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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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A Saddleback Gaucho player warms up on the field before the game against the San Jacinto Eagles.

WARM UP: A Saddleback Gaucho player warms up on the field before the game against the San Jacinto Eagles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Saddleback Gauchos began their season last week with a loss but all that changed last night ain play against the San Jacinto Eagles(Hemet).  The Eagles never a lead on the board and Saddleback played agressively through out the game to win 41-15.  The Eagles had a little push in the last quarter but could not bring the score up, even against a score of Saddlebacks substitutions.

I shot it for the Lariat News, Sadlleback’s school newspaper (lariatnews.com) and you can see the game photos there.  I shot High School football all last year and there is quite a difference in speed and hitting.  Saddleback has a large squad and everyone from boosters, players and coaches had a good time and a good attitude.  Both teams played well and although the Eagles pushed hard, my impression was they do not have the size of player that Saddleback has, nor a wide range of talent. 

Read aboutthe game and see the photos:

 

http://www.lariatnews.com/

 

http://www.saddleback.edu/athletics/football/footballindex.html

 

 

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A competitor in the steer wrestling competion at the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo, on Saturday, does his stuff.

INBETWEEN: A competitor in the steer wrestling competion at the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo, on Saturday, does his stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 8th annual Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo kicked off on Saturday, in San Juan Capistrano.  It is billed as having the largest purse of any national 2 day rodeo.

 

The event was very well organized and brings 30 or so of the best rodeo cowboys in the U.S. as welll as any number of loccal or “circuit” contestants.  The stands were full and there was plenty to see and do.  Food booths and all types of western styled things were available: from jewlry, dresses, shirts, leatherwear to ready framed photos.  There are a lot of organizers and donors and they are treated right in their own tent with catered food long with a great side view of the event. 

 

Upwards of $200,000.00 in prize money was up for grabs for the best of the best in several categories.  The rodeo contines on Sunday and should be just as much a good time as the first day.  Plenty of parking is available. 

A young cowboy works the rodeo.

COWPOKE: A young cowboy works the rodeo.

A rodeo competitor in the bronco riding, makes adjustments after a wild ride.

TOUGH: A rodeo competitor in the bronco riding, makes adjustments after a wild ride.

Don't try this at home.

AIRTIME: Don't try this at home.

Rodeo clown, Seth "Shorty" Gorham, takes job seriously.

BULLBAIT: Rodeo clown, Seth "SHorty" Gorham takes his job, of distracting bulls from fallen cowboys, very seriously .

A cowboy at the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo in San Juan Capistrano on Saturday afternoon.

OPEN SKY: A cowboy at the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo in San Juan Capistrano on Saturday afternoon.

The story in the OC Register:
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Major Bill Smith USMC/RET., of San Clemente and a vetran of Iwo Jima and Guam, lends words of support and experience for Marine Corp recruits at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico in San Clemente at their last civilian meal before entering boot camp on Monday evening.  Steven Villegas, 19, of Whittier(left, foreground) looks on. Every Monday at noontime the United States Marine Corp calls the Denny’s in San Clemente and asks to speak with Guillermo Santos.  Santos will answer simply and wait to hear the number; the number of plates to set for the weekly busload of Marine recruits on their way to the San Diego Marine Recruit Training Center that will be eating their last civilian meal for 13 weeks.

 

…Most of the time its 20 or 30 guys…sometimes its just 12 or 15…and in the summer it can be as many as 45…”

 Former Navy Radioman and Pearl Harbor survivor, Pete Limon, of San Juan Capistrano, shares his experiences during WW2 while waiting to address Marine Recruits at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico for their last civilian meal on Monday evening.

Every week the recruits file in and every week Major Bill Smith USMC/Ret. is there ahead of time, in the same booth, with his friend, Pete Limon, Navy radioman and Pearl Harbor survivor.  They sit in the back, on the way to the bathrooms, passing the time talking about the old days and their investments. 

 

They don’t talk too much about the recruits during this time; they were recruits themselves once and their feelings are too intimate and common between the two men; anything to say has been said as they watch together, their own newer shadows stepping off a rented Marine Corp bus in the parking lot beside them.

 

 

 

 

 Tall, short, shaggy and trim, these young men, the new believers, disembark from the bus that will shortly deliver them to a tight jawed, stubborn, un-bending drill instructor.  This day there are 23 volunteers that file in for a choice of steak and shrimp, hamburger and fries, salad bar or pasta with marinara sauce.  They will taste for the last time Coca-Cola and eat without hurry and without a screaming Marine Corp Sergeant counting off the minutes they are allowed to consume their meal. 

 

Brad Napier, 18 of Lompoc and Johnny Carillo, 19, of Mission Viejo are Marine Corp recruits lining up for their last civilian meal at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico in San Clemente on Monday evening.Heads bowed and with little to say, they lean into their plates, the first light of the reality that will be their lives for the next 4 years has begun to stretch across a landscape of food made by someone other than their mothers. Smith makes his way to them between the breakfast counter and the tall, thin wood grain laminate privacy partition.

 

 

A dress saber is exchanged for an aluminum walker, its creaks and squeals compete with silverware, plates, pans and spatulas in the kitchen.  The other diners sit a little stiffer and a little quieter as they watch Major Smith pass by; a Marine Major, retired, thin, grey and  wobbly but determined, still calls their attention and respect.  

 

Smith enters the cluster of booths, along with Limon, at the end of the restaurant and begins to speak.  Limon pulls a few photos and documents from an old folder and motions for them to be handed around among the recruits.  At first, most are more concerned about what is on their plates and talking to each other but then, slowly begin to pay attention and listen.  Smith’s words convey support and care for the brotherhood they will soon share when they are Marines in 3 months.  

 

Smith’s words are simple and to the point; he does not share anything about his time in Iwo Jima, Guam and Korea so many years ago.  The recruits that want to understand show it in their eyes and nodding heads.  The rest will know what it means at the end of 13 weeks.

 Guillermo Santos, of Denny\'s, prepares to seat Ramiro Alvarez, 21, of Downey, a Marine Corp recruit, for his last civilian meal at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico in San Clemente on Monday evening.

Limon finishes “their routine” as he calls it with a few words of his own and as everyone in one shot could not hear them, they move to the other side of the booths to repeat it.  The recruits where I sit are a little quieter and more thoughtful; they have been handed another clue and see a little further into the unknown world they have joined. 

 

 

I move from one to another for their names, hometowns and ages for my photo captions.  Strangely familiar, they respond in similar voices of those “Victory at Sea” documentaries I watched as a kid.  Their names come, different and unknown, but their towns sound strong and close.  Lompoc, Santa Clarita, Whittier, Lakewood, Slymar.  These are California towns and cities and I am suddenly more involved than if they had said Pokipsie, Grosse Point, Saint George or Galvaston. 

   

     “Can I get your name?” I ask.

Sure,  it’s {Johnny Carrillo}” he says and spells it so I get it right with the two r’s in his last name.

“Mission Viejo” he responds after I ask him where he is from and then states his age as 19.

I ask him if he went to Mission Viejo High School and what year he graduated.

“I went to Capo Valley” he says and adds “I graduated last year”

“Why did you join the Marine Corp?” I asked.

He began to respond with something he thought better of and stopped, looking up at me from his finished plate of Steak and shrimp.  The shy, gangly grin he shared earlier with his new friends at the table turned instantly to the sure, solid and serious words of a soon to be Marine.
 
 

“For the experience, sir.”

 

 

 

 http://www.ocregister.com/articles/recruits-limon-smith-2066075-san-clemente

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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