Sunday, August 31, 2008

So Why Don't They Make Camera Bags?

Yesterday I had lunch with my old friend Flo Tiger and her step-son Rob. She' handling a new line of lady's handbags that have an interchangeable outer shell or cover that's available in half a jillion colors and patterns, but you don't have to buy the entire bag if you want to change the color. The outer shell comes off and you can buy the bag with more than one cover, and the more you buy the better the deal!

Their web site is complete with loads of color pictures, and Flo's email is . You can reach her by phone at 305-607-7503

If only we could convince the company to make camera bags like that complete with matching camera straps. Hell, why not matching neck ties for that matter? Why should the ladies have all the fun?

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Queen Of The Hill

It's been over fifty years since I first went to Greynolds Park. The "Castle" was already there on top of the small hill. Word was thet the dredge used to make the ponds was buried under that mound of dirt, but that might have been just talk . Well, it is a nice high place, something rare in South Florida except for tall buildings. When the park was created there were no tall buildings around.

Monkette talked me into coming to the first love-in at Greynolds Park in forty years! When she spotted the castle up on the hill she just had to check it out! Then we went back down, listened to some music, and checked out the food. Life isn't fair. I got to do all the walking, all the the hill climbing with Monkette riding on my shoulder, plus pay for the munchies as well, but I guess that's as it should be. I'm not the Queen Of The Hill.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Flashback! When The Hero Was The Horse!

I guess looking back through the perspective of time you could say that horse racing was a Republican sport. It wsas glorified in the movies of the day, and in those pre-TV days movie theaters would have a few minutes of news and sports sandwiched between the two films of the double feature. Football was still just a college sport but major horse races were covered.

Why do I call it a Republican sport? Well rich guys bred horses. Poor guys followed the races, spent money to go to the tracks, and for the most part wasted money betting on the horses. Naturally it was illegal to bet off-track. Every town, just about every news stand and every bar had a "bookie" where you could place your bet, but since the sanctioned monopoly of betting where the horse owners made their money wouldn't get a cut, and the government wouldn't get it's cut, it was illlegal. You had to go to the track to make a legal bet.

Hialeah had the most famous track in South Florida but then they built Gulfstream followed maybe twenty years later by Caulder. There was still the competition from dog racing but horses ewere the big excitement. By the late 1960's horse racing had lost something, but the tracks were hurting big time. A younger generation was more interested in listening to rock music and getting stoned. Major rock festivals all over the country were held, trying to recapture the glory of The Big One, Woodstock!

Race tracks had lots of room, lots of parking, grandstand seating, even plenty of rest rooms! And they were hurting! Promoters moved in with rock festivals. Gulfstream Race Track was actually north of the county line in Broward County but nobody would know where Hallandale was. The promoters billed the three day event as The Miami International Pop Festival. I have plenty of photographs. Some of them have appeared on this site. Sweetwater being one that I can think of off hand.

Between the blog and my posting on various photography forums I've corresponded with a lot of people, and met quite a few when they visited the Sout Florida area. I've started taking better notes but I also seem to have become more skilled at losing them. I remember meeting up this couple at Flashback Diner in Hallandale. Good food, easy to find, and about half way between Ft. Lauderdale where they stayed and North Miami where I live. Their names are on one of those lost notes. (Maybe they'll read this and send me an email.)

After lunch we went across the street to Gulfstream. The glamor of a horse track is gone. The days of major rock festivals have faded in the memories of my generation and are mere legends to today's youngsters. The desire to seperate the poor from their money still runs strong in the blood of the rich, and the government wants their cut too. Places with lots of parking are ideal for casinos.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Al Kaplan For North Miami Mayor

It's odd but the little strip mall has a Starbucks at its southern end, which is within the city limits of North Miami. A few store north and across a narrow alley is the City of North Miami Beach. One itty bitty strip mall, two cities. Just about everybody at Starbucks knows me and I'll talk with just about anybody and everybody. So I'm talking. To anybody and everybody! It's probably well past the time for just talking. Yup, time has run out for sure. The 13th hour has arrived!

For the past few years I've also been talking with everybody and anybody around city hall about "The Fence Issue" and getting nowhere. Today the deputy city manager, Dennis Kelley, came by my house. He agreed that the neighbor's fence was taller than he is. It's taller than his six feet for sure. Six feet maximum is what the code allows, and my contention is that at the time the fence was constructed the code said five feet. Even if the code was changed afterwards the fence should have been made to conform when I first complained. I'm also contending that it should have come in front of the Board of Adjustment for a variance, even if it was after the code was changed, bacause it's still overheight and it was constructed before the change.

Well, it seems that Clarence Patterson, our city manager, thinks that the fence is just fine as it is. That's great. An appointed official gets to make law? That's not the way I read the city charter. We have an elected council and an elected mayor. THEY make the rules and THEY hire and fire the city manager. For at least two years now people have been encouraging me to run for mayor. I still have that photograph of my bruised, cut, and bloody face courtesy of my neighbor's contractor. Well the cuts and bruising are courtesy of the contractor. My son Jonathan took the photo. What folks are telling me is that picture would make for a fantastic campaign poster. It would make for a great T-shirt. It would grab attention as the cover of a campaign brochure. It would probably get coverage in the Miami Herald and on TV as well. I'll even insist on using it as my official portrait to hang in city hall along with all the other portraits of North Miami mayors.

Yesterday I had lunch with the guy who made up the last "Al Kaplan T-shirt" a couple of years ago. Stay tuned...

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Just Waiting For A Minor Adjustment

I was wasting a bit of time here while waiting for the dentist to see me. I'd already read the collection of magazines on the table years ago! I figure that I'd document the waiting room decor while I was waiting. It was really quite avant garde (in itself a just SO sixties expression!) when I first met Howard G. Rosenburg, D.D.S. forty years ago. We're about the same age. Actually I think we decided that I'm close to a year older. He was just setting up his practice when I met him. One of the topics of our conversation was just how much longer he'd keep the practice. He asured me that he wasn't planning on retiring quite yet. Good to know!

The reason for this visit was to get my new bridge "adjusted" so it'd stop digging into my gum. I had to get the new bridge because I'd recently had a couple of teeth extracted, and I look so much better without that huge gap in the front! I was soon out of there, the discomfort gone! In case you missed the shot of me in unendurable agony as Howard pryed and pulled on one of those teeth, an evil glint in his eye and a sardonic grin on his face, here it is:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

All That's Missing Is The Parade

I guess you could say that patriotism survives but the glory is gone. When I was a kid over half a century back I used to love going to parades, and there were plenty of them. Every patriotic holiday there was a parade. My father or my grandfather would take me downtown and for block after block people would line both sides of the street, flags everywhere!

When you're three or four years old time passes slowly. We always arrived early to assure getting a good place by the curb so I could watch the parade without somebody having to hold me up. Then suddenly you became aware of drums beating in the distance! The parade was on its way. It wasn't made up of the high school drum and bugle corps, no squads of cheerleaders doing fancy tricks with twirling batons. These were real soldiers and sailors carrying real guns marching up the street, real military bands, rows of olive drab Jeeps. Marching groups of men in the Coast Guard, the National Guard, and units of World War II veterans, even units of proud old men who'd served in World War I.

Then there were the convertibles driving slowly down the street carryng the few remaining veterans of the Spanish-American War, and when I was real little, a veteran or two of the Civil War. Everybody was white. Whatever blacks that served back then were pretty much relegated to non-combat duty. They didn't march in parades. After I moved south from Massachusettes to Florida one southerner summed it up "It's glorious to die in defense of your country. We don't want to give no n*****s any glory!"

Vietnam changed a lot of things. The patriotism aspect of defending the United States this time around turned out to be a big lie. The military wasn't just a white man's army any longer. The country itself was changing, and the way we looked at the military had changed. Now we have public ceremonies in the park to honor our war dead and the veterans who survived, a speech by the mayor, the high school drum and bugle corps plays some music, we eat hot dogs and carry little flags, and those two cute little girls in red dresses will never know the excitement of watching a parade. But their grandmothers probably never knew that excitement either. They wouldn't have been allowed to live in the neighborhood.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

The Sound System

Nineteen years ago I ran for city council against an incumbant. He quickly dropped out, so "mission accomplished!", but I ended up losing to another newcomer, the owner of a local radio station. North Miami back then was getting an influx of new black residents, and most of them were relatively recent Haitian immigrants. At the time the gentleman in the photo, Jacques Despinosse, was a leader in the local Haitian community and he asked me about my feelings about blacks in general and Haitians particularly. I told him about working for the Florida Courier, a black paper, nearly twenty years earlier, how I'd photographed Haitian "boat people" arriving, how I'd been Congressman Bill Lehman's photographer for decades and how he'd done so much for the Haitians arriving here.

I guess I passed the test. Jacques and I became friends and he was very active in my campaign. If only more of our Haitian community had been able to vote back then. Oh well. It helped Jacques consolidate his power base in the city, and he became well known and respected outside of the Haitian community as well. A few years later he threw his hat in the ring and filed to run for city council. He had no trouble getting elected.

North Miami has a portable stage and sound system which is used for all sorts of events around town. Jacques and I have one unique thing in common, at least here in South Florida. We like to get places on time, even early if possible. Here we are, the stage isn't fully set up as yet, and we were wondering if the rain would hold off. It did. Mostly we just talked about out how anybody could possibly make heads or tails out of that birds nest of cords and cables connecting multiple microphones to the amplifiers and speakers. Well, somebody did! Everything worked just fine.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Hurricane? ~ Not To Worry!

I know that most of you are far from the Miami area, even on the other side of the planet, but the news media likes to sensationalize things. Right now there is no hurricane. It's barely a tropical storm with sustained winds of about 60 kph. As it moves past Cuba it will probably intensify, but all of the computer models right now indicate that it will move through the Florida Keys near Key West, cross Florida Bay, and most likely the center will stay west of the coast until a landfall someplace between Tampa and Pensacola. If it does swing more towards the east while crossing Florida Bay and make landfall near the tip of the mainland it would quickly lose strength as it moves over land. The Miami area will get a lot of rain and wind but nothing to worry about.

Yup, I'm stocked up on water, batteries, candles, and plenty of canned food, and lots of ice in the freezer "just in case". At this point it doesn't seem worth the effort to even put up the storm shutters. I've survived a bunch of major hurricanes over the last half a century, as has my house. If the electric and/or the telephone land line is out of service there's a possibility that this blog might miss a few days of publication but I'll be back! Thanks.

Friday, August 15, 2008

It Was A Good Old Fashioned Love-In At Greynold's Park ~ At Least Monkette Scored A Kiss!

Monkette had heard about the love-ins at Greynold's Park and she thought it was pretty cool that big name rock groups would throw free Sunday afternoon outdoor concerts after a gotta-buy-a-ticket Saturday night indoor concert someplace. But that was the 60's. This was now. Then Harryette's email arrived telling us about an upcoming love-in at Greynold's Park.

Monkette was all excited, talking about nothing else for days and days. Driving me crazy, really! It turned out that Harryette (her actual name! For real! Honest!) had broken her foot a few days before. I offered to drive out west of Hollywood and pick her up but she said that it hurt too much. It would be too difficult and painful to hobble around.

Monkette and I went anyway. She was sitting on my left shoulder when she started pointing excitedly and pulling on my ear. She'd never before seen any kind of parrot, and suddenly there was this handsome yellow and blue macaw giving her the eye, looking her up and down, fluffing his feathers a bit. He was speaking softly. I have no idea what he was saying, but suddenly she jumped over to him and they nuzzled and kissed a bit. They exchanged phone numbers, but so far he hasn't called and Monkette feels out of place, being a girl and all that, calling him.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Best Friends Since 1943

That's me on the right. Monkey is on the left. I was told that about 64 years ago I pulled Monkey's nose off. I have no idea what happened to it. I probably swallowed it. Simpler times, back then! The doctor probably told my frantic mother not to worry, the nose would pass through me, no harm done.

Once in awhile he likes to get up off his little rattan chair and check out what's going on in the world. Back when he was a young monkey women didn't chair municipal advisory boards. Toy monkeys didn't attend the meetings. Board members like myself would have short neatly combed hair, no beard, and wear a suit and tie, and certainly not let a soul know that they still had their childhood toy monkey, nor would they dare take the monkey to meetings with them! After all, what would people say?

All that changed a bit over a year ago, following Monkey's visit with Todd in California. He came back with Monkette. He was wearing an earing. His face wasn't wide enough to hold his smile. I'd never before seen such sparkle in a pair of glass eyes! But it must be more than just the good loving. He was proud as can be of her political involvment, being the brains behind the mayor's re-election campaign, but like I said, he's old. In "monkey years" he's well past the century mark. Mostly he stays at home these days watching TV or thatting about the good old days with his friends, the days when we still had lots of coconut trees to climb. Now he lets Monkette handle the politicking. This night there were a couple of items on the agenda that interested him. Monkette said "That's OK, Dear. You go keep Al company tonight. I don't mind staying home, and there's a TV special that I wanted to see anyway."

It really gets you to thinking when you realize that you and a toy monkey are the oldest people at a city advisory board meeting. Oh well, we give it our best shot.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Fencing With The Devil

Dave is one of the neighborhood teenagers who has mowed my lawn over the years. I guess he did it for about a year until one day he showed up with another kid. He told me that his family was moving out of town and he introduced me to Enzio. Now Enzio cuts my lawn. A few years ago I'd met Dave the same way, from a kid who was heading off to college and wouldn't be mowing lawns in the neighborhood any longer. When I was in high school I picked up some spending money by cutting grass, and it's good to carry on a tradition like that. It keeps them out of trouble.

In my case trouble is caused by a neighbor and his fence. He's been a source of problems for four years now, ever since he bought the house next door. It's that bilious green house in the center of the photo. Around his back yard he built a six foot solid wood fence, and for awile he was keeping rosters there. The code at the time specified a five foot maximum fence height.

I'm beginng to suspect that my neighbor is a practitioner of Santeria and he was raising the roosters to sacrifice to the gods. The gods must not like him. He bought that house four years ago, just before the market peaked. Then he put at least another hundred thousand into it before painting it that bilious green and sticking a For Sale sign out front just as the market crashed. If he can find a buyer he'll probably have to add at least a hundred thousand of his own money to pay off the mortgage and consruction loans. He must have realized that. He took down the For Sale sign. This photo was shot about a year ago, and now that ficus hedge along the fence between the houses is almost as high as the roof. I may be stuck with a bad neighbor but at least I don't have to look at his house.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

A Variety Of Variances And The Futility Of Denying Them

Deputy City Manager Dennis Kelley and I had a little confab a day or two ago in his office. I'd tried to get him to meet at Starbucks and put the coffee on his expense account but he came up with the double excuse that he didn't drink coffee and had no expense account. I'm easy to get along with so I agreed to meet him in his office.

The subject of our discussion was my next door neighbor's fence again, a situation that's been dragging on over two years now. His position is that the fence meets current code requirements and the guy paid a double permit fee because it was constructed without a permit. My position is that it really doesn't meet current code requirements because the thing was measured from the wrong place, and furthermore, besides the fact that no variance was ever sought, it certainly didn't meet the more stringent requirements at the time it was installed

What I'm saying is that if the code said a five foot fence was allowed at the time the fence was built but a six foot fence was constructed without a permit or a variance, maybe you can accept the double permit fee for an after the fact building permit but the fence would still have to get a variance if it was six feet tall whether or not the code was later changed to allow six foot fences. It would have to conform to the code as it existed at the time it was constructed.

So after all this arguing back and forth, all the tap dancing around the issue, and never really coming close to refuting any of my points of argument, he decides that the city attorney should research it. This little Fence Problem has dragged on more than long enough and probably has already cost the taxpayers in excess of $10,000 in wasted staff time. After I agreed that yes, the city attorney should research it, Dennis drops the bombshell! He tells me that North Miami is the laughing stock of all the surrounding towns and cities because of the way we don't enforce our own codes, and give out "hardship" variances like candy simply for the asking. Even if the Board of Adjustment turns down the request the City Council will most likely approve it.

My interest here? Well, that's me on the right, a member of the board, six years now, and that follows a few years on the Charter Review Board and a decade or more as vice-chair of the Planning Commission. My other interest? That the fence was put up by my next door neighbor, and the city attorney told me a few years ago that as the holder of a "quasi-judicial office" it was incumbant on me to report my neighbor to the code enforcement people. I did. Going on three years later the fence is still there. Hence the meeting with Dennis. I take my board appointment seriously! I probably know the city code better than he does, as well as knowing about when and why it's been modified over the years.

And what about me being the only one there wearing a suit, white dress shirt, and that cool looking Jerry Garcia neck tie while sporting a beard and a carefully arranged mess of curls on my head? Hey, it's fun being the best attired dude in the room one time while the next time I have holes in the knees of faded jeans and look like I just came back from a day's fishing, sporting two days worth of stubble on my face and messy unkempt hair. Best of all, I like showing off my hair when most all of the guys twenty years younger than I am are half bald at best.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Best Bread In Town!

I stopped by Ness Konditori ~ most people just call it "the German Bakery" ~ and after chatting with Helga and her son Ray for a few minutes I bought six turnovers. Helga makes the lightest most flakey crust you can imagine! I was a little dissapointed that all she had left was guava and cheese, and two apple. I like cherry best, and next plain guava. It might seem odd that a German bakery makes turnovers with a tropical fruit filling, and guava is tropical for sure. The guava and cheese combo is a Latino favorite.

Helga was astute enough to realize that as the neighborhood changes so should she. It's a little patch of unincorporated county sanwiched between the Town of Miami Shores on the south and across the Biscayne Canal just to the north is the Village of Biscayne Park. They're both a bit more upscale than the small area of county where thre bakery is located and it shows. Code enforcement is more lax and there are a lot more unkempt weeds than bushes in the "landscaping" around the parking lot.

Still the people drive there from both north and south and you'll find everybody from teens in baggy jeans with their caps on backwards to elderly ladies in short heels and dresses, their grey hair neatly coiffed every week at the beauty shop. These kids wanted to know about my "film camera". I explained why I prefer film and gave them a card. As an after thought I bought a bag of day old rolls that were by the cash register at half price, and headed up to Starbucks to pig out on turnovers with my morning coffee.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What's Wrong With North Miami Code Enforcement? Everything!

The Next Installment:

I've been awake since shortly after 3 AM seething with anger about that fence and the special treatment my neighbor gets.

When we were under one-day-a-week strict mandatory water restrictions during the recent drought he was watering every day. I kept complaining. Nothing was done or "we issued him a warning" at worst. It was only after I screamed that fines were the law and that they escalate with the number of offenses, and nobody seemed to know how many of these friendly warnings had been issued because nobody bothered to log them, nobody kept a record, nobody seemed to care how many warnings he got. He just kept watering. In fact he flooded the street so the puddle would sometimes have thirty feet of my swale under water and I'd get my feet wet getting to and from my truck.

He's an arogant person who thinks he can get away with anything, and thanks to North Miami's "selective code enforcemet" and their bumbling inept employees the city employs he seems to do just that. Of course there are plenty of people who figure that corruption is involved, money changing hands, and why not when the Miami Herald is constantly doing stories about corruption and pay offs in other cities and town all over Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. But I'll give them the benifit of the doubt. I'd like to think that our emplyees are honest. Of course those are Big Buck major scanals, not "minor" problems like 1375 N.E. 133 Street where the owner frequently parks his vehicles straight across the sidewalk rather than parking them on his pristine swale or pulling them all the way into his driveway.

Isn't that a violation of the federal Americans With Disabiities Act? Isn't that a violation of North Miami's own ordinances? Why isn't he cited?

From N.E. 14th Ave. to N.E. 11th Ave. yesterday I counted at least seventeen houses on 133rd St. with overgrown lawns and swales. I guess today I'll check another street.

Let some people get away with an illegal fence and they think they own the world, have the right to dump their trash in their neighbors' yards, park wherever and however they please, and let their contactors beat the crap out of anybody they want for excecising their constitutional right to stand on public property, the middle of the street, and photograph a code violation in progress. Since that day I was left lying in the swale bruised and battered and half concious I've suffered dizzy spells and there are times I'm unsteady on my feet. I can no longer fill in and cover a wedding for a sick photographer. It's affected my income. I can no longer do much if any of my own yard work. It's affected my expenses.

I'd like to thank North Miami's finest, the North Miami Police Department for a fairly prompt response to my cell phone call made while I was being punched and kicked. The guy had stopped by the time the cops actually arrived though, and "we can't make an arrest unless we actually see it happening", like I pummeled my own face? I gave myself the black eye? Maybe I put those fresh bleeding cuts in my face?

So instead the cops asked the guy for the standard "License, registration, and insurance card please". He had NONE OF THEM with him. NO I.D. but they they let him go, not even a ticket. They did that while I was barely able to stand up. THEY LET HIM GO, NO TICKET! Remember that? No wonder my neighbor thinks he's made of Teflon. And the ILLEGAL FENCE is still there nearly OVER THREE YEARS LATER. The city attorney tells me that as a member of the Board of Adjustment it is incumbant upon me to report code violations. I asked. Part of my job. Part of my responsibilties.

I'm supposed to risk getting killed but the City of North Miami won't back me up? Won't enforce their own codes on selected special people? Nit pick others to death, and in this case it might result in exactly that. Death!

I want that fence brought into conformance. I want that ficus hedge trimmed so it isn't intruding into MY YARD. I'm tired of trash in my yard. I want to enjoy my property. I'd like to be able to go out in my own yard with my friends, grill some burgers, have a good time, and not have to look at that ILLEGAL FENCE to remind me of getting beat up like I did because the city wouldn't enforce it's own fence ordinance.

If Dennis Kelly "can be reached on my cell phone at 786/402-3019" he can just as easily reach me on my cell phone. Plenty of people at North Miami City Hall have my cell number. It's no secret.

Finally, I'd like to thank all of you who read The Price of Silver and called or sent emails about this situation. Stay tuned. I'm not giving up until it's resolved.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

I'm MAD AS HELL! No Time For a Haircut Today!

The illegal fence issue from last year is still unresolved. The fence is still there. The neighbor has been...well you can read the details in this email I'm sending to Councilman Scott Galvin.

Hi Scott,

I got cited this morning by North Miami Code Enforcement Officer Gary Beswick for "overgrown alleyway or easement". I think this was triggered by the fact that the rain a couple of days ago made the kid mowing my lawn have to stop before he finished the side (14th Ave.) swale. It will be finished. The alleyway is no more "overgrown" than it's been for the last few years and looks mowed to me except in the area where my next door neighbor likes to deposit his landscaping rubble, and you can't mow there.

But in my poking around my yard today I notice some other rock/concrete/whatever rubble that had been deposited over my back fence into my yard near the southern end, closest to my neighbor, and some other rocky debris further south that could only have been put their by tossing it OVER that ILLEGAL wooden fence.

Regardless of whatever handshake agreement I made with City Manager Clarence Patterson to "drop the issue" of the illegal fence I've decided that in good conscience I can't continue to lead a double life of serving on the Board of Adjustment while allowing the flagrant disregard of the city code with that ILLEGAL fence. It didn't go through the proper variance process, and had it been cited and brought in front of the Code Enforcement Board, as a number of the members of that board fully expected, they would not have allowed it to remain as is. Nor was it likely that the Board of Adjustment would have aproved a variance.

In addition that next door neighbor has planted a ficus hedge right up against the chain link fence between our front yards. It's grown several feet through the fence, which is entirely ON MY PROPERTY, not on the property line. I don't feel like trimming my side or paying somebody to do it for me. If it's allowed to continue growing there it will destroy my fence as the branches get larger and thicker, plus depriving me of the use of a substantial part of my front yard. The only solution that I can see, and it will still cost me money, is to spray the branches extending into my yard and drench the soil on my side of the propery line with a defoliant/weed killer.

The neighbor has already caused me to avoid using my backyard because I get so distraught and upset everytime that I see that ILLEGAL fence. I don't want to hear any dumb excuses that he received an after the fact permit by paying a double permit fee. He still never came in front of the Board of Adjustment for a proper variance and I don't believe that construction of that magnitude qualifies for an adminstrative variance.

Yes, I'm MAD. I'm STEAMING PISSED OFF BIG TIME. I want that damned fence to conform to the city code. If Gary is too chicken to cite my neighbor then have Clarence fire him. I never did get reimbursed for the $125 I was charged a couple of years ago for "mowing" that narrow strip behind my rear fence. It really WAS NOT mowed because of the concrete rubble and tailings from digging all those post holes put there by the guy hext door.

I hate to say this but on the surface it looks like somebody is getting paid off to overlook one resident's violations while nitpicking another. I'm not the only one who thinks that.

I feel really bad for that neighbor. The nerve of the city telling him that he had to get rid of his ILLEGAL ROOSTERS that he was hiding behind that ILLEGAL FENCE, the ones that were waking the entire neighborhood every morning at first light. The ones that the code enforcement guy couldn't see because he's not allowed to look over the ILLEGAL FENCE.

I feel bad for him because he overpaid for that house at the peek of the real estate bubble, put a bunch of money into fixing it up, and now he probably has a mortgage that's $50,000 or more money than he could get from selling the house. He's stuck. I DON"T WANT TO BE STUCK with all this agravation.

I want that fence brought into conformity with the code. I don't want him treating my property as a convenient place to discard rubble. I don't want his ficus hedge destroying my fence. Tell Gary to cite that fence. I want that "overgrown" ficus hedge cited also.

Also, I'm not so sure how valid that citation is because Gary listed the exact same date (08/04/08) for both today's date and the re-inspection date. I have no idea when the re-inspection is. Maybe somebody should call and ask him?



And within five minutes I received this:

Hi, Mike

Al Kaplan writes with essentially two complaints:

1. In regard to a citation he was written today
2. In regard to a fence apparently erected illegally by his neighbor to the west.

Will you kindly investigate both and let me know what options we have?


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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Second Anniversary Of Being Chosen Yahoo Pick Of The Week

It was two years ago today when the phone woke me up about the time it was starting to get light out. Wrong number I figured. WRONG. It was Jon Sinish so excited that I could barely understand what he was saying. My brain cells took their sweet time coming out of the fog. Sinish got frustrated. I got frustrated. After a few minutes of trying to make sense of his excited babbling I realized it was something like "Have you checked your blog yet this morning?"

"Hell no! I was sleeping. I'm STILL sleeping! What the hell do you want?" I didn't even know that there was such a thing as a YAHOO Pick Of The Week, but Sinish lives by the internet, putting websites together for a bunch of commercial clients. He'd been a bit jealous for awhile that gets more hits most days than his best paid efforts, and from all over the planet. Well, it seems that YAHOO! picks what they consider a top blog every month, and I was it.

He went on to tell me that I should check my hit counter becaus I was going to get a lot of hits that day. He was right! I got congratulatory emails from people that I barely knew. The site was getting dozens of hits an hour. Now I was excited! I got about nothing done that day between checking the hit counter and replying to emails. After a few days the heavy traffic died down somewhat but I was, and still am, getting about double the trafiic I'd gotten before being chosen.

Then it hit me. It scared the crap out of me in fact. Now I had a new standard to uphold! It could never again just be a fun thing to do for an hour a day. I had readership and I wanted to keep them happy. I never really enjoyed writing. I hated it in school. My journalism teacher in college told me that I should choose another major. Yet here I was writing a top blog.

At first it was a major pain to sit down at the keyboard every day, but then people were telling me that they liked my easy conversational style. Jim Kukar, my old editor from decades ago at the North Dade Journal, recently confessed that the reason he always tricked me into writing the copy to go with my photos was because I was the best writer he had on the staff. I'd always thought it was because it was cheaper than paying a reporter.

Now I just sit down at the keyboard with a don't give a damn attitude, look at the photo that my computer savvy buddy Todd Frederick has posted, and let that mysterious uncontrolled part of my brain pour out the words, making my finger hunt 'n peck at the keyboard until I've satisfied the Holy Five W's: Who, What, Where, When, and Why. About the only thing left to do is correct some hurridly mispelled words and click the curser on PUBLISH POST.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

That Little Red Case? ~ Trading Cards Again?

I got an email from Todd this morning saying that he had plenty of images on hand to post on the blog but many of them were so similar to one another, or an entire roll was shot at one event. I've often toyed with the idea of using the same photo every day for a week and writing a different story every day. That might be a bit too boring though. Here's what I wrote back:

Just pick "interesting" photos, that's all I ask. I think that a lot of the people following the blog like the stories as much or more than the photos and I was looking at last night's shot...Crap, I still can't decide what to write!

A) write about how I still can't decide which of the following to write about...LOL.
B) write about the red card case in my hand, how it came with my fishing license and has both the K-mart and Berkley logos. Berkley makes fishing tackle.
C) write about all my hair when younger guys are going bald
D) write about that shirt, one of several Vivette bought for me shortly before we broke up. Whether I prefer the fishing shirts because of the two big pockets or do I avoid wearing these because they remind me of Vivette?
E) write about the "new" post office, dedicated by Congressman Bill Lehman in 1971 and my photographing the event because I did all of his photography
F) write about the fancy brass doored P.O. boxes at the old post office with their combination locks vs. the key locked aluminum ones here
G) how cool it would have been if they'd let us buy the doors to the old boxes, maybe even offered varnished wood boxes with the doors
H) what a pain in the ass it is to drive here compared to the old P.O., but then they built the Target store next door
I) how impossible it is to wear a yarmulke sitting up there on that unruly mop of hair
J) how one picture to the next I have a beard, then no beard, then a beard again because I hate shaving but the beard is "too" white for a good looking young dude like me

....and several others come to mind as well...

Friday, August 01, 2008

I Ain't Got A Clue In Hell...

...where I took this photograph...LOL

I always carry a camera with me, and it's usually set up with a 15mm ultra wide angle Heliar lens. I've always been fascinated by extreme wide angle perspectives. It does some interesting things with diagonal lines in the composition. It also causes strange distortions of round type shapes in the corners, making them appear more egg shaped than they are in reality, but having a distorted head is worth it if I like the picture otherwise.

My good friend photographer Todd Frederick, digital maven, usually posts my pictures here on the blog. Every few weeks I mail him a bunch of CD's. When Walgreens develops the film they make the CD, all the pictures on the roll, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Most times I've never really seen the pictures other than the tiny images on the "Index Print". Todd picks an image that intrigues him and posts it. Then he emails me a detailed message, such as "Posted". That's when I find out what in hell I'm supposed to be writing about. Probably a month later and a bunch of rolls since I shot it. I should take notes but I don't. This was taken "Somewhere", reasonably recently, and within maybe ten miles of my house. It appeared on my screen within the hour.

What was different this morning was me emailing Todd with a "Got it!" before he emailed "Posted" to me. I'd been killing time while drinking my morning coffee and enjoying my first cigarette of the day by googling my name to see what might turn up that's new. I discovered this: and clicked on Photographer/Writer Al Kaplan which, at least for today, brought up this shot, probably because it's my most recent blog entry.

I also discovered this link. The site contains a short list of blog and website links, and there I am!

" Al Kaplan is a Miami area photographer who maintains a blog about his everyday life." Now the coffee cup is empty and Todd is threatening me with great bodily harm if I don't get my butt into the darkroom and make some black and white prints. Together with Mario at ROOTZ Gallery wanting to see more of my work I guess I ought to do just that!

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