Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Superman? There Ain't No Place Left To Change!

First they replaced real honest to God phone booths with those weatherproof pay phones on a post, and now only the posts and the boxes that once contained the phones are left. I guess they'll soon be gone too. At least with the booths you had a bit of privacy and didn't have to stand out in the rain. Mild mannered Clark Kent, the reporter from the Daily Planet, appreciated the privacy when he changed into his Superman costume. There always seemed to be a phone booth handy when a bank was being robbed or a crazed killer was on the loose. I always wondered why nobody ever stole his suit and tie from the booth while he was off saving a damsel in distress.

Back in the 1950's who could ever have imagined that the legend of the Man of Steel would be done in by tiny little cell phones. My phone weighs less than the mess of quarters I used to carry around, and I no longer need my little address book because all the phone numbers are stored in the phone. The pay phone is history.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Important Things In Life

It's amazing how quickly we adapt to somethings but not to others. I guess like most folks today I can't visualize trying to get along without my cell phone in my pocket, but I wish it came in bright yellow so it'd be easier to spot amidst the clutter when i put it down someplace. I never did adapt to disposeable lighters. I've carried a Zippo with me since the 1950's. I've been a coffee addict since age two or three when my grandfather would put a tablespoon of the Sacred Brew in a little egg cup so I could join him for afternoon coffee.

I never did like filter cigarettes. At various times over the years I've either smoked Camels or rolled my own, mostly with Bugler tobacco which like Camel cigarettes is a Turkish blend and has a similar flavor. I've gotten in the habit of rolling up a day's supply over morning coffee. People give you some strange looks when you whip out a pouch of tobacco and a package of papers and absent mindedly roll a smoke in the middle of a conversation. A couple of years ago I was at a city council meeting and during the break I was chatting with the new police chief when I did just exactly that. Her eyes bulged out, she was speechless! I quipped that I rolled them a bit on the skinny side out of habit because I didn't learn the technique by rolling tobacco. She laughed, and then I went outside and lit up.

Having an ex-wife in the antique business resulted in my getting a couple of elegent sterling silver cigarette cases , probably from the 1920's, for carrying the smokes, so I usually roll a day's supply while having my morning coffee, while I'm still to groggey to consider what a boring task it really is. This sterling silver case is marked Tiffany, and it has a minimalist art deco exterior. My other case has a couple of gold bands running down the front and is intricately engraved in an art nouveau pattern.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

The American Czech-Slovak Cultural Club ~ Still A Place For A Drink

The legend is that the famous gangster Al Capone used to run booze from the Bahamas smuggle it up Arch Creek to this spooky old house on the west bank of the south branch. The road out front used to be the main road to and from Miami, and the Florida East Coast R.R. tracks are right across the street, perfect for getting the contraband to market in northern states. That was the legend, anyway. There's no real proof that Capone ever set foot in the place, although it's quite likely that it was used for smuggling booze during Prohibition, that ill fated experiment on sobering up the country before World War II.

Arch Creek from U.S. 1 to Biscayne Bay has since been dredged, straightened, lined with concrete seawalls, and incorporated into a maze of man-made canals now known as Keystone Point, an upscale neighborhood in North Miami. Expensive homes line the banks and docked behind many of them are ocean going sportfishing boats and deep-V ocean racers usually referred to as go-fast boats. All Big Money.

The mouth of the canalized Arch Creek is a straight shot across Biscayne Bay to Baker's Haulover, a cut leading out to the ocean. And then it's a straight shot across the ocean to Bimini in the Bahamas, less than a hour's run in one of those go-fast boats. Chances are pretty good that this historic route is still being used for bringing contraband into Florida, but now it's pot and coke rather than booze, and gets offloaded at the docks of fancy houses instead of a spooky old wooden house in the oak grove on the banks of Arch Creek.

When I was a kid the place was already in use as the American Czech-Slovak Club. The building and the surrounding oak grove are still pretty much as they were half a century ago, and the restaraunt and bar are open to the public, with a charming interior, great food, and reasonable prices. It seemed an ideal place for the North Miami Historical Society to meet for dinner.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Analog Recording, Tube Amps, And Twelve Inch Vinyl

Yeah, the reflection in the windows is an evening sky, the ruddy glow of a setting sun, but a new dawn has appeared for the acid rock and heavy metal bands and their music, the music of a generation or two ago. It's being embraced by guys who don't have "the look" quite right. Those jeans should probably have bell bottoms, the T-shirt should be tie-dyed, the hair longish rather that short and spiked or shaved off altogether, and that baseball cap has to go! The T-shirt paying homage to a classic rock band? Why not!

The girls have it right, though, with miniskirts and jeans skirts and long hair even if they're sporting too much make-up for the correct retro look. The red lipstick, painted nails, and spike heels somehow just don't seem to go with faded denim. And hip hugger jeans and miniskirts somehow just don't quite look right with the top of a thong showing in the rear.

We were discussing how much smoother music sounds when it's played on analog vinyl records instead of digital CD's, how a lot of groups are going back to using tube amps instead of solid state. Even the feedback from those amps, once considered a defect, is now just part of the sound, a sought after part of the sound. When I told him that I still had a few hundred albums on twelve inch vinyl, everything from remastered blues from the twenties and thirties to originals by the 'Dead to the 'Stones, I had to promise to invite him over to hear the music the way it was written, composed, and played to be heard. Analog! We haven't done it yet, but we will.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Off On A Tangent / Ignoring The Photograph

I was driving home a few minutes ago thinking about how I was going to pull off writing about a photography exhibit when Todd would have already posted a picture of I knew not what. The pictures that I took tonight are on that old fashioned stuff, film, nowhere near ready for posting on the web. Most of them are still in the camera on a half shot roll.

Momkette was thrilled that this picture was posted, and ecstatic that I wasn't planning on writing about it because neither Monkette nor I can remember who that guy was wearing the black outfit, or where it was, but I do have vague recollections of thinking that it'd been years since it was fashionable to put metal venetian blind slats in the chain link fence fabric like that. Of course Monkette just likes to see herself featured here on the blog.

Tonight was the last Friday of the month which means the monthly "Jazz at MOCA" concert outdoors on the plaza next to city hall and in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum was open also. Frankly I wasn't too impressed with tonight's jazz group. To my uneducated ear it seemed that one or another of the instruments was off key much too frequently to ignore. Another problem was the occasional screeching feedback from the amps. After an hour of that I decided to see what MOCA had to offer. A good decision it turned out!

It was a photography exhibit by nearby Barry University's master degree candidates. The work was mostly all conventional black and white images, shot on traditional black and white film and printed on traditional gelatin silver enlarging paper. Amazing, huh?

Lucrecia Diaz showed some 16 X 20 images of people from the Key Biscayne police and fire departments. Summer Wood chose to go small with photos of perhaps 6 x 6 inches shot with Ilford Delta 400 120 roll film. You could see the entire negative and a bit of the film around the image, which is how I know which film was used. This printing style is common with 35mm negatives but I don't recall ever seeing it done with 120 roll film before. The third person who worked in a conventional manner was Thomas Daniel Burnkel, who had some almost abstract images of melaleuca trees, an Australian tree that has taken over large areas of the Everglades.

The other two photographers were too off beat for my tastes. One had multiple little square B&W prints glued to curved sheets of aluminum. The other consisted of wooden boxes constructed of random scraps of unfinished plywood mounted on the wall. A "window" on one end let you look inside, but I still haven't figured out exactly what we're supposedly looking at.

MOCA is on 125th Street between N.E. 7th and 8th Avenues. Free parking is available on lots to both the east and west of the museum. The show runs through May 11. Check out some great traditional black and white photography if you're near the area.

Councilman Scott Galvin read the above and emailed me "cute! I shared it with Bonnie Clearwater :)" Bonnie is the head honcho (honcha? honchette?) at MOCA.

As we read Scott's email Monkette suddenly piped up "Isn't that your cousin Larry Shapira? Don't you remember a few months back when he and Margie were down visiting some of her relatives and we met up with them for brunch?" Maybe I'd do better if it was MY head that was stuffed with cotton.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Capt. Al's Jig Factory ~ And Some Odds And Ends

I'm going to do the odds and ends first. I rarely get comments on my posts except as emails, and then mostly from people that I already know. This morning I had four comments. One was from Bill Clark wanting to know why I wasn't posting anymore on the Leica forum. Bill, I got kicked off. It seems that some of the friends of the forum's "owners" though that I was becoming too popular. A guy named Brad Evans was my biggest detractor and I think a lot of the forum regulars figured that out. He's a friend of the management over there.

Another comment saying that he enjoyed my photos and reading my unpredictable little essays came from Rob Hall in Munich, Germany. The other two were signed "anonymous". One gentleman said how much he enjoyed the blog while the second related how he used to go to that YMCA on N.W. 17th Ave. back in the 1970's, and it brought back some pleasant memories. That's the post with the map of North Miami. Thanks, guys, for your comments!

I love fishing with bucktail jigs and a few months ago I wrote about it here: If you do a google search for "bucktail jig" "al kaplan" you'll get some other links. In this photo I'm actually tying some pink and white hair on a 1/4 ounce lead jig head. I made the lap desk a bunch of years ago so I could sit outside while I'm doing it. That way all the little bits of hair can just be swept off the porch into the grass where it'll decompose. It's supposedly rich in nitrogen and makes good fertilizer. I usually just do this first thing in the morning when it's still cool out, but a few folks I know from my fishing club all called within days of one another desperate for jigs "yesterday". This included well known fishing guide Dave Kostyo who runs charters for tarpon, sailfish, and a bunch of other species aboard his boat Knot Nancy, and a couple who are avid amateurs and the wife decided that I should make up a dozen of a special color combination that she wanted to try, a chartreuse back with a white belly. I need to give her a call and find out how well they worked. Then my old friend Parks Masterson from Hopkins-Carter Marine down by the Miami River wanted a dozen in all black. For a week I was out there every morning making jigs, drinking my morning coffee, and smoking cigarettes until the sun got too hot. Now they all have their jigs and I made up a bunch of extras while I was doing it.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Love Hurts ~ Learning To Hate

I met that woman standing in the center of the photograph seventeen years ago. I was 48, alone, and I'd placed a personal ad in The Miami Herald. This was a few years before the internet took over the dating scene. She answered the ad and we got together a few days later. We dated for about a year, then I moved into her house. I got along fine with her younger son. We both loved to fish.

The older one was a bit of a problem though, with the underlying feeling that if his mom and I weren't living together she'd go back with his dad. This persisted long after he'd remarried. I put up with it, though, figuring that the boy would soon be off to college. It didn't happen. Then after ten years of what I thought was a pretty damned good relationship, out of the blue she asked me to move out.

But she wouldn't let go. She'd call me every morning to find out how I was. She'd remind me when I needed a haircut. She wanted to go out to dinner every Saturday night, although she insisted on paying her own way. Her brother, who is my accountant, kept telling me to "hang in there, she still loves you". Well I still loved her. And her now adult sons were still living in her house. After five years I finally asked her to come and live at my house. The answer was no.

A psychiatrist friend of mine told me that the only way I could get past loving her was to learn to hate her. I stopped seeing her, talking to her, dropping by her shop, everything. Still, it's not easy learning how to hate somebody. A year or so went by. In all that time I hadn't had a decent haircut. I'd grown a beard and let my hair grow for about six months. My ex wife, still a good friend of mine as well as best friends with the former girlfriend told me that I "look like a street person", her way of translating from her native German a phrase meaning "homeless bum". She called and made the appointment.

There was a lot of trepidation as I went to her salon. We didn't kiss and embrace at the door like we once did. We exchanged a few pleasantries about our kids. I got a fantastic haircut and she trimmed my beard. For the next few days I felt depressed but I can't seem to hate her. I knew at that point that I still loved her. I haven't seen or spoken with her since.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Best Meals In Life Are Free

That's Griffing Park in the background and across the street to my left is the Griffing Community Center. There was some kind of hurricane preparedness presentation, or maybe it was a crime watch presentation, or who knows? That was a month ago.

Anyway, Marvin, the guy on the left, was schlepping in the munchies and the hand-outs, and I'd stepped outside to give him a hand with the schlepping. He works for the police department, going around to various community groups and local schools getting the residents up to speed on what's going on.

Obstensably I was there because I'm on the city's Disaster Preparedness Board, the Board of Adjustment, as well as being on the board of directors of the Central North Miami Homeowners Association. Also, I suppose, because as my ex keeps telling me "You're a respected member of the community!" usually followed by "...and you should get a haircut! You look like a streetperson!" But hey! I'm 65 and still have my hair so I flaunt it. Marvin should be so lucky!

So here I am, "a respected member of the community" doing my civic duty, taking part in the discussion, taking notes and making suggestions. A more immediate reason for my showing up that morning was the free food, ice cold cokes, little pastries, fresh veggies with dip, one inch sections of sub sandwiches impaled with toothpicks, nuts and chips, and best of all, hot coffee.

Every little bit helps, of course, when the city still pays us board members the same amount that they paid way back in 1961. Then recently they had the temerity to give themselves a ten-fold salary increase, a gold plated health insurance plan, plus a generous expense allowance. What about the board members? "It wasn't in the budget" I was told. "No funds are available this fiscal year." So I attend all these free breakfasts. Maybe next fiscal year's budget I'll get enough money to afford a haircut.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Saved! All That's Left Of The Lighthouse

I'd gone down to Hopkins-Carter Marine to meet Parks Masterson for lunch. I hadn't seen or heard from Parks in about thirty-five years, since back when he worked at the now long defunct Browne's Photo Supply where I was a regular customer. It seems that Parks had been playing the "I have insomnia. Let's see how many people out of the past I can locate with a Google search" game. He sent me an email.

It seems that he'd finally done the inevitable and gone into his family's marine supply business, Hopkins-Carter Marine. After a drive to an old section of Miami where streets went every which way around the meandering course of the Miami River I finally found the place. I got the grand tour and we had lunch. We exchanged the usual information about who we still knew from the old days and what they were up to. We talked about our own experiences and adventures, the women in our lives, the kids who didn't yet exist nearly four decades ago and were now middle age, the grandchildren they'd given us. We chatted about fishing and made vague plans to do some fishing together. He wanted to check out the bucktail jigs I make and I gave him an assortment to try out.

I asked him about the collection of old marine memorabilia that served as store decorations at Hopkins-Carter. Parks told me that when we got back to the store he had something special that he wanted to show me. Out back in a huge crate he had what was left of a fresnel lens that had once projected the light beam from an old light house. If you don't know what a fresnel lens is go here:

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Just Shootin' The Breeze

Who's drinking coffee on the patio at Starbucks changes with the time of day. Later in the morning it fills up with students from the nearby universities interspersed from time to time with one of the baristas on break. They might be sitting there alone with a pile of books, either working on a paper or studying for an upcoming exam. They might be with a few friends talking about whatever, the girls often discussing really important things like make-up, hair styles, or fashions while sports seems to dominate the boys' conversation. All to be expected.

Early in the morning is when you see the older folks, mostly men, sitting around, either reading the New York times or solving the world's problems, Hillery vs. Obama, or maybe whatzisname, you know, that Republican feller. The quagmire in Iraq, the price of gasoline, the troubles in Kosovo, should Bush just be impeached or perhaps waterboarded first. Dense and clueless as he is he must know SOMETHING! Or maybe somebody will just shoot him first.

This picture is obviously a "solving the world's problems" photograph. The conversation, though, was about a big mystery. We keep reading about how there are so many more women than men in the over sixty crowd and how a lot of us good lookin' older dudes are dating younger women. Here in North Miami at least it's become almost fashionable to come out of the closet, so a goodly number of the guys are openly living with their partner. The female to available male ratio must be 3 to 1 or better. This gentleman should be a hot commodity. I must be a hot commodity too. So where are all the women? Big mystery.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

This Won't Hurt A Bit. You'll Barely Feel It!

A week before I'd sat in Howard's chair as he'd tried to anesthetise my gum before digging out the broken tooth's root from where it had broken again inside my jaw bone. After half a dozen shots failed to do the trick, he admitted defeat, and said "This is a job for an oral surgeon, he'll know how to get those shots into the base of the nerves and really put them to sleep!" A quick phone call, Paul said "send him over", and I was sitting in his chair five blocks down the street handing him the X-rays.

Sure enough Paul knew exactly where to slowly and delicately snake what looked like ten centimeters of needle alongside the bone inside my lower jaw, oozing just enough Novacaine out of the needle as he went along so the injection itself was painless. A couple of shots like that and the tooth really was numb. Finally! He dug out the pieces of broken root and I was soon out of there with prescriptions for an antibiotic and a painkiller.

Howard had warned me that Paul might not like me taking pictures during the procedure so I'd left the camera in the truck. But here we are a few days later. I'd asked Paul if it was OK to click off a few frames as he checked the state of healing and removed the stitches. "Sure, go for it!" he replied. In this shot he's clipping one of the stitches before pulling out the suture.


Friday, April 18, 2008

PivotPoints ~ Part 1 / The Opening

It was March 26th and North Miami's Museum Of Contemporary Art, usually called MOCA, was having the opening of a show of "Major Works" from their own collection. The show was named PivotPoints ~ Part 1. I'd received an invitation in the mail plus several emails inviting me to attend. And why not? It seemed like a good opportunity to check up on what's happening in the art world, run into people I rarely see, meet new people, and then visit North Miami's other Starbucks half a block away.

I was stopped at the front desk. "No Cameras!" I was told. I said that I was a member, North Miami resident for over fifty years, and had attended other events there carrying a camera with no problem. After a bit of back-and-forth, and speaking with a gentleman of a bit more authority, they decided that The Price of Silver was considered a "publication" by twenty-first century standards and I was allowed to enter and given a press badge to wear. I suppose the badge was to let the public know that I was "official" and they couldn't have cameras. Still, I saw several folks who looked more like they were taking photos with their cell phones than checking with the baby sitter.

MOCA's official photographerb (above) kept busy scurrying around shooting groups of smiling people as well as some overall shots whenever he could compose something that could pass for a crowd. I guess the photos will appear in a future newsletter. I hope they use one where I appear in the picture. Publicity never hurts! If you want to check out what's currently on exhibit go to .

The city also has frequent outdoor concerts in the plaza in front of the museum (and next to Starbucks) called Jazz At Moca, featuring some great groups. Sit on the downwind side if you want to smoke, but at least you CAN smoke. Stick to tobacco though. You'll hear lots of people waxing nostalgic about about what we used to smoke at the rock concerts in nearby East Greynolds Park back in the 60's, but the police station is right next to MOCA, visible behind the portable stage. Oh well...we still have our memories.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Big Green Umbrellas ~ For Free!

Usually when a rain shower comes along so does the breeze. Umbrellas like these are really of little use for staying dry. Notice the shiny little puddle on the table? What they excell at is providing shade, although as the sun tracks across the sky you have to keep moving your chair to stay in the shadow. Say ,moving the chair, not the umbrella because those iron bases must weigh 100 pounds. You have to kind of tip them a bit and roll them around, not an easy task.

A couple of weeks ago new umbrellas appeared. They have a permanent base and the base is equipped with wheels. We had new umbrellas and we had the old ones too, plenty of umbrellas! Then one day I saw one of the baristas carrying some old umbrellas around back. As I left I drove around back. Sure enough, sticking out of the dumpster were umbrella handles! Quick! Into my truck! The bases were still out in front though, and there was no way I could lift one into the truck by myself. The next morning the bases were nowhere to be seen~ gone! There's a place over on N.W. 7th Ave. that sells concrete umbrella bases. Those umbrellas will be really nice when we bar-b-que in the summer.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another Mystery ~ Tall Tales From The City Council

(Tune in later. Right now I have a City of North Miami Board of Adjustment meeting to attend because my buddy Councilman Scott Galvin keeps appointing me to these damned advisory boards!)

It's now a few hours later and I'm out skulking around town, trying to digest some of the conversations that I had, and that I overheard others having, in and around city hall tonight.

It seems that I wasn't the only one upset by the city council giving themselves a humongous raise and a generous expense account, as well as medical insurance and retirement benefits few of us would even dream off. This was after they'd told us board members that there was no money in this year's budget to give us an increase in our paltry token $10 a month, an amount set way back in 1961 and never changed. An amount that doesn't even cover our gasoline expense in doing our job. No, that raise isn't sitting well with the board members.

What's really going to come back and bite them, though, is the giant increase in the water and sewer rate. I agree with the increase. We need the increase because the city's water plant is falling apart due to neglect and deferred maintanance. It's the timing, though, that's going to bite them. Give themselves a huge raise while the citizens get a huge jump in the water bill at the same time? Monkette says it looks suspicious to her, and if there's one thing I've learned, NEVER ARGUE WITH AN IRATE TOY MONKEY. You'll lose every time!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Reading The Sunday Morning Paper At The Enchanted Forest Park

I drive by the Enchanted Forest, a City of North Miami park, several times a day. It's only four blocks from my house and it's on the way to the post office and the local Starbucks. Usually I enjoy the company of the people I run into at Starbucks. There are days though, when I don't want the distractions. This particular morning I'd bought some turnovers at Ness Konditori, a coffee at Starbucks, and brought my newspaper with me to the park. Other than for a few ducks swimming in Arch Creek and a squirrel or two hunting acorns (and turnover crumbs) I had the place all to myself.

A hundred yards or so to the west of the creek is the Rock-N-Ranch, which existed long before the park was created. The owner, Shirley Chance, was allowed to remain with her pony rides. It fits in nicely with the rest of the park. Kids love it! There aren't many places in an urban area where children can ride ponies these days.

Back in the early 1970's the citizens banded together and the city came up with a bond issue to purchase this land. Otherwise today this would all be hi-rise condos instead of grass and oak trees. My thanks to those far sighted people.

NOTE: This is the eight hundreth post of The Price Of Silver!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Taking The North Miami City Council To Task.


The little fishing pier at the city's only bayfront park is probably in the wrong place for the best possible fishing, but it's a nice quiet place to watch the gulls and pelicans, and most times you can pick up a snapper or a grunt or a jack for the fry pan, a barracuda for excitement or maybe even a nice big snook, but it'll most likely be out of snook season when you do.

After the pier was built perhaps thirty years ago the parks department took good care of it. Sometimes you'd spot a plank with the early stages of rot but on your next visit there'd be a brand new plank in its place. Perhaps ten years ago that all changed. I think that it had a lot to do with the perception that "the wrong element" was going there to fish, driving through the streets in an upscale neighborhood. The city cut back on maintaining the pier. More and more rotted wood went unreplaced. Eventually it was determined that the pier was an unsafe structure.

Wonder of wonders, suddenly the city found the funds to construct a chain link fence type barrier to block all access to the pier. It probably cost more for that barrier than it would have cost to repair the pier, maybe even maintain it for a few years also. Now I can't head over there a couple of evenings a week for a bit of fishing. Those days are gone.

More recently they "found" the money to give themselves an obscene raise, plus an overly generous benefits package, at about the same time that they hit the citzens with a huge obscene rate hike for water and sewage. "Oh, we need a new water plant!" they told us, but the timing was sure suspect. Thanks a lot, guys.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Want One Of Those "Jobs"!

At last the giant drill rig had rounded the corner off of 135th Street and proceeded to bore its row of holes south along 14th Ave. Here we're across the avenue from my house as the drill bit slowly augers its way through the coral rock, leaving a deep hole nearly two meters across.

What fascinates me is the number of people on these jobs who do absolutley nothing. When Asplundh, the tree trimming contractor came through a few weeks ago the "watchers" outnumbered the "workers" at least three to one. Here we got a bunch of guys milling around behind the truck, another bunch next to the truck, plus the guy operating the crane and drill.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

That Look, That Very Special Look?

I got an email from Todd telling me that he'd chosen this photo to post because he was intrigued by the look on her face. Frankly, I'm not even sure what meeting this was. I go to too damn many of them. I do recognize the board table though, and I remember being surprised that I wasn't the first one there. I usually am. My New England upbringing I suppose.

I had no idea who this lady in the pale green dress might be. I'd never seen her before. It turned out that she was there to address us, to give us some valuable information that we couldn't possibly live without. I took notes. Now I can't find the notes (they're here someplace) and I remember neither her name nor what she spoke about. I figure that I can ask around and find out, then rewrite this posting.

It's a curious thing, though, how in the twenty or so hours since Todd posted the photo I've gotten a bunch of emails, but they all deal with the hidden meanings that people read into photographs, things they pick up from studying the expressions on faces. A few people, both male and female, wanted to know if I'd followed up on that look, "put the move on", but frankly I never noticed the look until I saw the photo. She might have had a different expression while I was looking at her. Anyway, thanks Todd, I like the picture too.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Orphaned Parcel Near The N.W. Corner Of North Miami

There's a block of unincorporated Miami-Dade County between the northwest corner of the City of North Miami and that little yellow rectangle to the upper left of the city. At the last Board of Adjustment meeting that parcel was on the agenda for a zoning variance so it could be used for child care related uses. I was surprised to discover that it wasn't already zoned that way.

More surprising was the fact the everybody seemed puzzled as to why this non contiguous chunk of real estate was even part of the city. Usually cities are in one piece, not two, unless perhaps it includes an island in the bay. The city attorney didn't know, the city planner didn't know, the other board members didn't know, and the organization applying for the variance didn't know. Nobody did their homework!

Back in the 1960's and 70's the land was owned by the North Dade YMCA, with plans to erect a building. At that point there was just a small building with offices, a swimming pool, and a roofed over area near the pool. The site was used for outdoor sports and as a day camp during school vacations. Financial support came from various fund raising events such as dinners and golf tournaments. I photographed a bunch of them. A guy named Doug Denison was the director and he and I became good friends.

Things were still a bit racist in that era. The City of Opa Locka just to the west and the west side of North Miami gradually had more and more black residents. The whites who'd been sending their kids to the YMCA camp and other activities, and paying money to play in those golf tournaments, gradually started moving away and sending their kids to camps elsewhere. North Miami took up a lot of the slack by having summer and vacation camps and programs in various city parks. Plans to build a big YMCA building fell by the wayside. The property was abandoned.

While it was the YMCA, though, people wanted it to have good police protection as well as fire and rescue service. That was before the county took over fire-rescue and there was no nearby county police station. Anexing it to the city supplied those services. I moved to aprove the variance. It passed.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

...And Another One Gone, Another Beard Bites The Dust

I'd been growing the beard for a bit over a year. My son Jonathan had grown a full beard a couple of years ago so I decided that I'd give it another try myself. I grew my first beard when I was about 18 or 19. Over the years I'd grown facial hair of various sorts, kept it awhile, then shaved it off again. This time around my motivation was in getting rid of my white chin. There's a decent sprinkling of grey hair over my entire head, but more in the beard. The chin was just about all white.

"Safety razors", disposeable or otherwise, aren't really a great choice for shaving a beard. Anything more than a two day growth of stubble and the hairs get too long. They clog up the razor. With something like the classic Gilette style razor you can open it up and flush out the whiskers under running water, or even just by swishing it around in a sink full of water, but there's no way to open a disposeable. Monkette perched herself on the shower curtain rod to observe the occasion. (Upper right in the lower photo.) I started by trimming the hairs as close as possible with scissors, which did help, but the razor still got thoroughly clogged at least a dozen times. Finally I was done, a nice smooth face, no white chin. I cleaned up the mess in the sink so the drain wouldn't get clogged, slapped on a bit of cologne, and headed out.

All the cute coeds and baristas at Starbucks told me how much younger I look without the beard, immediately followed by telling me that I was still too old to date them. At least Monkette still loves me.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

It Ain't '68 But I Still Have The Same Darkroom Stuff & It Still Works Good As New

I'd recently picked up a 19mm Canon lens for my Leicas and I'd just finished consructing "the ideal darkroom" for myself somewhere back around 1968 or '69. Forty years later it still looks pretty much the same as it did then. I still have the same two enlargers, the same counter, the same sink, all in the same places. The one significant addition is a washing machine up against the stone wall in the background. It's a great place for a big paper cutter or box of enlarging paper. Extra counter space! But I always get conned into doing a load of laundry with a sweet "Oh, and while you're in the darkroom anyway..."

Recently I've grown my hair back into pretty much the same bushy mop as I have in this photograph. In all these years, and despite the best efforts of a whole bunch of women, I haven't gained a single ounce. The leather vest is long gone, however.

For this shot I had the Leica M4 and 19mm lens on a Leitz table top tripod on one of the shelves on the wall. I used the self-timer to make the exposure. I wonder if I'll still be able to buy enlarging paper and chemicals in another forty years? At the age of 105 will I even care? Will I still have my hair?

In the meantime, while my darkroom still exists I often make it available to others. So many younger photographers have never developed a roll of film or watched the image appear on a print in the developer tray. There are very few commercial rental darkrooms left, and about the only way you can use a darkroom in the colleges that still offer black & white photography courses is to be enrolled at the school.

If you live in the north Miami-Dade or south Broward County area and want to give it a try email me at Please include your phone number. I'll even go in there with you and teach you about film development and making your own B&W prints. It's fun!

Friday, April 04, 2008

A Recycled Zippo Story

Todd still doesn't have his internet connection up and running at his new house. After noticing just how many Zippo ads appeared on the blog after the last Zippo story I figured I'd rerun this 2005 blog post.

Zippo lighters have two endearing features. The first is the ability to light and stay lit in the wind. The second is the guarantee. If the hinge ever breaks (which it will eventually), or even if you run over it with your car, just mail it back to Zippo. If it's a special model, or has custom engraving, they'll solder in a new hinge and likely just replace the entire insert containing the striker wheel and flint with a brand new one then mail it back to you with a few extra flints, all for free. If it's a standard plain Zippo they mostly just send you a new one. I bought this one second hand for about a buck maybe thirty years or so ago. It's been back to Zippo twice for hinge replacement since I've owned it. How do I know it was fifty years old? It was a commemorative lighter for the annual Soap Box Derby ( and had the date of the race in 1955 engraved on it. Today you'd never get away with giving out cigarette lighters at an event designed for young teenagers, but back in 1955 it was a different mindset. You'd either lie to the clerk when you bought cigarettes that you really were 14 or 16, depending on where you lived, no I.D. required, or tell him that "Mom sent me". Zippo sales must be way down these days with almost everybody using disposeable butane lighters and less people smoking. You hardly ever see book matches anymore either. But when the wind kicks up nothing beats the good old Zippo! A few weeks after taking this photo I lost the lighter. I looked everyplace I could think of. Finally I just bought a new one, but it's not the same

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Change In Publication Schedule

For over two years now The Price Of Silver has been a daily thing. At most I've missed a couple of days total. I'm going to cut back to every other day. This may be temporary or permanent. I don't know at this point. My friend Todd Frederick, who uses his Photoshop skills to post the photos on the blog, has just moved to a new house. I've been telling him for awhile now to ease up on the blog, at least until he's settled in. He's finally decided to do just that! There are plenty more photos in the pipeline, and stories to go with all of them. Keep checking in and you won't be dissapointed. You'll just have to learn to survive with only three or four a week instead of seven.

Thanks, Al

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Conference ~ Solving The World's Problems

Doug manages an apartment building and a block of warehouses, and he actually owns a truck, but he goes everyplace on his bicycle. There's not a tooth in his mouth but that doesn't stop him from eating a bagel with his morning coffee. I suspect that his wardrobe is culled from what gets left behind when a tenant skips out on his overdue rent. He doesn't smoke. He's in his mid seventies, but between doing maintainance at the apartments and the warehouse, and riding a few dozen miles a day on his bike, he's in fantastic shape. He always reads the New York Times, his morning ritual.

Peter is from the Czech Republic and is satisfied with getting his news out of the Miami Herald. In his early sixties, he gets his excersize on the tennis courts most every morning ,and he gets in a major funk on those days when the weather is such that tennis just isn't in the cards. He's always dressed in expensive designer clothes, although on occasion he'll brag that he got such a good deal on some $200 shirts that he bought six of them! I don't have a clue as to what they talk about, but on the days they both get to Starbucks at the same time the newspapers sit unread and Doug tries to stay upwind as Peter lights one cigarette right after another. They always manage to find something to talk about.