Diving into the Past without Drowning: Day Trip to Laguna Beach (1973)

Diving into the Past without Drowning: Day Trip to Laguna Beach (1973)

Original 8mm Film by Joe Bustillos
Edited by Joe Bustillos & Random Chance
Music by Smartsound Music, “Visions 22K”
Filmed on location in Laguna Canyon & Laguna Beach CA in 1973
Featuring Lynn Tschirgi & cute white puppy

I just spent the last hour watching an 8mm film that I and several others shot in the early 1970s. The film is a collection of footage that I’d gotten from Creagan’s family, the western we’d done in junior high and several other reels that I had lying around and converted to VHS when I did the 1994 “Looking for Creagan McConnell” documentary. I recently had the 8mm film converted again, this time to DVD/digital format. I’d remembered the stuff from Creagan’s childhood and our “Come Against the Rain” footage, but I’d forgotten about all the rest of the stuff.

The forgotten part consisted of footage I’d taken in 1973 during a rare family vacation to Olympia, WA with water-skiing clips, a day trip to Laguna Beach with my girlfriend, Lynn Tschirgi and her little white powder-puff puppy (see the embedded video below), and ended with life-on-campus footage my older sister, Michaela, took at Mission Viejo High School.

The cars, the hair, the clothing, dudes on choppers, hippies with fishing poles walking on the rocks; It only seemed fitting that, particularly the Laguna Beach scenes, were slightly out of focus and blown out. These are moving images that come from an era over 40-years ago. Oh my god, we were so young and that was such another time. But after watching the whole thing, in silence, I feel very lucky to have these reminders of the journey I’ve been on.

With all of scanning of photos and papers that I’ve been doing these past months, I’ve been warned more than a few times that one can overdose on too much nostalgia. That’s obviously true and if I were looking at these things wishing I was back there, that’d be a problem. And this isn’t something limited to the regretful memories of us old folks. Hell, I’ve known a few in their thirties who talked about the “good ol’ days” before they were married, like it’s already all downhill for them. But, for me, this is not the case. I’ve been forced into a transitional mode where I have no idea what lies ahead for me. I simply can’t say that the past was any better than what might follow. In fact, I consider myself fortunate to have so much access to so much of the journey I’ve been on.

The day-to-day grind that I’ve been on, especially the level of concentration and effort for much of my teaching career, tends to afford one very little connection with past accomplishments in the rush to get all the stuff on ones priority list done. And over the past six-months of looking and not finding the next job, one can easily allow ones sense of accomplishment diminish. I mean, if no one seems interested in ones services, after a while one can begin to believe that there’s nothing there of value. That transition can happen really quickly. But I’ve been lucky enough to find scores of articles, recordings and projects that I did as a writer, as a journalist, as a researcher and as an educator, enough to remind me that there’s more here than the need for a wage. Add to all of this, I’ve been fortunate enough to have shared this journey with some amazing family, friends and lovers. I may have no idea where I’ll be in another year, but I’m really glad that I left digital breadcrumbs of the paths I’ve taken along the way.

Looking for Creagan McConnell: The Man and The Myths [1994 documentary]

Looking for Creagan McConnell: The Man and The Myths [1994 documentary]

1994 Looking For Creagan McConnell-VHS coverIn 1994 my best friend, Creagan McConnell, announced that he was going to move to Arizona to help his folks build their home. I produced the following video, with the help of many others, to share at his going away party. A second video (posted at the bottom of the page) was also created featuring comments from friends and family who attended the going away party. As should be evident from the content and spirit of the videos, over the years we had a lot of fun together. Rest-in-Peace, my friend, you will never be forgotten.

Filmed on location in Tustin, Mission Viejo, Fashion Island & Anaheim, California in 1994 Video cameras supplied by Tim Booth & Paul Quinby; Additional video equipment by Ben & Josie Bustillos background music: Andy Summers “The Golden Wire” Level 42 “Running in the Family” and James Taylor “Fire and Rain” from the “James Taylor (LIVE)” Theme music: “Island Party” courtesy Smartsound Music at http://smartsound.com

The Producer also wishes to thank: Jennifer Jackson, Don & Margie McConnell, Mich & Paul Quinby, Matt Bustillos, Ben & Josie Bustillos, The Eggers family, Merrilee Harper, Kathie Glassmeyer, Denise Valverde, Kay Streppone & Marie Jones for subjecting themselves to the camera’s gaze and the interviewer’s probing questions; and, of course, Creagan Edward Charles “Rufus” McConnell for leaving his doors unlocked and for living such an “interesting” life. Written, Produced and Edited by Joe Bustillos

Come Against The Rain

This video began as a 8mm film, originally consisting of mostly “dying” scenes Creagan and I filmed in 1971. Over the course of two years it became a Western about two reluctant pioneers, Chuck & Rufus, heading to San Francisco in the years after the Civil War.

Starring Creagan McConnell as Rufus Joe Bustillos as Chuck Matt Bustillos as Clarence Hush Dave Thompson as Street Fighter Pepuce as the killer dog Filmed on 8mm by Creagan McConnell, Joe Bustillos and Dave Thompson Written, Produced and Directed by Creagan McConnell and Joe Bustillos 1971/1972, 1994 & 2015 versions Edited by Joe Bustillos 1994 version Written by Joe Bustillos Filmed on Location in Mission Viejo, CA 1971/1972 Video soundtrack: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, “Woodstock,” “Country Girl,” & “Deja Vu” from “Deja Vu” Theme music: “Copelandesque” courtesy SmartSound Music at http://smartsound.com

The Producers wish to thank: Don McConnell & Ben Bustillos for letting us transform their backyards into the Post-Civil War American frontier, Don McConnell for original use of the camera and “building supplies,” Margie McConnell & Josie Bustillos for looking the other way while we jumped off their roofs and through their plants.

Looking for Creagan McConnell: The McConnell Send-Off Interviews, March 19, 1994

The Next Chapter


Over the past couple weeks I haven’t posted all that much, except for tweets from my daily walks, because I’ve been quite busy pulling together resources to create my new, much needed, resume page/website. It took more than a few days to get over the initial shock of becoming just another government statistic. I love how life can change courses so quickly, but, Jesus, this one came out of nowhere. Anyway, having spent the past six-years creating online content, it made sense that I had to do something more meaningful than a traditional paper resume overwhelmed by bullet-points and text that no one will ever read. But how does one communicate a lifetime of learning and almost 20-years of teaching everything from shy kindergarteners how to use a computer mouse to second-career fifty-something masters students how to teach online? Also the resume website had to be visual with consistent easy-to-understand navigation, and tell my story with as few clicks as possible. Oh and I need it to be out there now, so that I can get a job. No pressure.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. It’s a work in progress. I’ve already figured out a number of revisions I want to make, but right now the priority is getting the info out there. Also, I need to come up with a cover letter… etc., etc., etc. Interesting coincidence, I took my “early out” after 15-years with the phone company on October 31st, 1994. Twenty-years later, minus one-day, history repeated itself. Onward and upward, I used to tell my students. I guess it’s my turn to live up to those words and explore what the next chapter in my life will entail. Happy Thanksgiving everyone… really.

Here’s the link to my resume webpage. Feel free to share it: http://joebustillos.info

Helpin’ a Brother Out


monopolyRecent events have reminded me of the John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” I came out to Florida in 2008 because it was an opportunity to put all the things I’d learned at that point into practice and to step up my potential teaching influence. Now I’ve been given another opportunity to consider where next to share this expertise. Many thanks to friends and family who have expressed their support and concern. I’m working on pulling together my portfolio and exploring what the next chapter of this journey might be.

In the meantime, for any of you planning on doing any holiday shopping (yes, it is that season already) and plan to use Amazon.com, if you use any of the images/links I’ve listed below I will get a referral fee from the transaction (the referral fee does NOT effect your purchase price!). Also, the links that I’ve listed below are for books published by some of my local Orlando friends, and that would also make their holidays a touch brighter. Even if none of the books look to your liking or gift-giving taste, if you begin your Amazon search using one of the links and purchase something I still get the referral fee. So please click on any of the images/links below and do that American holiday thing, shop-shop-shop. Thanks.


The Second Draeken War by Ben Hale

The Second Draeken War by Ben Hale

Pax Titanus by Tom Lucas

Pax Titanus by Tom Lucas

The Heart of Education by Dara Feldman

The Heart of Education by Dara Feldman

Collections, Ink! by German Martinez

Collections, Ink! by German Martinez

NOCS: Nocturnal Encounter by Jessica Lang

NOCS: Nocturnal Encounter by Jessica Lang

Immortal Dynasty by Lynda Haviland

Immortal Dynasty by Lynda Haviland

God Doesn't Love Us All the Same by Nina Guilbeau

God Doesn’t Love Us All the Same by Nina Guilbeau

A Gift of Ghost by Sarah Wynde

A Gift of Ghost by Sarah Wynde

Leather to the Corinthians by Tom Lucas

Leather to the Corinthians by Tom Lucas

Marshal Gold by Geoffrey J. Veit

Marshal Gold by Geoffrey J. Veit

Blog Action Day: Inequity and The Opportunity to Learn

dad and mom - post-WWII dreamers

dad and mom – post-WWII dreamers

My mom and dad grew up in the post-World War II boon when they really believed that you could achieve anything that you worked hard at. They grew up in San Gabriel, CA, where the joke was that everyone was related to one another and it was understood which side of the railroad tracks, which ran directly behind my grandparents’ houses, one should stay on. But my dad was a dreamer and moved us away from San Gabriel, and briefly away from Southern California. When we returned to Southern California we ended up in very white Orange County, in a place called Mission Viejo and the year was 1965.

The community may have had a Spanish name, but we were the only Mexican-American family in our neighborhood that I remember. Dad and mom became fast friends with the Olivareses, but they were way on the other side of town. All of the kids I remember growing up with were various shades of white. That said, except for the occasional random name-calling, I don’t remember many cases where I was treated any differently than any other dorky kid. Mom said much later that she thought that my younger brother and next older sister had it more difficult than I did because they were darker than I was. I didn’t see it, but then I was just a kid and all I cared about was football, my G.I. Joe and the Apollo space program.

I grew up believing and then acting on the belief that you can be anything you want to be, if you just work really hard at it. It was a different time and I was able to just be a kid with no concerns about food or whether someone might take our home from us or keep my dad from doing his job. I never worried that someone might say that I couldn’t take any class, sport or school organization that I would want to participate in. I knew that I was lucky to grow up in this place, at this particular time in history, but I never really thought about how life for others wasn’t anything like what I had experienced.

Somehow it was understood that, even though my grandparents only had a grammar school education and my folks got as far as high school graduation, Education was going to be the key to having a better life. It was just a given in my mind that after high school I was going to go to college. It never dawned on me that some people had to choose between making a living or getting an education. And the idea that someone wouldn’t be allowed to continue their education because of their gender, their ethnic heritage or because of which religion they were raised with was even more foreign to me. I knew that school wasn’t some kind of better-job-factory, as much as it enabled one to reach beyond ones upbringing, ones native village and participate in the much larger world. Ones native language, country of origin or what ones father did for a living was immaterial to the task at hand. What was more important was ones willingness and energy to learn and the diversity of experiences one brought to the learning.

So, I’ve never really known inequity in my career or social life because I was one of the lucky ones who had access to Education and I was able to jump in with both feet and have never stopped learning. And now as an educator, going into my 20th year working with students, I see that my job isn’t to be someone’s judge or inquisitor. Life is hard enough and will do that job well enough. I’m the coach meant to push and motivate the students to do more and be more than they ever imagined that they would accomplish. My job is to bring as many along as are willing to do the work and surpass anything that I might have accomplished.

There will always be places in the world where small-minded people will inflict others with their own self-doubt and fear and backwater mythologies. But as my life has enjoyed great freedoms from restriction, so others will overcome and move beyond the inequities that they might have grown up with if they have access to Education and the opportunities presented having endured the process.

Mentoring and Learning the Wrong Lessons


From my Masters studies at Pepperdine University, comes this tidbit of my own mentor-deficient journey. Spring. 2002

I can’t believe how my brother betrayed me. There he was, just rambling on, completely oblivious to the betrayal. I can’t believe he’d forgotten the vows we’d made during those numberless sweaty Saturdays out in the backyard under the heartless afternoon sun as our father rained down on us tree branches to be cut and dissatisfaction at our efforts.

I thought that it was understood that once we’d successfully escaped our father’s unsatisfiable tutelage that we’d never ever again spend another day toiling under the sun, pruning trees, or doing anything beyond the minimum necessary to keep the lawn from over-growing and swallowing up the patio furniture. But there he was proudly displaying his garden and the huge ears of corn he was expecting in a few weeks. Damn. I guess new homeownership does that to a person.

Okay, so not everyone takes the vows of teenage-boys seriously (brother!), and it wasn’t exactly the “Grapes of Wrath.” But it was negative enough to leave the above “not-so-fond” memory. Let’s just say, when I began to read our mentoring text by Gordon Shea and recalled the nurturing/supportive characteristics we all agreed a mentor should have, my father silently slipped off the list . . . at first.

Based on Shea’s list of twenty characteristics about “What Mentors Do” (p.14) my father exhibited eight of the twenty characteristics (usually having to do with doing the job right, and his quotable quote was, “Can’t you guys do anything right?!” so I wasn’t sure whether I should count that one). Of the twenty-two characteristics that we cooked up at our Colorado conference, his numbers dropped to just two. Actually, this whole business of going back and mining my memory for mentoring moments and/or relationships was getting pretty depressing for me. As I worked my way through my list there was an obvious pattern of learning from a distance so as not to get too close to whichever leader (and suffer from his/her potential wrath). It’s pretty clear where that pattern came from.

It was many years later in the middle of one of my child-development classes, when we were discussing the Characteristics of Play, that it suddenly dawned on me that my father’s endless weekends of yard work was his form of leisure. It was his form of play. Of course, none of this had made sense to my brother and I as kids because this was anything but fun to us. But to my father the “work” meant a great deal to him and having us there to “share” it with him also meant a great deal (even though we were anything but receptive to any message at the time). And even odder still was that he worked in landscaping and spent his whole week doing pretty much the same things for a living. The only difference, on the surface, between his work-a-day world and what he did on the weekends he was working on his yard with his boys. But at the time we never saw it.

In one of last term’s readings, Frank Smith made it clear that learning happens whether we want it to or not, more from the people we’re around than from the words of teachers.

“We learn from the people around us with whom we identify. We can’t help learning from them, and we learn without knowing that we are learning.” Frank Smith

So when I look at the person I’ve become and look at the long hours that I put in and the high expectation that I have for myself and the work that I do, I now know where those values came from. Those were values that were important to him, values that saw him through the early years of his own life when he didn’t have a father to lead him. And just as he never looked at the difficulties of his own upbringing for an apology for not having had a “perfect childhood,” I don’t expect or want an apology from him for the often vitriolic relationship that we had as father and son. I understand that he was just being a man, a man true to his core values and those values didn’t always translate well to squirrely seven- and ten-year-old boys.

17. 1970s - dad up a ladder on balcony above garage.

17. 1970s – dad up a ladder on balcony above garage.

Dear ol’ dad, whatever his conscious intentions may have been (prune trees, cut branches down small enough to fit into trash cans), he taught my brother and I a great deal more than the “joys” of working with small hand tools on mountains of orange and olive tree branches. I love him for instilling those values in me. But I’m still not going to pick up any pruning shears anytime soon. I’ll leave that to my silly younger brother. JBB


Not Missing the Piece

I've Been Tagged! 10 Things About Me by Nicki Varkevisser

After having a casual conversation with an attractive coworker, I pondered the puzzle of having such amazing friends but my apparent inability to have someone special in my life. Being a bit older I quickly brushed past the comedy that is having sex, and thought about all the other parts of what it means to share a life with someone. What’s the morning routine? Who gets the bathroom first? Who gets to shower first? How often are we going to eat out each week? Who will do the shopping? Will we like the same TV shows? How much quiet time does one expect or need to have each day? Even though I was raised in a large family and seemed to easily fit into the routine of my last girlfriend’s household, I’ve spent the vast majority of my life living by myself, pretty much taking care of whatever needed to be taken care of. I really am at a point where I very much wonder, why bother?

I’m reminded of Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece and the sequel, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O. I don’t want to be dismissive, but it seems to be a lot of “been there, done that.” When I was younger I know that I over-thought everything, or contrary to my gender’s reputation, actually did think about things. There’s a scene in A Hard Day’s Night, on the train when George asks Ringo if he’s going to go into the birth where the beautiful woman is sitting inviting him in. Ringo says, “No, in the end she’ll just reject me and I be all frustrated,” and walks on down the hall after blowing the woman a kiss. So, I’ve been jumping to the ends before there has been any hint of a beginning for a good long time. And now that I’m older and my friends are also more set in their ways it does seem to be a problem reminiscent of The Missing Piece: How are our lives suppose to mesh? I mean, I do miss the conversation, the companionship and a little physical affection isn’t so bad either, but I am finding life to be quite full without the hassle of connecting with another soul rolling down the same road.


Incomplete Beings [short story group]


This week my short story group assignment was to write about a “real life” incident, so I re-edited a previous reflection from when I was beginning treatment for what would later be diagnosed as CIPD. Enjoy(?)

April 13, 2012 8PM – Waiting for my MRI for a possible pinched nerve that’s interrupted my life and my sleep for over the past six weeks. The girlfriend offered to drive me for the scan and is sitting next to me cruising the web on her iPad. Life certainly changed beginning in 2011 to 2012, 16-months at the time of the MRI. I was thinking about the changes that April afternoon while I was trying to catch a nap after presenting my one-hour continuing education session (on meaningful student engagement) that morning. Besides not sleeping lately, I finished up writing the presentation at 2AM the night before and really wanted to drift away, but my mind wouldn’t let me go so easily.

I had been listening to a podcast, Skepticality, and the speaker was talking about how fallible human memories are and how our brain actually protects us from certain realizations. He used the example of how it helps us function to not realize when we’re driving, for example, that we’re essentially sitting on a comfortable couch surround by a thin shell of plastic and aluminum hurtling down the road at speeds that are not survivable were we to come to a sudden stop… lovely thought to entertain as I was trying to drift off to sleep. In my darkened room, alone, gently embraced by my memory-foam pillows and mattress I had a momentary wispy image in my mind of how we are such transitory incomplete beings, capable of such passion and sharply focused moments of realization, and then like a bit of fog on the horizon, gone.

It would not do to remain fixated on how briefly we exist. More than twenty-years ago, I would lose track of a friend and then hear of his or her death and thus became more aware that there would be an end to this story and an end to my part in the narrative. The struggle was to keep that awareness as an inspiration to bring to each day its due focus and meaningfulness, to not let the days slip by like an endless supply of water. So I managed by imagining that there were things that I needed to do, that I had a mission to accomplish in the few years that I would have. When I started teaching in the mid-90’s working with my students was part of the mission. But there was always a sense that there was something missing, something more that I needed to do. Working with elementary and middle school students, I realized that I was probably the only adult male in my students’ lives to spend so much time with them, day in and day out, and how important it was for me to be fully there for them and not let myself slip into a “going through the motions” mode. But, for most of this time I had no one special in my life, and I knew that I only had so much emotional energy to give to my students as long as I was living such an emotionally disconnected unbalanced life. It was an equation that I didn’t seem to have the means of balancing. So I stayed focused on the mission, trying to not become so entangled in the demands of the day to day that can lull one into imaging that the goal is just to get through the day and make it home in the evening, to work until losing consciousness and repeat it all the next day until that day when one doesn’t get up from one’s slumber.

Fast forward to 2011 through 2013 when I was fortunate enough to become close to another soul, one who had grown up on the opposite end of the country, who had been emotionally bruised by those closest to her but through the frustrations found connection and hope and meaning. We are such flawed, incomplete beings, but I had so much fun. At what would turn out to become a very difficult time in my life, I was glad that my story continued long enough for me to enjoy our afternoons laying in her back porch hammock listening to the rain fall, or the warm afternoons having lunch in my back porch, or slow dancing at some smoky dive bar, or driving out to the cape in the early dawn hours to watch some crazy launch, or ending every day looking forward to snuggling on the couch watching one complete sci-fi series after another (including all nine seasons of the X-Files). Alas, the illness that prompted the MRIs in 2012, would threaten my ability to walk and independence through the remainder of 2012. And even as I was recovering in 2013, the illness proved to be one thing too many for my girlfriend and our connection was severed in April of 2013, a year after that first MRI.

We are incomplete beings with little hope of being much more than what we already are. But that hasn’t hindered us from not trying to push the rock just a bit further each day. It was fun to have someone to share my story with, for those brief moments that we had, each day, like the whiff of fog off the shore, so real but gone so quickly.