TransWorld SKATEboarding

Volume 21 Number 10

file: Cliché Asia

“Won’t You Color My Eyes?”

The Cliché team visits Asia.

Photographs and text by Richard Hart.

First of all, before you think I’m a complete wanker, I should explain that I borrowed that title from a shower cap. At our hotel in Tokyo, all of the complimentary toiletries in the rooms had lyrics written on them. Except for the shampoo, which simply read “Shampoo.” I’m not sure if the lyrics were from real songs or not, but if they were, they should’ve been on the soundtrack to some awful 80s film starring Tom Cruise. I have included them in this article.

So I went to Asia with the Cliché team. They skated, I shot these photos. It was fun—thanks, guys. Here’s what else happened …

Disinfected Toilet Seat: “Maybe I’ve been hoping too hard, but I’ve gone this far, and it’s more than I hoped for.”

“You’re damn right,” I replied to my toilet seat when I arrived in Tokyo.

This whole trip came about at the very last minute after a series of very vague e-mails from Jeremie, head of Cliché. He’s a great fellow but a little terse in his messages. The first one read simply: “Richard, thanks for the ‘zine. It’s good. The Cliché team are going to Asia next month. We need a photographer. Want to come?—Jeremie.”

After several more such messages to and fro, I squeezed the places from him—Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong—and eventually the dates, too.

It was only when I was on the plane that I realized I hadn’t actually spoken to anyone about the trip—there had only been the haphazard e-mailing.

Then, when I was sitting on my luggage at the Tokyo airport, watching my breath—it was cold—and nibbling on something or other, it suddenly occurred to me that this could all have been an elaborate practical joke. Here I was, but where were they?

Well, they were at the hotel. Thank goodness. Or at least half the team were—the rest were to rendezvous with us in Taiwan. So much for the Euros, but I couldn’t figure out where all the Japanese people were. I’d been led to believe there were a lot of them in Japan. But this was our first of two hotels in Tokyo, which I was informed was in “the arse-end of nowhere” because we were attending some sort of trade-show thingy. Of course, this meant that despite being in the arse-end of nowhere, I still ran into half the Element team and the Rookie ladies before the first day was done. I will spare you the details of the trade show—it was much the same as an American one, except that the hotels in Tokyo tend not to have swimming pools. So, I suppose it was actually mildly worse than an American one.

After that was over, we regrouped in the Shinjuku district, which definitely felt more like Tokyo due to the incessant swarms of people everywhere. Our second lodgings were at the Hotel Nut Club, which I found quite amusing.

We skated a few spots that filmer Fred Mortagne knew of from previous missions, and I learned a good piece of Japanese skate slang from Tosh our distributor. The name for a “chill pro” or partying skater is a “saketer.” Get it? Sake plus skater. Unfortunately, it only works in Japan, but keep it in mind in case you go there.

Let’s talk about my back. At this point in the trip, my back loved me. Immediately prior to my departure I had retired my unwieldy backpack-camerabag and invested in a roller-bag. I may now look like someone who’s eternally going to or from an airport, but it’s wonderful not to be constantly lugging around a bag full of flashes and tripods like Atlas in jeans.

I was glad to see that Fred had a roller-bag, too, and we made a cute couple as we eternally arrived from airports together. It wasn’t long before there was trouble in paradise, though, when Fred betrayed me by switching to a backpack; and I spent the rest of the trip sprinting after everyone with my roller-bag as they skated gcefully through the city streets. This is when I began to look like someone who was eternally late for a flight.

Shower Cap: “I can take to the skies, I can soar like a bird, with his heart full of song. Won’t you color my eyes, I’ve been waiting so long.”

I wasn’t late for my flight to Taiwan, though, and I soared there like a bird with my mini-disc full of songs. You know, I was on the cutting edge of technology a year ago, but now the iPod army sneer at my prehistoric music source. It’s like an embarrassment on skate tours these days. I always try to justify the MD by saying that I don’t own a computer to download songs from, but of course that only digs the hole deeper. Look, I grew up collecting records, and I still think they sound the best, Okay? Bah, humbug!

So, Taiwan. When we arrived, the rest of the team was waiting for us, and from then on, the languages were flying. We consisted of a bunch of Frenchies, an unusually inefficient German, a damaged Australian, the mellow Spanish and Portugese guys, one large Swede, and me, the English photographer. It sort of felt like Europe, but with rice instead of bread.

We all vaguely agreed on English as a common language, but there was a lot of French being bandied about. I learned French and a smattering of German at school, but now my French is impressive-sounding only to someone who doesn’t speak any. My German’s crap, too, but they’re both a lot better than my Chinese. So, I spent the whole trip in a state of slight confusion.

To complicate matters even more, we turned Taiwan into L.A. when we initiated the first-ever generator session there. Generators are a completely different commodity in Asia, as they are all over the place, powering the lights of food stalls in the streets at night. They aren’t the kind of thing you rent from a tool-supply place, so our host Frank just went ahead and bought one for our few days’ stay. Cheers, Frank.

Sometimes you can get away with a lot more when you have a generator and lights, because it makes a handrail look like a movie set. Skateboarding can feel so glamorous sometimes, although it always seems to involve me lying in pigeon droppings at the bottom of some steps—but exotic steps! And therefore glamorous pigeon droppings!

Soap: “And it’s so late, but I’ll wait, through the long night with you, with you.”

Thirdly and lastly, we went to Hong Kong, and I think we had the first-ever generator session there, too. The new Cliché video is going to be serious business.

At this point, what with our unwieldy group of ten and the intricacies of the HK subway system, we decided to break into two groups every day. In essence, this meant “The Tech Group” and “The Gnar Group.” Group Tech frequented the ledge spot (TST) and the rail spot (Green Rails), while Group Gnar explored the back alleys, seeking out lumpy banks and bamboo wallies. One filmer each—Team Manager Philippe had his video camera as well—and me flitting boyishly between them for photographic documentation. Flit, flit.

We occupied one entire floor of an HK guesthouse, but with so many cracked boards, flat-spotted wheels, and stinky old shoes strewn about, it began to feel more like a squat.

At least we had room three—or “The Gallery”—for intellectual sanctuary. The group exhibition of photographs and drawings from Mendizabal, Alv, Montagne, and Hart were a very-low key underground event in the HK art scene, and I spent more time there than in room four, which was a lot like walking into a cloud, but with hip-hop.

A lot of skating went down in HK—these were a motivated crew and good traveling companions to boot, but soon the month came to a close.

On the last night of the trip, I found myself leaving some club, alone, at 6:00 a.m, utterly lost. This has happened more times (and in more cities) than I care to recall, and it always seems to happen on the last night of trips.

The evening began at some bar where they forced tequila shots on you whenever the song “Tequila” was played. After that I began to lose my friends, and then all of a sudden it was 6:00 a.m.

I got a bus somewhere in the general direction of where I was staying, but eventually found the place thanks purely to the help of a “hooker with a heart of gold,” who, sensing my distress, let me use her cell phone and flagged down a cab for me. Once back, I packed and dashed to the airport. And as I splashed my sleepless, disheveled face in the mirror of the cramped airplane toilet, I was reminded of the words on my toothbrush back in Tokyo.

Toothbrush: “Ah, you look so good to me, with my eyes wide open I can see it, ah, it feels so good to me, ’cause I’m free.’”

The evening began at some bar where they forced tequila shots on you whenever the song “Tequila” was played. After that I began to lose my friends, and then all of a sudden it was 6:00 a.m.

I got a bus somewhere in the general direction of where I was staying, but eventually found the place thanks purely to the help of a “hooker with a heart of gold,” who, sensing my distress, let me use her cell phone and flagged down a cab for me. Once back, I packed and dashed to the airport. And as I splashed my sleepless, disheveled face in the mirror of the cramped airplane toilet, I was reminded of the words on my toothbrush back in Tokyo.

Toothbrush: “Ah, you look so good to me, with my eyes wide open I can see it, ah, it feels so good to me, ’cause I’m free.’”