Crossing Borders: Calling All Angels

In mountaineering, there is a phenomenon known as ‘Summit Fever’ in which the heightened anticipation of summiting out weighs all reasoning. It is a step into the Twilight Zone where one’s critical faculties take a leave of absence and reckless decision making begins. The boiling frog story is often used as a metaphor for the inability of people to perceive significant changes that occur gradually –  the premise is that if a frog is placed  in cold water that is slowly heated, the animal will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

In Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air,  he describes climbers so intoxicated by the drive to get to the summit that the common sense of survival gets discarded even when exhaustion, dehydration and  bad weather becomes overwhelmingly evident – not to mention the absence of  fellow climbers who have met their death.  

Summit fever is not only limited to the tallest peaks in the world but can be found anywhere the human spirit is challenged- including the Sahara Desert. 

It has been called the toughest footrace on earth, The Marathon des Sables. Competitors have described the event as running on the surface of the sun. The  race is  held each year in Morocco over six-days covering  254 km which is the equivalent to six regular  marathons. Competitors must carry all personal belongings and food for the entire event in their backpacks. Water, tents and medical support are supplied by the race organizers. During the 1994 race,  Carabinieri (Italian police officer) Mauro Properi lost his way during a sand storm. Not wishing to endure a long drawn out death of dehydration, Mauro attempted to commit suicide in an abandoned mosque by cutting his wrists. The attempt failed – lack of water had caused Mauro’s blood to congeal the wound before the blood could escape his emaciated body. Nine days later he was found by a nomadic family and taken to an Algerian military camp. Mauro was nearly 200 miles off route.

Whether in the mountains, oceans or deserts for many adventurers the ultimate goal is to finish – at any cost. 

” I think that if you see me crawling I might be in trouble, but until then I think I’m okay.” Triathlete Felicia Wilkerson, competitor # 378, Marathon des Sables.

 





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.

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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…..

Crossing Borders: Souls I’ve Met Along The Way

Souls-I've-Met-Along-The-Way

Crossing Borders: The Virtue of Risk

Unknown-1“I wanted to witness things that very few people in the world get to experience and to test myself, to discover what I could endure seeing, what kinds of craziness I could survive and still be able to record images and pass them on.It was a lifestyle choice as opposed to a profession or thinking of it as work.” – Jason P. Howe

Back in the day, went I would return from the Middle East or Afghanistan I was often asked by friends, ” Dave, are you some kind of adrenaline junkie?”
I would reply, “No, but the importance of documenting history is why I take the risk.” Photojournalist James Nachtwey who put in terms that you (society) can best understand the importance of conflict photography, “The free flow of information represented by journalism, specifically visual journalism, can bring into focus both the benefits and the cost of political policies. It can give credit to sound decision-making, adding momentum to success. In the face of poor political judgment or political inaction, it becomes a kind of intervention, assessing the damage and asking us to reassess our behavior. It puts a human face on issues which from afar can appear abstract or ideological or monumental in their global impact. What happens at ground level, far from the halls of power, happens to ordinary citizens one by one.” This documentary which represents the virtue of risk for many men and women who sole motive is to record history so that society won’t repeat it.

Crossing Borders: Okie Dokies and In-Gadda-Da-Vida

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 

Life in the City of Angels: The Drop, Goofy-foot and Wipeout

Yes, it’s a commercial but the words and video elegantly express how I feel about you – my family, my readers, my internet friends and connections. Instead of drowning when life overcomes me, I have found that in the lineup with you, your encouragement helps me catch the next big wave of life’s events. I paddle as hard as I can as the wave peaks taking ‘the drop’ down its face. But most of the time I just wipeout or bail only to recover and paddle back to you in the lineup to try again. It’s a ‘bitchin’ way to live life.
So, thank you to everyone.
Thank you to friends, first sponsors and groupies.
To all the Daniels, the Gustavos and the Jurgens.
To 4-degree waters. To flat days.
To bad boards, cheap boards, kind of boards.
Thank you to Kelly, for making it look too damn easy.
Thank you to the second title.
To 3am. 4am. 5am.
Thank you to the surf fascists and the locals only.
To the surf babes.
To the wild cards.
To those we miss.
Thank you to the haters, the bullies and the trolls.
Thank you to hashtag go Medina, hashtag **** Medina.
To pain.
To paradise.
To heaven, to hell, and everything in between.
Thank you to the pessimists, the non-believers, the party crashers.
To those who push you up or bring you down, thank you all.
Without You, I’m Nothing.

 

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.

 

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.

Crossing Borders: The Italian Wasp

 

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

The Enduring Wasp.

Eighteen countries. Five shock absorbers. Two bikers. 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 ?  

 

Dave Banks Demo Reel

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