Life in the City of Angels: Reinventing Rip Van Winkle

Whitewater West

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.Keystone 0152 Master Email

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.Keystone 0062 Master Email

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.Whitewater West

Preview of My Next Book, Odds & Gods

Chapter One

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

Dave climbing Half Dome

me and my 80’s porno mustache

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)


Whitewater WestAnalysis: 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…..

Random Thoughts: Washed Upon the Shores of this Tiny Blue Marble

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.


Journal Entry: Father’s Day and Two Missouri Mules


Dad and Missouri Mules009 copy


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.”

“Okay dear.”

An hour late I call home, “Mom, tell dad that I found the mules and returned them to his neighbor.”

“Okay dear.”

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.”

My Dad, PaulThose 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.








Cue The Camels: Ancient Spores and Kim Kardishian

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.

My Affair with Anita Ekberg, Sort Of


This is the real story of my affair with Anita Ekberg. In 2012, I had written a very short paragraph of my first visit to the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy. I recounted how I found a spot away from the gaggle of tourist and for a moment had a short-term detachment from my immediate surroundings to relive the famous scene from Federico Fellini’s film, La Dolce Vita. In my daydream, I replayed the black and white scene of voluptuous Anita Ekberg wading through the fountain as her long blonde hair cascading down her back like the falling water’s behind her. The scene was glorious and lush with sensuality. Anita’s was wearing a strapless black evening gown with its plunging sweetheart neckline and seductively urging Mastroianni to join her in the fountain, 

“Marcello, come here, hurry up!”

All that was missing was Nino Rota’s music when suddenly, I’m back to reality when a tourist with a New Jersey accent asked if I would take a picture of him and his wife in front of the fountain. I was happy to do so, but I remember thinking that I would have loved to stayed little longer in the fantasy corridors of my mind with Anita.

 That’s what I wrote in 2012, but the real backstory is this. It happened one night at the age of thirteen when nature’s process of physical change presented itself while a tourist in slumber land. As I recall, I strolled from scene to scene of Fellini’s movie, La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life). Unknown-3I’ve always dreamed in color but that night of adolescent awakening, my dream was in black and white and was accompanied with a soundtrack of skewed martini lounge music – which only added to the surreal atmosphere of the celluloid dream. Thinking back, I can only guess that my dream may have been prompted by watching La Dolce Vita on the local PBS station before going to bed. But once in rapid eye movement of deep sleep, I fell from reality to a fantasyland that I can still recall to this day. 

5846The transitions from scene to scene of my dream were preceded with burst of light from the cameras and flashbulbs of the “buzzing insects”, aka paparazzi. I would find myself in the background as a causal observer or a participant in each celluloid episode. Whether strolling among the ruins of Rome or on a luxurious balcony of Rome’s decadent and papered rich high above the City of Seven Hills. With another intense burst of light, I found myself on a Vespa speeding down the narrow lanes of Rome with a twin-lens reflex camera in hand as my fellow insects and I were in hot pursuit of Anita.  images-3

The climax of my dream came as I followed Anita down dimly lite cobbled maze of alleys while a tiny white kitten sat on her head,



“Oh hello”, Anita said turning towards me.

At that moment, my emotions and body began to feel different and quite strange. Here I was with the most unattainable dream woman of my youth, and to top that off, I was being acknowledged of my existence. images-9Before me, Anita wades in the Trevi fountain in her black strapless dress, voluptuous, glamorous, and oozing with sensuality.

“David, come here, hurry up!” Anita’s urging me as she reached out to me

“Hurry up!” she repeated.

Even thought I was lost in my dream, I could feel my heart racing and a fever of heat images-6building up the core of my body. As Anita touched the tips of my fingers, I stepped into the Trevi fountain and instantaneously in a whirlwind of flashing lights; Anita’s lips met mine. – I need not go any further, because it all about biology.

 On January 11, 2015 Anita Ekberg passed away on a Sunday morning in her home near Rome. As most men my age would say, “Forse, quando un sogno diventa una memoria, la memoria diventa un tesoro per la propria vita più dolce. Grazie Anita come bella era, arrivederci e velocità di Dio.”

(Perhaps, when a dream becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure to one’s own sweet life. Thank you Anita, how lovely it was, goodbye and God speed.)


Cue The Camels Book Signing at Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, California

Part One

Dave Banks discusses and signs Cue the Camels
Jay Leno says, “Within these pages Dave has written gung-ho, self-deprecating, wildly engaging accounts of his exploits, with all the behind-the-scene high-jinks that go into shooting news and documentaries across the world.” In Cue the Camels, Dave shares his misadventures in a comedic style that is sure to entertain.

Vroman’s Bookstore Link:

 Cue The Camels available,,  Also available at: Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California, , Book Soup in Hollywood, California, , Amazon Kindle Edition:


It’s A Potpourri of Images!


Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 9.37.39 PM


Dog Biscuit, Once in a Lifetime and David Byrnes


Excerpt from Cue The Camels, Chapter Eight, Dog Biscuit and Noah’s Ark Cue-The-Camels

We waited another half an hour after the Turkish patrol had disappeared out of sight before we hauled ass off the apron of Mt. Ararat and on to flat ground. My knees were shot and my feet were thrashed. We crossed numerous gullies, sliding down their drops then trudging back up their inclines, which rapidly depleted our Mt.Ararat-On plainremaining energy reserves. 

Stumbling forward, my boots scraped against the rolling rocks as I repeatedly stabbed with the ski poles for an opening between the rocks to right myself. The flare must have burned out because it became dark again. I faltered a number of times but kept an eye on my fellow climbers Cronuck and Stublich and watched them move at a steady pace towards the faint yellow and white lights of Doğubayazıt on the horizon – which I affectionately call Dog Biscuit

My feet felt warm and soggy which was a sure sign of blood. 

Mt.Ararat-2nd paragraph-BlogIt was at this point – stemming from many things, such as dehydration and sheer exhaustion – that I fell into mild delirium and David Byrnes of Talking Heads became my chaperones. 

‘And you may find yourself in another part of the world. And you may ask yourself: well, how did I get here?’

‘You know, David, you’re holding me hostage with that broken record. I mean, I can appreciate your words but after a while it gets a little old. Know what I mean?’

I didn’t get a straight answer from David; instead, he gave me his advice. ‘The sound of gunfire, off in the distance, I’m getting used to it now…’

                 At that moment, a second flare burst in the night sky. It was a couple of seconds later that we heard the low boom of the flare gun, which meant there was a good distance between us and the Turkish military. I made it to the edge of the stone field; Cornuke and Stublich stopped long enough to ask me if I was okay. My lips were cracked, my tongue was swollen and all my saliva had evaporated. I could only answer with a nod and a whisper: ‘I’m okay.’

Ahead, I could hear Dick slapping the iridium satellite phone repeatedly, trying to get enough charge out of the dead battery to make a call to Micah, our Kurdish fixer, so that he could meet us at the predetermined rendezvous point.

George grumbled. ‘This is fucking stupid. Let’s go to the main highway and catch a ride to town.’

Mt. Ararat  3rd Paragraph Sepia-BlogDick stopped smacking the sat-phone and directed all his attention towards George. ‘Shut the fuck up, George. The Turkish military use that road all the time. What do you think they’ll assume if they come across us on that highway with all our gear?’

George didn’t listen and relentlessly argued his point as the sound of the dogs’ howls grew louder. There was a gunshot in the distance followed by the hiss of another parachute flare. That was all the motivation we needed; the five of us turned and hauled ourselves across the plain. David followed nearby. ‘We make a pretty good team. Don’t get exhausted; I’ll do some driving. You ought to get some sleep.’Mt.Ararat-003-Blog copy

‘You know, David, it must be Mercury in retrograde with all the hurdles we’ve had to clear,’ I muttered.

There was no response.

We’d been tramping about in the darkness for hours and we were spent, physically and emotionally. We walked on autopilot, using the light of Dog Biscuit as our beacon.

‘You know, David, I could’ve stayed in L.A. picking up work shooting a mindless sitcom and watching a celebrity with two soft, protruding organs give us the local weather report. I could have, but I wouldn’t have had this wonderful field trip to remember. Know what I mean?’

David paused then caught up with me. ‘You may ask yourself: well, how did I get here? You may ask yourself: where does that highway lead to? You may ask yourself: am I right; am I wrong? You may say to yourself: my God, what have I done?’

Cue The Camels available at:,,  Also available at: Vromans Bookstore in Pasadena, California, and Book Soup in Hollywood, California,

Cue The Camels: Jimi Hendrix, Osama bin Laden & Moving Penises

Link to Jimi’s All Along The Watchtower on YouTube:

Chapter Two, Al Minya, Bed Bugs and Sex

Jimi Hendrix’s version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ was blasting out from Mark Hufnail’s BMW stereo, fueling our adrenalin and chest-beating machismo. During Jimi’s solos, I strummed the invisible strings of my air guitar and glanced over at Mark, catching him head-banging to the beat. Two middle-aged white guys, reminiscing about hippie living and experimental drug days, we were now living on the highs adventure brought. Potential ‘fixes’ dangled from the grueling schedule before us to shoot three documentaries throughout Middle Egypt, along the Nile. All three documentaries to be shot simultaneously in sixteen days, to produce seven hours of programming.
Body Guard-13

With some security concerns, we drove from Mark’s Burbank office to a kosher Italian restaurant on the west side of Los Angeles, this was our last advisory meeting about security with the only Muslim we knew, Attallah Shabazz. Ms. Shabazz is the eldest daughter of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X, the powerful civil rights activist of the ‘60s. Mark and Attallah have worked together on several television productions and have become very good friends over the years, to the point that Mark’s daughter, Megan, refers to Ms. Shabazz as ‘Aunty Attallah’. Mark set the stage to our trip, telling Attallah that we would be the first American crew to travel by vehicle through Middle Egypt in ten years, that according to our fixer in Egypt. Our security was our foremost concern; we’d be two unmistakably-American white guys shooting at various locations along the Nile. When we went into preproduction for the three documentaries – on February 23, 1998 – Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, a leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, along with three other Islamist leaders, co-signed and issued a ‘fatwa’. This called on Muslims to kill Americans and their allies, saying it was their duty. The declaration was made seven months prior to our scheduled departure to Egypt. I’d also read somewhere that Osama and Zawahiri hated Americans so much that they wouldn’t even drink a Pepsi. On top of all that, there was rumored to be a bounty of $16,000 for every American’s head in Egypt. I found this a bit insulting: why couldn’t they round it out? I thought I was worth at least $20,000.

Attallah interrupted Mark. ‘You know, I don’t thing you have anything to worry about, traveling through Middle Egypt,’ she reassured us. ‘The Egyptian government cannot afford another massacre, it would be devastating to their economy. You will Dave on location #2-2be well protected. Think of it as an adventure, don’t let the threat of a small group of extremists hold you hostage.’

We placed our orders for our meal and our conversation turned to shop talk and a bucket full of scuttlebutt. It’s traditional amongst our staff and crew to collect the best pithy quotes during production which we then use as a catchphrase during shooting when things get a little too heated. Over our kosher pasta with meatless sauce, we told Attallah that we’d collected three favorite quotes for the History Channel’s documentary, the ‘History of Sex’:

‘Does the composer actually see the show he’s composing?’

‘Regardless of their academic achievement and expertise, try not to use any male or female archeologist over forty years of age’.

imagesBut the killer quote, and my favorite when shooting ancient Egyptian statues, was: ‘You can shoot as Dave-Desertmany penises as you want, as long as they don’t move’.

“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.”

–  Bob Dylan, 1967

Cue The Camels available at:,,  Also available at: Vromans Bookstore in Pasadena, California, and Book Soup in Hollywood, California,

%d bloggers like this: