Here is another treat courtesy of Andrew Guerrero and Jeff Stewart, this is an unpublished article/interview with the amazing Pete Brandt, there are several other riders interviewed here as well so enjoy!
It slipped away. I wanted it to slip away. I wanted the dream and the death of the dream to slip away. Used up again. On the road again. The road opens like the legs of a first flame. Her legs take me in but they’ve ruined me. Over 30 times I’ve driven the width of this country; gutted states in width and length with hours of fast music and evangelistic mud. Cockroaches and christians. Commercials and fever. The Oregon rain is eating me alive. The last moments of domestication boiled and spilled over until the skin on my arms slid off. I couldn’t wait for it to slip away. The remaining skin is pale and dying from months of greyness in Portland. I couldn’t wait to see the sun bleeding across the desert. A menstruation. It’s black in California. There is a small snow flurry in Shasta City. Behind me the mountain sits dark and almost hidden. But I see its ghost off to my left, and the face is disgusted, and the feeling I have from the face is almost apathetic, but here is my last time around the country; one way or the other. And the mountains know it, the road knows all. One more time around. And it needs
to count this time, because there are no more waiting. Yet there is no pressure. Maybe this sick feeling. There is no more spirituality out here, no more learning, no more excitement. Adventure is dead on the American road. It’s been well defeated. The biggest gamble on the road now is to drive state to state with no cell phone. Even the worst vagrant at a storefront is too uptight for a laugh or a brawl or some dirty action. The rest areas are well lit. Too much so, but they provide sleep for the seriously needy, the sleep-deprived, the poor, the cheap; for the breakdowns from the natural LSD the body produces after 24 hours of no sleep. I have it all. Up dealing with the stress of the fatal wreckage of once stable thing. Then the packing, the departure, and the drive here. Feeling lost and far behind the life blowing around me, past me, laughing and tanned, warm and full and ready. I recline the seat back and meet my fate. I want no dreams, nothing to leap over. My dog jumps onto my lap and flattens my genitals. It’s a delayed pain about to hit me. I count to five in my head. It arrives, and I shake my head and cough. My dog goes flying back to her seat. She doesn’t know why. And I can’t explain it to her. And in sleep I drive the dark highway. Off the road I had reached for life but it was nowhere to be found. And death was there but he was tired as always, limping with weakness. It’s not so much the death in life but the genius in death. It makes life precise, and the most trivial happenings and small moments like small birds or dripping food, or past laughter or the face of a stranger during childhood are calculated and tabulated. From this the mind extracts worth, from this the mind is settled or wretched. I sleep there, feeling the death and the life, the road and the years of each motherfucking moment, totaled up in the mind’s eye. My results are wretched.
I piss in the stainless steel bowl of the cold rest area men’s room. The smell of urine is a part of these places. One expects it. One is inadmitteldly surprised if the cement floor is clean and pleasantly fragrant. I find it ridiculous to be shaving over the sink but I’m doing it, waiting for the timed faucet to spit out another three seconds of cold water to rinse the razor, my face distorted by an old mirror, carving the blade under a freakish, rolling jaw. I shave slowly and hold the razor under the faucet. The timer detects an object and another wad of cold water ejaculates onto the twin blade. Nobody looks happy to see a man shaving at a rest area. The road can make an otherwise dull man perceptive. Perhaps this is why they are silent. I shave indifferently, though ready to spin around and knock somebody flat on his ass if he says anything. The road will always there. The road is full with fear and deceit. I will die on this stretch of road. This one or one like it. I tap the razor dry and zip my backpack. Outside it is dry and clear. But the sky looks back at me with a razor of indifference. It’s seen me here too many times.
Sean Parker’s tied down for another week and a half. I spend five days working an old labor job of mine in Diamond Springs, about two hours east of San Francisco. I sleep in the van and work short days, the rest of the time I spend writing by hand and riding flat on a dusty surface. I drive into San Francisco and look around for a day. Clean and expensive. Back at the jobsite 3 days later I call Parker. He did a show with Pete Brandt earlier. He gives me Pete’s number. I tell Parker I want to get out of California. He’s with it; three more days. I call Pete. Three hours later I’m stuck on the Bay Bridge. Somebody needs to figure this shit out. Somebody needs a staggered system of human livestock release. Release a third of the bastards at three o’clock, another third at 3:45. and the final wave of cattle at 4. And then stagger the sitcoms for them accordingly. This way they won’t miss a beat of their gutless existence. But I sit there, surrounded by them. I can actually smell them. I see the city of San Francisco, and the Sun is failing now, and the buildings laugh before it, and I sit here. The wind of the metaphor chokes me. I look straight ahead and pet the top of my dog’s snout. I want to get out and sit on the hood of my van. Two reasons I don’t: The fumes from the engines and the faces of the cattle looking at me, and I would see them as buck-toothed cartoon faces and I would start thinking about taking a baseball bat and destroying them, windshield by windshield. I would love to watch them die. I would love their corpses to clear a path for my dirty van. I would love to build a yacht from their skin and float into the city and have a sex-starved Asian girl upon the skin of my new boat.
Pete Brandt lives in San Mateo, twenty minutes south of the city if there is no traffic. He lives there with his girlfriend, Karissa. Pete and Karissa have been together for more than five years. They have a dog, a Pug named Buddy Lee. Buddy Lee is pure energy. Buddy Lee is the best new face I’ve seen on this trip. Brandt looks almost the same as he looked the last time I saw him, at a small flatland contest in Del Monte, California, more than ten years ago. I’d heard he had quit riding for eight years, came back in the new millennium, and he’s again one of the top flatlanders. It sounds like a joke, to come back in the flatland circle after 8 years and to see the level of riding from all over the globe now, and to be determined and disciplined enough to ride that hard. Brandt is awake no later than nine in the morning, rides at the famous Embarcadero in San Francisco for four to six hours, comes home and eats, showers, then rides at his long time parking garage in San Mateo at night. I find his apartment. He and his girlfriend apologize immediately for the smell of Buddy Lee, but since the bridge my nose is stuffed up and I can’t smell anything.
Karissa leaves. I notice there is no television in the living room. The far wall is lined with boxes and crates of his albums, and the turntables are over on the other wall. Tool boxes and bike parts grace the wall by the kitchen. I like seeing no television set. A television isn’t furniture. After the day and night is over, a projector lights the entire far wall above the albums to watch videos or an occasional movie. He plays the latest Intrikat video. The wall becomes a flatland paradise. He loads some smoke and pulls out four beers and sets them on the table. On the couch we watch the video and talk about flatland, about riders and new tricks. Brandt isn’t the jive-ass hip-hop soldier he used to be. He’s gone through some serious shit. I don’t need to print the reasons for his long absence, except to say that sometimes even the best of us get off track for a while, but the best come back. And we learn from the losses cut, and we carry that knowledge into the flow of our form. Brandt explained me that he was in a situation where he couldn’t give his riding one-hundred percent, and if he couldn’t give it at least that much, then he couldn’t do it at all. And now his life is flatland again. He does an occasional show or tour to get the rent and bills. His life is riding. At 33 years old, Brandt is one of the most consistent and controlled flatland riders I have seen, and he can spin virtually any trick. The beer is cold and lovely. I ask him about his turntables. He smiles and jumps off the couch. He plays me a track of his, a speed metal mix. Something about the whole night is good. I haven’t been riding enough. I haven’t been writing enough. I’ve been in this slow fog. I finish the bottle and start another. I stare at my back wheel.
“Pete, you don’t have an extra back wheel you might want to sell, do you? Maybe even an extra stem I can buy off you?”
He stares at my bike with me.
“What are you looking for?”
“I’ve been riding that heavy ass back rim Davis flowed me in Austin. It rolls fine, but I was hoping you had something lighter.”
“What kind of stem are you looking for?”
“I’d like to try a Bizhouse. EZ Chris had one in Austin when I was there. I liked it.”
I sit there and drink my beer. The music plays and my face is beginning to go numb from the buzz . I haven’t eaten in two days. I’ve hardly slept at all. The beer takes hold alarmingly. He walks out of the other room with a blue Quamen frame, and on the forks attached to the frame sits a red Bizhouse. I look at the frame and stem. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
“You have a Quamen just laying around here?”
“Yeah. I have a Nankai hub, too. If you want it.”
“Hell yes I want it. How much for the hub and stem?”
“Ah, man. I’m not going to fucking charge you. I have this thing about selling parts to riders. I
don’t feel right about it.”
“We’re low on beer. At least let me buy the next sixer.”
“That’s fine. You can ride that frame, too. I mean, if you want to ride it.”
There was a 70’s movie called 10, where a geek has a hard-on for this braided beach goddess, and in his fantasy, it shows him running toward her on the beach. She runs toward him at the same time, her braids bouncing above honey hued shoulders and perfect tits, her legs long and chestnut, moving elegantly on either side of a gorgeous vagina. They meet in front of the ocean. They kiss and roll around the sand while the tide rushes under her skinny ass cheeks. I’m walking toward the Quamen, and the same music is playing in my head, Chariots Of Fire. I reach the frame and stem and I’m filled with something I can only describe as pure and unconditional love.
Brandt’s digging through his toolbox and he fishes out a Quamen sprocket.
“You’ll need this. Tomorrow night I’ll build that back wheel. You’ll have to buy the spokes. I have this axle here, too. I designed it. Look…”
He explains the axle. Both sides have threads, but only the threads on the chainwheel side catch and spin. The purpose is to have the other side of the rim for the nuts and spacers to slide onto, thereby only having to adjust the cones on the chainwheel side. And it comes apart and goes together instantly. And there’s no need to measure it out when you put it on. Slides right together. He nods to the Quamen, “We can start building it now, if you want to.”
I start taking my bike apart. He has the Quamen separated and cleaned in nothing flat. He makes a remark about being able to build an entire bike from scratch, lacing the wheels and all within an hour and a half, from the time he’s done in bike shops. After my bike is taken apart and everything is done except the back wheel, we sit back on the couch and drink the last two beers with greasy hands. Brandt nods to the Quamen:
“Look at that bike. It’s a perfect frame, man. Looks good, too.”
“I seriously don’t know what to say. Thanks.”
He shrugs, “Fuck it. It was collecting dust here, and I know you’re going to ride it. But
We drink and smoke and watch flatland videos. We’re watching Japanese riders. They’re so good they look animated. The video ends. Cable television splatters against the white wall.
I fish through my backpack and hit record on the Sony…..
“I always knew I was going to come back. I thought maybe I’d be older. I never planned it out. It’s something that I live to do. It’s me, basically. It’s what I do to feel normal. Some people are like, ‘Oh, I’m not going to ride today because I don’t feel like it,’ -or whatever, but for me it’s life. I don’t give a fuck about whether I’m in a shitty mood or if I’m happy or whatever. I ride every day. When I got back into it, it got to a point to where I couldn’t get enough. I ride more and more. And it got to the point where I didn’t ride around people. But what was most important is that I didn’t do the same shit that I did before. I got back into it and changed every trick that I knew. I had a lot of stuff stored in my mind that I wanted to do.”
Was this stuff that was stored from way back? Or was it more contemporary, after you saw new flatland?
“A little bit of both. Like the crackpacker, a trick that I actually made up, how people took it to different levels. I wanted to do that, go where the progression went. I didn’t want to build off of stuff that I did before. Like I didn’t want to do dumptruck variations. I wanted to jump into pushing it, taking something that somebody else might have done, taking it and doing it switch-footed, linking it in. But there are certain things I’ll learn not to go out and do or claim or do at a contest, but it’s important to learn everything you can, as much as you can, because one day you’ll be able use it, to link it into something else; you’ll be familiar with it.”
What were some of the things you learned to start building?
“Shit. Well, one thing I learned was multiple things, just to keep it going, like hitch-hiker whips. I remember back in the day I was able to whiplash into it, then I went into some kind of cliffhanger routine and shit, just wanted to get control over it. So I learned ten hitch-hiker whips, then it was twenty, you know, basically just started getting the control down, really. Like a time machine on the pedals, just to get used to pedal tricks. It’s like a language, you know? Like learning the alphabet.”
How do you feel about where you are now?
“I’m not done yet,” he laughs. “I see a lot of stuff to do. I write a lot of tricks down, and I work on stuff by myself that other people don’t see- just because I don’t want to be discouraged or have anybody see it or whatever.”
How do you feel about brakeless flat? Do you consider that? Paul Osicka once commented to me that if you use your foot, then the foot becomes a brake.
“That’s true in a lot of ways. It’s hard to say because some people feel that to have no brakes is to be in complete control, having no brake to manipulate the bike. But I think there’s a certain art to using the brake. If you can do stuff to where you don’t ever use it, but then you get to a point to where you’re so dialed, you’ll do whatever, you’ll scuff with your face. I like nailing stuff going fast, getting pissed, fucking nailing shit with conviction. With the brakes, it’s not like you’re pulling on to hold yourself there and cheat the balance point, it’s like you’re doing it to transfer, to nail something fast. I have a front brake only, but I’ve even thought of shit like manipulating pivots and turns with a back brake. I think there’s a lot to be done still. My front brake, I use it once in a while. But some people want to learn all the tricks they’ve already done on the opposite side of the bike. But I want to learn tricks that I’ve never done, you know? Taking it to the next level, basically.”
You do shows for a living now. How does that treat you?
“Finances, man. It would be nice to make a living just riding. I worry about it, like if I’m falling behind myself doing that, but I go out there and session during a show. I practice. I think it’s bullshit to do otherwise. No matter where I’m doing a show, I try the hardest tricks I’m doing.”
He leans back on the couch and stares at my bike, and the air changes. Maybe the beer slaps him, maybe he realizes that he’s being interviewed, and that it’s been a while. I feel the rush of today hit the walls and bounce back on him. He’s ridden hard to get back. I feel a sense of build-up within him. He talks.
“People all over the world, you got tons of people, like in Japan, that are driven, they take their lives and just lay them out there. I know the feeling exactly. And what’s fucked up is they’re not even considered for the NORA Cup. That whole thing’s behind, you know? They need to get with the times and realize what’s up. I think they should just give the flatland cup to Kevin Jones every time they have that fucking contest.”
He takes a drink from his beer and shakes his head. A smile escapes him,
“You know, back before all the commercialism we have now, somebody asked me if back before that did people give you respect? I said, ‘Hell no. People told you to get the fuck out of the way, and get a car.’ Then the XGames come along and all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Oh, this guy probably makes money.’ And they come up to you and act like you have rules to live by now, like it’s on TV and shit, and they say, ‘Do you make a lot of money?’ And you want to tell them, ‘I made ten bucks last year. Get the fuck out of my face.’ I don’t feel like I should have to have a reason for doing it. If I got into flatland to make money I’d have to be the dumbest motherfucker alive.”
I follow Brandt’s stare to wall, and I pan back to his hands holding his beer. I watch the room. There’s something familiar about sitting here with him. I’ve never talked with him in length before, but something about the way the room feels puts me at ease. I finish my beer and walk to the fridge. I was wrong about the beer. In the side door sit some more bottles. I open two more and sit them down in front of us.
“You wanted another one, right?”
“Damn right I did.”
We’re drunk but in focus.
How are the bad days now?
“If I go out and have a bad day and can’t progress on a certain trick, it haunts me. It’s not like I go, ‘Oh, there’s always tomorrow.’ You think I’m going to take the next day off and take it easy? Fuck no. I’m getting up and I’m going to do it. That’s the only way I can progress. Some people are like, ‘Oh, you should just mellow out and be happy…’
And I believe in some of that. There are certain things that work, but there’s nothing like saying, ‘I’m going to fucking do it.’ No matter what you have to do you’re going to do it.”
At least you admit that. A lot of people talk about some Zen flow, but I think with riding flatland it’s essential to admit that side of it.
“Some riders want to come off like, ‘Oh, it’s a breeze. I’m so fucking badass. Hell no, I’d never throw my bike.’ And I think, ‘Fuck you, if you were serious you would.”
He laughs, “It’s like a marriage in a sense.” It’s the ultimate commitment. You have the good times, you have the bad times, but either way you’re living with it. I had a job for a while, it paid me pretty good, doing digital signal processing for graphic projection and shit, and it just got to the point where I knew that I wanted to get back into riding again, and I couldn’t have a job and ride at the same time. It was like, ‘I can’t have a job. I didn’t have a job before, I don’t know what I’m going to do but I’m not going to work again. And that was it, man.”
A commercial splatters against the wall. Britney Spears is selling something else. We somehow sit there and watch it. Brandt tilts his bottle at the projection,
“America. That’s the kind of shit America is brainwashing people into thinking, that Britney Spears is the only bitch on the planet. She ain’t shit. You put twenty pounds of make-up on a pig and it would look the fucking same. But that’s just how I feel.”
I laugh. I haven’t laughed in a good while. Maybe in a month. Brandt swallows his beer,
“It’s fashion. You see some skater walking around on television, dressed like a skater, ‘Look at the way he walks, he’s a skater.’ -No, why don’t you get on your skateboard to look like a skater. And that’s also what’s cool about flatland. There’s no fucking flatland shoes right now. Terry Adams got maybe the first pair that’s coming out pretty soon. But there’s no flatland shirt or flatland hat, maybe a couple of t-shirts, but there’s no dress code or anything.”
He picks up the full beer and sits forward, “And flatland’s the hardest shit in BMX. And ramp, not that I’m saying anything negative about it, but look at the ramp tricks that they got and look at the flatland tricks. It’s got thousands, billions of fucking tricks, man. If you want to count it, it’s infinite. And when we’re dead and buried people are going to look back and go, ‘Oh, man, I would have licked Pete Brandt’s fucking ass, or I would have spied on Kevin Jones and shit, stalked him…’ It’s going to be so big, dude. In skateboarding you land on the top or you don’t. In flatland you land in all kinds of positions. So many different riders have so many new tricks. Shit, if all of us flatlanders were getting paid right, we’d go fucking crazy. We don’t know what to do with that shit. We’d be buying goofy shit. I’ll tell you right now, I’d be buying ten billion dollars in socks, dude.”
I nod. I almost wanted to add a disclaimer in the Sony that he wasn’t being high on himself with the ass licking remark, but I don’t do it. He wasn’t being high on himself. Brandt’s not that kind of human. And yet I just disclaimed it. The hell with it.
“People can’t understand. They think, ‘You have to get some money out of it to keep yourself going.’ Not true. I mean, maybe a bit here or there. Maybe some material shit can be earned, parts mostly. But it’s the feeling you get. You get a feeling that money can’t buy. It’s real, you know? Like going through hell to learn a trick. I’ve had a few tricks like that, where they become like I almost hate doing them, but I’ve done them for so long, and I came far enough that I have the belief I can do it, and once you get to the other side, something that you’ve completely hated; like this trick’s beating the shit out of me, but once you get there you fuckin’ love it, dude. Like you can’t do it enough. You got it dialed to where you do it ten times in a row. It opens a whole new door. It’s fucking great.”
Buddy Lee runs out of the room panting and grunting. Pugs are great animals. My dog watches him and cocks her head. Buddy Lee stops in front of Brandt and looks up at him. He has this permanent look of constipation. He looks at Brandt expectantly. Brandt looks back at him, “What’s your fucking problem, dude?”
Buddy Lee waddles over to me and dry humps my arm from the other side of the chair. I look at Brandt and laugh.
“Buddy Lee’s humping my arm.”
“He better not.”
“He’s going for it. Look.”
“No I think he’s trying to bite you.”
“It’s not that.”
“I think he’s doing something else. If he tried to hump you I’d have to kick his faggot ass.”
I laugh and gently set Buddy Lee away from my arm. He looks up at me, grunts and walks away. A small explosion of gas leaves his little black ass. I can picture him wearing a derby hat and smoking a cigar, cruising a doggie gaybar. He would be the dominant male. Definitely a top. He runs into their bedroom then peeks his head around the corner. Brandt points a finger toward the room and Buddy Lee vanishes. Then he’s back in front of Brandt. Brandt stares at him,
“I’m going to put some Scotch in your water, dude. I’m going to get you drunk and you’re going to make an ass out of yourself and I’m going to laugh.”
Buddy Lee looks at me for back up. He looks like a little old man. He looks like Yoda. He runs in circles and wheezes. Brandt laughs,
“He’ll do this for hours, man.”
Brandt tells him sternly to fuck off. Buddy Lee shoots him an insolent look, but he walks off. Karissa gets home and the three of us talk for a while. She goes to bed. Brandt and I stay up for a few more hours and watch videos. The beer is gone and it’s almost daylight. He goes to bed. I pass out on the couch.
It’s hot on the couch. I wake up feeling heavy and burnt. Someone set me on fire in my sleep and only put me out half way. Beer bottles like bodies the floor. I slept with my head by the opened window, and the traffic on El Camino Real is loud and frustrated. Buddy Lee runs up to me and sniffs my hand. I set my hand on his old man’s skull and shake it around. He takes a few nips at me, sneezes and runs off. I sit up and find my shirt. I stand too fast and I feel dizzy. I walk over and look at my bike. Today I need spokes. I’m hungover but not too badly. I wonder if my body may have went through a small coma for 4 hours. Brandt walks out and smiles at me,
He walks into the kitchen and grabs his water. He’s fully dressed. He grabs his bike and nods to me,
“I gotta bail, man. If I’m not out there by nine I start to feel like a slacker.”
“You have any coffee here?”
“I don’t drink it.”
“How do you function so early?”
He gives me directions to a bike shop in the city. I tell him I’ll meet him at the Embarcadero later in the day. My dog and I get in the van and I buy the spokes. I take my dog to the park then I stop for coffee on Fillmore Street. Everybody here is fit and beautiful. Everybody looks prosperous. The girls are so tall and gorgeous they look almost weird. Two guys holding hands walk by my table and see my dog.
“Wow. Look at the little girl. What’s her name?”
They bend down and pet my dog. They say goodbye and walk off. I watch after them. For this I love San Francisco. Chinatown is my favorite area here, but this place is nice right now. Where I grew up, people were uncomfortable with this kind of environment. And I’ve laughed at the gay jokes with my buddies in the desert, and I’ve even wondered about a world where anything goes. People are concerned with their lives here. They could care less about man on man or woman on woman or any of that ancient hatred. I think back to Greg Higgins in Vegas. We were teenagers, and we rode flat all night then sat in his bus overlooking the city. We were talking about girls and life and the subject of preference came up. Greg said, “It’s hard to find a good thing in life. When you find it you’re jazzed, man. Doesn’t matter if it’s a bike, a guy, a donkey, whatever.” And I remembered us there, blasting old RKL and watching the city on fire with neon and threats. It was the first time I had ever met another straight guy who shared the same views as I did. But that doesn’t mean a straight man has to be over correct politically. The gays laugh at straights like straights laugh at them. And I thought about the world as being a big mosh pit. Women, men, skin, food, shit and art and work. Every heart beats until it stops. I drink my coffee there and watch the colored life. All I want to do right now is forget everything. Of course, I can’t.
I Finnish my fourth cup of coffee and see more of the city. Chinatown looks the same as it always has. The Wharf smells the same. I drive down to the Embarcadero. It’s a crowded place. Tourists and beggars and people waiting for the bus. Brandt rides around them, mostly. He rides here for the surface. People here have learned to avoid him. Parker told me once about a guy who confronted Brandt while he was sessioning, and the guy had words for him, about being in the way and the place being public and so on. Parker told me Brandt spit dead in his face, and the spit hung there and dropped, and the guy walked away. I walk my dog across the street and see Brandt spinning a cliffhanger. Other riders are around, but they mostly watch him. He’s wearing his headphones and riding as if he were alone there. He rides over,
“Hey, man. You get the spokes?”
I sit down with my dog and watch him ride for a minute. I start to feel restless. Other riders sit and watch him. Once in a while they go out and do something. But the place is his. It’s almost four in the afternoon. I tell him I’m heading out, and we decide to meet at his place in half an hour.
He builds the rim and we head over to the parking garage, where he’s ridden forever, since the beginning. The Quamen feels good. We ride for a few hours then head back to his place, where we drink a few more and again stay up until dawn in the living room. I need pedals. I find the bike shop in San Mateo and buy a pair of nine dollar pedals, small, but with a rubber edge. I like them. Brandt’s at the Embarcadero. I don’t want to go there today. Too many faces. I walk my dog and get a coffee. Behind a closed store I ride and get used to my bike. It’s a good day in San Mateo. The town is small but there’s a good feeling of privacy. Brandt meets me at the underground.
“Where’d you get those pedals?”
“Talbots. Nine bucks.”
He disappears and comes back with the pedals. I drive over to Parker’s that night. He’s been working all weekend, days as a photographer and nights in a bar. He only works weekends. But he works all hours of each weekend. I drive into Pacifica. He’s been asleep for two hours. He gets up and we go out for Chinese food. Back at the house he gives me a tour. It’s a beautiful big house. The living room overlooks the water. He rents a room here. I do some laundry and we sit in the living room. Parker’s beat, and I could use a full night of rest. There’s a futon bed in the living room. I sleep like a dead man. The next day he has to tie up some loose ends before we go on the road. I walk the beach with my dog then drive to a tennis court. I ride but it’s windy, and the wind is my worst enemy. I call Parker. We decide to ride with Brandt at the garage that night. He meets us at Brandt’s place. We ride for a few hours then Parker has to take care of some more shit, so I stay at Brandt’s again, and in the morning I drive to Parker’s and we load the van and head out. We’re meeting Brandt at an elementary school in a different town. We’re late finding it, but they set up the show and ride. They take turns announcing. They’re both doing their hardest shit. And nobody knows any differently. It’s money for them. Especially for Brandt, who has no other job. When the show is over, Brandt loads the gear in the back of his car and meets us at Subway.
We’re eating lunch. I order a water but fill it with soda. Parker does the same. The manager has been watching us. He gets up and walks over and gets in our faces. He only gets on Parker for the theft. I told the guy I’d pay him, but the situation somehow results in hostility. But we sit down and eat our subs, and the manager is walking out. He stops by our table to lecture us,
“See how dumb you guys are?”
Parker wads up a wrapper and nails the guy in the temple. The guy stands there. I’m even pissed off at the manager. We had our words, but he had to stop and get some kind of power in. Brandt throws his full soda on him. They guy goes to the phone and calls the police. Brandt walks outside and covers his license plate. The manager walks out with his cordless phone. I eye him. He’s a tall Middle-Eastern guy with a mustache and a bald head. He’s reading my license plates to the cops, describing what we look like, guessing our ages, and so on. He has this shit eating grin,
“Don’t you guys leave, the police are on their way.”
Brandt gets in his car and pulls out. The guy talks into the phone,
“The other one is leaving. Red car, he’s covered his license plates.”
On the way out Brandt says some harsh things to the guy. So harsh it silences him. Brandt’s upper lip is pulled back and he’s beaming at this guy. Brandt looks like Satan stalking from a red, illegal car. He takes off with his plates covered.
I’m not about to leave there. I don’t really give a shit. Parker and I are both clean and I have insurance. Meg is in the van watching us. Three cops roll up. It’s boring, really. We give them our identification, my insurance and registration forms. The manager is telling them his version of the story. It’s so unbelievable we laugh. I tell the cop our version, but the cops know the guy, and they hate us anyway. One cop pumps us for information about Brandt, where he lives and so on. The manager says he’s worried that the guy in the red car will come back and vandalize the place. What a slimy piece of shit the manager turned out to be. I know we were in the wrong, but this was completely unnecessary. We tell the cops we had just met the guy in the red car. We have no information about him. They hold us there for 45 minutes, give up and let us go.
We’re driving down the freeway. We’re saving Sean Parker. He’s been shooting little kids playing soccer, shooting weddings and so on. Parker has a degree in photography. He’s submitted many photos but has been published rarely. He’s finally been able to afford some new lenses and gear. Parker’s the shooter on this trip. Parker is also a good overall rider, and a damned nice guy. We drive the freeway south. We’re stopping in Arizona to do a piece on some riders there. I’m driving in a zone. I’m burned out and confused. Parker calls Brandt’s cell to make sure he got away clean. We pass the phone and joke about the Subway incident. Parker hangs up and we watch the road. We’ve been talking about this trip for a month or two. After Arizona, I’m dropping him off in Austin. From there I don’t know what the hell. I think of the life I left in Portland and I feel sad for it, I almost mourn over it. We’re both poor here, driving the freeway south and thinking about the future. Parker has eight days off work, then his jobs run out of season a month after. And I have nothing to really look forward to. Our lives are a destroyed mess.
Immediate needs override the horizon. There is the road like a black tongue, there is a set mountains and there is the cloud torn sky. Here we are blasting old music. Parker is talking about a girl in Austin. Right now a woman is far out of my reach. In my reach is a fist of miles. I don’t get it. The road has never broken me, yet I feel resentment for it. I think of all the novels about the road, all the romanticism. Like Kerouac. Fuck Kerouac’s road. That road was never there to begin with. That road is a pure lie. Everything was wiped out long before today out here, I just never noticed it. It has to be singular, it has to be a case of burn-out. My thoughts about this streak me hot with disloyalty. My feelings are mixed now. Some kind of collision. Parker sits and changes his situation with a one-hitter. He passes it over. I light the end and breathe. When in Rome, a dead voice tells me from somewhere. And we are far from Rome.
We drive into Kingman, Arizona. After a lot of consideration we go halves on a room. Motel 6 is king. Motel 6 allows dogs and there is no security. But it’s a clean and professional operation. Pay for one room, and sneak everybody in. Parker and I luck out with 2 beds. Old and tired men walk next to their wives outside. Young couples cheating on their husbands and wives walk outside. Tired and thirsty people are everywhere. We sit in the cold room and watch television. Nothing is happening tonight. Kingman is a boring place. But were not here for anything but down time. Parker’s watching an action movie. I hear the gunshots and the screams from the television. My eyes are heavy. The miles behind us push against my back. I fall into a calm and blue unconsciousness.
I wake up before Parker. I shower and shave and load the van. Parker crawls out of bed and checks his phone for messages. Across the street we see a small skatepark. I let my dog out of the van. She runs for her frisbee while Parker and I coast up to the park. Skater kids are smoking and trying half-assed runs. It’s a good place. We ride the park for a while. It’s hot out there. It’s hot in the desert. A kid walks up to us. He’s wearing a black shirt with a ghostly scrawl: I SEE DUMB PEOPLE. I smile at him. He tells us Tony Hawk came to Kingman and oversaw the building of the park. Parker and I leave the park and grab a cheap breakfast. We drive south into Phoenix and stay at Tattoo Joe’s house. Tattoo Joe lives in West Phoenix, well, Glendale. Same thing. It’s dark outside. We go to Tattoo Joe’s shop, where I sit down in the chair and he needles my arm for four hours. Parker is out front riding flat. The other tat artists watch him. Incision Tattoo Studio, off of Glendale and 54th or something. My session with Tattoo Joe has ended. Back at the house I find a room in the far back and unroll my bedding. Parker grabs the couch. I sleep in the small space like a corpse in a tomb. I wake up, dress the arm and take Parker into Tempe, where we walk around and shoot shots of me standing next to different girls. They love having their photos taken.
“What magazine is this for?”
“Oh, oh wait…”
Back at Tattoo Joe’s at dusk, I shoot Parker riding flat in the parking lot. Joe does some minor touch up on my arm. I see a Mexican walking across the street with tight black pants, long stoner hair and a guitar. He he’s wearing a pair of big sunglasses. There’s something familiar about him. He walks up to Parker and shakes his hand. Tattoo Joe smiles and shakes his head at my arm,
“Recognize that piece of shit?”
I squint at the guy out there, “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.”
I walk outside.
“Gonz, you get worse each time I see you.”
Parker and Gonz take off to shoot some photos. Then we’re at the wedge in Scottsdale, where Ratboy is setting up his generator and plywood and floodlights. A few riders show up and Parker is shooting them. I ride flat by a few strands of light off to the south of the steps. The Quamen feels fine, so damned fine. Back at Rat’s there are ramps in the backyard and beer and smoke. But Parker and I are leering at his roomie’s girlfriend, this tall brunette. Over our next 2 days there we become obsessed with her. She’s tall and friendly and sexy. We can do nothing about it.
In the morning they head out to shoot some other spots. I stay back at the house and ride out front. I miss that about Arizona, riding out front. The streets are big and smooth, and nobody really fucks with you. Later that afternoon, we meet Gonz at Gordys Bike Shop in Glendale. More shots are taken. We drive to a few spots with him. Back at Rat’s we sit in the bedroom by ourselves.
I hit record and ask the first question:
Do you think there’s any person alive as worthless as you are?
“Maybe Ells. Or Fred Blood. Fred Blood probably gets more pussy than I do, though. ”
Are you going to teach your kids to be honest individuals or to pieces of shit, like their father?
“I’m going to teach them to be stand-up Americans.”
If I hid your food stamps under your work boots would you starve to death?
“No, because I’d probably keep my crack there.”
How does your wife handle you? You pretty much just stay home with kids now. You have a job, right? Some kind of part time bullshit easy night job?
He laughs, “Security guard. Checking out the internet all night. Internet porn.”
How could you make any place more secure? You couldn’t make a sewage plant more secure.
“That’s awesome. I serve and protect.”
Why are you so fat now?
“I’m going back to the natural state of a Mexican.”
You’re not as fat as you used to be, though. Maybe the last few days being on your bike has burned some of that shit off. Why did you quit riding for so long?
“I got sick of the bro-down. I was never really into BMX. I just did it for the ladies.”
Did it work out for you?
Why did you keep doing it then?”
“I didn’t have anything else to do. It was either that or go back to picking onions. I figured that with BMX I could pick onions in different states. This is the crappiest interview ever, Jeff. Ask me some good questions, like have I ever done coke with Martin Aparijo.”
Have you ever done coke with him?
“No. But I would. I’d rather smoke crack with Ruben Castillo, do coke with Martin Aparijo, and then with Eddie Fiola I’d rather cruise the beaches. Rent some beach cruisers, let our hair down…just feel the breeze.”
What’s the newest trick you learned?
“On a bike?”
You don’t even know, do you?
“Reverse 360 footplants off of a wall.”
Do you have a favorite rider?
“Aitken probably has the best style ever in BMX. Then uh, I don’t know. Who cares. Ask me why Ells and I don’t hang out as much as we used to.”
Why don’t you and Ells hang out as much as you used to?
“I always though he had something for me, like these feelings underneath. To put it frankly I though he was a homo. I just didn’t feel comfortable around him anymore.”
We both see the visual there, and we break up laughing. He continues,
“I mean why else would two guys hang out for fifteen years? It started out innocently, but it turned into something else. An uncontrollable whirlwind of love. And deceit. It just snowballed into something I never expected. Whenever he’d be filming other riders, I’d just look at him; the way he was looking at them, knowing he was going to take that footage home and watch it, over and over again. It burned me up inside. I couldn’t take it. I started riding for other filmers, trying to make him jealous. It didn’t work. He got newer and up and coming riders, hotter riders. With each new video the riders kept getting younger and hotter. I couldn’t compete. Yeah, here I was a living legend, living the Mexican dream, not picking salad, not landscaping.”
Gonz has a new son, his second child with Venus, his wife. Arion is one year and three months. I ask about him.
“I don’t really think he’s mine. He’s blonde and light skinned and really good looking. She swears he’s mine. I mean, the timing’s kind of off, a lot of people said I should get a DNA test, but I figured you only live once. You should take care of as many other guys’ kids as you can.”
Was your wedding all right?
It was a little wedding in Las Vegas. I didn’t have a bachelor party. So for my bachelor party, in the morning when I went to go get breakfast for everybody at McDonald’s I drove down to one of those peep shows where the window raises and you can see the live girls dancing, they don’t have those in Phoenix, so that was my little bachelor party. I went to the peep show and did the dirty-dirty.”
How old is Ethan now?
“Do you think you’ll ride in another Ells video?”
“Absolutely not. Never again.”
I don’t think you guys should break up over something that stupid, I really don’t.
“We have little liaisons here and there. But there’s nothing involved. It’s just our physical thing. It’s just a lustful thing.”
This is probably the last interview you’re ever going to do. Say something profound.
“The other day I had an extra 150 bucks, so I’m looking through the local paper and I saw a call girl ad, so I called it. I was kind of nervous because I’d never done something like that before. So I talked this chick called Caramel about having a couple of call girls come over, and I was at work so it was kind of shady. So they show up down there and there’s always a chance of a supervisor coming down to the job; and we’re hanging out in the back of my van. And one of them’s got this big, fat juicy butt, these humongous breasts, like a Nelly video. And the other one’s just this hot skinny black chick. So I’m trippin’ out, thinking they’re cops or something. I’m looking around everywhere. I told them if they weren’t cops to prove it to me, for the skinny one to lick the other girl’s boobs. So she raises her shirt and licks her boobs. I was still kind of skeptical, but I figured what the hell. So the big one put a condom on my tamale. She said it would cost me an extra 20 bucks so I get it out of my wallet. But I was rewarded with the biggest, blackest most beautiful boobies ever. She got closer and closer, sweat glistening on her nipples, getting closer and closer, my mouth was watering, then BOOM! I knew what it felt like when the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. I was bummed.”
Everything he says is bullshit. The best part of that story, the most unbelievable part, is that he actually had 150 bucks in his pocket. I remember back to when he went to jail in Tent City. The prison in Arizona was too crowded, so they built tents in the desert. Hot as hell. Gonz did 18 days there, and he contracted bronchitis.
Tell them why you went to Tent City.
“I had a bunch of tickets for no insurance and driving on a suspended license and they just caught up to me.”
I remember when that happened. I called their apartment, this must have been in ‘95, and Venus answers,
“Hey Venus. Gonz there?”
“No, he’s in Tent City.”
“What’s he doing in Tent City?”
“He got a letter from the police station saying he had warrants for his arrest.”
“So naturally he goes down there.”
She laughs, “Yeah, he did. He’s doing 18 days.”
I ask Gonz about the illness.
“I almost died. BMX was that close to losing a hero.”
Close this out with your words on being a BMX hero.
“It’s really hard. You have to live up to the expectations of all the fans. You have to be a role model, a really positive roll model. It’s hard to be a good roll model when you’re addicted to sleeping pills.”
Out in the living room, Rat and Parker are sitting and smoking, after riding the ramps in the backyard. I watch Rat for a second. I remember when he was a 12 year old kid, riding at the wedge. I watch him walk back from the kitchen and sit a across from me. Gonz and Parker sit and stare at the room. Some music is played. Rat catches me watching him. I smile and lean forward, drain my beer and hit record.
For the readers who don’t know, you went to jail for being a hoodlum.
“Yeah. I was little punk and I went to juvenile hall. Served some time, learned from my mistakes. Everything’s fine now.”
How long were you in?
What did you do there?
“Whacked it. Worked out, got my mind straight. Set some goals.”
“To get out of there. Not go back, or go to fucking prison?”
Were there any guys in there who, you know, got a little passionate?
“Yeah. It was pretty fucked up.”
“Anybody try anything on you?”
“Yeah. They’d try to whack it in front of you and make you watch or something. It was pretty funny.”
What did you do?
“Fucking walked out.”
In the showers?
“No. You have room buddies, all different kinds of characters. It wasn’t too bad, though. They had a cottage that was all fucked up with people like that. The molesters were fucking sick.”
You were 17 at the time. I remember. You and some friends jumped Chuck Hall on the street.
“Yeah. Chuck Hall. He was this guy in a band, been doing it for like 20 years. We didn’t know who the hell he was, actually.”
You were the only one who got caught out of all your friends. You didn’t rat on anybody, but you could have. You took the time.
That’s pretty commendable.
“It was still a bunch of bullshit.”
I remember meeting you when you were twelve. You were a little pothead. Now look at you, all grown up, straightened out…
Rat’s gripping his bong and he looks at me. Gonz and Parker start cracking up.
“I’m not as bad as I used to be. I had to grow up. I don’t know.”
You work construction now, right?
“I’m a plumber. We do custom homes, all the big million dollar houses out here. Big time.”
You got a girlfriend?
How do you feel about the street riding today?
“Fucking ridiculous. I’m stoked. I love it. I wish I could go out and do it more, you know? But I’m stoked on it. It’s going, it’s never gonna stop. It’s just gonna keep going. It’s awesome.”
Where do you see it going in the immediate future?
“I see it as- basically it’s going to keep climbing, like the street, there’s just so much process, people riding obstacles so much differently than everyone else. Basically new styles and new objects, people doing shit no one’s ever seen.”
Do you think Gonz looks better with short hair or with long hair?
Gonz asks him, “Do you think Parker looks better making love to a man or a woman?”
Parker’s baked. He looks at Gonz and laughs. Rat’s also baked. He comes in from the kitchen and sits down.
You plan on learning any flatland?
“Yeah, I do. I’ve always wanted to learn it.”
What do you think the most important flatland trick to learn for riding street?
“The hang five.”
Gonz looks at Rat, “The closest thing you’re going to learn to flatland is me stealing your bike.”
What’s a typical Rat day like?
“Work 11 hours or so, come home, pull bongs, drink beer and ride. I’m getting my journeyman’s license right now. It takes 4 years. I’ve been doing it about a year.”
Gonz asks him, “Rat, you gonna give me job when you get your license?”
Rat looks at me, “We did a house in a developed neighborhood. There was this chick and she hung out in the living room all day and played with herself and shit.”
She let you watch her?
Tim March said you were his favorite brakeless rider.
“That’s awesome. I like that. I’d like to hear more people saying that, I need the publicity. That’s cool as hell he said that, though.”
Which tricks have you invented?
“Brakeless tailwhip variations, brakeless wall slaps to barspins out, 180 manuals backwards to different sprocket grinds…”
A lot of the riders here in Arizona, the riders who you started riding with have pretty much gone on to other things. Do you see a new crop of riders coming in now under your wing?
“Yeah. There are a lot of people out here who are shredding now. I like to see that.”
Gonz asks the next question,
“Rat when are you gonna get another pack of beer?”
“Hopefully in the next five minutes.”
“Okay, can I drink some of that beer?”
“Yeah. You can have some.”
The next day happens like the day before. Parker takes off with Rat and his crew, and I stay back and ride flat out front. It’s a hot day in Tempe. I’m almost used to the Quamen now. It’s a faster bike than my old one. I have no back brake, as Brandt has the gyro guides filed off and the 990 mounts have no posts. I don’t care about a back brake right now, anyway. There’s less hassle to a naked bike. I get a hold of Brett Crowther, a flatlander who works at a bike shop in Tempe. Parker and I meet him at a parking lot in Phoenix that night. I had been at my sister’s for the last few hours, since dusk, and Parker was out riding with Smoker Dave. Smoker drops him off at my sister’s and we meet Crowther at 35th avenue and Northern. A lot of us used to ride in the parking lot 17 years ago.
Age and years riding.
“31 years old. 14 years riding, with a six year lay off. I joined the Navy for bit, that didn’t turn out too well. I raced mountain bikes for a while.”
What got you back into flat?
“I moved out here. Saw one guy riding flat, and I got back into it. Been about six years now.”
You ride a lot now.
“I just try to learn new things, push myself the best I can.”
What happened with the Navy?
“I pretty much quit, went AWOL a couple of times. They gave me the boot. I couldn’t hang with it.”
What do you think about flatland these days?
“It’s crazy. There are so many good people. It seem next to impossible to keep up anymore. All the young kids are tearing it up, getting insane. I see less tire touching, more tailwhips and kinds of flips, a lot of rolling switches.”
Where did you move from?
“North Carolina, Winston-Salem area. Moved out here, sunny all the time, not too many bad days out here.”
What was the first thing you learned to get back into flat?
“I started out with everything I knew from before. From there it went on and on. I try to progress for myself these days. I don’t worry about anything anymore. And working at the bike shop’s cool. I get parts pretty cheap, good schedule, plenty of time to ride. It would be nice to have a sponsor, but I don’t really care anymore.”
Anything else besides flat?
“I do a lot of fly fishing, camping. Stuff like that. Fly fishing’s a lot like flatland. Takes a lot of patience.”
I drop Parker off at Smoker’s again the next night. I want to spend more time with my family. The day wears on and I’m full with food from my sister’s fridge. I feel a bit tired, but also a bit better. Portland is far behind me now. I’m back in the desert, back home. Nothing’s really changed. People have aged, and people have stuck around. I meet up with Parker, Chris Toth, and Smoker Dave at Free Ride Skate Park in north Phoenix. It’s a BMX only park. I talk with the owner for a while and watch Toth destroy the place. Parker eats shit twice on a transfer. Outside the riders are loading up their rigs. Smoker walks over to talk for minute.
What have you been up to?
“Workin’ my ass off.”
Delivering pizza? What’s so fucking hard about that?
“I gotta sit in my car all day.”
What’s your kid’s name?
“Jonathan Henry Schilling. He looks like me.”
Going to quit smoking now?
“I ain’t gonna quit smokin’.”
What if you catch your kid smoking one day? You gonna be pissed?
“Yeah. It’s a bad habit.”
Does having a kid redefine your perspective on life?
“Definitely. I don’t take anything for granted anymore. I work my ass off, try to ride everyday, get about 5 hours of sleep. Family, work, riding, all of that.”
What’s happening with the riding?
“I’m trying to come up with new shit, of course. I want to mix skating with riding. Like do a double peg grind, then right before I’m about to stop do a 50/50 grind on my skateboard. I’m sick of everyone’s bullshit that one’s better than the other. We all do the same shit with different tools.”
Any goals close off?
“I want to make sure my girlfriend and son has a good life, to be able to ride and skate. Hopefully my son can do it with me. I’m not going to force him or anything. I’ll show him what I do first, and if he doesn’t like it I’ll back him all the way with whatever he wants to do. It’s nice, man. I’m through with the madness of having sponsors and shit. It’s nice to have them, but if they’re gonna fuck me over and shit, fuck them. I’m through with it. I’m riding for the complete outright fun of it.”
Smoker walks off and I watch the inside of the park become dark and locked up. It’s nice in there. The guy who runs it has a good brain. I let my dog in the van. Parker is talking with Smoker and a few other locals. Toth comes over and I hit record again.
What’s going on with you lately?
“School, work, DUI’s.”
How did that come about?
“Went golfing, got drunk on the golf course, went to birthday party, got really shitfaced at the bar and decided to drive and got pulled over. I got my first DUI, and then the day I went down to the DMV to get my license reinstated and of course I couldn’t get it reinstated. But that night my ass got drunk and decided to drive and got my second one, and it was an aggravated felony charge. So I’m with a 2 class 4 felonies. So that little episode and the lawyer ended up costing me 10, 500 bucks. And I’m looking at 4 months in prison. That’s pretty much it on that. I graduate college in June, electronic engineer.”
You’re still riding a lot.
“I’m happy with the way I ride, I have my own little style even though people consider me a hucker and think that I don’t have any skill. I just do what I do. I have fun with it. I’ve been riding since ‘89. Been a long trip. It’s harder to find time to ride every day now, in between studies and so forth.”
Any jobs opening up for you after graduation?
“I’m in the middle of a job hunt right now, trying to find companies that are hiring but the way the American economy is right now it’s a big pile of horeshit.”
Everyone’s getting ready to leave. You have anything you want to add?
“Do what you do best. Don’t let anybody fucking get you down. You see a lot of scenes where everybody talks shit, let it go in one ear and out the other. You do your own thing Don’t worry about anybody else. Your riding will go where you want it to go.”
One last night in Phoenix. Back at Rat’s we’re drinking and relaxing. Parker wants to ride the ramps for a while out back. I give Ells a call and he meets me at an old spot of mine. I ride until he shows up, then we go out to eat. He follows me back to Rat’s. It feels like I’ve never left Arizona. Being home does that to somebody. He talks to everybody then splits. I go out front and fuck around with a few tricks. We head to Austin tomorrow. Back inside I shower and set up my bed out back. We’re wasted again, and we sit and talk for a few hours. I feel hot with unrest. After I drop off Parker in Austin, I’m going to head to Dallas and stay at my sister’s for a while and get my head together. From there I have no idea. Worse than that, I don’t care. I keep thinking about the Quamen.
We leave Arizona at dark. We’re taking 10 south out of Tucson. I fly around a semi and play some classic country. Parker’s reclined back in the seat. We can’t afford another room, so we’re driving in shifts. Beating Arizona and New Mexico is nothing. Texas is the real journey. Texas takes a day no matter what. There isn’t much to look at there. Driving through Texas at night is a good method. We switch seats and I pass out until Amarillo. We eat a bad breakfast. Parker crashes out for a few hours. I’ve been driving the same road, the same mile. I see Parker out of the corner of my right eye. He’s watching the fields and the cows. He’s good to travel with. I’d have to say Parker and Gonz are the easiest to travel with. They don’t bitch about anything. They have the rules memorized. I see the sun drop down behind us. I pop open a can of caffeine and find the recorder.
All right. You’ve been shooting for a long time now. Your shots are rarely published.
“Maybe I don’t try hard enough. Maybe I don’t know the right people. Maybe I’m a bit jaded.” He laughs. “I’ve been shooting commercial stuff for six years. I never thought I could hold down a job for that long. It’s frustrating at times. I usually have to get out of San Francisco because I couldn’t afford to live there, or have multiple jobs like I have now.”
You ride everything well.
“I just like variety in general. I grew up seeing riders who could do it all. I thought that was cool. I lived with that, and tried to come up with some originality along the way. Better than seeing the same old shit.”
You also skate.
“I’ve been riding for 15 years. I’ve actually been skating for 20 years. But I kind of went back and forth for a little while, had my frustrations with skateboarding; fucking hard as can be. I don’t know. People involved aren’t always the greatest. I didn’t even like my friends at one point, you know? So I thought ‘I’m not even doing the right thing here.’ Riding just gave me what I needed. My bike was always here for me.”
Your board wasn’t there for you?
He laughs, “I used to break them a lot. A lot of pain in the ass when it comes to skateboarding, literally and figuratively. It’s not as fun as riding. If I had to pick one thing about riding to stick with I’d want to say flatland, but I know if I only rode flatland I’d just become a bike thrower. Gotta keep the raw street stuff in there, whatever it is- 180’s, manuals. I don’t know.”
You seem to stay pretty involved with it.
“Yeah, staying motivated, trying to keep a bike together. Sometimes that’s the hardest part. People think because you’re a good rider you get your parts for free. That’s not the case. It’s actually far from it. I fact some companies will do say they’ve sent you shit, and you’re sitting around waiting for UPS, spending time you should be writing or you could be working so you can buy that part that you need. There are a lot of ball-ups along the way. It’s hard to stay into it in that regard. Bit I’m better than I’ve ever been in my life. That’s why I keep doing it. There’s always room for progression as long as you’re healthy and you have that mindset. ”
Which places are your favorites?
“In the world?”
In the world.
“Kodiak, Alaska stands out in my mind. Wild time, crazy people. I don’t think I could go back there, harsh climate and everything. Kualalumpur, Malaysia’s good. So much street there. It’s really hot and muggy and humid there. You want to ride everything but
you’re soaking wet. They don’t know to kick you out or to put skate-stoppers anywhere. I’m sure they will eventually. It’s still a really cool place.”
Who have you been riding with lately?
“Pete Brandt. That guy works so hard, puts in so many hours on his shit. So dialed, and he expects that from himself every time. Sometimes I feel lazy when I ride with him because I’ll step out of a trick and be like, whatever. And I see him dying for his shit. I feel like I need to have a strongest mentality like that, to be good at flatland, basically.”
What are you thinking about now for your riding?
“Adding flatland stuff to any terrain, nose wheelies and whiplash variations on anything. There’s so much more that can be done if you think outside of the box, to keep on coming up with tricks that nobody’s thought of or nobody’s done.”
I’m surprised you keep coming back to this country.
“I’ve never been one to get into politics. I never thought it would affect my life in one way or another. Bush just scares me. I don’t want to support him in any way whatsoever, even something as basic as living in this country.”
If I didn’t have my dog I’d be out of here.
“I know. Every time I go into another country I realize ours isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. It’s a great place to be but so many things are fucked up about it. I try to live a simple life and get by but it’s so difficult. Other countries, like Spain, good weather, people are hospitable, money isn’t the big focus. I’m seriously thinking about taking the plunge, bailing this place.”
Fuck, we’re running out of tape. Say something wise.
We laugh. Apart from some headlights up over a curve, there is nobody on the road.
“Something wise. Question authority, fight the man, shit like that. Just don’t be a fucking clone. There’s a lot of room for originality.
The tape stops there. We joke around about Arizona for a while then we sit and listen to the music. Parker’s escape is almost finished. Day after tomorrow he’s on a plane back to San Fran. I’ll probably stay in Austin for a few days then go to Dallas. Then maybe get some money together and try the East Coast again. Maybe I’ll head back to Portland eventually and try to rebuild from the ruins. Maybe I’ll get a job somewhere in between. I’m on fire still. I’m thinking about writing another book. I’m thinking about where I want to live. I’m done with the American road, through with it. I reach down and pet my dog. Parker watches the road.