Gasparilla Island Lighthouse - Boca Grande, Florida

Here's another lighthouse shot from one of those lighthouses many don't know about, unless of course, you've been to Boca Grande, Florida on the West Coast of Florida.

It's not your traditional lighthouse, but I like it.

Happy Sunday.

St. Simons Lighthouse - St. Simons Island, Georgia

Well, I don't only photograph Florida landmarks. I sometimes venture into our neighboring state, Georgia, which has one of my favorite lighthouses.

So, today, is my tribute to the great state of Georgia.

Next time I head out to GA, it will have to be Savannah and straight to Paula Dean's to eat some fine southern cooking.

By the way, in St. Simons, there is the best crab cake place near the lighthouse. Can't recall the name, but you can't miss it. Everyone knows where it is.
Happy Saturday, y'all.

Senator to speak against Cuba's oil exploration

Finally, someone is trying to get legislation passed to stop the senile and fatigued old tyrant's attempt to drill off of the Florida Keys with the help of those corporations who would do business with the Devil himself for a few Euros . . .

Our Everglades Must be protected at all costs . . .

here's the article. More on the legislation when it comes out...

From the Wire & Sun Sentinel:

Nelson announces bill to block Cuban oil drilling near Keys
KAYAssociated PressApril 28, 2006, 4:12 PM EDT
MIAMI -- U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
announced legislation Friday to keep Cuba from oil drilling in the waters
between the Caribbean island nation and the Florida Keys.The Democratic
senator's bill would block the renewal of a 1977 international agreement
allowing Cuba to conduct commercial activity near the Keys -- unless Cuba would
agree not to put oil rigs in the Florida Straits close to the low-lying island
chain off Florida's southern tip.``At risk are the Florida Keys and the state's
tourism economy, not to mention the $8 billion that Congress is investing to
restore the Everglades,'' Nelson in a statement.The 1977 Maritime Boundary
Agreement dividing control of the 90 miles of sea between Cuba and the Keys must
be renewed every two years, and was last renewed in 2004.Nelson's legislation
would also deny visas to executives of foreign oil companies who continue
drilling off Cuba's northern coast.A message left for the Cuban Interests
Section in Washington, D.C., was not immediately returned.In a February meeting
in Mexico with U.S. energy executives, Cuban officials announced plans to double
their drilling capacity and explore for oil offshore. Since the discovery of oil
deposits off its coast two years ago, Cuba has signed exploration deals with
Canadian, Chinese, Indian and Norwegian firms.Nelson has joined Mel Martinez,
Florida's Republican senator, in opposing efforts to allow oil and gas drilling
off the state's Gulf coast, saying drilling could interfere with military
training and poses environmental risks that could threaten beaches vital to
Florida's tourism industry.A Martinez spokesman said he could not immediately
comment Friday.U.S. Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., who last year co-sponsored
legislation that would have removed drilling moratoriums in parts of the Gulf of
Mexico, called Nelson's bill an ``attempt to control the national energy policy
of Cuba.''Other countries already drill just as close to the coasts of other
states, Peterson said.``If Mr. Nelson was serious about preventing foreign
nations from producing energy off our coasts, his bill would seek to obstruct
the Canadian drilling program as well _ which has set up shop off Maine in the
east, Washington state in the West, and Lake Erie in the north,'' Peterson said
in a statement.U.S. companies are prohibited from doing business with Cuba under
a 45-year-old trade embargo.
Copyright © 2006,
South Florida Sun-Sentinel


It's Friday once more ...

I won't be too wordy today.

I'll simply leave you with a quote from one of the greatest Americans, John Adams:

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
-- John Adams

How sad, that given the state of the world, we must still study politics and war. Unfortunately, many do not even study politics and war, but are simply sponges of rhetoric, polemic, and propaganda by the cults of personality which pervade our media and society, especially those who have a penchant to wearing Che Guevarra shirts and those who get aroused at the site of an old bearded shmendrick in fatigues or a middle aged shmuck in a red beret who touts poison darts as a weapons system.

On a side note, since this is primarily a photo blog, this male Northern Cardinal has decided to make South Florida his home. We met at Loxahatchee NWR in Palm Beach, County. He introduced himself to me and told me that his friends called him Dizzy; named after the great Cardinal Dizzy Dean and the great bop musician, Dizzy Gillespe. As his photogapher, he advised me that I was to refer to him as "John."

Have a great weekend y'all.

Wildlife Photography in Hialeah, Florida

For many of us who live in South Florida, Hialeah has become the brunt of many jokes. Namely, that you cannot find your way around because their streets are numbered differently than the rest of the County. That it is too crowded. That it is ugly because it is predominantly industrial. That the traffic is horrible. That there is no real green spaces there.

To some extent, the above is true. However, there is some green space in the City. Specifically, Amelia Earhart Park. This park is a great place for the family and there are some nice ponds and lakes with sort of waterfowl and wading birds such as white ibis. This image was taken there, in Hialeah. So, yes Virginia, there is some nature in Hialeah, you just have to open your eyes to find it. (Also a good map or gps would help too).

Sunset - Captiva, Florida

This image was taken on the beaches of Captiva, Florida. One of the great beaches and wildlife areas in Florida's Southwest Coast. I usually make it to Sanibel/Captiva at least once a year, if only for one day of shooting.

This particular image was taken on the Captiva side of Blind's Pass, which is the demarcation line between Sanibel and Captiva. Before Hurricane Charlie, a strong current ran through Blind's Pass. The pass could only be crossed by the bridge separating the two islands or by a wily individual who was willing to brave the strong currents.

The jetties at Blind Pass are popular with fishermen. The pass is also popular with wading birds, Herons and Egrets, as well as a wide variety of shorebirds such as terns, skimmers, gulls, willets, sandpipers, ruddy turnstones, and others. In the days when Sanibel's Ding Darling was slow for avian photography, many would find solace at Blind's Pass, as you are virtually guaranteed to get some decent avian shots there along the shore.

Hurricane Charlie changed the landscape. No longer does a current run through blind's pass. The pass has been filled in by sand. You can now walk from Sanibel to Captiva. Most of the jetty is not over sand and not water. I laughed the last time I was there seeing a sign buried on the beach which read, "Dangerous Currents, No Swimming."

Blind's Pass is one of the spots of the most spectacular sunsets in Florida. Both Sanibel and Captiva and much of the Gulf Coast of Florida lives and dies by tourism and fishing. It is one of the most popular destination in winter for the snowbirds and summer for busy Floridians such as myself who are dying to get away from the City to chill out on the island and its environs.

Fortunately, we have had many years of support from both parties of government in keeping out offshore oil drilling from our Florida coast. With the current surge in gas prices, many are clamoring that we need to drill off of Florida. I am thankful to our Senator Mel Martinez and others in our Florida delegation who continue to fight hard to keep folks from drilling off of Florida.

The reason is simple. Drilling off of Florida will not solve any problem. We have plenty of oil in Alaska that is simply sold off rather than being used for domestic consumption due to lack of refineries. What we need is more refinery capacity. Moreover, the risks outweigh any benefits of drilling off of Florida. There is no evidence of any significant reserves of oil in the Gulf, and if there were, the risk of hurricanes or accidents and of an oil spill would be catastrophic to our coast.

As I've mentioned in previous essays, I am not some tree hugger or some PETA nut. I am one who understands the role of business and the importance of markets. Frankly, the price of gasoline in this Country is high due to taxes, world politics, environmental requirements, tariffs, and the lack of refinery capacity. We pay half of what Europe pays for gasoline. But the question is, do we risk killing our main industry in Florida, tourism, and our ecosystem and wildlife so you folks can save money filling your SUV's? The answer is no. The reality is that you will not save any money if drilling is allowed off of Florida. It is a farce.

Currently, there is an oil slick threatening the Delaware coast. It is believed to have originated from a tanker. If the currents and winds have their way, then you will see it hit the Delaware coast, ruining beaches and killing off shorebirds.

The same could happen here if these folks get their way. This would force the hotels to close up. The condos on the beach would be rendered worthless. Then the stores and restaurants would shut down. It would be an economic tragedy to our State should an oil spill cause serious contamination to our beaches. It would be a tragedy if our wildlife is killed by oil slicks.

Just look how something natural like the Red Tide in the Gulf last year adversely affected the fishing/sports fishing and tourist industry on the Gulf Coast. And that is minor compared to what an oil spill would cause to our shores.

Moreover, our wildlife and avian populations would be threatened as well. I spend a great deal of time in the swamps, the Everglades, and the Gulf Coast. I'll be damned if I allow anyone to ruin it. Fidel doesn't give a s*it whether he ruins the natural beauty of Cuba; as evidenced by the swill that permeates Havana and its environs. The fact that the bearded tyrant does not care about ruining the Gulf, does not mean that we should do it to. In any event, the reserves in the Gulf, if any, are so scant, they would not justify the cost and potential to ruin our precious coastlines. Cuba's been trying to drill out there for years and haven't gotten squat. There was a great editorial in the WSJ on a related issue http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110008286

I agree with those that say, if you drive an SUV or Hummer and complain about filling up your tank, well who told you to get one of those. To those who are driving hybrids, well, they're laughing right now.

The reality is that the market should dictate the price of gas. If the price gets too high, then perhaps folks will stop consumption and thus, the price will revert to a normal rate.

Drilling off of Florida is not going to solve the problem. Drilling in ANWR would help as would the addition of more refining capacity plus the repeal of the duty on imported ethanol.

Take a look at the images in my blog and my portfolios. Many of the images I've shot on the Gulf Coast and in the Everglades. Much of the ecosystem has been damaged already. It is our duty to protect it and preserve it for future generations. The future generations could not care less about your SUV’s. Let the market dictate prices and let’s do away with OPEC. You let the marketplace control and prices will stabilize. Let politicians run thing, and it will be a disaster.

If the other states want drilling off of their coast, that's fine by me so long as it's far enough way from my state. If they want to risk ruining their coasts, then so be; just don't ruin mine.

Thank God for Senator Mel Martinez and Gov. Bush for their efforts in keeping our Florida coasts pristine.

Nesting Osprey - 10,000 Islands NWR

One of my favorite bird: The Osprey

Shot at 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Reserve, Everglades National Park. This nest was located on a channel marker near Everglades City.

Shot from a flats boat. There is a treasure trove of osprey in the 10,000 Islands NWR as well as in Florida Bay. You need a boat to get to them, but if you do, you will be rewarded with many a fine photo opportunity.


Bye Sol, Manana Sol

"Bye Sol, Manana Sol" is what my son used to say as a 3 year old when I would take him to see the sunsets on the West Coast of Florida. To me it signifies the innocent optimism that the sun will return the next morning to grace our day. Young children do not understand the scientific explanation of things. Only that the sun goes down and rises the next morning. I find a child's innocent comments and phrases so refreshing these days. They say so much more than the polemic and rhetoric of our leaders, and of the dregs of society who wish to be our defacto leaders (i.e., the mainstream media, Hollywood, the music industry, the ACLU, etc.)

With all the drech that is going on with this planet, from the mid-east to the gas crises, to global warming, to global pollution, to human pollution, to avian flu, to mental pollution, to nutty Presidents in South America waiting to shoot people with poison darts, to nutty people in the Mideast who want to kill people to get laid with 100 virgins, to politicians in the District of Columbia who can’t see the forest though the trees, to the people in South Florida who cannot see the Everglades though the development, to the traffic we face every day, to an upcoming Hurricane Season, et seq. You get the point? I can continue. if you like.
You have to thank God that the young ones truly have no clue about the mess the adults have created for them.There are certain absolutes in the world with respect to morality. Once those absolutes are gone by the wayside, once hatred and Machiavellian justifications for our actions take precedent over love of God and family, once respect for human life is eviscerated, then we are no better than Fidel and his minions. I really wonder if the children of tyranny possess the same innocence than the children who live in freedom.

The Godless immoral society that is being wrought upon us is fighting for the soul of our children. And we must fight back. To quote the old CSN&Y song:

Teach your children well.
Their father's hell will slowly go by.
feed them on your dreams.
The one they pick's the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why.
If they told you, you would cry.
just look at them and sigh.
And know they love you.

Up Up and Away . . .

Shot this morning at the 23rd Annual Sunrise Community Balloon Race at Tamiami Airport, Miami, Florida.

...In My Beautiful Balloon

Got up this morning, albeit an hour late, but fortunately, low winds delayed the launch by one hour. So I managed some balloon shots after all at the annual 2006 23rd Annual Sunrise Community Balloon Race this morning at Tamiami Airport.

On the Seventh Day . . .

Well folks, it's Sunday. So I greet you with a photo of a Barred Owl which I took last February in Osceola County, during an instructional photo tour with Jim Neiger. The man is amazing at getting you photo ops of some cool birds, especially owls...my favorites.

Jim's web site is http://www.photosbynature.com/

If you want to see and photograph some great species in Central Florida, hook up with him. In one afternoon, I got images of owls, hawks, bald eagles, meandowlarks, just to name a few.

So, hopefully we'll have a great week.

Earthday 2006

So today is Earthday 2006. A holiday or whatever it is to placate tree-huggers. Folks, everyday is Earthday, not just this yearly event that people feel the urge to be "green." We have a moral obligation to God and each other to make sure we take care of our planet.

My part of the planet is at 25 degrees latitude and 90 degrees west in North American, in the southeast point of a penisula called Florida.

Florida has its Everglades - the river of grass. One of the truly natural wonders of the world. The glades has so much wildlife and birds of all types, it is a treasure trove for nature photographers and people who simply enjoy nature. You can go deep in the glades and hear nothing that is human kind. Nothing but silence. The glades is one place you can see spoonbills. My favorite bird. But, for some here in Florida, the Gl;ades is in the way of development. Of what may you ask? Develope what? It is the swamp. Nothing but gators, birds, bugs....who would want to live there?

Well, it's the builders and developers people. They've run out of space. So they take with them the "Go West, young man" motto and lobby the County Commissioners to move the UDB, Urban Development Boundry line to build more homes. They tell us we need cheaper housing, because housing is getting to expensive. Of course, you know what this really means, build more housing, don't build enough infrastructure, and get another Kendall or Pembroke Pines. Build, Build, Build. Let the people enjoy traffic jams from hell each morning and afternoon. Let the schools have 90 kids to a classroom cause there are too many people here.
Well, if they build build build into the Glades, it will continue to kill off this natural wonder. People have killed off a great deal of it already. I have a Florida map in my office from 1863 and you should see how big the Glades was. Compare to what you have there now. It ain't much folks.
The problem is easy here. We have to many friggin people. Fix up the inner city and what is already there. If it is too crowded for people or too expensive, let them live somewhere else. Stop coming to south Florida people. We have no more room. Leave the Glades alone.
At least the Commissioners for now decided on leaving the UDB where it is down South near the Glades. Special Thanks to our great gov. Jeb who opposed the moving of the UDB. Frankly, his support in my opinion made the difference.
Most, if not all, of these shmucks who would rather see townhouses rather than fields of grass in the Everglades have never been there to experienced God's gift to Florida. I do not wish them any mean like getting eaten by a gator or an exotic python that have invaded our ecosystem. But may that the salt marsh mosquitoes of 100 acres of the Glades invade their armpits before they decide to or try to build another inch into the Everglades ecosystem.

Happy Earth-Day


Thunderstorm Over Chokoloskee

Shot in 10,000 Islands NWR Everglades National Park.

Portland Head Lighthouse - Portland, Maine

There was a recent comments about whether I had anything negative against those from the Northeast and whether I’d been there. The answer to the questions is no, I’ve got no issues with folks from the NE. My only beef with people anywhere is simply whether they are rude and obnoxious. Here in South Florida we have our share of rude and obnoxious folks, many of them old and retired and from the NE who should not be driving. But, my comments are all in fun. Funny thing is that I deal with attorneys from the big cities, New York, Boston, and Washington, DC, and I can’t tell you how much they crack me up. They think us attorneys from South Florida are a bunch of country bumpkins. What really cracks me up is that so many of them love to come off as ultra aggressive with an attitude that they will crush us Southern yahoos. In the end, they always give in to our Southern charm (and in my case, Southern Cuban charm). Most of them I’ve concluded are paper lawyers. We all got to make a living, but there’s no need to be rude and nasty and obnoxious. People in my profession today feel that the ends justify the means to win a case even it means sandbagging your opponent, lying to the court, and simply using the system to harass your opposition and force them into submission.
How I wish I could have practiced in the days when attorneys rode the circuit with the judges and when the practice was goverened by civility.
As for the photo, it is of the Portland Head Lighthouse in Portland, Maine. It is in the Northeast and is in one of my favorite States outside of Florida. It was the first lighthouse commissioned in the US by none other than his Excellency, George Washington in 1791.

My Reflections: Where is the John Adams of the 21st Century?

Well my friends, it’s been a heck of a week. One of my busiest of the year. It’s been so busy I’ve not had time to make it out into the field and shoot. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll get out in the field this weekend and get some new shots.

I’ve just finished reading “1776” and “John Adams” by David McCullough and “Team of Rivals” by Doris Goodwin, which deal with George Washington and his contemporaries, John Adams and Jefferson, and Lincoln. I’m currently reading “Alexander Hamilton” by Chernow. I’m in awe of the genius of our founding fathers. It’s fascinating reading about John Adams (who had to be the most intelligent founding father we ever had), and Alexander Hamilton, both who were attorneys, and just imagine how their practices were in the 18th and early 19th Century. From what I’ve read, these folks won their cases on their wits and oratory and not by acting like rude, pompous, bullyboys.

The genius of our founding fathers is awe inspiring. I guess I’m so sick of the current times we’re living in that I have found solace discovering the times of our forefathers who created a Republican form of government from scratch. Their use of the English language was amazing. These folks were learned in different languages (French, Greek, Latin), were well read in the classics, and philosophers, and were all deep men of faith.

John Adams carried a book everywhere he went and his passion was reading. Jefferson amassed a huge library in his day. To them, knowledge was more valuable than gold.

I just stop to ponder what John Adams would think of America today. I’m sure he would be vilified because of his faith. Folks today feel they don’t have a need for God anymore. John Adams devoted so much of his life to public service and spent years away from his family whom he loved so much to ensure that their noble experiment of government by the people, and for the people would work. This was a time when men like him favored service and duty to their country over personal gain.
He drafted the original Massachusetts Constitution (which became a model for our US Constitution years later). Two of the provisions are quite noteworthy:

Article II

It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious


Section II: The Encouragement of Literature, etc

Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings;
sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.

These two principles are striking especially when viewed in today’s era. Both of these principles are virtually gone today. In fact, if one were to say today “It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe,” you would be labeled a religious extremist. The second principle that “wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue” are “necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties” was truly revolutionary; not just for its day, but even today. Everyone talks the talk on education, but nobody really cares. Neither the federal, state, or local governments in this County place the importance on this as they should. Teachers are one of the lowest paid professions in this Country. How sad is that. What is even more disturbing is that the people do not care either. They do nothing to demand their government the resources needed to ensure that our children are given the wisdom and knowledge they need to ensure the preservation of our rights and liberties.

The masses will go out to criticize immigration reform while at the same time burn the flag and wear Che Guevara shirts. They will protest the war wearing Che Guevara shirts, praising folks like Hugo Chavez and Fidel and the idiots who follow them. They will go out in mass to protest in favor of saving pregnant pigs wearing Che Guevara shirts. Why do these people wear the shirt of a murderer? Why do our youth worship criminals and drug dealers? It’s simple: lack of education. They are not taught the truth of the atrocities and murders that this man perpetuated. The masses are education by the mass media and advertising rather than by reading the classics; rather than reading history. How sad is it that most young African American can name you the name of all the rap stars and not have any clue who John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Theolonius Monk, Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis were when it was African Americans who gave us jazz music. It’s lack of education. How many young people in America today, of all races and creeds, do you think can tell you who Alexander Hamilton was? Or James Madison? Or their achievements. I bet not many. But they all know who J-Lo is.

Again, think about what John Adams wrote when placed in the converse: that without wisdom and knowledge, our rights and liberties will wither away. Many of us ask ourselves how people like Hugo Chavez, Hamas, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Evo Morales, and others of their ilk can be elected by the people. It’s simple. Lack of education. Tyrants thrive among the illiterate. This is where Castro found his largest supporters. Once in power, tyrants keep their power by keeping the public ignorant. Well, you can get eye surgery in Cuba today, but heaven forbid you give the people internet access to the world of ideas.

I recently purchased the complete correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Some of the excerpts were contained in the “John Adams” biography. You read their letters and they spoke about Cicero, and Newton. In fact, after resuming their correspondence in 1812, in response to Adams’ letter, Thomas Jefferson wrote the following: “I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid; and I find myself much the happier.” How many of our leaders today do you think would know who Jefferson was talking about? Get my point.

And so as I end my rambling thoughts at 1:52 a.m., I wish you all a great weekend.


Nature Photo of the Day - Roseate Spoonbill

My favorite Bird and my nemises bird. This photo was taken on my birthday in 2005. My first spoonbill photo.

Ode to the Cigar, Part II

In my previous post, I posted one of Kipling’s Post on Cigars. As you can see from this poem written in the 19th century, cigars and Cuba go back centuries.

My first exposure to cigars was as a young child when I would see my Abuelo, who I nicknamed “Pow”, puffing on his Churchills. He would complain that they were nothing like the H. Upmann Churchills he used to smoke when he lived in Cuba.

In his later years, he lost his desire for cigars as he became convinced that his exile would be a permanent one. He came here in the mid 1960’s via Spain. Already a man in his 60’s. He came here ready to work; he had worked his whole life. But in those days, men in their 60’s were considered “too old” to be hired for work. So he would spend his days at home, playing with his grandson, drink my grandmother’s God awful Cuban coffee as if it was the best coffee ever made, read El Dario Las Americas, listen to Spanish radio, and finally, watch the one Spanish TV station at the time, Channel 23.

I really liked the aroma of cigars, but hated the smell of cigar butts my Abuelo would leave around the house. My father smoked cigars every now and then, but it was rare. He was a cigarette smoke having grown up in the 30’s and 40’s in South America. I hated cigarettes.

After my Abuelo passed, I came reacquainted with cigars when I was in high school in the early 1980’s. This was many years before it became chic to smoke cigars and before Cigar Aficionado. I would buy cigars from the local Cuban Cafeteria (typically a Partagas No. 2 or Partagas Tubo). I would smoke them, in part, to annoy the cigarette smokers and also in part because of my rebellious nature. There was only one other cigar smoker in my high school, and that was and continues to be my best friend, Craw.

In college, we would go to Mike’s Cigars when it used to be on Arthur Godfrey Road in Miami Beach and get boxes of fine cigars for $ 35. I would also order boxes of Arturo Fuente Hemingways for $60 in those days out of Tampa (usually Ed’s Pipe and Tobacco). In the early 1990’s, my buddy Craw turned me on to the La Gloria Cubana, Torpedoes, which we used to get in a bundle from the factory in Little Havana for $ 40.

Prices went through the roof with the mid 1990’s cigar boom until them stabilized in the late 1990’s. A good box of cigars will now run you close to $ 200.00.

I enjoy smoking a nice stogie with a fine spirit, but always prefer smoking one at the counter of a Cuban cafeteria where the aromas of café Cubano and cigar smoke mingle.

Until the last election in Florida, we used to be allowed to smoke cigars in bars, billiard rooms, restaurants, etc. In fact, my days of law school, it was a weekly event to get together with my friends, usually Craw, and go to the billiard room at Bird Bowl in South Miami and smoke a few while we played a few hours of pool. When I started practicing law, I would smoke one after work at the local billiard parlor as well. I used to enjoy smoking a cigar at a nice bar with a martini or a fine ale.

Well, those days are gone. The pleasure Nazis decided to make it unlawful for businesses to allow smoking indoors. Here in Florida, if you serve food, forget it; no cigars. These same idiots who want to deny free enterprise and choice to people and business feel it is in my best interest that smoking be prohibited in public places such as restaurants and bars. In some other states such as the People’s Republic of California, they want to ban it even outdoors. Even New York has gone crazy. I used to enjoy drinking bass ale and smoking cigars at the pubs on Bleacher Street in the village. Can’t do it. The irony is that in a way, these pleasure police and their tactics are no better than what totalitarian dictators do: they want to inhibit the freedom to choose. They feel that they and the government knows what is best. Of course, these closet communists will argue that in Florida, the voters passed the constitutional amendment to prohibit smoking. Yes, and they voted to give protected status rights to pregnant pigs too. Of course, they bombarded the airways with ads of 14 year old girls with breathing problems saying that they were suffering because of smoke in bars. What the hell is a 14 year old girl doing in a bar? Adults are treated like children. Soon, adults will have to ask permission from some bureaucrat just to take a leak. Crazy I tell you.

In any event, I digress. I now smoke my cigars outside while it is still permissible and if someone is offended by it, then get out of my airspace. Finally, because this is a photoblog, the image I’ve posted herein is of the one few places you can smoke, a Cigar Bar. Specifically, this bar is in the Cigar City of Tampa, in Ybor City. The image below is of a cigar roller from the Grove.

So have a cafesito and a smoke for me. Ciao.

Ode to the Cigar - Part I

The Betrothed

“You must choose between me and your cigar.”
— Breach of Promise Case, circa 1885.

Rudyard Kipling


OPEN the old cigar-box, get me a Cuba stout,
For things are running
crossways, and Maggie and I are out.
We quarrelled about Havanas—we fought
o’er a good cheroot,
And I knew she is exacting, and she says I am a brute.

Open the old cigar-box—let me consider a space;
In the soft blue
veil of the vapour musing on Maggie’s face.

Maggie is pretty to look
at—Maggie’s a loving lass,
But the prettiest cheeks must wrinkle, the truest
of loves must pass.

There’s peace in a Larranaga, there’s calm in a
Henry Clay;
But the best cigar in an hour is finished and thrown away—

Thrown away for another as perfect and ripe and brown—
But I could
not throw away Maggie for fear o’ the talk o’ the town!

Maggie, my wife
at fifty—grey and dour and old—
With never another Maggie to purchase for
love or gold!

And the light of Days that have Been the dark of the Days
that Are,
And Love’s torch stinking and stale, like the butt of a dead

The butt of a dead cigar you are bound to keep in your pocket—
With never a new one to light tho’ it’s charred and black to the socket!

Open the old cigar-box—let me consider a while.
Here is a mild
Manila—there is a wifely smile.

Which is the better portion—bondage
bought with a ring,
Or a harem of dusky beauties, fifty tied in a string?

Counsellors cunning and silent—comforters true and tried,
And never
a one of the fifty to sneer at a rival bride?

Thought in the early
morning, solace in time of woes,
Peace in the hush of the twilight, balm ere
my eyelids close,

This will the fifty give me, asking nought in return,
With only a Suttee’s passion—to do their duty and burn.

This will
the fifty give me. When they are spent and dead,
Five times other fifties
shall be my servants instead.

The furrows of far-off Java, the isles of
the Spanish Main,
When they hear my harem is empty will send me my brides

I will take no heed to their raiment, nor food for their mouths
So long as the gulls are nesting, so long as the showers fall.

I will scent ’em with best vanilla, with tea will I temper their hides,
And the Moor and the Mormon shall envy who read of the tale of my brides.

For Maggie has written a letter to give me my choice between
The wee
little whimpering Love and the great god Nick o’ Teen.

And I have been
servant of Love for barely a twelvemonth clear,
But I have been Priest of
Cabanas a matter of seven year;

And the gloom of my bachelor days is
flecked with the cheery light
Of stumps that I burned to Friendship and
Pleasure and Work and Fight.

And I turn my eyes to the future that
Maggie and I must prove,
But the only light on the marshes is the
Will-o’-the-Wisp of Love.

Will it see me safe through my journey or
leave me bogged in the mire?
Since a puff of tobacco can cloud it, shall I
follow the fitful fire?

Open the old cigar-box—let me consider anew—
Old friends, and who is Maggie that I should abandon you?

A million
surplus Maggies are willing to bear the yoke;
And a woman is only a woman,
but a good Cigar is a Smoke.

Light me another Cuba—I hold to my
first-sworn vows.
If Maggie will have no rival, I’ll have no Maggie for

Let's Get Aggresive

I wonder why this old man at the beach wore this shirt? He was pretty old, believe me. Perhaps he wanted to get aggresive at the line at Publix? Or while trying to park his car? Who knows.

He's probably from the North East where it is a badge of honor to "get aggresive."

If you're a native Floridian or you live and are acclimated to living in the Keys or on the various islands in Florida, you tend to cop a different attitude. I call it the parrothead attitude. It is:

1) chill out dude
2) I want to enjoy my drink and cigar
3) I want to wear island attire and listen to Jimmy Buffett music as well as to Bob Marley
4) I don't want to shave (applies to men only) or comb my hair...
5) I'd rather go fishing

So if you see this old guy in Broward County, Florida, buy him a drink, cause I think he really needs it. In fact, if you see me on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (which you likely will since I work there all week), buy me a drink, why don't ya?

Fly Like an Osprey

Many years ago, Steve Miller the songwriter wrote the song "Fly Like An Eagle," a breakthrough song for the era especially with the use of synths. It later became a theme song for the post office, oy vay. In any event, being a Floridian, I would rather fly like an Osprey into the Bay as this one did when I captured its image last summer. This creature was taken in Florida bay at Sunrise from a flats boat.

Even Napolean Dynamite would be impressed with those talons.

Off to work. And as my favorite songwriter Brian Wilson would say, "Love and Mercy" to you today.

Art Show This Weekend

My friend Fabiola who is one incredible nature photographer and mixed media digital artist is one of many artists being features at the Art Nemesis gallery. I'm going to try to make it, but if you're in the area here in South Florida, I strongly urge you to go.

Florida as Art - Sanibel

For years, I have had to hear the moaning and groaning of folks who complain about Florida, i.e.: "it's too hot"; "there's no seasons", "it's boring", yadda yadda yadda.

My response to these folks is that you've not seen Florida. All you see is the fumes from cars on I-95 on the east and I-75 on the West or I-4 in the middle as well as on the byroads on y'all's way to work. Most folks think that Florida is just the beach, Disney World, and watching the hoi polloi on South Beach. Folks, you ain't seen Florida.

It's ironic that on my trips to the Everglades, I run into more out of towners than I see locals. I run into people from Europe, Canada, and from other parts of the USA. When I run into them, I try to be a gracious host and tell them of the best natural spots to visit in Florida and its environs. I'm tired of the reputation for rudeness we have here. (Although much of that was imported from the big cities of the NE. You don't find much rudeness on the west coast of Florida. They're mainly mid-westerner transplants over there).
But back to my point. Florida is a natural work of art. For many years now, I've made it a point to get to know as much of my state as I can. And without a doubt, you'll not find a more unique place for a tete a tete with nature. All you have to do is open your eyes and look around. After you pass the Wal-Marts and fast food places, and office buildings, banks and condos, you'll find a canvas waiting to be painted and a photo waiting to be taken.
One of my favorite locations in Florida is on the West Coast, i.e. Lee County, Florida, especially the island of Sanibel. If you time your visit just right, you can see works of art emerge before your eyes. This one particular image was at the beach at lighthouse park one summer day.
I love summer in Florida. It's hot, but so what. I love the summer storms and the wonderful cloud patterns they provide for my art. I can do without hurricanes, as I've had my fill. But I'll never leave. This is truly my home.
So for those who continue to kvetch and complain and moan and groan about how horrible it is here in Florida, I will gladly point you to the real Florida to maybe change your mind. If that does not work, well, northbound I-95 and I-75 await you.

The Everglades - My Sanctuary

Another work week friends. So I start it with a place I'd rather be at this moment, the greatest place in the State, the Everglades. It's the one place I find peace and solace in the world. You can have Paris and NYC, I'll take the Everglades.

This image is at the Pahayokee Overlook and is entitled Moonrise over Everglades Plain.

Kiss the Shade Goodbye at John U. Lloyd State Park

This is how I used to remember John U. Lloyd State Park. It was the only beach in South Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 where you could sit in the shade of a pine tree and walk 10 feet and hit the ocean. From this image (circa 2003), you can see lots of shade trees near the beach. I used to spend my Easters there staring at the ocean through the plumes of cigar smoke.

So, today on Easter Sunday, I decided to head out there again, so I could plant my chair under a pine tree and enjoy a nice breeze while looking at the ocean. I left my beach umbrellas at home since I figured I would not need them. Well, much as changed since Hurricane Wilma and Katrina made their way through Broward County. There is no more shade at John U. Lloyd. None. Zilch. It is nothing but bare beach, with picnic tables under no shade and a lot of newly planted sable palms with not even an inch of shade. They've brought in a ton of sand, so now you have to walk a lot to get to the beach. So it's bye bye to this beach for me. I figure to head back to El Farito. They at least have some shade, but you still have to walk to the beach a bit. In any event, I ended up at CB Smith Park instead after wasting $5 on the entrance fee to JULSP. Spent the day at the waterpark there. Not quite the beach, but it was fun.


Happy Easter

While most of us in South Florida enjoy our Easter Sunday by admiring the beauty of the ocean, a sunset, the tropcal breezes from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, please take a moment to ponder what Easter Sunday, or as it should be aptly called, Resurrection Day, is really about. Take a moment from your day at the beach, or your Easter Lunch or Dinner and ponder the sacrifice taken that day for all of mankind. Even to those who face the daily despair of tyranny and evil, know that there is a power greater than all the power of men: The power of love and mercy. God bless all of you.
Technical Info: The first image is of Key West, Florida. The second image is of La Leche Shrine in St. Augustine, Florida to which I added multiple photoshop effects.

The Laughing Gull

It's spring and the laughing fulls are in their breeding colors. Here's one from the Crandon Park marina in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Today's a great day to visit the beach if you can. It's sunny and 76 degrees, although the surf is a tad cold for us tropical creatures. We don't hit the surf for another month.

El Granizado Man

As I am here working at home today, on a legal brief (how exciting), shortly after I feel the earth move under my feet (as a result of Rinker's blasting out west of me), I hear a bell in the street. What do you know, it is the Granizado Man. He's got his wares to feed the painters next door and the other folks who are working outdoors today on this sunny and warm day in Miami lakes, Florida. I go outside cause I'm thirsty and ordered a Tamarind Granizado. Man that was delicious. The gentlemen was gracious enough to pose for me so here t'is, the Granizado Man. He also sells tamales, hot dogs, and other delicious items (but I'm being good today and not eating meat - and I'm not even Catholic). He tells me he's been touring the neighborhood for five years. Since I'm never here, I would not have known. I definately loved his colorful vehicle.

The image was taken on my Canon S-50 P&S Camera. I processed it in Photoshop CS and used a Lucis Art filter and an AutoFX Edges filter to give it the look. So yes folks, you don't need an expensive camera to create art.

Good Friday

Good Friday, 2006.

This image was taken at La Leche Shrine in St. Augustine, Florida.

Hope everyone has a great holiday weekend.

Coming Face to Face with your Past Self

Well, as I come to the end of my first week of blogging, I’ve found this outlet quite fun. Since today is Good Friday, I will post two images. The first image I have here is a photo of the great Cuban Sculptor, Tony Lopez, taken by me a few years back.

Tony has been a part of my life as far back as my memory can remember. One of my parents’ closest friends, he was one of the folks who was with us every Sunday at El Farito as I posted in my previous essay. (And he was the best hitter in the softball games too.) He was there at all my birthday parties, and even to this day, he has always been a fixture at either my Thanksgiving Table or Noche Buena table.

He’s also been a fixture here in Miami. His studio, on NW 36th Street and NW 2nd Avenue, is the only thing that has remained the same in that neighborhood since the late 1950’s. The neighborhood has undergone many changes in the past 45 plus years, but his studio remains the same. You’ll still find him there every day working on his art. If you’ve been anywhere around Miami, you’ve surely seen his work, to wit:. his busts of Cuban heroes like Jose Marti are located throughout the city, his pieta in St. Mary’s Cathedral, the Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach, his statue of Claude Pepper on Bayfront Park, and most recently his roosters in Little Havana.

Tony is an encyclopedia of jokes. Anytime you would invite him to dinner or whether at the Noche Buena table, he will grace you with a plethora of chistes. Not only are his jokes funny, but his delivery is par none.

Back when I was seven years old, Tony made a bust of yours truly. He considers it one of his best works and it sits in his studio. In essence, he has immortalized my youth in a work of art. Thus, in this image, I come face to face with myself as I was at age seven. I remember posing for him. It was 1972. Much has changed in 34 years. We’ve gotten older. Tony has gotten more gray, but he’s just as funny as he was back then. But my essence as an innocent seven year old is preserved for the ages in this bust.

I’ve had the privilege of visiting the greatest museums in the world and seeing the greatest works of art from the masters of the ages. But one particular day, in the summer of 1985, while visiting an impressionist exhibit in Rome on loan from the Hermitage, I came upon an 1878 Renoir painting of a young woman, Actress Jeanne Samary http://www.artdreamguide.com/adg/_arti/_r/_renoi/img/_jpg/552.jpg

I was transfixed on this portrait of this gorgeous woman painted in the 19th Century. I literally stood there for a long time just admiring both the painting and this woman of an earlier age. I pondered if this woman, long since dead, would ever have imagined that more than 100 years later, people would be admiring her image in a museum, and particularly, a young twenty year old. I thought to myself, "man, I would have loved to have met this woman." Of course, I'm sure the men of her day wanted to meet her as well.

I then noted the irony that while as human beings, our lives were simply short-lived in the scheme of things, (in the circle of life), works of art live forever. While photographs capture a moment in time, (usually less than a second), paintings capture several moments in time in the minds of the painter; an abstract moment in time. Likewise, a sculpture is the end results of many moments in time coming together to create the final three dimensional image. I remember posing for Tony for several Saturdays as he molded pieces of clay into what would ultimately become a bust of my young self.

Who knows, perhaps one day, a century from now, someone visiting a museum or gallery viewing the works of Tony Lopez may come across the bust of a young boy from an earlier age, "the 1970’s." Perhaps this person looking at the bust may say, “so that’s what my great great-grandfather looked like as a young child.” Wishful thinking, perhaps?

BTW: Tony's Website is http://www.tonylopezstudio.com/

El Farito - Cape Florida Lighthouse

For many displaced Cubans and their children who found themselves in Florida in the late 60's and in the 1970's, there was one tradition that always brings sweet and fond memories to me. It was spending Sundays at "El Farito." "El Farito" is Spanish for the little lighthouse and was the term used by us, our families and friends, to describe the beach and the adjacent park at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. For us of which the ocean runs through our veins, it is nearly impossible to place us far from the ocean.

During the first wave of Cuban Refugees, many Cubans were sent to places like Indiana, Nebraska, Chicago, and other similar locations through the United States. In the end, the warm weather and the beach and its relatively short distance from their homeland brought them to Miami.For many of us, the beach was mandatory. It would be something criminal to have the beach so close to you for you to ignore it. While I have memories of being brought as a child to Miami Beach which was God's waiting room at the time, it was Sundays at El Farito which one could count on as clock work. Be it January and 40 degrees or 90 degrees in August, every Sunday, myself, my family, and the family's friends and their children, and those without children would bring other people's children whose parents had to work, so they could enjoy their Sabbath as it was intended; among family and friends at the beach.

It was the obligation of each family to prepare delicious meals and salads and bring them to the beach (typically the women would do this). The men would BBQ steaks (skirt steak), chicken, or prepare sweet ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches on warm Cuban bread. Folks would bring cafe con leche in the big thermos.

The days at El Farito would involve the traditional softball game with approximately 20 people per side (forget the 9 player rule). Everyone played from us 5-8 year old, to those in their 50's.These games would result in lop-sided scores, but who cares, it was fun. And it was worthy of a party when the little ones, me included, got their first hit.Then we'd spend time on the beach. The shadow of El Farito always watching over us. It was here that us kids first saw a topless lady on the beach. Of course we came running to the camp which was of course in the shade, me perhaps 6 years old, yelling to our parents, "Hay una mujer con las tetas 'pa fuera." All the men like children, with us included of course, would then run to get a look. My mom's memory of this occasion was telling the group, "Por lo meno, el no va salir maricon."

Besides my first exposure to live breasts, this haven was a place where we felt safe and shared bonds. Where artists in our group would paint the sea grasses and landscapes, and it was that one day where all would escape their daily routines, work and school, to enjoy this paradise we have in South Florida.It was here that while diving for shells, I came face to face with a barracuda. I don't think I ever swam so fast. It was here that anyone was free to join our group. As new friends were made, they were invited to join us at El Farito.

It was at this park where I fell out of a tree; when we were able to climb them. It was here that the kids (the boys) would go on adventure hikes through the mangroves and walk along the beach to the old Crandon Park Zoo and sneak in and spend an afternoon there; only to be punished later that day when the parents found out that we had disappeared.There were no worries for us kids at El Farito. We were required to stay at the park until the sunset which meant it was time to go. It was here that I learned the importance of watching the sunset and thanking God for his daily creation. (And yes, there is a section of the park where you have a view of the sunset).

As with all things, the group started to dwindle, and after many years, the annual Sundays at El Farito ended. Hurricane Andrew re-landscaped the park. The lighthouse which was brown in those days was restored to its 1840 look and was painted. The shade is pretty much gone.From time to time I return there to photograph El Farito. A large photo I took in B&W hangs in my office in Fort Lauderdale. I've taken my son there so he could enjoy the beach.I always return here because the memories are always warm and happy. I suggest everyone pay a visit to this paradise someday and maybe you'll hear the voices of many generations laughing in the waves.

Here's my photo and essay for the day.

American Bald Eagle

There seems to be a lot of ingrates lately when it comes to our country. Instead of asking what their country could do for them, they should rethink their positions and see what, as JFK said, they could do for their country.

This bird to me represents my country -- freedom and strength. I suggest everyone stop burning US flags and clogging traffic, and read 1776 and John Adams by David McCollough. If after reading these books you still feel like burning the flag, then why not do as the torries did in the 18th century; bolt!

In any event, this was taken in Osceola County, Florida near Lake Kissimmee last February 2006.

This is your photo for the day.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge - St. Pete, Fla.

Spent the day in Tampa today. A quick flight. No time to enjoy the city as in other trips over there however. The Tampa/St. Pete area is one of my favorite locations in Florida for the wide array of photo subjects. Here is one of my favorite man made subjects -- the Sunshine Skyway Bridge which connects Bradenton to St. Pete via I-275. This image was taken a few years back from the north fishing pier close to sunset.

The Great White Heron at Sunrise

I think I'm finally able to upload images directly. So here is a bonus, another photo for the day. A Great White Heron shot from a boat in Florida Bay shortly after sunrise. I shot this with a Canon EOS 1D Mark II and a 400 5.6L Canon Lens.

And if y'all are wondering, I do sell these images if you wish to grace your home or office with scenes from South Florida.

Finca San Pedro - 1947 - An Essay

This image is not mine. I was not born when it was taken. In fact, my mother wasn't yet a teenager. However, an essay on one of my favorite blogs babalublog.com by Val Prieto, (essay on photographs) reminded me of some of the images that my family managed to smuggle out of Cuba. Much of my family's history remained there and its whereabouts unknown. All possessions, memories, photographs, family heirlooms, gone for the ages. Never seen again by any of my family members, nearly all of which left in the late 50's, 60's and 70's. The few that remained died there.

This is an image that I've been attempting to restore using Photoshop. It is not a great image. But an image of my family's farm, known as la Finca San Pedro. It was my family's farm in the Oriente Province near the town of Palma Soriano where my family settled from the 20's through the early sixties when they began to flee the tyranny brought about them.
This farm was in the family for generations. It was not a ranch; just a small farm where the Rio Cauto ran through. It was a place where the entire family would gather especially in summers. Where all the brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins; the entire family would converge.
Again, it was a mere small farm, but it was still a utopia for the family; for my young mother and her siblings, their cousins and friends, who grew up and spend countless days and summers and holidays there riding horses, swimming in the river, and enjoying the natural beauty of a tropical island; the rural life far away from the hustle and bustle of the City.
My family was not wealthy; Just common folks who lived and enjoyed their hard work and the fruits which the farm would bear to them.

As Castro and his thugs took over the Island and lied to its inhabitants, and the world, that democracy would be restored, his intent was far from the truth. He confiscated everything on behalf of Stalinist state he vowed to create. Not just the family farm, but the pride and joy of a population -- The joix de vivre of a generation. He sucked the life out of someone like my grandfather who as an orphan at an early age, who was raised by an older sister, became a man of modest wealth by selling shoes; by hard work – by pounding the pavement. Everything he worked at his whole life was taken away by a bearded tyrant.

The farm was confiscated in the name of the government and converted to residences for loyal party members. The whole family scattered throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Spain, Mexico. That one place of convergence for the entire family was gone and alas so was the family. Which with the deaths of the patriarchs and matriarchs, grandfathers and grandmothers, and the assimilation into a new society where everyone is too busy to enjoy the wonders around them, we deal with our own lives and if lucky we see some of the family members on certain holidays, weddings, or sadly, primarily at funerals. It has come to a sad reality that it is at funerals that we've seen our cousins grown, our surviving aunts and uncles aged, our cousins' kids now teenagers, or in college now; and you wonder that the last time you saw them, they were still in grade school. Many of us have assimilated and will continue to do so until one day our ties to a different world and way of life would be but a mere memory in a few generations.

My late grandmother always used to reminisce about this farm. Her stories to a young child made quite an impression on me. In my innocence, I would always ask her to take me there, not understanding why we could not go. She would tell me when Fidel died, we could see the farm. My departed grandmother, was never able to return. And alas, I myself do not know if I will ever make it there. For what I would see there would probably destroy those images I savored as a child.

In sum, the bearded one, destroyed not just a country, but a people, a way of life. He tainted everything that is good in the people of Caribbean island. He has made cynics of us; pessimists and has filled people with hatred towards their fellow countrymen. How people fail to recognize the evil this man has wrought on this continent and on a people is beside me.

As George Harrison once wrote,

"But all I've got is a photograph, And I realize you're not coming back anymore."
The farm of 1947 is not coming back and all I have is this photo and my memories.

Stormy Times Up Ahead

This shot was taken from an ultralight aircraft over Key Largo, Florida as a Summer Thunderstorm approached. This will likely be a stormy summer again, although I hope no more Hurricanes in South Florida. But this past weekend we had some nasty storms which only tells me that the rainy season is but on the horizon. Summer storms provide great photo opportunities especially in black and white.

First Post of My Photoblog

Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm a native of Miami, Florida. When not suing people or defending people from lawsuits, I shoot photos. My photos are typically nature photos, but I do shoot other scenes from time to time, from portraits to city scenes, and whatever interesting items come my way. I'm going to try to use this photo blog to post new images each day if I can or every other day, or whenver I get the bloody chance to post. I may write an essay from time to time based on the posted image. So hopefully this wild ride will be interesting.

Here is a photo of Downtown Miami at Sunset. I took this shot from a moving car at 55mph. Got to give credit to those Canon Digital Cameras. This City has changed a lot from when I used to visit it as a young child. Some say for the better, others will tend to differ with their opinion. South Florida is a treasure trove of natural beauty which is destroyed on a daily basis by more people, more building, and continued short sightedness. Hence the reason I opt for the swamps and plains of the Everglades.