Life in the City of Angeles: Social Detective with the Jimmy Legs

Some people call it Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD. I call it the “Jimmy Legs” which seems to take the psychiatric bite out of my condition. For me, sitting is nearly impossible for any length of time and wandering, exploring or just doing something is a great organic treatment. The only drug that seems to help me is called “a camera” (which, by the way I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies would disapprove of). Along with the Jimmy Legs, Road Fever pops up and off I go, wandering the streets, seeking the perfect shot and engaging people for their backstory. 

My Jimmy Legs and Road Fever have served me well shooting documentaries around the world. At home in southern California, I fancy myself an amateur anthropologist or a social detective discovering subcultures, from gutter punks to surf Nazis, faux celebrities, old adventurers and even Charreadas. If you don’t know, a Charreada is part rodeo, part fiesta, and one of Mexico’s most revered sporting events on both sides of the border, dating back to the 17th century. With nearly 40% of the population in southern California, the Mexican sport of Charreada is thriving though it is hidden from disapproving eyes. For instance, the competitors are strictly amateurs with occasional members of the cartel competing in the events – they’re the ones in Armani silk shirts. 

To help understand the Mexican culture of Charreada I was able to make contact with a gentleman who provides livestock for the Charreadas.  He gave me sketchy directions to his next Charreadas event, which was in the town of Mira Loma (English translation; Look at the Hills). Surrounded by three freeways and north of Norco Hill and south of Fontana (aka, Fontalajara), Mira Loma has a dark history. In 1931, the town voluntarily changed its name from Wineville to Mira Loma. The name change came about as a result of the “Wineville Chicken Coop Murders”. One leading citizen of Wineville was quoted as saying in a local paper: “Wineville was such a nice town until them boys got killed… Let’s rename the town Mira Loma so we can all forget about It”.

 With a faint smell of jet fuel and tucked away in a remote labyrinth of industrial parks, warehouses full of used furniture, and on a dirt road, I find the small arena. Charreadas always begins at noon, are entirely in Spanish and unadvertised to the general public for obvious reasons –  criticism from animal rights and anti-rodeo activists keeps the events off the public radar.

By the time I arrive, the Coleadero or steer tailing is about to begin. A mounted charro (cowboy) grasps the tail of a steer and brings the animal to the ground. A properly tailed steer should end up like this, with all four hooves in the air. Winning charros aren’t awarded any money but ribbons and bows are pinned to their sleeves as trophies to their skill and horsemanship. Many of the charros are middle-aged men who struggle to hitch a lavishly embroidered leather belt around their paunches, but this does not hinder or impede their skillful horsemanship or tailing the steer.

 Most Californians don’t know that California is the number two rodeo state in the nation, second only to Texas. California hosts about 60 professional rodeos annually. Of these, most are sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), the largest such organization in the US. There are likely double that number of small rodeo events, plus scores of Charreadas. 

Despite being dirty, sweaty and dehydrated the experience of being in the arena with the charro’s was more than I expected. It was a good day for the Jimmy Legs. 

For more information regarding the traditions and sport of Charreada follow this link: http://charrosfederationusa.com/

 

 

 

Forgive Me For This Self Promotion Of Cue The Camels

Even though Cue The Camels has not officially been released in the US, my friends in the Los Angeles area can now purchase the book at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena. Vroman’s is located at 695 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA. 91101, Tel: 626.449.5320

Cue The Camels: Chapter 3, Ancient Spores

I stopped recording when I reached the crux of the tight squeeze, my progress somewhat hampered by my bubble butt. Handing the camera to Jeremy, I pushed and pulled, finally letting out a loud ‘Aarrgghh!’ as I felt my ass pop like a cork from a champagne bottle when I passed the apex. Finally, I was clear of the aperture. Through into a relatively spacious area, I stood upright for the first time and stretched my back. I gave Dr. Ikram my spiel: ‘Okay, let’s start on this side of the aperture. I’ll start on you, as you explain who, what, where and how. I’ll then pan over to see Mo enter the aperture and follow him through. You continue to describe the tunnel as we make our way to the exit. I’ll continue to roll tape, so don’t stop. If you have to stop, just start from the top of your description, and in post-production we’ll edit snippets of you walking and talking and we can also add in the B-roll footage.’

Cue The Camels book available at:  www.oodlebooks.com  & www.cuethecamels.com

Release date of ‘Cue the Camels’ February 6 2014 – AND, the end of an era….

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Exciting news regarding my debut novel, Cue the Camels. My U.K. publishers, Diane and Gail of Solopreneur Publishing, have chosen February 6 for the release date.

You’re able to pre-order the book here and the actual paperback will be on sale and orders fulfilled as of Feb 6.

This date has been picked for more than one reason. February 6 is the last Tonight Show with Jay Leno, who’s written the foreword for the book. As most of you will know, as well as my adventures in far-flung lands and hostile territories as I shot news reel, stills and documentaries, I’ve been behind the camera filming the Tonight Show for the last two decades. That is now coming to an end.

Luckily for me, I’ve a new career ahead: that of a novelist. Which is all the more reason why I need my fans to get behind me as I make this leap of faith into a completely different world. I’ve loved nothing more than recounting my memories in Cue the Camels and I hope my brand of humor carries across the pages. It’s a book that’s been as widely received by women as men, and Di and Gail have shaped it into a fantastic mainstream read that anyone can enjoy.

Boots_and_LR_WebThe other bonus of the Tonight Show departure is that I can spend more time hanging out online and getting to know my virtual (and tangible) friends more deeply. If you’d like to connect with me on Twitter, my ‘handle’ is @WorldlyMorsels and the Facebook page for Cue the Camels is here. Check in and stay with me as I report back on what’s it’s like to be a published author. No A-lister parties with fireworks and a free bar planned yet, but you never know.

I also welcome your feedback; get in touch and say ‘hi’, or let me know what you think of the book. It’s been a busy time trying to get all the ‘i’s dotted and the ‘t’s crossed but we’re now there. Thank you to my wonderful friends, family, and my beautiful wife, who have all supported me and will continue to do so on this new journey.

Tune in on February 6 for Jay’s last show.

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Brylcreem, GTO’S and 8 mm

We were not mentioned  in S. E. Hinton’s book, The Outsiders.  The novel is about troubled teenagers growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid-sixties and the class division between the Socs, (“the abbreviation for the Socials, boys with money and dry hair)  and the greasers (a term that refers to the “poorer boys who use Brylcreem”). We were the nameless kids from North Tulsa who’s economic standing was somewhere between the Socs and the Greasers. We were  the nerds, the geeks and socially inept when it came to girls. It is true that one of the most important qualities that can help teens establish their own identities is the ability to “fit in.” Finding friends who understand their problems and relate to them is paramount for teenagers. It wasn’t long until we realized that what we had in common was our interest in doing cool stuff instead of campaigning for popularity at school. We created our own tribe and we called ourselves  “The GTO’s,  Order of the Pythons” .

 


From 1964 to 1968  we produced movies using our parents Bell and Howell movie cameras. At first, we filmed our friends acting goofy around the house and favorite hang outs -that was in the 8th grade.  By the 9th grade we were charging kids 50 cents to be in our movies and they didn’t just hang out at the parents’ house anymore.  Kids were being blown up, shot at and chased by the bad guys in War movies, Spy movies and even a Roman drama.  Growing up in Oklahoma the culture allowed hunting as a normal recreation which gave us access to shotguns, black powder and a great locations. The Verdigris River which is northeast of Tulsa was our favorite location and isolated from civilization and parental control.  All the tall guys had to be the bad guys (the Germans) the little guys were the good guys (the Americans). We bought army surplus and dyed the fatigues black and spray painted the helmets and wore them backwards so they would look like German helmets.  Once we had a old, gray ’59 Ford station wagon.  We painted a couple of swastikas on it, filled the back up with black powder and drove it down the river and blew it up.  We did this until we graduated from Will Rogers High School in 1968. Needless to say, we went our separate ways pursuing a life outside of Tulsa.

 In 2010 as a result of facebook this little band of brothers reestablished the brotherhood -but, not without loss. In May of 2008 Dean Bishop who crated the GTO’s and was our mastermind passed away from cancer – Dean was financially supported and cared for by fellow members Rex and Ricky Gray until his death. Dan Lundy the tallest member of the GTO’s passed away in the mid 90’s from cancer after being exposed to agent orange in Vietnam. The surviving members of the original six GTO’s including myself are: Rex Gray and brother Ricky Gray and Dan Battreall. 

I am eternally grateful to my band of brothers for not only giving me wonderful memories but laying the foundation for the career I enjoy today.

 

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