Emerica In Paris

Emerica In Paris

Posted: December 21st, 2009

"...the best solution might be to just bare down, lean into it, and smoke and drink like he never smoked and drank before."

Words & photos by Michael Burnett

If not for the fleeting nature of Internet content, I could easily begin this article with a reference to the Andy Samberg Saturday Night Live “On a Boat” skit. You’ve probably watched it on YouTube, heard it as a ringtone, Tweeted it or whatever, though it’s doubtful many of you actually tuned in to the network broadcast. I know I didn’t. Who can sit through all that bullshit on the off chance they’ll come up with something good? It’s a funny video, though. And like Samberg and T-Pain, the Emerica team and I were also on a boat. That’s the hook. That’s enough to anchor a skateboard magazine article, right? But I know that way too much time has passed. When did that video come out? May? You know how fast Internet shit changes. Trying to reference that boat video for the sake of this article would be like bringing up those two, sad, poop-eating gals. So 2008.

Emerica In Paris
Teenager no more, Jamie Tancowny plows into adulthood with a high-speed noseblunt slide

There’s been a grumbly undercurrent lately that the Internet is ruining everything. After decimating the once proud, codpiece-stuffed music business, it seems as if this diabolical network of tubes is coming for our skate industry, with videos, magazines, and even the athletes squarely in its HTML-coded sites. Who knows? It’s no secret that DVD sales are slipping, but it’s more the atmosphere this machine creates that’s sort of troubling: The rabid demand for content—free, constantly updated content—that’s making everyone pull their hair out and run around crazy trying to figure out how to get more of those goddamn clicks.
“It’s like nobody cares what video part I put out anymore,” Heath mused sadly, as he’s prone to do. “All they care about is if you’re on The Berrics.”

While this sounds absurd, it’s rumored that Berra has the top-selling Alien board (behind Dyrdek, of course), so it would seem that kids are factoring in more than just street gnar when it comes to purchasing decisions. Not that Steve, Rob, and The Berrics aren’t all totally radical, which they are. It’s just a bit of a departure from the old “best video part = best skater = best board sales” model that so many people are invested in.

Emerica In Paris
Marquise Preston breaks international records with a frontside bigspin down La Defense double

This opens a much wider, more irritating, and ultimately unsatisfying discussion, which I’ll leave to the editors of Transworld Skate Business. Instead, I’ll suggest a path that I personally try to follow. It goes something like this: While it’s good to know what your competition is doing and to keep up with technology, it’s more important to do what you care about and work hard to make it the best it can be. That’s what I try to do (though this garbled piece of pseudo-econo-philosophy might suggest otherwise), and that’s definitely what Heath and the boys at Emerica are doing with their forthcoming Stay Gold video—games of SKATE, YouTube, and recession be damned.

Emerica In Paris
(Click image to enlarge.)

To that end, Emerica team manager Jet Ski planned a fabulous filming trip to Paris, France; 10 unfettered days of traditional street-based hammer-style carnage. On past missions to the City of Light the crew had gotten an apartment, which can be cheaper and/or more comfortable than staying in a hotel, but for this excursion Jet had something special planned. Lashed to the shore of the gurgling Seine, in the shadow of Notre Dame and beneath a grand steel bridge, we boarded our genuine, Paris-style houseboat and immediately jockeyed for rooms. Built on the hull of an old shipping barge, the Bethany, as she was christened, was at least 60-feet long with four bedrooms, three baths, a full kitchen, living room, laundry room, and top-side patio zone. It was really nice for a boat (though my seagoing experience consists only of a handful of ferry rides and a Catalina motorboat rental), and even had air conditioning and wireless Internet. Lacquered wood and Ikea furniture gave it a Scando-modern-ish feel, and after staking our claims we all gathered on the deck to breathe the fresh French air and reflect on our good fortune.

Constantly thrill seeking, Leo picks up a boardslide fakie and keeps going

“Never thought I’d be on a boat…” I started to sing, before thinking 
the better of it.
Though perfectly ship-shape, the Bethany was a boat that went nowhere, so our attention turned to our neighborhood—most noticeably that we were moored to a section of the Left Bank, the French translation for what could easily be Dry Hump Hill. Every afternoon couples of all ages and shapes would converge and cuddle up for long, drawn-out bouts of Old World public displays of affection. As a horny youth, I can remember spending hours kissing girls with the desperate hope of somehow getting farther around the bases (Barry Bonds I was not), but as an adult my making-out time has lessened drastically, especially in public parks or leaned up against 
a stranger’s house boat. Chalk it up to the City of Love, but it was common to see folks in their 50s damn near copulating on the muddy hillside. We were reminded of the line from the great Chevy Chase film, European Vacation.
“Dad, I think he’s gonna pork her,” Minor would call out at the sight of an especially amorous embrace.
“He’s not gonna pork her, Rusty,” I’d reply.
Those too young to remember this stellar piece of American cinema can look it up on YouTube. I Googled “Dad, I think he’s gonna pork her” and found it first try.

Emerica In Paris
In French, Jerry's switch 180 to 5-0 is known as le canard dangereux. Those people have a different word for everything

As the sun dipped, the banks really came alive. Parties of wine-toting locals, backpack-strapped and sunburned American tourists, and musicians of all ability levels spread out on the grassy knolls and marble steps. Four blocks down the way was overtaken by literally hundreds of Tango enthusiasts, with one ring reserved for the pros and the other for novices and their instructors. That evening, while sipping drinks and people watching, we learned the first hazard of houseboat living—namely, that when people see a houseboat, their first thought is “I bet they’ve got a toilet in there I could use.” I tried to imagine a scenario where I would knock on a Winnebago’s door and ask the elderly occupants to try out their crapper but couldn’t quite picture it. Maybe it’s Europe’s notorious lack of public johns, or just the straight-talking tradition of Parisians, but someone needing to cop a squat would hit us up about every five minutes. Girls were definitely allowed to use the facilities more often than dudes, but after one particularly brazen bathroom visitor popped back up top with a roll of our toilet paper under his arm, all requests were denied—usually by a drunken Heath or Leo barking out, “Fuck no! Beat it, hippy!”

Emerica In Paris
Jah Spank gets Half Life with a wallride nollie out in the Paris suburbs

A Bohemian-looking lady asked for a glass of water, and after receiving it responded in kind with a half-pan of brownies. Other passersby simply wanted the thrill of standing on the boat, and a few party nights found the hillside crew slowly migrating on board for sing-a-longs and boozy fun. Of course, there were problems, too. In addition to the TP swiping, the conversations inevitably veered into the “America sucks” direction that all Euros love. There were also some impromptu music critics, including one despondent young man who took great offense to Leo’s bluesy guitar jams and wanted to fight about it.
“This is not good music!” he cried.
It was the typical anger/tears/cry for help deal. Turns out his girlfriend left him and what he really needed was a sympathetic ear, and it seemed, seven bottles of wine. But first he must fight! Then apologize and cry. Drunk people are stupid.

The next great peril of houseboat living took a couple of days to reveal itself. Though calm from 11 pm to 8 am, all other times found the Seine chock-a-block with giant cruise boats, bedecked with spotlights and packed with waving, smiling, genuine-Paris-beret-wearing tourists. Every three minutes or so one would chug by, some over 150-feet long, sending heavy wakes crashing against the Bethany. We’d rock a good six inches from side to side, the waves calming just in time for the next cruiser to send us lolling all over again. On deck it was tolerable, but down below it felt like being locked in the trunk of a Cadillac. Looking at the TV or computer screens made it worse (like trying to read in the car), and all of us felt nauseous at some point during the trip. Computer time may have seriously contributed to the severity of some of the dudes’ sickness, in fact, as laptops were on for virtually every non-skating hour. Despite being in a city that people dream their whole lives of visiting, we must have watched the Zoo York video 
15 times. Minor also claimed he may have “finished YouTube.”

Emerica In Paris
(Click image to enlarge.)

The epicenter of sloshiness could definitely be felt while seated on the toilet in the tiny hallway bathroom. It was more like a cedar phone booth than a proper restroom, and during one visit, our boat got rocked so hard that the water splashed up and out of 
the bowl, soaking my shorts and forcing me to 
lift up my bare feet to avoid the spreading puddle. I then had to finish my business in that strange position before carefully spider walking out the door on some soiled bath towels.

Seasickness when your only duties are lounging poolside or making it to the Midnight Chocolate Buffet on time is one thing, but when you’re trying to set 139 millimeters of aluminum onto a two-inch-wide handrail, the last thing you need is to feel like the ground is moving. Fearing a mutiny, Jet Ski made a quick trip to the pharmacy for special seasick bracelets and Dramamine pills, the former of which worked well enough to get everyone shred-ready.

Jerry claimed the private, lower-level master suite, which had the benefit of being the quietest and coolest (and featuring a Linkin Park poster); but it was also a breeding ground for the other plague of the Bethany: giant, cobweb-spitting and potentially ball-biting spiders. You may think of Uganda or Papua New Guinea as the realm of killer arachnids, but our boat harbored thousands of these creeps, from tiny wrigglers in our pillowcases to fist-sized yo-yos that lowered over our gaping mouths as soon as the lights clicked off. Honestly, I don’t think any of us were bitten or anything, but there’s something wholly unnerving about living with packs of spiders. As I drifted off to sleep, I’d imagine one was about to sink its fangs into my outstretched hand or climb into my ear to lay eggs. I’d flip on the lights, and though my fears were never confirmed, there were always four or five more eight-legged freaks hanging from the corners of the ceiling, mocking me in their silent, spidery way.

But back to Jerry. In case you didn’t know, he’s back! That’s right, the Bag of Suck legend has finally recovered from his cavalcade of crippling injuries and is shredding at top form—just in time to put the finishing hurrahs on his Stay Gold part. I’ve known Jer since he was a boy and have always been shocked by the intensity and brutality of his slams—bone-jarring, spine-twisting events better suited to a Faces of Death video than a fun day out sidewalk surfing. I know that talk of such things is bad juju, but I only bring it up because, in addition to racking up some impressive moves in Paris, we almost had to take Jerry to the hospital after a perfect nollie 50-50 turned into a Kimbo Slice-style head crack. We stood over him as he held his dome, moaning, whimpering, and rocking slowly back and forth. In the end, Jer picked Advil and rest over a trip to the French ER. He probably should have gone to the hospital, but seeing as how he’s an old hand at pain and suffering we 
let him make the call. It’s hard to say this to a top thrill seeker, but Jerry, as glad as I am you’re back, I really wish you’d be more careful.

Emerica In Paris
When the switch heel flies, you know Jerry's feeling good. Welcome back, buddy

Heath was on the trip, which is amazing because it was only a few short years ago that the only way you could see him skate in real life was if you hid in the bushes at UCI with a sack lunch and got lucky. He’s definitely working with some legend status, which would seemingly make things easier, if not for the fact that he holds himself to such absurdly high standards. While other pros his age are content to wallie and 5-0 to switch crooks into the autumn of their careers, Heath is still totally going for it. Thus, even though he did a bunch of tricks as good as anything you’d see in any other magazine, the harder tricks he was trying but didn’t quite land prevent me from showing you anything. In other Heath fun facts, he’s traded his all-black outfits for all-white ones, which make him look sort of like a rock star and sort of like a house painter.

Speaking of going for it totally, Leo Romero continues to be a complete skateboarding maniac. His onslaught was so regular and nihilistic that I was able to blog tricks that other pros would give up their Macbook Pros for to have in their non-bloggy video parts. There’s a romance about dudes who tear it up “even when there’s no cameras around,” but for Leo it’s more than hardcore cliché. His approach has nothing to do with being a show-off or pushing boundaries. Actually I have no idea what makes Leo do what he does. All I know is that he loves to skate and doesn’t really seem to mind hurting himself. One of his most regular slams is a scorpion/ragdoll sort of thing where he basically slides forward on the inside of his shoulder and the crown of his head, with the rest of his body slightly arced in the air behind him. I’ve seen him do it a hundred times, easy. He almost makes it look fun. The spills got the best of him on this trip, however, but he still managed to get a few stunts he was mildly pleased with. Actually he thought everything he did sucked, but the rest of us were in awe.

Emerica In Paris
(Click image to enlarge.)

You wouldn’t think that Heath or Leo would be very excited about skating a demo, 
and you’d be right. That is unless there’s a crowd to ram into. An informal skate sesh at the Palais Tokyo double-set was organized by our bros at V7, and though it started off slowly (and was momentarily upstaged by a game of fixed-gear bicycle polo), once the kids pressed in around the famous four-flat-three the excitement level hit Mach Muska. More than landing the tricks, Leo’s focus seemed to be on slamming into the crowd as hard as humanly possible—no arms up, no dragging a foot, just human meteor-style impact. You may have seen it in the Web sensation Emerica in Paris, the Movie. Land a trick and then—wham-o! Fortunately for the skaters of Paris, Leo only weighs about 110 pounds so I don’t think anyone was hurt too badly, not even the overzealous videographer who followed the dudes around all afternoon, even to the dinner table, filming them six inches from their faces with a camera that resembled an electronic hot dog.

Click Image To Read "JERRY'S BACK!"
Emerica In Paris

Though sidelined by injury, Braydon Szafranski and his girlfriend were on holiday in Paris and we bumped into them several times, including at a fabulous dinner hosted by OG French skater Morgan Bouvant and his lovely wife. Confidence and excitement is contagious when you’re around Braydon, as all of his stories are anchored in awesomeness.

“We were in this restaurant,” began an average story he told us, “and when we told the owners we were from America they said, ‘That’s impossible! You have way too much style!’”
It’s hard to be in a bad mood with Braydon around. His enthusiasm is palpable. I’d imagine hanging out with David Lee Roth or Gallagher might be the same way.

Emerica In Paris
(Click image to enlarge.)

Back on the boat, the close quarters led to some funny episodes, like the night Spanky and I bumped into each other at 4 am, both trying to get Marquise to stop snoring. It’s usually me sawing logs the loudest on these trips, but positioned between Minor, Jet, and Marquise, Spanky was in a Bermuda’s Triangle of sleep apnea. When I first heard the noise, I thought maybe something was rubbing up against the outside of the boat. As I walked out to the living room to see Marquise sprawled on his back, I saw Spanky was also up. For a second we stood over him together and looked at each other, each waiting for the other guy to fix it. Finally Spanky made a move, rolling Marquise 
over slightly so that the high-pitched wheeze turned into a low grumble. Some nights on the boat were so loud it seemed like everyone was snoring simultaneously, like one giant snore symphony. All except Spanky, that is. His epiglottis is just too goddamn handsome to vibrate in such a coarse manner.

Jet got up early to hit the Louvre, but the only sightseeing the rest of us did was the accidental kind. We drove past L’Arc de Triomph several times and caught sight of the Eiffel Tower as it jutted up from behind a hubba ledge. Other than that, we might as well have been in Pittsburgh.
Though Paris is renowned for its world class cuisine, we took the coward’s way out and ate breakfast every morning at an American-style diner a short walk from the boat. It was Yankee paradise, with breakfast burritos, iced beverages, and comely American waitresses not stingy with the Wonder bread. Dreaming of giving up everything and moving to France might sound romantic in theory, but it can be a real struggle, at least according to one waitress who was friendly (or lonely) enough to accept our invitation to stop by the boat. Her story was like a sad country song—so sad that none of the single guys even had the heart to put the moves on her after hearing it.

One night some local kids jumped 
off the bridge right above our boat, smacking 
the water like a shotgun blast and attracting the police who, no big surprise, could not have cared less. Properly revved up the next night, Heath, Kevin, and Fucky decided that if those Gypsies could do it, they’d take the plunge from the top of the pillar—which they did as a team—splashing into the filthy flow mere feet from the back of 
the Bethany.
“I hit the fuckin’ bottom!” Heath hollered while climbing aboard. Even the little boys made contact. Definitely not the wisest thing to do.

Emerica In Paris
Spanky loses his sea legs long enough for a Dramamine-fueled frontside flip

Jamie Tancowny (TAN-SO-KNEE), or Lil’ Fucky as his bros call him, was in Paris for his 20th birthday. Anticipation was so high (especially for him) that by the time the actual day rolled around the poor little fella had practically partied himself out. The Internet may have killed On Video, 
but for the young people it has practically revolutionized their ability to hook up and get weird with one another. Knowing he’d be on the same continent, Fucky Facebooked up some Dutch broad he’d met fleetingly somewhere in California once, though a six-hour train ride made it sound like a long shot. Well, call it a birthday miracle—but low and behold on our next-to-last day she rolled up to the boat on a Paris rental bike, all smiles and conviviality. I’ve heard of an old rule that forbids bringing women to sea and, after this trip, I think it should possibly be extended to houseboats, too. Every dude who’s ever been on a skate trip knows that after five days with only the company of dudes, Beaver Fever inevitably sets in. This affliction, which causes you to ogle and mentally grope every woman between the age of 16 and 65, can hit anyone; no matter how otherwise happy they are with their wives or girlfriends. While most can control the symptoms with regular phone calls home and cold showers, it can make others irritable, withdrawn, and prone to purchasing horrible, horrible magazines. So considering the previous 10 days had been spent sitting shoulder to shoulder in a dude torpedo with nothing more erotic than the Zoo York video to soothe us, that girl should have run the other way as fast as her wooden shoes could carry her. Not that anything bad happened. Don’t worry. These are still all nice boys. It’s just that things didn’t work out quite the way anyone might have preferred, and, like many men before him, Fucky figured the best solution might be to just bare down, lean into it, and smoke and drink like he never smoked and drank before.
Getting up for the airport the next morning was rough, even for the non-hung-over. Glass and barf coated the deck and the rental bicycle was locked to the main mast, the key nowhere to be found*. Likewise was the Dutch girl.
“I guess she’s gone,” said Jamie, wistfully.
“Don’t worry, Fucky,” I commiserated, “you can always find another one on Facebook. Or maybe even MySpace. I’ve heard MySpace girls are way sluttier. Either way.”
“You’re probably right,” he told me. “But in the meantime, let’s watch that Zoo York video again. Brandon’s part is really good.”
“Yeah it is,” I said. “I can’t wait for his 
Stay Gold part.”
“Me neither,” said Fucky. “Me neither.”
Then we strapped on our seasickness bracelets, climbed back down to the living room, and put on that beautiful DVD one more time.
*Upon further investigation, it seems Leo threw the key into the river.

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