Friday, June 17, 2011

Blind Spaghetti


In a land that flaunted unlimited opportunity, there was literally nothing Jay could think of doing with himself this Saturday.

Taking the garbage out felt like his responsibility quota for the day had already been exceeded,yet Jay still felt a general unspecific dread when he got back inside –that uneasiness that went with being at one's apartment in the middle of the day. Jay’s cave got little sunlight – as if nature’s language expressed he should be out of the house procuring resources or out engaging in the countless things that seemed to be going on some where else in Los Angeles with out him.

He knew Surf Expo was this weekend, but being so focused on escaping the office, he didn’t think to grab his vendor badge before he left. Besides, Jay was insulted by being left in the dark by marketing about this years booth and the very last thing he felt like doing was standing around like some lame duck head, watching Reese carry himself in public- Reese walking around like he was running shit, acting like some captain of the industry- when in fact he was nothing more than some inheritor of turn key transaction. Jay had seen Reese work the booth plenty of times. He was all too familiar with it all- Reese vying validation, talking the head off of anyone who would listen, using confusing terms and jargon no one really understood, which left them usually just politely agreeing back. Reese, catering to all the kids and parents and moms who approached the booth- wanting everyone to be aware of just how hard he was working, what such a great job he was doing. Reese emotionally crippled, predictably always in search of the next pat on the back.

Back in Stereo days, when Jay had his own booth- the only year Stereo had a booth, Jay simply put rows of black Sony television sets on steel racks, synced them all up, all looping A Visual Sound. There was no one working the booth, no brochures or corny sample peg boards or hired models to hold the prod or annoying reps or insta-throw-away bags of swag or over abundance of cheapened stickers everywhere. Stereo wasn’t desperate for friends, didn’t feel the need to spell things out. Jay’s vid was the ends- wasn't some product made to simply facilitate deck sales. Visual Sound took skateboarding to different places, more an articulation of the promise of the jazz age- city life in all it’s metropolitan splendor. Those images of life in SF floated on the screen burn like a luminous haze- more a vibe, than just edited trick documentation synced to the videographer’s I-tunes.

Jay had had enough,it was time to put away such childish things- after all Surf Expo was basically a glorified toy convention and lately it had been less a reflection of something new and exciting or even remotely innovative and more an illustration of what was generic inside of all of us; like when people thought they were being romantically self destructive when they referred to their hard liquor by its first and last name, or how city dwellers thought they were being hip when they made abbreviations of the sections of major areas (SOCO,NOVA,NOLA),or even when you’d ask someone if you can have or can do something and they respond back - throwing a cheap discrepancy back at you for not using the word MAY. Surf Expo catered to this sort of mentality, this aggressively generic state of mind and Jay had wanted nothing more to do with it, was even ashamed he had even ridden that blind goose out this far.

Jay walked over to the kitchen counter, saw that his keys were not in their usual spot on the formica. Nothing much seemed reliable anymore, as if Jay’s basic daily fail safe reflexes even seemed to be shoring out. He went back to his bedroom and found yesterdays/the day before yesterday’s pants on the floor, those Fresh Jive prototypes modeled after Donna Karen, and found his keys still in the pant pocket.

Jay tossed the keys onto their zone and was again confronted with the blinking machine. Jay pressed the button and heard Mont, pressed the fast forward until his sped up voice shrieks ceased and stopped on the blank tape space before the next message.

Jay listened:

“Beeeeeeeeeep:Hey-Jay,it’s Bastien. I’m in town this week for Expo. I’m staying at the Luxe, next to the Staples,, what suite are we in? 1431. 1431. Suites under Stevie Ray. Yeah, Dogg just seeing whats up,main... Seeing if you could maybe help hook up with a G-pac or some caps,main...You know, make it worth your while helpin me out,dawwgg... I still got that old Boost number or call me on my other cell: 993-9252. That’s 993-9252. Okay main? Where you at? Call me back,okay?!”

Jay heard Bastien unintentionally leaving himself talking to someone in the background, as he was probably more concerned with responding to whomever he was talking to than hanging up the phone.

Jay couldn’t help feeling at least a little proud that Bastien thought enough to call him whenever he was in LA, even though this time he wanted Jay to basically act as his reverse drug runner. Jay didn’t have many pro friends he kept up with and his distant friendship with Bastien seemed unlikely as Jay and Bastien both represented different eras of skateboarding- Jay being the early nineties street slacker prototype and Bastien representing the “now everyone skates, hip hop super pro" era. Jay remembered watching that first break out cartridge footage of Bastien- Bastien navigating through seemingly implausible situations where he pitted his toy machine and himself against monolithic European street structures. Jason as a fan of skateboarding and active pro was simultaneously intrigued and threatened. This of course was years before the industry would learn the lessons about the false promise of tech gnar- the sins of tech gnar; before tech gnar cheapened that which was tech and that which was gnar, years before tech gnar turned skateboarding into a type of pole vaulting- a gymnastics, before minimalism breathed back a breath of fresh air and was finally looked upon as DE RIGUEUR by the industry.

When Bastien was breaking out, emerging from the LE DOME clips, that Eiffel Banks photo,the streets of Paris -he was skating at an unprecedented level that made a lot of people naturally want to quit or retire. Jay would notice Bastien around the circuit, at those Euro demos with the Diesel logos on the rave ramps, in the hotel lobbies their teams both happened to be staying at. Seeing Bastien walk around, Jay was automatically repelled, assumed Bastien was just another young punk who likely had no reverence for anything that came before him. There was the way Bastien would look back at Jay- Jay not considering Bastien was most likely reflecting back his own hard, cold stare.

Then there was the afternoon in Marsailles when Bastien collided into Jay, perhaps on purpose,while transferring from one of the bowl's many arteries. Jay, surprised how courteous Bastien actually was towards him: Bastien running out to grab Jay’s bored board which had been knocked astray, Bastien being sincerely and overly apologetic.

A couple of days later in that smoky mahogany hotel lounge in Copenhagen, Bastien would walk in and sit next to Jay solo at the bar, offered to buy his gin and tonic and proceeded to talk about things that you talk about when you’re spending the summer with somebody. The air in the lounge was stale,smelled sweet and old- like an antique vault. Bastien talked a lot about free jazz, Arnette Coleman, Coltrane, heroin as necessary evil for jazz, that music was beauty of the damned- something that couldn’t be sung by anyone else but. It was surprising how much Bastien knew about American culture- seemed to know more than most American pedestrians and what he didn’t know he at least had the courtesy to make up. Bastien was more intelligent than Jay’s original perception - he was obviously not just a physical prodigy, he was very smart, self educated- had dropped out of high school young, and there was some strong thinking that Jay could now recognize might have had the profound effect on Bastien's skateboarding- that his mental approach had more to do with his virtuosity than just blind muscle strength. Bastien confessed to Jay in that accent that sounded more from the West Indies, what a huge fan of Stereo's he had been growing up, that he had always fantasized about riding for Jay. He perhaps imagined filming intro part cartridge footy riding his bike through Golden Gate Park, or eating Italian on a rainy day in North Beach- or waiting for laundry to be done at a mat in the Mission, sneaking into a girlfriend's dark room lab at the Academy of Arts.

“I can tone my skating down! I’ll quit Flip- move to SF!” said Bastien overly exuberant- feeling what he was saying, but probably not really literally meaning it; just exaggerating the way romantic drunks do.

“You’re too good, Kaaaid. You're better off riding for Foxx anyways - he could take better care of you, besides Stereo’s a sinking ship.” said Jay tasting the juniper on his breath.

“What do you mean?” asked Bastien.

“This isn’t known yet but, Pastras has gone completely insane, signed his half over to Deluxe and it aint gonna be pretty. Him and Theibaud are making an overhaul and it isn’t gonna be the same. They started sponsoring some punkrocker from Australia, some other random kid from Texas and another guy that just skates bowls- even the graphics have been designed more accessible,house broken- its gonna be all cartoons and wood cut lithos that mindlessly extroll the virtues of communism from taste seduced by the reds and sharp edges of it’s logos. I’m gonna have to sit this one out- looks like I’m retiring.”

“What are you gonna go? How come you're still skating this year in Munster?”

“Figured I’d have one last vacation- one final payoff- milk it till the ink drys.” Said Jay as he took another pull from the gin, winced his lips from the acrid taste of the lime that clung to the rim.

“What about Flip? How about Flip? I can probably get you a spot! You might not be getting paid as much, but it would be something.”

“Naw, I couldn’t picture Flip sponsoring some old American pro like me, I don’t want to be another totem, some symbol of continuity for the industry. Let Steve Caballerro do that. Anyways, it looks like I’m leaving SF, gonna move back home to LA, maybe do something behind the scenes- might be more useful that way.”

Jay took out his pack from his blazer, pulled out a cigarette and tapped it against the bar strictly out of gesture- Jay knowing tapping on a cigarette didn’t make the buzz sharper, knew that it never would.

“Besides, I can’t keep up with the game. I had my time and that’s better than most.” Jay pausing then lighting his cigarette.

"Don't ever fucking wallow, Bastien" said Jay as he blew out the cigarette smoke through his nose like a cartoon bull."You wallow, then you're just acting like you're someplace else. I know where I am- know who I am- I'm Jay. I walk down the boulevard, I'm Jay. I've always been Jay, have never stopped. It's terminal. This aint a contest. Its more like a demo. You get me?!"

Jay appreciated Bastien’s sentiment, but fact of the matter was Bastien was at the top of his game and Jay was at the bottom of his. Jay felt he could no longer overcome the odds, he had been out the pasture for too long and there was no coming back and by this point he didn’t have any desire to do so. Skateboarding had turned into something else, morphed into a crimson dragon with many heads, weaving in all types of directions, like blind spaghetti. When Jay was coming up, just being a skater was an exclusive club- skaters were all basically the same; dressed the same, talked the same, wore the same shoes, went to the same shows- listened to the same music. Jay missed that. Now the masses had infiltrated the ranks and things would take a different turn. Everybody wanted to throw their own two pence worth into what they thought skateboarding was or should be- and most of the time it wasn’t very pretty, was ill conceived, bastardized. It’s nice in theory to think every one should be able do art, but the fact of the matter is that its not for everyone,should never be. The whole paradigm had been flipped, the whole thing subverted. The scam was exposed and no one seemed to care. It was like there was a certain consciousness of insanity at work and it wasn’t leaving anytime soon. It had come like a thief, and no one seemed to be planning on giving it back any time soon. The consumers became the producers. When everything is shared and becomes public domain a lot does get lost, abused- like a public toilet. Those are the dangers of communism. Some things are better off being private- nobody in their right mind would want to watch or give strangers access to fuck their wife freely. Some things must be protected.

That was five years since he befriended Bastien in the lounge in Copenhagen, but it felt more like ten. Jay rewound the tape in the answering machine so he could reluctantly re-listen and write down the new number for Bastien's portable telephone.

Jason dialed the rotary of the Mickey Mouse statue, was comforted by the grind of the counter revolution of each number he dialed- it always gave him a short time to clear his mind before the call- or at least time to mentally choreograph what he was going to say.

Jay detached the phone from his ear and moved the line around the pole, which may or may not functioned in regard to holding up the structure of the bar's cabinets, so he could stand in the living room and catch a glimpse through the sliding glass doors of the balcony.

“Yeah- Yo, Bastien. What up? It’s me, man. No, It’s me Jay. It’s Jay! Jay! Jay, man. Yeah,no- not much. Yeah, yeah cool. Well...It’s cool. Okay,yeah. No. Yeah-No. I don’t touch that stuff anymore. You know that! Oh yeah, that's what I said last time, huh? Okay,well... Well, not any more. No- I’m not getting you caps man. Can’t do that, pal.” Jay rubbing his head, now with the hair at the top of his head sticking straight up, like James Dean or another bad version of Elvis or Morrissey.

Jay pauses, “No, I’m not gonna do that. I don’t even know what a G pac is? Sounds like a back pack with speakers? “

“No, how about some chron? I’ll get you some chron. ” Said Jay comfortingly as if getting Bastien pot was a more down to earth alternative.

“I’m not getting you caps! Okay?! That’s it! All right!? No! ” pleaded Jay, scratching his affable stubble.

“Just weed, man! No caps. I’m not getting caps, okay?!” said Jay looking off into the horizon through the window of his balcony, feeling dizzy from staring out into the void of the ocean for a bit too long.


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Houston, Texas
Be kind, because everyone you'll ever meet is fighting a hard battle.