Friday, February 29, 2008

The Age Of The Greeter ~ Retail's Salvation? Or Is It Desperation?

So called "big box retailers" are different, whether a warehouse club like Costco, an inside "lumber yard" like the Home Depot, or a specialty store like Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. It's mostly all self service, and then you go through the check-out line. Finding a sales clerk like in the old days is next to impossible. You run into plenty of people restocking the shelves but for the most part they don't know much about what they're restocking.

Instead, what we have now are "greeters" just inside the door welcoming you to the store. On the plus side, they do seem to know where things are, can tell you how to get there, and maybe even walk part way so they can point and say "It's three aisles that way". For the most part they still don't know squat about the merchandise, just where to find it.

I'd gone to Bass Pro Shops in Dania, just south of Fort Lauderdale, to buy some new boat shoes. The flyer that came in the mail had them at an attractive price. The greeter was somebody I'd met before, and we briefly chatted about fishing while I shot off a few frames. He sent me the requisite "Go two aisles down that way, then walk to your right about fifty feet". That took me through the shirt displays and a few tables of "specials". Then, sure enough, there were the shoes. It was the first morning of the sale and the shelves were near empty, none in my size. You wonder sometimes if the sale flyers are more to just get you in the store, and they never did order enough of the stuff on sale.

As I walked back towards the door I notice one rack of fishing shirts that weren't in the flyer, but they were on sale for half price at $19.95 each and I picked out four of them. Then in another display I found some pure silk sports shirts with printed patterns of palm fronds marked down to about $30 from way-too-much money. What the hell, I picked one out! When I got to the register the scanner rang it up as $12. The girl said that happens a lot with sale merchandise.

A couple of days later I went to Hopkins-Carter Marine, got waited on by an old friend who is a member of the family that owns the place, and got my shoes for the same price Bass Pro was charging. On my way home I stopped off at the Home Depot. I wanted to pick up a four foot long flourescent shop light for my back porch. The greeter was a guy I've fished with before. I told him what I was looking for. He leaned close and whispered "Walmart has a better one, and it's four dollars cheaper".

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Exploring The Inside Passage

Larry Katz, my primary care doc, had set me up appointments at just about every specialist he could think of, as long as Medicare would pay for it. All kinds of examinations and tests were in the offing. This particular day I was waiting to meet Marwan Iskandarani, M.D., a gastroenterologist. The plan was for me to get a colonoscopy, where the doc checks the inside of your colon for things like polyps or cancer.

I wasn't in his office for the exam that day. Rather it was so he could ask me a bunch of questions about my health in general, drug allergies, that sort of thing, and explain the procedure to me. He assured me that they'd give me a shot to knock me out before he did it, and that I'd awaken quite groggy so I shouldn't plan on driving myself home afterwards. Claudia, my ex, had offered to take me there and pick me up afterwards, but they offer a service to pick you up at your house and drive you home for only $20, so I decided that made more sense.

In this photo I'm looking at the inevitable display on the wall, with a picture of the digestive system along with several little booklets about the various things that might be wrong, and the wonderful drugs the company makes that are available if you're suffering from one of them.

A week later I went back. When I awoke Marwan told me that he'd removed a few polyps, nothing looked cancerous, but we'd have to await the lab results to be sure. He seemed surprised that I didn't have my camera with me. I replied that it would have been really awkward photographing the procedure even if I'd been awake.

Update: Four days have passed and I got a phone call from the doc's office. The lab results were back and the polyps are benign. I was healthy! I should come back in three years to enjoy the experience again. Oh thrill!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dining With Nicholas ~ More Yarns Than A Knitting Shop

He doesn't call himself The Story Teller for nothing. He has a seemingly endless supply of stories to tell. Here's a bit more about him:

On this night I'd gone to Jimmey's Place to find some dinner, and I timed it just right to run into Nicholas with his lady friend just starting to eat theirs. Usually I'll beg off joining him when he's with a lady, feeling like I'm imposing. This night he was insistant that I join them. I sat down and joined them.

I've often wondered why stories, especially those in the oral tradition, are called yarns, and telling a story is called weaving a yarn. It doesn't make sense, but then the meaning of words changes over time, as does the way we put those words together. Read a book written a couple hundred years ago and it can almost seem like it's written in another language.

Nicholas has the knack of weaving a tale with just enough use of archaic words and obsolete grammatical structure to enhance the flavor of a good story, yet the contemporary listener will have no trouble in understanding him. You almost expect him to speak like that all the time, but when he's not standing at the microphone he sounds perfectly normal.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Not Just Another Old Car

I just love seeing a sight like this, even though it fills my mind with questions. Was it lovingly restored by somebody who'd found a rusted hulk in a field someplace? Was it hidden for three decades or more in a garage, and didn't get discovered until Grandpa died? Was it kept polished or was it repainted and the bumpers rechromed? Exactly where these days can you find a place with a "Bumpers Rechromed" sign out front? I know that there are still a few places around that can make a new convertible top.

I took a few photographs and hung around for perhaps half an hour. I'd hoped to meet the owner and maybe get some answers. No such luck. I haven't seen the car since.

Monday, February 25, 2008

In Memory Of Mary Poh

It's been several months now since my friend Mary was hospitalized. Her mind was slipping, although physically she was holding up quite well for an 85 year old. Photos of her have appeared here in this blog from time to time. There are still lots more of them in my files. What's not around anymore is Mary. I got a call yesterday from her friend Modina. Mary passed away a few days ago.
This photo has appeared here before. It was taken shortly after Mary had to give up driving because her eyesight was failing. Her little dog Spuds was off to the vet's office for the anual shots and a check-up. A few months later Spuds passed away, leaving Mary with her collection of adopted cats. Fortunately Spuds liked cats and the cats could sense it. It was a common sight in her trailer to see spuds curled up on the sofa, fast asleep in a tangled mass of sleeping felines.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Catching some Rays, Meeting The Cousins ~ Monkette Loved It

My mom's sister Lillian had four kids, Nat, Herb, Larry, and Ellen. Ellen was the youngest, Larry a year or two younger than me, Herb several years older, with Nat being the oldest. As a kid I didn't see all that much of them because they lived in another town in Massachusettes, then just before I turned 14 my mom and I moved to Miami.

The last few months were unusual, with first Herb and his wife Harriet visiting the Miami area, and a few weeks later Larry and Margie were here. I hadn't seen any of them in years. Monkette had never met any of them at all. One morning we went to meet Larry and Margie at their hotel for brunch. Like most northerners they seemed shocked to find out that I hadn't been to the beach in years, and still more years since I'd last been swimming in the ocean. Monkette had never been to the beach, not even swimming in a pool. We agreed to go catch some rays after brunch. The cousins only had a few days to "get a tan" and do it without getting a painful sunburn if possible.

We chatted about our kids and what they were up to these days, talked about fishing in the park ponds when we were kids, and promised one another that we'd do a better job of staying in touch with one another. Monkette complained that it was difficult to get a tan through her fur, and nobody would be able to notice it anyway. Monkette always complains about something!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bass Fishing, Bass Pro Shops ~ Johnny Morris Style

The 1970's saw a major change take place in the fishing scene. Rich people used to go offshore deep sea fishing for tuna and marlin. Rich people used to take there hand crafted split bamboo flyrods, silk lines, and hand tied flies made from exotic feathers up in the mountains to fish for trout in the streams. The average working stiff fished for largemouth bass, had a 14 foot flat bottom boat in the back of his rusty pick-up truck, perhaps a ten horsepower Evinrude to hang on the back, and it was called "bait" casting tackle even though most guys were fishing with various kinds of lures that looked sort of like minnows or frogs, but in colors that never existed in nature. Eventually the name changed to plug casting tackle and companies like Heddon and Creek Chub made made plugs in wood and plastic, big and small, that sputtered and chugged on the surface or dived deep and wiggled. In the 1960's plastic worms came along, again in colors that no self respecting worm would ever dare wear in public, but the bass ate them and the fishermen bought them.

The trouble with this whole thing was that bass fishing was considered as much a way to put food on the table as a sport, football games on TV filled up a lot of weekend time, and 14 foot aluminum boats just ain't where the big bucks lay. Along came people like Johnny Morris, eager to supply the boats, the motors, and the gear. Soon there was a tournament circuit, coverage on cable TV, fancy metal flake finish "bass boats", 18 to 20 foot long with 200 horsepower outboards that'd get up and roar over choppy water at high speed to the next hot spot. The bass were put in live wells, and as you caught a bigger one you released the smallest. Football had some competition.

Entire lines of specialty clothes were designed for the sport, professional fishermen followed the circuit tournament to tournament, and made big money endorsing boats, motors, rods, reels, and lures. The truck manufacturers, the boat manufacturers, tackle makers were all making money. Bassmaster magazine was selling pages of ads.

Bass Pro Shops started with one store and a booming mail order business. Bass fishing was now big money! This store, just south of Fort Lauderdale, sort of has its own exit from I-95, along with a Tri-Rail station for shoppers who don't want to drive. They now carry salt water boats and tackle, guns and ammo, camping gear, and a huge selection of outdoor type clothing. It's right next door to a hotel and the world headquarters of the International Game Fishing Association that keeps track of world record fish. Bass Pro Shops became Outdoor World. A dream come true! They have everything but a barber shop...

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Typewriter Lives On

The main reason I dragged the ol' Hermes 3000 Reporter over to Starbucks was I actually did have a few things to type and I don't have a printer for my computer. I could have done the typing at home I suppose but I was hoping to find some reaction from some of the college students who are usually there in droves doing their homework on their laptops, but not this day.
Gloria's reaction was not much more than an "I haven't seen one of those in years! A Hermes! That's a really good typewriter!" She recognized it immediately. She's from northern Italy on the Swiss border and the typewriter is from Switzerland.
I'm working on my second keyboard for my computer but this old thing just keeps on working. Maybe a new ribbon every year or two. A couple of times over the forty odd years that I've owned the thing it needed a cleaning and lubrication.That can be a messy job but nothing very difficult, nothing to take apart or put back together.
I finished my typing and put the lid back on the typewriter. Gloria and I sat around and chatted about the way things used to be as we drank our coffee and enjoyed smoking a few cigarettes.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Monkette Checks Out The Goodies At Ness Konditori

Ray and his mom Helga are here every morning before daybreak 7 days a week baking rolls , breads, and pastries. the sign out front says Ness Konditori but just about everbody calls it the German Bakery. Over the years as the population has shifted away from people with European traditions to Carribean Islanders this is the last bakery left catering to us older folk who've lived here just about forever. The Swiss Pastry Shop on 125th Street is long gone. It's been many years since Publix Markets bakeries had seperate entrances and were called the Danish Bakery.

Ness just keeps hanging in there and people still come from miles around. The crust on Helga's turnovers and pies is really flakey and the rolls and breads have a real crust, not just a darker brown outside covering up the bread inside.

I'd driven past the place hundreds of times when I was the photographer for nearby Barry College but it was an era when I was content to let the wife do the food shopping. When I first met my next wife Claudia about twenty-five years ago she helped out at the Konditori during the morning rush before going to her job at an antique shop. Her fluent German was still a big help in those days. She introduced me to a roll called a salt stick. I love them! Helga also makes a healthier version. Instead of being rolled in coarse salt it's covered with poppy and caraway seeds. They're just as tasty and better for your blood pressure.

Ness Konditori is located on the east side of West Dixie Highway just north of the intersection with N.E. 2nd Ave. at about 118th St. Stop in and try a guava tunrnover before the day's supply is gone. Tell them that Monkette sent you!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No Sofkee With Lunch At The Restaurant!

For a bit of background on Florence and Robert Tiger click here:

We'd gone out to get some lunch. My house is mostly full of single guy stuff ~ frozen dinners, frozen pizza, frozen hamburger patties, cereal, Ritz crackers, Devil Dogs, cookies, peanut butter and a dozen jars of jellies, plus a huge stack of good old wholesome Coca Cola. I bought like a three year supply of the 12-packs when they had 'em on sale five for $10, a bit over a year ago. I'm forgetting the canned goods! Soups, beans, and veggies, mostly bought when it was a buy-one-get-one special, and I used coupons to boot!

Florence has more the womanly attitude about eating healthy. Compared to my pantry any restaurant would likely be healthier.

And sofkee? Well, other than being an American Indian concoction made from corn meal and/or hominy, the exact recipe seems to vary greatly from tribe to tribe. Robert is Donna's son and Donna's mom used to serve it in a mug. Think making coffee by putting the coffee into a pan of boiling water, then pouring that into a cup without straining the grounds out of it first. You just use the corn instead of coffee. The corn is softer, less gritty than coffee grounds, but you drink both the liquid on top as well as the soggy corn meal. Different perhaps, but not really all that bad.

Now that Donna passed away, along with her brother Spencer who was Florence's husband, I suspect that Robert gets to eat more along the lines of matzoh balls in home made chicken soup than sofkee, and gefilte fish and pickled herring have probably replaced fried garfish in his diet as well. As Monkette contemplated the thought of a young Miccosukee Indian being raised by a Miami Beach Jewish woman she smiled and chuckled to herself. Only in Miami!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is That The Spirit Of An Omega D2V-XL I See?

I didn't notice it when I sat in Mike's office/digital "darkroom" but when I saw this picture on screen Omega was what came to mind. Mike has gone 100% digital from a background of shooting weddings on film and getting machine made color prints. I doubt that he's ever seen an Omega D2 enlarger, let alone the XL and V variants. Yet up there on top of the black cabinet in the left rear is a black shape with a white square on it. The size, the shape, well it triggered something in my brain. An Omega lamphouse, it screamed!

For a few decades the Omega D2, going back to the days of the 4X5 Speed Graphic, was the mainstay of newspaper and magazine darkrooms everywhere, and most studios and custom labs had them also. The XL stood for Extra Long. That variant had a longer massive aluminum girder holding the enlarger head than the standard model so it allowed you to make cropped prints as large as 16X20 inches right on the base board.

As first Rollieflexes using 120 roll film, and then Leica, Nikon, and Canon 35mm cameras replaced the 4X5 for news photography, shorter focal length lenses were used on the enlarger, and they required another set of condensors for each lens used. Omega devised a new lamphouse. It had shelves inside and a flip-up door in front. Now you could move one of the condensors up and down to match the lens being used. That's where the"V" for Variable came from.

Like I said, Mike is digital. He still has a couple of film bodies for his Canon lens collection. He'll admit that every rare occasion the look of film is just what he needs, but he scans the negatives and prints digitaly. I think some of his photos look a bit over sharpened, flatly lit, with garishly intense colors. Some of the "shadows" he puts on the background look fake to me. His whites often lack detail and his dark areas tend towards featureless blacks. I'm not into those dramatic vignettings either.

But he's great at working the tonal shortcomings of digital into some dramatic compositions, his posing is very well done, and he has a good rapport with his subjects. They're thrilled with his work, and that's what counts. Whether you're looking for a traditional wedding photographer or a studio portrait give Mike Rifai a call at 305-893-2322 and tell him that I sent you. His website is

Monday, February 18, 2008

Digging 60's Rock With An Indian ~ Monkette Really Gets Around

Robert is the son of Donna Tiger who passed away not all that long ago. Here's a photo that I took of her. She was about 17 at the time, 1975 I think. I shot it in my back yard. Kodachrome film really holds it's color, just about forever if it's stored in the dark.

Since Donna died Robert has been living with his Aunt Florence Tiger. She was married to Donna's older brother Spencer, and he's named after the oldest brother Robert. Spencer too passed away, as did another sister. There's only one of the sisters still living.
For a few years back in the mid 1970's Robert and I were best friends. I spent a lot of weekends on the Miccosukee Reservation on the Tamiami Trail and Robert spent some weekends at my house. Then Robert bought a new motorcycle. My wife, daughter, and I were sitting in his mom's kitchen drinking coffee when the police gave us the bad news. He'd managed to flip the motorcycle at high speed and didn't survive. He'd had the bike maybe two days at most.
By sheer happenstance I ran into Flo at Starbucks a few weeks ago and she recognized me after three decades. This Robert is about the same age as his uncle Robert was when he and I knew one another years ago. He and his mom even live nearby. He got all excited to discover that I like classic 60's rock, his favorite. Mom, it seems, prefers more mellow sounds, romantic music. We're planning on getting my old turntable set up again and listening to all my old 12 inch vinyls so we can hear them the way they were meant to be enjoyed ~ analog, not digital ~ just the way his uncle and I listened to them.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Green Legs And A Ham

You have to be a bit of a ham to wear this costume and stand out by the street waving a "Free Philly Pretzels" sign. Monkette was very intrigued by this odd sight on U.S. 1 in front of Starbucks so we parked the truck and walked over there to say "hi". The first thing Monkette wanted to know was exactly who Philly Pretzel is and just why is he in jail? A political prisoner perhaps?

We found out that it's the name of a large soft pretzel, and there was a new a shop making them just a few doors north of Starbucks. As a way of getting people addicted to the things they were giving out "free Philly Pretzels". Monkette listened with rapt attention to the explanation, and then we walked over to the shop for our free pretzels. We needed them!

It's been about six weeks now from our doing the holiday party circuit, getting free food almost every day from early December through Christmas week. Money is tight because the City of North Miami still pays us board members the same lousy ten dollars a meeting as it did way back in 1961. As Monkette put it "Bananas just went up from forty-nine to fifty-one cents a pound. I can remember when a pound was less than ten cents!" I told her to call councilman Scott Galvin and bitch to him about it. He and the mayor and other council members just gave themselves a ten-fold increase in pay, plus a generous health insurance plan. Nothing for us.

So for the past couple of weeks Monkette and I have been holding on to our coffee cups so we can get a fifty cent "refill" when we go to Starbucks, but first we go get our free pretzel. Every day! I hope that they keep doing that promotion forever. It sure beats starving to death.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Getting The Respect That She Deserves

In the beginning people looked at me kind of strangely as I wandered about North Miami with a toy monkey. I pretended like it was part of a photography project of some sort, a continuation of my "self-portrait series", because I was using that ultra-wide angle lens and I was in all of the photographs.

Then little by little, as people got used to seeing first Monkey and now Monkette just about always in my company we got braver. I'm sure that nobody else older than three has ever brought a toy monkey to a City Council or Board of Adjustment meeting. I'm on the Board of Adjustment and I'm pretty sure that Monkette is the only toy monkey on the planet that gets to sit up there with a municipal board during meetings. If nothing else she's gotten me to start wearing a tie and jacket for the first time in years. Yup, she gives me good advice! The board couldn't function without her.

So here we are after the meeting. It was a short agenda. The City Attorney, the Planning Department Director, and a few others stayed around for a few minutes to chat with Monkette and share a few jokes. She loves the attention.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Just Your Typical Loving Suburban Couple

We're back to just Monkette and myself and OUR junk. Today Dawn's daughter, Melpomenie, and one of her friends showed up in a Budget rental truck to pick up her furniture, clothes, etc. that have been languishing here unused, collecting dust for over a year now. Whatever happened with her original plan of moving in with me is the Big Mystery. I can't figure it out and Melpomenie seemed as puzzled as I am. Dawn is now out of the picture and tomorrow Monkette and I will be rearranging furniture. There was plenty of dust and lint hiding behind everything. Tomorrow it's clean, clean, clean! Dust, sweep, mop, and wash!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New Electric Poles And A Very Upset Monkette

Monkette had heard so much about these giant new poles that Florida Power & Light was running through North Miami's residential neighborhoods that she couldn't wait to see what they looked like. After a few days of keeping track of things we finally found a couple of flat bed trailers partially unloaded.

On the left in the picture you can see some of the arms that will support the high tension wires and hold them away from the poles. These things are as huge as they are ugly! No wonder the residents of nearby Miami Shores and Biscayne Park didn't want them in their neighborhoods. That would have been a shorter and more direct route also.

Instead, FP&L decided to route the wires so they go right down N.E. 14th Ave., directly outside of Monkette's bedroom window. She is not a happy girl, not at all! No way! Like the old saying goes, "Hell hath no fury like a monkey scorned!" Stay tuned...

This is the 750th consecutive day of The Price Of Silver and we're still in the Yahoo! Top 100 List, number 72 by volume of hits. Thanks to Todd Frederick for posting the photographs and Jon Sinish for his great advice and editorial skills. Jon has a website with over 40 original articles written to help small business owners advertise their businesses more efficiently.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Service With A Smile And Reasonable Prices Too

Is this the last real "service station" in the country? The only place where they won't let you pump your own gas? I suppose that makes it easier to speculate that she's about the only female pump jockey in the country.

It looks like a gas station straight out of the 1960's except for the newer style pumps. A big sign advertises oil changes, tune-ups, and mechanical work. They buy their gas from whichever supplier is most reasonable on a given day, keep their gas prices within a penney of the big chain self-serve places, and it's mostly a penney less. They're located on the south east corner of N.E. 123rd St. and 16th Ave.

I used to take an elderly lady friend, Mary, shopping and to the doctor every week until she went to a retirement home. Whenever I get gas they alwas ask "How's Mary doing?" Now I take Monkette there with me. She loves the place! She loves good caring people.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hats ~ Love 'em or Hate 'em

Just about whenever I see James Mitchell he's wearing a baseball cap. I can't stand wearing one when I'm out photographing. The brim always seems to be getting in the way of the camera. Vertical shots are the most troublesome. Maybe that's why James is shooting horizontal?

A few weeks ago he was here in town and we took this cute little monkey out and about town. She's to be my grand daughter Gabriella's Valentines Day present. The monkey enjoyed visiting the art galleries and the art museum, the boutiques and antique shops. She really loved the half hour that we spent at Starbucks sitting outside under the umbrellas sipping coffee.

She remarked that the next street over, the one with the parking lots, looked a bit on the scuzzy side. She's right! I'd tell her to bring it up at the next city council meeting but by then she'll be living in Cambridge, MA. I guess I'll bring it up. My son tell me that all their parking lots are snowed under. I hope the monkey likes snow.

Monday, February 11, 2008

In Memory Of Ron Leavitt ~ Sorry James, Not Today

I was planning on writing about my good friend James Mitchell ~ that's him in the photo ~ but when I saw the Miami Herald this morning there was an obituary for another guy, also a good friend, who'd sat in this same living room many times back around 1970. Ron Leavitt was a reporter for the local weekly, the North Dade Journal and I was the photographer. Jim Kukar, still a close friend, was the editor. Everytime I drive down Memorial Highway (now such a fitting name) past the apartment building where Ron lived back then, I think of all the parties he threw, the good times we had, the assignments we covered together. I always carry an extra pen or two as well as a notebook because of Ron. When we'd get to the location the first thing Ron would say was "Hey Al, you don't happen to have a pen with you do you?" as he patted his pockets, then it was "got any paper, by chance"? Every damned time, without fail.

Then one day he announced that he was going to California and try to break in to the TV writing thing. Everybody wished him well. He packed up and was gone. Frankly, it was to everyone's surprise when his name actually started appearing in the occasional credit. Then he sold the concept of Married With Children. He co-wrote it, he produced it, and it was a huge success. I'm going to take the liberty of just running the Herald's obit, (c) the Miami Herald of course, because a rewrite wouldn't really be more than just rearranging the same words.

Creator of `Married With Children'
Posted on Mon, Feb. 11, 2008

LOS ANGELES -- (AP) -- Ron Leavitt, who co-created the sitcom Married With Children, has died Sunday. He was 60.
Leavitt died of lung cancer at his Sherman Oaks home surrounded by his children, said his fiancée, the model and actress Jessica Hahn.
Leavitt was best known for teaming up with Michael G. Moye to create Married With Children, a sitcom about the luckless shoe salesman Al Bundy and his dysfunctional family.
Married With Children ran on the Fox network from 1987 to 1997 and became the network's second-longest running sitcom behind The Simpsons. Leavitt served as the show's executive producer and helped write nearly 150 episodes.
Leavitt broke into TV in the 1970s writing episodes of Busting Loose, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and The Bad News Bears. In the 1980s, Leavitt had a stint as a producer of The Jeffersons.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Museum Of Contemporary Art And The Valentine Monkey

Valentines day was on it's way and when I spotted this cute little red and white monkey covered with pink hearts I just knew that it'd be the perfect gift for Gabriella, my seventeen month old grand daughter. Gabriella is starting to walk and talk and loves playing with stuffed animals.

She lives in Cambridge, MA, which together with Boston across the Charles River, is a hotbed of culture with some great museums.I needed to get the monkey ready for this upcoming adventure. First we checked out a bunch of the art galleries and antique shops along 125th St. in North Miami. Then we went across the street to MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art. This little pond is out in front.My friend James Mitchell was in town for a few day and the monkey asked him if he'd like to come along with us and check out the museum with us. James lives in Washington, D.C., another place with lots of museums. After we finished our little Art Walk we headed across the plaza to Starbucks for some coffee.

Tomorrow the monkey flies to Logan International Airport and will discover that Cambridge isn't as warm as Miami in the winter. Gabriella will soon get to meet her new Valentine monkey.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Riding On The Running Board

When Monkette spotted a banana colored Jeep she just had to check it out! As we got closer she spotted the running boards. She'd never seen those before. I explained to her that at one time cars had bigger wheels and flat floors over the drive shaft rather than the "tunnel" found in modern cars. The running boards acted as a step to get up and into the car.

Being young, and frankly a bit nuts, she thought it would be oh just so cool to take a ride while sitting on one. I pointed out that there was nothing to hold on to and no seat belt. Finally I pointed out that the Jeep's owner wasn't there and I wasn't about to just take Monkette for a ride in someone elses Jeep without permission, etc., etc. I promised her that next time we had the chance we'd ask the owner for a ride, but NOT sitting on a running board!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Taking Monkette Around Town At Night

It's odd how much differently people act after the sun goes down, all the more so when there's nobody else around. Regardless of their age, where we are, or what the time might be, girls and women love my toy monkeys. Monkette is "Just so cute!" while raggety old Monkey is "You've had him since you were an infant? How sweet. You must be such a caring sensitive guy!"

Men see me coming with a toy monkey and act like they want to run and hide! I can hear the gears turning in their heads as they consider the possibilities. If they know me at all they know that my kids are all grown up. They probably know that my toddler grand daughter Gabriella lives in Cambridge, MA. Why the toy monkey then? But those are guys who know me. Run into a stranger at night, the guys friends aren't around to see him associating with toy monkeys, and the rules seem to change.

Who is this guy? Hell, I don't know. One or the other of us wanted to bum a light off the other. I told him about the blog and the project. He said "Oh, get one of me with the monkey!" and proceeded to put Monkette on his shoulder. She's got a bit of that "and just who in the hell is THIS guy?" look on her face, but she got in the spirit of the moment and let me snap a few photos. Thanks, Monkette.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

...But Monkette PROMISED That She'd Remember Their Names!

Wandering around town carrying a toy monkey is a great way to meet people. Some guys might think that I'm kind of weird for doing so but they invariably come around in their thinking when they see the effect it has on the ladies.

I'd stopped by Starbucks for a late night cup of joe and had no sooner sat down, Monkette sitting in front of me on the table, when this young lady was gushing about just how cute the monkey was. I had to relate the entire story of my monkeys to her. The guy was good natured about it but I doubt that he rushed out next morning to buy his own toy monkey. That's not an easy task anyway. Not many places seem to carry toy monkeys.

He did put Monkette on his shoulder and he posed for some pictures. He sure looks happy enough doing it and his lady seemed thrilled that he did. Monkette promised to remember their names. I'm bad with names. I think Monkette is catching my "bad". Hopefully we'll run into them again soon, I can write down the names, and I'll be able to edit them into this post!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Monkette Checks Out The Lair Of Her Cousin Monkanne's Pimp

Monkette cringes every time she so much as walks by an AT&T store these days, not since her cousin Monkanne started doing those television commercials! Monkanne was always kind of the black sheep of the family, running off to the big city at 15, and getting involved with the wrong crowd. One day she met a well dressed young business executive at a local nightclub. After a few drinks, a bit of conversation, and a couple of hours cavorting on the bed back in his hotel room he said to her "Monkanne, you don't have to put on your redlight anymore!" He snapped a few photos of her with his AT&T camera phone and a couple of days later her cell phone rang. It was him! "You're hired!" he said.

He'd hired her to star in a series of television commercials where another equally handsome young executive took photos of her in his hotel room. The plot was that the photos were supposedly of his daughter's toy monkey which he was taking around to various places, taking photos of her, and sending them back home to his little girl. The money was good, the "work" was easy, and she got to travel around the country with him. From now on nothing but organic bananas! She got to try all sorts of pristine exotic fruits she'd never even heard of before. She could afford it now!

She soon met other business executives and spent some time in their hotel rooms. She met a porn producer and she's about to star in some films that nobody in their right mind would let a little girl watch! There's even a new line of doll clothes in the works called Monkanne's Lingerie, but it won't be sold at your local toy store. Strictly internet! (For obvious reasons!)

Well, Monkette hates it when people mistake her for her sleazy cousin. She hates AT&T and she cringes whenever one of those obscene commercials airs. Supposedly if you search around on the internet you can see some footage of Monkanne and an assortment of business executives getting it on with one another after the commercials were filmed. What the hell, it's more money, right? Monkette switched to Verizon Wireless.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Confirming The Cataract

Now with medicare picking up the tab I was making the rounds of the medical specialists. It had probably been at least ten years since I'd last had a thorough eye exam. It was about six months since I'd become aware that my left eye wasn't seeing as well as it had been. In dim light I could see pretty good with it but in bright light everything was getting fuzzy. In both cases though, the fuzzy was in the center, not at the extreme edges of my vision when looking straight ahead. I surmised that I was getting a small cataract smack dab in the middle.

In dim light the pupil was big enough to let in plenty of light around the edges of the cataract. Bright light made for a tiny pupil, and I was left with trying to see through the cataract. The doc agreed with me, but said at this point it wasn't worth doing anything about it. I also told him that it had gradually been getting better again. My vision was improving and I could read with the left eye once more."Impossible!" he replied, but it's continued to improve since then. It makes me wonder if perhaps haircuts cause cataracts.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

A Valentine Monkey For Gabriella

Toy monkeys are hard to find. I have no idea why, but there must be at least a one hundred to one ratio between teddy bears and toy monkeys. When I wanted to send my new grand daughter a cute cuddly gift a few months ago I had to settle on other animals. My son said that she loved playing with them. Just before the holidays I lucked out! I wasn't really looking but I found a cute little brown monkey. Lucky Gabriella!

A few weeks ago I saw a huge display of assorted stuffed animals. I don't know why I even bothered, but I spent at least 15 minutes digging through that pile. Sure enough, there was one toy monkey in the unlikely (unmonkeylike?) colors of red and white with pink and white hearts scattered about on the red. One look and I just knew that it would make the perfect Valentine to send to Gabriella.

In a few days the monkey will get to fly up to Logan International Airport in Boston. It's cold there. In the meantime I've been taking her around the North Miami area to see the sights and meet my friends so she can tell Gabriella all about what a bunch of kooks I hang out with, and how we sit around all day long smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, reading books and newspapers, and talking about "The Old Days". In this shot we'd just checked out the magazines at Barnes and Noble and were about to head over to Starbucks to sit outside, sip a cup of java, and hopefully find a bit of friendly conversation. We can sit outside because it's warm here.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Nicholas The Storyteller

I first met Nicholas the Story Teller at the Luna Star Cafe across the street from North Miami City Hall. He was wearing a long robe and looked straight out of the twelve hundreds, the kind of man you might expect to see walking down a wooded path in the Sherwood Forest in an old black and white Robin Hood movie.

Recently I discovered that he and I both eat at Jimmeys Place, but he tends to eat an hour or so earlier than I do. On this particular night I was hungry early, and there he was! He even has this strange little pale faced creature that gets to ride around in his van with him. He's standing right there on the table telling a story to Monkette as she sits at his feet in rapt attention.

In addition to performing at the Luna Star Cafe and elsewhere he also entertains at childrens' parties. Here's a link to his website. Be sure to tell him that Monkette and Al referred you!

Friday, February 01, 2008

It's A Continental Kit ~ And Monkette Wants A Ride!

In 1942, the same year that I was born, Ford introduced the Lincoln Continental. It had an extended rear bumper with the spare tire mounted on it behind the trunk. By the 1950's every teenager in the country thought it was the coolest look possible, especially if you also added skirts over the bottom of the rear wheel cutouts. A bunch of companies sprang up making convertor kits for just about anything with four wheels and a three-on-the-tree*.

Teenagers usually added the kit to an older car that they'd picked up cheap, customized, souped up the engine with a four barreled carburetor and maybe even milled the heads, got all the chrome re-chromed and painted the body and the Continental Kit to match one another.

If you google "continental kit" you'll discover that there plenty of companies still making the things, even for fairly recent autos, but this was the first one I'd seen in decades and the first one Monkette had EVER seen. Actually, I'm not sure that she'd ever seen a convertible for that matter. Air conditioning and Ralph Nader** pretty much killed off "rag tops". We never did locate the car's owner so Monkette didn't get to tool around town in style that morning, but she did get to pose on the bumper. She also talked me into buying a couple of teal shirts...LOL

* "Three on the tree" referrs to a three speed manual transmission with the shift lever on the steering column.

** Ralph Nader wrote a book "Unsafe At Any Speed" and convertibles offer no protection at all in a roll-over. We can thank Ralph for mandatory seat belts and air bags.