There are parts of town where it still can be a problem finding a store clerk that's really fluent in English. It is getting better, though, as the Portuguese speaking Brazilians, the Kreyole speaking Haitians, and people who grew up speaking a dozen dialects of Spanish are starting to realize that there are some good reasons to speak a common language. Their choice is English.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

"For People In The Middle"

(If you click on the picture it'll get large enough to read the fine print)

Shooting for the paper soon had me being a regular around city hall here in North Miami. A bit of political scandal in the early 1970's had pretty much cleaned out the old guard and we now had a new city manager and a bunch of new department heads, mostly about the same age as I was at the time. Mike Rozos, the new head of Parks and Recreation convinced me to join the Jaycees.

I was still long-hair and counter-culture for the most part at the time, but I already knew most of the guys (no women allowed back then) and I seemed to fit right in. As soon as the business part of the Thursday night meeting was over the bar opened and drinks were cheap. It was an ideal opportunity for networking as casual acquaintances turned into good friends. One of these was Ross McKelvey.

It had only recently become OK for doctors and lawyers to advertise, and Ross had this idea to market his firm to what we now call "moderate income" folks. I'm not sure exactly whose idea it was, but we headed over to the old downtown courthouse, found a vacant courtroom, and I took pictures of the empty jury box. They were all set up for twelve jurors back then. Now six is enough for all but murder trials.

I ran into Mike Rozos a few months back, but it must be at least thirty years since I last saw Ross. A google search turned up an attorney by that name in Pompano, maybe twenty-five miles north of here. Next time I'm heading up that way I'll have to check out as to whether it's the same guy or not. I hope that he's in better shape than this brittle yellowed newspaper clipping. None of us look thirty these days.

Another quaint thing about the ad is the Mastercard and Visa logos at the bottom. Yup, there was a time when not everybody took credit cards. Hell, most people didn't HAVE a credit card.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Yard Sale Bargains

I can never just drive past a yard sale. I have to stop and poke around, always hoping for "The Big Find". I got into the habit back when Claudia and I were married and she had the antique shop. It's a tough habit to break! My kitchen has a toaster, microwave, toaster/broiler, and all kinds of pots and pans and such, all yard sale finds. For light vacumming I use the $2 electric broom. I boil water in a 25 cent whistling tea kettle. I take a $5 1950's vintage Voigtlander Vito CL 35mm camera when I go fishing. But I've never found "The Big Find". I know it's out there because I have friends who've lucked out big time.

Once one of Claudia's antique dealer friends called me, asking if I wanted to buy some cameras. There must have been well over $5,000 worth of Leicas, Rolleiflexes, and some Hasselblad lenses and accessories in a cloth sack. He wanted $500 for the entire lot. I didn't argue. I found out later that he'd expected me to counter with a $300 offer. Anyway, an hour later I'd sold a couple of the items for way too little money, but I had my $500 back plus $100, and I still had most of the cameras. It turned out that he'd bought "the sack of old cameras" at a yard sale for $25.

I keep looking. So far I haven't found that next elusive "sack of old cameras", but on this day I did find a nice mess of new looking plastic clothes hangers for a buck. Win some, lose some...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Important Information About This Blog And Copyright

Please note that all photographs and text appearing on The Price Of Silver are copyright (c) Al Kaplan unless credited to another photographer and/or writer, in which case they would hold the copyright. Please email me if you want to use anything, either photographs or text, and let me know for what reason and where it will appear. Brief quotes for critical or referral reasons will usually not require any payment of a fee as long as the quote is credited and includes a copyright notice, but please seek permission first. In most cases people other than myself that appear in the photographs have not signed a model release, so use in advertising would be restricted. For more information I can be reached at: Thanks, Al

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Stars In Her Eyes

By the late 1960's North Miami was on the map in both music recording and movie making. Just about every major rock group was cutting tracks at Criteria Recording Studio. The sound stage in Ivan Tors studio was headquarters for television series like Flipper and Gentle Ben, more recently Miami Vice, and dozens of movies. Other movie and recording studios dotted the city's "industrial" districts, along with Capitol Film Labs to process all those miles and miles of movie film. Ivan Tors Studios is now called The Studios at Greenwich.

Several agencies represented talent, the talent needed photographs to pass around, and I used to get a few calls a month to photograph the people who hoped to make it big. Holly Burke was one of those. She was represented by Ruth Foreman, who also had a theater and acting school for children here in town.

The only local girl that ever seemed to make it big was Saundra Santiago, who first became Miss North Miami, then caught the eye of the casting director for the Miami Vice TV series. She played Detective Gina Navarro Calabrese for 105 episodes from 1984 to 1989. Holly Burke wasn't that fortunate.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Let's Score, Babe

Jackie Foy was always coming up with ideas that were sure-fire going to make us rich. Score was one of them. It consisted of a plastic paddle, a pair of notebook paper rings, and maybe a dozen flip cards printed on both sides so you could rapidly switch from one message to the next. You find yourself stuck in traffic at a stop light and the blonde in the car next to you gives you a shy smile? Pick up your Score paddle and flash "Want To Fool Around?". She picks up hers and ....(probably tells you to bug off!)

But in the era that preceded cell phones, yet everyone had their windows rolled up because they had that new-fangled air conditoning in their cars, it seemed like the idea had possibilities. I ended up with enough of them to take care of my Christmas gift list plus a nice check for the shoot. Jackie, whose real job was art director for the in house advertising department at a large computer company, hired a couple of professional models, picked out the wardrobe, and I shot it with a Hasselblad at my friend Sam King's studio. Like so many people, eventually we lost track of one another. For a few months I made a valiant effort to give my Score paddle a good field test. I got a few good laughs out of the ladies, but I can't say that I ever did "Score" by using it.

One of the places the photo appeared was the June 1979 edition of Gallery magazine, which I seem to recall tried to follow the Hugh Hefner formula of mixing articles by name writers with portfolios of scantily clad sexy young women. Hey, why not? It worked for Playboy!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Donna Ray Associates Poster

Going through all those boxes and file folders I keep running across things that had dropped out of my memory, yet suddenly it all comes back to me again when I look at the piece. This was shot in 1978 with "concept and design by The Winner's Circle" and "photography by Al Kaplan". I know that because it's printed on the bottom. The piece is about 17x22 inches so it could be folded into quarters and fit in a 9x12 inch envelope

Donna Ray Associates was a company that arranged about everything you could conceive of for your company's or organization's convention. From catering to musicians, transportation, enterainment for children, secretarial and translation services, copy machines, if you could think of it Donna would supply it.

I shot it in Sam King's studio. Sam was a rarity in 1978, a black photographer with a huge studio and some giant Norman electronic flash units. He used to shoot a lot of church groups, choirs, and such, so he needed both the room and the power to light it. On occasions when I had a large group to photograph I'd rent his studio for a few hours. I sure needed it for this shot, and actually he's the one that "pushed the button" because I ended up in the photograph. After we'd arranged everybody and shot a bunch of Polaroid test shots with the Hasselblad, Donna decided that we should include a photographer in the photograph. The times weren't yet ripe for showing a black photographer. I got into the picture and Sam climbed the ladder. Towards the back near the right side you can see the top of my head as I was looking down into the finder of Sam's huge Mamiya RB67 SLR. My daughter Elena, about seven at the time, is at the lower left licking a lollipop.

I did pick up a few jobs through Donna's organization over the next year or two, and I stayed in touch wth Sam for a number of years, but nothing lasts forever. When Browne's Photo Center closed I lost touch wth a lot of people I used to run into a few times a week. Sam was one of them.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Girls In Tight Jeans

This was some kind of "Meet The Author" thing at the North Mami Library a couple of weeks back, and the young ladies were handling the sign-in table. As usual, I was there early. It seems like I'm always early.

What intrigues me about this photograph is the composition, the seemingly posed look of everybody while at the same time really "catching the moment". Obviously I'm posed, choosing an expression to suit the mood (or my mood?). The camera is held out there at arms length so I have little inkling of what's in the picture area, and the girls are out of my sight, behind me. Strangely, I seem to get a higher percentage of interesting photographs shooting blind like this than I manage to get when I'm carefully composing through the viewfinder.

It was an interesting talk about old Florida, the places that once were, what they were like, and which few of them still survive. Places like the Ochopee Post Office There was a lot of audience participation, which made it all the more interesting.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gotta Love Those Redheads In Red Dresses!

Here's another photo from that Bank Atlantic grand opening party a couple of weeks ago. While Monkette was pigging out by the fresh fruit platter I took the opportunity to flirt with some of the ladies. I've always had "a thing" for red heads and we chatted for awhile. I assume I'll run into her again next week at the Greater North Miami Chamber of Commerce luncheon and then I can tell her that she's now become world famous...LOL

Every once in awhile I'll Google my name just to see what comes up. The more traffic a site gets the higher Google puts it in the list. It gives me an idea of what subjects are getting the most viewers. It appears that this link to Yahoo in Malaysia has been seeing a lot of action lately. For the next week or so at least, whenever a stray viewer from Yahoo in Malaysia gets to clicking over to my blog, they're likely to scroll down a bit and find this photograph. After a week or two you'd have to scroll down a lot!
...where Jennifer D. writes "Look at this photographer called Al Kaplan. He has been doing self portraits and runs a web blog. He holds the camera at arms length. With practice you can do it too. Otherwise set it on timer. Notice how Al Kaplan positions himself in the corner of the frame and notice which arm he is using to get his image."

Which I suppose makes her world famous! Gotta love those red heads. Even better when they wear red dresses!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Seventh Heaven Eight Days A Week?

Well, not quite eight, but a bank that's open seven days a week is big news enough. Bank Atlantic was opening a brand new branch in North Miami a few weeks ago and hosted a grand opening party in combination with the Chamber of Commerce with lots of gourmet hors d'oerves, wine, Cokes, and fresh fruit platters. When Monkette read the invitation she just insisted that I had to take her. No arguing with a woman! No arguing with a toy monkey either. Women do whatever they damned please, and toy monkeys just plain won't listen. When you're dealing with a female toy monkey about all you can do is mutter "Yes Dear. Whatever you say, Dear", and you better keep a smile on your face while you're saying it.

Well, this was the first party that I've taken her to where they actually had fresh fruit. All her bitching had finally paid off. She was one happy little monkey as we walked from the truck to the bank building. There we were greeted by this smiling big red Seven in clown shoes. He begged to be allowed to have his picture taken with Monkette. She was eager to go inside and check out the fruit plates, but she relented. I suspect that she's always had a secret desire to be photographed with a big red Seven wearing clown shoes, and this just might be the one opportunity of a lifetime!

We went inside and she was in Seventh Heaven! Slices of fresh cantalope, honeydew mellon, water mellon, and pineapple! Berries of every sort! Several varieties of grapes! She never even noticed that there were no bananas.

She pigged out, chatted briefly with the mayor and a couple of the city councilmen, introduced herself to the head honchos from the bank, and left with a Goody Bag full of the usual junk, but she really liked the new mouse pad and she just loved the little monkey sized flashlight. When we got home I discovered a big bunch of grapes in the bottom of her goody bag. Typical monkey business...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Miracle Workers

About twenty-five years ago when I was doing a series of shoots for the newly renovated The Mall at 163rd Street the first one was for the grand opening. This shot was used for the cover of this magazine size ad brochure, some smaller fliers, and in newspaper ads.

It was a fun shoot. The mother was an experienced model and I seem to recall that the girl was her daughter, and very much at ease in front of the camera. The mall manager was there along with a stylist. I think that we did a couple of changes of clothing, and tried a few locations in the mall, but in this shot everything just came together. The mother looked happy and the girl projected excitement. Mom's legs look like they were posed to look their best while the girl's legs give the impression of trying to run to see something that had attracted her attention.

This all took place as I was walking backwards through the mall while looking into the 45 degree prism on my Hasselblad. After I'd taken several meter readings I shot a couple of Polaroid test shots "just to be sure", then over the next hour or so we did the clothing changes, the stylist did the make-up and hair touch-ups, and I shot maybe four or five 12 exposure rolls of 120 Ektachrome. By then it was time for the mall to open and we wouldn't have it all to ourselves anymore that day! These days I hear about photographers making five hundred, even one thousand digital exposures, as fast as they can push the release button, but I always wonder "WHY?" You either capture the moment or you don't. When I picked up the transparencies at the lab the next morning I knew that I'd captured it. The client loved it!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Reincarnation Of A Shopping Center ~ The Mall At 163rd St.

By 1980 or there abouts the open air shopping centers from the 1950's were facing new competition from new enclosed malls with air conditioned promenades. One of the oldest shopping centers in South Florida, the 163rd Street Shopping Center, suddenly was competing for business with the nearby brand new fully enclosed Aventura Mall. Making things worse, some of the flagship department stores were moving into new and larger buildings at Aventura.

163rd St. got enclosed with a unique fabric roof and all the stores were refurbished. A new multi story arcade was built at the west end, housing a large food court and a lot of smaller shops. Multi level garages went up at both ends of the mall.

The advertizing and public relations firm representing the mall went on a binge of spending money trying to compete wth Aventura. Every month a sizeable brochure was mailed to residents in the area. A full page color cover and a few dozen shots, mostly black and white, for various featured stores and the mall itself needed to be shot. These ranged from product shots to store interiors, scenes in the food court, exterior shots, the whole spectrum.

I shot most all of it, especially the black and white, with my 35mm Leicas but the large color covers were shot on 120 Ektachrome with my Hasselblad and various Zeiss lenses from 50mm to 120mm. The printers preferred working with the larger transparencies. This was the era before Photoshop and scanners. You got the exposure right, no excuses, and used filters on the lens to get the color right too. There was no way to save a screw-up with "post processing".

I recently ran across a box full of covers and inside pages that I'd shot back then. I also did some photography for Dadeland Mall, Omni International Mall, and Kendall Town and Country. I'll be posting more mall photographs over the next few weeks.

A lot has changed in the past twenty-five years. Some malls have changed while others have ceased to exist altogether. There's an interesting website about malls that have changed or died. Here's their story about 163rd Street: and you can poke around the site and perhaps find one near you.

The covers were copied the "quick & dirty" way. I put the page down on the sidewalk in bright sunlight and shot down at them hand holding my Leica M2 camera with a 50mm f/2 Summicron lens on Kodak Gold 200 film developed and scanned at Walgreens. Todd Frederick worked his magic on the scans and posted them here. Thanks, Todd! Great job.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Capt. Bouncer Smith ~ South Florida's Top Fishing Guide

I first met Bouncer at The House of Snook perhaps twenty years ago. That North Miami bait and tackle shop was a local institution on and off, through several incarnations and two or three owners, from the time it was started by Russel Franz in the early 1950's until it finally faded off into history fifteen or so years ago. Like any successful fishing guide Bouncer didn't shop at just one place. He made sure to spread his purchases around, getting to know everybody that possibly might steer business in his direction. He was good at promoting himself on the radio and in the newspaper as well as varoious fishing magazines. He could do this because he could produce the fish! He was also an active member of the South Florida Fishing Club, and I'm a member.

Whether you want to catch tarpon at night or a sailfish during the day, fish in Biscayne Bay or out in the Gulfstream, use live bait or fish with jigs on spinning tackle, or even try your skill at using a fly rod, Bouncer knows the techniques and has the tackle. Or you can use your own equipment. One thing you're sure of though, is that you're going to catch fish.

During my brief stint as a fishing guide Bouncer arranged for me to be a speaker at a seminar put on by Saltwater Sportsman Magazine. My talk was about fishing for sea trout in Biscayne bay and I probably looked really out of place dressed in suit and tie, but another speaker that day was Florida Governor Jeb Bush. He spoke about the health of the bay and how it was improving under his policies. I wanted to get a photograph of myself with Jeb and I knew that he wasn't about to show up wearing jeans and a rumpled fishing shirt. I really wish that Jeb was the brother who got to become president.

But back to fishing. Bouncer uses my jigs for seatrout and a variety of other light tackle fishing, and a number of his clients have ended up as my clients. On this particular night he talked to the South Florida Fishing Club about swordfishing at night off Miami Beach, where to look for them, what tackle to use, and how to rig various types of baits. After the meeting we chatted a bit and he got some more jigs. He's the big guy standing on the left in the beige shirt, talking fishing as usual.

If a South Florida fishing experience seems appealing check out his web site and tell him that Capt. Al Kaplan sent you.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Prince Of Africa & The Italian Stylist

Gloria needed some "handyman" type work done around her apartment and she engaged the services of Lumumba to do the work. A worse match-up of conflicting expectations and personalities would be difficult to imagine. After a few weeks I guess he got most of the work done more or less to her satisfaction. Lately he's been spending endless hours with his newly purchased notebook computer, painstakingly setting up a website. He has big plans to market African style (and made in Africa, where possible) clothing via the internet.

I'm thinking that maybe this time around I should get and wear a dashiki. The last time they were fashionable, nearly forty years ago, I never did get one. Lumumba might be on to something, getting in on the leading edge of a trend. Clothing styles seem to go in forty year cycles. Now is the time! And Gloria could well be a big asset to his plans. She spent quite a few years as a stylist in the fashion industry.

Now the website is up and running and Lumumba is running around
town in a dashiki with matching cap and pants, carrying his laptop, and trying to get anyone who'll sit still to check out his wares. He carries all natural health, beauty, and skin care products, the clothing of course, jewelry, and some pretty neat looking drums, all made in Africa. If you want to check it out go to . You can order on line or call (305) 316-7891

Friday, September 14, 2007

They Killed The Neighborhood Bait & Tackle Shop

It's been 18 years since I joined the South Florida Fishing Club, a once vibrant organization comprised of almost 100 families that loved fishing, the owners of several local bait and tackle shots, a couple of small lure manufacturers, a large independant marine supply store, and some of the best fishing guides in South Florida. The Sports Authority siphoned off a bit of the business but everybody survived until Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World opened this huge complex next to Interstate 95 in Dania justh south of Ft. Lauderdale. They even have their own Tri-Rail station, a commuter train that nobody uses.

But it's a "Destination", a place where you can buy sports clothing, fishing tackle, guns and ammo, and boats, motors and marine supplies, camping gear, the whole nine yards. The prices are low and the selection is huge. What you can't find is a clerk who can explain how to use a particular lure, which color to choose for a particular species of fsh at this time of year, where the tarpon have been showing up of late and at which stage of the tide, that sort of thing. Instead you go through the check-out line just like at the supermarket where some minimum wage kid runs the items past the scanner and bags your purchases before muttering a barely audible "havagooday". Nobody ever plays up the local fishing clubs as a great place to learn about how to catch 'em and where to find 'em, and they can't tell you either. Now the South Florida Fishing Club is down to maybe 30 families. If you like to fish and live in the North Miami-Dade/South Broward area drop me an email. Thanks

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hommage To A Prince

I pulled up to the Jet Blue arrivals area at the airport and my son Jonathan had just a small carry-on bag in hand. He was only going to be here for two nights, which was all he could fit into his busy schedule this time around. Now that he and Deb have transformed me into a grandfather Jonathan has become very much the hands on father to 11 month old Gabrielle.

While he was in town we had a bunch of paperwork to attend to, and a whole bunch of people to visit. One of those was my second ex, and still my best friend, Claudia. For a number of years, during summers and school vacations, she was step-mom to Jonathan and his sister Elena. Visiting Claudia was high on our to do list, and as usual when Prince heard my truck rounding the corner half a block away he was right there at the front door looking out through the screen, tail wagging and letting loose with a series of soft happy barks. Seeing Jonathan emerge from the truck had him even happier and more excited than usual.

Claudia had made fresh coffee and baked her famous spice bread, actually a kind of heavy cake with nuts. Prince acted like Jonathan's only reason for the visit was just to see him. He thinks that there's something really special about the way Jonathan rubs him behind the ears, and he wouldn't let him stop the whole time we were there, although he did let Claudia get a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek.

I miss the days when Jonathan would be here all summer, and we'd do lots of fishing instead of lots of rushing. We did manage to get everthing done that needed doing, though. I took Jonathan back to the Jet Blue departures, and then I drove home to the suddenly empty once again house. The next morning I stopped by Claudia's house. Prince was all excited as usual, but I could tell that he too missed Jonathan.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Love At First Lick

The very first time I met Sophia she fell in love with me and I fell in love with her. We have to confine our make-out sessions to the occasions when Gloria brings her to Starbucks at the same time that I happen to be there. If she spots me as Gloria is driving into the parking lot she gets all excited and can't wait to get out of the car. If they're the first ones to arrive Sophia gets up on her hind legs and walks towards me two-legged like a little bitty person, then dances and pirouettes on her hind legs until I pick her up and put her on my lap. Here she's licking my face, covering me with kisses, happy as can be. How come Gloria never sits on my lap and does that? Damn!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Wedding Photographer Hard At Work - Making The Sale

This is one strange story! I used to shoot a lot of weddings, mostly for other photographers when they were overbooked or got sick at the last minute or just needed help on a huge wedding. I never really went after the wedding business on my own. On the rare occasion I got talked into doing one I'd just hand over the exposed film and suggest a couple of good labs.

One of my clients for a few decades was the local Greek Orthodox Church here in North Miami. I've posted a few photos of weddings amongst the hundreds of others on the internet, and I suppose mentioned "Greek Church" a time or two also. A young woman was trying to arrange a wedding here, even though only her parents still live here, and she was looking for a photographer. Google to the rescue! Some combination of key words, perhap "wedding", "Greek Orthodox Church", "North Miami", "photographer", resulted in my name and photographs popping up.

I explained that no, I didn't have any sample wedding albums, but she claimed to like my style and subtle sense of humor. We met at Starbucks and I brought along a bunch of prints of various subjects. We have a tentative date set up in June and it looks like I'll be photographing the wedding. Thank you Google. The big problem will be getting a dress for Monkette. They want her to be a flower girl. For REAL.

Monday, September 10, 2007

...And Suddenly The Heavens Opened Up!

Summertime Miami weather. Suddenly a few scattered huge drops start falling out of what's damned near an otherwise clear sky. Within seconds you'll be drenched if you don't hurry inside someplace. Underneath isn't good enough. The sudden wind makes sure of that. You can't see clearly more than a few meters/yards away through the rain, and it's a lot darker than it was before. The first few minutes it's a very heavy intense rain, but then it moderates a bit as it turns into heavy drizzle and the wind dies away. The leading edge of the rain is always the heaviest, but the drizzle can last half an hour or more.

At least the lights stayed on inside of Starbucks. The AC too! A few of us rushed inside to chat or finish reading the paper, while others got in their cars and drove off. Nobody new showed up for maybe half an hour. By then the sky was blue once more and you could clearly see the park across the road.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Hiatus is Over - Al Is Back!

I was killing time at the Starbucks next to city hall before the city council meeting. A few weeks earlier I'd shocked everybody by showing up to a Board of Adjustment meeting wearing suit and tie. They're usually more informal than the council meetings, and the board members never seem to dress up anymore, it seems, although a couple of decades back we did.

The city staff for the most part is fairly new and had never seen me wearing anything but jeans, but here I was at a third consecutive meeting, wearing a different suit to each one. In my old suit'n'tie days my hair was shorter, less grey, and there was no beard. Now it seems that it doesn't matter about my hair or beard, or how I wear it. Styles have changed and a ratty looking mop of disheveled hair with jeans becomes a distinguished hair style with a suit. Go figure? (Plus the ladies just love to fawn over it, even run their fingers through it, while their balding husbands cringe.)

Tomorrow I'll put a on a suit again to attend a preliminary budget hearing. One of the items is increasing salaries ten-fold for the mayor and council. They were set in stone about 45 years ago, and stayed the same all these years. On the other hand they have added very generous medical coverage, a car allowance, and a large expense allowance over the years. My beef isn't with the increase for the mayor and council. What I'm seeking is an increase for members of the Planning Comission and the Board of Adjustment. We still get the same $10 a meeting that was also set in stone over 45 years ago.

These days I probably spend twice that amount just for gasoline as I drive around looking at the various properties that are on the monthly agenda. If I don't look over a property it's kind of hard to vote on whether or not it should get a variance from the city codes.

In the meantime everybody seems to be speculating as to whether "Al's new image" means that I'm thinking of a run for a council seat. No, I'm not. Scott Galvin and I both live in the same district and he still has three years left in his term. He's doing a great job too. He can't run for a third consecutive term, but who knows what'll be in three years? For now I'd be thrilled just to meet expenses on my board position. I managed to splash a bit of that coffee on my sleeve and getting the suit dry cleaned was a few cents over eleven bucks. All for a ten dollar board meeting. Whoopy-do!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

No Horsing Around ~ This Is Official Business

I see this little strip center every day when I drive by it on my way to Starbucks. I see it across the intersection when I'm sitting at Starbucks. Not all that many years ago there were a couple of horses grazing on the property, which is on the north side of Arch Creek, and another few grazing on the south side of the creek. The south side was turned into a strip mall several years earlier than the north side. By grazing a horse or two on the property the owners could claim "agricultural use" of the otherwise vacant land, and sneak by with the lowest possible property tax rate. A few retired horses grazing on the grass and drinking from the creek require little attention, while keeping the grass "mowed', and it's a lot less effort than growng vegetables would entail.

Almost overnight it seemed, this parcel located on the southwest corner of U.S. 1 and N.E.135th Street sprouted a little row of shops. I kept meaning to check out the dry cleaners and the pizza place, but frankly the place is a royal pain to get into or out of if you're driving in certain directions. Very poor planning! It's a wonder there aren't more accidents there. There should be a "No Left Turn" sign at the 135th St. exit along with one on west bound 135th Street to keep you from crossing a couple of lanes of traffic getting into the place. U.S. 1 has a concrete barrier for that purpose, but it's a federal highway. 135th street is a state road with different rules, and the city can't do it without the state's permission.

One morning I noticed this sign. They were applying for a variance to do something, probably put up a sign that doesn't exactly meet code. I'll worry about that when I get the agenda packet for the next Board of Adjustment meeting. I'm on the board. In the meantime I just thought it'd be neat to have a photo of me with the sign. At least I didn't have to drive clear across town to check out this piece of property. The dry cleaner has very reasonable prices, the pizza was delicious, but I do miss seeing the horses there.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Requiem For A Modem

One morning I turned on the computer but it just refused, flat out REFUSED, to make the effort to connect to the internet. I tried the traditional South Florida remedies, things like chanting, burning candles, burning incense, that sort of thing, but I drew the line at sacrificing a goat. Not that the neighbors would mind. The only thing that might get them a bit riled up would be if I didn't invite them to the Sunday afternoon goat roast.

However, cooler heads prevailed and several of my more agnostic friends suggested that it was very likely a problem with the modem. I hope that the goat thanked them.

Time for a trip to the computer repair shop. Here I am with my computer waiting for the clerk to write up the repair ticket. I managed to survive without the thing for a couple of days, using the one at the Chamber of Commerce a couple of times to check my email. When I picked up the computer and brought it home again it worked perfectly once more, but now it was silent. The old modem made soft beepy sounds as it dialed, but at least I could tell it was connecting, even from the next room. Now I have to keep glancing over at the screen. That's progress, I suppose.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Remember The Fifties? Remember Car-Hops?

When I first looked at this photo my thoughts flashed back to the era when a pretty young thing like Monkette might be looking forward to the day when she could spend her summers working as a car-hop, earning money and flirting with all the cute guys. At least the car-hops could pre-qualfy the guys by who could afford a car. Few teens could afford their own, and it was pretty obvious that if they were driving a Buick it was Daddy's car, not theirs.

Nobody had air-conditioning and the few movie theaters and department stores that did have it proudly proclaimed the fact both on their signs and in their advertising. Many a person paid for a movie ticket more to escape the summer heat than to watch the double feature, plus the sports, news, and cartoons that came along with them. At least you were allowed to smoke during your three hours or so of being comfortable.

Roadside restaurants catered to folks driving their unairconditioned cars. You pulled into the lot and a car-hop, always a cute highschool or college girl in shorts or a short skirt, would take your order. They returned shortly with special trays designed to hook over the door with the window rolled down, and had a hiinged "leg" with a padded tip that rested against the outside of the door, keeping the tray level. After you finished with your hot dog or burger and Coke or milkshake they'd collect the trays again. Maybe your car was unairconditioned but it was a lot cooler with all the windows open than the inside of the restaurant where only the doors could be propped open.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

FP&L's Solution?

Toy monkeys, it seems, have quite the network of computer jocks zipping Emails all over the planet. This morning Monkette received this photograph from a friend in the San Diego, CA area, where they were making one continuous pour of concrete over a time span of maybe ten hours or so for the foundation of a mega hi-rise. That convoy of concrete trucks just kept arriving, pouring, and going back for another load after another load.

Then she heard from a friend connected with the contractor responsible for putting in the underground electric wiring before the concrete was poured. I suppose that rumors flit about within various industries as well as communities. One person was speculating whether or not the poles need to be measured from "the crown of the road" like we do with fence heights. Then somebody else chimed in with "Oh no! you measure from the base of the pole!"

That of course brought up the idea of covering the yards and houses on both sides of the streets along the proposed route with forty feet of concrete! Then the forty foot tall poles that the city prefers would be what FP&L desires, eighty feet above the ground.

Oh well, I don't know just how reliable a source of information a bunch of toy animals might be. They could just surprise us, though.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

To Hell With FP&L's Polecats ~ We Got The Weasels On Our Side

Fight fire with fire? Monkette is still working on a way to counter the magical powers of Aletha, the Evil Fairy. When Monkette realized that those 120 foot tall concrete poles were to be placed every fifty feet through North Miami's residential neighborhoods she enlisted some help from her friend Brad, the weasel.

Well, he's not really her FRIEND friend, but they are civil to one another and exchange a bit of neighborhood gossip from time to time, such as who's raising chickens along with their fresh eggs, or who might have a banana plant with a stalk laden with ripening fruit. It was Brad who discovered that the polecats were being used to mark out the fifty foot intervals with their pungent stench. Another name for polecat is skunk. Why would Aletha Player want to be working with a bunch of skunks? Your guess is as good as mine, but the situation sure stinks. More than likely, this being Miami-Dade County, it's simple greed.

Somebody is making money installing those poles, making those poles, stringing the wire on those poles, and the longer the route the more poles and the more wire. Ultimately it is the rate payers, FP&L's customers who'll pay for it all, but whose pockets are being filled with the money spent on all those extra poles and miles of wire? Think about it. Something stinks.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Monkette Organizes The Business Community

Monkette has been working closely with Councilman Scott Galvin in trying to keep those giant concret poles out of North Miami's residential neighborhoods. This is a long piece, but we received it via Email from Scott earlier today. PLEASE read it!

"North Miami FPL Route Longer than FEC Routes, Runs Past More Homes

"I decided to do a little first-hand research on the FPL tranmission line issue over the long holiday weekend. I drove the entire length of the chosen North Miami route, as well as two separate FEC routes. The results I found were surprising!

"It is now apparent that FPL is failing their customers, and their public duty, on two fronts. They refuse to study the costs of the FEC routes (which are both shorter), and it can now be shown that the North Miami route will impact more residential homes.

"Starting with the North Miami substation on NE 127 Street and 14 Avenue, here's what I found:

1) The North Miami Route - heading north on NE 14 Avenue, west along 135 Street, then south on NW 7 Avenue, ending at substation on NW 93 Street.
Total Length - 5.9 miles
Length Past Residences - 3.1 miles

2) FEC Route ("Miami Shores" route) - heading south on the FEC Railway, heading west along NE 95 Street, ending at substation on NW 93 Street.
Total Length - 3.6 miles
Length Past Residences - 2.8 miles

3) FEC Route ("El Portal" route) - heading south on the FEC Railway, heading west on NE 87 Street to NW 2 Avenue, then back to NW 93 Street station.
Total Length - 4.1 miles
Length Past Residences - 2.9 miles

"As you can see, FPL, which is charged by the Florida Legislature with providing the most cost-effective route for their transmission lines, has chosen the the longest route possible.

"Additionally, the route they've chosen also runs past the longest length of residential areas. In multiple letters to the city, FPL stated that they chose the North Miami route because the FEC routes were "adjacent" to too many homes.

"Despite that fact that FPL refuses to define "adjacent," it is clear that the North Miami route is still affecting more homes than the other possibilities.

"In fact, I gave FPL the benefit of the doubt when defining the areas that run through residential areas. The reality is that the FEC Railway tracks (including their right-of-way, in addition to adjoining streets), provide a couple-hundred feet of buffer to the nearby homes. Also, much of the Miami Shores route is along NE 95 Street, which is just as wide as 135 Street.

"Late last week, FPL sent the city a letter saying that they "would not be party to conducting a cost analysis" of any FEC route. They said they dismissed those routes because they are "adjacent" to too many homes. What a shame that homes in other areas seem to be more valuable in the eyes of FPL than those in North Miami!"
Let's give Scott and Monkette all the support they need on this one! Thanks.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

FP&L Gives North Miami The Shaft ~ Thanks Aletha Player

Aletha Player, you and your FP&L cohort Michael Williams were mentioned again in this morning's Miami Herald Neighbors section. You guys were telling the residents of North Miami just how lucky we were to have your new transmission lines run right in front of our houses. As the article states, "80-foot concrete poles with six-foot-wide bases every 50 feet". With many of the lots being only 65 or 70 feet wide many of us will be blessed with two chances for a hurricane to crush our house, automobiles, and boats under a huge piles of concrete rubble.

Of more immediate concern is how you plan on putting six foot bases on three and one half foot sidewalks, or do you plan on taking up all the parking space on swales elsewhere on the route. We all know that concrete surfaces that large invite grafiti. The citizens shouldn't be expected to clean it up either.

The one thing you have done, though, Aletha Player and Michael Williams, is bringing the citizens of North Miami together in a united front. All over town people are showing their support with these yard signs, and now we have bus bench ads also. Even the travails of the Munisport fiasco, or the campaign to go to district elections, failed to do that. Your giving the citizens of North Miami the shaft brings us much closer together. Thanks, Aletha and Michael.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

More Girls In Black Dresses?

That picture of this young woman that I used a few days ago? I got a lot of favorable comments from my friends. Combine that with my hectic schedule the past few days and I decided to just run another photo from that same series.

Why hectic? Well my son Jonathan is arriving tomorrow for a few day's visit and my house, as usual, looks exactly like a single guy lives there. I manage to keep the dishes, pots & pans, and the laundry up to date, but there are randomly scattered piles of newspapers, catalogs, and magazines in and amongst the camera equipment and fishing tackle. Recently added to the clutter is the bicycle that I got from Doug, and of course I've been working on that in the living room (where else?) so there are wrenches, pliers, vice grips, oil cans and WD-40 on the floor by the front door.
Lastly, a bunch of people from my fishing club have been begging me to ramp up production of my bucktail jigs as we get closer to the winter runs of fish in the bay. The kitchen counter was cluttered up with the electric lead pot, jig molds, pliers, boxes of hooks and so on, while the dining room table was covered in paper because that's where I paint the jig heads. At least I tie on the bucktail hair and gold tinsel out on the front porch, or else the house would be carpeted with hair trimmings flecked with gold. Now at last there's a semblance of order in the house again, but it sure doesn't look like a woman lives here. (Aplications being accepted. Aplicants must be at least 18 years of age, and questionable moral character won't be held against you.)
I'm hoping to find time over the next few days to keep up with the blog postings. If not, be patient. Jonathan is only going to be here for a few days.