Originally published in our Oct/Nov 2012 issue.
Words: Christian Senrud
Photos: Aaron Smith
A lot can happen during 10 days on the road. And 16 men means a lot of variables. That’s a lot of different personalities and preferences, a lot of people to account for, get together and agree on something to skate, places to eat, and ways to spend downtime. The only way to find out what exactly will happen is to throw them all together, wait and watch, maybe poke and prod if you’re in charge of them all, and see what, if anything, happens. Thankfully I was not spearheading this endeavor. That was someone else’s charge.
That was on Sully (a.k.a., John Sullivan), Stereo’s new team manager, a stand-up guy who handles all the filming, flight booking, sending out boards, per diem and everything in between that calls for his helping hand. This was to be his first trip with the team and the first Stereo team excursion in about five years by Clint Peterson’s count. The team’s growth, with additions like ams Alex Schmidt and Tommy Fynn and pros Kyle Leeper and Ben Gore, called for a consolidation and some team building. There was new blood to be tested and the international Agents were Stateside, so the time was right to get the band back together and hop into the van to test the waters in an unfamiliar setting.
Pastras settled on the sandy methamphetamine-lined cat box that is Arizona. With its many skateparks and drainage ditches as well as a strong scene thanks to the hard work of shops like Cowtown, there’d be little trouble finding something to skate during the work week when security is at its most anal and with it being spring at the time the heat wouldn’t be too oppressive yet. So within a few weeks, Sully and Pastras had it all arranged and added a couple guests like Ray Barbee and Eli Reed on loan from WESC. Not everyone on Stereo was able to come, but we be rolled deep all the same. Deep into the AZ heat.
A lot of this happened, and a lot of this happened in my mind. You’d only know if you were there and, chances are, you were not. But if you were, there’s a chance that you might have walked into your motel in Tempe, Arizona, and discovered a nighttime troll posted up at the front desk who bumbles your reservation, overcharging your credit card, rendering it useless for the remainder of your trip. Likewise, you could’ve woken up in a bed in that same motel one morning to discover your body covered in bumps that you can later attribute to the bed bugs that’d taken up residence in your mattress. The rest of the hotel may have to be under quarantine if there’s an outbreak. Or some 90-pound maid might have to figure out a way to overcome the weight differential of her and the mattress and work out some Magellan-esque navigation skills to get that cumbersome, bug-infested pile out and into the dumpster.
On another morning, you may wake up and wonder where everyone is and find out you’d missed the trip to the grocery store. On another morning you may wake up in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar woman and realize you need to get the hell out of there. You have to regain your bearings, figure out where you’re at and how you can make it back to the van, the hotel or anywhere else you may recognize in town. You may forget your board and have to hoof it back to where you remember the boys will be with the van. Maybe later the fact that you’re hung over, stuck in the broiling passenger van with little to do besides twiddle your thumbs will drive you toward a nice pack of tall bottles. And despite it all, somehow you are still the most productive person on the trip.
Conceivably, you could also meet a nice, respectable girl while you’re out one night then find yourself back at her place, admiring her collection of VHS tapes, when all of a sudden she pounces on you like a feral cat and instigates some very enjoyable adult times. Perhaps you sneak a photo or two and debate sharing them online. You may think you have a knack for this and ponder upon the possibility of one day publishing a photo book with such evidence. It seems like something that a company like Vice might bite on, and you imagine the photo show and the type of trim you could pull from an event like that. You reflect on the irony of that fact. You smile.
Another night, you may be minding your own business at the premiére of Dad Cam, a local homie video, and walk out of the restroom to discover a young man writhing on the thin carpet floor, having an entirely unpleasant time thanks to what you deduce is the result of a bad hallucinogenic trip. You ask, “Are you on mushrooms, friend?” It might bring him to his senses, reminding him that, yes, he had done mushrooms, and whatever he was going through was probably, if not definitely, all in his head. He asks, “How did you know?!” And you nod and say you’ve been there, but he should handle his shit better because crying out for mommy in public is goddamn embarrassing. You tell him that maybe he shouldn’t be doing what he’s doing, but that it is something that happens and he’s a big boy and can decide for himself.
Perhaps a local skate legend will show up to your surprise and tag along for the majority of the trip. He may steal your mini cans of Budweisers, sized as such to stay cool despite the high temperatures in Tempe, and he may partake of your stash of recreational drugs with or without your knowledge or consent. He may disappear from time to time then out of nowhere be back in the mix with no explanation of where he went or how he got there since he apparently can’t drive. Nor will you really know how he got back to you or know where you were to begin with.
Maybe, you’ll be leaving a bar with a couple attractive women when some drunken dickhead wants to front and you have to put his ass in check. He may pull the race card. He may shove you and ask you, “What are you gonna do about it, Chris Brown?” You may shove him back to show him what you’re going to do about it, which is make him very sorry for being suck a dickhead for no reason. Your new female friends may get in the middle of it and pull you out of the bar. And you may let them because, well, that’s where you wanted to be going anyway.
One night you might find yourself walking into an all but empty bar, one you quietly suspect to be a gay bar based on the double meaning of its name, The Bear Den. The bar may be empty aside from one beautiful bartender, someone you assume is either the cook, her boyfriend or both, and then you and the rest of your friends.
On some scorching spring day, you might end up at an Asian-inspired temple of some sort. Everyone will be landing tricks left and right with little to no effort. You may be hucking your body down the double set for what seems like a few hours then have Clint Peterson roll up once, look at it, then roll up again and do a perfect backside 360 down it, then find some shade and sit down. You never know. A lot can happen when you hop in a van and let things unravel before you. A lot can happen.