Saturday, May 31, 2008

Searching For Treasure ~ The Rummage Sale

Church rummage sales and flea markets are a favorite of mine. The Congregational Church around the corner from me always has a great one. There's invariably some tool or knick knack that catches my eye, plus there's coffee, homemade pastries and cookies, hot dogs, and the opportunity to run into people I rarely get to see anymore. We can look at pictures of one anothers' kids and brag about the grandchildren.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 30, 2008

I Think The Planners Got It Right This Time

A few years ago North Miami's main drag had steadily detiorated for four decades, ever since the business community had decided that the wave of the future was the shopping mall. As the years passed the new mall a few miles to the north became run down and this down town area was boorderline slum. The mall got a complete rebuild, but that didn't save it from desertion to an even newer fancier mall a few miles up the road.

Finally the city planners seemed to get it right. They finally realized that there wsas no way they were going to entice major deparment stores and chain retailers back to a traditional downtown. It just ain't gonna happen! The building owners were encouraged to redo the facades and adopt a uniform color palette. New brick sidewalks and and nice street lighting fixtures werre installed. Awnings were allowed over the sidewalks and coffee shops allowed to put tables and chairs out front on the sidewalk. Instead of hasseling "hippie" types of businesses coffee shops and small independent boutiques were encouraged. Art galleries and antique shops are flourishing. All the kinds of places that don't want to be in a mall.

North Miami has reduced the cost of buisiness licenses for arts connected places and simplified the pernitting process. One night each month they have Jazz at MOCA, live music in the plaza in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

These folks just bought some coffee at Starbucks, located in the building behind them, as they wait for the music to start. Another coffee house is the Luna Star Cafe across the street where Alexis Sanfeld will also make you a sandwich or sell you a beer or glass of wine. They both show works by local artists and photographers and have live music a few nights a week. Planning works if it's done right!

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Looking Down On The Competition

It was another one of those patriotic occasions a few weeks ago. We were honoring the memories of a couple of North Miami police officers who'd lost their lives in the line of duty. The city officials gathered on the plaza next to City Hall, with the police department building and the art museum in the background. A number of residents were there also.

Marvin works for the police department in a variety of ways, from going around to the schools and the condos, addressing them on issues of public safety and hurricane preparedness. Everytime there's a city event with a police presence he's there staring at the back of his digital camera, immortalizing the moment. He's quite a bit shorter than I am, and I was holding my camera with my arm extended straight up over my head. I wanted a photo of the cops in their dress uniforms doing a precision drill with their flags flying, and I wanted Marvin in the foreground doing his job.

The ceremonies were short and the speeches brief. We all headed inside for refreshments. Next time I see Marvin I should ask him if he has any photos that include me!

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Good For Thirty More Years!

That's what I'm hoping for, anyway. Here's part of the office staff at my doctor's office. He's part of a group practice. Sole practioners are so passe these days. It requires a staff just to hassle with all the paperwork connected with dealing with HMO's and Medicare. I like the Medicare thing, Uncle Sam paying for my medical care. On the other hand it makes you wonder if there's any money left for the doctor after trying to pay the staff from the negotiated low rates the HMO will pay. I told my doc that as long as the magazines are new and the coffee pot full of fresh coffee (and he doesn't keep me waiting too long) I'll come in for a visit whenever he can think of an excuse to examine me. We both come out ahead and I get to flirt with these smiling young ladies. As for my health? Everything looks good! "Thirty more years" he said. I wondered what that cute young lady on the left will look like in thirty years. I wondered if I'll even still care.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, May 26, 2008

Claudia's Ammarillis

This is a more conventional shot of Claudia's ammarillis flower in full bloom than the one I posted a couple of days ago (scroll down). She always manages to be visiting her folks in Germany when the thing blooms. I don't think that she's ever actually seen the blossom herself, just the pictures that I take of it. I used my 85mm f/2 Nikkor on a Leica M3 camera with Kodak Gold 200 film. At least the camera was German!

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, May 25, 2008

That Time Of Year Again

Today is Memorial Day, and North Miami did its usual thing with precision drill teams of high school kids, patriotic songs, and the inevitable speeches from our local politicions. We've even gone back to risking the wrath of the Supreme Court with a bit of prayer. Mayor Kevin Burns, Counsilwoman Marie Erlande Steril, and Councilman Scott Galvin were out of town so the speeches segment was shorter than normal.

Actually this photo was shot a couple of weeks ago at some other patriotic event. Had I thought to wear the same shirt this morning nobody reading this would likely have noticed. Since I don't shoot digital this seemed like a great way to do it. Then, heh heh, come July 4th I can use one of today's shots.

I guess maybe a hundred residents showed up on top of the people taking part in the event, a really poor showing for a city with a population estimated at 60,000, but those of us who were there went across the street to the community center for sub sandwiches, chips, cake, and Cokes. No coffee! I ate, walked around and shmoozed a bit with some folks I hadn't seen in awhile, then headed over to Starbucks.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, May 24, 2008

When I Still Had Hair...

Cool looking hair! It reminds me of Jimi Hendrix's afro. I have to start ignoring Claudia's "You look like a damned street person!" as she dials Vivette's shop, then tells me to "go right over there now! She has time for you!"

I guess that's what happens, though, when a guy stays friendly with his ex-wife and his former girlfriend, the two of them are best friends with one another, and one of them owns a beauty salon.

Then for the next few days just about everybody who knows me (other than the two ex's), young and old, male and female (and the usual variations of those) pipes up with a "Why'd you cut your hair?" "It was looking so cool!" "It really suited your personality!" "I didn't recognize you!" "You oughta grow it back!" And the cycle starts all over again. I remind myself of Dawn's remark last year "If a guy has that much hair at your age he should flaunt it!"

Oh well, I was standing behind the city's portable stage as they were setting up for a concert. I was expecting that some of the musicians would be sporting a bit of hair, and they did. It brought back good memories of a lot of outdoor rock and jazz concerts over the years. On the down side, hair or no hair, I was unlikely to have any cute young chicks flirting with me, and with the Police Station only a couple hundred feet away I doubted that I'd be smelling the pungent odor of smoldering ganga. Damn!

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, May 23, 2008

When I Still Had A Beard...

Penny Valentine at the Chamber of Commerce HATES it when I have a beard. Claudia, my ex, hates it when I "need" a haircut. I'd started growing the beard a year ago when my son Jonathan showed up wearing one. As for the hair, I thought that all of those curly locks looked kind of neat. So do a lot of women. Women I have a better chance of scoring with than the ex-wife for sure!

Then when I shaved off the beard and dropped by the Chamber of Commerce it took awhile for Penny to even notice. Claudia though knew about the haircut before hand. She called up to make the appointment.

These new flat screen TV's are over at North Miami City Hall so folks in the back rows or in the lobby can get a better view during council and board meetings.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, May 22, 2008

...And Finally Even GOODWILL Went Out Of Business

A few years ago GOODWILL bought this place, fixed it up, and repainted it. The area's growing population of Carribean Island immigrants was frequenting a number of the local thrift and second hand shops.
The people were buying lots of clothes, shoes, pots and pans, and electronics, then shipping it off to friends and relatives back home. A lot of it was then resold on the islands.

GOODWILL and the other thrift stores paid nothing for the merchandise. It was all donated "for the tax write-off". Now the economy here is in a tailspin. Middle class people aren't buying so much "new" all the time, nor are they discarding the "old" quite so quickly. For the thrift stores that means the supply line has slowed to a trickle. The "new" GOODWILL store is now empty and has a for sale sign on the front.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Contrary Ammarilis

I'm not sure if Claudia, my ex, has ever seen her ammarilis in bloom, live. She gets to see the flower stalk reaching maturity but every year when she goes home to Germany to visit her parents I keep an eye on her house and get to photograph the flower for her. Somehow that plant knows when she's out of town and refuses to let the flower open before she leaves. I shot a bunch of nice flower pictures with a 90mm lens on my Leica, then switched to a 15mm lens so I could get myself in the rest of the photos. When Claudia got back from her three week trip the flower was already dead and wilted. I gave her a stack of 4 X 6 prints along with the negatives. She was thrilled!

For my efforts she brought me three packs of cigarette tobacco. Her dad and I both roll our own, and they sell brands in Europe that you can't find here in the U.S. These days Fritz is smoking TURBO, a mild "American Blend", but nobody imports it here. Last year he stuck a few pouches of Miami Style in Claudia's Christmas package. I really liked that tobacco, and people here would really notice that pouch when I'd take it out to roll a smoke...LOL

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Little Gelatin Silver Gems at MoCA

I wandered in to North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art mostly to kill some time until the monthly outdoor jazz concert got cranked up on the patio outside. I was pleasantly surprise to find that a couple of the rooms of exhibition space were full of black and white photography. They were the senior projects of five University of Miami students.

Even more surprising was that these weren't Photoshoped-to-death garishly colored digital images. No, they were traditional black and white images shot on real film, and the little cards next to the framed prints proclaimed "gelatin silver print". A couple of the photographers went so far as to realize that big wasn't always better and they exhibited lovely little gems that begged you to step closer.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, May 19, 2008

(Not Quite) Before My Time ~ The Speed Graphic

They were called press cameras and they ruled the news photography business from the end of the nineteenth century until the 1950's. The Speed Graphic was the most popular and most versatile, having a second shutter right in front of the film so you could fit them with "barrel mount" lenses that lacked a built in shutter. The cheaper Crown Graphic lacked the rear shutter (and weighed a lot less too!). You focused through a side mounted rangefinder. In the U.S. most cameras were fitted with a Kalart rangefinder, but Meyer was also a common make. Most press phoitographers preferred sighting through the wire frame finder rather than squinting through the optical rangefinder.

Competition in the U.S. was mostly from the Busch Pressman, but the much more expensive Linhof Technika could be spotted on occasion, but mostly in the hands of wealthy amateurs. 4 X 5 inch sheet film was the industry standard (9 X 12 centimeter in Europe) but the cameras were also available in smaller sizes.

My friend Ivan Gambrel was lightening his load of old cameras that he'd collected over the years, and this is one of the two that he gave to me a few months back. I'm hoping to locate a few sheet film holders that'll fit, and see if that 100mm Wollensak Wide-Angle Raptar is really as sharp as it's reputed to be.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I've Got The Blues In The Morning... the blues all through the day.

I'm a night person. Seeing that poster in the window when I went out for my evening cup of coffee put a bit of a smile on my face. When the blonde in the green blouse sat down across from me it made me feel really good. Great scenery!

And the poster boys? It's The Blues Brothers!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hang A Left. It's The Main Road To Maine...LOL

Everytime we drive under one of these I-95 bridges Monkette starts muttering about missing her friends, the two toy monkeys that got to fly up to Cambridge, Massachusettes to live with my granddaughter Gabriella. As long as it was still winter I could tell her that she wouldn't like temperatures in the teens and a couple of feet of snow on the ground. Well, now spring is here and summer is but five weeks away!

Tomorrow I'm going to make an attempt to distract her. We're going to a Love-In at Greynolds Park, just like they had back in the sixties. Back then they were a weekly happening, every Sunday. Not now. It's not free anymore either, but seven bucks ain't all that bad. And I'm not expecting to see the likes of The Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane, and Jimi Hendrix is gone for good. There was a Love-In last year, and I missed it.

I was told to wear bell bottoms and a tie dyed T-shirt but I have neither anymore. I still have all my hair, but since I didn't know about the upcoming Love-In I had seven month's worth of growth wacked off just a couple of days ago. I guess I'll just leave a day's stubble on my face and wear one of those Chinese silk sportshirts with the palm frond pattern over faded black jeans. A couple of good tokes of ganga and it'll look close enough to tie-dye to pass. Supposedly last year the tell-tale odor of the smoke was everyplace, but the cops ignored it. I guess if they were standing down wind they didn't want to spoil a good thing. Or maybe they were concerned that they might accidently bust some of the "wrong" stoned out people in the crowd of fifty and sixty somethings. You know, community leaders, politicians, perhaps a judge or two...nah, better to just let them groove to the music. Now where in hell did I put my damned roach clip?

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, May 16, 2008

MoCA and All That JAZZ (but I'm early)

It's the last Friday of the month. As usual I'm early but the portable stage is ready to go, the chairs all in place, and the sound techs and musicians are setting up, tuning up, and doing their sound checks. On this night the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) was going to be open late so you could view an art exhibition as well as spend a couple of hours listening to some great jazz. Off to my right, just out of frame, is a Starbucks with outdoor tables and chairs, but most people just buy a drink and sit in one of the chairs more directly in front of the stage.

If you're looking for a bit of a more intimate atmosphere then cross 125th Street, which is right behind me, and get your capucino at the Luna Star Cafe. Alexis also serves a variety of imported beers and wines as well as food. You can sit outside if you want to enjoy the jazz or go inside if you want to listen to the extertainment there. It can range from Nicholas The Story Teller to various varieties of folk music. Warning! There is a nominal cover charge on nights when the Lua Star Cafe has live entertainment. Jazz At MOCA is free.

It's legal to smoke outside at the Luna Star, as well as in the audience in front of MoCA's stage, but try to seat yourself on the down wind side so you don't get cursed out and screamed at by the minions of do-gooders who don't realize that nicotine increases the brain's cognitive abilities and seems to prevent Alzheimers as well. Maybe if they smoked they could figure it out?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A View Of Your Water Rate Increase? North Miami's New Elitest Image

I'm standing behind North Miami City Hall.The irony here is that right behind that row of shiny big black SUVs is the building that for many years housed the city's water department. Those shiny black SUVs belong to the mayor and members of the city council. Not visible is the oversized big shiny black pick-up truck that belongs to the city manager. I'll discuss the possible linkage between the recent huge water rate increase with the giant increase in the mayor and council's salary and benefits at another time and place.

What I want to talk about is the kind of example it sets to drive these gas eating monsters. Gas is about $4 a gallon, and still more for diesel. Drought and an overloaded and falling apart water system is the reason for the rate hikes. We're on a four-hours-one-day-a-week lawn watering restriction. The city fathers (and mothers) should be the ones to set an example on conservation, right?

And what's with black cars anyway? White is cooler, cheaper to air condition, burns less gas, saves big money. But what the hell, the tax payers are paying. Paying through the nose. Those overly generous expense accounts the mayor and council awarded themselves, along with the pension and lifetime health insurance. One thing's for sure, though. They sure do know how to reward fuzzy thinking, especially when it's their own greed and incompetence that's being rewarded. You don't suspect that the cars are being maintained, washed and waxed at the city motor pool, do you? Nah, nobody would ever have that much nerve, would they?

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Run For Mayor? It Might Be In The Cards...

I'm a night person, always have been. I hate going to sleep, although when I get to the point where I can no longer keep my eyes open I have little choice. First thing in the morning I'm always in a fog, regardless of how much sleep I got or didn't get. No, night is when my head is the clearest, the time I do my best thinking. I got me a refill of coffee, the end of the pot I suppose, just before they announced that they were closing for the night. Nobody was around that I knew, the usual cadre of regulars having left at least an hour or two earlier. I was alone, able to pursue my confused thoughts, trying to make order out of mayhem.

Lately I've been getting more and more people wanting me to run for city council, but my district's seat still has three years to go and my friend Scott Galvin is sitting in it and doing a bang up great job to boot. That leaves the mayor's seat, but while I did run for council years ago, and narrowly lost, I've never wanted to be mayor. I didn't want to run for council either 19 years ago but the mayor back then talked me into it. Yet now people are encouraging me to run.

Lately the mayor and council have made a number of decisions that people interpert all wrong, but the general perception has changed from the city being run by a group of dedicated citizens to the city being run by a crazy bunch of self serving greedy political animals. They're not, of course. They really are nice and they really are dedicated. They just don't seem to have any concept of how the citizens perceive what's going on. Things like a huge raise in the water rates needed to cover major upgrading of a thirty plus year old system at about the same time as voting themselves an even more huge pay and benefits psackage. They're two seperate budgets, the water department expense and staffing city hall, but it's easy to see where the linkage comes from as the citizens and business owners bitch and moan about unaffordable water.

And the final nail in the coffin is a series of charter amendments that will change city elections from May to November (now that WILL save money!) but it will also extend the terms of those now in office, and it will remove the two-term limit on the mayor. The people are confused, and they're mad as hell. And here I sit pondering serious questions, like whether I can get away with leaving Monkette in the mayor's office during council meetings, or will the people expect her to be sitting up there with me? Should I really use that photo of me with the bruised and cut face, the one featuring a swollen black eye, when my next door neighbor's contractor beat the shit out of me for pointing out that he was drilling a well without a permit? That photo on campaign posters all over town will certainly garner plenty of attention. Will it garner votes, though? Lots of things to ponder, and a lot more coffee to drink. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Strategy Session? A Seminar It Wasn't

The usual group of regulars always seems to show up at the community center, but even free munchies doesn't get people all fired up and mobilized anymore. Back in the days when North Miami had a sizeable contingent of condo-dwelling retirees living on pensions and Social Security the very rumor of free food would have packed the room, regardless of what the program was . Not these days!

Hurricane preparedness is a tough sell to folks who live in houses that only suffered minor damage while surviving fifty or more years worth of hurricanes. Most of North Miami's houses were built the old fashioned way years ago, before pre-fabricated trusses and hurricane codes that allow them. The beams were individually cut, fitted, and nailed in place by carpenters, not assembled in a factory by minimum wage machine operators.

And the majority of the citizens have already weathered many a storm, know what "hurricane supplies" means, and the conversation always gets off track from the important stuff these days. Now it's talk about the luxuries and conveniences, not just perhaps a portable generator to keep the fridge cold and a few lights and small TV running. Now people talk about the best way to store enough fuel to run a back-up generator so ALL the lights work and the central AC will keep the whole house cool for a week.

So nobody shows up at the community center. Why bother?

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Crap! I Just Might Have To Get A Haircut

Councilman Scott Galvin said that he was going to introduce a resolution at the next city council meeting to give us poor starving advisory board members our first raise since 1961. I've been going all over town telling people that there's just no way that I'm going to squander two months pay on a haircut. As Judy Feldman told me Saturday "What! You mean that they're still paying the same $10 that they were 35 years ago when you and I were on the planning commision together?"

"Yup, still ten bucks" I said. "That's absolutely rediculous!" she replied.

Well, tomorrow night is the council meeting, and I've been sitting here scheming, thinking of people who might be talked into running against the incumbants next year, and contemplating ways to assure the success of The Revolution if it has to come to that. Hell, I just might tell a group of already organized people "YES! I will run for mayor!" Then I could afford a haircut. The mayor and council just gave themselves a huge raise and a ton of generous benefits. I might even be able to start dating again without having to do it Dutch Treat.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Working Folks Subsidize The Wealthy

No, I'm not referring to distribution of tax dollars back into the community, I'm talking about private enterprise here. American business. The Publix chain of supermarkets is the biggest one in the region and it seems that you just can't get more than a few dozen blocks away from the closest one. Most people live within walking distance of one (if you really had to walk).

I'm about halfway between two of them and I could walk to either one in fifteen minutes at most. Both stores were built in the early 60's, have asphalt parking lots with the usual age cracks, minimal and poorly maintained landscaping, worn and faded striping marking the parking spaces. The concrete walkways were last pressure cleaned decades ago. In general, ugly and unappealing places to visit.

But go off in a third direction, north past the post office, to the strip mall fronting a pricey new high rise development, and there's a pristine brand new Publix market. The lush tropical landscaping is lovingly trimmed and cared for. Well it's new. You'd expect that. What isn't expected, though, is the amount of acres of driving lanes that consist of these pretty hand placed pavers. They cost a fortune compared to asphalt, and it has to be pressure cleaned on a regular basis.

Inside the store it looks new and clean but they have the same advertized specials as the other Publix markets, and as far as I can tell the prices throughout the store are the same as other Publix prices. That means that the fancy store with the higher taxes, the higher insurance costs, all that good stuff, has to get paid for by someone, and the money must be coming from the profits of the other stores. We're paying for the posh rich folks' store!

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 09, 2008

Karl Georg Wolf's Photography Collection

More likely just part of his collection appears in this photograph. The six prints on the left are some that he purchased from me when he and his wife visited Miami a year or two ago. Scroll down two postings for more about about the pictures. It really does something for my self esteem to know that these photographs are being displayed and enjoyed in Germany. The simple matting and narrow silver frames really show them at their best.

Karl, I hope that you and your family and friends get much enjoyment from my photographs. These images were all taken in the 1960's and early 1970's, and most of the actual prints were made then too.

Thanks, Karl, and thanks for sending this photo!

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Shaman Greeting The Non-believers

As usual I was the first to arrive at the meeting and rather than waste twenty minutes I decided to get my system loaded up with enough nicotine to get through two hours of boredom. At one time you could actually smoke anywhere within public buildings. Then they went to the "smokers on this side, non-smokers on that side" concept, followed by having a break every so often, but God forbid it should be called a cigarette break! Over the years the gaggle of people rushing for the door dwindled to a trickle. People waggle their finger in your face while reciting the mantra "Smoking is bad for you". The formal breaks gave way to sneaking out for a quick smoke.

Tobacco was first cultivated by the American Indians and introduce to the European colonists. The Indians enjoyed the mild euphoria, the calming effects, and looked upon the plant as, well, perhaps sacred. Passing the pipe around was a often a ceremonial way of greeting or making friends, hence the term Peace Pipe.

The definition of a shaman is a mystical spiritual leader who uses a mind altering substance, which includes alcohol according to the literature that I consulted. Yup, it says that a Catholic priest is a shaman, it actually does. It's those sips of wine! Recently it's been found that the nicotine in tobacco not only increases cognitive ability but also delays the onset of Alzheimers. It's not all bad after all. Judging by the thinking processes that I'm assaulted with at some of these civic and government meetings they should not only allow smoking, they should insist on it. I try my best though to make sure that there's at least one brain present with functioning neurons. It's my civic duty.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

...And Computers Were Supposed To Simplify Life?

I was actually sitting at the table next to the one where this guy had his two laptops set up. I have no idea what he was doing, but it reminded me of a musician playing two different keyboards at the same time, sometimes both hands on one, sometimes each playing its own keyboard.

The think that I like best about computers is the internet, looking up stuff, and emails. Today was an exciting day! It started out with an email from a Kay, woman I last briefly saw about twenty-five years ago, but in my mind she'll always be the cute little toddler that lived on the other end of the block back when we were both in nursery school, maybe even a bit before that, and kindergarten too. Funny, because a couple of days ago I started thinking about her, the first time in a long time. Well, she tracked me down! She'd flying from her home in Arizona to Peru, with a stopover in Miami next Tuesday. I guess that we'll meet up at Miami International Airport and try to catch up over coffee during the brief few hours she'll be in town. It should be interesting! I'm looking forward to it, and then I might dig out some old pix from the 60's to juxtapose with new ones. I still have Monkey from our childhood. I wonder if she still has any of her dolls.

Another exciting happening today was getting a photograph of his collection of photographs from Karl Georg Wolf in Germany. He was in Miami a couple of years ago and we met for coffee. That's Karl on the left. He bought a few of my black and white prints that day. Well this morning's mail brought a photo that Karl shot in his house, showing a lot of framed photos on the walls. He has a nice grouping of six of my photographs, next to a number of photographs by photographers of international fame. He has an Henri Cartier Bresson print of the artist Matisse holding his pet dove right next to my photograph of a boy looking into the cage of his pet dove. Thanks, Karl!

(I'm planning on putting Karl's photo of his photography collection here soon.)

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Leaning On Shovels, Raising Your Electric Bill

I was watching that bunch of guys down the street. They work for a contactor working for Florida Power & Light. FP&L was installing a row of humongous ugly poles through the city of North Miami to carry high tension power lines connecting two substations. That gaggle of nine or ten guys? One operated a back hoe that lifted the base section of the pole into place. Two guided it into exact position. The rest stood around with their shovels and watched. We pay for that extravagance in our electric bills.

This make-work charade was repeated for each pole in turn, as the route snaked its way three plus miles through the city bringing cancer causing electro-magnetic radiation through our residential neighborhoods. Why use an outside contractor, though? It opens up the way for FP&L executives to choose the contractor, and judging by the exposes turning up from time to time in the Miami Herald, a lot of palms get greased in the process. Mind you, I'm not making any accusations here. I'm not saying that there was any wrongdoing in this project. I'm just saying that it makes you wonder. Little details, like is the contractor's wife related to an FP&L executive's third cousin on his mother's side, or some-such.

Ah, well, like I said, we pay for it all in our electric bills, just a measily few cents a day, and we can all get that nice warm do-gooder feeling just from knowing that all those nice guys standing around leaning on their shovels aren't standing around in the unemployment line.

Monday, May 05, 2008

"Just A Little Something Light, Nothing Fancy!"

My cousin Larry was visiting South Florida with his wife Margie. We hadn't seen each other in years and they were staying with Margie's aunt in her condo. I got invited to brunch and Monkette said that she'd never experienced Jewish style home cooking. She's had Greek, Cuban, Chinese, Indian, Colombian, German, Jamaican, etc., but never Jewish. I only seem to date and marry shikses. Anyway, after her usual lecture on how much healthier it is to eat only fresh fruit, and besides, "it grows on trees! Money doesn't grow on trees!" I have to hear that every time we go to the grocery store!

So that's Larry's arm on the lower left, then Margie, Margie's aunt, me, and Monkette is perched on my shoulder. Scroll down to yesterday's post if you want to see more of Larry.

The usual mantra greeted me as I went into the dining room. "Come. Sit down! You'll have a little something light. Nothing fancy!" and Margie and her aunt proceded to pile enough plates of food on the table to solve the famine in Haiti. It was delicious, it reminded me of my childhood when Larry and I were little kids trying to out eat one another at family get togethers. But I'm not a big eater.

I had to listen to the usual "but you could use some meat on your bones!" and "you're way too thin. It's not healthy to be that thin!" Monkette just sat on my shoulder and giggled. She also concluded that Jewish cooking is no match for fresh fruit, but it's all based on what you grew up with. Me? I enjoyed that brunch big time! I might even consider finding myself a Jewish girlfriend for a change.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The North Miami City Council Screws Up Big Time

Actually, this photo has nothing at all to do with the story. Todd posted the photo, and then I had this political rant to get off my chest. Councilman Scott Galvin and I founded the North Miami Historical Society a few years ago, and this is history in the making...LOL This is my email to Scott. Here goes:

Hi Scott,

I just got a phone call about paying my dues in the Historical Society. I said that I couldn't afford it because the self-centered North Miami City Council gave themselves a ten-fold raise, health insurance, a nice expense account, etc., etc. while refusing to increase board "salaries" from the ten bucks a meeting that we were paid way back in 1961. How that doesn't even cover the cost of gasoline for looking at the properties we have to vote on variances for. How on months when they decide to not have a meeting there's no pay at all.

Then there's the fact that it was recently decided to buy us all expensive memberships in professional organizations that cost as much or more than our annual pay, but the city won't pay for us to go to any of the seminars or the conventions. The memberships? All just for show. A total waste of money.

This is fun. It gets worse!

It's amazing how everybody just seems to make the connection with that huge water rate increase.

Yeah, I know. It's different pools of money, different budgets, but the "man in the street" doesn't see it that way. He just see the skyrocketing water bill. He reads about your ten fold salary increase. He hears about your new health and retirement package. Better than anything he has!

Some of them see the row of new shiny black SUV's parked in the council parking places out back, behind city hall, as they walk across the street from the municipal parking lot when going to meetings. It no doubt fills them with that warm fuzzy feeling just knowing that their elected officials are so well taken care of that they rush out and buy themselves those pretty new gas guzzling monsters. That's a great way to set an example of conservation! It's cool if the citizens can't afford to drive anyplace. The elected officials will make enough greenhouse gasses for them.

But let's distract the masses, set up showmobiles, have festivals along West Dixie Highway, and have live rock and reggae music next to city hall, the same sort of diversions the Romans used twenty centuries ago. Entertain the masses!



Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 02, 2008

17 Cent Cheeseburgers & Fantastic Fries

This is the "new" McDonalds, maybe eight blocks south of the "old" one which is now long gone, but had been the first one that I'd ever seen. That was back in 1958, maybe '59, and my friend and fishing buddy Charlie Beck was all excited when he first saw it being built. He recognized the yellow arches from when he lived in California. He couldn't wait for the place to open!

Those original McDonalds had a pair of huge yellow arches soaring above the building, with the take-out restaurant set between them, framed by them actually. There was no inside seating. You bought your burger and fries and sat outside, hoping that there'd be enough breeze to keep the mosquitos at bay.

Florida let you get a restricted license at 14 back then. You could drive a car with a licensed driver with you, but you could drive a motor scooter alone. Charlie lived about five miles from the high school in a newly developed area with spotty bus service at best. His dad bought him a Lambretta motor scooter and we used to ride that thing the hundred miles or so to the Keys and back with our fishing rods, and hopefully some fish on the return trip. A dollar's worth of gas would cover the round trip. We made a lot of short runs from the high school to McDonalds too!

Within a couple of years of that McDonalds arrival in town there was a brand new Burger King a mile away. Burger King was a Miami based company but patterned itself very much after McDonalds, with a walk-up window and no inside seating. In the beginning they had these little fried patties of shredded potatos to compete with McDonalds' fries, but soon just went with the plain old fries. I prefered Burger King's burgers though. They broil them rather than fry them, so they're not as greasy.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Land Crabs Are Delicious ~ Give Me A Philly Cheesesteak

Well, I never actually ate one myself but old time Floridians told me that they were. They live in the mangrove swamps, burrowing down under the roots, but come out and wander around on dry land at night in search of food. As long as they can burrow down far enough to get to water they're happy, and they sometimes they live quite far from what we think of as a watery swamp. Once a year it's mating time, and thosands and thousands of them seemingly appear out of noplace for their annual trek to the edges of the bay.

Nowadays the extensive mangrove swamps bordering Biscayne Bay in North Miami have long ago been dredged and filled to make way for ritzy people houses in tony Keystone Point. Land crabs are now few and far between. I guess they can't afford to live there anymore. Back in the 1950's there were plenty of crabs and Woody's here wasn't painted yellow and famous for the best Philly cheese steak subs in South Florida. It was a painted bright orange, an A&W Root Beer place serving hotdogs and hamburgs. Out back was the mangrove swamp and in front was U.S. 1, a four lane concrete highway built by the WPA (Work Progress Administration) shortly before World Was II. The bridge over Arch Creek just to the north by a few dozen yards said 1938 on it.

When those crabs got the romantic urge many of them had to cross the highway, and a lot of those got run over during their mad dash for the other side. For weeks afterwards you'd hear the sound of splintering crab shells as you drove on certain stretches of the road. People trying to squeeze another few thousand miles out of a set of bald tires would often get a flat as a piece of crab shell penetrated the worn tire. Yup this was a pretty damned exciting place fifty years ago, drinking A&W Root Beer, watching the crabs scurry about, and swatting mosquitos. The mosquitos are mostly gone now but I miss watching the crabs.

Labels: , , , , ,