After a day of traveling aimlessly along Sunset Boulevard it was time to take a break. It had been a good day of harvesting cigarette butts. Joe had always felt it was his civic duty to help address this serious environmental problem by picking up this toxic waste. Now was the time to sit and enjoy the fruits of his labor. He watched for awhile the congestion of traffic and remembered the time he too lived that life…. but no more. The last few embers glowed at the end of the cigarette as Joe inhaled, and as the white smoke curled up in a spiral motion, he pressed lightly his shirt pocket to the fragment ends of tobacco to insure a reserve till morning. Taking the last drag the ashes glowed brighter and crackled as air passed through the cigarette and the smoke went deeply into his lungs. He dropped the butt on the concrete and stubbed it out in a rhythmical tapping of his right foot. How wonderful it would have been to have a cup of coffee to accompanied his cigarette break he thought. The sun had set, but he had decided to stay sitting on the bench and watch the world drive by and maybe have another cigarette.
I am a weary and a lonesome traveler
I’ve been a traveling long.
I’ve traveled near and I’ve traveled yonder
I’ve been a traveling long and traveled cold and then
I’ve traveled hungry. Lord, I’ve been a traveling long.
Yes, I’ve traveled with the rich and traveled with the poor
I’ve been a traveling long.
One of these days I’m going to stop all my traveling
Going to keep right on traveling on that road to freedom
Going to keep right on traveling long…
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.
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” .
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.
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 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
I believe that I am trapped in the thoughts of a writer with no way out, I am terrified that at the end of the last chapter my character will no longer exist.I can only hope that the author has a strong vocabulary with very little rewrite. This is my sentence, where I live life on the streets of L.A. – what a crazy story this is going to be. The author writes a word without risk as I am forced to walk the boulevards day in and day out, but I forgive the author. How I have wonder, but am not sure if my story is being revealed to him or if the author has the final say. I can only hope that maybe, just maybe the author will let me know my fate. Esc key, fiction or non-fiction, I just don’t know.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 ?
There is something unique about Southern California light. Morning light is too short for the gold, midday leaves the gentle colors washed away, but at sunset when the blossoms close the alluring shades of light are flushed with an apricot tint with a lovely hue of lilac and pastels colors are reborn – or maybe it’s just the smog.