Friday, November 30, 2007

The Shameful Condition of North Miami Parks And A Reply From Councilman Scott Galvin

Back in the 1950's this had been the site of Helker's Yacht Basin, but Hurricane Donna in 1960 did it in. A dozen years later the City of North Miami embarked on the ambitious task of acquiring new park land and beautifying the ones we already had. Helker's was transformed into a pretty little bayfront park where North Bayshore Drive meets the beginning of Broad Causeway, which heads over to the beaches.

A fishing pier was constructed out into Biscayne Bay. At various times of the year the fishing could be fast and furious as fish migrated north and south with the seasons. You could about always come up with enough grunts and mangrove snapper for the table. Jack crevalle, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel appeared in the fall, chasing the mullet schools south. It was a convenient spot for kids on bikes or retirees walking over from the nearby condos. The rest of us found a nice parking lot near the beginning of the pier.

Wood is wood, and whether or not it's pressure treated it gets a rotten board here and there, termites find it an appealing home, and even galvanized nails eventually rust. Wooden structures near water require maintainance. The city ignored the problem way too long. Then I suppose it was "too expensive to repair" and they put up this chain link fence to keep people from using the pier. The chained and locked gate is now in deplorable condition, more unsightly than the pier itself.

The bigger problem though, is the neighborhood itself. The park is in a neighborhood of expensive waterfront homes with nice boats tied up along their docks. Paranoia! The park attracts "the wrong element". The kids on bikes and middle class folk who come here to fish or watch the pelicans must really be coming here to case the neighborhood, plan a robbery, maybe even steal a Mercedes. Suddenly the perception is that the pier is an "attractive nuisance" best shut down. The cops will tell you that most neighborhood crime is by kids in the neighborhood. Even upper class kids steal cars and break into houses. Hell, they're likely to have a better idea about how to sneak past the alarm system than kids who've never seen an alarm system!

The city gets an unused park that still has to be mowed and the rich folks get a disgusting eyesore at the entrance to their exclusive enclave. The retirees stay home and play cards in their condos, the rich folks fish out of their boats, and the rest of us be damned. That wasn't the vision of the North Miami Parks system back around 1970 when we all voted for a bond issue to pay for all these parks. Even the pelicans avoid the place. There's no one there to feed them fish scraps and leftover bait.

BUT IT NOW APPEARS THAT THERE IS HOPE! I just received an email from Scott Galvin. (He really does read this blog...LOL):

"You'll be glad to know that we budgeted $150,000 this year to repair the boardwalk. Once that's fixed, the park will be reopened to the public. Then, we will add a new "dog park" section where folks can bring their pooches to play.

"Work starts in January :)"

Remember, folks! You read it here first! And thank you Scott Galvin!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Backside Of The Church

First Church Of North Miami Congregational is two blocks from my house. My first wife went there and both my kids attended the Sunday school. I'd met the minister through the Jaycees and many a night we'd have a few drinks too many together at the Jaycee Hall. I'd probably known him for a year or two before it ever occurred to me to say "Hey Chuck, what kind of business are you in?" I guess I figured it out when he replied "Saving souls." He had a heart attack a few years ago at age 54. I hope his soul was saved. I miss him.

Anyway, this shows Pullman Hall behind the church, where they hold receptions and rummage sales. There's a rummage sale coming up on the eigth of December and I'm going to try to get there early. They always have something that I want or can use, the prices are dirt cheap, and the money is going to a good cause. The best part is seeing people that I've known for years and catching up on whose kids (and now grandkids!) are doing what, going to which college, even getting married and making babies, starting yet another generation.

One thing the good Lord doesn't seem to do, however, is keep the termites away from the church. Those orange things? They're huge tarps that a few hours earlier had covered the entire hall and sactuary buildings for two days. Poison gas filled the place, killing off all the termites and whatever other vermin had taken up residence. I'd had my house done a few months earlier. It seems that every eight to ten years you just gotta do it. Welcome to South Florida! (No, not you, termites!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Captain Dave Kostyo Speaks On Tarpon Fishing

Here I'm chatting with a few other members of the South Florida Fishing Club while we wait for Tony Roma's fantastic ribs to be served. The club meets at Tony Roma's Restaurant in Sunny Isles Beach every couple of weeks. On this particular night there was no Big Name speaker and attendance was sparse. We do have several well know fishing guides in the club, like Capt. Bouncer Smith and Capt. Dave Kostyo, guys who'll get you on the fish and teach you the tricks.

The next meeting will feature Capt. Dave talking about winter time tarpon fishing along Miami Beach and in the cuts leading to Biscayne Bay. The fishing is fantastic. It's mostly night fishing, drifting with the wind and the current while trailing a couple of lines baited with jumbo live shrimp or small baitfish like pilchards or herring.

The average tarpon you'll hook is going to be in the 40 to 70 pound range, but fish over 100 pounds are common. As soon as they feel that hook they start jumping like crazy, with the bright lights of the Miami Beach hotels reflecting off their silvery scales. Often they'll make long runs, ripping line off the reel and Dave has to crank up the engine and follow them before the reel is empty. I've fished with Capt. Dave a number of times and proved to him that you'll get more fish by fishing with a plug rod and 12 lb. test line, like bass fisherman use, but his clients tend to be lazy and want to save their strength for the fight, not waste it casting a bucktail jig. Too bad! They're missing a lot of fun.

Anyway, we're having a meeting on December 4th, the ribs will taste great, and Capt. Dave Kostyo is going to be the speaker. That's also the night that Hanukah starts at sundown and we have a fairly large Jewish membership. I guess if they were all that devout we wouldn't be eating spare ribs so I expect a fairly decent turnout anyway. If you live in the North Miami-Dade/South Broward area you're welcome to join us and hear what Capt. Dave has to say. Hell, you might even decide to join the club! Contact me for more information.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Eating Out Can Be A Lot Safer Than Staying Home

I didn't write this, Ann Rast did, but it's so damned funny that I felt it needed a wider readership than people forwarding emails to one another could give it. Thanks Ann!

"Garden Grass Snakes, also known as Garter Snakes (Thamnophissirtalis), can be dangerous. Yes, grass snakes, not rattlesnakes. Here's why... A couple in Sweetwater, Texas had a lot of potted plants. During a recent cold spell, the wife was bringing a lot of them indoors to protect them from a possible freeze. It turned out that a little green garden grass snake was hidden in one of the plants and when it had warmed up, it slithered out and the wife saw it go under the sofa. She let out a very loud scream. The husband (who was taking a shower) ran out into the living room naked to see what the problem was. She told him there was a snake under the sofa. He got down on the floor on his hands and knees to look for it. About that time the family dog came and cold-nosed him on the behind. He thought the snake had bitten him, so he screamed and fell over on the floor.His wife thought he had a heart attack, so she covered him up, told him to lie still and called an ambulance.The attendants rushed in, wouldn't listen to his protests and loaded him on the stretcher and started carrying him out.

"About that time the snake came out from under the sofa and the Emergency Medical Technician saw it and dropped his end of the stretcher. That's when the man broke his leg and why he is still in the hospital. The wife still had the problem of the snake in the house, so she called on a neighbor man. He volunteered to capture the snake. He armed himself with a rolled-up newspaper and began poking under the couch. Soon he decided it was gone and told the woman, who sat down on the sofa in relief. But while relaxing, her hand dangled in between the cushions, where she felt the snake wriggling around. She screamed and fainted, and the snake rushed back under the sofa.

"The neighbor man, seeing her lying there passed out, tried to use CPR to revive her. The neighbor's wife, who had just returned from shopping at the grocery store, saw her husband's mouth on the woman's mouth and slammed her husband in the back of the head with a bag of canned goods, knocking him out and cutting his scalp to a point where it needed stitches. The noise woke the woman from her dead faint and she saw her neighbor lying on the floor with his wife bending over him, so she assumed that he had been bitten by the snake. She went to the kitchen and got a small bottle of whiskey, and began pouring it down the man's throat.

"By now the police had arrived. They saw the unconscious man, smelled the whiskey, and assumed that a drunken fight had occurred. They were about to arrest them all, when the women tried to explain how it all happened over a little green snake. The police called an ambulance, which took away the neighbor and his sobbing wife. The little snake again crawled out from under the sofa. One of the policemen drew his gun and fired at it. He missed the snake and hit the leg of the end table. The table fell over and the lamp on it shattered, and as the bulb broke it started a fire in the drapes. The other policeman tried to beat out the flames and fell through the window into the yard on top of the family dog who, startled, jumped out and raced into the street, where an oncoming car swerved to avoid it and smashed into the parked police car.

"Meanwhile, the burning drapes were seen by the neighbors who called the fire department. The firemen had started raising the fire truck ladder when they were halfway down the street. The rising ladder tore out the overhead wires and put out the electricity and disconnected the telephones in a ten-square city block area (but they did get the house fire out). Time passed! Both men were discharged from the hospital, the house was repaired, the dog came home, the police acquired a new car, and all was right with their world.

"Awhile later they were watching TV and the weatherman announced a cold snap for that night. The wife asked her husband if he thought they should bring their plants in for the night. That's when he shot her."

by Ann Rast

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cool Hair! But Does She Have any Tatoos? The Punk Urban Cow.

No, it's not a menage a trois! They're just good friends. But even this friendship might soon be coming to an end. Tomorrow night (27 November 2007) at the North Miami City Council meeting there's an item on the agenda that would ban farm animals from living in the city. But what exactly is a farm animal? Some people live on farms. Are those people considered farm animals? Wouldn't a cow living in a suburban residential neighborhood be a suburban animal? A suburban resident maybe?

The other thing that they hope to ban tomorrow night is the feeding of "stray cats". Some bleeding heart do gooders are upset at the occasional small bird or squirrel that the cats catch. Better, they think, to stop feeding them? Yeah, right! Then they'll have to catch the birds and squirrels whenever they get hungry. The wild native possums and racoons that live all over town likely kill even more of them. We even have a few urban foxes sighted on rare occasions. The cats mostly concentrate their efforts on easy prey like mice and the small native rats. Nobody misses them, for sure! If this ordinance passes we'll be asking the feds for a grant to hire the Pied Piper of Hamblin...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My Inside Office ~ Jimmy's Place

When my thoughts head in the direction of food, typical American diner fare, whether it's eggs, sausage patties, and grits for breakfast, a corned beef on rye at lunch, or one of the daily specials at supper time, I usually head over to Jimmy's place. I really prefer Starbucks coffee, plus you can smoke with your coffee on the outside patio at Starbucks. Somehow coffee just tastes better with a cigarette, and recent medical research seems to show that the combination off caffeine and nicotine is good for the brain, increasing both our memory and thinking abilities. Nicotine actually seems to delay the onset of Alzheimers. So I eat at Jimmy's and then head east a block to get my caffeine rush. (Shhhh, one of the waitresses told me that she prefers Starbucks coffee herself!)

I first "met" James Mitchell on the internet Leica Forum at Photo.Net a few years ago. We corresponded via email for several months before he told me that business was bringing him to Miami for a few days. We made arrangements to get together for a day, and since then we've gotten together several times a year, whenever he finds himself in the Miami area.

He's the brains behind the Al Kaplan T-shirt a few years ago. Read all about it! See pictures of people as far away as Australia wearing them. Would any of this have been possible without breakfast at Jimmy's.

I'm way behind on writing this, nearly a day late, it's nearly 6 PM, and writing about Jimmy's Place has me thinking of food...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gabriella's Monkey ~ Her Monkey's First Adventure

My favorite childhood toy was a monkey. Some of my earliest memories are playing with it. I think I gave him a name but it's long forgotten. I still have him though. A few years ago I started taking him around town and taking photos of him in various places. On this blog I've just been calling him Monkey.

Fourteen months ago I became a grandfather. My son Jonathan and his wife Deborah had little Gabriella. Ever since that day I've been looking around for a toy monkey for her. A few weeks ago I finally found one! Just in time to give her for Hanukah.

When the guys from Turn Key Construction Services finished installing my new windows I grabbed Gabriella's monkey and posed them in front of the house. That's Romulo Vallejo, the company vice president, standing in the center feeling silly holding a toy monkey...LOL. Since this was taken they finished painting around the windows and put up tracks for the storm shutters.

I'm planning on taking this cute little monkey around town before she flies up to Boston and meets Gabriella and getting a few photos in various places. Maybe at the city council meeting Tuesday night? Why not! Monkey has attended a few, and his lady friend Monkette even sat up there in the council chambers with me during a Board of Adjustment meeting. (They wouldn't let her vote though.) Some day Gabriella might be crediting her toy monkey for her interest in politics.

Friday, November 23, 2007

An Enthusiastic Woman! Dig That Smile...

North Miami is noted for being a multi-ethnic and multi-racial community with three major languages in daily use: English, Spanish, and Kreyole, but you'll often hear Portuguese, Russian, German and a few others as well. Most people speak passable English though, and there's just about always some helpful individual handy when you need a translation.

Once in awhile, though, you run into somebody that seems to be totaly mute. From first sight I was attracted to this smiling lady. I guess I've always been attracted to short women and short she was, but my height didn't seem to bother her in the least. Since she couldn't speak I never did find out where she was from. I'd never seen anybody with that color skin before. I wish that all the girls smiled at me like that. All the time, too!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Photo Has Nothing To Do With Neighborhood Crime Watch

I was going to write about "Neighborhood Crime Watch" but then I got this in my email. I guess in a way it's about cruelty to animals, which is a crime. Read on...


A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird's mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. John tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music, and anything else he could think of to "clean up" the bird's vocabulary.Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. John, in desperation, threw up his hands, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was a total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute. Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the freezer door. The parrot calmly stepped out onto John's outstretched arms and said "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior." John was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot why he had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued,"May I ask what the turkey did?"

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"The Devil Made Me Do It" ~ Politics And Pet Turkeys

666 is supposedly the "Sign Of The Devil". This is the six hundred sixty sixth post on The Price Of Silver.

All of which has nothing to do with the picture of a group of us chatting politics in the plaza next to City Hall and in front of North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art, usually just called MOCA. This was several months back, probably around July Fourth, judging by the American flag in my pocket and the length of my hair before my ex wife teamed up with my former girlfriend who then dragged me into her salon and gave me a haircut. I think that they're the only two people in town who prefer seeing me with short hair. That really long bunch of "hair" sticking up on the top of my head is actually the fronds on a palm tree behind me.

I wish that I'd thought about it sooner but back about 1975 or so I took a picture here of the mayor and the president of the Chamber of Commerce holding a live turkey. I think there was a sign that used to announce city events saying something about the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I still have all the negatives, but the picture that I'd want to use is one I took while we were waiting for them to get there. I already had the turkey. My five year old daughter Elena was walking him up and down the sidewalk on a leash. THAT was a picture.

Now we have a mayor, Kevin Burns, who has a daughter named Autumn. She's about the same age that Elena was back then. I'm going to suggest to him that for next year we get a photo of Autumn walking a turkey down 125th Street in front of the museum. It would make for a cute picture!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Woody's ~ The Best Philly Cheese Steak Sub in the South

Pretty much every Sunday the craving strikes. My mouth is watering in anticipation of the fantastic taste of paper thin slices of grilled beef, topped with cheese and freshly grilled onions on a sub roll. Then I remember that Woody's is closed on Sunday. I go on Monday.

Back in the 1950's this was an A&W Root Beer place painted bright orange with the A&W logo painted on the big sign out front. There was a big juke box in front with the latest in rock & roll on 78 RPM records.

Out back it was still mangrove swamp. They hadn't yet dredged all the deep canals that supplied the fill to cover the swamp. A few years later there would be canals criss crossing the former swamp, hosting water front homes stretching east to Biscayne Bay, but back then as the sun was starting to set the mosquitos would swarm out of the mangroves while the land crabs would venture out of their borrows and invade the parking lot. Some of them even went out onto U.S. 1 where they'd get run over by the cars driving by. Watching the crabs scurrying about almost made swatting mosquitos bearable.

One night I went there with my fishing buddy Norm Nilsen. We'd stopped off for root beer and burgers. Somehow a palmetto bug, a type of huge cockroach nearly two inches long, had gotten onto the turntable and was down in the recess next to the spindle, getting dizzy spinning round and round. Every time the arm would lift a record up he'd try to be brave enough to navigate the spinning turntable, but the next record coming down would cause him to retreat back to the recess. Norm and I kept feeding the machine nickles, dimes, and quarters until we ran out of change.

A few years later the A&W closed up, and eventually it became Woody's. Now we have great Philly Cheese steak subs at about $4.50 each but no root beer. On the bright side, no mosquitos or land crabs either. I miss the frosty mugs of root beer though.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Whose Reality? A Visit To The Doctor

My "primary care physician" is Larry Katz and today it was time for my first payed-for-by-Medicare visit. I turned 65. I'm a Senior Citizen!

He has a large percentage of older patients, and mid morning on a weekday that's exactly what fills his office. There are far more women than men. The men are mostly grey haired or white haired, sometimes still salt and pepper, and that's just the ones that have enough hair to tell. I sat next to guy who had a thin scraggly long white ponytail. I'm pretty sure that there wasn't much hair growth hidden under his leather akubra style hat, judging by the thiness of the ponytail. Only their bellies are big.

The women range from rail thin (rare) to grossly overweight, and most of them sport relatively short hair permed to phony perfection and dyed to fool absolutely nobody. They wouldn't have been able to apply more make-up even if the stores gave it out for free. The smell of cologne permeates the waiting room.

When I finally got to see Larry I found out that my blood pressure was 130 over 80, my pulse 76, weight 161, my heart and my lungs sounded great, but he still went through his ya-gotta-stop-smoking spiel. I pointed out that recent controlled studies in Europe show that nicotine delays the onset of Alzheimers and improves brain function in general, while moderate smoking seems to protect lung tissue from other more harmful air borne pollutants. He didn't deny it. He simply said to stop smoking! I walked back out through the waiting room full of decrepit non-smokers and lit up on my way to the truck. I'm feeling great!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport

It was really a monkey hunt I was on. I've had a toy monkey since I was a baby, and when Monkey flew out to California a few months back he returned to Miami in the arms of Monkette, another toy monkey that Todd had purchased to keep Monkey company on his vacation.

My granddaughter Gabriella turned one in September, and I decided that she needed her very own toy monkey. Todd really lucked out! Toy monkeys aren't all that easy to find. In this photograph I'm at a rummage sale at the Congregational Church around the corner, where they had lots of toy animals but no monkeys. Most were brand new and still had the original tags attached. I did find a cute kangaroo with a joey (baby) in her pouch and I bought them, along with another toy animal (no, I'm not telling what. It's supposed to be a surprise!).

I finally found a monkey at Wallgreens. I'm going to take some photographs of Gabriella's monkey together with Monkey and Monkette before I pack her up for her flight to Cambridge, MA. I probably won't be around when Gabriella has had her monkey for 63 years but I hope she likes him.

Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport was a hit song by Australian singer Rolf Harris back in 1963. It's actually a calypso song inspired by the Carribean Island songs by Harry Belafonte. Strange world with strange twists!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Are We All Crazy? And A Comment About Red And Blue

We were drinking coffee outside of Starbucks at adjacent tables and started chatting with one another. I have no idea about what, nor do I remember what might have been the significance of those crazy hand signs, but I suppose that it was important at the moment. Who are they? I don't have a clue. I just wish my memory was that good...LOL

Yesterday I was chatting with a neuropsychologist, Dr. Jay Weinstein, and one of the things we were discussing was memory, including the effects of age, any history of seizures (which I've had) and medications you might be taking. Of course repetition aids memory, which is why we make kids recite their ABC's and multiplication tables seemingly endlessly. Also, reading, hearing, and saying the same thing utilizes different parts of the brain. Having the same thing in more than one part of the brain helps us remember.

This photograph was taken after a casual conversation about something, and I guess we exchanged names, and that's about all I remember about it.

It's kind of strange that the bright reds and blues also were in yesterdays post. It was pure happenstance. I didn't notice it until just now.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Open Nights And Weekends

Pretty odd for a bank really, but the idea intrigued me ever since they had their grand opening party a few weeks earlier, plus they had some really good munchies at the party and gave out handy little flashlights that have the AA batteries side by side instead of in a row, so the thing really is pocketable.

Equitable Bank, after my twenty some years of loyalty, had decided to start charging me a monthly service fee. Bank Atlantic offered free checking as long as I had at least one direct deposit check a month coming in. I switched my Social Security and got a handy little canvas duffel bag in my choice of two colors, and they even credited me for the cost of my unused checks from the Equitable acount.. In this shot we'd just set up the account and I'd gotten a bunch of bank literature about their services and a pad of ten starter checks (not imprinted with my name). A few days later the real checks arrived in the mail.

I'm really amazed at how accurately I lined up the camera with the bottom edge of that sign outside the window considering that I wasn't looking through the finder. I was shooting with my usual 15mm lens.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm Getting (my) Fat!

I've been a coffee addict since I was a toddler and my grandfather would put some in an egg cup for me. I really loved the taste, and every afternoon he and I would sit at the kitchen table drinking coffee together.

I've always loved sweets also, and donuts were high on my list of favorites until fats and cholesterol became the big evil monster. Donuts are fried! I switched to guava turnovers with nice flakey crusts. I still got my sugar rush but without all the fats. The downside of the sugar rush is the crash that follows. I'd get so drowsy that I couldn't resist taking an afternoon nap.

When my son Jonathan was here visiting a couple of months ago he said that I eat far too much in the way of carbohydrates, both the sweet kind and the just plain starchy kind like pasta, bread, and crackers. He pointed out that my body could soon adapt to a diet higher in proteins and fats, and through a process called ketosis the body converts it to a form that it can use as a source of energy. Suddenly donuts were only half bad. Sure, there is still that sugar and flour to deal with, but there's a lot of nice healthy greasy fat also so my liver can stay busy doing the ketosis thing just like it's supposed to.

There must be some truth to his theory. I'm eating a lot less carbohydrates these days. I'm no longer having the after-every-meal sleepy spells. In general I'm feeling pretty damned good, I haven't gained an ounce, I still get to enjoy the sugar rush, and my hair hasn't started to fall out either.

Lately I've been buying the donuts and then driving the few blocks north to Starbucks to get a real cup of coffee. I know that some people prefer the smooth blandness of the Dunkin' Donuts brew but I'm sure not one of them. I do like the idea that we once more have a real donut shop right here in North Miami, and it's just blocks from my house.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ivan The Lens Man, One Of the Last Of The Great Tinkerers

A few weeks ago I got a call from Ivan. He was giving up his house and trying to find homes for some of his collectables. I'm now the proud owner of a brace of cameras, a 3.25" x 4.25" Speed Graphic and a big Graflex single lens reflex camera taking the same film size. It never was a popular film size in the U.S. but it was fairly common in England where it was referred to as "quarter plate", full plate being 6.5" X 8.5".

I first met Ivan back about 1968 at Browne's Photo Center when it was on N.W. 22nd Avenue just north of 79th Street, not yet having moved to the larger corner location. He worked for some sort of company that used lenses for instrumentation purposes, and they were always buying up strange optics, mostly military surplus I suppose, like Kodak Aero Ektars, but also other oddities like a 100mm f/2 Angenieux and a 50mm f/0.95 Canon, and an assortment of Astro Tachars and Zeiss Biotars. All these were barrel mount fast lenses, but lacked a focussing mount, so when they were finished with the lens it really had little resale value.

Ivan knew that I liked to play around with odd ball lenses and I could invariably figure out a way to mount them on one of my cameras. Over the years he gave me several very unusual lenses that I treasured for the way they rendered things on film. Today we use the Japanese term "bokeh" to describe the rendition of the out of focus areas in a photograph, but thirty years ago we just knew what we liked.

Brownes has been closed for over twenty years now and Ivan has been retired close to that long, but he just lives two blocks away and we often bump into one another when we eat at Jimmies Place. Now if I can just find Al Wessel's phone number and talk him into selling me back that 125mm f/2.3 Astro Tachar that I'd gotten from Ivan thirty years ago I think that it just might have worked on that Speed Graphic!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Unconnected

Going for coffee is usually a social experience. We go not just to have a cup of coffee but to meet our friends, perhaps make new friends, talk about the weather, the current state of politics both local and national or what our kids are up to these days. Some days the conversations are intense and animated, and then there are days like this one.

It seems that for some unkown reason everyone is in their own little world. Conversation is almost an intrusion. On those days it's not just my friends around this table, but it seems like the folks at every table are that way, not even reading the newspaper but just sitting there lost in their thoughts. Even the group of girls standing on the sidewalk seem unconnected to one another, each looking off in a different direction.

A few weeks ago I noticed a group of girls that I see frequently but don't really know all wearing denim miniskirts. Another group came in all wearing white dresses. I was curious, and asked them if they'd perhaps spoken to one another on the phone that morning about what to wear that day. "No" they replied, but all agreed that it was something that frequently happened.

On this particular day when everyone is quiet and very much into themselves it's interesting to look at the clothing choices. With the girls the unifying thing is the black tops, but one is wearing a floral pattern skirt with high heels while another is wearing a black dress, and the third is wearing black slacks, both with flats. Around the table one of us is wearing a garishly patterned sport shirt while two of us are wearing rose colored shirts, yet even here the other guy has long sleeves neatly pressed while I'm wearing a rumpled short sleeved shirt. Total disconnect. We sit in silence.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Watching The Twenty-First Century Obeah Man

Young people growing up with computers seem to deal with the concept of "programs" with no problem, but my brain just never functioned in a logical fashion. My mind jumps from A to perhaps D, or even Q at times, with no consideration of the intermediate steps. It's all intuitive, it just happens, and it was a huge problem when I was a youngster in school. The teachers all thought that I must be cheating at math! The answers were correct but there was no long column of calculations to show how I arrived at the answers.

Hell, I didn't know how I arrived at the answers either. What I did know was that I considered it too damned tedious to go through, and write down, all those calculations. It was pretty much the same with English class. I'd organize things in my head and thought that the concept of writing a "first draft" was a waste of valuable daydreaming time.

Then came computers! They want you to go through programs step by step, although some of these that you use on a regular basis can be automated I'm told. I've had a computer for five or six years now and can't seem to get past basic web surfing and using the email. Once in awhile the computer decides to do its own thing and only a logical mind can figure out what's going wrong. I really think that evil spirits, duppies the Jamaicans call them, lurk in computers these days. They've adapted, exchanging desk tops for the traditional trees in the forest to use as homes in this new world dominated by technology.

Those of us who came of age in the days when intuitive thought processes were the best shortcuts seem to have a bit of trouble keeping the duppies at bay as we try our hand at navigating through all those damned programs. Fortunately the North Miami Public Library has classes on Wednesday morning where the Obeah Man instructs us older folks in the proper rituals to perform and incantations to mutter as we try to master these foreign concepts. I really suspect that a few good tokes on a spliff would speed up the process!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Yamaha Gets Beat At North Miami's Veterans Day Ceremonies

I went to Starbucks this morning, bought a Sunday paper and a "tall coffee", and I was sitting there outside on the patio by the drive-thru minding my business when I heard the familiar "Hey Al, what are you doing here?" followed by "Why aren't you over at the Veterans' Day ceremonies?" It was the mayor's partner, so I headed over to Griffing Park, shot a fair amount pictures of the things that were happening, from a group of marching drummers to a group of girls who were high stepping and gyrating to the rythm of the drums. I found it a bit ironic that we had so many World War II vets and the big bass drum had "Yamaha" printed on the drum heads, there for all to see. I shook lots of hands, and exchanged a cheek kiss or three with a few older ladies that I've known about forever.

Then we all went across the street to the community center for refreshments. I had a couple of sections of roast beef sub sandwich with a can of Coke, an orange, and some grapes. They had turkey subs as well. There was no coffee, and I was glad that I'd left Monkey at home because there were no fresh fruit platters. By then I was too stuffed to have a piece of cake. I'll probably still be too stuffed to eat dinner tonight, but by ten or so tonight I'll be wishing that I'd wrapped a piece of cake in a napkin..

I shot a couple of rolls of color film things like the honor guard, a girls drill team, a marching band, and way too many people making patriotic speeches. Mayor Burns five year old daughter Autumn was so cute when some soldiers marched out in front carrying chrome barreled shotguns to shoot off a few volleys of blanks. She covered her ears with her hands, closed her eyes, and had a big grimmace on her face. It was very obvious the she doesn't care for loud noises.

I finished one roll that I'd started a few days ago and shot another. There was already a finished roll here at the house, so I can get the "second roll processed for 50% off" deal or more likely "pay for two, get the third roll free". In a week or two I'll be posting some of the shots here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

They Huffed And They Puffed But Couldn't Blow It Down

The house is getting close to sixty years of age. I've owned it for forty. Over the years it's been "tented" for termites several times, repainted a bunch of times, and the roof has been reshingled a time or two.

Back in the 1940's and 50's they built houses to last. They built them to withstand hurricanes. After a few decades of minimal hurricane activity they slacked off on the building codes, then Hurricane Andrew came through thirteen years ago. Hurricane Andrew proved that pressboard (wood chips glued together under pressure into 4 x 8 foot panels) is nowhere near as strong as plywood. Prefabbed trusses made out of 2 X 4 lumber isn't the equal of rafters and joists made out of 2 X 6 lumber. New houses in the south end of Miami-Dade County and out in west Broward County under the new weaker building codes were demolished by Andrew. This house suffered a few torn shingles but the roof still didn't leak.

Still, in between tentings there was a bit of termite damage, and the wood around the eaves had some rot. The tar paper under the shingles was drying out and would likely start leaking at some point. New tar paper meant new shingles as well and the house needed painting. While we were at it I went for upgrading the windows to "current hurricane code" complete with aluminum stor panels. The city had come up with some state grant money to rehab "moderate income housing" and since I started to collect Social Security I was squarely in the moderate income bracket. If I'm still living here at the end of seven years the loan is 100% forgiven. Otherwise the loan balance gets prorated and due at sale.

In this photograph they'd already stripped off the old shingles and tar paper and were replacing some wood. The sky was darkening while they worked. Those guys sure work fast. A couple of hours later they had the tar paper in place, beating the rain by a few hours.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Keepin' Up The Image

Here's a photo I shot a couple of weeks ago. It reminded me of "the Old Days" in the early 60's when some of the older photographers were still shooting with 4 X 5 Speed Graphics and big strobes with seperate battery packs. Gradually the trend first went to twin lens reflexes shooting 120 film, then 35mm cameras. There were always some who insisted on the "pro look" by fitting their cameras with motor drives when there was no need for them. This is a typical "execution" situation, line 'em up and shoot 'em, and three frames max will assure that everybody's eyes are open, the lighting in that room is set up for the TV camera that broadcasts the city council meetings on cable TV, and there's plenty of room to maneuver so a 35mm lens will get the shot and a huge bulky zoom lens isn't needed. With all the progress that's been made with equipment we still have people that are schlepping around a camera/lens/flash that's as big as, and likely heavier than, that old 4 X 5 press camera from the 1950's. Notice how he has to support that monstrosity by tucking his elbow against his hip? What fun!
I was holding my Bessa L with the 15mm Heliar in one hand, exposing a few frames on Kodacolor Gold 200. Even with the 15 mm lens the image is sharp enough so it could be cropped in to just the group, the same coverage that a 35mm lens would give full frame.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Path To Enlightenment?

I'm standing across the street from what used to be North Miami Middle School (after they stopped calling them Jr. Highs), the municipal pool, and the police station. It's going to become the new Cagni Park, and the old Cagni Park just to the north will become part of the complex that includes the new middle school and senior high.

This is the plaza in front of the North Miami Public Library, now named the E. May Avil Library after the old maid city clerk that kept the city's records for decades. Her real claim to fame (although most folks don't know the story, and the rest try to keep it under wraps) is that she's indirectly responsible for the porn film Deep Throat being made in North Miami back in the 1970's. You can find the detailed story here on the price of silver back about a year ago.

What I like about this photo is that it illustrates that people never really grow up. As kids it would never occur to us that there was a problem with discarding hundreds of sheets of notebook paper all over the walkway. But they're not the sheets of paper that they appear to be at first glance. This in a way is a monument to that outlook on life. Concrete "statues" of notebook paper gracing the walkway forever! And as adults we never seem to lose the impulse to scratch our names in public places. Somebody came up with the idea of selling the right to scratch a name or message in the squares of wet concrete, which were then set in the brick walkways in a random pattern. Up close you can read them. Speeding down the street it sure looks like a mess, but it raised money for a good cause.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Rise, The Fall, The Resurrection

Donuts were popular back in the sixties. The two big national chains were Mr. Donut and Dunkin Donuts. They were open 24 hours a day and many nights I'd head over there with my photographer friends Nathan Benn and Al Olme, or the artist Tony Mafia. There was a Mr. Donut about six blocks away, another perhaps thirty-five blocks, and a Dunkin Donuts about fifteen blocks, but in another direction.

The closest Mr. Donut closed first. The world was on a health food kick in the seventies. Then the Dunkin' Donuts became some sort of a restaurant. Eventually Mr. Donut became The Donut Connection, but that closed awhile ago. I guess greasy fatty food suddenly became healthy again, or maybe it's just the coffee fad fueling things.

As Starbucks tries to have a store every mile or so Dunkin Donuts is showing up in strip mall after strip mall. They advertise how good the coffee is, how so many people prefer it to Starbucks. The donuts never get mentioned. This store is new. The strip mall is undergoing a complete renovation. It's about the same distance from my house as Starbucks. Starbucks stopped selling cinamon donuts. I wish I liked Dunkin Donuts coffee. I buy my donuts and transport them up the street

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"...But The Concrete Rubble Is There To Hide The Broken Glass!"

The new windows were installed properly, met code, and passed inspection. What I don't understand is why the contractor didn't just put a tarp or drop cloth down to catch all the rubble and patching concrete, and the mortar used to install the new window sills during the construction. It seems like it would be a lot easier than trying to clean up the mess afterwards.

In one bedroom a glob of wet concrete fell on the carpet, where it hardened into a sizeable chunk, firmly attached to the carpet fibers. A few of the old windows broke in the process of removing them. That concrete rubble in the photograph is all mixed up with shards of glass both big and small, but all nice and sharp and waiting to cut the foot of some unsuspecting child or pet. This photo was taken over a week after the job was supposed to have been completed. Tomorrow, at last, they promised to come over and finish up, do the painting, and pick up the discarded old window sills, rubble and glass from the grass in front of the windows. I sure hope so. It's been too long already!

Monday, November 05, 2007


It was the name of a musical, a "rock opera" they called it, in the late 60's. Me? I sure 'nuff got plenty of the stuff, more than a lot of guys half my age, and I turn 65 on the ninth of November, this Friday! Like Dawn told me a few months back: "If you've still got it FLAUNT it!" This photo was shot maybe a month ago, before I got tired of having Claudia tell me that I looked like a "homeless street person", followed by Vivette giving me a great haircut.

I suspect, though, that growing profuse amounts of thick curly hair at my age saps energy from other things, like my brain cells. The white painted ceiling and rafters look familiar, and I remember being intrigued with the scalloped edge at the top of the bookcase. Of course I can't remember where this was, why I was there, or who that guy is.

I really should start taking notes. I always did when I was shooting a story, but back then I would have also shot several rolls of this situation Instead, as I've grown more adept at composing pictures from a viewpoint different than what the camera is seeing, shooting that 15mm lens one handed, and the film expense comes out of my own pocket, I've gradually gone from shooting six 0r eight shots of a situation to an average of two or maybe three, resulting in four to six situations on a roll. Yup I should be taking notes!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

649 or 650?

I'm always intrigued by so called vanity license tags. In this case my name is really Alan so MRALAN 2 really caught my eye. Of course I'll always be Mr Alan 1, but my Mommy taught me to share. No, I never did meet the other Alan.

Tonight was supposed to be the 650th consecutive day of The Price Of Silver but it's only 649. Due to a screw-up nothing got posted yesterday. Still, judging by other blogs I check it seems that people are really very casual about posting on any kind of schedule. Days or weeks go by between posts.

I really get a kick from the people that stumble upon this blog by mere happenstance while doing a Google search for something or another, and how they complain about how many hours they've been caught up in reading it. If you were to spend perhaps 5 minutes reading each post and looking at the photograph it would take you a bit over 54 hours to read, start to finish. Have fun!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Another Boring Evening

People seem so much friendlier during daylight hours. That make winter even more boring. If I head out for an evening cup of coffee I run into plenty of people that I know, but after the usual "Howya doin'?" pleasantries they're back into reading a half read novel or doing business related stuff on their laptop or some such. The World Wide Web is for real, and it has totally destroyed the concept of "during normal business hours".

We can exchange emails with folks in Hawaii, Australia, or Japan, for instance, at times that used to find most of us visiting dreamland. Myself, I seldom bring work (I don't own a laptop) or anything to read. There's usually at least a still unread section or two of the Miami Herald, or perhaps even the New York Times, hiding in the magazine rack. If all else fails I just enjoy watching other people as they come and go, involved in whatever. People are indeed fascinating creatures.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Quick Trim Please ~ Love Hurts

If you've been wondering about the real reason I ended up with that huge mass of curly locks, well I'd only had one haircut in a year and I was less than thrilled with what I got over at Ray's Barber Shop. I guess if I went there a few times they would have "got it right", but I figured what the hell. I let it grow. It looked cool in pictures anyway.

For fifteen years Vivette had cut it, ten while we lived together and five more after she decided we should live seperately. She'd call me to remind me to come in for a haircut if I hadn't been in for awhile. She'd call me if I didn't call her everyday to make sure that I was OK. We went out to dinner every Saturday night, but she paid her own way. She still had framed photographs of the two of us together all over the salon. Her brother who was my accountant, along with all of her friends, kept telling me to "Hang in there she still loves you".

What I did know was that I still loved her and nothing was changing. She didn't want to live with me anymore. Five years of sleeping alone is long enough! I stopped seeing her. I stopped calling her. I stopped answering when she called me. I let my hair grow. Finally my ex-wife Claudia convinced me to give it another try. She and Vivette are best friends. Claudia called and made the appointment. I kind of miss the curls and I now know that I still love Vivette, but I survived the experience and it was a great haircut. That was three weeks ago. I haven't called yet for another appointment. I expect that Claudia will though.