Anti-hero: freestyle pickin’

FREESTYLE PICKIN' WAS A THEME on this trip. Nowhere to be at any particular time--getting home in 10 or 11 days was the only goal. If I'm not mistaken, the term was taken from the TV show American Pickers. Freestyle picking is when the two weirdos drive around some random part of the country looking for old junk to buy off crazy hoarders, and then they sell the rusty stuff to rich people with lofts in the city.

THIS TRIP STARTED FOR ME on a flight with a gang member from LA to the Make-a-Wish event in Houston. I don't want to get the kid in trouble in his hood or whatever, but if it weren't for his skateboard, Robbie Russo would have succumbed to a life of crime some time ago. Trying to measure this pint-sized, almost-looking-gangster up was a bit of a challenge at first. He seemed harmless, but you never know where the knife's hidden with these little flannel-wearing types. Was that racist of me? Not sure, but not entirely an untrue statement. We landed and waited for Frank, Andrew Allen, Julien, T-Mo, Trujillo, and John Alden to pick us up.

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My suspicions were proven right when Robbie said to me, "Hold on--I've got to call this detective back about a shooting." I should have walked away right then, because it's not good to know too much about things like this, but my honky-ness wouldn't let me. It was like a real-life episode of Law and Order playing out in front of my eyes and ears. I soon realized that the scripted detectives on TV are much smarter than the ones in real life. They were getting nowhere with Robbie's vague memory. This case was going unsolved, without a doubt. The conversation ended with the detective telling Robbie to keep on skating and to stay out of trouble. Words I hope he'll listen to. Usually cop advice is along the lines of, "Learn how to read! Don't you know that sign says no trespassin'?"

Another smoke was smoked, and then we heard the honk of the van, and there they were: The band of oddballs who I'd be spending the next 10 days or so with. They drove straight from SF to Houston in 27 hours by taking turns at the wheel and sleeping in the back. The van didn't stop unless they needed gas. We were still missing the filmer, Rick "Charno" Charnoski. Charno came later that night. He had pertinent business in LA to attend to before he could make it out to Texas. As far as 1 could tell, his delayed departure involved skating a pool and rigging up some weed delivery system that involved a girl giving him extra money and then some for getting a gram, and then sexing up a nanny. Or trying to sex up a nanny. Not sure of the details on the nanny story. It doesn't really matter; if you don't know Charno, you should, and with any luck you'll have a greater understanding of the diabetic mythical beast after reading a few things about him later in this article. If for some reason I don't get to it, the chain of events leading up to his flight's departure, previously explained, kind of sums it up.

We went to the hotel and all crammed into two large rooms for the night. John's my younger cousin by about five years, but he was having problems sharing a bed with me. Usually I sleep on the floor under the table, but I was taking advantage of the potential for a good night's sleep. I tried to explain to him that I was there when he was born, and it's not gay, just kind of gay-looking.

The next morning we went to the Make-a-Wish event at the skatepark. It's a great thing that they do for the kids, and they shouldn't stop doing it. No one who I was with really went in. I'm sure the guys drifted in and out of the event, but I wasn't paying much attention. I sat around out front drinking free beer that we found in everyone else's vans. After a long day in the sun we skated around downtown Houston, then decided to get on the road the following morning. Headed for Galveston to skate a park that T-Mo helped build a few years back, and to take a dip in the Gulf of Mexico.

I WISH WE'D BEEN in Galveston for a few days; believe it or not, it looked like it had spots. Lots of things downtown, but we had limited time to get home so we had to leave that same day. A 10-day trip to skate half the country doesn't allow much time to take your time. This was day two or three, and unfortunately Frank rolled his ankle trying to skate one of said downtown spots around dusk. Frank was in a good Frank mood before he got hurt. Good Frank is amazing, but Bad Frank is, well, Bad Frank. Rolling his ankle on the second day put a bullshit spin on what I could tell was going to be a good trip for him. He never did turn full-throttle Bad Frank, and some kind words need to be said about him for that. He kept his head together and made the best out of a shit situation. He didn't drink so he'd heal faster. No whisky helps keep Bad Frank at bay.

WITH ONE MAN DOWN, we had to get to Austin. If you're stuck in Bush Country with flannel-wearing minorities and you don't look like a cow or frat boy, the best place to be is in the capital. We pulled into Austin that night and skated another park where T-Mo did the backside air in this article. After a few hours there we went to the 5-Points ditch. Tony Tru did a few things, but Tony Mo cracked his rib trying to 180 nosegrind the bank-to-ledge. He manned up and got the trick, cracked rib and all, but it took him out for the rest of the duration. This really has no upside, but at least it gave Frank someone to hang out with. Misery does enjoy company. Don't let anyone tell you differently. Texas was taking soldiers down faster than you could ask to see the Alamo's basement, so we decided to get out of the state.

We ended up in El Paso the following morning. Still in Texas, but close enough to Mexico that it feels like you're not. We did a little freestyle picking here. Not wanting to find a tour guide who'd bring the whole town to skate with them, the guys opted to drive around on their own and find spots. In my head I wasn't sure that was such a great idea, but who am I to question the authority of free will? That sounds like God's work to me. My fears were put to rest when Trujillo quickly found a steep bank to ollie into off the freeway. Not the easiest freestyle pick. What you can't see that makes it even worse is the crap ground that he rolled on to get there.

You might be wondering why Trujillo has a yellow head by now. It was left over from his Halloween costume. He was Guy Fieri from the Food Network (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives). I didn't know what to think of him when we first met up at the airport in Houston. I know Tony a little bit, but not that well. I wouldn't think he was the type of dude who liked Sugar Ray or anything. I didn't ask him about it; just thought he made some weird mistake, and I wasn't going to say anything. It was the same feeling you get when you meet someone with big, stretched, pierced ears. You can't say shit, but you're thinking, "Wow. Ya done fucked up." It all made sense when the costume story came up. I should have put it together, since it was so close to Halloween and all. I was relieved, because I was afraid his iPod was gonna start spitting out tubular Sublime jams when I first saw him.

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We randomly drove past Mike Burnett and the Toy Machine guys at a ditch spot soon after the ollie, but we didn't want to stop for some reason. It was just too strange--you're not supposed to run into people you know on epic journeys. So in an awkward silence, we all looked straight ahead and drove right past. Sorry for that, guys. I have no clue why we did that. It was kind of weird. Mike's article is also in this issue, just a few pages away--flip more towards the front, I bet, to see it. We were trying to avoid overlapping with them bros. Didn't want to have photos of the same spots they were skating. That's a quick way to get an article thrown in the can.

Fast forward to Arizona: One of the highlights of this trip was meeting up with and abducting Randy Colvin from his family (those are his knuckles used for the intro photo). Really rad dude and cool kids. His sons look just like how he looked in Love Child--it's kind of creepy how much of a spittin' image they are. Guess that's what happens when you start making little yous. We stayed the night at his family's house, about an hour outside of Phoenix, and he had some friends show us pools the next day.

The rest of the ride home was a disturbing fiasco of drunken dudes. Up until now, everyone had pretty much held it together for the most part. At some point during the trip we'd started regulating Robbie's alcohol consumption. He's still a young man and has plenty of time to build up to ... what's that word called? Oh yeah, tolerance. But until he does, everyone around him gets to practice theirs after he's had a few.

Not much more to say. Made it home in one piece, 10 or 11 days after we started. Mission accomplished and jobs well done. Thanks for thumbing through these pages and killing some time with us.


1: Working on freestyle sit-down or chair dance moves with Frank is always an option

2: Working on janitor sponsor-me tapes for my future employment options. I'd just sweep the spot up before people skated. It was about the only help I could give. Frank would hand me the broom--Tony Miorana


If you just read "Insert Charno's words here," that means he was caught up being Charno and didn't get anything to me for his sidebar. Let's just refer back to the previously-explained chain of events that led up to him catching his flight out of LA, His life is better than all of ours, and I understand why he didn't have time to get back to me. I'd much rather be living his life right now than plucking a keyboard.

We appropriated this term for our trip. When applied to finding spots, it means lots of sharp, sudden turns in a 16-passenger van into shuttered motel parking lots and the driveways of vacant houses, looking for abandoned pools or anything else of interest. With nowhere to be and no one to show you around, you just drive along and find what you can. Hence the term freestyle pickin'. If you ask me (and I know you're not), it's the best way to do a trip. Freedumb is the only way to go.