Thursday, October 15, 2009

Buh-Bye-eeee Skateboard Journalism

The skateboard world is kind of quiet at the moment, and it made me realize that I miss Jereme Rogers. Which made me think of this article I wrote for the second issue of King Shit Magazine. Because King Shit is a Canadian magazine, I imagine a lot of people might not have seen this? (Click on the image above for a better look at Tania's amazing tattoo and photo skills.) And for those reading this outside of skateboarding and unfamiliar with Jereme Rogers and his retirement, go here.

When I was a kid, I played hockey. I was on the California All Star Team. I was totally awesome. I learned French in about a week because I felt it would help me communicate better with the French Canadian teammates I would surely be sharing the ice with when I made it to the NHL. I’m still fluent in French, but I retired from hockey when I was in my early teens to pursue a career in ballet. I was even better at ballet than I was at hockey. I was probably the best ballet boy in the world at the time. I could spin and dance and do flips and jump really high in the air. I was a marvel to behold. I won every ballet contest I entered. But at the peak of my career I discovered the art of writing about skateboarding, and I retired from ballet. My ballet coach thought I was crazy. I pray for him.

But look what happened: I became the best skateboard writer in the world, ever. Everyone knew from the first word I wrote in a skateboard magazine that I was the God of skateboard journalism. I was awarded a plaque by the Academy of Skateboard Journalists for the first sentence I wrote. I’d print that golden sentence again, here, but it’s been reprinted so many times, and I’m sure you know it by heart—oh what the heck, everyone loves it so much, why not, right?

“I am so awesome.”

I stand back and just stare at it for hours sometimes. It’s so eloquent. And so true. That’s the beauty of my skateboard writing. I tell it how it is and I do it with style and grace. From the moment I penned that remarkable sentence, I continued to amaze the skateboard community around the world with every word I wrote. I’ve written about skateboarding in so many places around the world, I don’t even remember where I’ve been. All I remember is that people were flying me all over the place just to read the words that I wrote about skateboarding. Every article I wrote was better than the last. “This is the best article that Carnie has ever written,” people would say. But then I’d write another article, and people would be forced to say, “Well, I thought that last article Carnie wrote was his best work, but this is certainly the best article about skateboarding ever written, yes sir.” And so on. I was, to quote myself, “so awesome.”

Then a year and a half ago, cooking hit me like a ton of bricks. I was penning, once again, the most amazing skateboard article ever written when I was suddenly overcome with hunger. So I made myself lunch. And OH MY GOD, the food I made that afternoon was the most amazing meal I had ever eaten. Manna from Heaven! That night I decided to try my hand at dinner and, guess what? it was the best dinner I had ever eaten. It was so good I didn’t poop for three days. I wanted to hold onto it. I finally pooped into a plastic bag and I had the turd bronzed. I had to move some trophies around in my enormous trophy room to make space for the bronze turd, but now it sits front and center. It’s a constant reminder of what a remarkable chef I am.

All the while, I continued to churn out my award winning skateboard journalism, but secretly food had taken over my heart and mind. And stomach! (HAHA! I still got it. Damn I’m good at everything.)

At first, I just cooked for myself and a few friends. Mostly just snacks. I knew that the skateboard industry wouldn’t be happy losing the only person who could write about it, so I kept cooking on the DL. But I had discovered a new passion and I’ve never been one to deny my heart. I know the skateboard journalism industry is going to be very sad to see me leave, but I can’t do both. Who on earth could possibly find the time to write about skateboarding, AND cook food? That’s like standing in the middle of a road with cars going in both directions. And that’s dangerous. If the cars don’t hit you, a herd of sheep might run you over. And if the sheep run you over, they’ll poop on your face. I do not like sheep poop on my face. If a sheep pooped on my face, I would catch that sheep and I would make the best rack of lamb you’ve ever tasted. You will pray to God for the recipe. Which is where I got it. If God gives it to you, I suggest you tattoo the recipe onto your neck so that you never forget it. God likes a good dead lamb. And my dead lamb is so succulent, you might just want to go up on a rooftop in your underwear and yell about it. Seriously, it’s really good.

I trust that God will guide me and protect me on my new adventure. It’s a weird adventure because it’s just like the time I quit hockey to play ballet. And then right after that, I quit ballet to become a skateboard journalist. It’s trippy to me because it’s, like, totally the same thing, but it’s different, you know what I mean? I just want to make sure everyone has got it straight. Because even I get confused by all the dreams and journeys and careers and retirement parties that are going on in my life all the time. It’s hard to keep track! (The amount of pot God makes me smoke doesn’t help either.) So I just wanted to make sure that we’re all on the same page here, and that’s why I’m shooting out this memo to let everybody know that I’m retiring from yet another successful career, skateboard journalism, to become the world’s best chef.

Skateboard journalism: no.

World’s best chef: BAM!

These are the last words I will ever write in a skateboard magazine. I hope you cherish them forever. Because I totally loved skateboard journalism for, like, the couple of years I did it, so I’m asking you to totally love me back. I will pray for you even if you don’t pray for me, but it would really help me out a lot if you prayed for me. And, frankly, you’d be a total dick for not praying for me after I just got done praying for you. I’ll always remember you skateboard journalism. Goodbye.

God bless skateboarding, and God bless Jereme Rogers.

PS. I don't usually add any kind of reality to my writing, or bother explaining anything, but there was a lot of hate directed at Jereme when he retired—most of which was completely retarded—and I don't want my silly little satire on the situation to be construed as mean-spirited or similarly hateful. I sincerely wish the best for Jereme, and I hope he succeeds at rapping. And who knows, maybe I really will retire from writing to cook? MAYBE I'll become Jereme's road chef when he tours? HA!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

BEIJING: Noodle Alley

The noodle rainbow.

Food TV has been a successful fad for a number of years now, yet it still feels very much in its infancy based on the amount of overlap and redundancies across the spectrum of shows. They all seem to be going to the same places and saying the same shit over and over again. The audience is still a big unknown, apparently, because it’s obvious they’re not sure what skill level the viewers are yet. There’s an inordinate amount of time wasted, for instance, on some of the simplest kitchen tasks and most obvious food related information. I have yet to make the list that I’ve been wanting to for all of these “islands of knowledge,” but an example that would be near the top of the list would be The Avocado. Any time anyone on any show is making a recipe that calls for an avocado, they all have to pause and talk to me like I’m a child and reveal the secret to disassembling the fruit. “OH! So THAT’S how you get that pesky pit out?”

Food TV gold: a peasant sleeping in a rickshaw in an alley strewn with trash!

Another one of my favorite recurring themes in food television is the, “eat where the locals eat/street food is the best” mantra which is always delivered in this nauseatingly condescending tone that has a peculiar way of destroying the intended message. “Look at how cool I am slummin’ it with the locals!”

He'll make a delightful meal someday, but when we were there he was the cutest resident of Noodle Alley. (Oh, Gary wanted to say something, "asssssqXXXXXXXXXXXXXXD." Not sure what that is, "Ass Quixote?" He's a strange cat.)

Despite the influence of nearly every TV food celebrity’s insistence on seeking out “bizarre foods,” Tania and I have always kind of been like that anyway. We don’t like the tourist shit, and we tend to avoid anything “popular.” When we were in Beijing, for instance, we avoided any kind of tour or group activity, preferring to explore on our own. I think the only time we participated in a tour was to get to the Forbidden City. We had planned on visiting it on our own, but when we found out we could get a free ride there plus admission, we decided to plug our noses and board the tour bus. As soon as we were in, ZOOM! We ditched the group. I hate groups. I don’t even like going out to eat with more than four or five people. Aside from the Forbidden City visit, we had no itinerary in China and our only agenda was to get lost. In so doing, we found this fucked up market and street food alley less than a mile from our hotel. It was food TV heaven.

We probably should have chosen this noodle guy because he's clean, and handsome, and, most importantly, not drunk.

The market is an entire post in itself, but across the street from it was this weird food alley. And then off the food alley was another smaller alley which we named, “Noodle Alley.” And I don’t doubt that’s what the Chinese call it as well. One side is a cinder block wall lined with tables and other junk. The other side is a row of stalls and small shop fronts that all seemed to be selling the same thing: noodles. Each one had a cook in front throwing dough and making noodles, all with great fanfare. The cook would take a ball of dough, throw it around in the air, beat it on the bench, yell at us through the rainbows of flour, and next thing you’d know, he’d have a beautiful pile of silky noodles on the table in front of them.

Instead, we chose this guy, Ole Wi Can Chugalot.

We finally settled on the shop that seemed to have the craziest noodle technician out front. We couldn’t understand a word he was saying, but he just seemed funnier than any of the others. Turns out he was drunk. After we sat down to eat, we noticed that he was sucking on a 40 ouncer of Chinese beer that he had hidden beneath his noodle bench. I liked him even more. We nodded, Yes, we would like some noodles. They ushered us into dingy little room where we took a seat at a tiny table with mismatching chairs. We pointed at a beer on another table and raised two fingers, “Two?”

Here's the youngest Chugalot. He gave us cigarettes when we were done eating.

After he made the dough make shapes in the air, he’d toss together a pile of noodles and hand them off to, presumably, another family member, who would then throw the noodles into what was essentially a garbage can with boiling liquid in it. After just a couple minutes, noodles and broth were tossed into a bowl, garnished with pork flakes (I think?) and cilantro, and served with a beer and chili sauce.

Tania slurping on a bowl of awesome.

If I was a douchey food writer, I’d get all romantic about how exquisite a simple bowl of noodles served in a back alley in the middle of Beijing was, but I won’t. Nor will I reserve an effluent description of the dish for any upcoming interviews I may be doing where I might possibly be asked something like, “What was the best meal you ever had while traveling?” “Well, there was this one time when I was traveling through China…” Suffice it to say that it was a really good bowl of noodles. And while I’ve grown mind numbingly tired of hearing the traveling TV food personalities praising peasant food, I have to admit that sometimes they’re sort of right. Especially if a noodle show is involved.

Frankly, you don't have much choice in China but to eat what the locals eat because even the American fast food imports are completely unrecognizable. Not sure what this offering from KFC is, but I'm pretty sure the stateside franchise doesn't offer a Poop Taco Falafel?