Eighteen countries, five shock absorbers, two bikers, and one amazing adventure…. That’s what the back cover of the book- Long Way Down – describe within its pages. This was an epic journey by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman across the continent of Africa on two BMW R1200GS Adventure motorcycles. The book was a good read and I am envious of their adventure. I owned a bike once. Well, not a bike but a scooter, a Vespa scooter. I was the big white guy on a Vespa scooter riding from Burbank through Griffith Park to Los Feliz on my way to work. And, I loved that little white Vespa, So, you can only imagine that while I was in Italy my love for the little Vespa was reignited. Vespa, in Italian means Wasp and true to its name and nature the Wasps are everywhere and going in every direction including the sidewalks. It is nothing to see a family of three on a Vespa or a woman on a cell phone smoking a cigarette with a baby strapped to her bosoms on the streets of  Naples or Rome. The Vespa has it own filmgrpahy that goes from, “Quadrophenia” to “American Graffiti” and the most memorable of all “Roman Holiday”. For a scooter that was intended primarily to solve the problems of urban and intercity traffic the Vespa has a rich history of adventures. In 1997 journalist Giorgio Bettinelli started out from Chile, reaching Tasmania after three years and 150,000 km on his Vespa across the Americas.  Bettinelli continued his adventure to Siberia, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. All in all, Bettinelli has travelled 254,000 km on a Vespa. Pierre Delliere, Sergeant in the French Air Force, reached Saigon in 51 days from Paris, going through Afghanistan. Few know that in 1980 two Vespa’s ridden by M. Simonot and B. Tcherniawsky reached the finishing line of the second Paris-Dakar rally.What do you think about that Mr. McGregor and Mr. Boorman ?

For those who have not experienced the backs streets of Naples on a Vespa. Compliments of my Italian brother Vittorio and myself.

Kabul, Afghanistan

My Afghan Polaroid

Wandering the back streets of Kabul I found myself on Passport lane where Afghan citizens go to have their photos taken for government ID’s. After watching the photographer at work with a couple of subjects, I fell in line to have my photo take as well. The process was slow, about 10 to 15 minutes to shoot, develop and print a photo for each customer. Which gave me the time to study and admire the work of this real street photographer. The Afghan box camera is a giant handmade wooden box known as the kamra-e-faoree, meaning “instant camera” – I call it the “Afghan Polaroid”. Working with only natural light the photographer uses a 35-millimeter camera lens attached to the front of the box and instead of clicking the shutter, the photographer removes the lens cap for a second and replaces it. Inside the box camera is an entire darkroom – paper, developer and fixer. After the latent image is exposed to a sheet of photographic paper, the photographer inserts his hand into the box through a cut-off pants leg designed to keep out light that would ruin the print.

He develops the image by moving the paper through two trays, one holding developer and the other fixer, to create a paper negative. He then makes another exposure, which converts the negative image into a positive print. It was truly impressive to watch how smooth and precise the photographer worked.

Having been briefly banned along with music and paper bags by the Taliban the kamra-e-faoree camera is in danger of disappearing again as digital cameras become more common place in Kabul.

Lukas Birk is well aware of the historical signifiants of the Afghan street photographers and their camera. Mr.Birk  has creating the Afghan Box Camera Project. For any photographer who appreciates the history of cameras and film this is a worth while cause. Link:http://www.afghanboxcamera.com/

I waited to see if the women was going to remove her burka for the photo, she never did.

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.

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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…..

Sunset in ScotlandA sunset drive on the A72 near Rosebank, Scotland. Standing sentry are ancient elders of oak, silver birch and pine that border the country lane which is empty of all traffic. With the windows down the crisp air dashes about and fills the cab with aroma of turf, heather and earth. For a moment my soul is lifted from all of life’s complications and I slow the car to a crawl to absorb every second. To my left is the River Clyde, running dark and silent as the sun ends another day in the land of my fathers. I am home and received by the spirits and magic of Scotland and yet I struggle to believe that I just saw a unicorn on the banks of the River Clyde. It was a magical mystery tour and I can’t wait to go back because Scotland is in my heart and soul.

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.