Scenes From the Uber-Mall

Bribe-a-rama! And boys, boys, boys. Damn, we love this job!

We had never hit the Action Sports Retailer convention before. Too self-congratulatory, we figured. Too goddamn hip. Too many strippers and bikini models making us feel like small tins of congealed Spam with adult acne. And we didn't have a thing to wear.

But we bravely shouldered our psychic burdens and dropped into the Long Beach Convention Center, whose eerie, labyrinthine aisles were positively clogged this weekend with hotties of the coveted 16-to-24 demographic. Think of the walkways in the convention center as the arteries of a really fat person, and then imagine that the fat flowing through and sticking to the sides of those arteries is 6 feet tall and a kind of creamy golden hue instead of the icky whitey-yellowy-bloody-lard color of arterial fat. And then imagine that with every step you take through the arteries of that really fat person, a particle of the fat is flashing you a Colgate smile and asking you, in a not terribly ironic echo of the newest Friends catchphrase, "How you doin'?" It kind of makes you feel better about fettuccine Alfredo, doesn't it?

We started Feb. 5 with our buddy and pal Kedric Francis of the local business-lifestyle magazine OC Metro, because Kedric knows where to get all the best bribes. That led us to the booth of Irvine-based Rusty, named for the legendary and jovial board shaper whose PR guy, Bill Halford, is one of the kindest and sweetest PR guys on the planet, which is really important in a PR guy because if you've ever had to deal with a rude publicist—one who thinks he's so cool and is snippy with you, and which paper do you work for exactly?, when you're doing him a favor, and it's his goddamn job anyway, and why exactly is he taking that tone with you?—you know they're about the worst people in the world, aside from Diane Sawyer. And Bill gave us lots of stuff. And we're all going to go have sushi at Costa Mesa's truly fabulous Sushi Wave. And Bill wasn't averse to trying to pimp out some of the hotty pro surfers in Rusty's stable, though we didn't bite because in addition to not going out with rock stars, cops, firemen or promoters, we also don't go out with surfers. Bad priorities, those surfer boys: 1) surfing; 2) watching videos of people surfing; 3) Nintendo games that feature surfing, or skateboarding, if surfing's not available; 4) us, maybe.

Aside from Bill, the booth also had a Ping-Pong table, Foosball and sweet Becky giving good hard massages, which turned out to be very important on Sunday because we seriously damaged ourself Saturday night whipping our hair around like a Skid Row groupie to the Space Age bachelor-pad tunes of Tex Twil and the perky pop-punk of Lo Fi Champion at their non-ASR-related show at Sunset Beach's King Neptune's, and it turns out that we're far too old for that kind of behavior, seeing as how we'll be celebrating yet another birthday on Feb. 25, and our neck still kind of hurts all these days later. Oh, and our corns, too. The hair-whipping? It looked really cool, and that's what matters.

So we decided to headquarter at Rusty (they also had an open bar, starting at 4 p.m.—the earliest the convention center would allow, and for good reason, since after 4 p.m., there were all kinds of girls spilling drinks on people throughout the aisles and then not apologizing!). But we did venture out from there to such destinations at Billabong, where someone was emitting a powerful B.O., and lots of places that were guarded by girls at lecterns with actual lists, as though John Huntington and Damien Sanders were going to be stopping by with Dial 7's DJ Daniel (who actually was there, come to think of it) and porn stars in white vinyl. Do you think we could have scored some E in there?

The continuing aesthetic at ASR is to try to make one's booth as much like one's living room as possible, so the surf hotties can relax and watch some videos of people surfing and maybe play some Nintendo. The other continuing aesthetic at ASR is hot pants, hot pants, hot pants, usually worn by slightly post-pubescent girls with waist-length hair and really pretty tan legs wobbling atop those Japanese platform thongs. You can tell the people who are actually working—generally, the retailers looking for product —because they walk briskly and are old. Everyone else works on the next morning's hangover.

Here is what we have learned about upcoming fashions: many of them include ugly plaids not seen since walking shorts plagued the Earth in 1982. Also, glitter isn't going anywhere yet, and eye makeup will be purple, smeared all over the eyes and down onto the cheekbones. Generally, only people with jobs in the fashion and clubbing industries will be able to pull it off, but it actually looks kind of cute. Oh, and you can't wear your Capri pants anymore; they've been replaced with less-flattering clam diggers, in a slight fashion alteration ensuring you have to spend another $40. Two good T-shirt slogans: "Teach Your Children to Worship Satan" and "Boys Are Mean," which is just one in the ever-popular "Boys Are Mean" and "Boys Are Pigs" and "Boys Lie" line. Here is something else we have learned about fashion: the Long Beach Convention Center's courtyard buffet (lotsa action out on the patio, and the incredibly good surf tunes of The Stingrays, who we truly don't think are more than 12 or 13 years old) charges $2.98 for a bottle of water you can buy at 7-Eleven for $1.09, and 7-Eleven ain't no discounter neither.

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