Thursday, June 23, 2011

Circumstance Has a Way of Getting in the Way of Feelings


Jay drove down Fairfax and coasted further towards the gasoline mirage of the fume line. The red from the back lights of the cars in front of him reminded Jay of red blood cells, as the stream on the other side of the freeway vein coming against were the whites. The front end’s faces made them look like gasoline ticks – insects controlled from the inside by flesh colored worms. Cars could only look as selfish as their owners, but the Corvettes seemed more so- those owners attracted enough by the car’s wired expression to buy them.

There where the vanity plates that all said they were trying too hard. There were those who were proud of their cosmetic racing stripes, those Altamont Speedway bumper stickers, those window decals advertising the car’s sound systems- as if the owner of the vehicle was sponsored to put together audio equipment. Those who sacrificed anonymous autonomy, advertised their business on their windows in hopes someone sees the phone number, has a pen handy and rushes to jot the number down fast enough before the car drives away. Jay imagined the section of a form that would say “How did you hear about us?”- the person then checking off a box next to a line that said: “It was written on your stupid car.”

Jay was on his way to Jumi’s- had made a call for Bastien, spoke to Jumi in code over the phone.

“Hay, Jumi- it’s Jay. You home?”

“Yeah. I’m home. Come on by.”

Being “home” was code for: “Are you stocked with pieces of illegally indoor grown vegetation that smells like candy, their weight which is more than the price of gold.”

Jay imagined DEA agents monitoring Jumi’s line, hunched in the back of a dark van, pouring coffee from a thermos, wearing ear goggles. One of those agents reporting back to his superior: “No boss, he seems clean- they haven’t mentioned marijuana once, but he sure does have a lot of friends calling asking if they can come by and visit!”

Jumi was what you would call a professional stoner. He had been for almost two decades, was real good at it- it seemed to be his calling. The first decade he got paid to navigate a toy machine under it’s influence, that inspiration of White Widow, Champagne, Creeper, BC: headies. It really wasn’t the same if he rode sober- not what the kids were paying for. Every trick Jumi did looked accidentally landed, his arms hanging down apathetically, Jumi hunched over as he miraculously rode away, bangs over his eyes blinding him. Jumi’s body language making it seem like he was thinking: “I can’t believe I jos landed that. And by the way, where am I?”

The TM keeping track of Jumi during those demo days was a full time job. After the demo, kids knew the ques to lure Jumi away from the park site. Kids practically tripped over themselves bidding for the honor of smoking Jumi out- as if Jumi’s marijuana consumption was somehow needed to justify their habits.

The calls were all the same:

“Jumi, come party with us.”

“Jumi, we got opium, you can sleep with my sister.”

“Jumi, you’re the best, man. You should check out my boy’s demo tape.”

The thing is was: Jumi was such a cool dude, he rarely refused- after all, he was just doing his job. No matter how un-watchable the footage cartridges those kids demoed out to him were, Jumi always played psyched- really soaked it all up.

Jay could just imagine Jumi, sitting on some kids parent’s couch watching those unremarkable clips as if he was oblivious to the scrupulous industry standard that he and everyone else were so brutally judged against: “Aw, That was sick maun!”-Jumi would say, then blocking off a nostril bumping crank off a living room table, probably chaperoned by under aged kids from the Midwest.

Jumi was a real professional though, he knew exactly what to say, what those kids wanted to hear. He never asked their names- he usually referred to them as “maun” or “yo”. And when they would drop him off at the hotel or let him out of the fumed car cabin in the parking lot, he would absent mindedly bleat out his predictable tag line : “Yeah, we’ll go skate next time!” -Jumi probably having little intention on doing so, saying it more out of courtesy. The kids knew the probability of them going out skating in the future with Jumi was unlikely, but they still let themselves half believe it- a type of post demo folie à deux.

Then there was the career killing interview in Transworld, where Jumi discussed his on and off the board habits a bit too candidly. Jumi gave kids solicited pointers, writing a little side column in his interview: “Jumi’s A to Z guide to smokin’ weed”. Since the magazine was sold in Seven Elevens, news racks and bookstores across the country -letters from angry parents flooded the magazine’s editorial department –caused rabid mother’s groups to protest, called for a nation wide ban of Plan Nine Skateboards (Jumi’s board sponsor). It must have been a highly polarizing year in the sociopolitical landscape, because the consumer public seemed to have had enough. Even the Action Sports Retail Association was under attack, lambasted. Jumi’s tech decks were pulled off the shelves from the drugstores and skateboarding was viewed as the new threat. ASRA was being looked at as a venue that exposed kids to the licentiousness of smoking weed, even though the loudest protests calling for a ban on anything Jumi, where from the same anemic baby boomer generation who bought marijuana into the mainstream in the first place.

The fact that it was more a mistake on the editor’s part in Transworld than Jumi didn’t seem to much matter. Contrary to how the company darkmen went around acting like they were the equivalent of the Hell’s Angels of the Action Sports Retail Association, they would predictably all pussy out. The owners of Plan Nine were as usual so consumed in the moment, that they didn’t have the prescience to realize if they would have flicked off all those easily swayed yokels and stood behind their boy, Jumi- there would have been an eventual inevitable shift in public perception and the contempt for Jumi would have eventually reversed- Jumi would have been re-embraced. Sticking to their gunz and standing their ground would have inspired greater brand loyalty and in turn would have ended up being very profitable for all involved. But as much as the industry steadfastly plays the anarchic danger card in their videos and print media, the reality is money is the bottom line, the grip tape mafia was shook and Jumi, arguably one of the coolest pros, would be the fall guy.

Jumi bounced back though, being the popular pro that he was- he was able to exploit the fact that he had a lot of friends and connections, moved to LA from his native hometown in New Zealand and became a very successful pot broker to an upper echelon of old established LA stoners. He even made more than he did having a legit pro-mo out and now he didn’t have to fling his carcass through the endless hoops- a nice retirement plan. Jumi had enough capital to start his own money laundering long boarding company, Orbit and even gave himself his own commemorative deck. He had gained a little weight, but that happy go lucky take it easy Jumi charisma was still in tact, was probably stronger than ever.

Jay rang the doorbell of the glass door in front of Jumi’s stair well. Jumi appeared at the top, saw Jay and motioned him up.

Jay walked up to Jumi’s loft and Jumi sat back on his black leather couch and un-paused his FPS game.

Jay hated watching people play video games, stopped being interested in them by the time he had turned fifteen.

“So what’s up with you?” said Jay trying to initiate conversation with Jumi.

Jumi didn't answer, was occupied with his game, and then finally answered: “ Ah, nothing maun, just been working on the place. Looking at new floors, been hanging out with the woman.”

“Yeah cool.” Said Jay at a loss, ready for Jumi to stop playing.

Finally Jumi’s character was shot in the back. It seemed impossible to avoid, as Jay didn’t know how the player could possibly be aware there was someone behind him, enough to defend them self.

Jumi put down the remote controller, got up and walked towards the kitchen, “So what’s up, maun? What can I do you for?”

“Give me two G’s “ said Jay.

“Oh, you’re really splurging today. Two whole grams for the Jayster?!” Said Jumi, referring to Jay’s modest pot intake.

“Split it up. Ones for Bastien, he’s in town. Surf Expos this weekend.”

“Oh, yeah, Surf Expo. Huh?” said Jumi, lacadasically -concentrating on producing concise grams on his digital scale. “How is that kid anyways.” Asked Jumi offhandedly, alluding to how he never keeps up with the industry funny papers.

“Not well. He was pretty spracked out when he called me earlier. Was trying to help me get him smoke coke.” Jay said for affect.

“Oh yeah?” said Jumi with levity, weighing the pieces of chronic that looked like shimmering brussel sprouts, reacting as if hearing the best skateboarder in the world smoking crack was trivial conversation fodder.

He took some chron off the scale, put a little back on, then bagged both piles into tiny translucent blue zip baggies.

Jumi grabbed the remainder of the vegetation and slid over a black machine that was attached to a deflated sea bag. Jumi opened up a small compartment, pulled out a tiny tray, tapped the ash contents into the sink, loaded it up and placed it back into the electronic device. Jumi closed the lid and then pressed a button on the apparatus and the sea bag inflated with smoke. Jumi detached the bag and held it by the piece of plastic that attached to the apparatus and handed it to Jay.

“Oh, thanks.” Said Jay grabbing the balloon, putting the piece of plastic to his mouth and inhaling the bag’s contents.

Jay’s lungs filled with the near invisible vaporized smoke and handed the bag over to Jumi, as Jumi adjusted his eyeglasses- a serious look on Jumi's face as if he were a lab technician.

Jumi inhaled the rest of the bag and blew out a tiny invisible amount of smoke, paused and then coughed slightly: “Man, that was a good hit.” Jumi said out loud.

Jumi adjusted his responsible eyeglasses and for once set his full attention on Jay. “So you goin to Surf Expo?”

Jay was coughing from the vapor hitting his lungs with a punch, making him realize he had been deceived by the thin smoke- the smoke was more potent than he was used to. He had taken too big of a hit and the sense of panic of being too high was about to set in. Jay was trying to play it off, keep his composure.

“Naw, I don’t think so.” Jay coughing.

“ I don’t even want to go.” Continued Jay with extra emphasis, a declarative statement to liberate himself from any association with Surf Expo.

“Ah. I see. Too cool for Expo, huh?” Said Jumi, nuggingly.

“I’m sick of it all. I don’t even know what the booth this year looks like. They keep me in the dark about everything.” Said Jay, confiding and complaining, wanting Jumi to agree with him, wanting Jumi to also deal out a gram of pity.

“Well ,it’s no wonder. I would have fired your ass a long time ago.” Said Jumi as a matter of fact- consciously giving Jay the opposite response he was seeking.

“Yeah well, nobody there knows what time it is anyways….”

“And that’s what I’m talking about!” said Jumi opening the device back up and fiddling with the box bowl with a metal poker.

“The way you go around, it’s no wonder everyone around has contempt for you.” Said Jumi, benevolently cleaning out the bowl.

“Yeah, whatever.” Said Jay, dismissively.

“No, I’m serious man. You’re so arrogant. You know that? You think you’re such a good actor, but you’re really not. People are smarter than you give them credit for -they can tell. You’re even accidentally condescending when you’re trying not to be. People sense that.”

“I’m cool to everyone at the office! I may be a dick sometimes, but that’s because I have to. It’s just a defense.”

“ No, it’s an excuse. You don’t have to be a jerk- that’s your choice.” Said Jumi stuffing the box with more chron.

“Whatever….” said Jay, dismissively.

Jumi put the box bowl back into the device, closed the lid and pressed. “And that’s not what I’m talking about. You know we broadcast two kinds of signals to the world? One is what we think we are telling people, you know like what kind of shoes we’re wearing,what kind of music we have on, what your t-shirt says. The other kind are the unconscious signals we invariably project and they tell people what’s really on our mind. You may be trying to act like everything’s cool, when you think it really isn’t- and that’s your right to think that, but you must realize that you’re probably accidentally revealing your true side. You’ll never be able to realize your full potential if you’re being fake. You end up just confusing people, and that in turn causes them to loose faith in you- to not trust you.”

Jumi presses the button on the device and the bag fills. Jumi detaches it and hands the bag to Jay as a tiny gesture, revealing through his actions that he’s actually on Jay’s side.

Jay aggressively swipes the bag from Jumi, huffs it’s contents and hands the remainder back. Jumi finished the rest of the bag, placed it onto the black marble counter, turned around and grabbed two bottles of water from the fridge.

“Reese may be a dumbass, but he’s not an idiot.” Continued Jumi, handing Jay a bottle.

“Yeah, well he’s done nothing but lie since I started working at Skatemental. He’s a piece of shit. “ Jay instantly feeling ashamed using a crude term he normally thought such a vile expression.

“We’ll, he has a right to be. It’s his company. You shoulda quit a long time ago! That’s your fault. What about Rocco? You gonna blame him too!”

“Rocco used us all! He fed us with drugs and promises and then sold off the company that we built!”

“ Ha! I doubt Carroll would be saying the same thing! That’s your fault for falling for it. You don’t have to believe everything people say. That’s your problem. I thought you would be more street smart by now. When are you gonna learn? Skatemental is just World Industries all over again, just a dorkier version. I though you would have learned this with Stereo too! I knew Pastras was a kook, we all did! But it’s like you think you need other people to help realize your own goals. That’s not too indy, isn’t it? You call yourself Indy Prince of Skateboarding. But are you really? Why you always work with kooks? Huh? Why don’t you do your own thing! You shouldn’t depend on other people like this- you’re just getting burned.”

“Yeah, Yeah. Okay! I get it. I see your point!” Said Jay now sitting on the bar stool, resting his head propped up by his hand against the bar- consumed in a soul shattering high.

“The truth doesn’t always sound so good. I’m just givin it to you straight. That’s like my job, maun.”

The frankness of Jumi’s tone triggered some resolve inside Jay. Something had opened up. He no longer felt threatened by Jumi’s words. He knew all along Jumi was kinda right- was speaking the truth. Jay had been operating on some oceanic level of denial for quite some time- he had let himself become blinded by the angles. Jay had been optimistic, but he was optimistic about the wrong things and realized now that made all the difference. He realized it was dangerous to have faith in false promise. It only causes one to loose faith in the possibility of good in and of itself, when in fact the bad luck is due simply to bad judgment calls . Jay realized he had been so wrapped up in his skewed point of view- in the endless details of the series of bad decisions which at the time seemed logical but where what had gotten him to where he was today. Jay had been naïve and in hindsight, it was no wonder that all these people would have ended up letting him down. Jay kept going further and further back, mentally trying to access the damage. How far back did his incorrect template of thought reach? It was all very disturbing. It was too much to take in. This realization along with being too high bought on a sense of panic that consumed him- jilted him, as if he had jumped into a cold spring. It was now obvious he had been his own undoing - he had no one to blame but himself and his intuition needed recalibration. It was dreadful to think of all the unnecessary pain he had put himself through.

“Ah, man Fuck.” Said Jay baffled, resigning- the wind knocked out of him. “ You’re right.”

Jumi noticed that what he said had an effect on Jay, began to second guess his harshness.

Jay’s mind was racing, quick to connect this epiphany with everything that had gone wrong him, “What a mess. I should have moved to Cincinnati when I had the chance. I should have just gone.”

Jumi adjusted his glasses cautiously. “Actually, I think you made the right decision not to move out there, a lot of us did.”

“No, I should have left LA- I should have gone to Cincinnati.” Said Jay soberly.

“And what? What would you have done out there?”

“I don’t know. Quit the skate circus? I would have been with Heather. I think I might have been able to get a public works job- doing art for the city.” Said Jay rationally.

“No, bro. I can actually say I fully agree with you not moving to the Nati. That was actually a good decision. There’s nothing out there, man!”

“There was Heather.”

“Well, she must not have been enough or you would have gone!”

“No, I should have gone. I’m a fucking idiot. It would’ve been for love. Isn’t that that the most important thing?”

“A lot of conditions must be met in order for love to thrive. Circumstance has a way of getting in the way of feelings. I know you. You would have been miserable out there! You would have been clinging to old notions and would have to have given up too much. Literally going backwards. Things have their time and you seriously needed to move on, Jay. You should know when to put such things away. I think your instincts were right that time.”

“She was the best person I ever knew. ”

“Yeah, well so far. There will be others.”

“I don’t know. I know that sounds like the right thing to say. It’s only been said on every TV show and bad movie. I’m not sure that’s always true. There are some people who will never go away.”

“You can’t let it ruin your life. Humor yourself and try to replace it. You would be surprised. Besides, most of the time we can’t even judge what’s best for us. It’s like we don’t even know what we need. It’s time to cut your loss. Try not to repeat mistakes. Have no regrets!” Said Jumi, his arms crossed charismatically now holding the deflated smoke balloon.

“You never regret publishing ‘Jumi’s A to Z Guide to Smokin’ Weed’?” asked Jay skeptically.

“Are you kidding! That was my crowning achievement! I went out in a blaze of glory-pun intended! Better than sticking around, wearing out my welcome- kids getting to watch me grow old like I’m Max Schaaf or something. Besides, those were good tips: don’t smoke weed in your car, take good effective hits to conserve, if you’re getting pulled over- throw your pot in the AC vent. I like to think I helped out a lot kids who were gonna be stoners with or without me. I was a model for them: you can get high and exercise! I was made an example of, but it just goes with the territory. I was doing my job.”


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