By Dave Carnie
A few years ago I visited Peru with Tony Hawk. Tony had learned via a CNN profile that Peruvian chef, Virgilio Martinez, had grown up as a skater in Lima in the '90s. Since then, Virgilio traded in his skateboard for a cutting board and he is now an internationally renowned chef and an ambassador of Peruvian cuisine—mostly due to the success of his Lima restaurant, Central, rated the fifth best restaurant in the world on "The World's 50 Best Restaurant List" (Central is currently sixth). So Tony DM’d him.
Hawk getting a lesson in potato from chef, Virgilio Martinez, in his Central kitchen in Lima.
“Hi Virgilio,” Tony wrote via Instagram, “I saw your piece on CNN and I was stoked that you were so into skating. I am currently working on a travel/skate/food show project and wondering if you want to participate. I’d love to come eat at Central and check out the skate scene in Lima. It would be my first trip to Peru and I would be honored to include you in it. Thanks for considering, Tony.”
Virgilio, as he later told me, was surprised to receive Tony’s message out of the blue. He’s one of the most celebrated chefs in the world today, but when he received an unexpected text from Tony Hawk, arguably one of the greatest skaters of all time, he was like a little kid again and showed it to all his friends. “Check it out! Tony Hawk DM’d me!"
And, just like that, Tony had reservations at the fifth best restaurant in the world.
I was selected to be Tony’s sidekick for this travel/skate/food show project presumably because I have a background in food writing. Besides being a longtime food blogger (memmer those?), I also wrote for Dining Out Magazine, Swallow Magazine, and most recently I was Editor-In-Chief of Collectif 1806. The latter was a cocktail magazine (read: marketing asset) published by French beverage industry giant, Remy-Cointreau. All of these projects were fun, but they were JOBS, for CLIENTS, so I wasn’t able to insert the random jibber jabber and diarrhea that I’m usually fond of injecting into my text. For instance, if I wanted to add the line, “Cram it in her crap cabin,” into this story, I can. Anywhere I want. But “normal” clients aren’t usually down with that kind of language. For some reason. The client for the cocktail magazine, for instance, was such a micromanager (and French) that I was forced to adopt a pen name for the project.
This was my author portrait for Dining Out Magazine by our old friend and Thrasher staff member, Michael Sieben.
Before we get to Peru, forgive me for entertaining a cocktail magazine tangent…
To their credit, Remy Cointreau is a member of the beverage industry and so they are strictly regulated in regards to what they can and can’t say—they are required by law, for instance, to promote “drinking responsibly”—so they preferred to err on the conservative side whenever an issue arose. Much to my chagrin. And, despite having no previous publishing or writing experience, the company’s lawyer became the Editor-In-Chief and his team’s edits became increasingly bizarre as the project progressed.
Most of their edits were in relation to alcohol: we couldn’t refer to it with nefarious slang terms like, “booze,” “hooch,” etc.; we couldn’t mention partying or having fun; we couldn’t make any references to hangovers; and anything even remotely related to intoxication or drunkenness was strictly forbidden. Essentially my job was to interview bartenders about alcohol without mentioning bartending or alcohol. In one instance—which wasn’t even close to their most extreme edit, but I distinctly remember it because it was the “last straw”—the lawyer/editor asked me to delete the word “queer” from a sentence. The word was part of a quote from a source describing the notorious 19th century “Spider Woman” of San Francisco, Lola Montez:
Lola Montez was known for her Spider Dance, a version of the tarantella, a southern Italian dance. Wearing flesh-colored tights and layers of multicolored petticoats, Lola played a country maid who discovered that spiders had gotten into her clothes. Her contortions exposed her shapely legs, to the delight of the mostly male audience, but the moral outrage of other observers.
As a child, the Irish born girl was described as the “queer, wayward little Indian girl” and rapidly became known as a mischief-maker. On one occasion, she stuck flowers into the wig of an elderly man during a church service, on another, she ran through the streets naked.
The lawyers took “queer” to mean “gay,” even though the word’s original definition (“strange, odd”) was intended here, AND even though it had nothing to do with any alcohol-related regulations of any kind, they insisted that its use could be cause for litigation. It was amusing to me that they flattered themselves thinking someone was actually going to read this magazine, let alone read it and be so offended that they’d sue it. Regardless, I did as I was told and deleted “queer.”
It was at that point that I realized that “Dave Carnie” shouldn’t be the author of any of their legal mumbo-jumbo and so I adopted a pen name: David Ross (my first and middle name). We all agreed the name change sounded more “sophisticated” (if only due to the absence of a descriptor for a meth addled carnival worker) and thus more congruent with the vibe Remy-Cointreau was trying to pursue. Because the editor of a cocktail magazine for and about mixologists—dudes that require elaborate mustache maintenance and voluntarily participate in old-timey banker cosplay—should have a distinguished and sophisticated name (read: douchey) like, David Ross .
Person: So what do you do?
Me: I’m the editor-in-chief of a cocktail magazine for mixologists.
So Tony and his crew wanted to shoot a pilot in Lima for a potential food/skate/travel show and I was to be the host’s sidekick, which, I like to imagine is because of my food and beverage writing experience. And because I’m charming. And funny. And adorable. Although the reality is it’s probably because I’m fat—I make Tony look good. Plus, you can’t trust a food show that doesn’t have at least one husky host.
Our first visit to Peru was a short, but lovely, trip. For the most part, we hung out with a local named, Lucho, who acted as our guide. Lucho is an old school skater/punker who grew up in Lima skating with Virgilio in a skate gang called, Conchordia (more on that later). He now owns a skater/punker bar in Lima called, Hensley’s—yes, after Matt Hensley. It’s a cool bar. It looks like the '80s exploded in there. There were dozens of boards hanging on the deep red walls and all of the art and the posters were straight out of the '80s: Siouxsie And The Banshees, The Misfits, Dead Kennedys, Public Enemy, etc., and, of course, a lot of Tony Hawk and Bones Brigade memorabilia. There was so much Bones Brigade stuff that it almost looked like Tony had curated the interior himself.
This is not my favorite picture of Lucho, but it’s the best I have of the interior of his amazing bar, Hensley’s.
“This is one of the most hardcore skate bars that I’ve ever seen,” Tony said. “I mean, skaters hang out at Max Fish [NYC], but it’s not a skater bar like this. So why ‘Hensley’?”
“Hensley just represented that generation of punk rock and skating that I grew up in,” Lucho said. “He was emblematic of that period and the bar is a tribute to that generation of kids.”
In order to understand Tony’s next comment, you need to know that Matt Hensley once owned and operated a now defunct bar in Carlsbad called, Hensley’s Flying Elephant.
“It's ironic,” Tony said, “that you can open a successful bar called Hensley in Peru, and keep it open, whereas Hensley himself opens a bar, but now it’s closed.”
This dis on the bar’s patron saint was met with chilly titter.
“Too soon?” Tony said, noting the drop in temperature.
Look at Anthony Hawk getting all Anthony Bourdain and shopping with the locals.
Like a skate trip, we brought a crew (from the RIDE Channel) along with us to document our experience in Peru. Unlike a skate trip, though, food was a subject we were actually interested in—it wasn’t the usual inconvenience, like a bathroom stop. So during our first morning in Lima when we dashed into a bagueteria to grab some empanadas for breakfast, Tony walked over to a produce cart parked in the street to sample some of the fruit. There were the expected offerings—apples, bananas, grapes, etc.—but there were also a bunch of unfamiliar hairy orbs and other varieties of Peruvian weirdness. Tony dove right in.
I was delighted, not only because we were handling business by participating in a traditional food show trope (“Eat what the locals eat!” “Visit the local markets!”), but also because skateboarders have retarded palates and tend to avoid the unfamiliar—I’m using the word “retarded” in the classical sense of the word: “delayed or held back in terms of development.” Some of the most childish and persnickety eaters I’ve ever had the misfortune of dining with are skaters. They’re “allergic” to pretty much everything except candy and junk food. Which is ironic since in nearly every other area of our lives we throw caution to the wind and huck ourselves off of buildings without a second thought, but god forbid there’s a tomato on my hamburger, GAAAHHH!
Tony was no different. He grew up in the strip mall culture of San Diego and lived off of McDonald's and Taco Bell. At one point he even did a commercial spot for McDonald's. This was circa early 2000s when Fast Food Nation came out and I remember offering Tony some constructive criticism about his support of fast food.
“You’re a role model to young kids,” I said, “and by appearing in this commercial you’re saying that McDonald's is okay, when it is decidedly not okay.”
“I grew up on McDonald's,” Tony replied. “Me and my kids still eat at McDonald's. And when I’m in Europe, McDonald's is my favorite restaurant.”
So as Tony stood there on the street in Lima poking at some mystery flesh in the lady’s fruit cart (interesting euphemism) I was filled with pride: the boy whose favorite restaurant in all of Europe used to be McDonald’s was now shopping for Peruvian produce.
“They grow up so fast,” I thought to myself.
One could make a fat Peruvian fruit cock with the—sorry, typo, should read “fruit cocktail”—with the items Tony is holding.
“Oh weird,” Tony said opening up a fruit that looked like a lime crossed with a pear. The interior was even weirder: translucent, gelatinous pulp with black dots suspended in it. Even I was wary of putting this snotty thing in my mouth.
“Oh, it’s pretty good,” Tony said taking a bite.
“Hm, interesting,” I said trying to figure out how to describe what was in my mouth. “It tastes like cum with sunflower seeds in it,” I finally decided.
Everyone looked at me funny.
“What?” I said. “You’ve never had sunflower seeds before?”
To be continued…
1. The Three Name Rule: I really, really, really wanted my cocktail editor pen name to be “David Lee Ross” because anyone who insists on using three names is a total cocksucker (and probably a mixologist or the editor of a cocktail magazine) and, from my experience, extremely difficult to work with. I actually once had the pleasure of firing someone for the simple reason that he had three names. His name was something like, David Christian Stephenson.
“David Christian Stephenson is outta here,” I proclaimed my first day as Creative Director on this job.
The client looked at me perplexed and said, “Wait. Why? You haven’t even met him. What did David Christian Stephenson do?”
“I don’t know, but he has three names,” I said flatly, “therefore he’s going to be difficult to work with.”
The client thought about it for a second before saying, “Hm, you know what? You’re right. David Christian Stephenson has, in fact, been rather difficult to work with!”
“Yeah, so fucking-David fucking-Christian fucking-Stephenson can go fuckity fuck fuck himself.”
Every fussy gay man you’ve ever met, for instance, has three names, but they get a free pass because that’s adorable (and women get a pass also because they’re generally honoring their maiden name), but think of any straight man you know who insists on using three names—have him in your mind? He’s an arrogant, conceited, douche pickle, isn’t he?
I suspect that those who enjoy using as many names as possible do it because they imagine that the more syllables a name has, the more “sophisticated” it sounds. Cops embrace this strategy as well. Whenever they’re trying to sound official and important they begin employing the longest words they can muster for even the most mundane subjects. They are incapable of writing anything simply, like, “The man got out of his car.” No, in cop-speak that would be described as, “The individual male suspect exited the driver side of his vehicle.” It’s never car, always vehicle. David Christian Stephenson.
So that’s what I was going for with David Lee Ross: three names = more sophisticated and thus more douchey. Because, as aforementioned, the editor of a magazine for mixologists—people who often require a half hour to make a single fucking drink—would be a difficult-to-work-with douchebag with three names.
Unfortunately, the Van Halen joke embedded in David Lee Ross sort of eclipses any hope of sophistication. While it’s difficult to provide a definition for what sophisticated is, it’s very easy to say what it is NOT, and David Lee Roth is definitely NOT an example of sophistication. So I went with the simpler, more dignified, David Ross.