Monday, December 31, 2007

Another Time, Another Place

It always amazes me how every Starbucks has its distinctive "feel"to it, even though the menu is exactly the same, the decor pretty much the same, within the limits of adapting to a different layout dictated by the building. This Starbucks is in the heart of downtown North Miami by the bricked plaza next to city hall, and right in front of MOCA the art museum, and the police station. Stores and office buildings run for blocks in either direction on both sides of the street.

Parking is a royal pain, finding your way to the parking can be confusing, and the amount of parking spaces is limited as well. Seating inside is minimal, and the outside "smoking section" restricted to but a few tables which sit out in the hot sun until late in the afternoon, when the building itself offers some shade.

The customer base runs more towards business people, office workers, and museum patrons, mostly older than the students that hang out at the other North Miami Starbucks. The baristas seem to reflect that as well, with less of them looking like they're barely 20.

I came out of city hall and the green sign beckoned as I walked across the plaza. Time for another coffee!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Monkette ~ Getting The Ear Of A Politician

There's that old saying about it's not what you know, it's who you know, and Monkette has become really fascinated with the political machinations here in North Miami ever since she got involved in helping Mayor Kevin Burns get re-elected this past May. Councilman Scott Galvin had drawn no opposition and got himself another four year term the easy way. The cheap way too! It saved him a fortune in throwing parties, buying signs, designing campaign buttons, and placing newspaper ads.

Monkette decided that Scott was the rising star that would let her move on to bigger and better campaigns. She told me that he has what it takes, everything from the good looks to the quick wit, a winsome smile and a winning personality. One potential glitch in her plans is the fact that the city's elections are in May and just about every other election takes place in November. "I though of that too!" she said. "I found your stash of those nineteen year old "Elect Al Kaplan To North Miami City Council" buttons. You can run for the balance of his term on the city council." There's no arguing with that girl either!

The Greater North Miami Chamber of Commerce Christmas Party found Monkette wearing one of those old Elect Al Kaplan campaign buttons, a semi-subliminal message to the voters, as Scott carried her around the room riding on his shoulder, an endorsement of sorts. My lady friend Robin had never attended one of these parties before, and I kept impressing on her that this was not your normal Chamber of Commerce Christmas party. North Miami IS different. And for the first time in history there was a fresh fruit platter on the refreshment table. I guess Monkette had been whispering in the caterer's ear also. She's really looking forward to holding a Christmas party in the governor's mansion in a few years.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Seeing Red ~ Feeling Blue

Monkette wasn't exactly thrilled when Robin insisted that she stay in the truck while we went grocery shopping. "It's raining out" she said. "You'll catch your death of a cold if you go outside and get wet!" Monkette protested "It's not raining now. See? The sun is shining!"

Robin has this stubborn streak, the attitude that she's bigger, smarter, and having already raised a daughter, she knows what she's doing. Robin won. Monkette sat in the truck and pouted.

Robin is used to shopping in a Wynn Dixie market in Vero Beach so she decided that we should go to a Wynn Dixie market here. "They have better meats!" Well, they bill themselves as The Meat People, but since they closed the nearby Wynn Dixie about ten years ago I've learned that other meat is edible. Then a couple of years ago they closed another Wynn Dixie a few miles away when they built a new giant modern market a mile or so east of that one, perfectly located for convenient access by the residents of the upscale neighborhoods of Sunny Isles Beach (those condo towers in the distance), Eastern Shores, and Aventura.

So here was poor little Monkette locked in the truck after being so excited about getting to go shopping with Robin and visiting one of those fabled Wynn Dixie Supermarkets for the very first time. When Robin comes back to visit again in a couple of weeks she promised to take Monkette shopping at Walmart. In the meantime Monkette has been dropping hints that maybe I could take her shopping at Wynn Dixie? Hell, I just might.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Subway Newsstand?

No, there are no subways in South Florida. With an average elevation of only twelve feet above sea level those tunnels would be full of water faster than they could pump them out. Instead of underground we have Subways everywhere you go, selling sub sandwiches of course. This one is on Hollywood Circle, alias Young's Circle, where Federal Highway, alias U.S. 1 intersects with Hollywood Blvd. Since there are two Subways within about a mile of my house the only reason to make the ten or so mile trek to Hollywood is the newsstand, one of the very few left, it seems.

The two shops next to one another reminded me of my Uncle Louie's store in New Bedford, Massachusettes forty odd years ago. Louie Kaplan was actually my father's first cousin but I always called him Uncle. The store was at the end of the block that backed up against the city bus station, which serviced both the local Union Street Railway as well as Almeida Bus Lines with its service to places like Boston. Louie, of course, kept the store open from before the first bus in the wee hours of the morning until the last bus at night. A lunch counter with stools but no booths had a grill and one of those huge gas coffee urns that were so common back then lining one wall. In the back of the store was a refrigerated showcase with milk, eggs, and butter while bread, crackers, canned goods, etc. filled the shelves. It was the only place for miles around where you could buy groceries or cigarettes after everyplace else had closed.

Along the other wall were piles of newspapers, everything from the New Bedford Standard Times to the Boston Globe, Providence Journal, Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Above the stacks of newspapers was a magazine rack that must have been six feet high, and extending about twenty-five feet along the wall. If you were a "regular", and careful not to spill coffee on the pages, you could pick up a magazine and sit at the counter sipping your coffee and and eating an English muffin or a slice of pie.

Here at the Hollywood Circle you have to buy your magazine, but you then have a choice of going next door for a sub sandwich or up the street a bit for a donut. You've paid your money for the magazine so nobody gives a hoot if you spill some coffee on it. It's yours.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Reflecting On A Bright New Day

The night before I'd been sitting at the next table when Carol walked up, threw her arms around my neck, and we exchanged cheek kisses. She then went inside, but soon reappeared coffee in hand, sitting in the same seat as I'm occupying in this photo. Monkey was at home and Monkette was sitting on the table. Carol used to work here as a barista, but had been off at college in California for the past few months, and she was back home for the holidays.

About the first thing out of her mouth was "Are you going to sue AT&T for stealing your idea?" I asked her how she'd found out about it. "I saw the commercial on TV and the first thing I thought about was that they were using a Monkette look alike and copying your blog idea!" She went on to tell me that she followed the blog every day, and had turned on a bunch of her friends to it as well. Monkey and Monkette had fans in California! After a few minutes of catching up she said that she was sure we'd see one another again while she was still in town, and yes, she had my cell number and my email, but she had to leave, people to see and places to go. Another hug and cheek kiss, then she and Monkette waved at one another as she drove off.

Monkey and I got up bright and early. We needed our coffee and we needed to talk strategy. Jon Sinish had sent me an article from some learned medical publication about how good coffee was for you, that it should be consumed black because milk products nullify some of the beneficial chemicals in it, and decaffenated coffee loses most of them in the process of removing the caffeine. It increases brain function and delays the onset of Alzheimers, amongst other things. They suggested drinking at least six cups a day. Monkey was thrilled to hear that. Prior to this he'd only heard the "It'll stunt your growth!" mantra. The article said there was no truth to that. I did tell Monkey that those little cups he uses were probably equal to two cups for a little fellow like him.

We decided to follow up with the email exchange with Jon Sinish about finding a New York intellectual property attorney, try to make a list of people who'd seen the commercial and made the blog connection, visit area business, etc. We finished our coffee and headed back to the house. We had people to see and places to go.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Real Leader Of North Miami ~ And His Bodyguard ~ Mad As Hell

Monkey and I were mad as hell a few days back. The phone, one call after another, had awakened us before the usual get out of bed time by people asking "Did you see the new AT&T commercial? They're ripping off your going around town and photographing a toy monkey idea!" or variations of that. "No, we hadn't" I replied. We rarely watch TV. I turned on the computer and brushed my teeth while the coffee perked and the computer went through its ritual. After pouring some coffee I started reading emails. The in box was overloaded with messages about the AT&T commercials.

I think that Monkette was at first feeling flattered by her new found fame because the monkey in the commercial looked like she could be her twin sister, but Monkey soon had her deep in a discussion about things like intellectual property, appearance fees, residuals, and so on, which got her so upset and into a tizzy that she decided to just stay home and calm down as Monkey and I hit the streets.

Everywhere we went people, some I barely know, wanted to talk about AT&T ripping off the idea, although a few actually thought that we'd cut a deal with AT&T, and they wanted to know if a personal appearance tour was in the works. Monkey and I did the tour of North Miami. First stop was The Greater North Miami Chamber of Commerce. They knew about the commercials! Monkey got madder and madder. See the look in his eyes in this photo of us leaving the Chamber of Commerce office? Next stop the post office. Same thing! The counter clerks had seen the commercials. So had some of their customers. Off to Starbucks for a relaxing cup of coffee. The baristas all knew, as had a lot of the customers. Meanwhile the phone kept ringing. More calls! When we got back to the house the email box was full again and Monkette was in tears. It had finally hit her, how her persona had been stolen from her, and how her life would never again be the same.

What we haven't as yet done is sign with an attorney. We've been checking around, entertaining proposals, and if you are a lawyer with experience in this area of the law feel free to send us an email. It'll probably be another week or so before any final decision is made.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Today Makes For 700 Posts!

Nobody must have known that this would be the 700th post on The Price Of Silver at Starbucks a few days ago. I guess the college students were either off Christmas shopping or else had returned home for Christmas break. What is usually a patio full of animated conversations, and girls showing off a combination of their latest fashions with the most bare leg possible, featured mostly empty tables devoid of any sound. Even the speakers on the wall were silent that day.

I suppose the wind, the ashen sky, and the threat of showers didn't exactly encourage anyone to stop and sit and chat either. Yet over a two hour period the forecast "scattered light showers" resulted in only about a minute's worth of misting moisture, gone before you could even gather your belongings, and nobody "made a run for it" to escape the percipitation.

I thought about the lonely ashtray. About once a month there's a fresh supply of them. Most people ignore them altogether, and there are plenty of butts to be swept up when one of the baristas makes the hourly rounds to straighten up the patio and wipe down the tables. Even though it seems like about nobody uses the things, within days most of them have grown legs and walked off the job. Every dorm room in the area must have ashtrays supplied by Starbucks. Somehow this one was still there, the very last one. It was too much effort to walk over and use it. I stomped out my cigarette butt on the ground.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Temerity To Smile At Me Like That

Some people you see all the time, you get to know one another, learn one another's names, find out where they're from, what they do and what sort of books they read, all the little details of life that good friends eagerly share with one another.

Other people you see at least as often, bump into them at the grocery, the drugstore, the mall, perhaps exchange some superficial pleasantries, and move on with your daily routine until the next time. You probably never even exchanged names. If you did you've forgotten it. This woman and I had long ago gotten past the "Hi, how ya doing?" stage and I always look forward to sharing a cup of coffee and a bit of time in her company, exchange a warm smile or two, chat about whatever, but I can never seem to recall her name. I'm bad with names.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

News Stands, Almost A Thing Of The Past

Some call them magazine stores, others call them news stands. They usually sell some cigars, and some carry foreign cigarettes and foreign magazines. You can pick up a Miami Herald and a New York Times. There's a great selection of magazines from sports to politics to news to...whatever.
The internet, as much as anything, is killing them off. It's easy enough to check the out of town papers on their web sites. I drove up to Hollywood to visit Janie, and there on Hollywood Circle was a news stand. I couldn't resist! We went in and were looking around, no toy monkeys with us, nothing odd about us at all. I clicked off a few shots like this one. The owner went ballistic. "NO PHOTOS! You can't take photos in my store!" he screamed. We left. I put down the magazine I'd been planning on buying and Janie bought her cigarettes at a 7-11. The owners are killing them off also.

Notice! Due To Out Of Town Relatives Showing Up On Short Notice...

...and the general confusion of the hectic holiday season there will be a good chance that, like today, the usual daily postings won't appear every day. I'm hoping to go back and post some new photos and copy in the in these places in the next next week or so. In the meantime Monkey and Monkette wish everyone a great holiday!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Really Stumped!

Yeah, I was stumped a few weeks ago when crews came along, tagged mature trees that the city had planted along the east side of N.E. 14th Ave. during a massive city wide tree planting program back in the early 1970's, then a few days later started chainsawing them into four foot long sections, filling truck after truck with branches and leaves.

Heavier pieces of trunk made it into the truck with a bit of help from a front end loader. In this shot the remains of the stump had been removed from the ground and the odds and ends were being run through a chipper. Just bare ground and wood chips remained.

Florida Power & Light, the electric company in these parts, is planning to install a series of humongous eighty foot tall concrete poles along the west side of 14th Ave. There are trees all along that side too. Did they remove the wrong row of trees? Nobody is forthcoming with answers. I miss those trees though.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Another Monkey's Uncle Joins The Club

One day I was heading into Starbucks for my morning coffee when Doug arrived on his bike with his new companion, a toy monkey. I guess I'm not the only crazy old coot in North Miami. We wondered about how many others there might be like us, but still "in the closet".

If you live in the area and have a toy stuffed animal - it doesn't have to be a monkey - please join us for coffee some morning. You can be male or female, any age. Just bring your toy animal. My email is on this blog. Let us know!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

He Sure Doesn't Look Like Jennifer To Me!

I was at my neurologist's office where I'd recently been tested by a neurological psychologist for the possibility that I might have something called Aspergers Syndrome. This guy was using her office to met with me and go over the results of the tests that another neurological psychologist had given me a few days earlier.

The syndrome has only aquired a name in the last 14 years or so, and there's not all that much in the literature about it. I was the one who first brought up the possibility that I had it after researching all that I could find out about it. I had the strong feeling throughout the testing and subsequent meetings with the doctors that they'd been doing some last minute cramming on the subject themselves, and that I probably knew more about it than they did. Very reassuring indeed!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

In The Days Of My Youth...

...I couldn't gain an ounce, I was skinny as a rail, and my mother thought that she was a failure as a mother because it looked as if she was intentionally starving me. The years passed, I grew taller, but I still looked like I was being deprived of food.

Jimmy's Place even has a sign proclaiming Good Food. It's what I like to refer to as Standard North American Diner Fare, with perhaps a bit of bias towards Southern tastes. The waitresses doesn't freak out when you request gravy on your fries. A huge corn muffin with butter is one of the standard options for bread with dinner. If you should order clam chowder she'll tell you right off that it is NOT New England style with milk, no need to ask, as if New England style is a concoction from outer space, unfit for human consumption.

Hell, I try to eat. My biggest problem, I think, is that I really never experience the feeling of being hungry. Sure, I can feel low blood sugar. I know the symptoms. And I also know that a hand full of gum drops will make them go away, while having no nutritional value whatsoever.

Lately Doctor Katz has been on my case. Last office visit I was down to 154 pounds. I have another appointment tomorrow morning. I'm planning on taking Monkette with me for some "doctor's office" photos but I doubt if he'll let me hold my toy monkey on the scale (every little bit helps). Supposedly I'm supposed to be getting back to the 165 to 170 pound range. So here I am at Jimmy's Place scarfing down a salisbury steak with onions, green beans, mashed potatoes, and I had no room for the corn muffin and butter so I took it home for later. And YES!, I did eat it later, as well as two Devil Dogs with a Coke. Still, I doubt if I'll weigh any more in the morning.

Technical note: For this photograph I didn't hold the camera in my hands, obviously. It was sitting on top of my water glass and the exposure was made with the self timer.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Just Testing ~ The EKG

You could see Dr. Larry Katz's eyes light up with anticipation of my sixty-fifth birthday. I suspect that he stayed up nights researching what tests he could find an excuse to give me, as long as he could justify it to Medicare of course. The simple, routine, every day types of tests came first. Medicare might balk at paying for a bunch of esoteric tests if it was already a given that I had but a few weeks left to live.

The EKG, or electrocardiogram, tells about the condition of the heart. The room of course was properly chilled so a sweater would have felt good and the young lady who set me up for the test had me remove my shirt and lie back. The electrodes are applied with sticky tape, and she carefully placed each one as close to where it was supposed to go while still assuring that it was also firmly attached to the maximum number of body hairs possible. After the test was over, and as she was removing the electrodes from me, she sweetly said "This might hurt a little bit" while my mind was wondering just how loud a scream she had heard while doing this, or maybe even whether she'd ever been punched out by an irate patient.

I tried to be a good patient. There were a bunch more tests to enjoy for the next week or so. Larry knew that if he didn't treat me right I might never tell him the secret to having a lot more hair than he has or a much flatter belly, or even just less grey hair mixed with the brown. Wrinkles? Lines in the face? Hanging jowels and throat? I'm not even going there! I have the SECRET!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Migrant Agricultural Labor ~ From The Other End Of The Block

I hate mowing the lawn. Always have. I'd rather live in the woods. The problem is getting from "lawn" to "woods" without the code enforcement guys getting on your case about the "lawn" being overgrown while the itty-bitty oak and Hong Kong orchard seedlings first stick their heads above the surrounding blades of grass and turn into saplings tall enough to qualify as young trees.

I keep telling myself that I should buy a self propelled mower but so far I haven't done so. There are several kids in the neighborhood that come around wanting to earn some money cutting grass, and I'd rather use them than a lawn service. Kids mowing lawns is a grand old tradition in this country. I used to do it. My son used to do it. Now Nicholas and Davaris, both 13, do it. The only trouble I have with it is the price they charge relative to the price that I used to charge. You can't find a kid these days who'll mow the lawn for the five bucks that I used to get a mere half a century ago. Damn! I'm old.

These two gentlemen did a great job, but half way through they asked me if I had any gas. I did, but not enough, so they borrowed my gas can and took off for a couple of hours. When they returned and finished the job they asked if they could hold on to my can since it still had more gas in it and they'd paid for the gas. They left with the can, promising to bring it back "later". They did, but "later" turned out to be four days. Oh well, the grass was cut and it only cost me forty bucks.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Now Monkette Wants Her Own Cell Phone COMPANY!

It all started a few hours ago with Claudia calling to ask if we'd seen the latest AT&T commercials yet. I reminded her that I only have a tiny battery powered black & white TV that she'd bought me so I could stay abreast of the weather after a hurricane had knocked out the power, and that I very rarely watch television anyway. I asked her what was going on.

It seems that AT&T has started broadcasting a new series of commercial featuring a businessman who travels around with his daughter's toy monkey, the toy monkey in the TV commercial is a twin of Monkette, and he photographs her in various locations as he travels around the country. Supposedly he also manages to get himself in some of the pictures with the toy monkey. Does that sound anything at all like The Price Of Silver over the last couple of years? Of course I'm much more handsome and better looking than the guy in the AT&T commercials (at least that's what everybody told me), but his daughter's toy monkey looks exactly like Monkette.

As the hours passed my email box filled up (and kept REfilling) with emails from other people telling me about AT&T's flagrant rip-off of Monkette's adventures. Suggestions of lawyers to contact, legal strategy, etc., flooded in.

I took Monkette over to Starbucks. We both badly needed a cup of coffee, and we both seem to think more clearly over there. She was really starting to get all excited, thinking that at last she might have her very own cell phone. I told her that with a bit of luck she just might have her very own cell phone COMPANY! When we got back to the house we sent out some emails to people we knew in the advertising business asking for their suggestions. Being a weekend I suppose any action will have to await Monday's arrival

In the meantime Monkette is driving me absolutely bonkers with her excitement, telling me that she no longer cares that organic bananas cost double what ordinary bananas sell for. Nothing but the best for her. She also wants to start dressing fancier. So far I haven't been able to explain to her that our friend Todd Frederick, who helps with posting the blog photographs, lives in the San Francisco area, and that he has no connections whatsoever with that world famous fashion house Fredericks of Hollywood.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Boy With Attitude!

This young gentleman was working on a school project and noticed that I too was carrying a camera. He was curious about the way I'd hold the camera out at arm's length and wondered how I framed my photographs when I wasn't looking through the viewfinder. He was puzzled about the lack of a screen on the back of the camera until he realized that I was shooting film, not digital. Over the next hour or so we spent a bit of time "talking shop", discussing how photography equipment had changed over the nearly five decades that I've been shooting, and speculating about the directions it might go in the future.

I explained my tricks for judging exposure without using a meter, and how to relax by using the proper breathing techniques so you can hold the camera steady for comparatively long exposure times. Notice how blurry the walking woman is?

The reason we were all at the community center that morning was because of the breakfast meeting hosted by city councilman Despinosse, the bald black guy standing there wearing the black suit. I'll be honest. I was there as much for the free food as for the program. Recently the city council, within a matter of weeks, voted themselves a retirement plan, a generous expense account, and a health insurance plan. This was to get around the fact that their salary was "set in stone" in the city charter. Increasing it would require having the voters approve a charter amendment, unlikely to happen in these lean times.

Then a few weeks ago they voted to increase their own salary by about ten-fold anyway, in direct violation of the city charter. I was pissed big time because for a long time I've been trying to get the council to give some of us advisory board members an expense allowance. Our "pay" is also restricted to the amount stated in the city charter nearly half a century ago. I'm on the Board of Adjustment. Just driving around to look at the properties that have applied for variances cost me more in gas alone than the lousy ten dollars a month the city pays me. I was told that there wasn't enough money in the budget. Yeah, sure. Tell me another one...

Well, the food was pretty decent and saved me a bit of money. We chatted a bit longer about photography and cameras. I told him about The Price Of Silver and handed him my card. I keep wondering if the state attorney would be interested in investigating city charter violations. Things just might get interesting...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

No Coffee, No Bananas?

Monkey himself insisted on going over to the office of The Greater North Miami Chamber Of Commerce. Plans for the annual Christmas party were in the works. He wanted in on the planning. He wasn't about to have to spend another Christmas season listening to Monkette's bitching about the lack of a fresh fruit platter at the Christmas party. Then, he complains, she goes off on these long winded rants about the nerve of humans to try to claim that they had a common ancestor with monkeys. No self respecting monkey would ever dream of having a little get together, let alone a big Cristmas party, without at least one fresh fruit platter.

Monkey's arthritis was bothering him tonight and he decided to stay home. Monkette and I went over to the Chamber of Commerce Christmas bash with my friend Robin. She'd never been to a Chamber function before, let alone anyplace at all with a 65 year old man carrying a toy monkey. She was amazed that not only did everyone there know me but they knew Monkette as well, and several people asked about Monkey's health. Robin is down visiting from Vero Beach, a city perhaps a tad less multicultural than North Miami, and she said that to the best of her knowledge toy monkeys there didn't enjoy quite the respect and access to the Vero Beach political power structure as they do in North Miami.

The food was both excellent and plentiful, everything from curried "beef" (I think it was really goat, but most Americans wouldn't have as much as tasted it if you told them it was goat. Sh-h-h-h! Don't tell anyone.) to nice lean corned beef on rye sandwiches, various salads, fried chicken, Swedish meat balls, and an assortment of pasta dishes. Local restaurants supplied the food.

I guess overall somewhat over a hundred people were there, although some arrived late while others left early. Monkette was probably able to introduce Robin to most everyone who was there. On the way home Monkette wouldn't shut up and stop complaining about the lack of the "promised" fruit platter. I stopped by the house, ran in and grabbed a banana for her on the way to Starbucks. They didn't have any coffee at the party either.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Relaxing After Thanksgiving Dinner

Friends of friends staying at the house of their friends, and invited over for Thanksgiving dinner, is probably the least confusing way of explaining the reason that I was sitting out on the pool patio with Paula. Paula and her hubby Lee live in the Tampa area, but they were here (well, not really here, but only about thirty km from here) at the southern end of the Miami metropolitan area, house sitting a friend's house. I'd met Paula through a mutual friend that used to live in Miami but now lives in Tampa.

When Paula called and discovered that I had no plans for Thanksgiving she insisted that I join them. I jumped on it! I brought some of Helga's delicious German pastry from her German bakery, Ness Knditori, and headed south. Paula and one of her lady friends were cooking up a storm. Lee and I got thrown out of the house to keep from being underfoot and in the way. The two of us got to spent an hour or two sitting out by the pool talking Men Talk, discussing the really important stuff, like our favorite lures for trout fishing, he in Tampa Bay and me in Biscayne Bay. We discussed the fact that redfish were a common catch in Tampa Bay but in fifty plus years of fishing Biscayne Bay I'd only ever caught one redfish, and under present day regulations it would have been too small to keep, but that it was delicious. We concluded that if all of the state's marine biologists never could figure out why redfish eschew the waters of Biscayne Bay, and even resisted the state's efforts to introducing them by releasing fingerlings in the bay waters, we weren't going to let the conundrum destroy the conviviality of the occasion.

Lee prefers using jig heads with plastic tails while I fish mostly with bucktail jigs that I tie myself because I can't buy them already made up in the colors I prefer. The plastic tails are readily available in those colors. We agreed that a slow retrieve seems to be most effective. He uses spinning tackle while I prefer to use a light bait casting (revolving spool reel) outfit. Well enough fish talk for now.

The girls beckoned. The turkey was the tenderest I'd ever eaten, slow roasted for hours and hours, and the side dishes scrumptious. As usual I probably ate a bit too much, but I survived and the discomfort soon passed. Paula had put in a long busy day already and wanted to just stretch out and relax a bit. She put her feet up on the table and we enjoyed a cigarette with our coffee. As an aside, it's the distortion of the ultra-wide angle lens that makes it look like Paula's legs are two meters long and that she must wear size sixteen shoes. She's really an attractive and well proportioned woman. I drove home a happy man.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Douglas, His Bicycle, And The Daily Tour De South Florida

I don't always see Doug with his bicycle every day. Our schedules (what schedules?) don't match up so we don't spend the exact same hour or so at Starbucks every morning. None the less, every morning Douglas gets up, checks around the apartment building he manages, and pedals his bicycle the five or so miles to the Starbucks near my house. That's where I first met him about a year ago. He buys a New York Times, a coffee, and a bagel. Somehow he manages to bite into and chew up bagels with no teeth.

Most mornings he gets a chance to do a bit of bitching about having to carry around a cell phone so he can answer querries from people wanting to rent an apartment, or tenants with a problem. Then after breakfast he goes for his daily bicycle ride. Lately it's been across the causeway to the beach, a ten or twelve mile round trip on top of the ten mile trek to and from Starbucks. Other days he'll go north to Fort Lauderdale or south to Homestead if he's feeling particularly energetic. Not bad for a seventy-three year old guy pedaling a bicycle! It must be the bagels.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Wow, That Is Wide!" The North Side Of The Column

It was a grey day with scattered showers and the uncovered part of the patio outside of Starbucks was full of rather wet tables and chairs. I went north of the column and took a seat in front of the juice place. I find it odd that all these various little shops, selling everything you could imagine from fancy coffees to chicken and rice each have their own distinctive tables and chairs. The juice place takes their tables and chairs in at night but nobody else seems to lose anything more than ashtrays. Ashtrays all grow legs and walk within a day or two.

With the shortage of seats that day I asked this young lady to join me as I was sitting alone at a table for four. She seemed interested in my camera and asked what I was taking pictures of. I explained about my self-portrait project. Since I don't sight through the viewfinder anyway I let her look through it while I clicked off a few frames. I gave her a card with thepriceofsilver address and told her that she just might be here in a couple of weeks. Well, she is!

The topic of our conversation? The fact that for whatever strange force rules the universe it still amazes me that total strangers will pick pretty much the same color clothes to wear on a given day. Three people who don't know one another, never even met before, sitting just a few feet apart wearing essentially the same shade of pinkish orange. We had no idea why.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The DIGITAL Temptress ~ Her Siren Call Seduces Many

I'm sitting in the office of my friend Mike. I guess there's about twenty years age difference between us and while I got involved with photography at age eighteen I think that Mike was nearing thirty. Digital had started to poke its head beyond the Tech Geek phase of development and Mike bought some Canon digital bodies to use with his Canon lenses. For a few years he shot both film and digital, but he soon gave up on scanning negatives to print digital. He went digital all the way.

I don't know whether it's just my age, habit, or not wanting to learn a whole new way of doing things. Maybe it's the fact that I like shooting with my rangefinder Leicas, or the fact that I see the world "wide angle" and I love working in close with very wide angle lenses. I'm also parsimonious, and the thought of buying into a new camera system that is still new and constantly changing technology with a New Improved camera model hitting the market every year, or sooner, lacks appeal.

My Leicas are 1950's technology, they still make essentially the same camera taking the same lenses, and my cameras were all made between the mid '50's and about 1970. They've supported me all these years, they still work just fine, and they were paid for a long time ago.

Mike is still at that stage of life where the latest MUST be best. I remember being there myself. It was an exciting time, and sometimes I envy Mike's enthusiasm. Then I think about the money he must spend every year keeping up with the technology, how big and heavy the cameras are, the lack of a nice compact ultra wide angle lens like the 15mm lens that I used for this photo, and the digital urge quickly goes bye-bye.

A lot of people like the idea of seeing hundreds of images from their wedding, and the last vestiges of pores and stray hairs removed from their portraits They like their color vibrant or muted, want strange mysterious backgrounds placed behind their head long after the exposure was made, all those things that can be done with Photoshop. I tell them to call Mike at Sans Souci Photography. I hate shooting weddings anyway.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

FILM ~ The Lingering Funeral

A lot of my friends chide me about my not "getting with it", embracing digital, and joining the twenty-first century. After all, digital is everywhere. See the sign on the wall in the upper right corner of the photograph? "Electronics". Sometimes it seems that everything is heading in that direction.

The big Fuji machine that develops the film and then makes the prints? It scans the negatives and prints the digital file the same as it would if you used a digital camera. For $2.99 the drugstore will give you a disc with scans of all the pictures on the roll. Then if you're so inclined you can play around with Photoshop, altering the images at will. In that regard I already AM "shooting digital".

Here I am at my local Walgreens drugstore waiting to pick up my latest three discs. That's the twenty-first century easy way out. Nobody makes a digital camera that will give me the angle of view of my 15mm lens on film. Nobody makes one that even comes close that I can hold out there with just one hand. There are a bunch of other reasons why I stick with film, including just plain liking the way conventional black and white prints look. I get the impression that there are a lot of other people kneeling at the same alter. It's going to be a long drawn out funeral. If it was really all so cut and dried why did both Kodak and Fuji just come out with lines of "New, Improved" films again? Do they know something the photo magazines don't? In the meantime those of us wearing black will be wearing black for a long damned time. Film lives on.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Veterans Day ~ Honoring Those Who Preserve Our Freedom

There were several hundred people in Griffing Park that day, drum and bugle corps, marching bands, and lots of patriotic speeches. I saw these flags fluttering in the wind. Shooting from this angle had them aglow with the sun illuminating them from behind. The TV cameraman was using them to frame the people up on the podium. I kind of like having him in the photo. TV cameras have very much become part of the pageantry. They validate the importance of the event. To a lot of people this was an important event.

It's easy to forget that real people fought and in many cases died in those wars. They fought to preserve our freedoms. The freedoms to speak, write, and publish our ideas. The freedom to pray to our god or gods in whatever manner we choose. Some folks don't understand that concept. They think that everybody should go to the same church and pray the same way that they do. They have us engaged in a war that is a replay of the crusades of the middle ages. They trample the rights we are guaranteed in the constitution.

Maybe it's time to waterboard George W. Bush until he fesses up as to who is pulling his strings? After all, it's not torture. Everyone in his administration tells us that. Nobody is honoring them.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Is Monkey The Real Power Behind The Scenes In North Miami?

Monkey has really become a community activist ever since that day a couple of years back when James Mitchell was in town and he insisted that we take Monkey with us to Starbucks. He said that Monkey needed to do some LIVING before he got too old. He was about 60 at the time.Since then I've taken him with me all over town and photographed him with lots of people. He ended up making two trips out to San Francisco visiting photographers who'd been following his adventures.

On one of his trips out west he came back with a young girlfriend, Monkette, and that girl likes to PARTY! She's always getting me to take her to luncheons and dinners, and after enough bitching on her part they usually offer a fresh fruit platter as part of the munchies being served.

Monkey was content to sit home in his chair. Monkette got active in the mayor's reelection campaign, and she was successful in getting him elected to another two years in the mayor's seat. Suddenly other people were willing to admit that they still had their childhood stuffed toy animals. You started to see them in homes and offices, no longer hiding in a closet someplace. Penny Valentine's toy floppy dog is always draped over the back of a chair next to her desk at the Greater North Miami Chamber of Commerce. Monkey has a new spark in him these days, wanting to go out and socialize more now that the stigma of being somebody's toy animal is gone. Now he's not afraid to discuss politics in public. Here he is with Penny's dog chatting about the presidential primaries. No more hiding in the shadows, slinking around town. And Monkette? She was checking out the big sale at Walmart then heading over to Costco on the way back. Girls will be girls...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Satan Laughing Spreads His Wings

Evil forces are hard at work in North Miami. After about thirty-five years of having a policy of planting trees throughout the city suddenly something changed. Now mature shade trees, entire rows of them spanning several blocks, suddenly sprouted bands of flourescent orange tape marking them for the executioner.

A few days later the executioners arrived. They had no idea why they were cutting these trees but assured me that they had the relevant permits for cutting down each and every one of them. It might have made a bit of sense on the other side of the street where existing poles and wires run the length of N.E. 14th Avenue, and where still taller poles carrying high tension wires connecting two electric substations are in the plans. But this side? It makes no sense at all.

The branches were cut off, cut up, and hauled away. A few days later the trunks were cut down to the ground, then they too were cut into sections light enough to be tossed into a truck and hauled away. Within a few days there was little left but piles of sawdust and the occasional remnant of orange tape littering the ground.

A small fortune in tax dollars spent nursing the seedlings in the city nursery, paying crews to plant the saplings, watering and fertilizing them as they grew and matured over the decades, the periodic trimming of the mature trees. All wasted. Suddenly our shade is gone. There's no place for the birds to roost and nest and serenade us, no green leaves returning oxygen to the air. Gone, all gone. The trees are gone. The birds are gone. The squirrels are gone. Traded for higher taxes and higher air conditioning expense.

The remains of the trees are rotting in a landfill somewhere. Satan must be smiling.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Surveying The Ongoing Dawn Conundrum

This is another one of those photos that sends my mind reeling off in ten different story directions. Todd Frederick and I were joking the other night about maybe trying to use the same photo for seven days in a row, but every day the story would be different, about something not even considered in the other stories. I've got way too many photographs in my files. We'll stick with the new picture every day format, but perhaps on occasion expand into multiple subjects in the text. Like now:

First off I'd like to congratulate the Google search engine. You've probably noticed the block of ads at the top of this blog. Google supposedly decides which ads to run based on "key words" in the title and text, which makes good sense, targeting the ads at an interested audience. Also, there's usually a couple of days delay before the targeted ads appear, so the ads usually best fit with a post from two or three days ago. Not this time though! No mention at all about fish or fishing, just a picture featuring a mounted sailfish, and BANG!, instantly Google decided to run fishing related ads, no two day delay. Amazing!

The guy in the photo is playing with my alarm panel, making sure that everything is working correctly after installing the sensors on the new windows that had just been put in. After first going through "The Speech" about how much it was going to cost, and how much it just might end up costing if he needed to replace anything, he decided that it was just a matter of moving a few sensors from here to there, it was up and running and no charge "because I didn't really do anything". That's the kind of service call I like!

The living room (as well as the spare bedroom) is still piled high with Dawn's furniture, and there is a mess of full cartons and a closet full of female type clothes cluttering up the house. I rearranged everything to make room for the last truck load to arrive first week of February. Dawn was moving back to Miami from Tampa and we were going to get married, probably in May. Father Philamon Payiatis would bless the union, reception to follow, at the Greek Orthodox church here in North Miami. Nobody , none of her friends, seem to know what the story is, except maybe Dawn herself. She's not talking. All her stuff has been here for nearly a year. I haven't seen her in nearly that long and it's been months since we last talked on the phone. I'd just like to get my house back and stop feeling like I'm living in a storage locker. Time to move on with my life.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Got The Blues In The Morning

My first inclination was to write about color. I fell asleep, words flitting through my brain and falling into place all about the blue of the shirt and the car and the color of cloudy day light, and how I've always been attracted to red, supposedly a Scorpio trait, and here was standing by this bright red car. When the picture first appeared on the screen this morning the words just weren't there.

A lot of people ask me how I shoot these "self-portraits" and they remark that "it must be an expensive camera!" The camera body just carries the Voigtlander name, which was purchased from the old German camera company by Cosina in Japan. They briefly marketed a really stripped down version, the Bessa L, which had no built in rangefinder, not even a viewfinder. Essentially (as I half kiddingly say) it's a rear lens cap with a shutter, a film transport mechanism, and a surprisingly accurate behind the lens light meter. Naturally it didn't sell and Cameraquest closed them out for $59.95 if you bought the body with a lens. The 15mm lens with a viewfinder lists for $345.00, and just the bayonet adapter to fit it on my Leica cameras would have cost me $55.00. I guess that means that my "expensive camera" cost me a whopping $4.95. The lens itself is really very good, although the build quality of the aluminum mount doesn't compare to the precision of a chromed brass Leica lens, and Leica doesn't make a 15mm lens for their rangefinder cameras. If they did it'd probably cost well over $5,000 with the viewer.

The technique consists of holding the camera out at arm's length pointed back towards myself. I guess at what will be included in the picture and pose myself, put what I think would be a good expression on my face and click of 3 or 4 exposures. I can do that with either hand.

For the past 3 years or so I've carried that camera and lens everyplace. The first year I shot black and white. When I discovered that it was cheaper to shoot color I made the switch. No artistic reason. I'm just a parsimonious guy, a result of my "waste not, want not" New England upbringing. Now I kind of enjoy the color, playing with color composition instead of just the lights and darks of black and white. Inexpensive lens, cheap camera, film bought on sale, drugstore processing and scan. Then my good buddy Todd Frederick, who's not as color blind as me, tweaks things to perfection and posts the photo on the blog. There you have it!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Good Times, Bad Times, You Know I've Had My Share

Sometimes I look at one of my photographs and the lines to a song start rolling through my brain and although my original idea for titling the post was completely different I ended up using this snippet of lyrics by Godsmack. That's why this isn't named "Another Damned Board Meeting! But I Got Me My Starbucks".

I've had my share of good times and my share of bad times. Here I'm frustrated because I'm at the meeting on time, city staff is there (that's Dr. Claude behind me), but it'd be awhile before we had a quorum and longer still for the chairwoman of the Disaster Preparedness Board to arrive and we could finally get things underway.

Growing up in New England we were taught to always be on time. Here in the south, between Southern traditions and Caribbean Island influences being on time is unheard of. And nobody has a clue as to why I get frustrated and upset. Not exactly "bad times" but certainly not good

Then there's the frustration of my looking at this board more as a "feel good" thing than a useful board, just something to take up an hour or two every month engaged in chitchat about planning for hurricanes. Planning for sheltering people living nearest the coast or in low lying areas. Planning for water, ice, and food distribution for those who don't take the responsibility themselves. Planning for the ones who expect the city to do it for them. We also go through "feel good" discussions about getting the electric grid and hard wired phone service up and running as quickly as possible. Hell, the phone and power companies can't wait to get the service back on line. Every minute the wires are down they don't make any money. They don't need us to remind them. Their stockholders remind them.

I keep telling myself that I've been serving on various city boards for over thirty years now. Enough is enough. But I keep getting appointed. I let my hair grow and keep it unkempt. I keep getting appointed. I wear tattered jeans and never iron my shirts. I keep getting appointed. I skip shaving for days on end. I keep getting appointed. Like the lyrics of another song tell it: "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap!" I don't get paid for this. Is that cheap enough?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Shameful Condition Of Al Kaplan's Lawn

It's got some grass. Probably half a dozen varieties of grass. I have no idea how many species of weeds are mixed in with the grass, but whether weed or grass there's no ganga growing there (damn!). I never water it, never fertilize it, never spray it for chinch bugs. I never rake the leaves or the grass clippings. They get nicely mulched next time the grass is cut. It's just a natural organic plot of land that stays green year 'round, rain or no rain, like a good lawn should. Drought resistant! Bug resistant!

The bothersome problem is needing to cut it. I much prefer paying a neighborhood kid to contracting a lawn service. It gives them pocket money and keeps them out of mischief, not to mention that it costs less money. The City of North Miami might try doing likewise. The next post down shows the overgrown mess at the park on North Bayshore Drive.

The photos I took of the park should keep the Code Enforcement Nazis off my back next time the neighborhood kid is home sick with the flu.