Jimmy Humphries (@poundingthenail)
Belgium. Where was it? Was it a country? Am I this American? Did our educational system really fuck me like this, or was it my own neglect to prioritize world culture in my studies? One way or another I had no idea what the hell this place was and just what amazing things it had in store for me before this trip. My life began to change soon enough, all thanks to the exposure to this wonderful culturally rich society…But how did we end up on this subject and why did I even go….
Well that’s all thanks to spontaneity coupled with lack of forethought.
I had traveled to Sweden the year prior for a friends wedding and loved it so much that I stayed longer than my time planned and bought new tickets home to extend the trip. New tickets meant refunded credit for old tickets, and refunded credit for old tickets meant I had one year to figure out a new trip, or I had extravagantly wasted a good couple racks.
The expiration date approached faster than a California driver to my rear bumper stopped in 5’o’clock LA traffic. (For those of you that ain’t hip…that fucking fast) I was struggling to figure out a new Euro trip and just couldn’t settle on any ideas. Why even leave home? I have comfort here. I have food. Money. Family. I know where to go and what to expect when I get there; the most cherished information to have in my life. Anxiety settled in like a bad hangover and I was all out of Advil..it was 5 days until I had to purchase tickets and I was still clueless as to what I’d do…until an internet pen pall and a small dose of fuck it all kicked in and I pulled the trigger quick on a ticket to Brussels Belgium set to leave a week from purchase.
I left for the airport with a ball of nerves in my gut the size of my luggage, and luggage the size of a challenging Tetris piece for the game of overhead storage.
I was to stay for approximately 5 days give or take a couple long nights, and then spend another few days in Copenhagen just for good measure… wouldn’t want to miss out on any Euro Skate Havens while I’m already there, right? Had I only known what a fucking amazing time Brussels would be on its own. I was in for a real treat.
I left for the airport with a ball of nerves in my gut the size of my luggage, and luggage the size of a challenging Tetris piece for the game of overhead storage. It took just as much pressure for me to relax as it did to store my bag. Eventually it all settled in and I began my flight, waves to my family and girlfriend just as behind me as my fears for the travel. This trip was on whether I liked it or not and I was going to show all the way up.
As I sat in planes, trains and automobiles navigating each airport like the final frontier to the unknown, I still had little to no idea of just what I was in for. Is there even a scene here? Whats the weather like? Where do I even begin with research? All questions abuzz in the hive of my mind, but being the millennial sell out that I am, I quickly settled on instagram as a valid method of study.
To my surprise the information began to flow, and even if it was a slow drip, my cup began to fill, and as I began to drink I felt a growing confidence in my travels with each subsequent gulp of knowledge. I found there were a couple of indoor parks around, a contest coming up the following week in a city named ‘Antwerp’, and that they were just finishing up some final touches on a DIY park in the city limits of Brussels by the name of ‘Byrrrh and Skate’ (which of course, me being the dumbass American that I am thought to read it as Byrrrhand Skate up until I was kindly corrected by a local after embarrassing myself through a few conversations.) I was beginning to feel ready to see just was this beast had in store.
It was a verbal tang I would soon become acquainted with as I made my way through awkward blends of horridly rough cobblestone and marble smooth as an angels breath.
Now my pen pall and I had agreed before my departure to meet at the airport and start my journey from there, to my surprise that was one of the shortest and least significant portions of my journey. Go figure, theres more to this world than the things we build up; live and learn, Amirite?
She met me at the airport and greeted me with conversation and guidance on public transportation accompanied by the most intriguing blend of Dutch/French accented English. It was a verbal tang I would soon become acquainted with as I made my way through awkward blends of horridly rough cobblestone and marble smooth as an angels breath.
She briefly toured me through a tourist district and convinced me to try one of her favorite places to stop when she came to town as she wasn’t actually from Brussels and didn’t really know the city as well as I was about to. I had a delicious crepe and as soon as I had thought I was going to continue a great day, she had to leave, just like that. In and out of my life just longer than a passer by and just shorter than my best of friends. I was on my own in a city that did not yet know me by name.
After a caffeine pick-me-up and a quick phone charge at the train-station my GPS had finally led me to my hostel. A beautiful artists community loft alongside an outrageously foul river that could easily be compared to a Belgian Duwamish if not worse in concentrate. Despite all of this, it was a home to me and even if it was temporary, it would host me as a base for memories made permanent by pleasure and surprise. I settled in for a nap…
The next few days were quite slow, I was still recovering from a harsh ankle roll only 3 weeks prior and I had not yet recovered from my jet lag. The sickness and lack of rest didn’t pan out for much more than days of aimless wander… that was, until I sent a pivotal DM to the Byrrrh.
I was to leave before the Grand Opening of the Byrrrh Park, and I had really wanted to see it before I got to Copenhagen to start my ‘real skate trip’. I sent the DM to a couple of accounts I had found out about and got responses stating that the parks founder, Youssef Aboud and DM’d away hoping to get in. He also told me that it wasn’t open until October 6, to which I responded a plea most desperate about how I was to be gone by that time and I only wished to visit it once before leaving. He heard my cry and answered with a ‘yes, I’ll be there Monday around 3PM he replied. I was ecstatic.
Monday came and after becoming more aware of the ground situation in the city I felt as though I needed bigger wheels before making my way over, I let Youssef know I was going to hit the local skateshop and would hopefully be there by 3, so with…….ah fuck, I’m ranting now huh? This was supposed to be a blog post, not a fucking book. My bad guys!
Wellll, shit, now what?
Part two I guess! Stay tuned!
For more information about his photo book from Belgium DM @poundingthenail on Instagram.