So there's always an angle. Yeah, I think from Houston the next stop was Portland. Anyway, that's Robert Frank. He can do whatever the fuck he wants. He doesn't have to worry about how his photos fit into this or that genre or collector base. That's good guidance in my book, even if we aren't in his position. I didn't stick around for the ritual dance.
The crowd was pretty hoity-toity. So the dance probably was too. After all your travels you've come back to the nest. Not intentionally. Austin is unaffordable these days. But yeah, small town Texas isn't a stretch for us. We can talk the talk and walk the walk. Small town folks are nicer than big city dwellers on the whole, as long as you don't ruffle their cultural feathers. Lampasas is the kind of town where the first question they ask when they meet you is "Do you have a church home?
Alright, I'll ask. Do you have a church home? But, again, I grew up in a small town with a church on every corner, so bring it on. Tell me a little bit about your vernacular snapshot collection. Really started collecting in my twenties. I still have some of those. Then you could pick up a snapshot in junk shop for a nickel. Now not so much. Although I've found some cheaper shops around Lampasas that are starting to keep a watch out for me.
I save those in a separate archive. I have no idea how many snapshots I have. So, while my digital storage is more orderly, I keep all my hard copy source images mixed up loose leaf in boxes.
How do you decide which ones to alter? And how to you decide which images to add? I don't know. The best ones just happen. It just does. Much like your work, in a way. When I started using Photoshop, I wanted to reach a point where I wasn't thinking about what I was doing, I was just doing. The learning curve at first was pretty steep and unforgiving.
I screwed up a lot. And I had to use a mouse and trackballs for editing. So instead of undoing, I did a lot of starting over. One step leads to another. You say you start with flawed images.
And it seems you revel in the flaws. I too am attracted to imperfection. I can't really describe why. But perfection seems the enemy. No question. Again, my approach to Photoshop was to aim for imperfection, not perfection. Bye Bye Photography? No, but my photobook knowledge and collection pales in comparison to yours. I've always put my money into supplies and keeping up with the technology.
Maybe the answer lies there. How to make work perfectly imperfect? What's the answer? When I was around ten most of my community outings began with a big Om circle, everyone joining hands and chanting for maybe minutes?
It seemed normal at the time but looking back, hmm. Buncha California hippies on a different plane. Haha, I wish I had photos. Hopefully, that was a positive for you. Yeah, it was great. I have fond memories. But at the time I didn't know what was happening.
Kids will go with whatever adults lay on them. Very accepting. I can understand that. The resilience of childhood. The further away from it, I get the more I appreciate the childhood I had. Summers we used to swim naked every day in a muddy pond, kids, grownups, frogs, everyone. But if that same scene happened today it would probably generate a different reaction.
Literally changed my life. I'm a big believer in the power of the well-disciplined mind. While not necessarily a disciplined practitioner. What changed after your Vipassana course?
Having experienced a plane of existence beyond what I had previously known as consciousness, probably sounds trite, but somehow I physically and mentally shifted to a less frantic lifestyle after that. It's like ghosts. You can tell me all about them but I'll only believe in them when I see one. I experienced something during that course that was comparable.
I've never seen a ghost but several close trustworthy friends have. Not sure what to do with that info. I've had the same experience with a friend who disappeared for several weeks and claimed to be abducted by aliens. Who can say what really happened? These days that's a pretty critical question and right now some of the answers are pretty scary. I try to remain open to the experience of everyone, and myself also. Even if the cumulative account is absurd.
My conclusion is that the cumulative account by definition will always be absurd. Do you ever shoot photos around where you live in Lampasas? I try to do special events here where they'll be a crowd.
They have a festival in the summer called Spring Ho! I kid you not. It's great for shooting though. Pet parade, beauty pageant Seriously, how would you like your daughter to be crowned Miss Spring Hofloats, beer and barbecue.
I also shoot in Austin when I can. It's been awhile because of covid. Why do you need a crowd? What is there about people that attracts you? People are less uptight about someone carrying a camera around in a crowd when everyone else is taking pictures with their cell phones.
Although that phenomenon poses its own set of issues in terms of capturing anything without a cellphone in it. I've never felt like people are uptight about my camera, and I pretty much carry it always. But I think maybe people are now more uptight about being photographed. But I haven't been shooting as long as you. Do you think it was different back in the s. There's a difference, I think, depending on location and circumstance.
Everybody is shooting in Europe. I didn't feel out of place doing the same. Photographing in the rural southwest, I've been challenged a few times.
Some of these folks seem to feel like they're being spied on through their TVs. They see a guy with a camera who doesn't look like them and they get their backs up. The reasoning was that not only did he leave a milieu he was familiar with in the urban east but that it was just more difficult to shoot in wide open spaces.
But, personally, I do find shooting in a denser space, whether more congested with people or architecture or whatever, is better for me. You don't "look like them"? Stealing conservative souls. Haha, what's a liberal look like? I guess that's a loaded question. T he more people I see out in the world, the less sure I am of my ability to sight-judge anyone. Even liberals. Fault me for not paying attention. Political party of one. I wear horn rimmed glasses though and don't wear boots or starch my Wranglers.
Rural Texas fashion is pretty uniform, considering how libertarian and independent everyone claims to be. I try to tone it down by just wearing t-shirts and jeans. But the horn rims are a tip off.
People with glasses are liberal? But what about the spare neo-con who happens to be myopic? Never mind. Just playing devil's advocate. I know that there are visual cues which everyone displays, sometimes unconsciously. And if you are a photographer you're probably tuned in to those things more than most people.
Because little details like glasses and boots and maybe an odd UFO in the corner are often what makes a photo. We have relatives who live in far west Texas, who literally only get their news from Fox, Drudge, and Rush. Imagine what their mental map of the outside world must look like, how that configures their brains and their understanding of how the world works.
The term myopic neo-cons is a redundancy. Many here still believe the covid can BiggIDz* - Intellectual Curiosity Mixtape (Cassette) explained away as a hoax. They believe the numbers are rigged. Plus, only minorities and the elderly are dying anyway. Darwin at his best. Three weeks ago, we had 10 Covid cases in Lampasas. We're now up to 57 and counting, including the mayor. How worried are you about your health?
I vacillate. Mostly I feel like we're doing due diligence and not taking any chances. I didn't do Spring Ho! I have a close friend in her late 40s in San Antonio, who came down with it early on. Kicked her ass. The uncertainty of it all is what's starting to eat at everyone, I think. At least, the ones taking it seriously.
The population of the county our west Texas relatives live in is around people. Lots of square miles, few people. They thought the covid was a hoax until their 80 year old doctor, the only one around, and his wife, came down with it. Their way of life is contingent on everything opening back up. Everyone is lying.
I think it's all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I'm sick of it. Speaking of hoaxes. Yeah, and Trump can kiss my ass. Just finished my first beer. And crushed the can against my forehead. People believe what they want to believe.
I think the current situation, where truth is amorphous and everything feels unsure, plays right into the hands of whoever is in power. It happens to be Trump but it's the same situation fostered by authoritarians throughout history. It's difficult to control firmly established truths, but much easier to control a fluid situation with conflicting ideas.
Trump is certainly a master, not at controlling the truth, but at muddying the waters so much that, while the truth may be out there, no one can agree on exactly where or what it is, much less base rational decisions on it. As photographers, we manipulate truth, of course.
Just in the way we frame things. You do that in your work. Or not. Do you think of your collages as "fake". Yes, I do, but I also think of them as putting a reverse spin on a cue ball to get the nine ball in the pocket without scratching.
Can something be authentic and still be "fake". There's a question. What's your answer? I think authenticity is something to aspire to in the kind of work I do. Tricky that. To not manipulate just for the sake of manipulation. That's cool. Here's what I think your pictures play with. When a person looks at a photo, the natural instinct is to figure it out. What's happening? What was the original scene? Everyone does that, from people looking at family albums to curators at MoMA.
You are directly intervening in that process, and cutting out the connection to the original scene, but not in an obvious way. So it creates this sense of absurdity or confusion, or??? Just sends the brain off into another place.
That's the general idea. It depends. It almost goes back to the Trumpian worldview. When facts are uncertain and everything is questionable, it opens some space up for interpretation. And maybe for Art? Art, in some form, is what's often provoked or encouraged us out of jams before-or at least has given us cautionary tales to look back on.
At the very least, BiggIDz* - Intellectual Curiosity Mixtape (Cassette) artists, or whatever we are, we should take advantage of this embarrassment of riches and make the work we do be accessible and mean something. Does that tie into the Tom Wright experience with auto-destructive art? On your site you talk about destroying guitars and a path to creation. Good question about Tom and the Metzger ethos. Metzger identified with destruction. He was Jewish, came of age in WW2, and knew something about destruction.
Pete Townsend and Tom were one step removed from his generation-and not Jewish. They absorbed what they wanted from him and transformed it into something else. Pre-punk nihilism that sold millions of records. One might say Metzger was more truthful and authentic than Townsend or Tom.
Tom certainly did at a visceral level. There was nothing intellectual about his take on what Metzger was doing. Townsend on the other hand, recognized in auto-destruction a hook when he saw it, along with a way to dramatize and package his ambitions.
And he was smart enough to find his way to the marketplace with it. And that's really what rock and roll, and popular culture, have always been about. But that was then and this is now. I'm not sure rock and roll really matters that much anymore or how the music industry works these days. Or how most musicians today are able to survive for that matter. What is rock about? The hook? Or death? It's interesting you refer to Tom in terms of rock.
But he was basically a photographer, right? But maybe he approached photography with a rock attitude? In his mind, he was a rocker who happened to carry a camera around and knew how to use it.
Always a bridesmaid never a bride. He was okay with that. At the time, though, at the high school crossroads, I would have traded a couple of pints of soul for a shot of football glory and cheerleader love.
Tom, in fact, had a great eye and when he was relatively sober, his work, I thought, was exceptional. And considerable. But, he was a much more complicated person than I was willing or able at that age to comprehend.
He was ten years older, and I was pretty naive, and looking for uncomplicated answers to complicated questions. But like the old saying goes: If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.
I had to get past that stage in our relationship, before I could look back and really appreciate what a value add he had been. He was a catalyst if nothing else. People be complex. And when personal histories intertwine, there's a lot of room for contradiction and interpretation. I went to a party in in Santa Fe right after the Eagles had broken up.
Glenn Frey was there. Anyway, we were running out of beer and Frey and I volunteered to go get some more. Later, when I learned who he was, I thought what the fuck? He wanted to be in the background. And did not push his own photos out there? No, if he'd had his choice, he would have been on stage performing not taking pictures of the performance.
According to him, he went to art school in England as a lark. He wasn't passionate about photography per se, other than as a means to an end. And that's not the way I felt about what I was doing. A jaded rock and roll Zorba, maybe. Photography as a means to an end.
I feel like that phrase could describe a lot of what's happened to photography over the past 20 years or so. I wouldn't disagree. Annie Leibovitz would be a role model for that idea. What was it like shooting in Ecuador?
Ecuadorians in popular tourist locations don't like having their pictures taken. Usually that means by tourists with big honking cameras around their necks, looking for the same shot a million other people have already taken. I never had a problem shooting because I always carried my camera unobtrusively in my hand and treated the Ecuadorians with respect. From a photographic standpoint, on the equator, the sun follows the same trajectory, year round.
That was a little disorienting at first. In Ecuador the light never changed. Always the same and pretty harsh. I lived in a small town about 20 minutes from Quito. We were at feet. Quito at altitude. When we built our casa, I was able to plan a studio for me to work in for the first time. Simple life. No car. Every day in the Ecuadorian highlands is pretty much a perfect day, 65 to 75 degrees. No need for AC, or heat. You could call it a 5 year artist's residency.
You built a house there? From scratch? Live and learn. My studio was on the third floor with an with incredible of the highlands. The building process wasn't easy. We were still young and adventurous enough then to take something like that on.
Wouldn't do it again today, BiggIDz* - Intellectual Curiosity Mixtape (Cassette). I was there in I spent a week there with my father in law.
Mostly in Quito but we rented a car and made some side trips. And also Galapagos. We would have been there then. Wish we'd already been connected. We could have shown you guys some really good stuff. We never did Galapagos. Since we were permanent residents, we could have travelled there at half price, but we kept putting it off until it was too late.
Most of my photos from there are more geared toward daily life though. Not much exotic or scenic. Haha, we were just tourists. No hope of being authentic, which maybe took some pressure off.
But I still very much enjoyed it, although I can't say I got any truly great photos there. My father in law was fun to travel with. I think maybe he was a bit like Tom Wright just speculation, never met him. He had kind of a rock and roll attitude toward life. Not in an art sense. But in just an everyday, face the world sense. There was no bullshit with him. Which sometimes came across as foolish, especially in a foreign country.
Anyway we survived. I went on a few long trips with him and it was always the same. No plans. No reservations. No guidebook. Just show up and see what happens. So we showed up in Quito at like 11 pm, with no map, no cellphones, no idea where we were. No Spanish. Just drove around until we bumped into a hotel by chance, then sign-languaged our way into a room for the night. The whole trip was like that. I've taken note of your father-in-law just from your photos of him and your approach to shooting him.
He seemed like that kind of guy. I guess, there are good Zorbas and not so good Zorbas. Your father in law seems like he was one of the good ones. He did have some Zorba traits. Zorbas are Zorbas. How did you choose Ecuador to move to? Ecuador was inexpensive: low cost of living, their currency was the US dollar, so no confusion over conversions, and, at the time, it had a relatively high level of economic growth and prosperity.
We didn't want to live with a bunch of Americans though. That's why we picked the town where we finally settled. More locals there and Europeans. Very few Americanos to speak of. How's your Spanish? Espanol es muy malo. We were fluent in what we called "taxi" Spanish. Who's We. However, there is no battle without a strategy. Understand and implement key changes that will have the biggest impact for the best ROI. Like the commute, in order to ensure smooth transportation, you need to have all essential infrastructure in place, so all travelers can reach their destination as fast and efficient as possible without accidents on the way.
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An older brother of sorts, but Jiho would never admit to it, being as anally professional as he was even when he was vibing to Travis Scott with Namjoon. The last year following his first winter games had left him in an idle slump, the kind that drained him of any real motivation and left him boarding along trails more so than practicing dynamic tricks. Fear had struck a part of his mind like insomnia and discouraged him from throwing tricks on the ice, forcing him to depend on the stunt bag lest he pull back at the last minute on all his attempts.
He calls it the Void, a state of being where his mind and body were not in accordance, body ready to throw tricks but his mind holding him back from the execution, and vice versa. Jimin catches the end of his practice three hours in with a paper plate of muffins in hand, pajamas tucked into snow boots and beanie flopping lazily off his head. His face is still swollen with sleep in the way that reminds Taehyung of tteokbokki.
Jimin shifts to sit on the tail end of the board. He picks at a blueberry then hands the rest over to Taehyung. Remember San Fran at the hotel?
Taehyung shrugs and munches on the crispy outside, glancing at a blur of black that catches his attention on the far end of the pipe. He watches as the guy lands his frontside cork easily, reaching behind his helmet to straighten the grey hoodie layered underneath his black t-shirt, hood rumpled from the momentum of the trick. Definitely an X athlete with experience under his belt.
He nods towards the boarder. Definitely a tough cookie. Jeongguk shimmies his board into the snow to station himself in place before pushing his goggles atop his helmet.
A dash of dark hair falls from under the helmet, and Taehyung squints his eyes and chokes on muffin crumbs that stick to the columns of his wind pipe. Scrutinizing him from afar, Taehyung watches as Jeongguk steers in the opposite direction to gauge the length of the superpipe, sunlight filtering past the curve of his nose in the morning silhouette. Jimin pats his back.
Taehyung already hates the sound of it and shifts his body to direct an icy glare their way. Namjoon shrugs, stuffs one of those disgustingly greasy balls of potato into his mouth with a traitorous grin that is nowhere near guilty and is every bit merciless. You already ate my ass. Call it a melodramatic sitcom. He points to the blonde standing next to Jeongguk. Three heads turn their way, and Taehyung gapes. Small world indeed. Taehyung squints up at them, sunshine at their backs, and moves a hand to shield his eyes.
Jeongguk pulls his helmet off entirely. No big deal or anything He reaches out a balled fist. Really, it all boils down to kinetic adrenaline rush and dizzying highs from conviviality. Some of the foreign skiers from their hotel had invited Taehyung along for a late night outing along the edges of the Highlands with a crate of liquor, enough to knock him out cold before he could make it back to the room on his own two feet.
It was worth a try nonetheless. He was ever aware of the long and insufferable commute that the drive would entail, his attempt at being a responsible adult. Without further ado, Hoseok snatches him at the end of an afternoon practice when Taehyung is already sore from amplitude conditioning to usher him to the van. Oh, and nice job at practice today. Namjoon and Seokjin are already mingling with Jeongguk and Yoongi by the time Taehyung hops down from the van after securing his board to the roof rack, hands patting weather from his palms against the fabric of his pants.
Jeongguk glances at him shortly. The last time he hit up The Red Onion had been coincidental at best, running into Jeongguk just outside the restrooms amongst other places, slightly tipsy with a rosy tint high in his cheeks but fully aware of that jawline and head of hair, tucked under the hood of a cyan Stussy sweater.
Taehyung, right? He was an ambiguous enigma of a person with a presence as subtle as air, but Taehyung finds himself easily warming up to his rough personality, even more so to his gentle voice that quite frankly gave Taehyung an audible boner. Jeongguk still has his snowboard, helmet, and goggles in hand, presumably having just finished up his afternoon practice with a nose flushed red from the cold. A cliff drop away from shitting himself into hell.
The rest can go in the trunk. Taehyung shuts the trunk and leans his weight against the side of the van, head tilted up to watch Jeongguk maneuver his board onto the rack. Jimin thought it was cute and got me a matching board. I guess people started identifying me by it ever since. He saves the thought for later. The cocky bastard. Jeongguk leans forward to quickly ruffle the flakes of nacho flavored chips from his bangs and catches him entirely off guard, enough that Taehyung visibly pauses in his thoughts of sharing said bet with Jimin.
He almost leans into the warmth of the palm from temperatural instincts but holds back to smile thankfully instead. Jeongguk retracts his hand, taking the heat with him, and Taehyung takes this chance to run his hand through his hair for good measure of any stray bits. Not that anyone minded, to a degree. Not yet at least. The red light holds longer than average, and Seokjin barely releases the brakes to roll the car forward a few feet. It grates on his head like a well worn headache, and when he opens both of his eyes, he realizes the cause is external and booming from the car that pulls up in the lane next to them.
The Jersey Shore of a guy rolls down the tinted window of his black Benz, already leering at them with his ugly commitment to narcissism. A few more seconds, and Jeongguk waits until the left turn light flashes green before reaching out to project his middle finger in time with the sharp left turn, van loud with hoots and laughter as they speed away like victors.
Ridiculous, really, that they had to resort to something like this. Bravo for steroids and shitty subwoofers. Taehyung deems their thirst for revenge fully quenched and shakes his head. He balls the wrapper of the straw between his fingers. Yoongi nods. Cosmos, surprisingly, is fairly empty at this time, save for the few waiting on to-go. And Cosmos Pizza had been the first to pique their interest after passing the threshold into the icy city.
You can never go wrong with pizza and some bomb ass ranchJimin had said, followed by hums of agreement to satisfy any lingering second thoughts. Enough hunger, and concerns for quality becomes a thing of the past. Ordering had been nothing short of chaotic what with six boys shouting orders in unison, too many voices and not enough ears to be conversational. Jokes on everyone. Taehyung hops onto the counter with a cup of orange soda and tosses back some ice, the cubes cool on his tongue in a way that raises goosebumps all along his skin.
He slides over to make room when Jeongguk joins him, shoulders bumping while they watch in mild interest, medium disgust as Hoseok and Jimin cackle laughter near the soda machine, ducking their heads under flavors to waterfall drinks directly from the nozzle.
He rolls his eyes. Jeongguk feigns offense. Jeongguk munches on ice and gives Taehyung a long look, the fragments rolling around his tongue sounding like marbles. Skaters can be the biggest assholes or the coolest guys. Depends on how you take it. Taehyung huffs air through his nose. Behind the counter, a worker opens the door of the oven and slots two pizzas into their boxes, powdering parmesan generously over the surface before packing them with small containers of house ranch and a fat stack of napkins.
He folds the box closed with deft hands and slides them down the countertop. An impressive handlebar mustache spouts beneath his nose like an anchor, wispy at the edges and delightfully whimsical. So un-mainstream. The guy probably worships Arcade Fire and uses vinyls as plates. But even with two boxes of pizza hotboxing the van in savory blasts of fragrance, Seokjin, being the driver, insists that they stop by Voodoo to try the infamous Cock-N-Balls donuts, not exactly subtle, but unequivocal and in-your-face seemed to be the trend these days anyway.
Taehyung, from the back, seconds this notion. The box is warm where it comes in contact with his thighs and helps battle the cold from outside. And now, as Yoongi clambers back into the van from their third stop of the night, he adds a pack of Coors Light to complete the Holy Trinity—pizza, donuts, and beer. We should kick it there. It takes more than a handful of u-turns before they finally spot the park and pile out of the van, still clad in their winter gear. They set out all the food along the nearest ledge of the course, buffet style, and waste no time in digging in, first box of pizza already reduced down to scraps of black olives and burnt cheese.
He chuckles at the sight of Namjoon slipping on black ice, watching him nearly topple over on uncoordinated feet but catching himself at the last second, klutzy but never entirely so. Beside him, Jeongguk is grinning, and they walk to the bowl of the skating arena with pizzas in hand to take a seat along the ledge, legs dangling off the side and a few feet off the ground.
This scene is no place for a picnic, yet here they are, nearly iced over to preservation with frosted white breath like it's another day in summer. He watches Jeongguk fold his pizza in half and take a bite. So classically New York. Maybe BiggIDz* - Intellectual Curiosity Mixtape (Cassette) Chicka Boom Boom on a good day.
Jeongguk is quiet for a few seconds, and Taehyung can see on his face that he seems to be running something through his head. I dropped out of high school to pursue this then moved to the big city and found Yoongi at some underground club in Manhattan. Been rooming with him since. Taehyung silently acknowledges the skill. Jeongguk leans back on the balls of his hands. No homo. Taehyung reaches over to tear off a piece between his pointer finger and thumb.
Jimin sighs wistfully in a puff of winter. The park is way clearer than I imagined. He hands the rest of the donut to Taehyung. I spent a summer with some of the qualifying guys and learned a thing or two. Anyone got some quarters? None of you have room to risk injuries at this point before practice starts up. Jeongguk lifts the can of beer. Loser shotguns two cans of beer.
But in the domineering game of betting, someone always walks away a loser. For a competitive athlete like himself, losing never felt so warm. But Taehyung has practiced his tricks on a constant, enough to commit them to muscle memory like blood flow.
Safe, but no less charged to dwindle his chances at success. Perfection distilled from failure makes it hard for athletes to leave room for doubt, anyway. It's the best way to kick an athlete into gear. The previous weeks had been a brutal ass kicking, mostly mental than it was physical, what with being forced to throw trick after trick even on days where his body cooperated to a measly bare minimum.
Mornings were spent at rehearsals with brief lunch breaks in-between before he'd have to head back out to the pipe and lock in his moves with performance-like accuracy.
A twilight zone, if you will, but come game time, and energy becomes a whole new tank of refinement and makes what they do worth it, down to every droplet of sweat that is shed on that course.
The crowd is loud tonight, the kind of boisterous cheers that he feels more than hears in the torpid minutes leading up to the event. Taehyung lands himself a solid fourth place in the qualifying rounds and secures a spot in the finals, lower than expectations but enough to satisfy temporary objective.
With slopestyle coming to a close, he finds solace in not being first up on the queue list—Jeongguk, on the other hand, is. Not that a third place equated to failure, just not enough to satiate full potential. Years of experience teaches them to accept anything less than gold as a lesson: always evolve, keep progressing, but never plateau.
Never, ever stagnate. He smells pleasantly of hot chocolate steam and something minty. Namjoon joins in and ruffles his hair playfully. Jeongguk lands hard on his first run, two-thirds of the way through the pipe and enough to get the crowd groaning in harmonic unison but not enough to inflict any real injuries beyond soreness and bruising. Taehyung is there with emotional support the second Jeongguk rides back up on the snowmobile, an unspoken mark of good sportsmanship that he never forgets to provide.
Not enough to salvage those last few points to bump him into top five. His wrist is held stiffly at his side, board balanced under an arm looking anything but comfortable.
The crowd roars from behind, so restless in this frozen altitude. He stuffs the snow into the glove, just around the cuff, and packs it solid around the wrist. He hates the way trepidation runs through him like an electric current.
Here goes nothing. Gotta put his tricks down like he owns it. He can feel the inspiration like a boiling fire just waiting to set the world ablaze.
Not clean enough, not tight enough, not like he knows he can do. The pressure was a dense weight on his chest as he watched Jeongguk throw his snowboard down with an enormous fist pump of victory. Taehyung leans over to strap his boots in. He stares with determination down the length of the superpipe, white and entirely majestic. Intimidating, more so. But this is his territory, and he's going to lay this one down big or go home trying. Oh, and make sure to pop off your heels.
The judges are gonna be looking for style this time around if you want those extra points. Through the cacophony of cluttered sound, the coordinator gives Taehyung the okay. Jiho slaps the side of his helmet and grins at him through the plastic of his goggles. And he does, because where Jeongguk has style and confidence in improvising runs without the risk of messing up, Taehyung has technique to up the ante.
His last run pulses wildfire adrenaline through his veins and explodes down his chest with every landing. He gave this his all without any regrets, and that feels fucking infinite.
What is even the infinitive of that verb— to healthy? Or overestimated myself? You sure put up a damn good fight. Even with alcohol flooding his system, Taehyung is every ounce aware of how much he likes this, Jeongguk rutting against the swell of his ass from behind and pressing him face-first into the wall of the small hallway of the hotel room.
He likes it even more that Jeongguk has an arm snaked around his waist to trap him in place, hand cupping firmly at the bulge in his jeans and palming him through the fabric. Taehyung groans against the wall, and Jeongguk presses his hand harder to massage at the warmth between his legs, nearly lifting him on his tiptoes. The strength alone makes his mind spin. This is Jeongguk fucking second place out of his system, and Taehyung loves every bit of it.
An act of trickling lust for evoking such an intimate response, and hell is he turned on when Taehyung keens into the touch, back arching with shivers of raw arousal. Taehyung rolls back against him in retaliation, right against the straining bulge in his own pants, and Jeongguk presses them harder into the wall, precome smudging all along his palm from the shift. He twists his head to connect their lips. Jeongguk slackens his hand, and Taehyung collapses against the wall as Jeongguk leans against his back, muscles soft in this post-orgasm.
Not gonna lie, sex makes me hungry. Perfect and snug, even in upright positions. As if free food was ever a topic of contemplation. The culmination of summer heat in Los Angeles is its catalyst in thorough energy dehydration, yet here is where he finds himself in June, hunting down the fattest delicacy he can feed his starving palette.
And now, with sweat trickling in his eye and moisture thick on his skin—this is everything that the Summer X Games should be. The months following the Winter Games had been filled with enough media-related schedules to familiarize the constant of camera-to-face until it was expected. Jiho had sent him off with good health and wished him a happy time off before practice for snowboarding season started back up, and he'd dove right into the X Games aftermath ready to work.
The photoshooting location for Burton had prepared so many portable fans to fend off the heat from outside, plethoras of wires tangling along white floors and lining the space like some kind of downscale runway, that Taehyung had felt the artificial chill even beneath layers of sponsored snowboarding gear for the shoot.
Post-games was always money making season and his chance to gain endorsements to get a solid foot through the door of the industry, beyond just the competitions. Because when it happens at X, everyone knows about it, it goes everywhere, and people are aware. Companies had been hot on his tail to book him for interviews and meetings, separated by the occasional photoshoots in-between, and Taehyung had immersed himself in the wave of hype before it calmed just in time for the Summer X Games.
Greasy foods of the large event kind. Five dollars for a water bottle and two for a straw, probably. But fuck that.
Macro never looked so good. Making to leave, Taehyung slips his wallet back into his pocket and gathers his order in his arms, mouth fastened around his straw to refresh the sweat-sodden imitation of himself with his already melting beverage. Gaze trained on the Vert arena ahead, the flash of deep purple he sees in his peripheral is only narrow warning before he collides face-first into firm warmth, something that feels a lot like a cushioned brick wall.
Taehyung stumbles backwards, drink sloshing noisily in his cup and almost up his nose. What the fuck. Can you even consider it a one night stand if we followed up with room service?
Like hell he was going to bring up such an uncouth discussion in this unconventional setting, surrounded by teenagers surely to be listening in at the slightest mention of sex. What a trip down recent memory lane that was, one that he is guilty of traversing on more occasions than platonic entailed. At least the room service had been fucking stellar. The Las Vegas of competition. Looking at Jeongguk here in the summer blaze already feels different from January.
This snug fitting is a nice change on his body, and in the drunken haze of their hook up, Taehyung had failed to appreciate the swell of his nicely toned biceps from beneath his sleeves. Super chill guys. But without the need for video footage, anything went. Can I order what he got? And that was only the beginning of the qualifying round.
Street League starts in an hour, so I was thinking about heading there now to practice. But for someone who exudes confidence and pride like winning is his nature, Jeongguk sells himself short every time. Rule number two: no one is as hot shit as media plays them up to be until they can stick their tricks on the course. Giving judges what they want and competitors a run for their money, Jeongguk does not disappoint. Coping mechanisms. The guy next to them directs an annoyed side-eye when their shoulders bump, and Jimin flips him off graciously.
Taehyung is still so completely blown off his feet. Fucking godsent. Taehyung spots Jeongguk step into the queue zone, bending over to rest his hands on his knees with sweat soaking the neckline of his shirt damp. He runs a forearm across his brow to collect moisture there. The refinement in this final round is uncanny. Taehyung sits forward in his seat and waits in the anxious silence of his own anticipation for the announcers.
This puts him in the lead for first place, upping his score on the leaderboard! Get up and do it again. Jeongguk is a natural, that much is obvious, an athlete that comes into the world with raw talent and an endless well of growth. Someone with that never-ending need to be better than the person he knows himself to be. Insecurity, in a way, but mostly just prodigious, and Taehyung will admit that he feels the tiniest bloom of inspiration watching Jeongguk put everything on the line without worries of the crash and burn.
Being driven without the breaks just for the appeasement of payoff. Jeongguk is the incarnation of unparalleled will, burning out passion just to make room for more. Jeongguk ends the run with an impressive switch tre flip off the stairs that fills the stadium with a roar of anticipation, buzzer shrieking to signal the end to the final round of the night.
He skates up the quarter pipe to join the other contestants and collapses to the floor on wobbly legs. Taehyung holds his breath and counts down from ten. Jimin latches onto the end of the shopping cart and nearly topples it over from the added weight.
Taehyung gathers moisture off the condensation clinging to the bag and wipes his hands of the stickiness from ketchup residue, cleaning off the moisture with a napkin. He leans back against cool metal. Their group is scattered across the parking lot, overpopulation limiting seating choice and forcing them to eat outside in the humid, slightly dank air. Not that any of them minded, but the atmosphere is starting to taste like potent gas and pollution from the line of cars extending down the block for drive-thru.
It reflects the street lamp overhead and paints a flaxen, shimmery glow along his jawline. All I was thinking about was how it was my last run and I still had energy left in me. He takes another monster sized munch from his burger. Hashtag blessed. Taehyung shakes his head.
You were able to rack in that win at the last second because of it. Not so much humble, just unaware in that unembellished way. By now, the parking lot has calmed down to the few midnight stragglers nursing moderate cases of the munchies, nothing but a few cars littering the area for dine in. Quieter, cleaner, and much less of a scenario that borders on repugnant. But I think Yoongi wants to do that in August or something.
One for the road never gets old. Yoongi, beside Namjoon with his medal dangling backwards around his neck, sighs like Death himself takes him right there. Taehyung can hear the sound of bike pegs scraping along the metal railing from inside the restroom, slapping water over his face to wash the clammy humidity away.
To them, the night is still young, a playground waiting for seven boys to run the world on blistered feet. But fifteen minutes BiggIDz* - Intellectual Curiosity Mixtape (Cassette), after Taehyung had ran back out to join them, and the door from the entrance had swung open, a disgruntled worker peeping his head out with a towel in hand ready to wield as a weapon should anyone act defiant.
Get home safe okay? Back inside the restaurant, Taehyung waits for his order with Jeongguk at his side, typing away on his phone. But Taehyung is no eavesdropper. It looks soft, silky, and his fingers itch to run through it. Kudos to Jeongguk if he actually pulls it off because Taehyung is as horny as an unripe avocado at this hour. He turns to throw Taehyung an assertive look but stops in his tracks to scrutinize him with a double-take.
Taehyung stills when Jeongguk reaches out to swipe the pad of his thumb against the corner of his lip. Jeongguk smiles at this, a kind of delicate excitement that makes his lip curve up at one corner. Day three of X comes in a wave of stilted nerves and anxiety that overshadows the usual atmosphere with something akin to moderate doom and gloom. For most, it translates to first place.
He can sense the tremors within ten feet of Hoseok, even more so with Jimin who has taken to dealing with the nerves in his own time, the type to grow silent in lieu of his upbeat nature. Jimin had left bright and early that morning, when Taehyung was a jumble of incoherent sleepiness under his covers. He'd loaded his bike into the trunk of the car before snagging their entire bag of granola off the counter for early morning traffic misery where he will surely find someone along the way who still has their paper dealer plates on and thinks they're too good for gridlock.
The absence of granola to accompany his daily cup of yogurt is blandly upsetting, but Taehyung is glad Jimin will have some kind of sustenance in his stomach, the sad idiot that he was for skipping meals before big events as such. Yoongi, Jeongguk, and Namjoon had split up from them earlier, following after Hoseok to watch his practice for the motocross event.
That is where competition dictates the earned esteem of each player. He straightens up and inhales deeply through his nose to moderate the nerves tickling at his stomach, tries to shake off the tingles with a few bounces on his heels. Taehyung wants to reach out and smack the jitters away. But combat it with the nerves and pre-game adrenaline rush easily becomes a powerful tool for every athlete, necessary for some as a gateway to amplify performance in the first few moments of competition when the natural high numbs out everything else.
That excitement alone is enough to mask the staunch feeling of doubt, if only for a few fleeting minutes. Taehyung fires off a quick text of encouragement for Hoseok before sliding his phone back into his pocket. Thirty-minutes till the event starts, and here he is feeling just as anxious as a competitor himself.
Qualifying into the final rounds of the competition is easy enough. Of course it is. But with two competitors neck and neck with his leading score of sixty-nine and battling for the gold, things get tricky as the margins grow smaller. Jimin, after his next run, looks beaten down by exhaustion and heat, legs fatigued into sensitive awareness as he kneels down at the sidelines to catch his breath. Two minutes on the clock and three runs left with the leading competitors, and Jimin ends it with a massive five-forty barspin wallride that sends a wave of hype across the boards.
A total score of eighty-five, and Jimin wins his first gold of X, BiggIDz* - Intellectual Curiosity Mixtape (Cassette), sprinting across the arena to join his friends in congratulatory glee where they proudly tackle him. He restrains his tears until the weight of gold is heavy on his neck and stares unbelievingly at the droplets trailing down the length of his medal.
A milestone in the palm of his hands. They spot Hoseok at the sideline with his coach and jog down to give him shouts of encouragements, Seokjin yanking him into a headlock and ruffling his hair fondly before making their way to their seats. Taehyung chews the inside of his cheek restlessly and watches the competitors gear up for action, the roar of revving engines echoing through the stadium with gasoline staining the air thick amongst all the chatter.
Hoseok pulls his black and yellow helmet over his head while waiting on his bike, the strap of his Supreme goggles making it easy to distinguish him in the mix. The tension is strung high like barbed wire amongst the competitors, the kind of taut density that barely allows for talk between athletes and only polite nods of acknowledgement.
Focus, focus, focus. All eyes on the prize. Having already qualified for finals some months prior, Hoseok had seen the abilities of every single competitor here, knows this is the cultivation of polished motocross talent, and he is but a fraction of its worth trying to make his way to the top.
One amongst many that share his same skill, and any mistake could put him out of medaling before he can even taste victory on his tongue. Taehyung, from his seat, feels his heart plummet to his stomach at the sight of Hoseok lurching forward and propelling off his bike. Hoseok yanks his goggles off dissatisfied, stumbling up onto unsteady feet. Smile bright on his face from the cheers he receives, Hoseok wheels his bike off the course and only then does he let that smile fall.
Did you see how dialed in Hoseok was during his run? And Hoseok does. Impressive, really, how he manages to absorb the exact fault of a mistake and tweak it to make the execution immaculate, granting just enough time to ease into his landing like butter. The wheels of his bike smack the ground at a near perfect angle, and Hoseok scrambles off to climb the dirt mound, fist pumping the air with flourished pride.
The run rakes in a whopping score of ninety, just one point short of Japan that puts him in the second place position for silver. This is how the Summer X Games of finally comes to a wistful end of fading applause. No one ends up leaving the venue until ten that night, too caught up in the bustle of interaction with fellow competitors and friends over free food, an assortment of food trucks that the event organizers had rented out, buffet style and on the house, as thanks to all the competitors.
He lays back with his feet kicking off the edge, until staff will find his idle body and shove him out to start loading the equipment. If he backtracks this weekend beneath all the excitement of competition, Jeongguk seems to fill every recollection of his mind. Losing his pants seems to have transpired somewhere in that fuzz. Just seven boys sprawled out around the living room, half-dead and a lot delirious, too tired to really be watching.
But what the city has taught them was to grow dependent on falling asleep to irregular sonance of urban decay and never the peaceful silence of a quaint mountain town. Namjoon, from the other side, chucks up the deuces before sleep overpowers this episode. Taehyung is no morning bird, but he is awake before eleven for the first time in months.
His eyes, still foggy from sleep, blink open to absorb some sense of stability. Naturally the first thing Taehyung thinks is to seek out Jimin in this genetic pool of testosterone, rouse him to some form of reasonable consciousness, and drag him along to breakfast or coffee. How they got there, Taehyung will save to question later when they are both reduced to awkward fumbling after waking up and realizing the state that they are in.
Wake up. Jeongguk stirs ever so slightly with the softest groan rumbling in his throat, eyes peeling open like drying wax. The biggest sign of his anti-morning excuse of a person that Taehyung understands on a spiritual level.
He can pinpoint the exact moment the gears start shifting in that sleepy skull, and Jeongguk lifts his head off the couch in his dull haze to glance around. Taehyung almost expects him to say no. Am I driving? Jeongguk runs a hand through his matted hair and nods.
The Refinery is only half full with the usual cafe-goers on their laptops when they arrive, dressed down to maximum comfort and a little ugly. Prime parking had been an added bonus to the usual pain that was street parking, and Taehyung is grateful that Jeongguk had been the driver, lest they be stuck trying to parallel park for the next twenty minutes and going.
Like, at all. Yet against all arguments, Jeongguk had perfectly parallel parked the car in one try. The smell of coffee hits his face, and it is pleasant in a way that melts him into goo and coaxes by the chin. Jeongguk, beside him, still fails to look alive and suffers from early grog, but conversation and caffeine go hand in hand and eventually wakes him enough to loosen his mouth.
Until time is impartial to this place. His face scrunches up, tongue hanging out of his mouth scandalized from the sharp taste of the dense black liquid swirling in Jeongguk's cup. That's awful.
Taehyung chuckles. Jeongguk stares at him, sets his drink down slowly. About the CD player. Sharpie art and everything. Get ready for CD cover of the century.
At my funeral. Any special requests? Ice sculptures? Whoever gives your eulogy is gonna call you a narcissistic dick. Sue me. Taehyung sets his cup down and slides to answer. Jeongguk inhales the rest of his coffee and uncaps the lid. Yeah, yeah. See you soon, bye. In the short drive down to Venice Beach, Taehyung finds himself bracing against the seat more often than not when Jeongguk speeds through the inside roads at sixty miles per hour.
He also discovers that Jeongguk listens to his music at blaring volumes, the bass from the speakers rattling his chest and pulsing loud enough for people to stare.
Мелодия - Эстрадный Оркестр Литовского Радио* / Виргилюс Норейка* - Мелодия (Vinyl), Sunny Day (Instrumental), Memory - 82 Settings - Chefkirk - Mega Chuffed (CDr), Feelin On - Vincent de Moor - Moor (CD, Album), Visitor - Hanoi Rocks - 20X Hanoi Rocks (File, MP3), Είναι Αλήθεια - Ρίτα Σακελλαρίου - Η Ιστορία Μου - Όλες Οι Μεγάλες Επιτυχίες 1970 - 1994 (CD), Last Night Of The Prawns - NDIO - Airback (CD, Album), Over And Over - The Dave Clark Five - Over And Over / You Got What It Takes (Vinyl), Lilac - Colin Towns Mask Quintet With Maria Pia De Vito - Still Life (CD, Album)