Sunday, December 27, 2009

I'm excited to receive some pix of my Vietnam dog

More than 40 years after I was a "puppy pusher" (as we called ourselves) at Soc Trang in the Mekong Delta, one of my buddies send me some photos I'd never seen before. They're of me and my first (and best) Vietnam dog, Fritz. They bring back some fond memories.

My sincere "thank you" to Martin Maier.

Another story that may have gotten away

It was certainly in the '80s that I took the camera assigned to the UCLA Extension class I was teaching and drove to Portuguese Bend on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. My quest was to sell what I saw as a "great story" to the TV folks at Ripley's Believe it or Not. My friend at KNBC, Karen Estudillo (Gordon) was cool enough to edit the raw footage at my direction.

The Backstory

Sometime in the '50s, our family went to Marineland of the Pacific and ended up taking a short cruise on a tour boat. We traveled in the direction of San Pedro and marveled at the stunning coastline. At one point, the guide pointed out a group of seemingly new and expensive homes close to the beach surrounded by a small bay.

"Those houses are all vacant," he said, "because they're slipping into the ocean." He told us how the authorities had condemned them all. They just sat there (well, maybe they were moving slightly).

Fast forward about 30 years and I decided to find out what became of the neighborhood. I drove through San Pedro and then looped around the peninsula on Palos Verdes Drive South. I had no trouble finding the area because the roadway suddenly turned into a broken, bumpy drive. The yellow centerline shifted left to right with the moving earth. All of the utility pipes -- gas, water and sewer, were safely above ground and sported special joints that enabled them to shift without breaking. The same with the electric and phone wires. They all had big loops that would enable them to stretch when the poles might drift apart.

What surprised me the most was that there still a few homes in the neighborhood and it seemed as if people lived in them. It was still part of the Portuguese Bend neighborhood, a private community behind security gates. Somehow I managed to get in and I was able to see those few remaining houses up close.

Astounding. They were either on steel girders and I-beams and leveled on stacks of railroad ties or they were leaning drastically down the hill. One young family invited me to return with the camera and shoot my little promo.

I went there on the day after Christmas with Xiao Mei and her father, and we were lucky enough to get in again. However, I couldn't find the particular house in the video below. I did some research last night and I now believe that the city of Rancho Palos Verdes purchased the property and tore down this particular house. I'm trying to track down the family that once lived there, but it will require a trip to the L.A. County Assessor to do some historical research.

I'll keep you posted.

I hope you enjoy this "blast from the past" -- albeit never-before shown to the public.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The man who paints rocks and cactus

My friend Joe Veraldi and I were driving near downtown San Diego about 15 years ago and we had to pull over when we saw a house made mostly of stone, it seemed. What made it so intriguing is that someone had painted colorful and sometimes strange colors and images on those stones -- as well as on the cactus plants, on palm tree trunks, on the windows, the sidewalk and even on the station wagon parked out front.

Then we saw the energetic 83-year-old culprit wearing bib overalls over a bright red flannel shirt. He was pushing a wheelbarrow up the steep sidewalk to get more cement. He needed it because one of the stone retaining walls he had built years ago needed more stones and more cement.

Of course, he had to stop and get to know the man, "Scotty" Campbell. I can't remember why I had my TV camera with me, but we put it to impromptu use. Joe did some of the interview, I did the rest. The hour or so we spent with him provided up both with enough wisdom and lust for life to last us for years to come.

Oh, and if you look closely, you'll see that he's painted his hat and his tennis shoes as well.

Meet "Scotty" Campbell. You'll love him!

If you do, please go to Youtube and rate the video. You can even subscribe. Wouldn't that be fun?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

For the love of the horse

From the "Projects I'm Determined to Complete" file comes the story of the love affair between a horseman and a blind mare.

It was in 1993 that a woman from a horse rescue group called to tell me about the blind horse that they had recently rescued. What many people don't know is that unwanted animals are easy marks for brokers who arrange to provide horses to butchers who sell the meat overseas -- where horse meat is a delicacy.

I visited a ranch in a canyon above the San Fernando Valley and had the pleasure of meeting a horse with the nickname of Lady. She was wonderful, but even more astounding was a gentle horseman I'm calling by his initials, K.S.

He and Lady impressed me so much that I returned with my television camera and a high-quality wireless microphone. It turned out to be a most memorable shoot. I brought Diane Toomey along with me to conduct one of her brilliant interviews, Vilma Yolanda Garcia as a production assistant. More recently, my friend, Pat Hall, transcribed and logged the entire day of videotape. Many of the fantastic instructors, technicians and fellow students at Video Symphony (where I'm honing my editing skills) helped out with information and encouragement.

Anyone who has seen the raw footage seems to get hooked. Hence, this sample. The rest of the story of how the relationship between Land and K.S. developed will unfold in the final product. You'll just get a hint of it here.

K.S. had his own history of rescuing doomed horses. He had learned the loving art of what we now call "horse whispering" long before the term became popular. He was frustrated that so many people bought horses -- often expensive thoroughbreds -- with the same I've-got-to-have-one fever they buy BMWs and Rolex watches. He told me that people had no idea of how to care for these special animals and, even worse, didn't have the time.

The result? The horses would act up, the owners would declare that their horses were dangerous and they'd unload them "for the sake of the safety of their families." Of course, the horse brokers and the butchers were very happy to take the horses.

When K.S. met Lady, it was the beginning of a beautiful romance. Somehow they seemed to fill each others' needs in ways I'm still exploring. As you'll see in the sample video here, K.S. had to draw on all of his gentle horse skills and more.

I'm sharing this sample video for two reasons: I'm determined to complete projects that I started years ago, and I want to invite others to participate in the full-scale production that will come out of the video I shot back then and on more current information that I'm gathering.

So if you know people who are passionate about horses, other animals or about very special and inspirational people, please share this video with them. There's a wonderful development that takes place in this story as well as a sad, bittersweet ending.

I'll share that with you in the completed project video. If you want to participate, please get in touch with me. It's a wonderful project and it deserves to be in the public eye. Oh, and if go to it on Youtube, you could rate it and maybe even make it a favorite. That will help get the word out.