East Coast Rail Fest

Scaling the snow-covered stairs, I began to hear the ruckus. It didn’t sound right. The tone in their voices was different than normal; they sounded like a group of scared children who’d lost their moms. I rounded the corner with my tripod and felt a strange tension in the cold night air. Just then, I heard a voice I didn’t recognize. It was low, and it sounded mad. I slowed cautiously, nervous, not knowing what to expect. Growing up in Washington D.C., I’d learned to be careful and watch my back.

I peered around the last turn in the stairwell and could make out J2 talking fast and jumpy: “Dude, chill. It’s cool. Whatever, man. F¿k, chill. Okay, okay, whatever.” He was pleading, desperate. Pointing at Two’s head was a black pistol that looked like a Glock nine millimeter. Attached to the gun was a large, anxious man. He was demanding J2’s puffy leather coat and had what looked like Two’s wallet in his other hand.

Standing about eight feet away was Mikey Leblanc, shocked frozen in his snowboard gear, grasping an avalanche shovel. When I came completely around the bend, the man yelled at me, and the gun swung in my direction. All of a sudden, time seemed to slow, and his voice became a stretched blur. I drifted off thinking, “How the hell did we get into this mess?”* * * It all started innocently enough. I was lounging around in my tiny Utah apartment in December, waiting for it to snow or for some sort of natural disaster to occur so I could be entertained. Then a buddy of mine from Washington D.C. called. He informed me D.C. was getting clobbered by Old Man Winter and they’d already received eight inches in the city. My prayers were answered: eight inches in D.C. was practically a natural disaster and also an opportunity for a major East Coast jib fest. I’d always wanted to do an East Coast city snowboard mission because of all the cool skate spots in Washington D.C. I wanted to take snowboarding back to where I wish it belonged¿to the dirty, crime-infested streets of the East Coast.

I instantly got on the ringer and rounded up four of the gnarliest rail masters around. The crew consisted of Jason “J2” Rasmus, OG rail MC from the NYC, who is one of the most entertaining companions to have on a trip. Also coming along was Mikey Leblanc, who hails from Maine and knows the East Coast up and down. He eats handrails for breakfast, or at least a late brunch. Next up I had some fresh meat on board: Nate Bozung and Jordan Mendenhall. Nate and Jordan are two of the most innovative rail technicians around. They’re also best friends, which is good because I knew they would need to console each other after they got a reality check on how the rest of the world lives outside of sterile, sin-free Utah. Lastly, Pennsylvania kid Jon Kramer somehow got tossed in for good measure. Jon is cool as hell but had never ridden a handrail except for a few snowboard park rails: I told him to bring antiseptic and Band-Aids. No time wasted, we were off on our East Coast jib fest.

The trip started off fairly smoothly. We rented two cars and hit up D.C. first, then drove north and attacked Philly, Jersey, then pillaged Albany, New York. After Albany, Nate panicked out when his wannabe girlfriend wouldn’t pinky promise that she wasn’t mad at him, and Jordan and Kramer had to go up to Vermont for a hip-hop halfpipe extravaganza. So, it was just Mikey, Twos, and I. We went to NYC, where we hung out with J2’s dad and went out on the town with J2’s New York bros and Leblanc’s brother. We then headed back to D.C. The night before we were set to return to Utah, we were driving around, about to go out on the town, when J2 saw this crazy-ass rail he had to do. The rail was in Anacostia, which can be referred to as a bad part of our nation’s capital. I was a bit apprehensive, but the rail was fairly lit up and everything else had gone pretty smoothly. The only real problems we had on the trip were a few run-ins with the law and scuffles withh bitter rent-a-cops. We decided it would be an easy shoot¿a few photos and we’d be off to the bar.

We grabbed our boards and shovels and worked on the rail for about twenty minutes. Soon it was about time to shoot. I told Twos I needed to get another tripod, but I’d be right back. Walking back from the car I almost ate crap a bunch of times trying to navigate the icy road. * * * The pain in my feet began to wake me: I remembered how freezing cold it was, and realized I should’ve dressed warmer. I became aware that my toes were numb, then I heard the voice again: “Look muthaf¿ka, back up and drop dat shit.” The voice became clearer as I drifted out of my fog. The man was yelling at me, pointing a gun at me: “I said, back up and drop dat shit. What da hell’s goin’ on? What’s dat shit in yo hand?”

I slowly began to put the tripod down, “It’s just a-a-a tri.”

“I don’t give a damn. Is dat shit worth something? Ah, f¿k it. Give me yo wallet, and yours, too!” he said as he waved the gun in Leblanc’s direction.

Reality set in. Shit, we were getting robbed. Ain’t this a bitch. I thought to myself, “I hope I can get reimbursed for this shit.” I was wondering if I could get this guy to write out a receipt for my stolen cash. If I did, I know J2 and Mikey would follow suit and that would certainly piss him off. One receipt maybe, but three¿no way, it wasn’t happening.

I looked over at Twos, who was eyeballing the thug as the gunman motioned over to Mikey to give him his cash. Mikey was fumbling with his double-Velcro zipper pockets. The guy was getting pissed off and impatient. “Hurry da hell up, shorty. Ain’t no time for a game of pocket pool. Give me the f¿king cash, beaatch.” We were stuck at gunpoint on a landing about twenty feet in diameter with stairs on either side of us. I looked around for a possible escape route, doing my best not to pee my pants. Just then J2 farted¿J2’s known to be the second largest producer of methane gas next to Phillips Petroleum.

“Damn, muthaf¿ka! What da f¿k is dat? Who did dat shit?” the robber screamed as he gagged. He looked like he was about to vomit as he waved the gun back and forth between the three of us. J2’s look of fear turned into a smirk. For a second I thought he was going to laugh. Just then a car alarm went off and the crook’s neck whipped around toward the sound. He lost his footing on the icy cement and began to back pedal like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. J2 was standing about four feet away and lunged toward the off-balance crook and gave him a good shove¿the punk was going down. J2 and Mikey took off down the stairs, I grabbed my camera bag, and fear sent me hurdling down the stairs after Leblanc and Twos.

We must’ve made it down at least two flights of stairs before the crook knew what happened to him. I’ve never seen anyone move as fast as Leblanc: he was gapping set after set of the snowy stairs with ease, taking ’em like a skate pro. Reese Forbes would’ve been jealous of his pop. Adrenaline kept us running ’til we made it to the car. There was no sign of the mugger.

We scrambled into the car and jetted¿leaving our boards and tripods for the natives, and never looking back. We made it back to the hotel and tried to calm down, but couldn’t sit still; we paced back and forth in our hotel room for almost an hour. Finally, we came down from the adrenaline high. It was a perfect topping to our East Coast mission¿I couldn’t have asked for more.