Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Havana: Miguel and la Casa Madre

Havana, CUBA: Feb 2nd (morning excerpt)

Supposed to meet Miguel @ 10am. Still not sure of the exact time here even. Sometimes its 2 hora different then my iPhone, now I guess its only 1 hora ahead. It feels like this place plays by its own rules… its weird. (its actually 3 hours different)
Anyways I kept checking the window for signs of him…but nothing…due to the time confusion I’ve been having.
Finally I spot him. I’ve decided no more walking (I've averaged around 20 miles a day, or so my feet would complain)…plus I think he wants me to be blessed/converted by/to his “afrocubano” religious leaders- so I grab a shirt and some shorts to give to him. This is the last time I will be seeing him. I pick out a matte black long sleeve striped shirt & those hideous cut off jeans shorts (they'll think they're nice in cuba) + 40 pesos (I finally found out the money thing! 25 cuban pesos = $1 cuc but they look similar… its truly bizarre) he seemed happy to get the stuff. Plus the money was big time to him. I wish I could have given him more.
Returning to mi casa, the casa madre wasn’t happy w/ me giving stuff to him (she must have seen me do it) she said a lot of things… I understood peligro (danger) & cuidado (careful) I nodded and tried to explain he’s my amigo & he’s showed me around a lot.
Anyways, I’m not sure I like this woman she acts like a pissed off mom & wears too much make up & perfume (if that’s what you would call it, more like "Glade" bathroom spray to me) she gave me hot milk & café and some hard as a rock white bread & butter for breakfast. Shizz! I’m hungry! I haven't been spending more then $8 a day the past 2 days, so I may be able to get another good meal and a souvenir to take home w/me. The university kids want to make me dinner too! So that’s slick! I’m meeting up with them @ 12 noon.
I need to eat something and maybe go workout until then.

Catch you later!


Miguel in his room.

(A little freaky if your coming to me for answers)

This is a little example of how we communicated the first day.

Keep in mind, these are excerpts from my recent trip journal... if you want to read more, you'll have to go back in my blog posts... if this is confusing... awesome! US citizens aren't confused this might be new to you.

Bachelors Ball: 2008

My second year photographing this Los Angeles Event. (Was even better then the first!)
The "Achelors" an elite group of Bachelors host a extremely large costume Gala each year.
The ball is always held at the ever so stylish Beverly Hilton off of Wilshire in Beverly Hills.
Here are just a few images I took of the 600+ guests in full blown costumes. Costumes ranged from original star trek outfits, David bowie, mafia,super hero's,Renaissance people and even scooby doo. An amazingly "wowing" event that even I find overwhelming (in a good way).

This is only a sample of the many insane pictures on the way! If you attended this event, stay tuned for a slideshow and ALL the images online. (March 7th)

Ralph was my trusty assistant and I prided him on always being on it, handing me lenses, memory cards and occasional sip of grey goose and sprite...when in Rome is all I can say.

Alright, here are some more shots.

Ralph and some beauties

United States representative?

Demanding attention is a new sport.

Ian Richtor helped throw the gala.

I had a chance to save his life... I kept shooting... I am photojournalist!

Myself and the trusty assistant Ralph Diaz. We went as models/marines.
It was a fun night, great people, loud music, fun costumes and amazing pictures! I can't wait until next year!

Website of the month
Click on the link above and start helping humanity, just by using your vocab knowledge.

Its addicting, but its good because your giving rice to starving children... its kinda interesting how that works, but hey, if it works!
So go use your vocabulary skills and feed some starving ninos.

"Here's a cool little site that was forwarded to me a little while ago, and knowing of your expansive individual lexicons and your copious humanitarian hearts, I thought you guys might enjoy it."-Luke Payne

Thanks for the heads up on this Luke.

Rachel Gaglio's shoot

Its been awhile since I shot this, but for Jon's sake I better put it up. (Jon phelps happens to love this shoot, do you blame him?)
Rachel is a ballet dancer as well as an actress and singer. CLICK (for more Rachel info)

She was alot of fun to shoot and it shows through the images.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Havana: The Students.

The crew. (LtoR Luis, Me, Mike,Geysis,Leslie and Ruth)

Havana, Cuba -Feb 2nd,2008

I went looking for my young friends I met on the street. They told me what building when I met them. They must have said good things to their building mates because when I got there the people standing outside immediately knew who I was.
I didn’t meet up w/ the original crew but met one similar and 3 of the 6 knew a little English!!!(how refreshing to speak in my native tongue for the first time in 4 days!)
With the new crew 6 cuban's and me, we grabbed food & cerveza at a local outdoor cafe near the highway looking out towards Florida ( this was the best meal I’ve had all week!) arroz con pollo w/ dried platanos tons of picante caliente sauce & all for pretty cheap! (the whole group couldn't believe how much I could eat.)
We then jumped on a little train like bus & toured old Habana, singing the whole way, when we got off after about 35 minutes it was about 11pm.
After sitting on the ledge overlooking the ocean for a while we then went Salsa/Reggeton (don't know if that mixes well, but after some cuban rum, it doesn't matter) So Dancing at the "university disco" on the 8th floor of their building.
After 2 and a half hours of dancing then resting, dancing then resting, I had to get some sleep! They all ended up walking me 20 blocks to my home @ 2:30am. They said I live in a dangerous zone. The end of a fun night... plans tomorrow of meeting them for lunch! I'm so happy to meet some fun people my age with relaxed personality's and honest and good hearts. I feel like I've known these students for years and its only been 5 hours! Good night Feb 2nd.

Like I said, I was hungry! I impressed them all with how much I eat.

Out on the town.

Thats why they call it the disco!

Some of that beloved Club Havana (with cola) Spilt

Things always tend to get crazy.

Trying to look awesome.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fidel Resigned!!

HAVANA — Fidel Castro, bedridden for 19 months, on Tuesday gave up the almost unlimited power he has wielded in Cuba for nearly 50 years, but whether the surprise announcement represented a historic change or a symbolic political maneuver remained unclear.
It is expected that his brother Raúl, 76, will be officially named president, and some experts consider him more pragmatic.

Raúl Castro has talked about bringing more accountability to government and possibly working to improve relations with the United States. But since taking over temporarily in the summer of 2006, he has largely operated in his brother’s shadow, and, except for facilitating huge investments by Canadian and European resort developers here, he has brought about little change.

It was not clear what role, if any, Fidel Castro would play in a new government, or whether he would retain other powerful positions, including head of the Communist Party. But he signaled that he was not yet ready to completely exit the stage.

I think its pretty exciting that this is happening...yes, I wish I was still there when the news broke (just 10 days too late!!) If the Cuban government can merge their current culture with some US styled freedoms and economy (minus the trillions in debt the U.S. has to China) they will be in good shape sooner then they could have hoped.
My friends in Cuba are yet to respond to my questions of change and their added responses... but I'm agreeing that not much will change as long as Fidel is Alive. So much is centered around dying for your their old school coin with Che's head adorning the front reads "PATRIA O MUERTE" (Patriotism or die)* I think that time (a few years) is needed, but your future looks good my Cuban friends!

Also, due to this sudden surprise, it has sparked 10 times more interest in my photojournalism work. I'll be signing a contract with Zuma Press sometime this week.

Cheers to a new future! (Cuba and the United States) Lets just hope that our futures blend... although it would be nice to set a ban on American fast food in Cuba... its so refreshing not to see a McDonalds, or KFC...those restaurants are a big reason why our country has a spare tire around its waist.

Alright, I'm out!


P.S. More journal entries to come from Cuba. Hopefully some imported Cuban Rum mojitos too!
P.S.S. added some images of mine CLICK
* Thanks Tanya T. for the translation of my coin.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cuba: Hardcore Alley Stickball

Feb 1 – Part Dos (or 2) “stickball”

That medical tape I brought has once again proven its worth (maybe even its weight in Gold?) First the pen(for journaling), now for béisbol! I was watching some older boys (14-20) Play Stickball in an empty lot. After about 15 minutes of watching, their ball got stuck/lost in a nearby tree. After a few moments, I remembered the tape in my pocket. I pulled it out and to their excitement offered to make a new ball. They asked ¿Cuánto? (how much?) I denied payment & I was immediately thrown into the outfield(which felt much like a small field of pavement littered with random divots and health hazards, I guess you can thank Fidel for free healthcare, although it may not be worth it) (see playing field in image above). I played w/ them nearly 2 hours. I’m sore. Between innings I would do pull ups called (barro) in espanol…or something like that, I asked a small child that was watching me "¿Cómo se dice pull-ups?" I asked him as I pulled up another. He replied "Barro"...but I really find it hard to believe...I'll look it up online when I get back to the states.

Anyways, I hit 3 huge hits that sent the ball over a building each time. Only one the team called a homerun, even though the others were good on regulation… then again that was my first time playing stickball. I liked it mucho gusto? I’m off to go get dinner… maybe meet up w/ those pseudo flirters HAHA. I need to hear some musico and have another mojito! Adios for now!

I didn't bring my camera to the alley to play, but I'll dig in my archive for an image of the place I joined a team to play.

I'm getting more and more tan each day. This Cuban sun is hotter then most. I'm enjoying it, especially mixed with exhaust and a warm breeze coming from florida.

Writers NOTE: This is a journal excerpt from my trip to Cuba a little more then a week ago. I am currently in my LA Studio.

Monday, February 18, 2008

X Games practice or just wild Sunday?

Went to Saddleback Church today.
Not impressed with Rick Warren. Felt like I was getting one of many sales pitches for his book. Ultra theme park feel. A friend of mine Sheena Fiktarz (One of my Alumni Brides) led worship. Shes extremely talented and I hope she puts out an Album. The main highlights of the day were:

1.Chillen With Audrey (Mi Novia)
2.Watching Kyle Loza practice for the upcoming X-Games
3.Getting a rush of my own from jumping of the crane into the foam pit. (See video below)

Heres a few pictures from Kyles jumps.

(Pause Blog music before starting)

I made it outa the pit alive and I'd do it again... prolly not a back flip though.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I'm on "Pretty on the Outside"

Celebrity Blogger/Talented artist David Gilmore dropped my blog and info on his well traveled blog "Pretty on the Outside".

Heres what it looks like.

It was about 2 weeks ago, but who's keeping track? Its still fresh!
Not sure if I'm in the "pretty" or "Not" category, I guess thats for the readers to judge.

Gilmore is a talented painter and sketcher (not the pathetic shoe line)Maybe called sketch artist? Anyways, he does some amazing illustrations of celebrities doing crazy stuff. I will know I've made it when he inserts my face into one of his works. His work is featured in "Juice" magazines around the US and the world. A very talented man. I'm honored to be on his blog.

More to come on CUBA. I've had alot of people asking for more...I can't understand why! :)


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Highs and Lows from Habana

Feb 1st (2 months till April Fools Day)
New pen! WooHoo! It was broken, but w/ a little medical tape and some hard work… it is now my tool of choice.
The new casa will be a good change of pace. The 1st spot was great, but I always felt crazy lonely and the place reminded me of being broke and new to the country. Now my spirits have changed. I've started picking up the bible, I've really felt like I can relate to Paul in Acts and David in the might sound pathetic and extreme to go that far, but I actually can grasp alot of their emotions at this point. Oh and then even being able to feed my internet addiction & contact familia. That was mucho bueno!
Miguel isn’t around today… kinda bitter sweet. Great tour guide & friend, but things get awkward when he asks for deniro I don’t have and sometimes I feel like he's pocketing some of it just because he can… Anyways, its good to have a day to relax, to break from walking 20 miles. My inner thighs are chaffed and these vans don’t prevent blisters. On that note: I’ve been enjoying the following… (keep in mind this is all copied text from a beat up little journal I woul dwhip out and jot down random notes and thoughts...I'm not crazy and I don't type with a pen)

1. More Language Confidence (I still can’t conversate, but I can comprehend much more)
2.El Sol (Sun) (Not too caliente, just perfecto(haha, thanx Rita:)
3. I’m only using 6 pesos a day. (3 for bread, 1 for vegetables and 2 for a good mojito)
4. Meeting cool people (everywhere!) Most people are extremly friendly if you can communicate with them.
5. Rationing. I’ve actually come to enjoy the challenge of not waisting anything!
6. Immunity to the tap water. This will save me at least a dollar 50 a day!
7. A break from photo taking. I left the 50 @ mi casa for my leica. Which is really only good in the day. Horrible w/o flash…
8. Free breakfast! El casa madre heard I’m broke & offered it for free! I now see where my So-Cal madres get it. They can’t see a nino go hungry. I told her my moms would be very greateful. But not as much as I am.
9. my new pen. The tip is being pushed further and further into the bac of it. So I may need to do surgery on it soon.
10. spending thime w/ Jesus. Has given me patience, endurance & wisedom.
11. Safety. It feels really safe here. Not sure why though…

Not Enjoying…

1. Showers… if these are hot! I would HATE to try a cold one.
2. The food. (although I did find a cheap pizza spot. Nasty… but cheap!)
3. Blisters on my feet from walking oh and chaffing hurts!
4. Being alone. No conversations except to my camera (video)
5. The litter… people here toss trash everywhere! It must be legal and maybe even a sport?
6. Exhaust: A lot of vehicles are from the 30's, 40’s & 50’s. That was back when emission standards weren’t a concern. Nor was air quality. Lucky for all living things, we are on the ocean & the air gets pushed around more frequently.
7. This pen. (every page I need to repare it!)

I didn't bring my Canon 5D today, since I wanted to blend in and look like a local...not that locals look like this...see video I took with my Leica D-Lux 3. (I'll post the video when i have time to get it up...iMovie is making me feel retarded)

Cuba's Bonita Playa


January 31st
Cuba:Journal Entry #4
I’m laying on La playa right now. Its not crowded, its beautiful! There is an Italian man lying basically on top of a Cuban chica. They are making pseudo love on a chair… they freeze everytime I look their way… very entertaining.
Miguel borrowed some (local) pasos and brought me back some odd meat, a tomato & bread. Its gross.
I’m eating it…
The time is probably around 3:30, although I’m not positive after the 2 hour bus ride! I still haven’t used the internet and I’m getting restless. Last nite I could barely sleep! Hoping the familia isn’t too worried. Although I bet they are:(. Its getting mucho hot (caliente) and I’m finished w/ my sandwich thingy(if thats what you would call it)… I'm off to jump in el agua!
After writing this… I met a few men & 2 women (the girls were from argentina ,they couldn’t stop oiling each other, it was like they had a phobia of being without oil. The men just couldn’t stop staring, including Miguel, I looked too for a second... alright maybe was a funny sight...but I didn't stop, drop the jaw and stare as if these were the only 2 women left on the entire planet) I also joined a pull-up contest w/ one of the young men. (who thought I was related (brother) to the prettier Argentinean girl, He actually approached me asking to take her out. HA) Anyways I won the contest by 17- He got 8. He then wanted revenge (from pull ups) and challenged me to a swimming contest. So I did that too, I needed a good arm workout anyways. I wasn’t sure how it was to work… I knew I was tired from the pull-up contest though,I wasn't about to swim a mile in the Caribbean sea right after that dirty sandwich and 25 pull-ups in the hot sun. I ended up just going w/ the flow. Both of us ended up running, diving & swimming as fast as possible out to sea (towards florida) we swam for about 45 seconds then I see him struggling to stay up. So that’s the end of the 2nd contest I guess. I found out a few things about this kid. He was obsessed with Argentinean girls, he was 18, new english like a young baby and was wearing a girls adidas shirt...I didn't have the heart to inform him it was for chicas. Thats the end of my first beach experience.
Later this night, I found internet (at a Grande Hotel). It felt good to send some notes saying I’m safe.
My pen seems near dead or at least it did. Geez! I’m writing so much my pen is dying!!!
I’m Hungry! I swear, when I get back I’m going to have a big ol’ bowl of Thai “Hot & Sour” Soup w/ seafood. I’ve ben eating shizz food! No lobster, no arroz, no papa’s just gross pizza, white bread, weird bread & chesse blah! Also fried chicken & beer? The thing at the beach wasn't exactly human food and tasted much like the beach itself. seaweed,rocks,driftwood,salt,ect...

Highlights from the day:
1.Che Tattoo on some dude's back.
2.Internet use
3.The hot beach
4.Pullup contest
5.Getting immune to their tap water.
6.Taking Portraits of a few locals

Habana, downtown Vedado
2 hour bus ride

slick structure.
Highlight #1 (Che tattoo)

Pull-up contest... the onlookers were just as entertaining.

I wander around for hours looking for pictures like this.

It looks like they're about to race.

A dad and his daughter.

Fidel is always watching.

The neighborhoods are relatively safe.