The Oceti Sakowin Camp is a historic gathering of tribes, allies, and people from all walks of life standing in solidarity to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline. Mini Wiconi (Lakota for “Water is Life”)
Life in the City of Angels: Find Your Speed, Maintain Your Velocity, Keeping it Up and Keep it Consistent
“Holy shit man ! My legs are killing me and I hate these fuck’ing crutches, I’m sick and tired of this bullshit man ! Where the fuck did my life go? Believe it or not, I was young man once, full of piss and vinegar, wild hair and just fuck’ing crazy at times, but that was when I was a young man once. I stole motorcycles, drank beer before I was 16 and howled at the moon, I was a chick magnet reeling them in like bees to a honey pot, I was the stud, brash and brazen, but that was when I was young man once. I smoked Marlboro Red’s and worn button fly Levi’s jeans and combed my hair with Brylcreem. I had a need for speed with asphalt scares to prove it, but that was when I was a young man once. I sacked grocery at Safeway and bought my first car, a 49 Ford. It was my Hot Rod with stolen Baby Moon Hubcaps, Roll-and-Tuck black leather seats and a Hurst shifter topped with a pool hall 8 ball…do you want to drag and hear my Glasspacks? I was reckless and insane at times but beer was my friend when times got tough. Let me tell you this, I never wore a watch because I had all the time in the world, but as I grew older, or should I say when my body grew older, I lost some abilities to do as I please. But deep within me is a spirit that is harum-scarum and ready to fight…. even if it’s with the aid of these damn crutches. I was a young man once full of piss and vinegar.”
Architectural photography is not my first choice for an assignment; I’m more of a run-and-gun photographer. But from years of overseas and domestic assignments I came to the realization that the kinetic structure of my knees are deteriorating and the pace of my stride is slowing. I live in my past as most men do my age, but reality is insidious and has a way of redirecting ones life. In a conversation with my brother Mark we discussed reinvention, evolution and acceptance as we age. I’ve witnessed him overcome incredible odds in La La Land (Hollywood) to becoming a very successful Producer while all along maintaining his integrity – which is the cornerstone of character. He now lives in the great Northwest freeing his spirit from the tragic and deviant characters of Hollywood. As T.S. Eliot said,
“We shall not cease from exploring,
And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
How appropriate, only recently has Mark rediscovered his passions that have lied dormant for several decades. One of which is using his hands to build and create – he is the only man I know who has built a home from the ground up.
So what does all this have to do with Architectural photography? My assignment was to photograph an older building that is being refurbished, redecorated and rehabilitated. While editing the images I suddenly became aware of the building name, Keystone, which is the central stone at the summit of an arch locking the whole together. I think of the camera as my cornerstone, holding my perception of the world together with its steel, plastic and glass.
I have heard that Architecture is like frozen music and is assembled in light that fills an empty space. So, are we architects of our own life? We lay our foundation in youth with education and life experiences as we try desperately to avoid the pitfalls as we whimsically journey to completion. It becomes apparent as we age to measure the space and spiritual dimensions of our past, the games we played and the poetic inventions of our heart. For some of us, we did this without a blueprint and struggled, but quickly learned that for every new situation and issue requires new architecture. Unlike Rip Van Winkle who wakes from the glassy bosom of Ale to find that twenty years have past, I woke to reinventing with a solid foundation to breaking new ground.
The first time I saw my name in print was not on a “Hello My Name Is” sticker but in the American Alpine Journal on climbing accidents in North America. Which was not the kind of publicity I needed, after all I was the go to guy for remote and hostile location camera work.
California, Yosemite Valley, Half Dome Route
On June 4, 1988, at 1200, dispatch received a call from Wesley Walton concerning an injured climber on Half Dome. Walton had talked with people on top of Half Dome by CB
radio. At 1215, six SARSITE climbers and I were flown to the top of Half Dome starting at 1330. At 1443, Kevin Brown arrived at Big Sandy Ledge after being lowered 150 meters. He met David Banks, who had an uncomplicated injured elbow, bruised seriously enough so the he could not climb. Banks was raised the 150 meters arriving at 1545. Brown, Klotz (Banks climbing partner) and two Half Dome climbers who had helped jummarred out. All rescuers were flown out, ending at 1847.
Ranger Horner interviewed Banks later. He said that he had injured his arm/ elbow (After x-rays I learned that I had shattered my left elbow) in a slow, sliding fall on the pitch below Big Sandy on June 3. He was slightly off route and did not protect well. He fell about ten meters (about 33 ft.) and stopped prior to hitting a larger ledge. Banks was lowered to his belayer and then Klotz led the pitch to Big Sandy. Banks took an hour and a half to jumar to the pitch, which he did in a lot of pain. They were also hauling the largest haul bag ( which we referred to as the “Pig”) anyone can remember seeing. (Source: Dan Horner and Bob Howard, Rangers, Yosemite National Park)
Analysis: Banks and Klotz had each been climbing for several years, led at the 5.3-5.10 level, but had little wall experience. They had brought too much hardware and other gear, and their huge haul bag and lack of experience hauling meant long, tiring days. They were on schedule but had underestimated their daily food and water requirements by about half, however; and by time of the accident they were tired, hungry and dehydrated. In retrospect, they felt their condition made an accident “only a matter of time.” Two points:
By their own admission, they had too much gear; that’s not an argument for taking nothing.
To Be Continued…..
From the Banks-Soulam family to yours, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and with current events as they are, for “GOD’S SAKE” we all could use a better year to come. A special blessing and thank you to my Irish cousins who have graciously allow this Scotsmen to share their Irish Blessing and their much loved Irish song “The Season’s Upon US” with you.
Enjoy my friends, travel well, travel safe. Cheers, Dave
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
The Sahara is a great leveller, making all men equal regardless of their station in life. So, when you come across another soul within this vast arena of sand, you stop, share, and remind yourself that here, we are all brothers.
There is something different about a hand written letter, emails get deleted, greeting cards get lost and phone calls are forgotten with time. But a letter from a loved one is special, maybe it’s because a letter is a tangible artifact of love. In the absents of a departed loved one a letter can be the substitute for holding hands, a hug or a kiss on the cheek. The letter is a reminder of a loving connection that is slowly fading as decades pass by. I carried letters with me when I traveled overseas. Letters that have touched me, letters of encouragement and most of all unconditional love. These letters have pulled me through some pretty hard times. So, this is an open letter to a man that has given me not only sweet memories of childhood, but by his example showed me how to deal with life on life’s terms with grit and humor.
At the age of five Jasper Paul McWhorter asked a single mother for her hand in marriage which Mary (my mom) accepted and a new family was formed. In spite of the economic hardship of caring for his new family, Paul’s willingness to raise another man child still impresses me to this day. Within the first year of their union, Paul’s earnest effort to provide a secure home and with his sense of humor the bond between a father figure and 5 year old stepson grew and I started calling him daddy.
A veteran of World War II, he was awarded two Bronze Stars, a Commendation Medal and a Purple Heart. Dad had seen some heavy action in the Philippines but would never talk about his experiences to the point that we could not watch any war movies on TV – which I could not understand until reaching maturaity. Home was on the outskirts of Norht Tulsa off Apache Road near the strip pits and regardless of the less desireable location dad love his home and took great pride in maintaining the property. With a passion for gardening dad became an expert at growing copious amount of Beefeater tomatoes and on summer days he meditated and problem solved by mowing our yard without a his shirt on – to this day the aroma of fresh cut grass takes me back to those summer days on Quebec Street. After his chores, dads would sit in the backyard on a white metal lawn chair with his cap pushed back smoking his pipe and drink freshly made lemonade and munching on peanut butter cookies.
My favorite childhood memory of dad is watched him tinker with an Evinrude boat-motor that sat in a steel drum full of water in our backyard. Preparing to start the boat-motor dad would secure his pipe by clinching his teeth, then pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose and with one mighty pull of the starter rope the Evinrude would sputter. It would take two or three pulls, but once he got it going the blue smoke would fill the backyard and the roar of that Evinrude could be heard throughout the neighborhood. The fumes and smoke engulf dad and all I could see was his pipe sticking out of the blue haze. When the smoke dissipate dad would be standing there with his hand on throttle and for a quick moment I could see in his eyes that dad was far, far away, somewhere on TenKiller Lake or Keystone fishing for bigmouth bass or maybe he was off the coast of Baja fishing for marlin. I’ll never forget that image when the blue smoke cleared.
The word love was not used liberally by dad, but his grandchildren, Jeff and Darla and I knew we were loved when teased with nick names like apple-knocker, eight-ball or curtain-climber. But when dad did get close to saying the words out loud, “I love you” his voice would crack with emotion as his eyes teared up.
Near the end of dad’s life the Formica kitchen table and vinyl chairs were replaced with a rented gray hospital bed next to the backdoor that lead to his beloved garden. The one room where we gather as a family for meals, games of Monopoly, and frank discussions had become his hospices. It was dad’s wish to end his journey in the home he had worked so hard for. Without the financial means mom’s responsibilities of wife grew greater as the sole caretaker to a man she married so long ago. Before dads final journey, his dementia grew and grew but on this occasion while on the phone he seemed lucid and even cracked joke with me. After sharing the days events and jokes dad handed the phone back to mom. I could hear mom walk away from the kitchen area to the hallway to give me the reality of dad’s condition.
“David, daddy goes in and out of dementia and sometimes he acts as if he is working and asking me for his tools. ” She said.
“I understand mom, just act and pantomime as if your were giving him his tools, okay? Give me a call if anything else come up, just indulge dad, okay? ” I told her.
“Okay dear, I’ll call if anything comes up.” She reassured me.
“Okay mom, love your.”
” I Love you too.”
Three hours later mom calls me back.
“David we just got back, and I wanted to let you know what just happen.” Mom tells me.
“Wait a minute, what do you mean you just got back? I ask out of concern.
“Well, you said to indulge daddy so I did.”
“What”? I asked.
“Daddy thinks he is back on the farm and borrowed two Missouri mules from his neighbors to plow a field, Daddy thinks he didn’t return the mules and seem desperate to return them, so I dressed him in his pajamas, put him in the car and we drove around the neighborhood looking for the mules.”
“Honey, it got daddy out of the house and you said to indulge him.” she tells me.
“Yes, I did tell you that mom – I tell you what mom, tell dad I’ll go out and look for the mules, okay? Dad may not recall that I live in California.”
An hour late I call home, “Mom, tell dad that I found the mules and returned them to his neighbor.”
I can hear mom hold the phone away and speak in a clear audible voice to reassuring dad.
“Daddy, daddy! David found the mules and returned them to the neighbors.”
Over the phone I can hear dad voice clearly and my heart sank as I heard him say.
“That David, he sure is a good boy.”
Those were the last words I heard from dad as he slipped away into the corridors of his mind. I believe that God puts people in our lives when we most need them. And as a five- year old I desperately needed a good Dad, not a perfect Dad, just a good Dad. Today I am what I am as a result of his influence and example. I know what a work ethic is and the value of humor, thank you dad for giving me those gifts. Happy Fathers Day Dad, I miss you terribly.
I slid my right boot then my left boot into the hole leading to the tomb’s tunnel. There was the soft, muffed sound of my pants sliding against the rough stone as my feet fell into the tomb. My knees passed and my thighs followed – which was as far as I got. I was stuck between two worlds. My companions started laughing before cheering me on. “Push! Push, Dave”. There was a scraping noise as my 34 waist and belt buckle tried to shimmy. I’ve been told in the past, during romantic endeavors, that I have ‘a booty like a black man’ – something I’ve always thought of as an attractive asset, but which, in this instance, was a real liability. ‘I think I’m too big, guys,’ I told my audience, ‘I’m wedged in!’ as giggles grew louder and escaped from the darkness of the tomb. I too began to chuckle, which was uncomfortable considering the added pressure of stone against my waist.
When I returned to the States and the Tonight Show, I shared my big ass adventure with one of the comedy writers for the show, Larry Jacobson. We both had a good chuckle when Larry added. “You know Dave, if you were Kim Kardashian you’d still be stuck in that tomb.