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FLIP: "Fuck USA!".

HAVING GROWN UP WITH MEXICO (Ol' Mexico) as my primary reference point for Spanish-speaking folks, I was unsure of what to expect in Barcelona, Spain, where I went on a recent skateboarding adventure. Would it be like Tijuana? But it's near France. Would it be like a French Tijuana? I can happily report that Barcelona is much more like Paris than TJ (not that that's a bad thing, TJ fans), but with some of the same Ol' Mexican trappings I remember from my trip to Mexico City. For instance, there are loads of outdoor cafes and squares, but there is also a lingering sewery smell that hits you every five minutes or so. Beautiful churches and monuments dot the cityscape, and yet, if you look up in admiration for too long, there is a very good chance you will step in a fresh dog turd. "And costarring...Dog Feces!" was one of the working titles of this story that never quite got past the musing stage, but the role of abandoned stool was heavy in much of our Spanish adventure; it's everywhere. They have big teams tha t use fire hoses to spray down the streets at night and dog owners are required to pay hefty pet-registration fees to cover the expense. Not that a little scat outweighs the grandeur of the city. You need only gaze upon the fantastic Temple Expiation de la Sagrada Familia to know you are very, very far from Kansas City, or Oklahoma City, or San Bernardino, or any of the other shit-house American cities. Barcelona is an amazing place.

So this was a skate trip with the Flip team; the Fearsome Flip Team! All you regular kids out in skateboardland probably know how gnarly the Flip boys are, but what you may not know is that they seem to inspire the same fear and wonder from their peers. Other pro skaters are scared of what the Flip team is doing--not because they fear for Arto or Geoff's safety, but 'cause they're scared for their own.

"Great, now I have to kill myself," they say after seeing the latest Vans ad or whatever.

"You better not take them to my spots!" they threaten me.

Other pros try to get me to reveal the Flip team's secrets. "How does Geoff make himself do that stuff?" they demand.

I never have any answers. Who knows what makes people push themselves in such foolhardy pursuits? What I can tell you is that neither malice nor spite appears to be a motivating factor in any of their maneuvers. These kids are skilled and driven--Geoff's kind of nuts--but they're not out to get you.

But back to the feces. All Boulala, Flip superstar recluse, joined us in Barcelona with his personal biographer Mr. Hand. The feces part came from Boulala's dog, Sid, who also came along. Though a very sweet dog, a spotty discipline regimen has turned Sid into a bit of a loose cannon in the behavior department. Likewise, erratic feedings have made him snappish. Pretty much any food-like item was fair game for Sid, who spent a good portion of his time rifling through trash and sampling random gutter bits in search of sustenance. You could be relaxing with a nice sandwich and have it snatched from your hand and gulped down before you knew what was happening. At one point Sid was brought into a restaurant with us and quickly leapt onto a neighboring table and helped himself to a taste of another patron's entree. Did I mention that Sid bites? He bit an old woman walking down the street one day, and pretty much bit Boulala and the rest of us continuously throughout the trip. He also tracked some fresh droppings ( stuck to his tail, who knew?) onto my bed, pillow, hands, and neck one morning. Boulala thought this was the funniest thing he had seen in his life.

Bastien, Geoff, Appleyard, Boulala, Mr. Hand, and Fred the French Filmer were the crew. Arto came in for one day but was too hurt to go out with us. On the second day we met up with Barcelona resident Enrique Lorenzo, who joined our entourage as tour guide and resident ripper.

Longtime readers will remember Enrique's "What Would You Do?" game from my trip with the then-World Industries team to Europe in the summer of '98. It basically involves pondering your reaction to fantastic imaginary situations, usually involving bizarre incestuous couplings. Example: "What would you do if you came home and found your father in bed with your brother?" It was of non-stop entertainment to Enrique back then and when I pressed him for an updated version he quickly answered, "What would you do if you got cloned and your clone was gay? What would you do?! That would be flicked up!" Priceless. Enrique is always in a good mood and has hundreds of jokes memorized, making him a perfect road trip partner.

Barcelona is lousy with spots and the Spanish people have adopted the radical belief that public space is to be used by the public in whatever way they deem suitable. The boys skated beautiful marble blocks in front of the Museum of Modern Art, steps of hundreds-of-years-old marble aside ancient churches, public parks, banks, ledges, and gaps, without interference and for as long as they liked. In the week-and-a-half in Barcelona, we only get kicked out of a spot once. Once! Additionally, a tradition of interesting architecture results in naturally occurring banks, hips, and pyramids all over the city.

I am officially the world's worst Spanish speaker. Issues of dialect or accent don't even come into play with my Spanish skills. I can't even speak Spanish caveman. As horrible as I am (abhorrent), I'm still better than Mark Appleyard, who, being all of 18 and brimming with self-confidence, embraced the popular bark-and-point method of multilingual interaction (long ago pioneered and mastered by generations of wayward North Americans). Not that my method (the mumble-and-point) was any more effective. Not even. It just communicated my feeling of unilingual shame, which regardless of how it cleared my conscious that I was not a typical tourist, did little to get me a boat of french fries. "Patatas fritas!" Mark would happily chirp. And goddamn it, he got those fries lickety split.

Barcelona highlights include Bastien getting run over by a scooter and Boulala purchasing a chair. The former occurred in the midst of a Future Primitive-style group skate down a narrow Barcelona street. Some of the roads are so narrow and close to the entrances of buildings, you kind of think of them as sidewalks until a car speeds by four inches away from your kneecaps. We were pushing down one of these skinny paths when Bastien ollied off a curb and right into the path of a scooter with two dudes on it. The little guy managed to sidestep the front of the bike but got winged in the gut by one of the handlebar grips. The two dudes were sent flying, but everyone came through with only some scrapes and bruises. After the initial shock wore off, there was some talk of a new nickname--Bastien "Scooterwreck" Salabanzi.

Boulala stomped the stuffing out of his ankle on the first day and was gimping the rest of the trip. A bag of half-melted ice became his constant companion (along with a six-pack and a biting dog) as he tried desperately to rehab his heel. In an additional effort to reduce the swelling, Boulala kept his shoes off and his size 28/32 pants perpetually unbuttoned. He also abstained from bathing to avoid hampering the body's natural healing process. Lady Luck put her arms around Ali on the third or fourth day when we stopped at a skate spot only to discover that, by sheer coincidence, some children were selling a used dining-room chair for 500 pesetas! For the remainder of the trip, Boulala was relaxing in comfort and style, pulling out his fine chair at every stop to ice his heel and cheer on his teammates.

Everywhere I looked in Barcelona, I saw a classic photo class photo moment. As anyone who has ever taken a formal photo class will agree, photo teachers hate skateboard photos, that is unless the subject is eating shit or the shot is cropped so tightly that nothing but the rider and the sky are visible. "You should call this one 'To Air Is Human,'" they'll chuckle as they give you a C+. What photo teachers love are shots of old people peering out of ornate windows, especially foreign-looking old people and foreign-looking windows. "You can see the pain and experience of a lifetime of struggle!" they'll say as they start wheeling through their portfolio. Second to old people looking out windows is old people walking with dogs. Next comes anything dealing with babies or small children. After that you've got your people with dark skin standing in front of brightly colored walls. They go absolutely apeshit for those. Lastly, anything having to do with baseball.

Barcelona and most of Europe is pretty much crammed with this kind of stuff (except the baseball). You could barely see the clouds, as the sky is so crowded with old people staring thoughtfully out of ancient windows, paint peeling. It made me dream about all those A's I could get if I only had the time to re-enroll.

Now even though the trip seems like a voyage tantamount to that final blessed updraft to the Pearly Gates--our junket to Barcelona, no matter how perfect seeming--was not immune to the dreaded road-trip boundary, The Seven-Day Hostility Threshold. This threshold, when crossed, is especially dangerous for those traveling in close quarters, especially on skateboard trips, and can cause even the closest of brothers to turn on each other after seven days of living and breathing in one another's farts and personality quirks. It's kind of like that Bugs Bunny cartoon where they're trapped on a life raft and start seeing one another as giant, succulent chicken legs. Except when you stare at your tour mates, instead of seeing them as delicious snacks, all you can see is that part of their personality and/or behavior which annoys you the very most.

"Is it absolutely necessary for you to play pocket pool 24 hours a day?"

"Do you have to smoke that now?"

"Will you stop farting in my lifetime?"

"No, I love the way your feet smell! Leave your shoes off!"

"Great, your dog's biting me again!"

"Will you just put a CD on and leave it?"

"Yes, you did that trick perfectly. Let's talk about it some more!" "No, I love your snoring! Maybe I'll sleep better in the hall."

"WILL YOU PLEASE STOP COMPLAINING?"

Things came to a head just prior to our leaving for Lyon, France (not coincidentally on the eighth day of the trip). Lines were drawn: The smoker rappers versus the nonsmoker rockers. In all fairness, Enrique would probably be best categorized as a non-smoker rapper, but with that exception, these were the factions formed under the strain of the freshly burst Seven-Day Hostility Threshold. I'm not sure exactly what transpired, but we were packing the van in front of the hotel and I went back up to the room to grab something. When I came back, Mr. Hand was heading back up to his room with his luggage and Bastien was angrily unpacking his gear. Apparently, in the few moments I was away, a rumble had gone down between the smoker rappers and the non-smoker rockers! I'm still cloudy on the details, but apparently at one point, Fred put Bastien in a head lock.

With a somewhat smaller crew, we resumed the mission to Lyon, Fred's home town. More of the same hassle-free action as in Barcelona except now I was mumbling and pointing in rudimentary French instead of Spanish.

OK, here's the on-the-scene section of intense skate journalism-- a reward for anyone who's stuck it out this far into the article ('specially considering all those parentheses and 50-cent words). We're in Lyon and we go to this crazy gap-to-ledge down by the river. For the true skate nerds among you, it's the ledge in the Cliche video, not the multi-kinked one that Jeremy Daiclin does the crazy-grind through, but the one right next to it that he o]lies out to ride down on. So it's like, five stairs down, a few feet of fiat, and then a 10-stair hubba ledge. It's gnarly and Geoff wants to ollies out to backside 50-50 down it (the thing on the cover). You have to go really fast cause it's easily seven feet from the top of the stairs to the top of the ledge. Also, the spot where you'd want to get on is all chunked out so you have to go even farther than that. So the first try Geoff's going so fast and ollies out and lands in this weird wheelie on top of the ledge. He's flying already, and then he's in this Lazy -Boy-angled wheelie and he's going even faster. He's leaning back all crazy and gets totally blasted out at the bottom. The first-try jitters are broken, and he bounds back up the stairs. The second try he completely locks into the grind, I'm sure he's got it, then the board flips off his feet at the end and he lands on it Primo--smacking the ground so hard I figure he's knocked out or dead. It made a horrible slapping sound, like if you threw a suitcase full of ham off the roof. We run over to him and he's lying there with the wind knocked out of him and bleeding out of several big gashes on his left side. I figure it's over and maybe we'll need to take him to the hospital and then he says, 'Well, I better try it again before my muscles clench up and I can't move!" He limps up the stairs. I'm not sure if we should try and stop him or what Is this an appropriate time for an intervention? Has he had enough? Is he punch drunk? And then the next thing I know, he's flying out, there's that ultra-tense second from when he ollies until the point of contact, I'm holding my breath and God knows the ridiculous face I must be making; the stoke-out face. When looking at the photos, Geoff actually appears to be smiling. Look at him! He's grinning! The click, the pause, and then the dull screech as he lays it into a perfect 50-5 0, rocketing off the end and cruising finish-line style down the tree-lined lane.

It was so great. Geoff was so happy. Fred was even happier. Sweat and blood dripped from Geoff's smiling face while the sun sparkled off of Fred's death lens as he held it skyward--rewinding, chuckling. The river slushed by with a beautiful white noise and the birds tweedle-dee-deed. Tweedle-dee. Tweedle-dee. The fragrance of dog crap was barely noticeable.

FRED THE FRENCH FILMER

How has the death lens changed your life?

It doesn't change my life. It changed the photographer's life. Now they're bummed at me. Especially Mike. It's scary because you're very close sometimes.

Were you the first guy in Europe to have it?

That is possible, but I don't care. Everybody has it now.

Do the French get a bad rap?

I think, yes, because I see this episode of The Simpsons, and the way the French people are portrayed, that is not the real French people.

True or false: Are French people smelly?

Yeah, because they smoke cigarettes all the time.

Are they mean?

Yeah, that's true.

Do they love Jerry Lewis?

I think, yeah.

Mickey Rourke?

Yeah.

More or less foul than the Germans?

What? What? I don't speak English too good.

Are they more or less foul than the Germans?

Nah, nah. You can't beat the Germans.

What brought on your love for the manual?

Because I can't do anything else.

Do you ever dream about filming?

Yeah, that I die while I film a line. No, I dream more.

When you film with the long lens and the guy lands the trick and then you focus on the dirt or perhaps a gum wrapper, what artistic statement are you making:

a.) All we are is dust in the wind

b.) The profound beauty of the mundane

c.) Or is this more of a "chill-out" time, like after a rave, where the viewer can "come down" from the e excitement of the maneuver.

I will just answer "D." It's just an editing trick.

What nickname do you prefer?

Fucking French Fred.

A lot of photographers and video guys have weight problems and I've noticed you've lost a lot of weight in the last year. What's your secret?

Go veggie.

That's all you did?

Go veggie and go healthy.

Have you exercised more?

No. Less, because I've been filming less lines and more single tricks. Maybe in US, though. I have to jump fences. I have to run from the police.

What's the worst thing about the US?

The fake freedom. The bad food. And the girls.

That's all I have. Do you want to say anything else?

Fuck USA! Wait, that's a joke. You have to put that that's a joke.
COPYRIGHT 2001 High Speed Productions, Inc
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:skating team tours Barcelona
Author:BURNETT, MICHAEL
Publication:Thrasher
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Sep 1, 2001
Words:2899
Previous Article:LAKE SHORE DRIVE.
Next Article:TOAD.
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