A continuation from Life in the City of Angels: When You Can’t Get Published, Fuck It, Give It Away!

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It seemed as if the sun had directed all its energy from purgatory to this hole in the ground. I was alone and crawling on my belly in a shroud of darkness, breathing in the suffocating heat that kept my mind from dwelling on snakes, scorpions and the curse of the mummy. With every breath I could feel spiny particles of dust enter my nostrils as they worked their way up to my sinus cavity. These tiny parasites, consisting of historic spores, would now stowaway for months, traveling secretly through my membranes, only to reveal themselves at a later date as a brown muddy discharge from my sinuses. This was not the first time living organisms had taken a free ride at my expense; it had never been guns, landmines or potential kidnapping situations that worried me the most on my adventures, rather that some exotic micro-organism would ultimately do me in.

Above me is ‘The Collapsed Pyramid’, also known as ‘Meidum, the forgotten pyramid of Egypt’. It’s situated about 100km south of Cairo on the west bank of the Nile. Tomb robbers originally dug the shaft I was in some 4,000 years before. They must have been small people because they certainly hadn’t wasted their time making their entrance passage any bigger than was absolutely necessary. Hanging from the ceiling like stalactites were polished knobs of tafla clay that scraped against the back of my head.

Shimmying through the tunnel with a 26-pound video camera was no mean feat. The muscles in my arms began to involuntarily contract with the release of lactic acid, which decreased their capacity to hold the camera steady. I was shooting B-roll from the point of view of a tomb robber making his way into the burial chamber below. Unable to stop my arms from shaking, I paused to rest them and to brush away what felt like a large camel flea scurrying down my forehead. I shook my head wildly, only to crack it against the clay ceiling. Taking a swat at my face, I discovered that it wasn’t a flea, but a droplet of sweat mixed with dust. I was now blinded in one eye which stung with irritation. Great!

I dug the toes of my Doc Martin boots into the soil and pushed forward with a grunt, only gaining a few inches. I paused again to look through the camera’s viewfinder only to discover that the lens had what looked like dirty rice on the front element. How long have I been shooting with that crap on the lens?   

Lifting my head, I promptly cracked it yet again on the tunnel’s pitted ceiling. Cradling the camera with my left hand, I reached with my right to pull some lens tissue from my shirt pocket. The packet of tissue was moist from sweat. If I cleaned the grime with a wet tissue it would only smear into a mucky casserole. I laid the camera down to search for a dry, clean tissue, but grappling with the camera in such a confined space brought only more frustration, scraped knuckles, and bruised knees.

With the lens finally clean, I continued to shoot my progress through the earthy conduit, forcing a layer of Egyptian dirt into the crotch of my pants as I lurched further into the passage. To my surprise, the cool earth mixed with sand didn’t actually feel so bad – refreshing, even – as I wasn’t wearing underwear.

Suddenly, my progress was halted by my belt buckle that had snagged on a rock. I swayed my hips back and forth and lifted my pelvis up to free myself from the stone. I think it’s time for a breather. 

I lay on my stomach and enjoyed the feel of cool soil on the family jewels, turning off the camera to save its battery life. In the darkness I became acutely aware of the aroma of earth mixed with dung, along with the delicate fragrance of diesel fuel as it permeated the passageway. The potpourri of odors came from two Egyptians at the entrance fanning air into the tunnel with torn pieces of cardboard.

‘Should I have stayed in L.A., picking up cushy assignments, shooting another silly sitcom or self-serving award show,’ I thought. ‘No!’ I said aloud, forgetting I was alone in the tunnel. Before leaving ABC, I’d gained a reputation of self-reliance in remote and hostile locations, shooting everything from mountain climbing to extreme sports, and even stunts for ABC’s daytime soap opera, General Hospital. I knew it was time to bail from that life when I was charged by my very own union (NABET) for introducing a new video camera technology: the ‘Betacam’. I became a liability for embracing new technology that would ultimately change broadcasting forever. I faced great resentment for disrupting the status quo; I had passed the point of no return. So, I left my comrades behind with their old ideas – the Betacam became my VIP pass to the wider world. Ultimately, it had brought me to this hole in the ground.

Waiting for me in the corbelled burial chamber below was Dr. Salima Ikram Ph.D., Jeremy Brill, my audio man, and our government escort, Mohammad.

Dr. Ikram was a professor of Egyptology from the American University in Cairo and a Cambridge graduate. Specializing in zoo archaeology (the study of faunal remains left behind when an animal dies or, as Dr. Ikram puts it, ‘road kill from the past’). In the field Dr. Ikram can be found wearing a sky-blue headscarf and large, round Audrey Hepburn-style sunglasses. You would imagine that a woman working in traditional Arab society, in a field dominated by males, would be unnerved or feel intimidated. However, despite her youthful age and short stature, Dr. Ikram has a very sharp tongue and can speak rapid Arabic, delivering what needs to be said like a machine gun.

To make sure her point was always understood she armed herself with a Japanese silk hand fan which she pointed and shook in the face of any man who questioned her knowledge or authority. She’d ventured into ancient tombs and ruins more times than Lara Croft and Indiana Jones combined. We all had a crush on her. She was the real deal.

I groaned and resumed recording as I continued down the tunnel. I reached an old wooden ladder which led to a den below that was about the size of a Mini Cooper’s interior. I climbed down, using one hand to hold the camera and the other to grip the rungs of the ladder. ‘Jiminy Cricket on a crutch! My back is killing me!’

‘What was that, Dave?’ Jeremy asked.

‘Nothing, Jeremy, I’m still shooting.’

Crouched in the den, I filled my lungs with more fine dust and floating orbs. I wiped my brow; I was keenly aware that we had so little time to shoot this segment.

Between the den and the burial chamber was a huge slab of limestone. In the center of the slab was a twenty by twenty-inch aperture chiseled out by the tomb robbers. The beveled cuttings from simple hand tools still looked fresh in spite of their age. Extending my arms out in front of me, I held the camera to document my progress as Dr. Ikram, Jeremy and Mo stood on the other side of the slab, watching me with great amusement as I struggled.

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.

Scattered about the hallway, leading into the burial chamber, were huge broken blocks of limestone that the tomb raiders had smashed to gain entry to the tomb. For all their tunnel-digging efforts, their prize was a red granite sarcophagus, the size of a professional snooker table. The sarcophagus probably weighed about three-and-a-half tons and it had been hollowed out for a body without the power tools we have at hand today.

The granite lid had been moved aside slightly. On closer inspection, there was an ancient wooden mallet, about the size of a man’s fist, wedged between the sarcophagus and its lid. The tomb robbers had only needed to reach into the stone coffin to plunder it of its riches.

‘Dave, tell me when to start crawling and I’ll describe what lengths the tomb raiders were willing to go to,’ said Dr. Ikram.

Let me get situated and I’ll give you a cue,’ I said.

‘Okay. But remember, if I have to stop and turn around, you promised not to shoot my bum,’ she said, referring to a pact we’d made before descending into the tunnel.

Everyone bustled into place. Mo stood silently as he waited for instructions on what he should do.  We had so little time – I was hoping that after this take with Dr. Ikram I would have enough time to shoot more B-roll in the tunnel, and particularly the aperture and the burial chamber, without anyone around. Once we wrapped at this location we still had to travel back to the Saqqara Palm Club Hotel to do the ‘talking head’ part of the interview with Dr. Ikram; I just hoped it would be before dark.

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.’

I panned round from Dr. Ikram to see Mo crawl through the aperture. As I followed Mo through – BLAM! I smacked my forehead into the top of the opening. It must have made a loud noise because Jeremy looked up.

‘What was that?’ he asked.

‘Aarggh… start… start again,’ I said, not wanting to acknowledge that I’d smacked my head for what must have been the hundredth time.

My shins scraped against the lip of the aperture. I arched my back to support the camera in front of me and pushed with my feet to enter the den. I desperately tried to balance myself on my knees. Kerplunk! In a cloud of dust, the camera and I capsized on the rocky floor of the den.

Dr. Ikram, unaware of my listing condition, continued her narrative. ‘Meidum is thought to have originally been built for Huni, the last pharaoh of the Third Dynasty. It was completed by his successor, Sneferu, who also turned it from a step pyramid to a true pyramid, by filling in the steps with limestone. At the pyramid’s massive base are tons of scattered fragments from the collapsed outer shell that stemmed from Sneferu’s repair job. This is the robbers’ tunnel and this is the way to exit the ‘mastaba’. It’s quite a tight squeeze,’ she added.

‘You can say that again,’ I thought.

After Dr. Ikram passed through the aperture and exited the frame, I panned round, following Mo through the den to the bottom of the ladder.

Dr. Ikram continued: ‘The robbers chiseled through the tafla and in through the stone-built mastaba. There are lots of twists and turns to this whole experience, and it’s very difficult in some places because you have to go down almost on your belly and wiggle like a snake.’          She whispered, ‘You didn’t see my bum, did you?’

‘No, no. I didn’t even look in the viewfinder,’ I replied.

Now that there were four of us in the tiny den, and despite the Egyptians’ efforts to keep us cool, there was very little air circulating. We were all getting tired and cranky, and we had just minutes left to shoot this segment.

I would love to do another pass of B-roll in the tunnel alone.

I reached as high as I could, grabbing for the first rung of the ladder. I pulled myself up with one hand, holding the camera in the other. At the top of the ladder I panned round to catch Dr. Ikram climbing up behind me.

I clambered off the ladder. What was that? It felt like a spider running down the inside of my pant leg. I unclenched when I realized it was just a stream of sand and dirt I’d scooped up earlier. Shaking my legs one at a time, I started to edge backwards as Dr. Ikram walked towards me, describing the tunnel. ‘The tafla is worn and eroded because of the many visitors who have come down recently with their nice electricity. Conveniently for them, they could see exactly what was going on.’

Thud! Again?!

‘Do you want to take a break?’ Dr. Ikram asked.

‘No, I just scraped my head and it bloody hurt. Let’s continue,’ I replied softly, so my audio wouldn’t be picked up on tape.

‘It really is a tight squeeze, and when one finally looks out at the end they can’t help but think, ‘Thank God, at last! Light!’’ she went on.

Pointing my camera towards him, I followed Mo’s silhouette as he exited the tunnel into the blinding light of the Sahara sun. Is this what we see when we die: a bright light at the end of a tunnel, and a shadowy figure greeting us as we make our way to God?

Dr. Ikram tried to finish her description while spluttering on the fine dust. Eventually, we were done.

Mark was waiting for us as we emerged from the tunnel. ‘Okay, guys, we have to do it again, and this time, faster! Dave, you’re leaking. What’s all that sand coming out of your pant leg?’

We all glared at Mark, our mouths open.

‘Just kidding!’ he said.

 

Though that segment was done our day was not over, we still had Dr. Ikram’s sit down interview to shoot back at the hotel, as well as to review the tapes, clean the equipment, charge the batteries and package tapes for shipment back to the States. We had been in Egypt for six days shooting the History Channel’s ‘Tomb Raiders: Robbing the Dead’ and it had been non-stop since landing in Cairo.

Over the next 24 hours we had to travel back to Cairo where our first priority would be shipping the tapes via DHL to Burbank, California. Then we had to drive to Giza for more B-roll of the pyramids and to find a dynamic location to interview Zahi Hawass, the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities: his interview would cost about $1,500. It’s not uncommon to pay a fee, but the lines between a proper fee and baksheesh is thin.

After the interview we were scheduled to shoot miscellaneous scenic footage with camels, horses and pyramids – hopefully without tourists in the shot. Traveling back to Cairo from Giza, I would have to strap myself on top of our van to catch moving shots of the countryside and the cityscape after entering Cairo. We were to then check into a hotel for just a couple of hours, where we’d need to unload our gear from the van to take to our room – which we all had to share. In that time batteries would need charging and gear needed packing, which meant cross referencing the carnet to our equipment again.

We called Shmuel Bernstein, our co-producer and fixer in Israel. At the Cairo airport parking lot we had to pay the Egyptian production crew, guides, tourist police and our government watcher, plus bonuses. After discreetly shooting B-roll inside Cairo airport, we were finally free to buy souvenirs, drink espresso and eat whatever we could find in the airport terminal, finally boarding a flight at 10:30 p.m. and flying to Tel Aviv, Israel. There, after clearing customs, drinking coffee and eating old Balance bars, we had to load the camera gear into Shmuel’s suburban and drive for two hours to Jerusalem, where we’d check into the King David Hotel around 2:30 a.m. There, we were to unload the gear and charge batteries yet again and take a three-hour nap, just so we could grab the camera and shoot the sunrise over Jerusalem at 5:34 a.m.

We had all that to look forward to, but not before taking a swig from a warm Fanta and racing back down to the entrance of the tunnel. We had one more pass before Mark officially pulled the plug on this location. I rolled the tape and made my way back to the burial chambers. Now alone, I ran my fingers along the narrow opening of the granite sarcophagus to the 3000 year-old wooden mallet. For a moment I visualized a thriving kingdom by the Nile, via this tangible piece of history.

Conscious of our tight shooting schedule, I quietly exited the crypt, leaving in peace any ancient soul aimlessly roaming the tomb in search of the ‘tunnel of light’ to his God.

*****

Later, the post-production supervisor in Burbank called Mark in the middle of the night to say the footage in the Meidum burial chamber was unusable. They said the recording heads of the camera looked dirty and that there were lots of breaks in the video signal. They said they may be able to salvage only a few seconds of footage of the sarcophagus and the mallet.

Blood seemed to drain from my veins. My pride turned to liquid jelly and I lost my appetite. It was the most dreaded phone call any shooter could get and it was certainly no way to start the day. Perhaps there was a curse of the Pharaohs after all…

*****

Mark and Shmuel were inside the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum where the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), Jerusalem Division, was located. Across the street was the north wall of the Muslim Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem. They were discussing the day’s schedule and the implications of a ‘ride along’ on a night patrol with Amir Ganor, Director of the Robbery Prevention Division of the IAA.

Tucked away, at the small of Amir’s back, inside his pants, was a .45 caliber handgun with walnut wood grips; on his belt sat a pouch loaded with ammo clips. How Amir sat comfortably in his unmarked jeep for hours at a time with a .45 was a mystery to me – I wondered if it left a permanent imprint on his buttocks.

We loaded up. In a caravan we followed Amir and his partner driving east through the narrow streets of Jerusalem. As we passed the east wall of the Christian Quarters, we watched as huge tour buses parked on the acutely narrow street to unload a fresh crop of pilgrims at the Jaffa Gate. Near the Citadel of the old city a Hasidic Jewish man, dressed all in black with long curls, insisted on walking down the middle of the road wildly waving his arms. Continuing south we drove by crowded bus stops where quite a few male and female Israeli soldiers with fully automatic weapons hitch-hiked for a ride.

In Shmuel’s suburban the four of us were crammed in amongst anvil cases of camera gear, audio equipment, climbing gear, boxed lunches, two cases of bottled water, assorted tools and mountains of protein bars. With one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding his cell phone, Shmuel talked loudly in Hebrew as he set up the next day’s shoot. Mark, with his long legs, sat behind me as he read from the Tomb Raiders’ production book and glanced occasionally out of the passenger window to take in the sights. From time to time I’d hang the Betacam out of the window, taking travel shots across the horizon.

It had been stop and go for hours as we followed Amir down deserted back roads near the Green Line. We just hoped that the camera mounts were holding steady. The afternoon sun seemed brighter there than in Jerusalem and the air was thick with humidity, making it feel hotter then it really was. The dirt road that we were traveling on was badly rutted from the scars of erosion and potholes that looked like shallow wells. With every plunge into a cavity the anvil cases in the back of the suburban leapt up before swiftly crashing down.

We parked aloft a barren hill overlooking the Palestine Territory; the terrain was very similar to southern California: a desert full of sand structures, prickly pear cacti and brown shrubs that eventually turn to tumbleweed. Jeremy was the first to leap out of the suburban to check the camera that was mounted on Amir’s jeep.

‘Dude, the suction cup is solid and the camera is filthy from specks of bug juice,’ he said.

Grabbing the Betacam and a handful of Balance bars, Mark, Jeremy and I started shooting B-roll immediately. Amir and his partner locked and loaded their automatic weapons in unison, slapping the butt end of their magazines to ensure they were sat correctly. We then proceeded east, towards the Green Line, moving as a unit to Amir’s slow and deliberate pace. Amir continually checked the ground for telltale signs of foot traffic and fresh digging. Twenty minutes into our stroll Amir came upon a freshly-dug shaft.

He pointed to the ground. Dead shrubs surrounded the cut in the earth. The shaft had smooth edges and its width was approximately 1.2m square. Just below the surface, the walls of the shaft were lined with roots that looked like the fingers of skeletons cradling protruding rocks.

‘Here! There is new soil on the edge of the shaft,’ said Amir.

Amir gave his weapon to his partner and took the longest Maglite flashlight I’ve ever seen from his pack. He started to climb down into the vertical shaft, using the freaky skeleton-like fingers as a rope ladder for his descent. At the bottom, he disappeared into a horizontal tunnel that led to a chiseled slit in the wall. Shmuel was very anxious to follow and gave us a detailed commentary on his downward climb, using Amir’s technique. ‘Okay, guys, putting my hands on the edge. I’m using my right foot to step on this rock. Okay, okay, now my left foot on this one and now down to the bottom…’

Once descended, Shmuel asked, ‘Okay, who’s going to be the first one coming down, guys?’

I’d deduced that the Betacam was much too big and heavy to film down the shaft so I grabbed the mini DV camera and started to clean the lens from dust and bug wings.

‘Okay, guys, who’s next?’ Shmuel asked again.

I looked over the edge to Shmuel. He was squatting at conduit points in the opening of the chamber. ‘You see? This was blocking the entrance. They moved the stone a little with a crowbar then broke it here to get in. Okay?’

 

‘Yeah,’ Mark said. He shimmied feet first into the burial chamber, inhaling as he went through the aperture. There were skulls, bones and shards of stones scattered about the burial chamber that made the ground uneven. Amir sat on some broken ossuaries, shining his flashlight on the ceiling of the tomb; the light it cast made the tomb seem even more eerie.

From above I could hear Mark rustling about as he began shooting. ‘I’m just going to get a close up of the skulls and the bones,’ he shouted.

I heard a thud then a groan. Mark had tripped but luckily, he’d not fallen on any of the bones or ossuaries. ‘I have to be very careful here,’ he said to Amir.

Peering over the edge, I made eye contact with Shmuel and handed him my camera. As I started my descent into the shaft, small streams of dirt and pebbles started raining on Shmuel who took shelter next to the slit. Stepping on the jutting stones I heard the dry ‘skeleton fingers’ crack underneath my boots.

Facing the slit, I saw for myself that the tomb raiders had chiseled their entrance unintentionally in the shape of an open mouth. As I prepared to go feet first I conjured in my mind ancient goddesses with beautiful lips, their power of temptation calling on men to see what lay beyond them.

The aperture appeared to suit those with a waist size 32 or less. Given that I’m a 34 waist, I anticipated a problem.Shmuel started giving me instructions. ‘Da’vid, face the opening and go feet first. Slide and inhale at the same time.’

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, Da’vid,” said Shmuel.

From inside the tomb I heard, ‘Dave, there’s a fall of about four feet. Drop!’

There was a scraping noise as my 34 waist and belt buckle tried to shimmy. I’ve been told in the past, during romantic endeavours, that I have ‘a butt 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!’

Shmuel was trying very hard not to laugh but a giggle escaped. I too began to chuckle, which was uncomfortable considering the added pressure of stone against my waist.

‘I think I’m going to have to go back!’ I kicked my legs wildly, inhaled and pushed with my arms against the lips of the hole. With a grunt, I popped back out like a newborn baby from its mother, onto the ground up top, creating a small cloud of dust.

              Tilting their heads up to the entrance, Mark and Amir laughed as Shmuel helped me up and slapped – not brushed – my backside, freeing me from the dirt and pebbles that clung to my butt. I stretched my back then pulled up my shirt to find that my stomach wore the physical proof that I’d been stuck. Humility aside, all I could think was that the tomb raiders who had made that shaft obviously didn’t like hamburgers as much as I did. I handed the camera through the small hole to Mark and left him to sort out filming in the tomb.

 

 

Women March 2018Sikhism preaches that people of different races, religions, or sex are all equal in the eyes of God. It teaches the full equality of men and women. Women can participate in any religious function or perform any Sikh ceremony or lead the congregation in prayer.

Serving Kindness, honors Sikh teachings of selfless service and equality through langar, which is a free community kitchen. In Sikh tradition divisions based on differences and status of religions, caste, color, age, gender and social status are removed to make way for sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness.

Sikhs have lived in America for more than 150 years, helped build the Transcontinental Railroad, served valiantly in every major world war, stood at the forefront of civil rights struggles, and were first responders on 9/11. Even though Sikhism is a distinct religion from Islam, many Americans either confuse Sikhs and Muslims.

 

Life in the City of Angels“I don’t have a bucket list, but my shit list is a mile long thought ….God help me! I use to have a religious habit then I became conflicted, confused and couldn’t stop lusting for the church lady playing the piano, besides I don’t like velvet paintings of the Pope. So, let me ask you this question because damn it if money is the root of all evil, why do they ask for it at church and If we were made in the image of God why aren’t we invisible ? “

 

August 15, 2015. The $585 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 is one of the must-pass pieces of legislation that Congress moves every year. But like they did in attaching other extraneous riders to the must-pass government-funding bill, lawmakers used the defense bill as a vehicle to pass a massive public lands package. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona slipped the giveaway language onto the defense bill at the 11th hour. Which gives sacred Native American site in Arizona to Australian-British mining company. The tactic was successful only because, like most last-minute riders, it bypassed public scrutiny. This sacred land has had special protections since 1955, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower decreed the area closed to mining — which, like cattle grazing, is otherwise common in national forests — because of its cultural and natural value. President Richard M. Nixon’s Interior Department in 1971 renewed this ban. Despite these protections, in December 2014, Congress promised to hand the title for Oak Flat over to Australian-British mining concern. By doing this, Congress has handed over a sacred Native American site to a foreign-owned company for what may be the first time in our nation’s history. The Apache Nation of Oak Flat in Arizona, say digging a massive mine under their ancestral lands will destroy sacred ceremonial and burial grounds.

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Cue The Camels, Chapter 6: Rucksack Essentials: La Musica

The passenger window is tinted yellow from years of cigarette smoke with a vertical crack in the shape of lighting running down the middle of the pane. The crack was probably formed either in the sport of shadow boxing or someone was having a really bad day of  frustration. The window is stuck midway up allowing for a blast of hot air with the familiar smells of diesel and earth filling the cab. I am in a good stare as the terrain charges by wondering which biblical figures walked here and which battles from the Old Testament were fought. But it is difficult to ponder these questions when my Israeli driver Ya’akov’s radio and cassette player screams with Anthony Newley’s torch song “What Kind of Fool am I.“ With both hands on the wheel and the ever present Marlboro dangling from his lips, Ya’akov belts out the song over-enunciating each lyric in his karaoke sing-along. Ya'akov-Driving-Sepia-Blog

What’s in a name? Everything apparently, Ya’akov  for us none Jews  “Jacob” literally means heel-catcher or supplanter- a person who “lies in wait” for a situation to develop in order to take advantage of it. In Genesis of the Old Testament,  Ya’akov is described as the person who wrestles with a mysterious man who turns out to be God Himself. That account perfectly describes the man sitting next to me singing off-key with Anthony Newley. A man of small stature, Ya’akov is  built like a brick house with hands like baseball gloves. His eyes are blue and clear in spite of all that he has seen and experienced.  But it is also through these eyes that Ya’akov is constantly searching the horizon for opportunities. For some, pop music is the demise of western civilization but for Ya’akov it was a blessing.Ya’akov embraced western pop music by teaching himself English off of Billboard’s Hot 100 music chart. That is why he strains so hard to pronounce each lyric. His accent is definitely Israeli but it switches to a bad Elvis impersonation when he curses out loud as the undercarriage of his truck scrapes the limestone rocks in the road. He still has difficulty with slang,  like walkie talkies which we use on location. Ya’akov consistently would call the walkie talkies “okie dokies”. For the benefit of Ya’akov I have also taken to calling them  “okie dokies” .Ya'akov-&-Okie-Dokie-Blog 

A veteran of the Six-Day war, Ya’akov has witnessed Israel’s history from the front-lines. At the end of the war he applied his  military skills and knowledge of the back roads of Israel as a driver and guide for news and documentary crews. Ya’akov also has a side business of selling cartons of Marlboro cigarettes and Fanta Orange sodas to the Bediouns that camp in the Judaean Wilderness. Ya'akov-and-me-Sepia-Blog

Somewhere on an old dirt road off  Highway 79 near Nazareth in Northern Israel. Ya’akov maneuvers around bombshell-size potholes in his mini truck which is full of camera gear and is swaying almost rhythmically to the music from his cassette player. The goal is to find a location to film in the Israeli outback without power lines or any evidence of the 21th century. Ya’akov finds a good location to shoot from, pulls over and true to our tradition he proceeds to make us coffee on a small backpack stove. With the strong aroma of coffee filling the air we sit on the back tailgate sipping the black brew smoking cigarettes.

“Ya’akov” I said,

“Yes Da’vid” Ya’akov replies.

“How about another song?” I ask.

Without blinking Ya’akov jumps up and walks to the middle of the scarres and battered road and bellows out,“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, honey don’t you know that I love you? In-a-gadda-da-vida, baby Don’t you know that I’ll always be true?” As he

Jesus, Iron Butterfly, I think to myself, the song came out in May of 1968, right after the dust settled from the Six-Day War a perfect time for Ya’akov to start learning English. As the sunsets and Ya’akov keeps rolling out the hits, there is nowhere I’d rather be. “Hey, Ya’akov hand me your  okie dokies, I’ll change the batteries for you. “

Cue-The-CamelsCue 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 

Dave MeschivesBesides me are my two pups, Frankie Doodle and Oggi Doggie. We are warm and comfortable sitting on the sofa  this early November morning. As I drink my coffee in the background the music of Ray Davies and The Kinks is playing, This Time Tomorrow. It only seems appropriate since we have had five deaths in the family since February. I am wondering with great anticipation and anxiety what will be This Time Tomorrow. I can’t wait for 2014 to over with. Not to be a downer but there has been personal discoveries, evolutions and revolutions for the last nine months as I wait for the next revelation.
What is it they say, “Perception is Reality.”  What seemed so important at the time of my youth was working at ABC Television Network in Hollywood, California.I had it made it to the top of my game in the entertainment business with power, money and prestige. It is also where I grew up, matured and honed my production skills and that was my perception of the world. When I left ABC Network I wanted more and I must say, I got it! I covered the war in Afghanistan as a solo journalist, civil strife in LA and the intifada in the Holy City of Jerusalem. My “Perception of Reality” has changed radically since those ABC days. I have seen death, betrayal and hopelessness in the world as the illusion of Hollywood was left behind. But I still hold on to my belief that deep in the souls of humanity we are one – in spite of political or religious differences. Like Ray Davies is singing now, ” Leave the sun behind me, and watch the clouds as they sadly pass me by,  and I’m perpetual motion and the world below doesn’t matter much to me, this time tomorrow where will we be.” I can only hope and pray.
My coffee is getting cold and Frankie and Oggi are restless and music has changed from the Kinks to the Mamas and Papas song, California Dreaming. For a kid from Oklahoma with a high school education I have lived my California Dream and for that I’m grateful for the journey I have had. Let’s see what tomorrow will bring and what old perceptions will change.

“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

 

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.

 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.