Monday, March 12, 2012

"It's Jim" an early exercise in Gonzo jouranlism

I originally wrote this for a friend of mine. He was coming up short for his English class homework. The teacher gave it a B.


"It's Jim."
by Johnny Mateu

The glowing red cherry oh his cigarette was the only light left in the room when he violently pulled the last tug of smoke out and dropped it into the almost empty beer bottle on the table. A nightly ritual that seemed like more of a burden than a relaxing experience. The butt sizzled out  a with a hiss as he twisted the handle on the front door, yanked it open, and stepped out into the hallway, determined. With a swagger and disposition that only tells others "I've been drinkin','"  he made his way to the old elevator at the end of the hall. He pressed the button to summon the elevator with his hand in the shape of a gun, dropping the hammer and firing an imaginary bullet into the down symbol on the glowing, white, weathered button. He counted the bells dinging as the elevator made it's way up from the first floor to his. He counted five dings. After swinging the thick heavy metal door open, he slid the rusty, squeaky, old gate open and hopped into the metal box that would transport him to ground level. 

Outside, the wind howled through the streets and into the core of his bones. It was a clear, dark,  February night and our man was walking proof that the great north eastern chunk of our country can house some very unforgiving winters. "Hello" he said, to a woman he passed as they both walked down the same center city street, in opposite directions. His salutation and her nod back at him, was like a conversation that two war veterans would have together. Both of them understanding the other's pain so well in this torturous, very real situation. He nestled as much of his face as he could into the flipped up, zipped up collar on his black leather jacket and jammed his hands as far as he could into his jacket pockets, almost ripping the liners. 

His right hand wrapped around his pack of cigarettes as his left hand thumbed the wheel on his bic lighter. He contemplated firing up another cigarette. "Would I have time to finish the whole thing by the time i got to the bodega?" He asked himself. "Would it make me colder to have one of my hands out of my pocket while I smoked?" "Am I running low on cigs? Maybe i should conserve, or just buy another pack?" He settled on smoking the shit out of another cigarette and probably buying another pack when he got to the bodega. He would have to wait and see though, it all depended on how much change he would have been getting from whatever purchase he would be making on the newest batch of beers that he would be slugging. He never really could tell what he was gonna get. He would tell himself it was gonna be a Pabst 40oz. on the way there, but he knew that could very well be a lie. He was well known for standing in front of the tall shining doors of beer and malt liquor and changing his mind three or four times before deciding. Sometimes he fancied himself a conoissuere of belgium brewed, green bottled beers and other times, felt that micro-brews were just  about the hippest thing you could wrap your lips around, besides the dick of the guy who invented the fixed speed bike.

He was startled when his cell phone vibrated his leg. He shot his hand into his pocket and rushed to pull it back out. Who knew who's name might appear in the small window, on the front of his silver razor phone?  As he read the answer to this mystery, he laughed with a hint of sarcasm. "Whatsup mother fucker?!" He said with a smile. "Oh yeah? Well it's about 8 fuckin' degrees here and I'm treckin' to the beer store like a fuckin'  voyager in antarctica!" After a long pause and a sigh of frustration, he said "Well, damn dude, eat a coconut  for me and tell the gulf of Mexico I said Hi. When are you guys coming back again?" Three beeps were all he heard in response. Puzzled, he looked at his phone. CALL LOST was all it read, with a blinking indicator of time spent on the conversation at the very bottom of the screen. He slid the phone back into his pocket and hopefully thought, "Maybe they'll call me back." As much as he pretended to be bitter, or angry at the fact that he was in subfreezing Philadelphia and all his friends were in Florida, living it up at a bay front time share, he was really glad that they had taken the time to call him and rub it in. That was pretty much the highlight of his night. The visions of beautiful blondes in red convertibles, water bluer than the sky, salty sun-drenched skin, and cold beers washing down big bites of steak and lobster made his heart swell with fascination. Like someone imagining all the things they would do if they won the lottery. He saw it all swaying and dancing in front of him instead of the cold, grey, wet, and windy urban terrain that confronted him,  all as Bob Marly and the Whalers skewered the air like the metal spike that held the whole tropical shish-kabob together. 

That wasn't his reality. He snapped back into it when he spotted a familiar bum, yelling into the night, down the street. The bum was a young man and reminded him of someone he knew once, or perhaps never met. The bum's hair was long and thick and black as the night. His shoulders were relaxed as he shouted upward into the cold night sky. His tattered, blue, unzipped, winter vest flapped in the stunningly cold wind. The temperature didn't seem to effect him. Maybe it was because of whatever he just smoked, snorted, shot, or shoved up his ass? Whatever it was, it did the trick. 

Our friend, who will remain nameless until further notice, recalled a time when he saw that same bum in a very sad, lost, hopeless state of mind and body. It was when the weather was warmer and he was on his way to the same beer store. As he was approaching the bum, that summer, the bum shouted to him "Yo, you got a dollar before i fuckin' kill myself, man!?" With his hands raised over his head as if to say "I've tried everything and I just can't do it!" Our friend replied "No. Sorry, man." The homeless, downtrodden man then replied "Your not sorry, man. You not sorry! I'm gonna kill myself right here on this street corner!" He then plunged the dirty tip of a long syringe deep into his skinny, pale arm. As he shot the large dose of heroin, our friend stared in horror. He had never been that close to that sort of thing before. "Just standing this close, to something like that was enough to infect you with raging AIDS!" he thought. "Get away from here!" He thought, in a panic. "What if this disgusting bum flips out and jabs that needle into your neck three or four times?!" As much as he panicked on the inside, he stayed cool on the outside. He starred into the syringe as it squirted it's poison into the creature standing before him. He was soothed and fascinated by the amber color of the contents. The blood and the freshly cooked dope created such a beautiful hugh. It reminded him of long nights in the arms of his true love. He would never forget that night. 

This time he knew to steer clear of this mad man. He was obviously not living anymore, just existing. Our friend just stuffed his head deeper into his jacket, which reflected the lights of the city off of it's strong leather surface, and continued on his journey. He flicked his cigarette butt into the street behind him. "If the bum decides to follow me and rob me, maybe he'll find this cigarette butt, still smoking, and decide to stop and smoke the rest, instead of pursuing me and running me down for drug money." He thought.

As the bell hanging above the bodega entrance jingled and our friend shook off the cold, he looked up and gave a friendly smile and nod to the young asian boy behind the bullet proof glass. This boy was here every time. His father owned the place, and that fact can be assumed by the way he ordered his son around, in their native language. The young boy always seemed kind of bummed to be working such long and tedious hours. Our friend felt particularly sorry for him, some nights, especially because of their likeness in age. The asian boy was probably about 18 or 19 and our friend was 20. In all the interactions that had occured in this store, at this counter, so much as a name had never been mentioned. That would change tonight. 

He stood there, dumbfounded once again, by the slew of bottles and prices scribbled on stickers that were slapped on the windows like exclamations from the small asian man who owned the bodega. He settled on a Hurricane 40oz. for two dollars and fifty cents. That would surely leave him enough change to be able to afford a new pack of Marlboro Mediums and ensure a sweet buzz tonight. He plucked the tall bottle of malt liquor from the rack and headed to the checkout as the door slapped shut. 

"Hey, how's it goin?" he popped. As if the asian boy was about to go drink this 40 with him. "Two fifty" is all the asian boy responded. Our friend's friendly smile and nodding head melted back into a disappointed demeanor. He slid him a ten dollar bill through the whole in the bottom of the glass. Suddenly he remembered..."Oh yeah, and i need a pack of Marlboro Mediums." The young asian looked up, then selected the pack of smokes from the cigarette pack feeder. The young asian then looked down the counter, to the back of the store, to see his father standing there. "Do you have I.D.?" he asked. "Yep." Our friend said, sliding his fake I.D. across the counter. As the asian boy studied the piece of plastic, our friend thought he'd take another stab at friendship with this young man. "Hey man, I'm Johnny." he said, like he did a million times before..."what's your name?" "It's Jim." The young asian quickly reported. Johnny's brow lowered and a puzzled look appeared on his face. "Hiss-chim?" Johnny asked, being sure to pronounce the name as authentically as he thought Jim had just previously done. "It's Jim." Jim said again, looking directly into the eyes of a tuned up, excited to make a new friend, Johnny. Slower this time, Johnny asked again..."Hiss-chiam?" Thinking now, that he was really on to pronouncing this culturally rich name, he stated..."Hiss-Chiam." making sure to excentuate the last A sound in "Chi-am." Finally, fed up with this young, dumb, spoiled, drunk, white american standing in front of him, Jim said "It's Jim, dude. My name is Jim."  "Oooohhh...Jim. Just Jim." Johnny realized. "Welp, nice ta' meetcha, Jim!" Johnny remarked, as he scooped up his cigarettes and beverage. "See ya' next time Jim. Have a good night." Johnny said, completely blowing off any embarrassment or awkwardness. With a wave, he turned around and tried really hard to hold in his childlike laughter. He took a deep breathe in, and prepared himself to venture back out into the cold, windy night. Back to his studio apartment, at the end of the long hall, on the sixth floor of the building at the end of the street, in the center of the city where he would find it still smelled like the swill of his last beer mixed with the toxins and cigarette smoke of the butt he dropped in there before he left. At least he had a new friend in that big. cold, lonely city, and his name was Jim.  





"Takin Care of Buisness, and the lightning bolt stands for "In a Flash."", my little brother would report, when explaining the iconic insignia of The King, Elvis Presley. Something he often boldly declares, and as sure as he stands in front of you declaring it, he also stands before you, deaf, dumb, and blind to the true meaning of actually Taking Care of Buisness. Kids these days. If they can't click a button and get instant gratification, it sucks. "Video Games made everyone a faggot." a good friend of mine once told me, and I don't think he was wrong. 
Fleets of fat kids with milkshakes between their cheeks and iPod touches in their pudgy, greasy, five thumbed paws roll around the mall on razor scooters until it's time to plop down in front of Tosh.0 or some other filter to the real world. No scraped knees or wrist rockets anymore, just callus covered thumbs and Angry Birds in Space. Kids don't even smoke weed anymore. Too long of a process. They'd rather slam a zani bar into their gut and sink into complete uselessness. 
It is hard, however, to motivate yourself to get some shit done sometimes. Especially when you have a full time job, and 4 or 5 different things you could be doing, all of which seem equally as rad. I find myself telling my friends over and over… "No, dude, I gotta go home and do some shit…alright, one more beer."  When I do finally get myself unscrewed from the bar stool, or out from the depths of FDR, it feels real good to throw on a record, rip a bong, crack a beer, and get to work on some leather. It may take a a substantial amount of self motivation to arrive in the zone, but once I'm there, boy does it feel good. Here's the latest work....

  Kind of a test run, or a "B side", for a future solo seat. There's a trunk show coming up, March 25th, at Tattooed Moms and I've been really trying to collect an inventory for it. I'm going for one completed piece a day, start to finish. Progress had been a bit of a chutes and ladders game with the last project. My eagerness to bust something rad out sent me back to the drawing board three times after getting to the final steps and realizing "Oh, that sucks." That's the game, ya gotta just keep doing it, and doing it, and doing it, and doing it until you're The King. Hammer a thousand nails and they don't call ya' a carpenter, ride one razor scooter, and you're a faggot forever.        



                                                 I've had quite the boner over this one lately...


                    We gonna do some cocaine wit da some LSD with the devil!!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Osagie's Moped

My buddy Osagie was ripping some backside power slides out front of Cantina last night as Celia and I were walking up. He was wearing some loose work boots and a smile that wrapped around his neck like a scarf. He flapped a big shaka as I greeted him, then something caught my eye. A Slapstick of the Living Dead board, all carved up, jigsaw style, and mounted as a seat on some Italian bar cruiser with a weed whacker engine. "Who's is this?!", I popped, and before Osagie could say "Mine" I was on it and asking how I start it. The pedal start hat snapped off so you had to jump start da bitch. After a short trot down Passyunk, I was buzzing through red lights with the agility of a lop sided bowling ball. So stoked. It's been a while since my bike's been in the chop shop so any two wheeled, motorised sustenance was welcomed, whole heartedly. I bought Osagie some drinks for letting me whip it, and we talked a lot about how cool it would be to chop it all up. "Oh yeah, some straight struts, some giant ape hangers…" Finally, we settled on the fact that it's a $400 moped and it's probably best to just ride the fuck out of it. Later, as we left, Celia jumped on the back of it as Osagie buzzed pedestrians on the sidewalk and Austin and Rattlesnake skated next to him. She left me walking behind. A real biker mamma. 

The man and his machine.

                                Celia lurking hard. Quick to J.O.D.M.  (Jump on Da Moped)
                              Mopeds are like fat girls, it's fun 'till you're friends catch ya doing it.
Salmon down Passyunk. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Don't want no pickle

   The boys over at Rullo Custom Cycles. Have been killing it on my Sporty! I met Mike Clarke a few years ago at Ride to Skate. That was before my Sportser and after my Honda. Within the past year, Mike has helped me a bunch with the bike. Wether it be good prices on parts, or this new chop chop project, I've been stoked on Rullo. The owner, Steve, and the technician, Karl have been cool as ice too. No macho chops necessary when dealing with these dudes. They've been more than happy to lead me through the shop and show me the inner workings of their various projects time after time, and they don't seem to get too bummed when I call them once a day on my way to work, after I've ripped a bong and all I wanna do is talk about gas tanks and fenders. Franky, one of the hired guns, just commissioned a collar for his pit bull, as well. Like I said...good guys.

   I'm a pretty hands on dude and I really enjoy getting into projects and taking on challenges, but when it came time to chop my fender in half and weld up a new rigid rear section, I knew I was out of my league. Stoked that there's a cool shop like Rullo about 15 minutes from my house, run by dudes I can trust. Karl's gonna fabricate a dished oil tank with brass keystones that I can't wait to see, and until the bikes done, I'm planning my attack of wrapping as much of the bike in leather as possible.  Looking forward to heading into the shop soon to get my hands a little dirty and help Karl mount the rear fender and struts. I wasn't sure, at first, if they would be cool with letting me do some work on my own bike because most shops aren't. I originally had planned on doing the rear fender/struts/sissy bar myself, with the help of a welder buddy, but when I asked Karl if it would be cool to work on the bike with him he said "I don't give a shit." Sold! Here's the progress thus far. Starting from about a year ago when it was a full on garbage wagon, through my infant chopping steps that helped fuel my obsession, until now. The solo seat was my first ever leather project.

The seat was an homage to my band The Trowels, and the DIY spirit of FDR skatepark. The place we called home
Independent Truck foot pegs. Same Boy Original.

Ammo army box and some DIY struts. Biltwell's recipe. 10" eye to eye.
Maid dog!
Half price

Maiden and Thunder

Dawg Collars for friends.

Dropped off Thunder's new collar today. One of my newest buddies, Eric Bolt, a talented craftsman, was kind enough to allow me to make his pooch some flare. Thunder, a massive black pit bull, is a beast. When he comes barreling across the park toward Maiden and I, it's no wonder why people sometimes cross the street at the site of him. However gnarly Thunder appears, he's a playful energetic puppy at heart and boy does he love Maiden. So much that sometimes he wields his pit bull power to fend off any other dogs that may come between he and Maid dog. It gets kinda scary sometimes. His collar is a 1.75" slab of bovine with some sturdy hardware. Most definitely necessary for wrangling such a beast. Looks right at home on his massive neck.

Eric makes pottery...I guess. I don't wanna call it something other than what it is, but, you know, he makes things out of clay, like Patrick Swazey and Demi Moore in "Ghost." His stuff is extra rad because of the process he uses to "fire" it. He sticks his clay works into straight up bonfires, and then parties until there cooked. Pretty fuckin cool if you ask me. I think he has an Etsy account. His name is Eric Bolt. 

Eagle Solo Seat

Resistance Isn't Futile!

Just finished staining the newest solo seat. I used a technique called "Resist Dyeing" to get this affect. Pretty stoked. I've been playing with the stain like a child smearing around a finger painting. Trying to get better or more antiqued finishes. Not quite where I wanna be yet, but it's the journey that counts. A good friend of mine, Dan Tag, has always stood by the notion that there's something really cool about sketchy-ness. Wether it be Duane Peters, or some "cheesy" artwork, Tag really admires when something comes out looking like it almost didn't. I've been trying to remember that while I do things. Instead of striving toward an outcome that many are trained to achieve, it's good to wander into uncertanty and blaze forth blindly and at breakneck speed until your standing on the other side with something you don't recognize from your previous expectations or plans. Holding something that really went through the ringer and is unlike anything else. No factory edges, no other thing like it. Just like each one of us. I think that's either a good mindset to live by, or a justifying excuse to suck and remain stoked. Decide for yourself.