Friday, August 28, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
This past Saturday, I found myself waking up shortly after 5am, trekking down to Chinatown, just barely catching the 7am bus to Philly to meet up with the Gnarhammered crew for a road trip. This was no ordinary road trip, however; this was a road trip of epic proportions. This was a road trip to SKATOPIA! Now for those of you unfamiliar with Skatopia, imagine a hippy commune, minus the hippies. Imagine an anarchist collective of some of the sketchiest guys you have ever met. Imagine a farm with no crops but instead filled with the gnarliest bowls, a full pipe, and in-progress concrete park. Imagine a junk yard with no actual junk, minus smashed and burnt up cars. Imagine the least peaceful wilderness in the middle of nowhere Ohio. Now imagine yourself there for 4 days camping in an area by the name of “Fatty Hollow” outside of a makeshift cabin belonging to a guy named Convict. Welcome to Skatopia. Bring your balls and leave your reluctance and social norms at the door.
After driving for 8 or so hours from Philly, we got a little lost less than a mile from Skatopia and turned down the wrong street. As we were turning around a car passed by and a guy got out claiming to live there, introducing himself to us as Convict and calling us dumb-dumbs. This wasn’t your typical skateboarder that you would imagine living there; this guy looked like a convict with the gnarliest teeth and a Slipknot shirt on. The car he got out of left and he said he would just ride with us…we were terrified. As he crawled in the car next to me, puffing away on a cigarette, I was just hoping not to get shanked. Well, we didn’t get shanked, he did live there, and he began hecking us right away (which set the tone for the rest of the trip). The thing about Convict is that he is crazy, mostly. We were told by Henry, another Skatopia resident, that only 20% of what Convict says is true, but good luck figuring out what that 20% was. Another thing about Convict, and boy is it a BIG thing, is that…well, he loves fat chicks. Not just over-weight fat, but straight up obese fat. His area of Skatopia was plastered with signs he made professing his love of fatties. After all, his camp was called Fatty Hollow and he told us to set up camp in front of his “cabin.” I use the word cabin loosely, as it was some sort of 1 room RV trailer thing, supported by logs and cinder blocks with a porch he made out of wood and tarp. There was an assortment of graffiti on it about fatties and ICP, etc. I am pretty sure that Convict was a Juggalo. Here are some stories that convict told us, but remember, only 20% are true.
• He used to fight a lot in school and got on the boxing team after beating up their best boxer. He then went on to become an MMA champ at a very young age, knocking out many guys with a single punch (one he even broke half his face and neck with a single punch).
• He had a skate team: Team Fatty (which included Bob Burnquist & Rodney Mullen) and challenged Team Sleezy (the other guys living at Skatopia) to a skate-off after doing an “air to fakie kickflip heelflip” (got me on that one).
• He creeped through the woods in the middle of the night and found a wild goat and beat it up and dragged it back to Fatty Hollow and tied it to a tree as a pet until someone let it go. I think this one may be true, as it was confirmed by others.
• He loves giving girls roofies. Two is best and apparently when you do and kiss them on the next, they are all about it. I am assuming that he is giving roofies to fat chicks here.
• He hates “fags” and beat two of them that he found kissing at the Lula Bowl out in the field in front of 1500 people. According to him: “There are two things I hate: fags and thieves!”
• He shot a “nigger” (a word he likes to use a lot and even refers to himself as) 7 times after they stabbed him in the arm. He showed us his stab wound.
• He loves any kinds of drugs, but his drug of choice is nitrous. He also likes to snort gunpowder mixed with cocaine, but would snort gunpowder alone if there is no coke.
• He has lived at Skatopia for 9-10 years, takes 6 month vacations sometimes, and has been to 28 countries with Brewce.
There is much more, but this would make a very long read if I continue. Either way, he knocked up one of his fatties, Nikki, whom he had come over our last night there. Henry referred to her as Front Butt, and I think that name is pretty self descriptive. She was HUGE. I guess Convict was psyched that she was there because he came over to us later while we were skating and kept bragging about how he loved to skate after getting a blowjob. Gross. Even worse, I had to hear then going at it later than night as I was desperately trying to go to sleep. Eww Eww Eww…
So I went with Greg Pachell, whom was nicknamed Ginger almost immediately by Convict on the first day, due to his fire-y hair. It must be noted, as Greg did on many occasions, that Convict had reddish hair himself, even though he claimed it was brown. Next was Kevin Brooks, who Convict actually seemed to like the best and didn’t even give a nickname. With the exception of collapsing his tent the second morning, Kev didn’t get much hassling from Convict at all. Then there was David Pollen, who is half Asian and half Jewish, but Convict didn’t like Jews and thus kept calling him “Jew” or “You Jew.” He kept saying that David killed Jesus. The youngest guy in the squad was Eric Bremme (or just Bremme), whom Convict just called boring. He actually forgot who was the Jew at one point and called him Jew a couple times, though he is not. He also referred to him as Butters at one point, and I was Kenny, when he was making South Park references. But once he found out that I was half Persian, he kept calling me Persian, though I am pretty sure he didn’t know what a Persian was. If I didn’t land something, he would demand that I “stop skating like a Persian and start landing tricks like an American!” He gave me another nickname randomly while I was skating the Lula Bowl. He said, “Hey Persian, your new nickname is G-Co.” Me: “G-Co or G-Code?” Him: “Pfft, I don’t know…” Oh yeah, he also called me the non-pot smoking hippy, but referred to us collectively as hippies on occasion too, though none of us are hippies by any means.
Bremme (aka boring)
The Persian/G-Co/The Non-pot Smoking Hippy
While we spent most time with Convict, there were others living on “the farm.” The next guy we met was Clay. Clay is a burn out who has lived on the farm for 4 years. He is tall and hippy-ish and talks very slow. One thing about Clay is that once he begins talking, he will continue to talk about that subject, even if everyone moved on to another subject 10 minutes ago and nobody is listening. It is pretty awesome to watch. Sometimes he will randomly say something and confuse everyone until some realizes that he was talking about something 10 subjects ago. Convict was telling us about how they used to call Clay “Dirt Nap” because they would always find him asleep in the dirt by the fire in the mornings. Convict said that he even found him asleep outside his cabin with his foot in the fire with his boot melting to it one time and another time Clay rolled into the fire while he was sleep, catching his Carhart jacket on fire, burning the whole front of it. Clay tried to justify this by proclaiming, “You make it seem like this stuff happens all the time, Convict. Sure I have taken a dirt nap a couple dozen times and have rolled into the fire a couple times, but that has been stretched out over 4 years.” Ohhh, that makes sense now. The same thing would have happen to anyone living there for 4 years, haha. Apparently, Clay moved into an old chicken shack on the property and Convict and another guy decided to bust the windows out with rocks when they though Clay was inside sleeping. Clay wasn’t, but when he came back there was glass all over his bed from it. Next was Team Sleezy, which consisted of Henry, Matt (from Rochester, NY), Justin (who apparently is sketchy and possibly stole a Macbook from some Juggalos camping, according to Convict), and Potato (who I actually met at the Autumn Bowl when he and Brewce visited NYC a couple months back). As per Convict, he goes after the fat chicks because the only other options are Brewce’s leftovers, which Team Sleezy goes after. And instead of catching something or having to compete with them, he goes after the fatties. Unlike Convict, who looks awkward and unstable on a board, Team Sleezy all skate super fat and kill the bowls proper, especially Henry and Justin. All the residents of Skatopia are part of what they call CIA (Corporation Instigating Anarchy), led by Brewce Martin and his son Brandon. We kept hearing stories of Brandon and how amazing he was, but didn’t see him until the day before we left. We were skating the Lula Bowl and he showed up and pretty much shut the place down. His skating was fast, powerful, and super consistent. He actually has a pro model Skatopia board, which I bought and had him and Brewce sign before we left.
Brewce bought the land about 13 years ago and began building stuff to skate. As the years went on, he built more and more and began to have the wildest parties imaginable to raise funds to pay the bills and build more. The result (in progress) is a place like no other, where he is treated like king. I met Brewce a couple months ago but since then, he was in an accident where a tire exploded in his face and he was in the ICU for a long time. He is mostly recovered, though he is waiting for his eye to finish healing before he starts skating again. He was wearing an eye patch the whole time we were there, but seems like he will be back at it soon. He is super pumped on skateboarding after all these years and you can tell that he misses skating really bad. He showed us around the museum and knows quite a bit about skate history. He is one of the gnarliest dudes ever and it was an honor to visit his place.
I have seen footage and photos of the ramps, but couldn’t quite comprehend how ridiculous they were until standing in front of them. They are humbling, for sure. The first night we skated The Punisher, which is a HUGE bowl in the barn. The shallow is a steep 6 or 7 feet going almost immediately into a waterfall just as big and steep that leads into the 13 ft deep. It was intimidating, yet fun to skate once you submit to it. On the last night there, Ginger was going for a frontside grind in the deep end (which he did multiple times already) when the lights cut out just as he hit coping. It went pitch black in there and then Cyprus Hill started playing from the speakers at that very moment. It was pretty scary and we thought Convict was messing with us again. After all, on the first night there he was throwing fireworks into the bowl as we were skating it. As it turns out, we just set the timer on the lights too low and Convict just put the music on at that moment. He came up and turned the lights on saying “What are you dumb-dumbs doin’ in here?” Attached to the barn with The Punisher was the 15ft(?) diameter fullpipe, called the Fool’s Pipe. It was really fun to skate, though it wore you out pretty quick. Ginger was boosting up to 10-10:30 on it and Bremme was tossing bonelesses and early grabs on it. Then there was the Church of Skatin bowl in a tin building with no lights. This is by far the hardest bowl I have ever skated. We were heading over there to skate it when Convict chuckled, “I’ve got to come watch this!” As we get to the bowl, we see a foot and half long black snake in the deep end, unable to get out. We almost went to pick it up thinking it was just a black snake, but Convict said that it was probably poisonous, to check for a yellow ring around the neck. Sure enough, it had a yellow ring around its neck. At this point Clay came in and he and Convict got it out. Clay actually picked it up by the tail and threw it in a cooler that Convict had. I’m not sure what they did with it. After getting shook by that situation, we looked down into the bowl and were reluctant to even drop in. As your board hangs over the lip, there is mostly vert down the wall with a little tranny at the very bottom, and these are no small walls either. I think Ginger dropped in first, and then I went. I was so scared, but was relieved to make it down and to the other side where I basically had to do a wallride up the steep wall with little speed left from the freefall to tranny that absorbed most of my speed. Bremme and the Jew did it too, but Kev hasn’t having as much luck, slamming twice. Kev is pretty good with tranny, so just imagine the gnarlitude if he had issues just dropping into this thing. On the Jew’s second attempt, he ate it into the wall on the other side, bonking his nose (the one on his face, not on his board) off the tranny on the other side…luckily it was minor. We gave up on skating that thing pretty quickly. The Lula Bowl is on the top of the hill and is the concrete park section with an old bus build into it, where you can open the door from the bus to roll into the deep end. It has a capsule, a vert wall with a doorway to gap over, an escalating wall with brick coping, pool lights to the left of the capsule, and a section of coping with a hole that wasps live in to grind over (followed by being chased by wasps). We skated here the most since it was the least gnarly of the bowls and more tricks were possible. Henry skated with us here a bit and loved to grind over the wasps. It was common to see him running across the deck from the wasps, haha. One time, he didn’t quite escape them. I looked over to see him running again, but this time he disappeared over the drop bellow the deck and screamed “Oww! It got me in the heart!” When he emerged, he showed us the sting right near the center of his chest. While I would randomly grind over the wasp wall, after that, I was over it, haha.
The Fool's Pipe and the barn housing The Punisher.
Church of Skatin Bowl.
The poisonous snake we found in the Church of Skatin.
Bringing beer to Skatopia is a given, but be warned, you will only get to drink maybe 1/3 of what you bring yourself, because the CIA guys will help you finish it with a quickness. I don’t drink, but if I were to go back with nobody that drinks, I would still bring beer just for the CIA. After all, you get to camp and skate for free. It is the least you can do. You might as well bring them some cigarettes too. Also, maybe bring some fireworks for Convict. Convict loves explosions and without fireworks, he will resort to using what he has: explosives. On the first night, he tossed a can of spray paint into the fire that resulted in an explosion and a stream of flames. We had a few fireworks, which he used up pretty quickly, so he began throwing bullets into the fire one night when I was the only other person there. He kept freaking me out and I ran through the woods for cover every time he did it. Kev and Bremme came back (Ginger and the Jew were sleeping) and ended up running for cover with me when I told them what he was doing. Then he decided to throw in a handful of bullets. As we ran, the explosions through up a cloud of ember, some of which landed on the Jew’s tent, burning holes in it and even burning him with a piece that went straight through. He was bumming. I tried taking some photos and when I was sitting across the fire from Convict with my camera, he looks me dead in the eye and says “Film this!,” dropping a grenade right into the fire and running past me! We all get up and run for our lives. As it turns out, he packed the grenade too tight and it didn’t explode, luckily. It just made the flames real big. Later on he threw in a stick of dynamite. Again, we all ran for our lives. He, however, didn’t include the dynamite caps that cause the explosion so the fire just got big and turn from a bright red to a greenish yellow. At one point he decided to go blow up Team Sleezy’s fire and took a plastic bag and filled it with an assortment of things, from a can of spray paint to what was left of the lighter fluid to a stick of dynamite and two dynamite caps. We followed him over to watch the madness, but Sleezy’s fire already went out so it was a no go. We all wanted to see a big explosion though (minus Ginger and the Jew, who were sleeping), so Convict threw the can of paint in the fire with a dynamite cap. That was one of the loudest explosions I ever heard with ember blasting all over the place, starting little fires all over the ground. Luckily, the can was facing away from our tents, because it would have set all our tents on fire. We had some $20 BB guns Ginger and Kev got from Walmart before the trip that provided us with hours of entertainment. There was an endless supply of can from the beer that we slaughtered with BBs, but the most fun had with the guns was driving to the skatepark in nearby Athens, OH a couple times while blasting every sign along the way with BBs. It was fun! I was the only one that got hit with a BB ricochet, and I got hit 3 times. Once was when I was shooting out the car window and it came back in and hit me in the head. Actually, Front Butt got hit with a ricochet too at one point. Aside from all the fun and games, is the work involved. When you go to Skatopia, you have to help build if they are building. On the day before we left they were working on a new section they want to pour to add onto the Lula Bowl. So we were digging and pick axing the dirt/clay to form the trannies for this new section. I think most of us got blisters on our hands, though I probably got the worse, and I got three, which still hurt as I type this. It was worth it though and I can’t wait to see the finished product after they pour it.
Clay with the first can of spray paint Convict threw into the fire.
Don’t expect to go to Skatopia and not get messed with/heckled. You basically have to take it. That led me to come up with a slogan based on their frequent use of the word “git.” I summed it up with: Git what you git or git! My other one was simply: Skate or git! After all, don’t expect to do much lurking. If you go, you better be skating. That means you should probably work on your big bowl skating prior to showing up, haha. It was a blast and I can’t wait to go again. Below are some photos and Gnarhammered will be posting a video up soon. Thanks to Brewce and CIA for having us and showing us city folk what anarchy is all about. We got on the road back to civilization but stopped off at the park in Wheeling, WV which continued with the trend of huge transitions. I made the last bus of the night from Philly to NYC by 30 seconds and spent yesterday recuperating. I hope my next trip back isn’t too far off.
Fatty Hollow. Convict's "cabin."
Four month old puppy named Skatin that we nicknamed Gnargoat since she looked just like a goat. She got bit by a snake at one point while we were there but survived, luckily.
Gnargoat would literally just lay down anywhere and pass out.
Kev wanted to bomb down the dirt road on his cruiser.
It looked so fun that we all did it after his brave first attempt.
Left to right: Kev, Convict, Front Butt
Convict threw a wooden chair into the fire.
It looked like a burning anarchy symbol!
Kev's face watching Front Butt climb the stairs.
The entrance to the skateboard museum.
Hitting the road back home.