Being on the road gives one a long time to think about things. As the countless miles of road pass under your seated ass, all of life’s questions seem to pop up for you to ponder in your mind. And with the company of good friends, it makes for some interesting conversations and memorable experiences. In early August 1999, some members of the Shorty’s crew got together to do a tour through six Western states.
Steve Olson, Peter Smolik, Brandon Turner, and Sammy Baptista joined forces to get some skating done and check some new spots throughout California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. The skating that took place was amazing, as you can see in the accompanying photos. Every town we hit had a good share of spots, and the locals we met were really friendly. But the main ingredients of the tour were the individuals who partook in it and the ideas they shared while traveling together.
Ol’ Dirty Smolik: Peter Smolik was mentally tasting all the wines of the world. The merlots, the cabernets – he was ready to have at them all. After drinking beer every day of his recent travels in Europe, Hawaii, and Japan, Peter was eager for some new flavors in the realm of Alka-Smolikism. He kept mentioning how traveling in an RV would be so much better than the brand-new van we were in. Being the artist he is, he translated his frustrations with the van into a new sculpture he made by kicking one of the bench seats into the shape of a taco shell.
Peter is a lagger when it comes to getting up in the morning, but what he lacks in morning consciousness he makes up for in incredible skateboard skills and generosity with the kids. He is also the master of the stereo: whenever we get together he contributes some Jay-O Felony, Brotha Lynch Hung, or his homies The Federalz.
Ol’ Dirty Smolik has a knack for setting up water bombs for unsuspecting types. He fills the hotel ice bucket with water, then props it up on top of a slightly open door. When someone opens the door to come inside. Splash! Everyone on the trip was victim to at least one water bomb.
Olsonator: Steve Olson spent a good amount of his road time reading. When he did look up from his book, he would often start freestyling. He is the lyrical genius of the team and can rhyme about anything from Top Ramen to spiritual bliss. He is the doctor of the team with various ointments and health foods. Have you ever tried pickled string beans or dried Very Veggies before? Well, Olson will be happy to share his with you. He fed us dream berries and everyone freaked out.
One of his bags was filled with foods, another with books. Olson was always up in the bookstores, collecting books on religion, theory, health, etc. Olsonator also spotted many figures in the clouds as we drove; he was the first to call out any natural wonders like waterfalls or hot springs, and he could tell you about anything from feather collecting to alien encounters.
Olson is always a great person to have on tour with you – he’s got some pretty amazing stories to tell, he skates his ass off, and everyone likes his Kangols. When Steve talks, we listen.
Lil’ B: Not so little anymore, Brandon Turner is now discovering his fears of the world. After returning from Hawaii and Japan last month, he is now afraid to fly. He couldn’t stop talking about plane crashes. I tried to comfort him by telling him that a plane crash is less likely to happen than a car accident, but he just wasn’t having it. Brandon was flipping through a copy of Harper’s Bazaar one night and saw a picture of a python that had eaten a human being. He then started in about how scared of snakes he was.
Not a day went by without Brandon saying, “I feel weird.” I don’t understand how B is able to casually conquer big stunts down double-sets and fifteen-stair rails and at the same time be scared silly on the way to the airport. Lil’ B is learning a lot about this world every day. He’s eager to ask every question abbout everything and memorize all the lyrics on the latest Sway & Tech CD.
Olson gave him a copy of Way of the Peaceful Warrior halfway into the trip, and after that Brandon spent much of his travel time reading. I think it should help answer some of his questions about life. Brandon told us how he missed the over-polite Japanese culture and the Claremont keg parties. Don’t worry, B, you’ll be home soon.
Sammy: Skating hard every day, young Sammy Baptista is a very focused kid when it comes to his goals, but he’s having a difficult time trying to figure out which song he wants to use for his next video part. Future plans for him include going back to school, filming for big Hollywood productions, and collecting as many hip-hop CDs and fat caps as he can find. He is always the first to take notice of any graffiti pieces we drive by, and he still is in mystery about the Blair Witch.
Sammy is a menace to any photographer traveling with the Shorty’s crew. Last year he and Giovanni Reda had an East meets West battle of wits. This time Atiba Jefferson had to put up with threats of Sammy throwing him into the river to see if he floats. Don’t underestimate him because of his size, folks, Sammy is a threat to all who cramp his style. But I must say, he’s maturing into a super-cool person.
At the close of our excursion, everyone was ready to return home. We had been on the road for three weeks, and we all knew there was a lot more to come. Japan, the trade show, and more filming missions were all in the mix of our immediate future, and 120-degree weather in Phoenix, Arizona just wasn’t cutting it for us, so we headed home. Japan, the next chapter in the continuing Shorty’s Tour saga, will commence shortly – George Nagai