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SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO (CA)-Ray Brewer, a HUD field director, led the assembled 400 people or so, in the pledge of allegiance, and it was at that moment that what should have been a Norman Rockwell scene turned into something more like Alice in Wonderland.  The atmosphere had been building up to that time and I wondered what would happen next.  The city of San Juan Capistrano had offered the Community Center to host a foreclosure prevention workshop with the participation of HUD, the FHA, California Home loan Lenders (Wells Fargo, HSBC and Chase) along with various NGO organizations like the OC HOPOC, the NHSOC, and the Orange County Legal Aide Society.

Congressman Ken Calvert (R-44) appeared to greet the attendees and while Calvert’s demeanor was genuinely in awe with the turnout, his presence brought a communal low growling buzz that started when they began the announcement with “Congressman.”  Thankfully, everyone remained calm but just barely so.  Curiously, the organizers were very relaxed and easy to work with although very direct in that they insisted on the utmost respect and consideration for participants.  It wasn’t a point too far away for me as the parent company for The Orange County Register, Freedom Communications, and for whom I was freelancing today, was in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings.  The intimate mechanics of trying to hold onto one’s home was obvious to me and deserved any matter of compassion and understanding I could give.

I did not originally think that there would be that many people at the event.  Foreclosure isn’t something that happens in America, even if national news said it was up, besides, watching it on national news is something that happens to people everywhere else like, snowstorms, tornados and hurricanes. 

Peter Scheldon, a staff reporter, was to write the story and so I waited outside the entrance, looking for a photo angle of the crowd.  My assignment was to shoot interviewees that agreed to have their photo taken for the article.  It didn’t take long for people to notice my cameras and a calm un-easiness carried itself back through the line.  A man walked out from the line seeking an empty bench at the side of the door and exclaimed:

“…Oh look, we can get our picture taken and they’ll put us in the crime blotter…”

 

It was impressive that so many people had brought their children although I wondered if it meant that the current economic downtrend would continue and instinctively, parents had thought to make it a learning experience.

Most people, obviously tense and in different stages of grief and uncertainty, were relieved to get some help and direction; it seemed likely that not everyone expected good news but at least something was being done and they were not alone. 

Scheldon, the reporter, arrived and in the midst of his interviews, I shot their faces as they poured out the months and years of dealing with struggle, stress and wonder.  It occurred to me that the people I saw were a mix of all the people I would usually see at any event I was assigned to shoot.  In fact it was not hard to imagine the people I would shoot this day were overwhelmingly the same people I would see helping out at any other assignment at a church, community or sports event.  This was the middle class and not what anyone would assume to be an “at risk” group of people.

There was one gentleman interviewed that sat silently and patiently waiting for his turn with a counselor.  He was not scared nor afraid but simply concerned and clear in his intention to get some help; this was not a man that was used to having an issue like this and having to share it.  He had been interviewed  by Scheldon and so I asked permission to keep shooting him, which I did.

He sat in the main room, waiting his turn, listening to the speakers that talked about anything from the government’s position on loans, fraud and bankruptcy.  I noticed he was not as talkative as several others that were interviewed but he was an old tree; confident, gracefully proud and sadly curious to what had to be for him, a new experience.

I followed him to where he sat down and spoke with a counselor.  I got a few shots, trying to be as unobtrusive as I could with two huge cameras and a blinding flash.  He held firm, wavering a bit beneath uncomfortable questions from the counselor but answered unblinkingly.  He had my attention and more importantly, my respect; this man is tough I thought as I imagined what it would be, to look across a pile of papers and face the help he needed.

I was done with my shots and I waited to catch his eye.

Thank you and good luck.” I said, and I meant it.

 

“Thanks!” he said, looking up for a moment before setting his eyes back on the attorney sitting before him and without bothering to look up he added, “I’m going to need it.”

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Hittn' the road and on to the next one.  Her big smile tells us she doesn't seem to mind

Hittn' the road and on to the next one. Her big smile tells us she doesn't seem to mind

 

 

 

 

Saturday, I was in Laguna Niguel early and saw that the “Annual Moon The Amtrak” event was going to be big.  It was only 9 am and there were already a lot of people.  I went off and did some errands and came back through around 1:30.  I got there just in time to see the Orange County Sheriff Helicopter come in over the tracks and announce that the crowd would have to disperse and leave the area as it was an un-lawful assembly.

A huge “ahhhh…” went up from the crowd at the same time and shortly after a black undercover type sedan went through on Camino Capistrano and announced the same thing.  I was on the other side of the tracks and where I was there was no one.  I thought for a moment and called the photo desk at The Orange County Register to see if they wanted the shots.  They shot it last year for the mooning part, but this was different.

 
 

 
I talked to Thomas and he explained that they already had a photographer down there and then hesitated.
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

If you want to shoot it on your own go ahead and we’ll see what you get…so send it to me if you get anything good and I’ll look at it…we’ll just see…”

 

OC Sheriff deputies moniter the crowd as they leave southbound on Camino Capistrano.

OC Sheriff deputies moniter the crowd as they leave southbound on Camino Capistrano.

 

 

 

I carry a change of clothes in my van and so quickly changed from my shorts, got my equipment together and made my way over.  By now, there was a definite movement to comply with the order.  The Sheriffs were lined up on the bridge that is there just south of “Mugs A-Way” saloon.  They had their squad cars lined up and stood beside them in groups.  A single file line of cars, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboarders, scooters and  walkers made their way in the single open southbound lane under the watchful eye of the Deputy Sheriffs.

I really expected this to erupt into something and so was trying to keep my eyes open to be safe and get a good shot of it all.  I think mostly the event has been very innocent and a way for adults to let off some steam and be a part of the quirky history in Orange County.  I have shot enough events to know that a few drunks can ruin a regular event and this looked like something that would ignite but I was relieved as soon as I got there and started shooting on the bridge.

 
 

OC Sheriff Deputies and Security from Mugs Away Saloon consider the options together.

OC Sheriff Deputies and Security from Mugs Away Saloon consider the options together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Orange County Sheriff Department was out to disperse the crowd with no issues and that is exactly what they did.  I thought their approach and demeanor was excellent.  They just wanted to get everyone out with out incident and I cannot say enough for their efforts in getting this done.  I personally saw where deputies observed more than one  ambulatory drunk stumbling around and just let them keep moving on their way out; no doubt that if anyone wasn’t moving out they would have intervened.
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

A few “discussions” occurred between participants and deputies and as well, although heated, the deputies gave everyone a way out while remaining firm.  I think this humbled more than a few folks that should have gone to jail and they realized the break they were getting and cautiously did as the deputies asked. 

 

 

Cool Couple on a Cool bike.

Cool Couple on a Cool bike.

In general, I followed the deputies, while hanging back, so as not to encourage anyone form trying to make the news.  The deputies were calm and conversed normally with anyone that approached then.  I saw several times deputies and attendees laughing together as if they were at a Jaycee softball game.  There was an obvious method on their part as they moved through the crowd and gave everyone plenty of time to get handled anything illegal and in the open.  I saw one sheriff sergeant speaking for awhile with an apparently upset woman and then was speaking with someone, using her cell phone.  I got a shot of it and it was especially interesting to see a helmeted sheriff using her cell phone with a fluffy ball dangling form it.  He must have solved the problem as she walked away much calmer than when she came up to him.

 

 

 

 

 

On the crowd’s part, they were generally upset that as there had been no incident, why was it getting shut down?  I was asked several times if I knew what had happened as they believed in general that something must have occurred.  I had asked a deputy if he knew early on and he responded that he didn’t know and that he just got the word to go down and here he was.  This is standard as information is always handled through a public information officer.  There still could have been something but didn’t seem like it.        

 

     

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

OC Sherrifs shoot the breeze with an attendee on Saturday.

OC Sherrifs shoot the breeze with an attendee on Saturday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The crowd behaved well in general except for a few drunks but they were wise enough to lay low; everyone seemed to know that they were getting a pass so even in a stupor they maintained order.  I heard a few people in cars drive by and make random rude comments about the deputies and un-doubtedly it was heard; they just ignored it and kept a watchful eye.  Then again, I heard plenty of event goers compliment the sheriff deputies on their calmness, “nice job”, “…you guys are doing great…” or  “Thanks for coming out…”

 

Peace out.

Peace out.

 

 

I tink this couple pretty much have a good time where ever they go.

I tink this couple pretty much have a good time where ever they go.

I heard someone say that it had started with a medical aid and the emergency personnel had a difficult time making it down.  I don’t know if that was true.  This was really a good crowd actually and I think the only impediment to emergency response would be by someone drunk getting in the way on accident, getting run over or becoming belligerent because of a uniform.  I don’t remember seeing any bathroom facilities and that could be an issue.  Everyone was minding their own business and the crowd was gentle.  I have seen much more controlled, sanctioned events with a similar theme, and the feeling for me has always been that something could easily happen.  Once I was there, I was wary of course, but this crowd just didn’t have that vibe. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Ultimately, I will reason that some over the top and repeated nudity shattered the day for the “Moon The Amtrak” event.  Its true that anyone down there would have to expect this type of stuff going on to a certain degree and as well, it’s not like they were around any homes where innocents would have happened upon them.  If you were down there then you were there for the party. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Its always a few jerks that ruin it but a good job must be recognized on the part of The Orange County Sheriff’s Department and especially because they obviously meant for it to be that way.  Maybe our new Sheriff has already had an impact; I would really like to think so.  The crowd deserves credit as well.  They definitely didn’t agree with the order and yet peaceably did as they were asked and without incident.

 

An OC deputy Sheriff helps out an event participant using her cell phone

An OC deputy Sheriff helps out an event participant using her cell phone

 

 

 

I don’t look forward to the day that things don’t turn out they way they did today but then we’d be like any other country where things go wrong and get worse by the minute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The artcle in The Orange County Register:

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/crowds-boyne-year-2092361-police-event

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Carrie Turbow on the 99 switchbacks on the main Mt. Whitney Trail.  The summit of Mt. Whitney is the peak on the right.  The switchbacks gain about 1,300 feet in about 1/2 mile.  Hikers are rewarded at the crest at 13,300 feet,  with views of Inyo National Forest to the east and Sequoia National Park to the west. It wasn’t enough that Paul Bersebach and Carrie Turbow climbed Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states at 14, 496 ft, a week and a half ago.  What took place as they began at 3am on the trailhead, at 8,362 ft, sparked an idea at about 10,000 feet and matured at about 13,000 feet. 

 

The plan was a go at the top and as Beresbach explains it, Turbow signed off on the project exactly there at the highest point at 14,496 feet; there sitting on a rock, Turbow,  responded with a simple “yes” to his marriage proposal.

 

“Well, you know I had thought about it and it was in the back of my mind when we started….at 10,000 feet, I really started thinking about it and at 13,000 feet, I knew it was a good idea…we were sitting on some rocks, actually at the highest point on the summit…I was low key, I said some things first, like what she meant to me and then asked her and she calmly said “yes” …I expected her to cry a little and so when she didn’t, I asked her if she was going too…she said no and then a few moments later she let go a little…”

 

Outpost Camp is surrounded on three sides by 1,000-foot walls.  It sits in the pine trees at the base at about 10,400 feet. They took their time coming down after spending about half an hour on the summit.  They didn’t get back to the trailhead until 11pm or so.

 

“We really took our time and stopped along the way…it’s probably why we weren’t very sore…still though, 18 hours on the trails…”

 

The Whitney climb is 8,362 ft of elevation change in 10.2 miles, from trailhead to summit, for a total of 20.4 miles.  That would be like walking from San Clemente to South Coast Hospital in Laguna and back and half of it uphill.  You have to carry your own food and although they had a fine day for the ascent, you still have to carry the gear for the odd storm that could blow through.  Don’t forget that you have to filter water every little bit of distance as well.  That’s a lot of ingredients for one great day.

 

It seems to me that it was worth it; two separate people went up and a single unified one came down.

 Paul Bersebach and Carrie Turbow on the summit of Mt. Whitney at 14,496 feet.

Congratulations to Paul and Carrie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the story on The Orange County Register here: 

 

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/trail-feet-down-2074073-snow-control

 

 

 

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