Puerto Escondido is a port town in the municipality of San Pedro Mixtepec on the Pacific Coast in the state of Oaxaca. The name roughly translates to “hidden port.” Surfers have been making their way here for the renowned Mexican pipeline, one of the top ten surfing spots in the world.
I arrived in Puerto Escondido hoping for the perfect place to relax and unwind from Los Angeles. It’s a harder-to-reach spot than the more common destinations such as Puerto Vallarta or Cabo, mainly because the closest airport to Puerto Escondido is domestic and not filled with hoards of tourists.
I took a short three hours and ten minute flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City, where we were greeted with pouring rain. I took this as a good sign, as it had been unbearable dry and hot in Los Angeles. From there, it’s a quick one-hour flight to the small airport in Puerto Escondido, and then a 20-minute taxi ride to my destination: Casona Sforza. The last few minutes of the dirt road leading up to the entrance told me I was in for a taste of magic.
Casona Sforza was the dream of Ezequiel Ayarza Sforza who had traveled to Puerto Escondido wanting to give back to the community. Thus Puebla del Sol was started. Puebla del Sol is a community project in the Sierra of Oaxaca to preserve the artisanal traditions of indigenous Oaxacans. One hundred percent of the proceeds from Casona Sforza go back to Puebla del Sol. The touches can be seen all over the property, from the monochromatic texture-rich furniture to the grey daybeds made of cotton and natural wood on the beach for watching the ocean, to soaps made with 60% honey, even to the coffee mugs and coffee.
Just eleven neutral hued, scalloped suites were designed by Mexican architect Alberto Kalach, and each room has staircases leading down to the sand. The chef, Oliver Martînez, creates the farm-to-table cuisine.
The morning after my arrival I ventured out to Playa Principal, where the fishermen gather to head out for the day’s catch. My next stop was Playa Carrizalillo, a small beach in a sheltered cove where 157 steps and a view that made me smile brought me to the local hideout. I took in a bit of sun and made some photos with my Nikon F4S film camera, and Kodak Portra 400 film. I photographed only film on this journey, no digital including this photo of a surfer girl, as this is the place for beginning surfers to learn.
I made my way to Playa Zicatela one evening to have dinner at Chicama, a Peruvian restaurant with a floor of sand. This adorable dog greeted me. I ordered Savignon Blanco, papas hervidas acompanadas con nuestra tîpica salsa Peruana con queso fresco, aceitunas negras y huevo duro. That’s boiled potatoes with typical Peruvian sauce with fresh cheese, black olives and a boiled egg.
There are all kinds of activities to do in Puerto Escondido, including releasing baby turtles into the ocean, as turtle conservation is an issue. Next time I visit, I will plan for this. There is a massive waterfall near Puerto Escondido called La Reforma that I’d like to venture out to see next time, too.
From its location on a private beach to the caring service, Casa Sforza was magical from beginning to end. It’s a unique experience where tiny touches include the honey-infused soap, shampoo and conditioner, fruit drinks, and even a hand-woven straw beach bag in the room for bringing your book, lotion and camera to the beach. Not a detail is overlooked.
Each person who works at Casona Sforza cares about making it an unforgettable experience. Upon checking out, I found a note written on my little takeaway box along with a smiley face filled with a custom-made pizza for my flight home and a note from reception letting me know that people like me make the job worthwhile. From awakening to the sound of crashing waves, roosters crowing, birds singing, I felt the stress leave my body. To say that traveling to Mexico always connects me with heart-centered people may sound cliché, but it’s true.
There was no possibility that I was going to watch the news or doom scroll on Twitter on election night. As I grabbed a back up battery, I rushed out the front door. I always carry an extra SanDisk card in case I forget my card in my camera which last night I did as I was anxious to get into the city and in my car I went. Beginning on Sunset Blvd, I headed east from Laurel Canyon. That’s when I began to see my city with boarded up stores as far as Western Avenue. I stopped by Objets d’Art & Spirit, to see the owner who has worked for decades to build her dream in Los Angeles. This store was on LaCienega for nearly three decades and is now on Sunset Blvd. My heart hurt to see her store being boarded up with plywood.
Motion Picture Editors Guild on Sunset Blvd.
Objets’ d’art and Spirit.
Self Portrait on Sunset Blvd.
This sign gave me hope.
I parked my car so I could walk my city. Yes, my city. I grew up in Los Angeles specifically in the San Fernando Valley. Back in the 70’s, there was less crime. The worst thing that happened here was a hub cap was stolen off a car. The abuse went on behind closed doors. Now, as I walked around with my camera near Western and Sunset, I saw the taco truck where people gathered to place their orders. One man was hanging lights as the others were cooking meat and vegetables and onions over a hot grill. I saw people on their cell phones and others waiting for the bus. Mothers holding their children’s hands, a couple taking off on their skateboards after a quick chat with me. I was filled with so much hope for my city, my country, our world.
As I drove south towards Melrose, I still had no idea how close the polls were. I thought of my father, who came to this country from Poland as an immigrant after working with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society for five years, to get the proper permissions to enter America. His hopes were to start a new life, a life after the Holocaust and America was his chosen dream. My father taught me that with hard work, I could create my own dream and I did but it required dedication, commitment and a never ending drive and persistance to become a stunt woman in Hollywood.
As I drove west on Melrose and saw more store fronts all covered with wood to protect the stores from the inevitable damage, I stopped at another taco bar on the street. There were 4 people working there from the women chopping the onions to the one creating the warm tortillas to the men again cooking the various meats. I thought of my father, who worked at least 4 different jobs to put food on the table for his five children. I passed movie studios were I have worked over the three decades in Hollywood not only as a stunt woman but in locations. My dreams came true in this city. I know this city like no other from where to park without getting a ticket to where to get the best street taco. Still, I remained hopeful for the outcome of this election.
As I drove south on Highland and headed to Wilshire Blvd and onto Beverly Hills, I had heard that Rodeo Blvd was boarded up but I had no idea what was in store for me. Not only boarded up stores but all access to Rodeo Blvd was blocked with barriers, police and security guards. Here, I spoke to a young man and asked if he knew where we were in the polls. He said it was close. I asked him who he voted for as I could feel his answer in my bones. “Trump” he replied “And now I regret it.” I had no words so I stayed silent. This was the first time I checked my phone all evening to see the poll numbers.
Photographing Beverly Hills and all our city with boards up and down the streets hurt my heart. What has happened to our country and can we save it? When I awoke this morning, November 4, my dear friend Ruth, who has been building homes in Los Angeles for years, posted the poem “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith on Instagram and wrote “America! I believe you have good bones.” Maggie Smith writes out of experience of motherhood, inspired by her children. And, Ruth, who has worked so hard to raise her two children in Los Angeles, gave me hope this morning.
I thought of my father, who would buy the crummiest homes because he said “It had good bones” and how he bought homes and built homes all over the San Fernando Valley to support his children and give them a better life than he had in Poland. I awoke with hope, again.
Good Bones by Maggie Smith
Life is short, though I keep this from my children. Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways, a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative estimate, though I keep this from my children. For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird. For every loved child, a child broken, bagged, sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world is at least half terrible, and for every kind stranger, there is one who would break you, though I keep this from my children. I am trying to sell them the world. Any decent realtor, walking you through a real shithole, chirps on about good bones: This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.
The truth is I wasn’t going to blog on the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s 62nd birthday this year. Not only have we been in a heat wave in Los Angeles but I have been trying to manage with my mother locked down in a nursing facility, left brain damaged from her second husband’s abuse. For the past six months, she has not been allowed visitors but I have been given permission to see her from a gate for 25 minutes, in the sun, with traffic whizzing by, two times a week. The isolation is getting to her as she does not understand why she has no visitors coming inside even though I have tried to explain the situation to her. She asks me to “come inside”, “let’s go” “vamanos” and “open the gate.” Finding a perfectly ripe avocado made me happy, because it’s the only food they allow me to bring her.
The medical director of the facility told me “We need your voice, don’t back down” so I haven’t but it’s exhausting. Then, to make matters worse, I was told that the facility working with the Dept. of Health would open up a safe, social distanced arrangement where family can visit without endangering the residents, staff or visitors at the end of August. There were 5 new cases in a building in the same campus two weeks ago, so the residents have been locked down once again.
In place of boredom, I offer my mother spontaneity. In place of loneliness, I offer companionship. Instead of feeling helpless, being able to visit with my mother gave me the opportunity to take care of another human being. I look forward to the day that will we set them free from this tyranny.
As I pulled into Forest Lawn Glendale, I was wondering if Michael would be remembered this year as more people tend to visit on the anniversary of his death, rather than his birthday. As I saw the intricate, creative cards and the stunning arrangement of flowers, I knew I had to share these photographs with his fans so here I am again.
Helena Ong – Malaysia
My heart is filled with sorrow because of my mother’s isolation and if I can bring a smile to someone in the world, sharing the love I am witness to at Forest Lawn, then I have accomplished something meaningful today. No one understood this better than Michael Jackson, whose genuine love and caring for humanity was part of why he touched so many hearts around the globe. Michael Jackson was the embodiment of love, kindness, caring and the most creative soul to ever walk this planet.
Finally, last but not least, the love between Gloria and her fiancé, is so heart affirming.
Every year in January, I head to Photo LA, and have been doing this since the 90’s. While walking around and looking at the photographs, exhibitions, and books, I was dreaming that one day I would be able to take my lifelong love of books and photography and combine those loves to create books of my numerous and varied projects.
On January 18, 2014, I waited in line with dozens of people, who were waiting to get a signed copy of Douglas Kirkland’s December 16, 2013 recently released book, “A Life in Pictures : The Douglas Kirkland Monograph.” For all my photography friends, you know who Douglas is. For others, you may not know his name but you know his photographs. Yes, the iconic photograph of Marilyn Monroe draped only in a white sheet, was created by Douglas as Marilyn drank Dom Perignon and listened to Frank Sinatra. Not to mention many classic photographs such as Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Mitchum, Dustin Hoffman, Judy Garland with a tear rolling down her cheek, Audrey Hepburn smiling looking as if she has a secret, Ann Margaret on a motorcycle and Cher on roller skates in 1979. This legendary photographer’s book is a manifesto of his whole career. It’s his journey from a passionate teenager in Canada taking photographs with his box camera, and following his dreams to the twenty something photojournalist who worked for Life and Look magazine and had the guts to ask Elizabeth Taylor, who was the world’s leading lady actress, if he could photograph her. He was the only photographer invited to the 1983 Michael Jackson Thriller shoot.
Douglas’s story is about the passion of a young man, the drive, dedication and hard work of following your dreams. Even though he heard comments like “Doug, I think it’s time you should start settling down and forget all this New York photography stuff”, he listened to his heart not family and friends. He is a living legend but bigger than the legend is his heart of gold.
As I made my way to the table where he was sitting, I told him about the project I was working on for 5 years. He had written in his book that a friend of his had told him that if you wanted to contact someone that you really respected, you should write a series of very earnest letters expressing your feelings for their work and your desire to meet them and that you would get through to them. Douglas wrote to Irving Penn three times before he received a response. He ended up with a job working for Mr. Penn.
After Douglas signed my book, I handed him my 1961 Rolleiflex 2.8F and asked him to make a photo of me. Then, I asked if he would look at my project on my mother who has brain damage from domestic violence, which was called “Forgiveness and Compassion” at the time. I asked him if he could help me. He handed me his business card and told me to write to him. I wrote him an earnest, heartfelt letter and six months later I was in his Hollywood Hills home along with his beautiful wife, Francoise. On his coffee table and book shelves was the biggest photography book collections I had ever seen. He spent two hours carefully looking at all my porfolios I had brought and told me when he saw “Forgiveness and Compassion”, “when you make a book on this project, I will buy one.”
Douglas helped cement my belief that you have to ask for what you want. I wrote to him three times about my Kickstarter campaign. After writing to him two times in the last month, I knew I hadn’t heard from him because he was working and it turns out him and his wife were in Rome for the premiere of his documentary “That Click” the night before!
At 3:13am, I received an email from Francoise telling me “I think you have reached your goal, Greetings from Rome. We are at the film festival presenting the documentary about Douglas “That Click” premiered last night, was a triumph.” Douglas and Francoise had generously backed my project, pushing it to its goal!
Not only did I begin photographing nearly 5 decades ago, but I have succeeded in my first Kickstarter backing successfully. I am partnering with FotoEvidence, who gave me the honor of a finalist award in the first FotoEvidence W (Women) Award. FotoEvidence is a publishing house that creates photo books to draw attention to human rights violations, and assaults on human dignity wherever they may occur. As a side note, my book editor,Régina Monfort, worked for Irving Penn for seven years.
By photographing my mother for ten years, I laid the ghost. It feels like poetry that Douglas Kirkland, the man who succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in his dream of being a photographer, and taught me to keep trying and never give up, brought my Kickstarter to the finish line with a generous backing. This story is for all the dreamers. Keep going and the longer it takes, it just means the project isn’t ready yet. Don’t give up your dreams, ever. Being able to tell my mother’s story feels as if a weight is lifted from my soul. I’ve been carrying this around since I was nine years old. One of my writing teachers, Joyce Maynard taught me to “write like you’re an orphan.” That’s one of the aims of this book, to tell the truth.
Insert showing autograph from Douglas Kirkland on his “A Life In Pictures” book:
June 25, 2009. I heard the news that Michael Jackson had died as I was driving from the San Fernando Valley to Downtown Los Angeles for work. I had been hired as a stunt person to work in a scene on Iron Man 2. At that point, I had been a stunt woman for 25 years. As I drove, I tried to make sense of what I had heard. Michael Jackson dead? I had been a fan since I was ten years old and his music was the soundtrack to my life.
The scene in the film called for myself and two other stunt women to run away from the giant robots that were chasing the pedestrians. The director yelled “Action!” As we ran, one of the stuntmen landed squarely on top of me on the stairs. The wind was knocked out of me immediately and it became hard for me to breathe. We set up for another take and I realized something was wrong. I didn’t say anything to the stunt coordinator as we did another take but I would find out days later that I had broken ribs.
That injury began a journey of researching, writing, watching YouTube videos, reading books and finding out who the real Michael Jackson was, not the lies the media tried to force feed us on a steady diet. I discovered what I had known since I was ten years old. Michael was a special soul with higher consciousness who was truly gifted with a beautiful heart. A heart that made him other centered, almost to a fault. Everyone loves their own children but Michael loved all children. He loved children in a godly, innocent way and would eventually be crucified for it.
There is no place in American culture that allows for a grown man to have a home which he named Neverland Ranch. A 2500 acre escape from the masses always pulling on him, literally and figuratively. In a February 17, 1983 Rolling Stone Magazine interview he said it hurt being pulled on. “Being mobbed hurts. You feel like you’re spaghetti among thousands of hands. They’re just ripping you and pulling your hair. And you feel that any moment you’re gonna just break.” Some may choose to judge him because he preferred climbing trees to playing football, and the company of children to adults who always wanted something from him. He gave so much. All he wanted was to spread love and peace, especially to those who had very little.
Michael delighted in elementary things like riding roller coasters with children, water fights with over-sized squirt guns, and animals that loved unconditionally. This simple love of life caused those with darkness and blackness in their hearts to judge him. For those who didn’t feel love in our sometimes loveless world, he showed us not to be scared to love. When you told him you loved him, he didn’t say, “love you” or “love ya”. He always said “I love you more.”
On the tenth anniversary of Michael’s passing, I am once again, like every year before, moved to tears by the outpouring of handmade cards, teddy bears, sunflowers, giant arrangements of flowers and fans I haven’t met and even more that I have, from all around the globe.
One Rose for Michael Jackson has 18,757 red and white long stem roses for him this year. They blanket him, as he cared for others around the world with his humanitarian efforts.
What a treat to meet Liz Johnson, who flew from Buenos Aires, Argentina to pay her respects to Michael. She was here one other time in 2014. We spoke about how Michael was loved around the world and yet I felt the United States judged him harshly and tried to imprison him even though both allegations were proven to be blackmail. She told me “Nadie es propheta en su tierra.” “A prophet is never known/accepted in his hometown. “
We both agreed Michael’s death was a spiritual awakening which caused millions of people around the world to speak the same language, the language of love. I met Marty Theis who, with his beautiful smile said “We are here to change the world.” I also met Jordan, who grew up in China and now lives in New York. Jordan shared with me that she discovered Michael when she was three years old. The first false allegations in 1993 made her decide to become a lawyer. “He died the day I graduated college. I was going to come and meet him.” she said.
Michael Jackson was the greatest entertainer this world has ever seen. The gathering at Forest Lawn shows that having a kind heart and caring about others, is never, ever out of style.In this selfie obsessed, look-at-me-culture, now, more than ever, Michael’s care for humanity was both a breath of fresh air and testament to his heart and it is why he will always be remembered. This isn’t just fan worship, it’s people resonating with L.O.V.E and higher consciousness. Michael was tuned into the suffering of others. Even in his death, his will stipulated that part of his earnings should go to charities for children.
Michael’s consciousness was elevated and that’s what we tuned into and made him loved, more than anything. Darkness falls across the land but the love Michael Jackson spread around the world is testament to the power of caring about someone else, being kind, generous, gracious, loving, heart centered, and never forgetting the endless possibilities of grace available to us as human beings. Michael lived his life as a masterpiece, bringing the world together as one.
Feeling the need to recharge myself and go within, I decided to head to Guatemala. It’s a place that connects me to my family of origin as my mother is from Guatemala, to the indigenous Mayan people and to the Spanish language that I love. I choose Lake Atitlan and made my decision to try Yoga Forest for the first time. After a quick stop in Guatemala City’s La Aurora airport, I made my way to the colonial city of Antigua.
Antigua’s churches remind me of wonderfully decorated wedding cakes, with white details on a pastel yellow background. Wandering on the cobblestone streets I passed colorful, colonial churches, crumbling ruins, and terra cotta roofs with red and orange bougainvillea trailing down the sides of walls. My first day and night were spent at the luxurious, intimate boutique Hotel Posada del Angel in Antigua on a quiet cobblestone street, where every detail has been curated by local connoisseurs who want to share Antigua’s Maya and Spanish heritages. Even the little soaps are designed by a local alchemist who created a signature scent called “Semana Santa” from frankincense, orange, myrrh, clove and cinnamon. Raw honey comes from San Cristobal el Alto, coconut oil from Belize, palm oil and cocoa butter from Guatemala.
I headed out on the Carretera Panamericana also known as Centroamérica 1 – the Panamerican Highwayto Lake Atitlan. A three hour drive on a collective brought me to Lake Panachajel, where I hopped on a boat (lancha) to San Marcos La Laguna, my peaceful, spiritual spot to escape the world.
Lago de Atitlan is one of the most inspiring places I have ever visited. Nestled between three volcanos that loom over the entire landscape, (Volcán Yolimán, Volcán Atitlean and Volcán San Pedro) at an altitude of 5,125 feet, it’s the deepest lake in Central America. As far as I can see are the deep blue waters that inspired Aldous Huxley to write. Viewing the lake in silence is a true recharge while being surrounded by jogate and mango trees.
A young boy came running up to me, asking if he could carry my bags and I let him because I wanted to give him work. As he lugged my bags to Circles Café, I began to see the familiar signs in San Marcos that I love. Mayan women selling basketfuls of avocados, children running up and down the main path, the smell of tortillas cooking as I passed shady coffee plants near the lakeshore.
It’s a twenty-minute hike up a steep hill to get to Yoga Forest and it’s worth it. If you are looking to disconnect, here is the place. No wi-fi without a twenty-minute hike back to the pueblo, no electricity in your room and a compost toilet. After living on a kibbutz on Israel, I learned that I needed very little stuff everyday to be content.
Henry Ward Beecher once said, “The first hour is the rudder of the day.” By committing not to turn on technology first thing in the morning, I received so many benefits including going inside for all my answers. It required discipline to power off all electronics but the benefits are a much fuller life. At night I lay in bed listening to the sound of the crickets, birds and animals singing to their heart’s content. Solitude helps us ground to the world around us. Stillness and quiet is required to evaluate our lives and reflect on the messages our intuition sends us.
Off the grid, three local woman lovingly prepared meals with fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh blue tortillas, oatmeal, and pancakes. Even the coconut to sprinkle on our food was freshly grated. These women embody my belief of “in a world where you can be anything, be kind.” Even when it’s not the easiest response, it’s always the answer.
The view from the top of the mountain of the volcanoes is the best scenery in all of Central America. Jungle foliage and trees were medicine to my heart. The highland Indians’ colorful clothes that they make themselves, their traditional way of life of farming, their local markets, and the art they create, are all like stepping back in time before all our modern ways. Add in the Mayan culture and it’s a place that comforts and speaks to my soul.
One terribly upsetting factor in San Marcos — and all of Central America for that matter — is all the stray dogs running around. One morning I saw a dog with a bloodied ear that had flies covering the wound. I found the only pet food store in San Marcos and waited an hour and a half for a mobile vet that was due to arrive. He never came but I exchanged contact with the girl who worked at the pet store. When I returned home I contacted her and a great big smile was on my face when she told me that not only had she found the owner of the dog but also that treatment to heal its ear had started.
There is so much to do once you’ve settled in at the lake. Exploring other villages by boat, studying Spanish,seeing the weaving and arts created by locals and of course, yoga and meditation. Not to be missed is Las Pirámides meditation center on the path heading inland from Posada Schumann, where you can have a massage, practice yoga in the morning and early evening, and come to study metaphysical and meditation courses. Lake Atitlan is not a place just to travel to, it’s a place to come and live for an extended period. After moving to Israel when I was twenty years old, I developed a serious case of wanderlust and I have never stopped exploring. Part of why I travel is to have no regrets at the end of my days, because I will have explored places out of my comfort zone, traveled alone at times and had serious adventures. Not to mention getting out of my comfort zone taps into parts of my brain that create new synapses that stir creative thought. Not everyone has traveled to a place like Lake Atitlan as it requires work and an adventurous spirit to arrive there. It’s a promise that you will never forget the beauty and sounds at the lake, the smell of fresh tortillas being cooked, and will return home with peacefulness from being surrounded by the beauty of not only the lake’s water but also the indigenous people with the warmth and kindness in their hearts.
Survivor: My Father’s Ghosts-Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust
Survivor: My Father’s Ghosts is on view until August 20, 2018 at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Please come visit the museum at the Grove and see what the museum is going to further Holocaust education.
June 25, 2009 – I was a stuntwoman hired to work on Iron Man 2. As I drove on the 101 Freeway in the late afternoon, heading to the location in downtown Los Angeles, I couldn’t stop thinking about Michael and wrap my head around the fact that he was gone. The news of his death had been announced only a few hours prior, and a part of me refused to believe it. When I met the stunt coordinator, I casually mentioned it, not wanting to seem like a fanatic. Boy, how I would let go of that need years later. The scene called for three stuntwomen to be running away from gigantic robots. One of the stuntmen landed on me and, as I would find out days later, broke a few of my ribs. I couldn’t breathe but I got up and did the shot again. For some reason, getting hurt always made me go inside and ponder.
After researching, writing, blogging and sharing my photos with Michael Jackson fans around the world for nine years, I grew to not care what people thought about my “obsession” with Michael. Actually, I began to believe that if you tell me what you think about Michael, I will tell you who you are. Thus, began my search for the truth about who Michael Jackson was.
This year, like annual clockwork, the media has begun the totally baseless smear stories one month before the anniversary of Michael’s passing. The medialoid (mainstream media infected by tabloid journalism) loves to feed a constant diet of trash and lies about Michael. And his fans begin to defend him, as always, standing firmly for the truth and defending his legacy. I look forward to the day when Michael’s volunteer work for children trends instead of the lies. In the meantime, I continue my work on the anniversary of his passing to remind the world who he was, an innocent humanitarian.
Why did the media begin a witch hunt against Michael as soon as he started breaking every musical record? First of all, Michael was the archetypal misunderstood artist, committed to his art and his creative vision even though he was being judged.
Did you know that Michael Jackson was personally responsible for cutting the number of starving people on this planet in half back in the 1990’s? The media didn’t report that.
Michael Jackson was the personification of love. What do we do with someone whose heart is that big?
Tall Poppy Syndrome is “a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down or criticized because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.” That is what happened to Michael Jackson the moment he started to break every music record ever made. A simple walk through Twitter for example, will show example after example of people who never even knew him or read anything valuable about him trashing him. Hence, my belief of “tell me what you think of Michael Jackson and I will tell you who you are”. Are you judgmental? Accepting of someone who did not fit in any of the neat little boxes that society loves to place on people? Do you see his giant, loving heart that gave to strangers and visited sick and dying children before and after his concerts? A man who would donate millions of dollars from touring to various children’s causes? Is that what you see? Or do you believe the lies that the media feeds you?
A Jewish proverb says, Do not be wise in words, be wise in deeds.Michael Jackson was wise in deeds. Other-centered does not even come close to describing his character. Listed in the 2000 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for “Most Charities Supported by a Pop Star”, he supported 39 charities and gave away $500 million in his lifetime. Even in his death his earnings are still going to charity, as specified in his will.
As I walk around Forest Lawn Glendale, I focus on the love that I see for Michael Jackson and I feel my heart chakra stirring. I see handmade cards so intricate, delicate and beautiful that my heart is moved to tears. I have been in actual relationships and not had such cards made for me.
Here is Robyn Starkland who tirelessly organizes One Rose for Michael Jackson, year after year. This year, there are 8,047 roses purchased by fans around the globe. On June 26, the roses are donated to various charities around Los Angeles.
I met Sarah, who flew 5 hours to Auckland and 12 hours to Los Angeles, from South Australia. This was her first visit to Forest Lawn. She said when Michael died “I was overwhelmed with tears and I didn’t know why. I had dreams where he smiled, picked me up and spun me around.
Every year I see artwork by an artist named Siren. This year I actually met and spoke to her. Siren is from Canada and did not start painting until years after Michael died. Her drawing began two years after Michael passed but she did not paint until 2014. She said “I credit Michael with all of it, all my creativity. That’s my connection to him, the relationship, my spirituality.”
Here are Rieko Ishii, Miyuki Amano, Yoko Abe and Yuki Otsuki, who came together from Japan. They brought this glorious angel winged, red rose tribute for Michael.
Here are Queenie Las, May Cheng and Jessica Kwok from Hong Kong. They layed out pictures for hours on Saturday but everything was gone on Sunday.
Yasuyo Kaneko was sitting with an umbrella and her 2 little MJ dolls, complete with miniature flowers. I found a framed photo I loved, which turned out to be hand made by her.
People like Yasuyo are why I come to Forest Lawn Glendale every years on the anniversary of MJ’s passing.
Yasuyo is kind, gentle, soft-spoke and other centered. She created a delicate wooden frame with MJ’s favorite flowers, and was part of the team that arranged the giant arrangement of red roses, and angel wings in gold.
Michael Jackson didn’t just love his own children: he loved all children. Perhaps that’s why he was judged so harshly by people who did not know him. In the end, it’s not just his music, dancing and videos that bring people from all corners of the world to Forest Lawn Glendale to deliver their sweet, homemade gifts. It’s because Michael Jackson was the personification of love and what we need now, more than ever, is love.
From the moment my plane landed in the tiny airport of Oaxaca, I knew I was in for an adventure. Oaxaca is a magical concoction of sights, smells, and sounds. With a combination of ancient and modern sites, the small city is full of fantastic restaurants and can easily be covered by foot.
Its official name, Oaxaca de Juárez, embodies the bundle of contrasts that is modern Mexico. Oaxaca has it all: a lovely colonial city, the ruins of Mitla, craft and food markets, churches, forest covered mountains, and my favorite place of all—Monte Albán, which makes sense as I run towards any world heritage site.
Built by the Zapotecs, the temples of Monte Albán are perched atop a large mesa. Seeing the massive ancient metropolis is a mystical and spiritual experience. Monte Albán is one of the most important ruins in Mexico. To get a sense of its importance, it is said that 30,000 Zapotecs lived in Monte Albán at one time.
The Zapotec capital of Monte Albán overlooks Oaxaca. Here’s my POV:
I find myself with many questions about Monte Albán because only 10 percent of the site has been uncovered. Did the Zapotecs abandon the city gradually or suddenly? It was founded toward the end of the Middle Formative period around 500 BC and by 1000 AD it was empty. What was it like living in Monte Alban?
For this trip I used my Rolleiflex 2.8F and my Fujifilm X-T2 along with the Fujifilm 16-55mm 2.8 lens. In other words, a combo of film and digital photography.
When I travel, I use my camera to get to know people. I’ll approach strangers and ask if I may make a photo of them. With that one question, we establish a sort of trust. If I am shooting digitally, I will show them the photo on playback and I usually get big smiles in response.
I like to write down their address and sometimes surprise them with the photo in the mail a month or two later. Sharing my photography is important to me, and I love being able to give the gift of a portrait.
Whether I’m taking pictures or not, traveling through Mexico is always a unique experience. From the Spanish language (la lengua), to the food (la comida), people (la gente), and culture (la cultura). There is a lot of fear-based advice about traveling to various states of Mexico coming from the U.S. that I have never paid attention to. I find all the fear propaganda unwarranted.
I have met beautiful people around the world in my travels, warm kind hearted strangers especially in Mexico. Their warmth and kindness shines through where I meet them in every market, street corner, restaurant, and ancient site.
Mexico gifted me with enriching, heart breaking, beautiful sights and though it left me tired, I felt new life running through my veins.
The Magic of Michael Jackson’s Memorial in Munich, Germany
One thing everyone should know about me is that I am a BIG fan of Michael Jackson. I’ve have been involved with the Michael Jackson community for more than eight years, and I had heard about the memorial dedicated to him in Munich years ago. I like to visit any Michael Jackson memorials and photograph them (with my MJ dolls, of course). On a recent journey to Germany, I made sure I gave myself time to do just that. I was going to be in Munich anyway for a photographic series I was doing on my father, who survived eight Nazi forced labor camps. After hearing about Michael’s memorial, I had to make it part of the trip.
I was heading to the hotel that Michael Jackson stayed at many times: Hotel Bayerischer Hof, which was just one turn and 20 minutes from my motel in the Old Town of Munich. I made a left on Promenadeplatz and the grand hotel with its blue awnings came into view.
Michael stayed in suite 32 in 1997 for the History tour and a year later he returned to take his children Prince and Paris to Circus Krone. In 1999, he had a concert at the Olympic Station, “Michael Jackson and Friends” for the Nelson Mandela charity. Due to a technical problem with part of the set, the central section of ‘The Bridge Of No Return’ collapsed, forcing Michael to climb back on to the stage. Michael continued to perform as planned and was taken to the hospital – after collapsing backstage from the pain of the fall. Did I mention I like Michael jackson?
When I arrived at the hotel, I quickly found photos of Michael Jackson’s smiling face. I sat down on a bench adjacent to the monument and overheard two men speaking about Michael.
“Why did he like being with children” they asked one another.
“Do you want to know?” I answered. They were interested, and encouraged me to explain.
“Imagine everywhere you go in the world, from the time you are eight years old, everyone wants something from you: a hand-shake, a hug, a photo, a kiss, a job or for you to listen to their song. Michael was an innocent, soft-spoken, shy, humble man who loved children because they allowed him to be who he was: a child-like soul.” I said.
The men nodded their heads and understood why Michael connected with children. I’m happy I helped them understand why Michael connected with billions of souls across the globe. It is because he was a loving, gentle, humble and kind man.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, no matter where I am in the world, I am never, ever alone. I’m always able to connect with people in another country about Michael.
I walked to Michael’s memorial each of the four nights I was in Munich. On the last afternoon, I had plans to meet my friend, Nena, whom I met four years ago at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, where Michael is buried, on the anniversary of Michael’s birthday. Nena has been responsible for creating and running the memorial in Munich for the past eight years.
Nena received permission from the mayor of the city and the Bavarian Government to put up photos of Michael on a city monument. Every morning before she goes to work at the two coffee shops she owns she goes to the memorial to add fresh flowers. People send donations for the flowers, candles, pictures and laminating the photos people leave in his honor. It’s a non-profit association to remember Michael Jackson. Fans write to Nena from all over the world and come from France, Italy, from Japan, China, American, Australia, Canada. And many fans from Germany also go to meet Nena and see the memorial.
I was a Hollywood stuntwoman for twenty-five years, and though it might sound crazy, my life changed the day Michael Jackson died. I was working on Iron Man 2 at the time, and after MJ’s death, I endeavored to discover who Michael Jackson truly was. (Not what the media tried to force feed us.) Thus began my organic, eight-year ongoing series, Searching for Michael Jackson.
These photos are part of my journey to understand the man Michael Jackson was, and also functioned as an outlet for me to meet other MJ fans from around the world. My MJ dolls have been to Warsaw, Krakow, Prague, Budapest, and now Munich, and it’s been a fulfilling, but more importantly, fun, experience to photograph the dolls with Michael Jackson memorials.
My favorite photographs of my MJ doll and photos of Michael are the ones I made in the rain with water drops on my jacket sleeve. I love all the colors from the photographs of Michael on the monument along with the candles, flowers and the backdrop of the hotel.
I have visited MJ memorials around the world including the one in Budapest, Hungary and I always find it comforting to visit a memorial dedicated to the King of Pop, clear across the Atlantic ocean, so far from my home in Los Angeles. As I travel alone, seeing all the love for Michael is a real comfort, and helps to soothe my soul.
The Magic of Michael Jackson’s Memorial in Munich, Germany