Tuesday 9th April collected a Rental and called on a couple of Studios that I will not comment on then drove from LA to Santa Barbara to see Tom & Joyce Wilson-Holt arriving a day early. They were both well with Joyce still teaching at Brooks and Tom has a interesting job with a vineyard!
I did travel on a studio visit to visit a high ticket studio in some small town, the name of which escapes me. The studio was located in the back of a small shop center and occupied five rooms. They were a small reception room where the part-time sales person sat she was employed two days a week. There was a viewing room and a studio off a larger waiting room that was tasteful decorated and a work area that we were not shown.
He was using a RZ67 and a blue painted background and was working with a Lisle Ramsey third party (he never mentioned Lisle so it could be his own idea) type promotion from which he got all of his business. His photography was similar to Philip Charris, but not equal to his quality by a mile, and I make this judgment based on the last of Phillips work that I have seen and I would not imagine that it has changed. Phillip to start with used 7x5 film which makes a incredible difference
He worked with a high ticket portrait price list and a expensive shop gave their clients a 11x14 canvas portrait with every expensive item sold. He carried the whole promotion. His work was not great and I beleive that a second year portrait major would have been able to equal his work. His sales technique of course was where he made his money and sold almost all of his work on credit debiting the customers credit card on the first of the month. He admits to a loss factor of 4% in bad depts. He claims to be netting a very high figure per year with himself doing most of the work however I would expect he did have some backroom staff. He claims that his net was 70%.
I beleive that it is a format for making money without absolutely any creativity. It was formula photography with only the faces different on each portrait, but it worked and gave him a lifestyle that was better than probably 90% of the other photographers in the States!This morning April 12th Dick Ataimain came to Joyce's for a cup of coffee and a chat! We chatted as to where I was going on this trip and he said he felt tired just thinking about it. So I was on the road about 140 km drive I has to do a detour to a shop the I had bought one of my toys at to find out more about how it worked, visited some Russian book & music shops so there must be quite a Russian population in the Hollywood area. I came pass the new theatre where the held the Oscars at recently and I recognizes it when I saw the Kodak theatre.
There was a hell of a crowd on the opposite side of the road about 50 deep with lots of cameras being held up in the air pointing I found out later on the news at a pop star having his star put into the footpath, I should say unveiled!
Getting there I was on freeway101 and there were six lanes of traffic traveling at 100k and then all of a sudden all lanes ground to a absolute standstill, then for no reason at all it was off again at 100k. I went off at the Hollywood bowl and that was a real LA traffic jam taking about 30 minutes to travel about 6k. Going back to the 405 and then to 10 to Santa Monica was good clean running, so then I went into Brookstone, the shop of Gadgets and bought a currency converter and a multi language translator that talks the sentence in 10 different languages including English. This will be handy to be able to ask for the toilet in ten languages.
I also bought some tyre pressure indicators, something the motor trade in NZ assured me was not made any where in the world. I have been running my tyres a little flat hence a problem of more tyre wear that there should be!
From there in to see Steve Sheanin at Rangefinder, he was fit and well.
Tomorrow I will be returning the rental car early, then getting to the airport for the 10am flight in plenty of time so I am not caught with the things the Yanks are doing with security. Mexico Saturday 13th April today is Carnival ! Not sure what for, but about 5-10,000 walked past the hotel I am staying at, marched down the center of the street to the tune of a band in the next block playing the same tune over and over again.
Today when I went to the large square in front of I think it was the palace they were setting up for a rock concert and that is where all the young people were heading, I wandered down there and the square was FULL and overflowing on to the road that went around the square, the music was blaring out thro massive speakers and all the young one were happy swinging to the beat of the music. There were thousands of hands waving in the air
While I think of it body piercing had reached the States and I saw many tongues today, tattoos also are common in both countries some with very elaborate works of art, not sure what they will look like in 40 years time, perhaps the laser removal will come into its own. This morning I returned the rental car, took the bus to the airport, checked into Mexicana and was told there was no first class lounge so it was thro security, yes thro security it was my first experience in the States, so first the carry on bag was x-rayed and the must have one of the older ones because the could not see thro my home made film bag, so did the tell me no they had to search the total bag and when he say the film bag said that must have been what caused the shadow, well you can imagine what I said! In the middle of all this the took my shoed off me and sent them thro the x-ray.
Well up to the gate with the rest of humanity, and eventually we boarded and were off on a bumpy runway and then flew over mostly desert on near desert almost all the was to Mexico City. There was a bit of California that was very green with irrigation but you could see where the boarder was very easy the green cut off like a knife, if it was not desert it was very marginal land, the steward told me it is very green further south and this greens up a little when the rains come in May, but not by very much I gather.
So we landed at Mexico City after flying over the never ending city, with 20 Mil it would be never ending! So landed and has to fill in a major immigration & customs forms, the signs are not to clear to immigration, but I guess everyone eventually end up there, no problems with either, bought a taxi voucher at the same time I changed some money, then out to the taxi rank after fighting off the porters that wanted to help a old man with his bags, then there were the taxi touts, and then the driver that did not know where the hotel and want me to buy another ticket for the extra bag, he eventually found out where the hotel was and on the promise of extra for the bag that was carried inside we were off, not fast, but considering the size of the city at a reasonable speed.
On the way one of the streets had the ladies of the night out at mid day, there was one standing at the division between every shop, seemed to be the only street, that we passed at any rate!
Every so often the music stops and it is wonderful, but it always starts up again, it is not a tune I ever want to hear again!
Checked in, it is a smaller old hotel, however it is clean and walking distance to the square I have described above. I will eventually put in on my web site however if any one need it before that happens their web site is www.hotelritemexico.com, tell Carlos Alva I sent you, only brownie point for me that are not worth anything, can not even sew them on my sleeve! So it was then out for a walk down to the square, past all of the pavement vendors and they are wall to wall except for some of the expensive streets, but they seem to be everywhere else.
There were armed police, armed with Shotguns, pistols, and impressive batons, one had a very impressive shield so the were ready for any sort of event and with 10,000 there I guess they would need to be ready!
Got about 17 photos that may be of interest, we will see, there were some people dressed up as the Inca Indians doing a dance there was a lot of energy benig spent by about a dozen people for what seemed to be very little return, I would have thought they would not have been able to replace the "fat" they lost with the money they collected. So back to the hotel and booked a 25$US tour tomorrow about seven hours, out to the Aztec Pyramids, this is one time I guess I will need the 17-35 lens. Well it is 10pm and the damn band is still playing, I guess he will keep it up till the people go home as they are asking for donations, just as well I have plenty of sleeping pills. Well it is 11pm and all is quite, it is bliss
Today I went out to the pyramids that are thousands of years old, I thought I would need the super wide angle lens but far from it, most of the time I was using the longest lens I have.
They said they would pick me up at 9.20am and they arrived at 9.10, so much for Mexican time! I was the first collected, there was a guy from England who had been doing work on a oil rig in the Gulf, a guy from France traveling round North & South America on business, a guy from Geneva who was also on business, he had been to 104 countries, I took a instant dislike to him (Joke) , a guy from Taiwan who got lost at lunch time and a honeymoon couple from Argentina.
The girl could speak English because she was an English teacher, he has learnt a few words like most of the others from that country but had forgotten them all, so she was busy translating most things to him.
On the way out to the pyramids we stopped at several other landmarks, mainly churches in this very Catholic country, I think it is probably the only country in the world who's church population is increasing, there were 4000 in the church today, it can hold 6000. We saw one of the old churches that is slowly tipping forward, the ground under all of Mexico city is slowly sinking as the water table falls. They had closed the church but were forced to reopen by popular request so they had put large concrete coats around the pillars about 40cm thick, at the rear with these pillars the pillar was straight but the edges of the walls at the door frames had a larger tilt on them that the leaning tower of Pisa.
Mexico also suffer from many earthquakes which does not help these old buildings many we saw with large cracks in the wall that they had plastered over to reassure the people, it was not making the building any safer by any means, but looking at the numbers in church it was working!
It was then on to the pyramids and we got there about 11.45. it was quite hot so I only wore a safari jacket, white shirt and black trousers, of course I wore the required bow tie, you will all be please to know that I was the only one there holding up the dress code!
Our first stop there was a gift shop that just happened to be open and I rather liked a Aztec mask made out of stone, but the thought of carrying it around the world for the next 12 months forced me to not bother it was 500 pesos, of course I saw many others being offered by peddlers that were scattered all the way along the two miles that was the area of this historic site, their price came down to 100 pesos, but I did not examine them to see what the difference was, but I guessed they would have been adequate, so next time!
Then we had lunch at an up market restaurant, I can tell these as the charge 15 pesos instead of 12 for a can of diet coke. After we finished we went looking for the guy from Taiwan and finally found him at the starting point. All were dropped off at their hotels with me being the second to last to go!
Then I went for a walk along the main street looking at all the things being sold and I have this very strong feeling that copyright does not mean very much here. You can buy almost any high priced software for about $10 and I guess that is the Gringo's price, goodness knows what the locals pay!
The mariachi band has just started at 8pm so lucky me is probably going to have this wonderful tune till 11 pm….. perhaps they close early seeing it is Sunday, well I will not hold my breath
Now it is downstairs after I send this, look at the special English menu and have dinner.
Tomorrow morning early I head off to Cuba, now back up in my room and you will all be pleased to know that on Sundays the band closed early…. It is all quite on the Mariachi front.
I am sitting in the first class lounge at Mexico international Airport at the moment writing this.
I arrived good and early as it is always very easy sitting in these surroundings, it was just as well as all of the luggage that was checked in had to be checked by hand, the economy section had quite a line waiting to have their luggage checked, up to now apart from India the bags have been X-rayed.
I was so taken with Cuba I have written 5000 rambling words on my experiences and why I left Cuba 18 days early.
Now, I thought, as I make these comments, I reminded myself that I am the one that tells others to leave all of your background and standards behind in your own country and you can not compare the country you are visiting with your own, which to my dismay I find my self seeming to do.
Reading thro this article I wonder if I am being too hard, but then I think Fidel has had 43 years of control and in this period other countries have become successful and after all he does speak how the capitalist days are numbered so by default his system must be better and under this basis I am judging his country and what I have seen.
If I had 9 mil pop that would work at a starting wage of 6 cents a hour I would have factory's from all around the world using the labour, like Taiwan and Japan did to get started, now look at them.
However what has "annoyed" me in Cuba, and I think that is the correct word to use is that the average wage is $10- $15 per month, a pensioner gets about $7.75. They (the Govt Owned coys) charge $55 a day for one of these people they pay $10 a month, that equals on a 40 hour week .06c per hour that is almost 100 times their hourly rate. From what I can understand no one can make ends meet on what they are paid, but the Govt will not increase the wage I am told because it will make people rich!
I am often asked what country would you not return to, up to now there has not been a country, finally I have one, Cuba, I would not return until it was free.
I realize 5000 is over the top for an E-mail so when I get it onto the web I will send you a link so if you feel so inclined you can read my ramblings. For those of you that thought of an attachment have forgotten that not everyone can open an attachment because of the superior computer they own!
The flight from Cuba was uneventful, there were no fighter jets forcing the plane down to retrieve my article, they could not change my flight on from Mexico City in Cuba!
I was flying Mexicana in and out of Cuba, on both flights the toilets were a mess, and on takeoffs on both occasions something crashed to the floor in the kitchen thro not being secured properly I would assume.
So I went thro immigration in Mexico, customs, every X-ray they owned, to change my flight, there was no problems, I even got a window seat, although when I got on the plane, late, because I missed the announcement, a short plump Mexican had my seat all neatly arranged with his pillow and my pillow, a newspaper and Magazine, so I had a great delight moving all this to his seat!
That was the total of the excitement there was on that flight and it landed uneventfully in Frankfurt.
Then the next thing was to get a rental, only one car they told me and you can only have that for one day! Oh I want it for 20 days I said, sorry they said, have you tried the other Coys, No I said because I have a Gold card with your Coy, in that case they said how would you like an almost new Audi A4, fine I said! So at that point I said a silent thanks to the person who has not removed my Gold status for the last ten years!
So it was out of the Flughafen and on to Klon to surprise the mother on one of my ex staff. Surprise her I did and we had a great evening catching up on the news, I also took the opportunity of repacking so I only carried a small suitcase leaving the large one there to collect on the way back.
So I cruised across Germany, Belgium, and part of France to Dannes near Boyaqnge on the French coast near Calais. There were a terrible lot of road works all the way across Germany & Belgium, but once I got to France and their 130Km P.H. toll road it was plain cruising. Mileage from Frankfurt 788km.
There is a problem cruising like I am and that is to find a telephone link to get on line with my roaming internet software.
Have tried my first French B&B one person 38 which in our money is not cheap, but it is clean and has hot water and a nice view, it is part of a network it appears, throughout France, if they have a internet site I will make a link later!
It is cold on this side of France so I might head off to the Mediterranean side of France / Spain. I had to buy a jersey today a nice maroon fine one, now it is better.
As I left the region I found a fisherman's market, right by the wharf, it was a specially constructed Concrete shops open to the elements, that you could hose down when you were finished. IF the Health Dept allowed it, OSCH would probably find something wrong, or the self appointed environment police would complain about something! There is nothing like a little bit of history to make everyone run scared and leave things alone.
Went over two incredible bridges today, the second cost 5 which is not cheap! It would have made a incredible Photograph. There was a path beside the road, not fenced off, that the public could walk over the bridge, at home it would require a fence that you could not climb over to hurl yourself in front of the oncoming traffic. They seem to have enough sense here with most things they do to say if you are silly enough to stand in front of a truck you will get run over! Really it does not require any brains to work that out, but our people in parliament probably have not considered that possibility.
Went into a French supermarket today and realized just what a assortment of food they have here in France, makes out supermarkets pale in comparison, but I must admit ours are slowly getting better, perhaps in another 50 or so years!
At a guest hose on a farm neat St Lo tonight nice walk into town down a long tree lined drive way. There was a memorial in the village for the resistance fighters that were executed by the 2nd panzer division around D Day. The Normandy landings were in this area.
I feel as if I am going down with the flu so I have just started a course of Coldrex tablets, that usually clears it up, I hope it does this time.Mileage from Frankfurt 1236km.
Today I booked into an more expensive hotel call the isbis (still cheap in EU) to try to connect to the internet, the computer would not work! However the problem with this hotel is that the wires are different and the computer will not collect the telephone dial tone.
Today I drove to Cholet and the Coldrex tablets seem to be working, but by 3.30 I was getting tired so I found this hotel and decided to call it a day.
I have just returned from driving around Cholet trying to find an internet Café, but it is not to be found in this town.
This morning started off overcast like every morning so far with a temperature of about 8d C and like all days so far the sun has came out for about one hour in the late afternoon.
In all of my driving so far almost 2000 kms across Europe I have been passed only by one Ferrari and a blue one at that, but I have been passes by just about everything else from a Peugeot 106 up, like the old saying size does not matter in this country anyhow!
The Butchers are alive and well in this country, but they have branched into a delicatessens, and fine goods, probably our laws would not permit raw meat being handled on one side of the shop and prepared on the other, it seems what ever is banned in NZ is working well in France, but of course what do they know?
Out law makers are there to protect us, in reality we need protecting from them!
Mileage from Frankfurt 1680km.
Well today is a bright blue sky so it looks like it is going to be a fine day, even it the temp at 9an is a fresh 9d C. So it was off south to the city of Bordeaux at least on the A10. Stopped at the first large Aire, which must be French for stopping place for food & gas and Walla they had a computer connect to the internet, all you needed to work it was a French Telecom card, you guess it the gift shop did not sell them! So after patting the Apple Mac on the screen I headed off to the next Aire.
I was in luck they sold the Telecom cards, but they did not have a internet computer of course, neither did the next, or the next, or the next, or the next, or the next, but the next one my luck changed, I ran over a sharp object in the grounds of the Aire and slit the tyre, this greeted me as I was ready to drive onto the next Aire, at this stage I was about 30k from Bordeaux.
So I pulled over and thought this will be a quick stop while I change the wheel, WRONG, on the new cars they do not have any spare tyre of any sort, just a can of sealer and a small battery compressor, instructions say if it is a tear it will not seal, well they had that right!
So I rang the 800 number for Budget France and quite frankly they were not interested, but he did give me another number to ring (just as well I had the Telecom card) and yes they could speak English and after being transferred to about four different people, and ringing them back twice and the card being down to four units left out of 50, they said we do not have and Audi's in our fleet, I said is that not Budget, they said NO, (the screen rights to this are for sale) so then I did what I should have done in the first place rang Frankfurt.
Of course I did have to buy another card, no the visa card would not work on the phone, so after two calls to them they said on a Saturday they could not contact anyone, no one was answering the call. At this stage I could see my self being at this Aire forever or close to! So the next stage was to remove the wheel and get a Taxi to the closest town, Have I said no one at the shop that I was at could speak English, no well where do you think I was in England? Well between me and a customer who could speak just enough the girl said the taxi would be too expensive and if I would get the papers for the car she would ring the gendarmerie and they would come for nothing, 20 minutes she indicated with her fingers.
Well 30 minutes later this massive tow truck appeared, my first thought was this ain't for nothing! So back on the wheel went and onto the back of the truck went the Audi, and we set of in to the never never, thro more grape vines than there probably in all of NZ and finally we arrived at this town called Blayne. They collect a tyre from a service station and went on to the Garage and about 45 minutes ( it would have been less if the office girl did not have to make about four phone call about the tyre) later I was on my way. Time from puncture to on the move four hours! And only cost 350! Shit!!!!
Now I was in Blayne, it was late enough so I booked into the hotel down the road, then drove about a bit, seems like I had landed in the heart of one of the Bordeaux wine growing areas, according to the notice board in the center of town there are only 102 vineyards from which you can by wine by the single bottle. Tom Holt would have thought he had died and gone to heaven! I have just found out that there are 450 registered vineyards in this region and it dates to pre roman times. Hell that is old!!!!
They grow White & red wines in this area. Be a interesting business for someone to collect a bottle from each vineyard and make up a set for shipping overseas!
You can cycle from vineyard to vineyard on a special trail, I am not sure what would happen after about the 10th or 20th, perhaps they are tricycles!
It would be interesting to travel around them all, buy one bottle from each and shop the 100 + back to NZ. Could be an interesting project one day!
Saw my second Ferrari this afternoon a petrol head was doing wheelies in a cloud of dust and pulled up near me so I wandered over and indicated that I had a 328, his was a 308 and he proudly told me his was the fiberglass model, it has a beautiful finish to it! He indicated it was worth about 45,000 I assume that is what he paid for it and not what it will be worth shortly, he had the nerve to ask mr if I wanted to buy it, after that Wheelie!
There was an interesting say 1920-30's Renault in need of restoration at a second hand shop so I would assume it is for sale. Good project for somebody in Christchurch, the city with more restored old cars per head of pop than I would guess anywhere in the world!
Well it is still a beautiful day, the sun is shining and it is a very nice evening! Mileage from Frankfurt 1950km.