Sunday, March 30, 2008

Zippo ~ Guaranteed Forever

We've entered an age when most people don't smoke, and most of those that do use disposable butane lighters. Bic seems to be the biggest brand in disposables these days, but the first one I ever saw was a French made Cricket back in 1964. The woman I was about to marry had just returned from a year at the University of Geneva. She had a Cricket, along with an ample supply of ultra strong Gitanne cigarettes.

We finally found a place in Boston that had Cricket lighters. They were $1.98 apiece, a lot of money in 1964. A brand new Zippo was only $2.98 at the time, and you could refill it with fluid or replace the flint yourself. It's also a wind proof lighter. It'll light in a fairly strong breeze and stay lit.

The best thing about a Zippo is the guarantee, though. Lifetime! When the hinge breaks, and it will eventually, you mail the lighter back to Zippo. They'll replace the hinge, as well as the entire slide-in section with the wheel, wick, flint, etc., and you're good to go for another five or ten years. They even pay the return postage. Wouldn't it be great to buy a car or a computer with that kind of guarantee?

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Big Shoot Out ~ Al vs. Al

My money makers are still my Leica rangefinder cameras, but for fun every day photography I like to carry around my little lightweight Bessa L with the ultra wide angle 15mm Voigtlander Heliar lens. It takes in an angle of view of over 110 degrees! That's right, stick the camera tight into the corner of a room and both walls will be in the picture. Yup, they make lenses that wide to fit digital cameras too, but the lenses are huge and the cameras huger (and heavier!).

If you've been following my photographic adventures for the past three or four years you'll see that using that leightweight camera and lens combination allows me to easily appear in my own photographs because I sure wouldn't want to be holding a five pound camera and lens combination out there at arms length! I compose mostly by a quick glance over my shoulder, pose myself, and I guess you could say that I'm composing as much by "feel" as by experience. I never look through the viewfinder.

Many nights I run ito this other Al over at Starbucks. He's also a photographer, but he's embraced digital big time! He's about my age, so he understands film photography. He cut his teeth on it, but he loves to be able to squint at the back of the camera and check each shot right away. He probably misses a lot of great shots that happen while he's squinting at the last one. He can't understand why anybody would still be shooting film these days. Well, all my cameras are long since paid for, for one, and they know exactly how to place themselves in my hands so they can get me to take fantastic photographs. Other than the Bessa I've had all of my cameras and lenses for about forty years now. We're old friends, partners. We work well together!

Al gave me a nice print from that shoot. I think that it's a good shot of me. He was supposed to email me a file to post on the blog. I'm still waiting. So much for one big advantage of digital. It still takes a person to email the file. Al, I'm waiting... [HE SENT IT!]

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Big Drill ~ Preparing For The Curse

That's one humongous drill shown here in a horizontal position hovering ove the police car. That's my house on the left. Fortunately the decision was made to put the poles opn the other side of Fourteenth Avenue rather than right outside of my bedroom window. Fortunate for me, but not the good folks on the right who get their shade from the ancient ficus tree.

A couple of days later the arborists came by and trimmed some major branches off of that old ficus. They left quite a bit of canopy on the house side of the tree, so most of the day my neighbors still get the shade. Now the neighbors are wondering whether or not the lopsided weight of the remaining branches might increase the chances of the tree toppling over when it's subjected to the high winds of the next hurricane. Of course it'll topple right onto their house. They're just thrilled!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

An Early Introduction To The Political Scene

I was checking out the munchies during the break at the North Miami City Council meeting just before Valentines Day when I spotted this little girl. She seemed more intrigued by the pictures on this display, somebody's visual presentation to show during the council meeting, than she was by the assortment of red heart shaped cookies and candies on the table. I tucked a red lollipop in my shirt pocket and took a few photographs before wandering off to chat with somebody about an item on the night's agenda. I never did find out the girl's name.

Later, as I was going through my latest assortment of self-portraits, I realized that she reminded me of my own daughter at that age going with me to council meetings. Back then their was an older guy sitting at the table pouring the coffee for people. I guess Charlie Zarzour was only fifty something back then, but at the time I was thirtyish and fifty seemed really ancient. Charlie worked for the city as a code enforcement officer during the week, even though he couldn't get around without crutches.

Elena loved Charlie, and he'd put her on his lap to help serve the coffee. Last year Elena wrote in her campaign literature that my taking her to all those meetings is what got her interested in politics. Charlie is gone now, Elena made an unsuccessful run for the Georgia Legislature, and will no doubt give it another try. And this little girl? Who knows where her visit to a city council meeting might lead!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Why Do We Buy Our Groceries At The Drugstore And Get Our Drugs At The Supermarket?

I can go into my neighborhood 24 hour Walgreens Drugs and get milk and butter, bread, eggs, a decent selection of canned goods, just about everything except fresh meats, fish and produce. I can even chat with friends that I haven't seen in awhile. All this as my color film gets processed and scanned to a disc.

When it comes to filling a prescription, though, I'm more likely to head down the street to my local Publix supermarket. More and more of their locations feature pharmacies, and as long as you have a prescription they'll give you antibiotics for free. They don't even make an attempt to bill your insurance. They just give you a bottle of free pills!

It's whatever it takes to get folks in the door, hoping that they'll find something else that they want to buy as long as they're already there. Is it just a matter of time before some astute marketing person comes up with a truely revolutionary concept, like maybe putting soda fountains or lunch counters in drug stores? And so the cycle continues.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

How Woodstock Came To Happen

Here's the link to the Miami Herald article, which also has a photograph. That's the legal way to do this, no stealing copyright material this way. The problem is that the Herald links go dead in a week or two so Monkette decided to post the entire text of the article after the link on her own, only asking that you bring bananas when you visit her in jail:

And here's the text:

Elliot Tiber's life before Woodstock was not exactly groovy. He'd given up his job as a Manhattan designer to move back home to Bethel, N.Y., and try to bail out his parents' money pit of a motel. He was closeted, nagged and guilted by his mother and reviled by the struggling community he was trying to help.
Woodstock wasn't shaping up to be groovy, either. What would be the 1969 three-day rock 'n' roll event of the century had momentum, money and music on deck. What it didn't have was a place to perform.
Enter Tiber, the 34 year-old president of Bethel's Chamber of Commerce. As he writes in his new memoir, Taking Woodstock (Square One Publishers, $24.95), ''I typed up a permit, giving myself legal permission to hold a rock concert.'' The rest, as they say, is history.
Tiber revisits that history not just in his book but in his docu-comedy Woodstock: Ticket to Freedom being screened at Fort Lauderdale's Cinema Paradiso April 1.
''Every day you meet people who say they're something. This guy's for real, down to earth, warm. He's a great asset to our community,'' says Hal Axler, executive director of the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival.
Tiber's story has been optioned by Focus Features to be made into a major motion picture, commemorating the 40th anniversary of Woodstock next year. Not bad for a nice Jewish gay boy.
When Tiber heard Woodstock needed a venue, he offered Bethel, not because he loved Hendrix and the Who but because he hoped it would bring in tourists and their money. What he really hoped was that the concert would happen at his parents' hotel, the El Monaco. It was, he writes, ``New York's ugliest and most dysfunctional motel and resort . . . most of the doors didn't have doorknobs, and fewer still had keys.''
The Woodstock promoters, who'd already had the nearby town of Wallkill back out of hosting the concert, were desperate, but not that desperate. Then Tiber thought of his neighbor: ``He has a big farm. He's my milk and cheese man. His name is Max Yasgur.''
Tiber brokered the deal, worked tirelessly with the promoters, and that summer, while crew worked to set up logistics for the concert, he housed them all at the El Monaco, thus saving his parents from going broke and giving Woodstock a home.
''What impressed me most about Elliot was his enthusiasm, his desire to help and be involved,'' recalls Stan Goldstein, one of Woodstock's organizers. ``His enthusiasm was infectious.''
At 72, Tiber is still madly enthusiastic. His conversation jumps from Woodstock to studying art with Mark Rothko in the late 1950s to his long friendship with Yiddish theater star Molly Picon, for whom his beloved Yorkie is named. Working on the book and movie has brought his past alive, triggering memories he had forgotten about over the years. ''It's very strange,'' says Tiber, who moved from Manhattan to Fort Lauderdale in November. ``It's like I'm going through it, like it's happening now.''
Woodstock was a mecca for free spirits, but Tiber at the time wasn't one of them. ''I was closeted and frustrated and repressed and afraid to be myself,'' he admits. Much of that stemmed from his difficult relationship with his mother.
''It's not painful anymore,'' he says. ``It's just funny.''
Though Tiber's mother refused to accept her son's sexuality, Tiber is happily, openly out. He's being honored at a prescreening cocktail party sponsored by the Fort Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Community Center. He's proud of who he is, a pride ignited by participating in the Stonewall riots but also, in no small part, by participating in Woodstock.
''Those six weeks? Wow. These people were so enriching to my life. They opened up whole new worlds to me,'' Tiber recalls. ``I didn't feel fat, I didn't feel ugly. It enabled me to meet all kinds of people, to enjoy myself. I got used to that.''
The enthusiasm that made Tiber a vital force in the creation of Woodstock actually got in the way of him writing about it. In original manuscript of Taking Woodstock, he included not just the concert but everything that's happened to him since -- his 1972 move to Belgium; his partner of many years, director Andre Ernotte, who died in 1999; his 1976 literary debut, Rue Haute, a European bestseller published here as High Street; working on the film version of Rue Haute, an Academy Award nominee for best foreign film.
The result was a sprawling 575-page manuscript Tiber tried for years to condense. ''I just couldn't do it,'' he says. So he worked with Tom Monte, an author best known for books on healing. In an odd way, it was a perfect pairing. Monte kept the focus on Woodstock and on Tiber. ''My work was about finding the heroic in Elliot and putting that on the page,'' Monte says.
It wasn't hard. The Tiber of Woodstock days ''had an amazing amount of energy. He worked so hard and he was an incredibly creative man doing everything he could think of to keep his parents out of the poorhouse and keep that hotel alive. He was also really smart,'' says Monte.
``Bethel was not the great metropolis -- it was pretty sleepy, pretty backward. It wasn't doing anything for itself. Elliot brought the great spaceship Woodstock to Bethel. If it were not for Elliot, it would not have happened.''
After Woodstock, Tiber finally found a buyer for the El Monaco, but Woodstock pilgrims shouldn't go looking for it. ''The owner burned it down. There's no sign, no trace, nothing,'' says Tiber.
''Maybe bringing back the Woodstock nation would stir some people to think -- but that's a dream,'' he says. ''The world is all turned upside down. Unfortunately, the younger generation is on crack and busy partying.'' Um, weren't there a few drugs at Woodstock?
''I was the only one out of 1 million who didn't smoke a joint,'' he says. ''Well, maybe I did. Everybody was doing it.'' Even his straight-laced parents accidentally ate hash brownies. ''It was the only time I saw them laugh in my whole life,'' he says.
Tiber shakes his head. ''When I talk about Woodstock, or when I talk to my friends, it's like time hasn't passed,'' he says. 'Then yesterday I got out of the shower and thought `my God, I look like my mother.' ''
Looks aside, ''the Elliot of today is a much more realized human being, more comfortable in his own skin,'' says Goldstein. ``Elliot acknowledges his homosexuality. In the early times of our knowing each other, that was not openly acknowledged. Anyone who has to keep something so central to their life so hidden, so secret is contending with terrible forces. Revealing his sexuality has freed Elliot up.''
Tiber agrees. His favorite part of his film is where he talks with Richie Havens, Woodstock's opening act.
''You know his song, Freedom? Richie Havens improvised that song,'' says Tiber. ``Freedom for me was what Woodstock was all about.''The man who brought us Woodstock: Elliot Tiber
Posted on Sun, Mar. 23, 2008
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I missed out on Woodstock. I knew it was going to happen, but it was at the other end of the East Coast. I did go to a couple of rock festivals here in South Florida, but Woodstock was the first, the biggest, the greatest, and everything after Woodstock was but an echo. The groups were there, the air was heavy with pot smoke, but nothing could beat Woodstock. Woodstock was the legend...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Something Different For A Change

Todd Frederick is taking a couple of days off. Todd is my "Art Department" who scans my photographs, runs them through Photoshop to get great color balance, sizes them and then posts them here on the blog. He's been saying that he's going to take a few days off for months now, and then never did. His wife was ill, but he kept posting night after night. He first looked for, then bought another house, then said he'd need a few days to make the move. He still managed to find the time to keep the art department up and running! Hopefully he'll get his stuff organized in his new digs, spend some time with his wife, meet the new neighbors, all that good stuff, maybe even shoot a few photos himself. Todd, RELAX! OK? The blog will survive.

Next on the agenda. Monkette wanted me to write something about copyright law and intellectual property. The Price Of Silver is copyright material. It is my "intellectual property". I own it and I have the legal right to control its use. Unless credited to somebody else everything here is copyright Al Kaplan. That goes for both the photographs and the text. You MUST HAVE PERMISSION to use them elsewhere. Email me at I'm pretty easy to deal with. Monkette isn't. Please don't get her upset. She'll track you down and make you wish that you HAD asked for permission. And don't think that you can just buy her off with a couple of bananas either! She's very well fed.

Lastly, there's a good chance that some of these blog posts will be appearing on internet radio. They'll be read aloud, of course, by the guy with the show, and there'll obviously be no photos on the radio, but I guess he'll give out the blog address so folks can see the photographs. As things firm up I'll be posting more information about it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Can't See The Forest For The Reams

Reams and reams of paper get wasted every week. Paper is made from trees. Sometimes I wonder just how many trees get chopped down and shredded just to keep a small city like North Miami supplied with paper. Every meeting that I attend is preceded by a printed notice in the mail, even though I still get a phone call, and most of those notices include an agenda that fills still more pages. Then there are a bunch of additional agendas and other hand-outs up here in the front of the council chambers for those who might not be on the mailing list or just forgot to bring theirs with them. If a land use or building variance is being considered there are also huge sheets of paper depicting maps and building plans. Lastly, since the advent of digital imaging, there are usually print-outs of lots of pretty color photographs.

At the end of Board of Adjustment meetings there is some attempt to re-assemble the packets so they can be re-used at the upcoming council meeting, but I suspect that it's mostly a "feel good" gesture and the stuff ends up in the trash anyway. It'd really be a major hassle to put all the sheets back in order, figure out exactly what's missing, print up new copies of just those sheets, and so on...cheaper to just chop down another tree.

All of that paper is only printed on one side. I look at my packet as a great source of free scratch paper. I have a bunch of sheets of paper clipped together on the seat of my truck, another is next to the phone in the house. It helps me to make ends meet when the city council is still too damned cheap to give board members a single raise in forty-seven years. (They just gave themselves a big one, though!)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Health Care In The Twenty-First Century

Health Care In The Twenty-First Century. Here we are outside of the Chen Medical Center on 162nd Street. My primary care physician, Larry Katz, was now working with Dr. Chen. I'm not sure exactly what the financial arrangement is but these group practices seem to be the wave of the future. Best of all, the new office is about twenty blocks closer to my house. That's a plus. And when I get old and decrepit they have this cool little bus ready and waiting to ferry geriatrics to and from the clinic. For now Monkette and I are still able to get there in my Toyota truck. I drive, she navigates.

Last time I went there Monkette stayed home. Larry's first words were "Where's the monkey?" Larry is pretty cool though. When I pointed out that Monkette had no medical insurance, and that I wasn't sure if he was licensed to practice on simians, he said "No problem!" We both checked out nice and healthy, I got my Medicare card back, didn't have to lay out any cash, and we headed out to the parking lot where I promptly lit up a cigarette. Nicotine, it turns out, improves brain function and delays the onset of Alzheimers. It's good for the brain. A healthy body ain't worth much if you're off in la-la land, totally delusional, and like Larry said, my body is in great shape! (Plus I have a lot more hair than he does...LOL)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Girls In Red Dresses ~ Out Of My Price Range

Girls in red dresses! What a concept! What a turn on! Ever since I was a little kid I've been attracted to red, the redder and the brighter the better! Black dresses can be sexy, but they can qualify for either business or evening wear. Red dresses, though, make a statement! Evening wear! When the sun is shining your banker isn't wearing a red dress, your attorney leaves hers at home in the closet.

A new boutique was opening in North Miami and I'd been bombarded with mailings, emails, and phone calls from the store as well as from the Chamber of Commerce. It was supposed to be a business card exchange, and there'd be wine and cheese and crackers and candy. I had nothing better to do so I figured that I'd check it out. There was almost nobody there. For me at least it was a complete bust as a card exchange, but not as an opportunity to see girls in red dresses. The red dresses were on mannequins in the window and on live women in the shop. My eyes had a field day.

I assumed that being about a week before St. Valentine's Day accounted for the mostly bright red clothes featured. In my blue shirt I stood out like a sore thumb. I nibbled on some chocolate and sipped some wine while chatting with a few folks. I was hungry. I soon left and went out to find some dinner. On an empty stomach you can just spend so much time looking at girls in red dresses.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Final Extraction ~ Dawn Gone At Last

I never really did find out what happened. Half of Dawn's furniture, lots of her clothes, kitchen type stuff, a washer and dryer, had all found its way to my house. We were going to live together, maybe even get married. I was to clear out the small bedroom of its collection of fishing tackle and photography gear. We'd need the space when the big truck showed up in February with the last of her belongings.

The date kept getting pushed back, month by month, and nothing happened. No truck, no Dawn. No ex-planation. She stopped calling me. Finally I decided that I had to get on with my life. A year had passed. I told her that she needed to get her stuff out of my house by the end of February or it would go to the Salvation Army or Good Will. Come the middle of February I got a call. Dawn's daughter would be driving to Miami with a couple of her friends in a big truck to pick it all up. They finished loading the truck at dusk and got back to Tampa in the wee hours of the morning. Her daughter seemed as puzzled by the sequence of events as I was.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Penny For Your Pretzel?

It was the day of the official grand opening of The Pretzel Factory over on U.S. 1 a couple of stores north of Starbucks. Most of the time you can find Penny at the Chamber of Commerce building on West Dixie Highway on the corner of 131st Street. As far back as I can remember Penny WAS the Chamber of Commerce. When anybody in town thinks of the Chamber they think of Penny. She's sells ads for the annual directory and visits new businesses to talk them into joining, arranges for the monthly luncheon meetings, the occasional banquets, and puts on the Miss North Miami Pageant.

So I can't say that Monkette and I were all that surprised to run into Penny at the Pretzel Factory that day, although I doubt that Penny will turn into a pretzel addict and ruin her youthful figure. When I first started photographing the Miss North Miami Pageant about forty years ago Penny was quite a bit older than the contestants. Those contestants have gone on with their lives, had careers, one was a star on the Miami Vice TV series, graduated college, gotten married, made babies...hell, some of them became grandmothers, maybe even great-grandmothers, and Penny is still doing her thing while managing to stay younger looking than most of those "girls". She's not telling anybody her secret but it's always good to see you again, Penny.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Dark Cloud Rolling In

Sometimes an approaching dark cloud means rain. Sometimes it seems symbolic of bad things on the way. I've been a bit behind in writing this post since putting the photo on the blog. Many times the photo gets posted and I write the text the following morning. Actually I compose it in that twilight between sleep and awake, sometimes as I'm drifting off and other times while lying there trying to decide whether to get up yet or try for another half hour's sleep.

I was brought out of my dream by a loud cracking sound and a sharp pain in my lower right gum. Out of the dream, but not out of the sleep. It took probably ten more minutes to get my head screwed on straight and realize that I'd probably had a grand mal seizure in my sleep. My lower bridge doesn't fit too securely and wasn't positioned correctly when the seizure caused me to suddenly, and forcefully clamp down on my jaw. One of my teeth had cracked cross wise and was now held in place by a post that was put in when I had a root canal canal a few years ago, and the downward pressure on the post had split the root as well. Of course it was Saturday morning and the dentist wouldn't be open until Monday. There's that dark cloud, now overhead! Fortunately, having had a root canal there was no tender nerve inside to hurt, but the nerves in the socket kept reminding me to call Dr. Rosenberg as soon as possible.

This morning I called and by 10:30 I was sitting in the chair getting X-rayed. Half a dozen shots of Novocain were failing to do what Howard wanted them to do, and he didn't really want to hear me scream. (He'd heard me once years ago. Once was enough!) A quick call to his buddy, oral surgeon Paul Richman a few blocks down the street, and I was on my way, X-ray in hand. He told me that Paul might not be as willing to be photographed during the extraction as he (Howard) was a few months ago.

It must have been nearly twenty years ago that I'd last used Paul's surgical expertise. Neither of us could remember exactly when that was, and his records don't go back that far anyway. He gave me a bunch more shots until everything was numb, my lip hanging limp, and speech next to impossible since one half of my tongue now refused to obey commands. Paul told me that I'd be hearing cracking sounds but wasn't likely to be feeling anything. He was right. He started digging and prying, alternating with drilling, partly to remove a bit of bone and partly to give his forceps something to grab on the tooth pieces. One by one he got first the top of the tooth off the post, then the post, then the two halves of the root structure. He picked out a few little pieces of bone or tooth before putting a few stitches in the gum, followed by jamming a gauze pad down on top of everything. " Bite down" he told me, and instructed me to to use a fresh pad fom time to time until the bleeding stopped. I only needed one more about ten minutes later as I drove to the pharmacy to get some Vicodin for pain and Amoxicillan to prevent infection. The bleeding had stopped. I needed two Vicodin over the next few hours. The pain is gone, my tongue obeys orders once more, and feeling has returned to my lip. I expect to see a nice blue sky, the sun shining brightly in the morning.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Free Pretzels! Yummy! Monkette Loved It!

Monkette can sure smell a good deal. When the Pretzel Factory first opened a few doors north of Starbucks she started smelling thorse fresh baked soft pretzels as we sat out drinking our morning coffee. For the first couple of weeks a free sample pretzel was yours for the asking. Now, of course, you've got to pay for them. One thing I've been meaning to try is their "pretzel dog", a hot dog baked inside a pretzel, but I mostly stop off first thing in the morning. I can handle a salty pretzel that early but spicey meat just doesn't cut it.

Anyway, for a couple of weeks we enjoyed free pretzels, then they had the "official" big bash of a grande opening, complete with a DJ set up to blast music over the parking lot and lots of green baloons to attract the attention of folks driving down U.S. 1 and didn't see the guy (gal?) in the pretzel costume waving a sign from the median.

Now things are back to normal. I buy my coffee at Starbucks which has started to carry cinammon donuts again. I'm more of a sweet tooth kind of guy anyway, and just love cinammon donuts. They're probably better for my blood pressure than salty pretzels anyway.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Even My Navigator Had Trouble Setting A Course To Hopkins-Carter Marine

Hopkins-Carter Marine is located in an old section of Miami by the Miami River, the streets go every which way, and they play second fiddle to the needs of river traffic, ship yards, railroad tracks, and acres of freight containers waiting to be loaded on a truck, ship, or railway car. A few weeks before I'd gotten thouroughly lost trying to get there!

This time I tried doing the 21st century thing and went to Mapquest on the computer. Just shy of zooming in tight enough to be useful Mapquest went on strike and gave me an error message. For REAL. I kept trying and finally decided that we'd have to tough it out, depend on dead reckoning, and push come to shove we could always call Parks on the cell phone. I sketched out a rough map of the area showing the river and a few main streets, featuring the street address in big letters. Monkette put it on her lap and off we went! We were supposed to meet Parks at one for lunch.

Soon we were thoroughly lost, but at least this trip we kept seeing familiar sights that we remembered from last time, not that it did us any good. As we circled around over the same bridge for the third time I glanced at the time. 12:51 it said. Monkette said "Call Parks!". Smart monkey. He asked where we were and I described what I saw. "Take the next right, go one block and go left, and three or four buildings down is where we are." He was right! We pulled into the parking lot, went up the stairs, and still had three minutes to spare.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What! No Ketchup! All About Chow Mein...

Chinese cuisine with ketchup might seem an odd combination but the word itself has its roots in a Chinese fish sauce about the consistancy of soy sauce, and it contained no tomatoes. I grew up eating things like chow mein doused with regular tomato ketchup, a habit I picked up from my dad.

He was stationed in India during World War II and hated the food on base. The meat, he said, was tough and chewy boiled water buffalo. In places like Bombay and Calcutta there were lots of Chinese restaurants serving various dishes made with chicken and pork. He really didn't care all that much for the taste of Chinese food but he discovered that doused with ketchup, that he could get on base, it tasted pretty good. Like he said, during war time even pork with enough ketchup on it just might be Kosher. Anyway, he developed a liking for Chinese food with ketchup.

As a little kid he'd often take me to eat lunch at The China Clipper restaurant on Purchase St. in New Bedford, MA. They had a neon sign out front outlining the shape of a huge seaplane, a "China clipper". We'd eat won-ton soup and chicken chow mein and he showed me just how much ketchup to put on the stuff. I developed a taste for the combination. I must have been at least twelve before I discovered that it was really a bit odd to put tomato ketchup on chow mein, but by then I was hooked!

Another dozen or so years went by before I discovered that the word had its roots in Chinese and that there really shouldn't be anything strange about using it in a Chinese restaurant, but in this photo I'm not using ketchup. I'd stopped off at Wong's on U.S. 1 for the first time in years and I wanted to sample the chow mein "straight" before "seasoning to taste". It was pretty damned good!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Smile To Cure All Ills

My previous check-up with Dr. Larry Katz was shortly before he'd moved into his new digs with Dr. Chen. As usual he chewed me out about my smoking, then we got into a discussion about the fact that I was older than he was, I still had my hair, my pulse and blood pressure were fine, my lungs clear, all that good stuff. I guess for lack of something sensible to say to that he asked "Where's the monkey?"

My next visit was at his new office at Chen Medical Clinic and I found all new staff. None of them had ever seen me before, nor had they met Monkette. This young lady led me too an examination room, weighed me, took my pulse and blood pressure, and finally got up enough nerve to ask "What's with the toy monkey?"

"Doctor's orders!" I replied, and then gave her a brief history of Monkey and Monkette, while snapping pictures the entire time. I gave her a card with the blog address and told her to keep checking it. She seemed happy enough, but turned down my offer for Saturday night dinner. Some lame excuse like I was too old for her. Then Larry came in, picked up my chart, asked me how I was feeling, and started talking about Monkette. The young lady headed out to get the next patient into an examination room, shaking her head in utter amazement that two grown men would actually be having a seemingly serious conversation about toy monkeys.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Checking Out The Pastries At Ness Konditori

This was a few weeks ago when Monkette and I stopped off at Helga's bakery to see what flavor turnovers she still had late on a Sunday morning. We got some guava and some apple turnovers to have with our morning coffee as we read the paper. I insisted that we also get some rolls and bread, REAL food, so we got a quarter pound of hard salami, sliced paper thin, to have with a couple of the rolls. If Monkette did all the food shopping we'd eat nothing that wasn't sweet and fruity.

Then a few days ago we went to get some rolls and turnovers and the shutters were pulled down over the door and the windows, the place was locked up tight, but there was no sign on the door saying why. I called Claudia and she called Helga. It seems that the torrential rains we'd had a few days earlier started leaking through the roof, soaked the plaster ceiling, and part of the ceiling fell down. Hopefully by the end of this week we'll be able to feast on those nice flakey crusted turnovers again. Some of that hard salami on a roll might be nice too.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Just A Dead Rose

I saw this lying on the ground outside a local community center. There was just the single long stemmed rose and a bunch of cigarette butts smoked clear down to the filters. I wondered if the rose was discarded or just accidently dropped there, and whether the cigarettes were smoked by the same person. Probably not, because there was not a trace of lipstick on the filters. Some mysteries we'll never solve.

The rose really wasn't in bad shape. A few minutes standing in water would have revived it nicely, and it wasn't even fully opened yet. It probably had left the florist shop earlier that same day. Seeing the rose made me think of Mary, and how much the gift of that single rose might have brightened her day. Mary isn't with us anymore yet too many things remind me of Mary. Taking her to the super market or her doctor, checking out a yard sale with her, stopping off for a donut and coffee, driving by the entrance to the trailer park where she last lived, seeing the little house, "five-eleven" she fondly called it after its street number, that she owned when I first met her many years ago, or the store across from city hall that had once been her antique shop. I left the rose where it was and drove home.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Visiting The Council Chambers ~ Monkette Wants To Follow In Hillary Clinton's Footsteps

A couple of years ago Monkette got all excited when she heard that her big sister Elena Kaplan was running for a seat in the Georgia legislature. She read on Elena's campaign website about how she first got interested in politics from attending North Miami City Council meetings with me when she was a young girl. It was another era then, when girls rarely aspired to even be on a municipal advisory board, and only the bravest of the brave tried for a City Council seat.

Now, with Hillary Clinton running for President of the United States Monkette has developed a big interest in politics, wanting to go with me to council meetings, but most of all, to Board of Adjustment meetings so she can see me sitting up there! She really got upset recently when the City Council voted themselves a huge raise in direct violation of the city charter. This was done shortly after voting themselves a generous expense allowance. When I suggested that perhaps they should also consider raising the $10 per month pay of us poor board members it was promptly voted down. Yup, the North Miami mayor and council are too damned cheap to increase the pay from the amount that was set way back in 1961. Back when a cup of coffee was a dime and a pack of smokes was 27 cents regular, 28 king or filter.

Councilman Scott Galvin is also president of the North Miami Historical Society. He and I were two of the founding members, but now I'm retired and living on Social Security. Monkette (she handles my finances) told me that I really can't afford the $10 annual membership dues anymore, and I certainly can't afford to attend the annual "Sunday Lunch" at the American Czech-Slovak Club. That's $20 a person! If I bring a date and pay my membership dues that amounts to FIVE MONTH'S pay on the Board of Adjustment! Hell, Monkette is still bitching about the recent two cent a pound increase in the price of bananas.

Monkette is now seriously considering a run for North Miami Mayor in 2009. Her big sister Elena Kaplan might have lost the race in Atlanta but Monkette has been rounding up experienced political advisors, top advertizing people, public relations experts, and making up a list of potential campaign contibutors. Monkette is not planning on losing! No way!

Friday, March 07, 2008

There Used To Be A Beach Over There Someplace

I'm relegated to going outside to have a smoke these days. For the past couple of years the South Florida Fishing Club has been meeting at Tony Romas located in Sunny Isles Beach. The original Tony Romas was located on U.S. 1 in a small building backed up against the Florida East Coast R.R. track on the mainland side of the bay, but I guess they thought that being in a canyon of hi-rise condo buildings by the ocean would bring them closer to an upscale clientel.

In the last decade or so Sunny Isles Beach has incorporated, allowing it to make its own rules and zoning regulations instead of being largely governed by the county government. What's happened as a result? Well, a bunch of beachfront property owners that once owned one and two story motels along the ocean either sold out to, or became, developers of hi-rise condo buildings, with some apartments selling in the millions.

Traffic along Collins Avenue, the main drag, has become bumper to bumper, even with twice as many lanes in the newly widened road. Tens of thousands of people would need to evacuate for a hurricane. When it was just motels to deal with folks would just have stayed away to begin with. Nobody knows what would happen top the state's catastrophic insurance fund if a hurricane of Andrew's size and intensity comes through here. Nobody knows where all these people would stay when the evacuation notice is announced.

One thing I can't seem to get any information about is the possible changes to the weather in the Miami area caused by suddenly erecting an almost continuous miles long wall of 500 foot tall buildings along the beach, intrerrupting the normal flow of the sea breeze, deflecting it upwards. Could that be adding to our draught? Or perhaps the cause of it? Maybe I should just finish my cigarette and go back inside and eat. Tony Romas still has the best ribs around. Some things never change.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Consulting With The Real Brains Behind The Board Of Adjustment

Here we are at another exciting North Miami Board of Adjustment meeting. I didn't really want the board appointment to begin with, but my friend Councilman Scott Galvin had just gotten himself elected to the city council. He needed warm bodies, hopefully with some brains too, for a whole mess of appointments to various city advisory boards. I'd already served on a bunch of boards for way too many years so when my mom died a dozen or so years ago I used that as the excuse. A few phone calls and I was no longer vice-chairman of the North Miami Planning Commision, nor was I on the boards of directors of the N.M. Chamber of Commerce, The Mayor's Economic Task Force, or the North Dade YMCA. No more breakfasts, no more luncheons, no more meetings. I went from suit and tie to ratty ripped jeans, lace up dress shoes to Top-Siders sans socks. I shaved when it got itchy and had my hair cut when my ex-wife got together with my former girlfriend (they're best friends) and threatened me with great bodily harm. Yet I was still on a couple of boards!

The next thing I tried was going everyplace carrying a toy monkey and taking photographs of myself with the toy monkey everyplace we went. It seems that in North Miami that's not considered weird enough behavior to disqualify me from being on city boards. About a year ago I started writing about the mayor's re-election campaign, including lots of toy monkey pictures, and a theme that was based on Monkette, the toy monkey, being the real brains behind the campaign. The mayor loved it, the mayor got re-elected!

My latest ploy is going back to the suit and tie look, I shaved off the mostly grey full beard, but it's going on a year now since the last haircut. Since that's not getting me kicked off any boards I think that from now on I'll just keep on taking Monkette to Board of Adjustment meetings while getting the word out that no board decisions get made without our consulting with Monkette. She has the final say. In this photograph she has a big grin on her face. The board had just convinced a city resident that constructing his new garage another foot over thataway meant that the stand of mature banana plants in his side yard could remain where they were. Monkette was happy, the home owner was happy. It's really nice to work with a fellow board member who's honest and up front enough to admit that she doesn't have a single functioning brain cell in her head. She's my right hand monkey.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The First Time In What? Thirty-Five Years?

Parks Masterson and I hadn't seen one another in about thirty-five years. He'd been Googling names from the old days, and I soon had an email from him. I replied, we talked on the phone, and decided to get together. His hair wasn't white all those years ago, he was a bit thinner then, and I didn't sport a beard at the time. We both still have plenty of hair, though!

We met at his marine supply store, Hopkins Carter Marine, near the Miami River, and sat upstairs and chatted. There was a lot of catching up to do.

He still has the Leica III-f camera with the Leicavit trigger baseplate that he'd bought from me years ago. I promised to find Manfred's phone number so he could get the camera overhauled by one of the few old time camera techs left. I found it, and I called him with the number a few days later.

There was a cat in the office who seemed quite intrigued that there was a newcomer in there. She sniffed my pants legs a few times. I guess they smelled like Claudia's dogs. I'd been at her house earlier that morning. She even rubbed against my legs, but wouldn't let me pick her up. I kept trying to get the cat in a picture but my efforts were futile.

I got the grand tour of the store and bought a new pair of Sperry Topsiders as we talked fishing and photography and discussed what we'd been doing for all of those years. He's greatly expanded the fishing tackle section of the store and we're planning on doing some fishing together. It turns out that he enjoys the same type of inshore fishing that I do.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary (Extremely Contrary!)

"...watching her garden grow" in the words of the nursery rhyme. Contrary she was! And the older she got the more contrary she became. A WW-II Womens Army Air Corps veteran and college graduate she was a bit unusual for her generation. She prided herself in staying unusual.

I introduced her to James Mitchell on one of his trips to the Miami area and we'd always stop by for a visit and a cup of coffee when he was in town. This photo was about two years ago [(c) 2006 James Mitchell] on one of those warm sunny winter days that just beckon you to sit out on the front stoop, enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee as Mary and I did our best to pollute the air with our cigarette smoke.

James shot this with a little Minolta made Leica CL from the early 1970's, fitted with an early 1950's vintage 85mm f/2 Nikkor lens. That was one of the Japanese lenses "discovered" by American photographers like David Douglas Duncan during the Korean Conflict. I had one years ago and in a fit of stupidity I sold it. A dozen or so years later I succeeded in reversing half of my mistake. I'm still hoping to replace my long gone 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor also. Everybody who's tryed the 85 ended up buying one! A nearly sixty year old lens, it can hold its own against anything but the very latest optical designs, those featuring aspheric elements and multi-coating. The 50 is just as good.

Our lenses live on, but now we have to content ourselves with just photos and memories of Mary.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Monkette Looks Longingly At The Beach

Here's some info about the recent visit of my coulin Larry and his wife Margie as they look out across the beach at the ocean with their tour guide Monkette in hand:

On March third my old computer started up as usual first thing in the morning and promptly went bonkers! I guess I'd had it maybe five years since acquiring it from James Mitchell, and it was a year or two old at that point. Time for a new computer! A forty minute phone session with an AOL tech had failed to resolve the problem.

A couple of years ago I needed a new Modem and went to Solution Computer in North Miami Beach. I pass the place just about every day and the sign said that they do repairs and sell used computers. I went back to Solution and was soon driving home with a newer but used computer. The rest of the day and half the night was devoted to loading AOL, figuring out how to navigate Windows XP, and catching up on my reams of email. My thanks to Todd Frederick and Jon Sinish for their help in figuring out how to do all that stuff. That didn't allow any time to get any blogging done, though. It did allow me to learn a bit more about computers, though. Hopefully I'm good to go for another five years.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Mary Poh, Checking Out The Shadow World

Mary spent her last few months living in what's usually referred to as the psycho ward of the county public hospital. Her memory was shot and she'd become paranoid of everything and everybody. She was convinced that people were breaking into her trailer and stealing her valuable antiques. She used to have a lot of them, but that was about twenty years ago when she still had her antique shop. They'd long ago been sold. She didn't remember that part, but she could describe the antiques in brutal detail.

About twenty years ago she sold her little two bedroom house and moved back to Pennsylvania, but couldn't take the cold. Soon she was back here in North Miami, living in a rental trailer and suplementing her Social Security by haunting yard sales.She sold her finds to the antique shops in the area. She was a "picker", in the slang of the antique trade. When failing eyesight put an end to her driving all that came to a halt. Her landlord let her move into a smaller less expensive trailer, the one in the background. Towards the end he let her gradually slip a few months behind.

The owner of the neighborhood independent gas station was amazed when I told him that she wasn't my mother, that she wasn't even related to me, yet I was always driving her around. He'd slip an extra buck's worth of gas in my tank just about whenever she was with me. After she went in the hospital he was always asking about her. I hated it when it came time to tell him that she'd left us for good.

She avoided the sun. Her pale complexion burned easily, and the glare made it difficult to see, what with cataracts in both eyes. Here her friend Modina and I are out enjoying the late afternoon sun while Mary is hiding in the shadows over on the left. Mary is gone forever now, living only in the memories of those of us that loved her.