_Text: Dave Carnie° _
“What is this Queer Eye for the fockin’ Straight Guy? What the fuck do I know?”
I’m on the phone with Reda. He’s yelling at me. “I don’t give a fock. Does he look better? What are you kidding me? What kind of a question is that?”
“Come on. Does Zered look better with cornrows or without?”
“Does he look better with cornrows? What the fuck do I know?”
“Look, you like preening yourself. You’re into grooming. I’ve never seen a hair on your head out of place. Does he look better with or without cornrows?”
Reda pauses. He knows it’s useless to resist. It’s better to just be a good sport than an asshole.
“I’m going to go without, there,” he finally says.
There. Reda thinks Zered looks better without cornrows. I happen to agree with him. I think Zered looks better without cornrows also.
All of these captions are brought to you by the letter Z. (I know Zered said his favorite letter was F, but I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that. It’s Z.) Perhaps Zered used the zaguan (hallway) to get speed for this backside nozeblunt? Photo: Ian O’Connor
I read an interview with Zered in which he states that his name means nothing. He said his father just made it up. His father is a biker who, if provoked, will punch you in the face. He is also a man who is prone to making up silly names for his children. But Zered, I discovered, does indeed mean something. It’s a brook in the Bible and the place that marks the end of the Israelites’ 38 years of wandering around in the desert after their Exodus from Egypt.
“‘Now arise and cross over the brook Zered yourselves.’ So we crossed over the brook Zered.”
The brook Zered. That’s it. I think that’s God talking. Not sure. Sounds like Him though, “NOW ARISE!” I tried to learn more, but biblical discussions, I found, are quite dull. I’m more interested in questions like, “What, I wonder, is the difference between a stream and a brook?” They’re very similar actually—I just looked them up: A brook is smaller than a river. That much is true. And seeing how Zered is smaller than the average man, it’s an apt name.
* Zooks! Zoodikers! Zered the zealot zealously zaps a zwitch nozegrind for Emile Zola! Photo: Ian O’Connor*
My Zered interview is long over due. I got yelled at. It was in an e-mail and I could tell by the shape of the letters that my superior was yelling at me. The tone was very stern. Stern, but fair. “We understand your excuses and the situation you are in,” he said, “but we are, nonetheless, very displeased.” I told him I was trying. I really was. I had looked up the definition of “brook.” I had critiqued his cornrows. Not much, but it’s a start. So I tried calling Zered again, but he didn’t answer his phone. Again. I called Zered over and over. Five times in one hour. Perhaps he’s asleep? It is 3:30 a.m. in New York City.
“He seems to be picking up a lot of girls lately,” Jeff Pang said.
“With cornrows?” I asked.
“With or without cornrows. It doesn’t make a difference. Out of anyone on the team, he gets the most fan mail from girls. This one girl even made a web site dedicated to him. She copy and pasted stuff from the Thrasher website, she totally rewrote what was on the Thrasher site, like as if she knows who Zered is. She’s like, ‘Zered Bassett is 18 years old …’ Just Google his name, you’ll find it.”
Zered is actually nineteen years old. I Googled his name and found a lot of stuff on him. 430 links. I Googled my name and came up with 14,700 sites, way more than Zered, but 14,699 of those were devoted to bizarre sex sites. “Dave Carnie Transsexual … More sex pics it was so hot.” What was so hot? I’m a tranny? The sites with Zered’s name on them were actually about him. He’s been the focus of quite a bit of coverage lately. So much so that I know just about everything about him. There’s an interview in every magazine, after all. They even write about him in other languages, “Zered Bassett war mit seiner Zoo York Truppe nach Deutschland gekommen und hat ledges so hoch wie Wolkenkratzer klitzeklein gefahren.” Ja, ja, zats gud! I never did find the web site Pang was talking about.
“You know what?” I said to Jeff before I got off the phone with him, “you’re the first New Yorker to not get all bent out of shape over my interview with you last issue [issue 6].”
“Oh, I heard about that,” he said laughing. “I haven’t seen it yet.”
That article was laden with typos and fuck ups. (I mention it here because I know that it was only New Yorkers who were offended by my mistakes and this Zered Bassett interview is the only thing in this issue that New Yorkers are going to read because he’s their boy. Pardon the interruption to the Zered interview, but this just happens to be the best place to take care of these apologies). The last line, for instance, wasn’t supposed to be there. “So smug, so arrogant.” So stupid. I forgot to delete it. And you use single quotes within double quotes. That unsightly error occurs a few times. Then I went and said that Jeff used to ride for Kareem’s City Stars. Not true. Reda told me over the phone that he used to ride for Cream. I heard “Kareem.” Silly me. But worst of all, judging from all the phone calls I got, was this line, “It wasn’t like we were hunting down virgins or anything like that, but definitely stealing beers, hanging, watching the square park, and skating.” I now know he said, “Washington Square Park.”
“I just wanted to apologize for all the fuck ups,” I said to Jeff.
“You know what,” he said, “I don’t give a fuck about that shit.”
Thank God. I’d hate to hit Pangry’s fist with my face.
I don’t know how to say it in Zoque, but Zered’s doing a Frontside Smith over a cement rainbow. Photo: Uyeda
“He’s a tough fucker,” Reda said about Zered. “I seen him and Jeff kind of wrestle a little bit. Yeah, I think Jeff thought he was going to be able to shove him down, and he wasn’t. Jeff basically grabbed his head and bent him in half, but Zered sprung back up and Jeff wasn’t ready for that. Jeff thought he was just going to be able to shove him down and be done with him, you know?”
“Do you think that’s why he’s so privileged at Zoo, because he can stand up to Jeff?” I asked.
“Nah,” Reda said, “I think he’s privileged on Zoo York because he fuckin’ kills it.”
* Zered got his zodiac Zippo stuck in his zincy zipper zone at the zoo while studying zoology—Zo-ology. Zo. Not zoo. Because if it was zoo-ology you’d need another O: zooology. And that doesn’t mean shit. It might as well say, “The study of nollie frontside heelflips off the ziggurat.” Photos: Ian O’Connor*
I eventually learned that Zered was at Woodward. Apparently, the area is notorious for bad cell phone coverage. I had made 32 calls to a phone that didn’t exist. I told my superior there was nothing more I could do. He encouraged me to keep trying.
Then one day the phone rang.
“Hey, Dave, what’s up? This is Zered.”
I told him to hold on while I went and got my questions.
“Hey, you still there?” I asked.
“You sick of this yet?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “it’s all right.”
“How many interviews have you had lately?”
“Three or four.”
Like Leo Romero, that’s more than enough space to uncover the goings on in any young man’s life. All of Zered’s interviews that I had read said pretty much the same thing. I thought I’d try something different.
“Okay,” I said, “well, this interview is going to be a little different. Ready? What’s your favorite letter?” Crazy.
“Favorite letter?” he said. “Ahhhhhh … fuckin’ F.”
“F?” I said surprised. “You’re supposed to say Z.”
“F,” he said firmly.
“Okay, it’s F, fine,” I said. I’m not sure why I thought the answer was going to be Z, but F really threw me off my game. I was confused. “I just figured that because every kid’s favorite letter is usually the first letter in their name that—like mine was D—I just figured that yours would be Z?”
“It’s not Z, huh?”
Z to A(msterdam). A series like that can only lead to a smoky crooks across and down this marble monster. Photo: Uyeda
I once went on tour with Zered. I spent about a week with him on a bus and I enjoyed his company very much. As I mentioned before, he’s kind of little, like a brook. But when Little Brook on skateboard, he make flow like giant river (the Indian’s hands come together and flutter like ripples in a stream). Much like Bill Pepper, Zered carries himself like a big guy. Some people don’t know their size. I, for instance, am much bigger than I imagine myself to be. Zered feels more confident—stronger, bigger in both mind and body—than he really is. Successful people often share that quality. Sometimes it’s called “swagger.”
Zered also bears an uncanny resemblance to Ethan Fowler in at least two respects. For one, they both have that natural, smooth, effortless, born-to-ride-a-skateboard style. And they’re both very, if not innovative, at least unique in their approach to skating. Who else do you know that would skate up to the Hollywood High rail and huck a huge frontside boneless down the sixteen? I mean, besides Bill Danforth? Nobody, right? Zered did.
Secondly, both Ethan and Zered possess the exact same laugh. I’ve never heard anything like it. I’ve never heard of two people having the same laugh, nor have I heard a laugh such as theirs. And here the printed word displays its greatest weakness as I am forced to at least attempt, regardless of the project’s imminent failure, to describe the sound of their laughter to you, the reader.
It’s like trying to describe the note you hear when you press a key on a piano. “Now please, if you will, describe to me in words, the sound of D.” It has been my fortune, though, to hear this laugh on many occasions, for both Ethan and Zered are rather jovial fellows who possess a deep appreciation for the humorous side of life. One could even say they’re happy. The laugh: it’s more of a giggle, a bubbling giggle, than a laugh or a guffaw. It’s tinged with just a touch of the nasal, “Zsh! Zsh! Zsh!” that Ernie on Sesame Street was so famous for … there. I tried. You’re just going to have to go tickle each of them and hear it for yourself. Tickle Me Ethan and Tickle Me Zered.
Chris Nieratko thinks he’s black. Like those wiggahs in that movie Whiteboyz, Nieratko will point at a brown freckle on his arm and insist that that is proof that he’s black. And, furthermore, because he’s black, his father is Ghostface Killah.
“What about all the ‘white’ everywhere else?”
“That’s just a birthmark.”
I found a message board upon which a P.J. Ladd supporter lambasted Zered for his tasteful, yet subtle, urban stee.
“P.J. hates him for good reasons and so do I,” Jose wrote on the message board, “He thinks he’s black. He’s originally from Massachusetts, but left.”
It’s true, he’s from Cape Cod and proud of it. His first pro model—long overdue in some people’s minds, yet just in time or even a little early, in Zered’s humble opinion—is emblazoned with a lobster wearing a Celtics jersey. I’m not sure how that piece of evidence relates to race, though.
“People really want you to have a problem with P.J. Ladd,” I said.
“I know they do,” he said.
“One of P.J.’s supporters hates you because you think you’re black,” I offered. He laughs. That bubbling, Ernie giggle, Zsh! Zsh! “Do you care to comment?” I ask.
“I know who I am,” he said simply.
* Zwitch heel in Utrecht, Holland, the birthplace of the putrid water gap to up-hill landing. Photo: Uyeda*
“There’s a lot of cool shit about him, but it’s all been covered,” Reda said after I asked him about Zered. He used to dig for clams, his father punched a man for swerving at his son, his nickname is Dr. Z, he and a friend used to cut across the local airport’s runway to get to the skatepark, he once had two Czech girls fighting over him in Prague—I didn’t mention that one.
“Oh yeah, in Prague,” Zered said. “It was great.”
“Did you know any Czech?”
“No, that’s what made it even better. Yeah, they just would scream at each other. It was entertaining.”
He was reluctant to go into any further detail. I was rebuffed on several occasions throughout the conversation. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he’d say. Perfectly natural for a young man his age. Pang, on the other hand, was more than happy to divulge details.
“That was two years ago,” he said. “He had two chicks fighting over him in the Czech republic. Best friends. One would sneak him into the bushes. Then the other one he actually took her back to the hotel and she ended up being on the rag, or something like that.”
And that is all we are allowed to know.
“He definitely has a temper,” Reda says after thinking about Zered for a moment. “It’s funny because I shoot with him so much. You know how certain kids when they’re shooting, they’re like, ‘Reda, what do I do?’ I don’t know: go closer, go further, pop harder? And they’ll be like, ‘All right I’m going to try that.’ But Zered, you say nothing to him because he gets aggravated over everything. There’s nothing he won’t get aggravated at. Like when you go, ‘Yeah, dude, you almost got it,’ he gets mad at that. So for a good fifteen minutes before and a good fifteen minutes after we skate, I don’t talk to him. If he doesn’t land it, it’s a half hour.”
With all the chicks Zered has been hooking up with, he’s going to need a zenana. That’s where the Persians lock up their bitches. And their switch backside tailslides. Photo: Uyeda
Zered played hockey, which I find odd. I quit when I was sixteen because I was a little guy, a late bloomer, and I was spending all of my time dodging checks, but even then I was twice Zered’s size. Swagger.
“I’d like to play,” he said, “I just don’t have time.”
“Did you ever see those skateboard hockey games we’d play at Slam?” I asked.
“That was awesome.”
“There might actually be an NHL sanctioned, skateboard hockey league. Would you play?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s kind of a crazy one.”
It is, admittedly, kind of a crazy one. I learned how to play skateboard hockey from the originators, the Jaks. I then introduced the game to the world at large and invited pros like Mike Vallely and Alex Chalmers to join me. Well, Vallely then introduced it to the NHL and they’re hurting so bad for fans that they’ll do anything to draw more people to games, including creating a skateboard hockey league. Which is exactly what they’re doing. And that’s all I know. The Jaks think this is all my doing and they want to kill me. I’m scared of the Jaks, so I just blame it on Vallely. “He’s the media whore!” But really, even Vallely has no idea what’s going on.
“You could start a New York team,” I said to Zered.
“I’ll start a Cape Cod team,” he corrected me.
“Oh, yeah. And then I guess you’d have Boston Bruins colors right?”
“No, we’d have Cape Cod jerseys. Get on the ball, buddy.” Fiesty.
“Okay, well design your uniforms, hot shot.”
“I don’t know. It would be pretty hot, though.”
“You got your first board coming out right?”
“Yeah, it should be coming out now, I think.”
“It’s got a lobster with a Celtic jersey on it, huh?”
“Who’s idea was this?”
“I just told ‘em I wanted a funny cartoon graphic and something New England and they came up with that.”
“So maybe that could be your jersey?”
That would be the stupidest jersey ever. Cape Cod would be the laughing stock of the entire skateboard hockey league.
* The good doctor jumps at the chance to switch this hardflip down a big double. Photos: Uyeda*
Zered has a new suit. It’s grey and shiny. He wore it at the premiere of his new video, Vicious Cycle.
“There was a premiere in New York and I think we’re going to try and do one out in Cali,” he said. It’s a narcissistic little film that Zered made about himself. And some other people.
“Are you going to wear that smart suit you were wearing?”
“I wear that shit every day now.”
“Oh. Is that the new style now: Executive skater?” I think a gang of skateboarders dressed in Armani suits pushing down the street would make a dazzling image.
“That would be dope, you know, skate with a briefcase,” he said. “Pocket protectors.”
“Pocket protectors? You don’t need to bring the nerd shit in there, Zered.”
“Yeah we do. I’m going like nerd fashion route,” I laughed thinking of Chris Cole switching from hesh now to nerd. “Pull the suit pants up over the belly button, with a hot blazer that’s a little too small.”
“Tie flying over your shoulder while you’re frontside flipping down a double set,” I added. It’s classy. “That could get expensive though.”
“Yeah. I’d have to get a suit sponsor.”
Everyone except a suit company has been trying to sponsor Zered lately, but he remains loyal to his beloved Zoo York. A team that has been mired in controversy the last couple years, but now seems to be reemerging as the legacy it has always been destined to be.
“I think they’re getting on I’m pretty sure,” Zered said. “Clyde’s [Singleton] on, Joey Pepper’s on, John Igei, Jim Gorecki, Rob Welsh. They got a handful of dudes.”
“Did you hear Clyde won the lottery?” Nieratko asked me when Clyde got on Zoo.
“No? Wait, what?”
“He got on Zoo York,” he said laughing. “And you know how they give their riders health insurance? Well, right when he got on, first day his health insurance kicked in, he went to the hospital and got his foot operated on.”
Clyde’s foot has been fucked up for years and he’s been miserable, but when you live from paycheck to paycheck, there ain’t nothing you can do about it. I’m just happy he’s finally getting some. Zoo York style.
“He came out here once,” Zered said about his new teammate. “We did this photo shoot and he had an infected toe, or something, so he had this big boot on his foot. And we’re skating the KCDC mini ramp and the dude was doing back tails every try, front feebles on the mini ramp, all these tricks with this big ugly boot on. It was pretty sick.”
“Do you take advantage of your health insurance?” I asked.
“What like get hurt on purpose?” he said. “No.”
* At leptotene, a stage of meiotic prophase in many organisms, all the telomeres become gathered together and attached to a small area of the nuclear envelope, presumably to facilitate pairing during zygotene or Zered zwitch olliez. Photo: Uyeda*
It’s funny how this works sometimes: I have no idea what photos these words will be accompanying. I like Zered photos. So I’m anxious. I can’t wait. I need to know. It’s a Milestone, so I bet they’re gnarly. I feel like a little kid. I have to tinkle.
“Do you know what photos are in this?” I ask trying to gain some clue.
“What do you mean? You shot ‘em.”
“I did,” he admits. “I don’t know what they used.”
“Well, what do you remember sending out there?”
“I don’t remember sending anything out. I think it’s just some stuff from Europe.”
Most skaters know exactly what they’ve shot. “So this is going to be a surprise for both of us then,” I said.
“I wonder what it’s going to look like.”
“I don’t know. I wonder.”
“Do you think you have cornrows in any of the photos?”
“I wish, but no.”
Subscribe to The Skateboard Mag and get 12 issues delivered for only $19.95! Issue #156 is the “Year’s Best” issue and includes Zered Bassett’s “Eastern Promise,” a Populist 2016 feature, Year’s Best Am, and dozens of Year’s Best categories.