Thursday, April 30, 2009

Elect FRANK WOLLAND For North Miami Mayor

(This is not a paid political advertisement. It's just a plug for a friend.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

$$ Money Honey ~ She's Banking On It $$

Monkette and I were enjoying our morning coffee and cigarettes and chatting about a variety of subjects while Janis had her face hidden in the newspaper. "Al, we have to do SOMETHING about the mess that you call The Dining Room. You've got boxes of photo finishing envelopes going back to the year one. You'll never print the negatives and most of them are still full of 4x6 prints. Hell, some of them date back to the days of 3.5x5 inch prints! And nobody has been able to eat in there since I've been living in that house! You know that I like to eat my evening fruit platter sitting at the table like a civilized monkey."

I scan the 4x6 prints to use on The Price Of Silver, and then just stick the prints back in the bags. I usually pick out one or two photos out of each situation and manage to photograph maybe five or six situations per roll. I save the prints though, scanned and unscanned alike, while I post only the ones that best seem to fit the stories.

Monkette was obviously thinking back to last Friday night when we saw some photo exhibits at a couple of the art galleries when she asked "Do you think we could get maybe $200 each for them if you signed them?" I tried to explain that these were just little prints, and I wasn't sure if collectors would even be interested. She persisted "Well then how low can we go and still make it profitable? Don't forget, though, that our goal is really to straighten up the place a bit! The money is a bonus." We discussed it a bit longer and concluded that we wouldn't be losing money at ten bucks each plus two bucks shipping, no matter how many somebody bought. Two bucks shipping for one, two bucks shipping for twenty...etc. That would be via first class mail within the U.S., with other countries being more.

She went on to say that for a rock bottom bargain price like that you'd just be getting whichever print was on the top of the pile, not getting to choose a particular picture. "Al, just how fussy can they expect to be at those prices? Maybe later we can offer choice of picture, other sizes, all that fancy stuff, but for right now it's enough that we'd be straightening out that mess, reclaiming the dining room for dining,and picking up some banana money to boot!" She's right of course. She's ALWAYS right. A few months ago bananas were 49 cents a pound. Now they're up to 69 cents!

If you're interested in getting a signed Price Of Silver print email me at and we'll make the arrangements. Thanks!

Email is

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Checkered Past Of The Czech Club

We were heading over to the Czech Club for the annual North Miami Historical Society luncheon. Monkette told me to wear the cammo shirt. She and I have different concepts of "cammo". I'm thinking lots of blotchy olive drab, shades of brown, a bit of black perhaps, printed on a heavy twill fabric. She's thinking this 100% silk shirt with an abstract palm fronds pattern in shades of green against light sky blue. She was right, of course, always is! It blended perfectly with the oak trees and undergrowth, blue sky showing between the leaves. Perfect!

I sat her up on my shoulder as we walked through the wooded parking area while she stylishly arranged the curls on my still drying hair. We spent a few minutes walking around the grounds as I told her how supposedly back in the 1920's Al Capone's gang of rum runners smuggled whiskey from the Bahamas into Biscayne Bay and then up Arch Creek to this very building! She giggled and said "I bet that's not the only thing that's been smuggled up Arch Creek!" She's very probably right about that. About twenty-five years ago a lot of bales of pot wrapped in plastic were washing up on the beach as smugglers threw it overboard while being chased by the Coast Guard or the Marine Patrol. Meanwhile other people were getting busted for having a single bale aboard despite protesting that they had just found it floating out there.

I asked the police chief about exactly what the story was, and keep in mind that this was before cell phones. He said that if I found a bale while out fishing I should haul it aboard and immediately throw my handheld marine radio overboard, then head back into the bay and then to the launching ramp. If at any time on the way I spotted a police boat, Marine Patrol, or Coast Guard vessel, I should immediately head straight towards it yelling "Hey guys! Look what I found floating out there!" and just forget about the hundred bucks that the radio had cost me.

If I didn't spot any of those boats on the way in "Just head back to the ramp, drive home, and enjoy!" he told me. I never did find a bale. Monkette was fascinated at just how much things had changed over the years, my hair was nearly dry and now a forest of neat curls, and it was time to head inside the Czech Club. Monkette asked if there were likely to be people she hadn't met yet and I told her that yes, there was a good chance of that. She said that if anybody asked if that was a toy monkey on my shoulder I should tell them "No, that's the newest style in cell phones!"

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Chatting About Water Plants And Politics

As usual I was having my late night cup of coffee and managed to start up a conversation with a good looking young lady. As usual I wrote her name on a piece of paper. Par for the course I not only misplaced the piece of paper but forgot what her name was!

What I do remember though, is that she worked for the North Miami Beach water department and before that she managed North Miami's West Side plant. Between that information and my campaign button we were quickly into a discussion about the sad state of North Miami's water plants, and that they're in good condition compared to the sorry state of the water mains under the streets. The mayor and council think that the road to re-election is by keeping the water bill low.

Of course we're payng to treat lots of water that simply leaks out of the pipes into the ground while the pumping equipment itself is in such a state of disrepair that it's held together with spit and prayers. Meanwhile the cost of repair keeps climbing and the cost of patchwork repairs keeps adding up. At some point you've gotta pay the piper.

Recently we missed the opportunity to save a fortune. The county was ripping up a number of arterial streets in the city and repaving them at county expense. A great opportunity to bury some new pipes! Instead now we have to pay to tear up newly paved streets, and the patchwork repaving makes some of those streets bumpier than they were before.

She told me that she was much happier and a lot less frustrated working where they take these things into consideration


Sunday, April 26, 2009

"I Need Your Vote!"

Councilman Michael Blynn wore one of his campaign T-shirts as he worked the tables at the annual North Miami Historical Society luncheon. Councilman Scott Galvin, facing the camera toward's the right side of the photo isn't laughing at Michael's speil. Scott always has that same smile. That must be the way his facial muscles are designed! The Scott Galvin signature smile!

Overall, Michael has been doing a great job on the council, and he should! Our elected officals should be doing a fantastic job! After all, they just gave themselves an obscene ten fold salary increase, a lifetime gold plated health insurance plan, and retirement benefits that make you wonder why they just don't go ahead and retire instead of raising the utility bill again.

But what can you expect from a councilman who doesn't know enough about campaigning to realize that the winner is always the one who gives out the coolest looking T-shirt! Michael, where are OUR T-shirts?


The Mysterious Dawn

Janis, as usual, hid behind the newspaper as soon as my hand moved towards the camera. She is one shy lady!

The blonde walking by in the background is very much the opposite. She comes over to Starbucks and a few other eating type places in the strip mall several times a day. She has one leg a bit shorter than the other so she has a nice well practiced limp to garner sympathy as she goes into her "Please can you spare some change? I haven't eaten anything since yesterday!" routine. It's not unusual to see some well dressed yuppie type, trying to impress his lady friend, hand Dawn a ten or a twenty. It adds up! She probably grosses more than I do, all tax free too.

A woman I've known for years, Peggy, lives near Dawn. According to Peggy, Dawn supports her boyfriend and the "habit" they share while he mostly sits at home doing nothing. What a life!

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Campaign Button ~ From Twenty Years Ago

Monkette was poking around in my desk when she ran across a couple of theses campaign buttons. She wanted to know the back story about them.

Twenty years ago Mayor Neu talked me into running for council. So I ran. Then the mayor double crossed me and started backing somebody else. I did the same! I let my campaign falter in my effort to defeat the mayor and elect a young unknown woman candidate. She won. Vengeance is sweet.

I was married to Claudia Bailey at the time and she designed the button. Scott Galvin and I both lost that election. A few years later Scott ran again and won. I decided to not bother. I had enough influence through my board positions and from being on a first name basis with the local congressman, Bill Lehman. Just about every Sunday morning would find Bill and me and a few others having breakfast at the big round table at Jimmie's Place. A few times a month you would find me accompanying Bill around the community or attending some function or another. As long as I shot a few pictures I'd get paid. That's what it's all about, right? Being on the council only paid a token amount.

Now that the mayor and council gave themselves that humongous salary and benefits package I just might run in two years. Monkette decided that it's not too soon to start the campaign. We're both wearing buttons!

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Life Is Starting To Look NORML at Last

NORML stands for National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. I thought that this photo sort of looks like I'm toking on a joint in front of my local Starbucks a few nights ago. Actually when I made the photo that was far from my mind. I just wanted to get an interesting photo showing those gorgeous legs on the young lady wearing one of those currently fashionable black and white skirts. Then I discovered that it had been April fourth,420 Day which it seems has a lot of significance to the pot smokers in this country. Google 420 and be overwhelmed with information about the day!

Last night, four days later, was the last Friday of the month. That's the night of North Miami's monthly Gallery Walk, when all of the art galleries start their new exhibits and offer glasses of wine (or Coke) along with various munchies. The Museum of Contemporary Art, MOCA, starts a new exhibit, and the Luastar Cafe has a variety of overpriced imported beers to go along with their expensive cups of exotic coffees.

The galleries are clustered around the museum, City Hall, and the police station. At least in theory it's against the law to drink in public but this is the night when it's cool to wander about, glass of wine in hand. The cops won't bust you!

The city sets up the Showmobile, a trailer that unfolds into a stage, in the plaza in front of the MOCA and there's a live jazz concert lasting a couple of hours. Last night there was a new "feature" at the concert! Several slightly chubby fifty-something women were working the crowd on behalf of NORML, clipboards in hand, getting folks to sign petitions to legalize marijuana. They had no trouble getting signatures either. After all, the crowd consisted of pretty much the same people who had filled the air with a pungent haze at 1960's rock festivals. As I filled out and signed a petition the woman told me that they were forming a local chapter of NORML and expected to be holding monthly meetings.

My neurologist would love to see the law changed. It seems that smoking pot is a great way to control epilepsy, more effective and less expensive than the legal pills from the drugstore.

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Me And Frank At Our Drug Dealer's Place

I don't even want to think about how long I've known Frank Wolland. It dates back to before cell phones, but not quite to the days of comic books and Dick Tracy with his amazing "two-way wrist radio". It dates back to the days when picking up prescriptions at the drug store wasn't a normal every day part of life. The good old days! The days when you knew that it would be ready when they said it would, and somebody was there ready to take it out of the bin and hand it to you when you walked up to the counter.
Oh well! Between his phone calls and my phone calls we managed to get at least fifteen minutes worth of chatting about the upcoming city election before we got our precious bags of drugs. Don't forget to vote on May 12th. Vote for Frank Wolland for mayor.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Not Another Peep!

It seems that everybody loves Peeps, those sugar coated marshmallows in the shape of bunnies and chicks. They come in blue, pink, and yellow, but they all taste the same. When the stores stock up on peeps you know that spring is hear and it'll soon be Easter.

We also knew that the day after Easter the Easter stuff is marked down to half price. Peeps at fifty cents a box is too good to pass up! Keeping Monkette from digging in on the way home is impossible. I helped myself to a few also.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

No Monkette! Another Cappucino And You'll Be Up All Night!

The Lunastar Cafe is directly across the street fom North Miami City Hall so it seemed like a great place for Bonnie Schwartzbaum (the blonde woman directly behind Monkette in the photo)to hold her campaign kick-off party. The emailed invitation told Monkette that she was welcome to bring me along. HAH! How else would she have gotten there? I drove her over, putting on jacket and tie as per her (Monkette's) instructions.

A few years back Alexis started the Lunastar as a coffee house in the classic tradition of having local artists displaying their art, and folk singers playing acoustic guitar and singing. It reminded me of Club 47 in Boston or the coffee houses in Greenwich Village back in the sixties. The place seemed to be atracting more sixty-somethings than college students though, people who remembered the "folk movement" and coffee houses of that era. And of course they had more money than college students, and had graduated from smoking pot (well, at least not in public anyway) to drinking exotic imported beers and wine. Alexis obliged.

Bonnie decided to do the kick-off party there. Monkette had been told in no uncertain terms by my lady friend Robin (she couldn't make it to the party, being out of town)to keep me away from the wine! I don't like beer and Robin had seen what wine (one glass) does to me too many times (once) and she didn't want me to make a complete fool out of myself, or worse, crash the truck on the way home.

Monkette, though can't hold her caffeine. I live on coffee but Monkette would be swinging from the chandeliers! She'd already had half a cup of cappucino, way too much sugar and was looking longingly at my second cup. She didn't get any.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Font Man

Jeff showed up at my house this afternoon.

He'd decided to drive by my house on his way to Starbucks figuring I'd be one place or the other. He designs fonts of lettering. A few months ago he took one of my cards and today he showed up with this sheet of paper containing a bunch of images of my logo in various sizes, along with a disc containing files of the images.

The logo itself was designed by a graphic designer by the name of Jon Craine. I met Jon back in the early seventies. I was doing some photography for Milgo Electronics at the time and Jon was designing some brochures for them. We went out to lunch with Jackie Foy. She worked for Milgo and was in charge of all of their advertizing and publications. Jon asked me for my card and said that he didn't like the design. He wanted to design a new one for me. A few weeks later I got a new layout in the mail including this logo, for free! I've used it ever since. Thanks Jon, and thanks Jeff.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

420 ~ Our Healthcare Dollars At Play

In a way I used to enjoy going to the doctor. There were those big piles of not-too-old National Geographics, along with Newsweeks and a ladie's magazine or three. There was usually the morning Miami Herald and often the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, sections seperated from one another and mixed back together helter-skelter. A long wait to discuss my disgustingly good health and to let me catch up on last month's world events.

Now there's flat panel big screen TV playing a mixture of soap operas and game shows interspersed with "commercials" telling you that Chen Medical will pick you up and then take you home again after you see your doctor, and touting the knowledge and skills of their staff of medical professionals. I bring my own reading material.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Maureen & Frank

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Janis, The Woman I Love To Yell At

She's been my neighbor for over thirty years. She became a widow in January of last year. She's about as deaf as can be and still be able to hear loud sounds with a hearing aid. She's been deaf since early childhood but she told me about how her mother helped her learn to speak the words she can't really hear. She actually speaks very well, but it's not easy teaching her how to pronounce a new word, especialy a foreign word that's spelled differently than you'd expect if you were using the standard rules of English. Mostly she reads lips. She's the reason I no longer have a moustache.

She reads very well and loves to read the newspaper. She can do math and keeps her checkbook balanced. She has the car that her husband used to drive and she has a drivers license but she's afraid to drive. About her only social life is the "deaf club", an informal group of deaf people who gather at Starbucks on Wednesday nights for a couple of hours of heated sign language. All the latest gossip!

Janis is also extremely shy and doesn't like me photographing her. I had to sneak this shot one day when we were at the nearby Publix supermarket. It's one of perhaps ten images I've managed to get of her in over a year of trying. Every week we go grocery shopping together, then go to the Walgreens drugstore, and she usually talks me into stopping at Starbucks for a coffee. Sometimes I take her to see her doctor or dentist. It all gets her out of the house, out amongst people. In our usual haunts people are used to my yelling at her. They realize that it's the only way I can get her attention when she's too far down the aisle to touch her so I have to yell at her. She likes being around a man who cares enough to yell at her, even in public.
Please, please, please don't tell her that her photograph is here, or that I wrote this piece about her. Thanks.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Al Kaplan In Sports Illustrated Magazine?

Way back on December 12, 1960 I got mentioned in a fishing article appearing in Sports Illustrated magazine but I didn't discover it until today. The baby tarpon was caught in the mangroves about where the east end of 135th Street meets the bay today, but now the street is lined with townhouses and condos. I still have the rod and reel I used back then and I caught it on one of my little 1/8 oz. bucktail jigs. What I don't have is a photo of the fish. Here's the story:

December 12, 1960
Look, Joe, I'm The Champ
An eight-ounce tarpon makes the record book under new rules for light-tackle fishing
Martin Kane

Most fishermen have twitched in their sleep at one time or another, dreaming of a record fish. But until recently, dreaming of these things was all most fishermen could afford. To make a record which would be officially recognized by the International Game Fish Association it was necessary to catch a black marlin weighing not less than 158 pounds, a tiger shark of 341 pounds or a tarpon weighing 144. And the prospect of taking such fish as these has been remote indeed in our thoroughly combed waters. In fact, in some record categories, the only anglers with a real chance were those who could afford the enormous expense of money and time for travel to the distant corners of Peru, Mexico and Australia, where r eally big game fish can be found.
But, in the past couple of years, there have been some changes made. Now anyone can be a world champion, even with fish taken in his home waters. And records have been falling like confetti on a=2 0Wall Street ticker-tape parade. This new opportunity came with the establishment in 1959 of the International Spin Fishing Association. For the fishermen of the world, the ISFA created six new record classifications, all in ultralight test lines for salt-and fresh-water fish. The new records start with 12-pound test and continue downward—10, 8, 6, 4, all the way to a spider web of a two-pound monofilament.
Until the ISFA came along, the fresh-water record keepers failed to mention line test altogether, and the salt-water statisticians of the IGFA worked upward from a base category of 12-pound test on to the so-called all-tackle records, in which the line could be only a little less sturdy than a Manila hawser. Furthermore, all these records merely noted that the fish had been subdued on rod and reel (never mind what kind), and, in the case of salt-water fish, recorded the sex of the fisherman. It made no difference in the books if you took a big fish on a fly rod, a bait rod, a spinning rod, a boat rod or a telegraph pole. And in the trout and salmon records there was no technical difference between a master angler who used delicate terminal tackle and a man who dragged in his record on the end of a braided-wire leader ..
By insisting on standardized equipment, the ISFA is admittedly favoring the tackle that its founders, a group of 12 spin fishermen from Englewood, Calif., happen to like. But it is also providing a constant measuring stick by which one catch can fairly be judged against another. And with the new line-test categories, it has created world records that may easily be surpassed in any afternoon of ordinary good fishing. In fact, so new and relatively little known is the ISFA that many of its record brackets are still blank.
In the association's latest listing (through June 30, 1960) there were 104 records still vacant for salt-water fish and 40 in the fresh-water division. The only listed record for Dolly Varden trout, for instance, was a two-pound eight-ounce fish taken on two-pound test line. No records were listed for Dolly Vardens on four-, six-, eight-, 10-and 12-pound lines. If you took a sockeye salmon of any size on anything under eight-pound test line you would have an automatic record. The same was true for mako shark under 12-pound test. And so on.
Besides these open brackets, there are many records filled by fish of unimpressive size. Some of them have even been absurd. A couple of years ago Alan Kaplan of Miami Beach took an eight-ounce tarpon on a two-pound test line in Biscayne Bay. That was a world record, and Kaplan is now an immortal. John H. Irwin of Vero Beach, Fla., using four-pound test line, caught a one-pound three-ounce bluefish. He, too, is an immortal. For that matter, Mr. Irwin is thrice immortal, since he took a two-pound six-ounce pompano on four-pound test line and a one-pound 15-ounce pompano on six-pound test-both world records. There are quite a few like these in the multirecord class. Myron J. Glauber of Los Angeles holds three dolphin records, and Bob Dragoo of Tarzana, Calif, is listed for Pacific barracuda, kelp bass, Pacific bonito and yellowtail.
These records will, of course, be surpassed since they merely filled the vacuum that existed when the ISFA began record-keeping. They also have created a certain sullen moodiness among some sports fishermen, who feel that there is something crass about mere record-seeking and, worse, that the ISFA has been overly generous in its definition of what constitutes a game fish. (The croaker is a gamester? Oh, dear.)
New savor for an old sport
But the new system of record-keeping also has stirred a healthy revival of interest in light-tackle fishing—a technique that, taken in moderation, can add much savor to the sport. Light tackle always has been a specialty of some fishermen but, inevitably, there have been nuts among them. For quite a while before spinning tackle saved the day for sanity just after World War II, not a few light-tackle cranks were experimenting with lines of ordinary cotton thread. Snootier than dry-fly purists, the cotton-thread stunt men were, apparently, trying to discover how close one might come to catching a fish without actually catching it. If one of them succeeded in setting a hook without brea king his line he was likely to feel that he had had an exceptionally good day.
While this idiocy was still prevalent I once gave up 15 minutes of black bass fishing to make notes on the habits of an especially fine cotton-thread specimen who was trying to cast from the shore of a small lake near my home. He was using a good-looking 5�-foot bamboo bait rod wit h a fast tip. I spotted him on his first attempt at casting, when his plug snapped off and sank beyond recovery. He managed to tie on another, but only after several tries because the wet cotton broke whenever he drew the knot taut. This brought out the temper in him, and he forgot to be cautious on his next cast, which cost him another plug. He dug into the tackle box again, selecting a third lure. This time, with excruciating delicacy of movement, he got it tied and into the water—but only about 15 feet from where he stood.
The length of the cast didn't matter too much because sundown was almost upon us and the bass were moving close to shore for their nightly forays against the minnows. Something, probably a bass, struck his lure. You could tell because he tried to set the gang hooks, and another plug sank to the bottom of the lake.
I sidled over to him. He was reeling in his thread, looking grim and smug in the same instant.
"Any strikes?" I asked.
"Just had one," he said, rooting in his box for20another plug. "Lost him. I'm using a very light line."
Actually, it was not so much the so-called line that was causing him trouble. It was the rest of his tackle—the stiff rod tip, the heavy reel without drag attachment and those gang hooks. With balanced tackle he would have been able to cast better, even with cotton thread, and with a single- hook lure he might have been able to set a hook. One hook is easier to set than a gang hook.
In fact, with spinning tackle, it is by no means impossible to take big fish on a very light line. Mostly it requires patience, sharp hooks, care in setting the drag, a quick, sensitive touch on the rod and a willingness to pump endlessly to recover line—in other words, the basic skills which are the property of all really fine fishermen, as differentiated from trophy bores and the angling assassins being bred by the big-money tournaments (SI, Nov. 7, 1960).
Thus, one of the more respectable ISFA records was a 20-pound six-ounce Chinook salmon taken on two-pound test line from the North Fork of the Lewis River in Washington. Certainly it took skill to kill that salmon, confounding his powerful lunges with the drag of the reel, which released line whenever the pull approached its breaking point, and by keeping the limber rod tip high to further cushion any shock against the line. In due course, with the salmon finally wearied of the struggle against this passive nonresistance, it simply lay at rest, and the spin angler (E. J. Halkoski) was able to recover line and eventually kill the fish.
Hats off, then, to E. J. Halkoski, who did not horse in his fish on tackle suitable for tuna. He worked hard and ably in the tradi tion of light-tackle men. Hats off, too, to the ISFA. For, whatever may be thought of some of these early ISFA records (excluding genuinely impressive performances like Halkoski's,) they have begun to inspire a movement of a similar sort in other branches of light-tackle angling where records are not so important as the sport itself.
In the past year Abercrombie & Fitch has sold somewhere between 500 and 600 of its Banty fly rod, line and reel combinations. All three components are specially designed for each other. The reel is specially made by Hardy, weighing 2? ounces; the tubular glass rod is only four feet four inches long and weighs, believe it or not, just one ounce. The tapered fly line is 30 yards long and can be cast 50 feet by any ordinary angler. Customers who doubt their ability to cast this far are taken to the store's roof pool and there prove to themselves that they are experts.
It is to be h oped that the movement spreads, not so much for the sake of records but for the sake of pure angling pleasure. For any legal-sized fish taken on a rod and reel like this, using appropriate terminal tackle, must provide a maximum of the aggravation fishermen call fun.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Those Not Running

(Just a reminder to the candidates that the photographs here in The Price of Silver are copyright (c) Al Kaplan and may not be reproduced in any form without the permission and consent of the copyright holder. You may link to them however.)

North Miami elections aren't run by party affiliation, no Democrats or Republicans, just residents. Monkette still found this odd, even after working as campaign manager of Kevin Burns' succesful mayoral campaign two years ago, because party affiliation was such a big factor in the recent presidential election.

Here we're out behind City Hall waiting for the meeting to start along with two of the counclimen who won four year terms two years ago. Councilman Michael Blynn is wearing a suit and tie, showing off his belly, and faces left in the photo. Councilman Scott Galvin, in a skin tight short sleeve knit shirt, shows off his physique while facing right. Monkette, as usual, sat on my shoulder surveying the scene. "This whole concept of right and left makes no sense" she whispered in my ear "...but I'd choose Scott on looks alone!" I reminded her that those guys weren't running in this election. "Damn! That's confusing!" she replied. Later, drinking coffee at Starbucks (the city has lousy coffee, and we both concur on that assesment!) we discussed the candidates
and agreeed that Frank Wolland was the best choice for Mayor and Bonnie Schwartzbaum the best choice for City Clerk. The council seat in our district won't be up for election for two more years but Monkette thinks that Michelle Garcia would make a great addition to the City Council. I had a bit of trouble explaining to her that she wasn't in our district but Monkette is supporting her anyway. Monkette wants to start a new political party, CIC! (That stands for Chicks In Charge!)

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Frank Wolland Needs Your Votes

Frank Wolland had already gone inside to the candidates' forum at North Miami City Hall a few nights ago but his kids and his wife were outside holding a sign touting hiis endorsements from THE NORTH MIAMI POLICE OFFICERS ASSN. and THE INTL. UNION OF POLICE OFFICERS IUPA /AFL-CIO

In his several terms on the city council and serving as mayor he's maintained a good relationship with our Police Department, doing his best to assure adequate funding for this important municipal department. The crime rate isn't zero but it's a lot less than many surrounding municipalities. He wants people to know that he still thinks the same way. If we need budget cuts and belt tightening the Police Department isn't the place to short-change.

The sun was setting, the hordes of people had mostly gone up to the council chambers to listen to the candidates' spiels, Mrs. Wolland was about out of brochures, and Monkette was bugging me to go upstairs and check out the refreshment table. We went upstairs.

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I can email you the contact sheets (8x10 sheets with 30 or 36 little pictures) of your folks. Please send your email address to me:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Down On The Corner, Out In The Street...

The North Miami city election is coming up May 12th and last night was the candidates forum at City Hall. As usual, Monkette was very insistant that we attend. I assured her that at best there would be coffee with powdered "creamer" and a tray or two of assorted cheap cookies. She's the boss! We were going anyway!

As we got closer the song playing on the radio was as if a Higher Power had chosen it. Creedence Clearwater Revival was singing their 1969 #3 hit "Down On The Corner, Out In The Street..."

We got there half an hour early, and still we were lucky to get a space in the parking lot across the street and within walking distance of city hall. There were lots of people carrying signs and wearing candidate's T-shirts, handing out campaign literature (the meaning of "literature" sure must have changed since I was in school) and exchanging pleasantries with one another. The candidates themselves shook every hand they could grab, including Monkette's little hand. She was upset that the Miami Herald photographer and the TV crews didn't cover the arrival. She might have made the 11 O'clock news!

Finally Monkette shouted "Cookie time!" and we headed inside.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Look What Monkette Found ~ WILD BANANAS!

We had about half an hour to kill before Monkette and I would head over to city hall and listen to the mayoral and council candidates tell us about all the things that they thought we wanted to hear. It would be mostly a litany of self-agrandisement as one after the another would get cut off in mid-sentence by the moderator as they exceeded the alloted two minutes to respond to questions from the audience.

We decided to check out the back yard. Janis had told Monkette that she'd spotted a couple of stalks of bananas in the jungle that passes for our back yard. Code Enforcement hates my back yard, but I keep pointing out that it really looks pretty much the same as the Enchanted Forest park a couple of blocks away. They don't have much of a "lawn" either. One time they tried to cite me for over height "weeds" in the front yard but I made the officer kneel down and identify exactly what kind of "weeds" they were. He agreed with me that they were live oak seedlings, a protected species, and that getting permits at $25 each for a few hundred live oaks would be a major imposition on our banana budget. A week later I mowed the lawn anyway. The fine print exempted newly sprouted acorns.

These banana plants were already growning here when I bought the house back in '67. Some years there are a few stalks, some none. The soil isn't really conducive to raising bananas. There's pretty much solid coral rock just a few inches below the surface and bananas like deep thick rich soil. That's why we can't get a full stalk of fruit. Too little water and not enough nutrients.

These bananas are a small thin skinned variety called "apple bananas", and they have a smell and taste very much like apples. I like them sliced up on a bowl of corn flakes. Monkette just plain likes them! And I suppose we'll share them with Janis. That's probably why we got blessed with two stalks this year.

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Elena Kaplan Got Politics In Her Blood At This Refreshment Table

I was telling Monkette about Charlie Zarzour and how my daughter, her older sister Elena Kaplan, used to love to go to city council meetings. At the age of three, four, or five it wasn't politics that fascinated her. I'm not sure if it was the cake and cookies on this table or if it was Charlie Zarzour that was the bigger atraction.

Charlie's main city job was a code enforcement officer but he earned a few extra bucks setting up the table and the coffee pot, just one, no decaf back then, and laying out the tray of cookies, cutting the cake, and HANDING you a plate of cake and pouring the coffee for you. And he managed to get around, drive a car, set up the refreshments, and so on with one leg and crutches.

Elena was only too glad to help him put out the napkins and paper plates. Then she'd get to sit on Charlie's lap. He insisted that she call him Charlie. Then he'd want to know all about what was happening in her life, how nursery school was going, and so on.

Now Charlie has gone off to that place in the sky. Elena has completed law school and is an associate for a big national law firm's Atlanta office

Robin reminded me the other night about that it's been seven years since I was getting ready to drive up to visit Elena again. I'd just broken up with my long time girlfriend Vivette, a dozen year relationship down the tubes, and was very depressed. I was very much in love with Vivette. The last thing I expected was for her to tell me that it was over. Finished!

I was really looking forward to spending a week with Elena. She always managed to cheer me up. We spoke every week on the phone. She'd come down to Miami to visit. I'd go up and visit her. A really ideal father daughter relationship. Then about two weeks before I was planning on making the trip I got The Letter! Essentially it said "I never want to see or hear from you again!" She blamed me for being the cause of everthing wrong with her life. I tried calling her. She didn't want to talk about it. I called her mother. "Oh, give her a few months. She'll get over it."

I went into a major funk. My doctor put me on an anti-depressant. I had a major reaction to it. It became a matter of just gritting my teeth and getting past it. I suppose I have, although every morning I get up and think of her and wonder "why?".

A few years ago she ran for office, Georgia state legislature. Her campaign literature told about her getting interested in politics when she was a little girl and her daddy used to take her to city council meetings. She lost. She needs to realize that bad karma begets bad karma. And that's what I think about every time I see this table with the coffee pot and the plate cookies

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Changes HAVE Come To The North Mami Political Scene!

Monkette is just positively THRILLED! For the first time in the history of North Miami bananas are a featured item on the invitation to a campaign party! And for the first time an invitation was sent to a toy monkey! North Miami is at the forefront of a new era in politics. Monkette says"Thanks, Bonnie!"
Meet Me at the Luna Star Café
775 NE 125th Street, across from City Hall
Downtown North Miami

Wednesday, April 15th

6 pm to 7pm

(there will be bananas!)

Let’s sit down and talk about what YOU feel are the important issues in North Miami.

Bonnie Schwartzbaum for North Miami City Council
District 2

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Sue Simonsis ~ An Email From Her Daughter Forty-Four Years Later

People tell me that they like this blog because they never know day to day what's going to show up, everything from current local political commentary to pictures from my wilder twenty-something days. Some folks tell me they enjoy the stories that run with the photos. I get emails telling me that they were at such and such a rock festival also, or the photo and caption reminded them of another festival they attended. In one case a self described "very fat grandmother" remembered me from when I did some photos at a Christian drug rehab center and she was a good looking sixteen year old in the program. I think she'd just smoked pot but her parents had freaked!
This photo is different. Beth sent me an email yesterday. It seems that she ran across some photos of her mom and dad, Sue and Wayne Simonsis, in my blog. She wanted to know if I had some other photos of them from way back in the winter of 1965/66 when my wife Stephanie and I had an apartment in the same building in New Bedford, Massachusettes. Fortunately I'd scribbled the negative number on the back of the print. Now I can easily go through the files and find the rest of them. I've even got an 11x14 of a different picture of Sue that's been framed and hanging on my wall all of these years. I'm waiting to get another email from Beth. Sue would have been about 19 in the pictures. Now Beth might have grandchildren that age!

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

OMG! He Looks like A Younger Me!

That's very much like I looked back in 1973 when I took the photo on the top. Robert Morgan, a film maker, was very much into finding Bigfoot at the time. Some friends of his in Miami were following up on leads to find the Florida skunk ape, our version of bigfoot. I got drafted to be the expedition's photographer. We never did get any definitive photos, just one shadowy shape in the woods. We did find some huge foot prints on this shell island in Charlotte Harbor. You can see one in the center of the photo just below the people. We got what we thought were some pretty decent plaster casts. The world of science wanted hair samples or, best of all, a dead body.
That's Darrel Seideman standing in the rear, Buzz on the right, and I can't remember the name of the guy on the left, except that it turned out that his dad lived a block away from me, and for a few years his dad and I ended up doing a lot of fishing together. Eventually averyone moved and we lost track of one another.
Then a year or two ago Bob Morgan tracked me down because of this blog! He'd made Bloodstalkers a few years ago and wanted to film a sequel in the Everglades. He'd need a still photographer and thought that I had "the look" for a part in the film as well. Then the economy tanked. Bob is still trying to put the money together. Are there any wealthy investors reading this?
And the guy in the picture on the DVD? That's the same hair style as I've been wearing and I've still got all my hair, but it's half grey. I want my picture on a DVD!

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hail Mary ~ From A Different Angle

When you hold the camera in one hand high up over your head to shoot across the top of a crowd you really can't see what the camera is seeing. Sometimes you can't really see anything at all through the people That's why they call it a Hail Mary shot, you push the button, say three Hail Mary's, and hope for the best.

When I shoot with the camera off to the side or above at least I can see what's there. I've gotten pretty good at knowing what the lens will see just by how I'm holding the camera, but for the most part I still tend to use the high angle looking down at the subjects. Habit? Inertia? I decided to try some lower angles but Monkette was too intrigued with trying to mimic Patty's pose, head thrown back, nose in the air...and I think that she did a pretty good job, but I'm never really certain what those two girls are up to. It's possible that Patty glanced over at Monkette and tryed to mimic Monkette's pose.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Paparazzi Arrive

It's been about XX (if I gave a real number everybody would know how old she is) years since Patty Ho-Chan Motro (blurry, on the far right) was a freshman at Barry University and I met her while I was shooting some pix for the school. She was taking a photography course and started using my Minolta Autocord and using my darkroom on occasion. We've stayed in touch all these decades. She refers to me as her Big Brother. She got married, had a couple of daughters, and somehow went over to the Dark Side, now carrying around a zoom equipped DSLR.

We were both at Bonnie Schwartzbaum's campaign kick-off party. Bonnie is running for city council in District 2. Monkette and Bonnie were working the crowd together. Everybody in town knows Monkette and Bonne figured that an endorsment, or better yet, a personal introduction, from Monkette, was the key to garnering votes. I figured that was better than sitting on my lap and bitching about "There's no damned bananas on the fresh fruit plate!"

So I had a bit of time to kill, and rather than sit by myself I thought that I'd take my Coke and avail myself of an empty chair next to this sexy young chick with great legs. In an attempt to start up a conversation I introduced myself and asked what she did. Turns out that she's a professor at Florida International University. You KNOW that you're getting old whe sexy young chicks are university professors.

Sheer Boredom

After a few minute of really trying to get a conversation going with her she seemed to catch on to the reality of the situation. I was flirting! Either I've lost the touch or she was thinking "OMG, he's older than my father!" I have to admit though, I was impressed with the magnitude of her yawn.
I decided that maybe it was time to just cut my losses and head out onto the roof top patio and check up on what Monkette was up to.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

All Mixed up In North Miami

Another Perspective On North Miami Politics

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Schmoozing With The Candidate

There was an immediate rapport between Monkette and Bonnie, total and complete! They really seemed to hit it off together.

I decided to circulate a bit. There were people there that I hadn't seen in awhile and people there that I'd just love to see again, but Monkette would never forgive me for dating a thirty year old chick! I decided it best to just stay away from the wine. I don't handle any sort of booze too well. It's bad enough just wandering around town with a toy monkey at my age! I'm not all that sure that I could get away with it being drunk too.

Monkette was intrigued with the diversity of folks we met, for the most part a younger crowd than we usually run into at these functions. In the background is a surgeon still in scrubs, on his way home from the hospital, but for the most part the guys were dressed in jeans and shirts (and a yarmulke or two) with only one guy in suit and tie. The ladies were a bit more formal in their attire, mostly skirts and dresses with heels. Pants on women seems to be a thing of the past.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bonnie Schwartzbaum, Monkette's Newest Client

Somehow or another Monkette managed to get my password! Next thing she's shouting across the room as she's reading one of my emails "Hey Al, you gotta drive me to another campaign kick-off party Wednesday evening!" "Oh? Who's running and running for what?" I replied.
"Some chick by the name of Bonnie Schwartzbaum is running for city council in district two" she excitedly continued "...and you know how I feel about female candidates! Maybe I can get her to hire me as her political consultant, run her campaign like I did with Mayor Burns two years ago. With me at the helm Kevin was a shoe-in!"
"You only ever ran one political campaign in your life!" "And we won! That gives me a 100% track record." "Monkette, I'm not sure that everybody treats statistics the way you do! You're beginning to sound like a Republican!" "C'mon Al, will you take me? Please? Pretty please?"
Early on I learned that there was a lot of truth in that old adage "Never argue with a woman". That's doubley true when the woman is a toy monkey! "OK Monkette, what time and where?" Then she started in with her wardrobe consultant personna; "DO NOT get a haircut! Don't start growing that silly beard again. Don't go along with that supposedly fashionable ain't shaved in three days look"...and on and on. "Jeans and an open collar white dress shirt, real shoes, and make sure that you wear socks. Your tweed blazer will look fine if it's chilly out." "Yes Dear. Whatever you say Dear."

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

I'm Working For A Newspaper Again!

Give me a day or so to have my meeting with Ernst and write my first article for the Kiskeya Herald. I never dreamed that I'd be writing for a Haitian newspaper. North Miami has a large Haitian population. In the past we had a Haitian-American mayor and we currently have a couple of Haitian-Americans on the city council. With an election coming up in May this looks to an interesting month! Already we have a couple of Haitian-Americans announcing a run for the mayor's seat. One is currently on the city council. We also have a former mayor and councilman, now our current city clerk, and he's not Haitian-American, looking to become North Miami mayor again.

I was minding my own business at Starbucks tonight when Ernst showed up and I invited him to join me at the table. That's when he hit me with the "news". I felt like I'd been drafted for, much more so than offered, the position. Let's just say that it pays less than Time Magazine but I accepted. Who says that "retirement" can't be fun? Plus I'll get to eat all those goodies at all those parties and meet some new people. And you can read all about it right here!

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

Brown Sugar

This isn't going to be a long rambling post. I just love what the flavor of brown sugar does to my coffee at Starbucks. It imparts a slight molasses flavor to the brew. Add a bit of half & half and I'm in heaven.

This is another one of my "just stick the damned subject in the scanner!" pictures, no camera used!

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Political Consultant Monkette Is Getting Greedy!

Monkette has been driving me crazy lately, wanting to go to homeowners' association meetings, city council meetings, and now we're about to start the whirl of campaign kick-off parties for the various candidates.
What's really mind blowing is that people are always asking me about her, even asking me to bring her with me. I'm beginning to think that nobody really gives two hoots about me. I'm just Monkettes wheels, her chauffer, nothing more.
So here we are at a Central North Miami Homeowners' Association meeting. That blond woman with her chin resting on her hand is council candidate Michelle Garcia. Monkette already has her card. In a few days she'll be dragging me to Bonnie Schwartzbaum's kick-off party. Michelle and Bonnie are in different districts. For the most part Monkette prefers female candidates but she's already committed to work for Frank Wolland in his bid for mayor. "He has the most experience!" she says referring to his previous terms as a very good mayor. Monkette also likes the fact that Frank wants to reverse the current mayor and council's course of profligate spending. In lean times you don't lay off hard working long time employees to pay $300,000 for another veterans' memorial while giving themselves lifetime medical insurance, a generous retirement plan, an open ended expense account, and a totally outrageous boost in salary. Of course it's us, the tax payers who are getting the shaft. We need a mayor and council who can manage to survive on more traditional sources of income. Simple graft and corruption was always good enough in the past!

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A Match From The Past ~ STEVE'S PIZZA

Steve's pizza is the best I've ever had. Yes, you can buy slices! It's one of those roadside places out of the past. You sit down after you place (and pay for) your order. When it's ready they'll shout your name and you pick up your own damned pizza and drinks. No table service!
No napkins either. They have these varnished wood bases with a vertical dowel on every table. There's a roll of paper twels on the dowel. I guess paper towels are cheaper than napkins. You can sit inside or outside and everybody's friendly, passing grated cheese or hot pepper one table to the next, and if your party has more people than chairs somebody will offer their spare.
I think they're about the last place on the planet to have a basket of matches next to the register. No, they don't sell cigarettes, but the outside dining attracts smokers, as if the fantastic pizza wasn't enough of a draw. Check it out. It's on the east side of U.S. 1 Biscayne Blvd.) at 121st Street.

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