Converse Tour Atiba Jefferson describes living by the itinerary as he travels through Southeast Asia.
Of all the trips I’ve been on, one thing I always notice is the way a company sets up a trip and how they treat their team. On August 8, I left for a tour of Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and Taiwan. Converse set up the trip with lots of demos and press conferences, and treated the team–Chany Jeanquinin, Felix Arguilles, Jerry Fowler, and Kenny Anderson–like pro basketball players with fancy hotels and personal drivers.
Glancing at the itinerary for Melbourne, the first day looked mellow because we didn’t have a scheduled demo until late in the afternoon. One question I did have, “What goes on at a sausage sizzle?” It turned out to be Australian for barbecue. Rain kept us wondering if we’d be able to skate, but it eventually stopped, so we were fine.
A cool demo at a skatepark called Sail Yards in the middle of downtown offered us a big park with real cement ledges. We left to skate the city and our host insisted on us being gone only an hour. We hit one spot, while Jerry attacked this step-up ledge and Chany nollied some stairs. We made it back right on time. It’s usually us who are late, but this time the host was a half-hour late.
The itinerary said 9:00 a.m., fly to Sydney, but that’s actually the time we arrived; we left the hotel at 5:00 a.m. This was The Man’s way of getting the most out of his dollar. We got there at 9:00 a.m. and they worked the team with a whole day of demos–even though they’d only had four hours of sleep, and you can’t count flight hours because those never work. Our hosts this time were your normal 30-something distributors, and by the end of the trip Jerry used Jedi mind tricks and had them singing Big Pun.
We only got to street skate one night. When we didn’t have a T.V. crew with us we searched for the famous Prudential building, which was a hassle. Once we found it, The Man wouldn’t even let us ride up to it, so we cruised around the area. Downtown was really good to skate, it had a lot of the same makings as San Francisco.
We were anxious to get on to the next venture to Singapore, because it would be so different. When we arrived, we ate at a Chinese restaurant. They served the food on a round table that spun around like the wheel on Wheel of Fortune. It turned out that all of the restaurants on our trip had these round-wheel-like tables. The food consisted of things like octopus and lobster. Everyone at dinner was super nice. I’m not sure if it was something in the water, but they were cool. The city was really green with lots of modern buildings. It’s the cleanest city I’ve ever seen; I didn’t see one bum or a lick of graffiti. I guess that proves caning as a punishment for a crime really does work.
This schedule was our first taste of the “you can never be late” mentality. It’s just the way the distributors from Singapore did things. The first place we skated was Go Sports skatepark. There were tons of kids at the demos, and I’d never seen an autograph session last so long. Our Singapore host was into making sure we were having fun, but at the same time, we always had to be on time–the two didn’t mix. They had men in the lobby checking that we never left at night, so we wouldn’t be late in the morning.
We skated the city a couple of times. There was so much marble with all the new buildings. I was sketched out on skating because if they don’t allow chewing gum in Singapore (people asked if we had any gum they could have when we got off the plane), then they couldn’t be too happy with skateboarding. When we were shooting photos downtown, the cops came and kicked us out. We played “dumb Americans,” so they wouldn’t cane us. Regulated by schedules, time passed quickly, but the pace was tiring. By the time we left Singapore, we were hoping it wouldn’t get any busier.
We left at 7:00 p.m. and arrived in Bangkok, Thailand at 10:00 p.m. We were all beat, so we headed to the hotel to chill. This was the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. It had a living room and marble bathroom. A new addition to our group, Simon a marketing man from Converse, spoke every language and made sure everything went well. The schedule was pretty mellow–two demos at malls. Even though we didn’t have to run around all the time, our host in Bangkok was another schedule freak. He would say, “Tomallo, you wake up at 9:00 a.m.” He spoke super-stiff English. We all found it funny, so we always asked, “Do we wake up today at 10 p.m.?” just to get him to say, “tomallo.” We asked him so much just to laugh, he must have thought we had really bad memories.
This was our first stop where people didn’t speak a lick of English, so it was interesting and made Simon very valuable. Bangkok is huge and really spread out, you could see the city stretching out for miles. The city seemed dirty, but I think that’s because we’d just come from Singapore, which was really clean. Buddhism plays a big role in their culture; we saw many amazing shrines, temples, and monks. One night we went shopping at some flea markets where they had five-dollar Polo shirts and rip-off Casio G-Shock watches called C-Shocks. We rode around the city in three-wheeler taxis, sketchy but fun. We raced–Kenny and I versus Felix and Chany. Kenny and I always had a good driver, so we never lost.
We only skated one street spot the whole time we were in Thailand. They had us tied up all day doing demos, so we never had the chance to really venture out into the city. We did one demo at a town square with good ledges and blocks. The demo consisted of the pros teaching kids tricks. So they would do a trick on flat ground, and then the kids would try it. This helped the kids learn some good flat-ground lines in Bangkok.
Taiwan was our last stop, and everyone seemed ready to face the last itinerary. We were supposed to be in Taiwan for three days, but when we got to the airport we found out Converse had added one more day and extended everyone’s ticket but mine. I had prior engagements, so I was to be sent back alone. We stayed right in the middle of the shopping district of Taipei–a lot like New York City, full of busy streets and sidewalks packed with suits and hip fashion. The demos here were in malls, so Converse brought the obstacles from mall to mall.
We had a two-hour drive to a city called Hsin Chu, a demo was held in a park barely big enough to hold two jump ramps. There wasn’t too much to skate, so after everyone did all their tricks on the flatbar, someone decided it was time for an ollie competition and stacked up six boards. Chany cleared it pretty easily, and the crowd went crazy. They upped the ante one more board. The hometown hero came out swinging and was getting close, but then Chany came through with the make.
It’s funny how different this tour was compared to others I’ve been on. The nice hotels and good restaurants never bothered me. So many little things reminded me that I was in Thailand on a Converse tour, like listening to Simon interpret a press conference. All those things made the trip fun–at least it gave us something to laugh at.