The Axis Of Evil
Normal people don’t go to Syria and skate. But then again, normal people aren’t tracking down fat-assed Druze businessmen who have stolen money from Somali warlords. I traveled to the The Axis Of Evil for a number of reasons.
This all started about three years ago. I had met Jay early in college and we had crafted a sweet plan that included, among other things, doing contract work for the government. Our skills honed (me: linguistics, Jay: Islam, history ballistics), we were ready to rule the intelligence world, especially after 9/11 when Mohammaden know-how was getting eaten up with a spoon. Jay was in the CIA but got kicked out for having 26 addresses in the US, forging a visa to Pakistan, and partaking with me in “untraceable travel”. More importantly his security clearance was pulled for maintaining terrorist connections, going to a handful of no-no countries, and having a shitty attitude.
We were out of luck, poor as dirt and had no marketable skills (outside international naughtiness and peeking into your sister’s room with night vision binoculars) so we grabbed longtime associate Nasan Train, a tough-as-nails, boring-as-hell diplomat sort, and started a company called Blakkbox.
Blakkbox exists by contracting all sorts of services in places neither you nor your mother would ever want to go. We buy Baluchi carpets in deep Pakistan for rich LA bastards, work on border security issues in Dubai, and chill full time in Yemen.
The Syrian trip started in Somalia. We were guests of a “telecommunications tycoon” who had had a bunch of money stolen when he prepaid for a cargo box full of cigarettes. For various reasons, political and pirate, this guy got robbed. Since Somalia doesn’t even have a government, you can understand that they’re a few civil institutions short of a better business bureau. Thus, Somali’s exist in business by scaring the fuck out of people. Our friend was unable to leave the country, so we told him we’d do the favor and find his man and get his money back. Nasan was on it and in a few months tracked him to Syria. We were off.
Mixing business with pleasure is always a number one concern. Since Nasan had relocated to Beirut we were going to have a great time searching out all the perfect untouched skate spots of Lebanon in between the madness. For lack of space I’ll skip the skateboarding and fights in Lebanon and get straight on to Damasc.
Dropping down the Antilebanon mountains is pure pleasure, especially in a huge yellow Gran Torino. We had just done some snowboarding and were looking forward to a delicious Syrian chicken feast. The Gran Torino was a necessity because it was the only car big enough to fit all of us (we had added one more, Dutch, a gambling, melancholic fool with an itchy trigger finger) bullet-proof vests, skateboards, snowboards and guns.
Anyhow, all was good, the mood was light and the only negative energy was coming from Nasan who can be a real jerk about poor Syrians. We had been held up at the border and had to pay a small fortune in Jack Daniels and Marlbros in order to get the car across the border sans trunk check. Nasan was pissed because they were his cigarettes and now a gaggle of mustachioed Syrians were going to enjoy them (he doesn’t like Syrian mustaches or Syrian smiles).
We arrived in Damascus at sundown. Our driver dropped us off at the old Damascene house that would be home base for the next few days. We partied late into the night Syrian style (by Syrian style I mean lots of coffee, shisha and chicken).
The next morning we got up and ready to pay a visit to Mr. Druze. On our way to the old city we passed an old abandoned warehouse that had these fun waist high banks. We had extra time and steam that needed to be blown off so we sessioned them for a while. Skating in Syria just feels crazy. Especially when you’re wearing a bullet-proof vest.
Back to fucking business.
The old city of Damascus is a beautiful winding maze of smells and sights. Being the oldest continually inhabited city in the world gives it extra cred on the oriental splendor scale.
We found the house, knocked on the door, and were “invited” inside. Three hours, twenty-five cups of tea and one gun shot later we emerged with promises of payment and apologies to relay to Somalia. Mission accomplished.
Finishing off business so quickly left us a whole Syrian day left to spend. We skated some more in an old park that had some dirt gaps and perfect marble ledges then went to the public phones in the center of town to call a “friend” that Nasan and Jay had gotten in a fistfight over. While we were trying to make the call a Syrian soldier demanded that he be allowed to cut in front of us, for “important business.” We had already waited in line for over a half hour but we told him it was ok. He pushed past us and started blabbing about his family and all sorts of stupid stuff. Jay, Nasan and I speak Arabic so we knew all this. Pretty soon it got tiresome and one thing led to another. Arabic insults preceded Jay’s fist and before we knew it we were sitting in a police sub-station. Our day off was suddenly gone.
We got a long, long, long lecture about our lousy behavior in a country not our own. The lecture should have been directed at Jay. You’d think everyone would know about his shit attitude, but I guess not. We were given a slap on the wrist and told to chill out.