WRITTEN BY: / MARK SUCIU
PHOTOS / ALEX PAPKE
From New York to Pittsburgh, then Cleveland, Detroit, Columbus, Indiana, St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Deringer’s parents’ farm in Mannsville, then Austin, and ending (in my opinion) on a backyard balcony in an Austin suburb where three of us sat in the dark, looking down at the creek, the other two smoking, all of us tired after the Fourth of July celebration that day.
We were talking about our trip. “We have clips from every city,” Justin says, happy with the footage he got. “That’s more than enough for a video.” He’s sitting on the ground with his back to the wall of the house, his black hood up. He passes the spliff to Jazz and says, “I’m stoked you were able to come.” Jazz is a sculptor and has always skated but never professionally. He and I envisioned this trip as a full cross-country drive but we’d stopped halfway, which he doesn’t mind, he tells Justin. It felt like the real thing.
Jazz had never done such a long road trip and it started to wear on him after spending the first day in the van on the way to Pittsburgh. But when we came into town, he tells Justin and me, and fireworks shot up behind the skyscrapers and all seven of us yelled like they’d gone off for our arrival, he came back to life. It also helped that we ate sandwiches at Primanti Bros right away. Then we were in a Lyft, five of us going to Gooski’s to meet Nick Panza for beers. Our driver, Maria, told Matt she didn’t mind him rolling up—“Weed and cigarettes is cool, just no coke and no meth”–and filled us in on the protest that people mourning Antwon Rose Jr. a black high school honors student murdered by a police officer. Moved by what she said, I had the feeling of being shocked into the present tense of a city that was hidden in the space of my mental America, tucked into the mountains between New York and California. Maria’s daughter had gone with her fourth grade class to join the protests that day and Maria, a black mother, had to begin the long conversation of racism with her, and too early, she said. Jazz tells us on the balcony that he’s glad we ended up in one of the protests on our last day in town, when we exited a restaurant onto a crowded, blocked-off street. Justin and I nod.
“Moved by what she said, I had the feeling of being shocked into the present tense of a city that was hidden in the space of my mental America, tucked into the mountains between New York and California.”
On the balcony Jazz says an event like the protests happened at every stop, something that caught the whole city’s attention. Detroit had their Independence Day fireworks the night we got in—they celebrate early with the neighboring Canadian city of Windsor. In St. Louis, a tornado siren sounded and the clouds turned from gray to black. We rushed to our hotel, but the tornado never hit. And here in Austin, a few hours ago, Fourth of July fireworks went off in downtown. That’s how cross-country trips are, Justin says to Jazz and me. And you see skate communities come together. Silas’ Cab back noseblunt mission at Milliones turned into a Sunday drinking session with the locals—Panza, Evan Smith Drew Windon. Justin Bohl in Detroit tell us about the Wig, its history and upcoming demolition. Hanging out with Gabe Kehoe, Randy Ploesser and Jabari Pendleton at the Gramophone in St. Louis and skating House Park in Austin with Elias Bingham.
I laugh and say to Jazz and Justin that I knew all along the Koston rail in Columbus was knobbed yet still made us stay in the town. There were other spots, but the town’s an architecture mecca—I’d seen a movie that took place there and wanted to visit. We checked in at one a.m. and I drove around by myself. The van felt haunted without the others. There’s a scene in that movies where the actors sit in their car before a glowing modernist building, so I found it and did the same. I thought about being in the middle of Indiana, in the middle of a skate trip and skate career. I started to feel less real than those actors, I tell my two friends on a balcony about a creek in Austin, and our trip seems only as real as a movie.
When I was a kid I told my parents at the dinner table that I wanted a life where I’d travel as much as possible in order to make memories in different places. By doing that I thought I would feel like I’d lived more, done more. My parents only encouraged me. Memories of other places stayed distinct in my mind, while life at home almost amounted to one individual memory. But when I was a kid I assumed that by seeing I could change things, or would be changed by them—that seeing would do more than take away my ignorance. Now, lasting memories don’t seem to form without a foundational feeling of the city where they’re made, a relationship that takes months to build. And it’s hard to imagine I’ve been to all the far-flung places I’ve been.