Crossing Borders: Stone House of God and Mother Nature

Church and Field WebBreaking away from the Edinburgh International Book Festival I hitched a ride with newly made friends, John and Kyra. We drove north from Edinburgh through the countryside on narrow lanes near St. Andrews, Scotland. We took in the sights, talked of life, family and photography when Kyra pointed out a solitary stone church sitting on a hill. It was at that very moment that the dark clouds started to spit rain, but not to be deterred from a photographic moment we pulled over and ran from the car to the middle the field and began shooting the stone house of God. Not one word was exchanged as each of us were lost in our own thoughts to capture a moment in time. It’s interesting what goes on in my mind when presented with an opportunity to seize the moment as pressure builds from mother nature who is ready to unleash her blessing of baptism on the earth.The consequences of not getting the “money shot” has always

Solitary Church Webweighed heavily on me. I frantically ran looking for the point of view that would satisfy my hunger as I scan the field trying not to fall. I stopped, pointed, framed and hit the shutter release not knowing what the settings were on my camera then ran again across the golden field firing more shots. As droplets of water became larger and heavier I ran back to the car in the parking lot snapping two more frames before getting inside. It was not until last night in the comfort of sitting next to the warmth of a fireplace that I was finally able to view my efforts and the possibility that I just might be lucky to have captured the elusive money shot.

Cue The Camels, Chapter 5: Jerusalem Bed Sheets:

“I’m not hopeful – either for peace in the Middle East or for peace in the Holy Sepulcher,”– Father Jerome Murphy O’Connor is a professor at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem

In old city of Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulcher belonged to five different Christian groups: the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics (Franciscans), Armenians, Coptics, and Ethiopians. This makes for complicated arrangements; disputes are common, particularly over who has the authority to carry out repairs. There’s a wooden ladder on a ledge just above the main entrance that’s been left there since the nineteenth century, because no one can agree who has the right to take it down. It’s not unusual to see fights between monks from different sects in the Sepulchre. Passions run high, particularly on important holy days. All it takes is a monk in the wrong place at the wrong time in a religious procession and it’s SmackDown. Fists fly, holy water’s thrown, beards pulled and even candlesticks used to ram groups of opposing monks. Peace on this Holy holiday whatever your belief.  

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: http://www.vromansbookstore.com/local629

 Cue The Camels available atwww.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, , Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385 , Amazon Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Cue-Camels-three-time-award-winning-film-maker-ebook/dp/B00IA10Z88/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403461103&sr=1-1&keywords=cue+the+camels

 

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: www.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vromans Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, and Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385

Life in the City of Angels: Jesus of Hollywood

Jesus of Hollywood

Kevin Short, aka West Hollywood Jesus died December 13, 2017, at age 57. Kevin was a mainstay up and down Hollywood Boulevard, and famously posed for pics with countless tourists over the years. He had a positive effect on anyone who came in contact with him. Rest In Peace Kevin.

Life in the City of Angels: Jesus of Hollywood originally posted October, 2009. 

It is the Mecca of their religion with 10 million followers annually making the pilgrimage to this sacred site. This is the biggest religion in America. No spiritual following receives more airtime and print space. It is Celebritism. And the holy of holies even has an address: 6925 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California.There you will find an archeological site full of artifacts – a temple, footprints, hand impressions and a sequence of letters, words and symbols etched in concrete. Beyond the grid of this archeological site is a walk-way that the locals refer to as the “Walk of Fame.”  It is a three-and-a-half-mile (5.6 km) round-trip journey much akin to  the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem.

Blind-FaithAbove the strata is rock art embedded with more than 2,000 stars featuring the names of not only human celebrities but also fictional characters  and even animals. Each emblem is a pink terrazzo five-pointed star rimmed with bronze and inlaid into a charcoal square. Inside it you’ll find a revered name inlaid in bronze, below which is a round emblem indicating the category for which the honoree received the star. Even those of blind faith cherish these artifacts.  Touching-the-Star-WebThe first sacrament dates back to 1960. Who was that lucky first beneficiary?  Paul Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward. (I don’t care if it rains or blows hard – as long as I’ve seen the star of Joanne Woodward). It was on the Walk of Fame that I found Jesus. He was sitting in Baja Fresh, a popular Mexican fast food chain, deep in conversation with a fellow patron.

Jesus-in-Baja-FreshJesus was listening intently while nursing a Starbuck’s Espresso Frapuccino Grande. After finishing his taco – I could only speculate it wasn’t pork – he stepped onto the Walk and I began to follow Him.

Immediately, pilgrims of all nationalities and tongues followed Him with their eyes but none were so bold as to either approach him or engage him, so I decided to take the plunge.“Jesus, are you homeless and forced to work as an historical character here in Hollywood to survive ?” He responded by reaching into his plain linen robe and pulling out a set of keys, “No man” he said, “ I drive a Mercedes and I have an apartment.” Many of the pilgrims would smile at Him and point but it seemed as if only the elderly were captivated by the Son of God and would seek his attention. And, as expected, He would listen patiently.

Jesus-Listening-to-Elder-WebThere were impassioned voices calling from passing cars, “Jesus, Jesus”. But interestingly enough I didn’t hear a peep calling for the attention of the other faux celebrities that congregated at the Temple. Waiting-for-Tourist-WebAs far as historians can tell, Jesus first appeared on celluloid in 1903, just a few years after the birth of moving pictures.  French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere produced “La Vie et la Passion du Jesus Christ,” a 44-minute silent film which was one of the earliest feature-length movie and every frame was painstakingly hand painted for color. Riding high on respectability for over one hundred years the subject of Jesus came crashing down in 2001 with the release of “Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter” – a second coming musical complete with kung-fu action. Need I say more?

Located east of the main temple is a second, smaller shrine on the Walk of Fame. This location is for the most devout believers where for $12.95 you can dwell for hours in worship, adoration and photo opportunities. Eerie wax figures of living and dead celebrity  are dressed up in costumes so that followers can relive their favorite moments of their deity. In April of 2009, Hollywood auction house Profiles in History sold off  “retiring figures.” More than 200 figures were sold online, including the Last Supper and the Beatles. Jesus and His 12 Disciples brought in more than $15,000. The Beatles brought in a mere $13,000. Sorry John, but Jesus is more popular than the Beatles.

Russell Crowe, Dog Biscuit and Noah’s Ark

UnknownIn a world ravaged by human sin, a disappointed God wants to clean the slate and start all over again with a new and improved mankind. Noah is given the divine mission: to build an Ark to save some of God’s creation from the mother of all tsunami. Starring Russell Crowe as Noah – who looks great for 500 years old and co-starring amped up digital effects. The movie is loosely based on the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis. However, there are men today who have spent their lives and fortune in search of the hollow shell of Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat.
Excerpt: Cue The Camels, Chapter 8: Dog Biscuit and Noah’s Ark
I sometimes wonder what convinced me to go to Eastern Turkey. Perhaps it was my eagerness to accompany a bunch of hard drinking Christian cowboys? It could have been a fervent desire of mine to experience a Turkish prison, the possibility of being kidnapped for a ransom, or the thought of being ambushed by heavily armed commandos. Maybe the draw was the brutal and dangerous climb of Mt. Ararat in the dead of night… Noah-1The real inspiration was a grainy black and white photograph of what appeared to be the bow of a large ship firmly wedged in the snow and ice, high up in the Ahora Gorge on the west side of the mountain. For me, just like my third marriage, the attraction outweighed the risk of imprisonment. Just thinking about the opportunity – to film the greatest biblical and archaeological find in the history of man – was as seductive as a siren’s call. Dave on summit of Ararat
The potentially severe cultural void, from weeks spent with a band of Christians who believed fervently that Jesus was their wingman, was of little concern. I had David Byrnes and Talking Heads as my chaperones.
Cue The Camels is available at:  www.oodlebooks.com & www.cuethecamels.com

Cue The Camels, Chapter 5, Jerusalem Bed Sheets

 After a long day of shooting in Jerusalem I stopped at the Elvis Inn for a bite to eat. As I walked in a short, portly man stood at the souvenir counter waiting to buy a kitschy keepsake. He had greaser sleeves (extreme sideburns) and wore a white polyester jumpsuit with rhinestone shoulders; round his pot-belly was a crudely embroidered American eagle belt. He also had Elvis’ trademark gold-framed sunglasses. I felt I’d discovered a new psychiatric condition: Elvis Syndrome. I saw that another Elvis statue was sat across from me, staring me down as my spicy burger, (kosher beef, of course) French fries and Coca Cola were set down. ‘Thank ‘ya very much,’ I said to the waitress, giving her my best Elvis impression. ‘You don’t think I hear that every day?’ she scowled. ‘Must be the end of her shift,’ I thought.

Life in the City of Angels

Larry and Doug
After having lunch across the street, Larry and Doug get back to business in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre proselytizing to tourist in Hollywood. I asked Larry, If a woman with large breasts works at Hooters, then where does a woman with one leg work IHOP? Larry refused to acknowledge my question and raised his bullhorn and bellowed out his message. No tourist asked to have their photo taken with Larry and Doug.

B&W Life

A Canadian tourist recounts his experience on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “The costumed characters are a step below the homeless population in the area. The homeless may be asking for money and wallowing in their own stank but at least they are not confrontational and demanding like the costumed characters in the area. Don’t dare take a photo of a character without remitting payment.They will chase you down.I watched Elmo get crazy backed up by the Cookie Monster. Superman just stood there …doing nothing. It was sad.” On the night of the 83rd Academy Awards, 82,000 people will be sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles.

Buddy can you spare a dime?-2On a Sunday afternoon Chris takes a break from panhandling and the heat of the day. His favorite spot for  shade is at the front entrance of the Capitol Records building where the marble stays cool all day. “The popular belief is that it was designed to resemble a stack of vinyl records topped by a record player’s spindle” Chris tells me. His attention turns to a tourist walking by,  “hey buddy! Can you spare some changes ? I like you shoes they match your outfit, nice legs too.”

Whooping It Up For Patmos: The Nicholas Tour

Memories of events and misadventures are happening more frequently as I pour over thousands of slides from my analog era. I recently came across several plastic boxes of transparencies marked “Greece, Island of Patmos.” I had been hired to shoot a documentary on the Apostle John which took me on a large plane from L.A. to Athens, then a smaller plane to the city of Thessaloniki and finally a ten-hour hydrofoil to the tiny island of Patmos.

The backstory on the Apostle John is that he was one of the twelve disciples who followed Jesus during His earthly ministry. In 95 A.D. John was banished by the Roman authorities to the island of Patmos, but not before being thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil where he miraculously survived. The story goes that after witnessing this mind-boggling event the entire Coliseum converted to Christianity immediately. Deep in a cavern on Patmos, John had a profound and disturbing vision. It was the vision of the world to come and wrote the 27th and final chapter of the Holy Bible known as the Book of Revelation.

The first time I realized the connections between the island of Patmos, the Apostle John and the Book of Revelations was in a Baptist church in Dothan, Alabama. How did I end up as the only white guy in an all black church on a Saturday night? I was invited as a result of a near collision with three well-dressed black men. Half naked and soaking wet, I darted from the motel pool to my room when the four of us meet head-on as I rounded a corner. Skidding to a stop, I quickly made an apology and wrapped the towel around my waist. Each of the gentlemen held tattered bibles with gold print on the leather covers. They were preachers in Dothan for a revival at a local Baptist church. I surprised myself by asking if I could attend the revival and to my good fortune they said yes.

For those who don’t know, “whooping” (pronounced hooping) is a celebratory style of preaching that pastors typically use to make sure the congregation can feel his sermon. In many ways, it is nothing short of a biblical opera performed by the man at the pulpit. His overture usually starts with a calm, reflective introduction to a topic such as temptation or adultery and magically transforms the characters from the bible into another misguided member of his personal flock. The tempo begins its steady rise as the pastor plays out the roles on stage. There is constant pacing back and forth from the podium as his voice slips into a falsetto that bellows out over the church’s speaker system. The pastor is accompanied with interludes from the organist and shouts of holy affirmations from those in the pews. Wiping his brow with his white handkerchief, then waving it high into the air as if surrendering to the Lord, he then bellows out his crescendo.“ We all can make our own Patmos!” he shouts, “just as the Apostle John was sentence to the island of Patmos by the Romans”. The minister pauses for a good 30 seconds as the assembled worshippers sit silently in their seats.Then, in the finale the pastor whispers “We too can sentence ourselves to our own island of Patmos.”

While the Apostle John was destined to write about the apocalypse over 2,000 years ago, Nicholas Negroponte currently writes about a brighter and a more enlighten world through technology. Mr. Negroponte is one of the early disciples of computer technology and Chairman Emeritus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab. He is also the progressive founder of the One Laptop per Child Foundation which aims to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. He believes that with access to the computer, children are more engaged in their own education.

For over 25 years, Mr. Negroponte and his wife have had a home on Patmos and have selflessly provided the island’s 3,000 plus residents with free wireless broadband web access. In spite of being isolated on the eastern borderline of the Aegean Sea and being the northernmost island of the Dodecanese island group, the world is only a key-stroke away for the citizens of this remote and rocky island. Unfortunately, the Negroponte’s were not home when I was there, but I did manage to invite myself to a Greek Orthodox wedding.

Greek Orthodox weddings are always on Sunday. They aren’t performed after Easter and Christmas, nor during periods of fasting or the day preceding a Holy Day. Vows aren’t exchanged since marriage is considered a union between two people in love, not a contractual agreement. Wedding bands are traditionally worn on the right hand, not the left. The bride may throw a pomegranate instead of the bouquet (duck if you’ve had too many uzos). The many seeds of the pomegranate symbolize the fertile possibilities between the two young lovers. At the reception, plates are broken on the dance floor (or some other hard surface) for good luck. A member of the immediate family begins and others quickly join in with much yelling and laughing as the plates shatter.

Patmos covers only 34 square kilometers (13.1 sq. miles) with its greatest length of about 25 kilometers (9.6 miles). For such an isolated little island, the poet Peter Porter said it best in his poem “Saint John on Patmos”: “For the right visions you need a desert or an island.”


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