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Go West Young Man
by Neil Brown
Back in January of 93 I received a call from a friend of mine, Ted, who lived two hours south of me in Birmingham Alabama. Ted and I had been friends for a couple years, taking roadtrips, and crossing paths at demos and contests. Ted was moving to California, heartland of skateboarding, and needed a navigator for the three-day hellride. So of course I said yes, dropped out of winter term, got a refund and was out the door. When I arrived in Birmingham, Ted enlisted me to help finish his last batch of shirts for his fledgling company (REN),which he was staking his future on. The plan was to make it to the ASR trade show in San Diego, which started in four days. Ted had been scrambling to finish his catalog and tie up other loose ends working 16-hour days at his screenprinting job for the last week. We rolled out of town a little behind schedule but at least we were on our way. Somewhere in Texas, Ted?s truck decided it did not like shifting gears anymore, and the adventure began. We finally figured out that if we stopped the truck after every downshift and floored it we could cruise at about 50 mph ...maybe. At that rate we were not exactly making record time, so we pulled over at a rest stop to sleep. Ted took the penthouse suite under the campershell while I opted for the luxurious vinyl bench seat. There is nothing quite like waking to the sounds of weedwhackers, it was kind of like Apocalypse Now except freezing outside. Time for Dairy Queen, in case you have not traveled through Texas, I think they own it. We resumed the break neck pace of the stopping and flooring it routine until Ted could not take it anymore. We exited at Sweetwater and looked for help. We found an auto parts store, and being the mechanical geniuses we are we bought a bottle marked "automatic transmission service" Somehow we knew this magical elixir would heal the truck. Wrong. The next stop was Odessa, just down the interstate. A nameless mechanic listen to us babble about the truck. He took a screw driver turned a knob and said, "that should do it." Doubtful, we asked him how much we owed him and his reply was a handshake. It was fixed, we were stoked, and on our way. By Friday evening we had made to a little town in New Mexico named Deming, I'll never forget it. We pulled in for a dinner break and that would be the last time I would ever see that truck. No not stolen, but down for the count, the timing chain had jumped or something like that, the truck was spent. Ted and I road in style, chauffeured to The Grand Hotel of Deming in the cab of a wrecker, $29.95 not bad for the nicest room in town, we were living large. It was now Saturday morning as Ted and I sat in the waiting room of the mechanic, like the parents of a critically injured son. "He is going to make it" the doctor announced, we can have you guys on the road by 5pm Monday! The ASR show would be long over by then, and Ted's hopes of smuggling his catalog in would be too. We walked back to the hotel and started making the calls, planes, trains and automobiles, I could only wish John Candy would save us now. We both knew what we had to face the bus. We packed down into two bags and headed for the station. It was seventeen hours of B.O., exhaust, port-o-potty, McDonalds, smoke and bad company, some of these people had been on the bus for three days. We were on some Florida - California express at least that is what they called it. Ted and I were soon sucked into the seething underworld of bus travel, like two fresh inmates tossed into the pen. I do not think I have been offered more contraband than on that bus. I was dry heavy half the time, and I was one of the sober ones. One woman in particular felt it was her duty to serenade the bus with the theme from COPS at the top of her lungs. I can still hear her slightly Spanish accent slurring through a Jamaican ...bad boys bad boys what you gonna do... Somewhere in the middle of nowhere our driver (praise him) convinced the woman it was her stop, and we just left her. It was some strange hostage-bonding thing as we pulled away and the entire bus simultaneously erupted in applause. Touching isn't it. Needless to say, I had to spend almost all my cash to have this experience. 7am and we arriving at the San Diego downtown station. Luckily we are only a couple blocks from the convention center so we stow our gear in a locker and walk down. After three hours of waiting Ted and I are denied entry due to lack of "proper industry credentials", personally I think it was our smell. Ted just turns to me terminator style and says, "I'll be back." A couple hours later Ted returns, and hands me a business card. It reads, "Neil Brown Vice President of Sales". Kinkos saves the day. In the flash of a card I am transformed into a "right this way Mr. Brown" and we are in! We get in and split up - commence schmoozing. While Ted is slipping catalogs and shirts the right way I plant myself in front of the bikini show. I left California a week later due to personality conflicts with the state, Ted stayed to pursue his dream. It did not take long for Ted's dreams to turn into nightmares as he struggled with REN, freelancing and just making ends meet. Paying a couple hundred bucks a month to sleep in a garage, things were not looking good. Ted soon started climbing the ladder of success as he moved into a utility closet under some stairs. When the nights were chilly and Ted felt alone the rodents would always be there for him. Ted stuck to his guns and was determined to make it. Through a combination of being the right person, and knowing the right people Ted got the break he needed to show his talent. Now you know him as the Art Director, Video Creator and all round goodguy at TWS. I wrote this story for two reasons: 1. So you would know a little history, 2. So you could see a little of the future. Ted is about to embark on another cross country journey to NYC. Only this time things are a little different, you see , he is going for You. Ted does not have to leave his new found home and friends, but he chose to. Ted will be establishing TWS NYC to broaden the horizons of skateboarders everywhere. With that I want to wish him the best of luck and I hope you will too.