Saturday, March 3, 2018

Tangible Earthly Belongings, Part II: The Full List

     Well, this entry certainly took on a (nightmarish) life of it is own. When I “moved” two weeks ago, I took a photo of all my essential skate gear, and made this post. I had intended to do a follow-up, with a list of everything in that photo, and a few comments on some of the items that might seem a bit out of the ordinary. Then…uhm…well…the post below happened. What I had first intended to be something relatively short and simple turned into a monstrosity. Basically, once I started writing, it avalanched, and I couldn’t stop. Mark Twain once said, “If I had had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Some real truth there.
 
     Anyway, below is the complete list of everything pictured in that other post. The commentary on each item is (mostly) written with the non-skater in mind (yes, there are some non-skaters who read this blog). Any skater immediately knows why a “skate key” is an essential item. A non-skater doesn’t even know what one is, let alone why it is among the most important things to own. Hence, I have a wide net on this one. As a reminder, here is a photo of the entire mess before we dive in.




I.  SOFT GOODS
  • Clothes
    • Baseball Hat: It actually has some real function. In the early and later part of the day, the Sun can create a nasty bad shade/glare dichotomy on parts of a half-pipe, bowl, etc. The brim of a hat can reduce that glare, and make a ramp that would otherwise be hard to skate much more accessible.
    • Gang Colors / Skate T-Shirt: I’ll admit it. I am a label/brand whore. Any logo I’m going to pimp has to be something I am 100% behind and/or represents “me,” and my “tribe” in some manner. Skateboarding gets you dirty. It ruins clothes, and devours souls. Yeah, while skating there are people that wear blank t-shirts from K-Mart, or clothes from Gucci that cost stupid-money, but I can’t relate to either. Give me a good Anti-Hero, Independent, Spitfire, or band t-shirt, and I am happy.
    • Windbreaker: Boston is the windiest major city in the United States America (Chicago’s nickname is about its politics, not its weather). Unless you’ve got a windbreaker, the wind will pierce through any t-shirt, sweatshirt, etc. you’re wearing.
    • BDUs or Dickies Pants ONLY: I can’t skate in denim. Too thick. Too uncomfortable. Modern stretch fabric feels too weird. Moreover, BDUs and Dickies are loose (easy to move in), and built to withstand serious abuse. Perfect for skating. And don’t even get me started on sweatpants.
    • Shorts (cut off BDUs): When skating transition, wearing kneepads over pants just doesn’t work well. Shorts are far superior.
    • Thick Socks: Everyone owns socks. Why is this on this list? Skating is brutal on footwear. My feet shred socks like razor blades. Need a thick pair otherwise they won’t last.
    • Skate Shoes: Skate shoes are very different than normal shoes. They are designed specifically for the abuses and nuances of “feeling” the board with your feet. A must own. I have two pair, as I figured out awhile ago that I vastly prefer high-tops on transition, and low-tops on street.
    • Kingfoam Insoles: The most mind-blowing insoles ever made. Watch this video.  I would recommend these to anyone, not just skaters. I have a pair in my work shoes, too. They are simply astonishing.
    • Extra Shoe Laces: Grip tape on your board, or knee sliding on ramps, will destroy your laces. They will inevitably break after a while.
           Winter Gear
    • Under Armor Cold Gear Shirt & Leggings (Base layer): Super warm, and designed for “athletics.”
    • Hooded Sweatshirt: Should be obvious.
    • Knit Hat: Keep the ears & head warm.
    • Under Armor Cold Gear Hood/Mask: A new item to the essential list. In extreme conditions, I’ve worn a face mask while snowboarding/cycling for years. Yet, I had never done so while skating. This year I started wearing one when then temps got real cold, and wow, did it ever make life more enjoyable. Don’t know why I waited so long on this one.
    • Gloves: Should be obvious. Warm hands = good.
    • Athletic Tape: Grip tape shreds anything in touches, especially gloves when you are holding your board. Taping-up the thumbs prevents gloves from becoming totally destruction in two weeks’ time.  

II.  PADS:
     A note on pads…skate parks are now everywhere. With that comes big transition. Having a decent set of pads can open doors to stuff you might not otherwise skate, esp. if you are an older skater (at 43, I certainly am). And of course, some parks require pads. Skating a deep bowl/big transition with pads also just adds an element of confidence (at least for me), that I don’t have without them. The real irony is that I just recently re-learned that pads are a necessity to own. I didn’t have a set for a very long time. Now that I do, and I am skating transition I wouldn’t have gone near without them. Increasing what/where you can skate is always a good thing. Oddly, I also now find myself wearing pads on smaller ramps I previously never would have worn them on. I’ll put in a plug for Pro-Designed pads. I love mine.]
  • Knee Pads: I only wear kneepads on transition. I used to hate wearing them, but now I love it. I now have two sets of kneepads; a thinner pair for mini ramps (Pro-Tec), and a thicker pair for bigger ramps (Pro-Designed). The Pro-Tec pads would not offer sufficient impact protection on bigger ramps. Likewise, the Pro-Designed can be a little bulky on mini ramps. 90% of all bails I take on smaller ramps (e.g. 4’ high) I can run out of, and don’t need kneepads at all. The other 10% always makes me glad I had them on. With ramps 5’ and over, I definitely need knee pads (5’ is the height where I can’t run out of bails as easily, and knee sliding becomes a much better option). They main reason I wear pads on smaller ramps (e.g. 4’) is purely mental—I feel way more confident with them on, and that is worth a lot to me. Plus, as my friend Reed once said, “Sometimes I want to skate with pads on because they look so cool.” Clearly, some people have different ideas of what “cool” looks like.
  • Knee Gaskets: Neoprene sleeve that fits over your knee/under kneepads. Gives a little more support/protection, but more importantly, they keep your kneepads from slipping down when you are knee sliding (e.g. so you don’t end up knee sliding on bare skin).
  • Elbow Pads: Same as kneepads, I have two sets. One set is for street/mini, and the other is for bigger ramps. When street skating, I often wear one elbow pad on my leading arm. I have become very adept at falling on my (padded) elbow rather than on my hands/wrist (thus prevent hand/wrist injuries).
  • Wrist Guards:  I almost never wear these. However, if you ever have a wrist injury or sprain (esp. at my age), you definitely want to have the option of wearing a wrist guard for a while.
  • Helmet: I hardly ever wear a helmet. Some parks require you to wear one. Thus, it’s always good to have one in your bag. Last fall I hung-up on a 5’ mini, and when straight to the flat bottom. Mostly hit hip and elbow, but also bounced my head off the ground, and got a nasty goose egg. First time I ever hit my head skating, and I wasn’t wearing a helmet. Now I wear one all the time on any ramp 5’ tall and above.
  • Football Girdle: Also something I almost never use, but is a real lifesaver for those times you really need/want it. Anyone who’s ever had a bad “hipper” (e.g. hard fall to hip bone) can tell you how painful they are. Moreover, they become increasingly more painful if you fall on them again before they have healed. Even a slight tap can cause serious discomfort. Transition skating causes hippers far more often than street skating. A football girdle holds hip and tailbone pads. You can get girdle/pads for under $10 bucks on-line, which is far less $$ than skate-specific hip pads. Moreover, since you can remove the pads from the girdle, you only need to wear one pad as opposed to an entire set required by skate-specific ones. Football pads are also much more low-profile than skate pads, too. Under shorts you can hardly even notice they are being worn.
  • Shin Guards: Another item I hardly ever use, but a God-send when needed. A few years back I scrapped my shin pretty bad on the side of my board. Then I kept hitting the exact same spot, over and over. Brutal pain. I bought shin guards, and wore one until things were less tender. Worn under pants, no one even knows.
  • (Smith) Gloves: Same with shin guards. Sometimes you rip a hole in the palm of your hand, and you need to cover it so you don’t fall on it again / it can heal. I’ve also worn these a few times during the summer when skating metal half-pipes on really warm days. The metal can be extremely hot to the touch when bailing, or climbing back up to the platform. Without gloves, your hands can get all fucked up.

III.  BAGS
  • Board-Carrying Back Pack: I live in the city. I often bicycle to skate spots. I need a way to carry my board there. I don’t have a rack on my bike, and I have no intention of putting one on it. That means I have to carry the board on me somehow. Without getting into the nuances of cycling bags, suffice to say Blind Chic makes the best board-carrying specific back pack I’ve yet to find. I did a big review of that bag in this post. [Actually, the Chrome "Fortnight" backpack designed by John Cardiel might give the Scum Bag a serious run for the money.]
  • Back Pack (military style): When not on the bike, I usually want a bigger bag that has several compartments to carry stuff in. My military bag does the trick.
  • Pad Bag (mesh laundry type): When headed to big ramp, you need something to carry a full set of pads in, right? The mesh version helps them air/dry out, especially after skating. 

IV.  SKATEBOARDS
  • Street & Transition Set-Up: I am mostly a street skater, however I skate transition a lot, too. I like a different truck and wheel set-up on ramp (and sometimes a wider board). To make life much easier, I just have two complete skateboards. One for street, one for tranny.
  • Spare Deck: Sometimes you can’t get to skate shop for a few days. Sometimes they don’t have what you want. Sometimes it takes a while for something to arrive if you order it on-line. If your board breaks, gets a huge chip out of nose/tail, it loses the “pop” etc., it could be a few days before you are skating again. You never have to worry about this if you always have your next deck waiting for you at home.

V.  HARDWARE & MAINTENANCE
  • WWII Ammo Canister: I keep an assortment of smaller hardware stuff all in one place, which is inside a WWII ammunition canister. It’s small, and I can just throw it in the car when heading out. Stuff I keep in here has saved me, and friends, from session-ending equipment malfunctions. Inside the ammo can, I keep the follow:
    • Skate Key: The basic “fix-everything” skate tool. This Spitfire one is my favorite.
    • Tap & Die Set: The Die part is the essential item. I am actually surprised how many skaters are unaware of Tap and Die sets. Taps rethread nuts (like an axle nut). Dies rethread bolts, or axles. Over the years, I’ve certainly had a few axle nuts I couldn’t get back on a truck, because the end of the axle was so chewed-up. The inability to get a nut back on an axle might mean having to buy an entirely new truck. What a waste. A Die will rethread, and fix that chewed-up axle. A few skate keys (Reflex and Pig) have Dies attached to them that are the proper size for axle rethreading.
    • Metal Hand File: This is a sub-set of the Tap and Die necessity. To properly rethread an axle, the barbs at the end of the axle need to be filed/grinded off. A tabletop grinder works best for this, but there is no need to own one of those, if you are only going to use it to fix an occasional stripped truck axle. A hand-file will also do the job. Hand-files, of course, are also great for grip tape application.
    • Extra Axle Nuts: New replacement nuts are cheap. The below photo is the result of a blown axle nut. As I was reentering the bank my axle nut, and then wheel, came off (axle nut was stripped-out). My board came to an immediate stop, and sent me flying. Yes, that is my wheel rolling away in front me (in red circle). I didn’t have any extra axle nuts with me. Session was over 5 minutes after it started, and I was pretty far from home, too. Lesson learned. I knew the axle nut was a little wonky, but thought it would hold. I was wrong. Worse, jamming the exposed axle threads into the pavement deformed them beyond function. It was either rethread with a Die, or by a new truck. Needless to say, I was able to rethread.


    • Extra Bearing: Ceased bearing = session over. I clean mine on the regular. I carry this more for friends than for myself.
    • Extra Bushings: these blow out sometimes, especially Bones Bushings (despite their otherwise brilliant performance) and then your truck can suddenly get real wonky.
    • Extra Hardware: This is far more of an OCD issue than an actual one. I can’t deal with looking down at my board and seeing a missing mounting bolt. If one goes, I want to be able to replace it IMMEDIATELY.
    • Belt Cleaning Stick (e.g. Grip Tape Cleaner): This is a new one to me! A friend showed it to me a few months back, and I was amazed. We were skating this really, really, really dusty parking garage (winter skating in New England). When we were done. Our grip tape was all caked-up with dust. My friend asked if I wanted to use his cleaner. “What’s that?” I asked. He pulled this weird-ass stick, rubbed it on his tape a few times, and suddenly his tape looked like it was brand new. I was awe struck. Essentially this is a cleaning tool for sand belts on power sanders. I got mine off Amazon for $7.00. Considering how much sand-salt there is around New England in the winter, and how nasty it makes your grip tape, this thing is really useful.
    • Razor Blades: Cutting grip tape to fit a deck/board.
    • Soft Wheels w/Bearings: Some spots, esp. in the crusty east coast, are just unskateable with modern 99a-101a hard wheels. A set of softer wheels simply allows you to hit some really fun spots that are otherwise inaccessible. I have a pair of Spitfire 80HDs (with bearings in them, for quick change-overs) to rock the crust world.   
  • Bearing Maintenance
    • Bones Bearing Cleaning Kit: Bearings get crudded up. If you don’t clean them, you’re dumb. Powell makes this great thing. Full product review coming soon. Get one. It’s well worth the money.
    • Acetone: Acetone is great for cleaning bearings. Powell recommends Acetone as a degreaser/cleaner, but they do not mention WD40 in their official bearing cleaning directions. WD40 is a horrific nightmare, avoid at all costs.
    • Speed Cream: Bearing life will be drastically reduced if bearings are not relubbed after they have been cleaned/degreased. Relube with Speed Cream after Acetone cleaning, and roll forever.
    • Canned Air: Used for drying bearings after an Acetone wash.
    • Straightened Paper Clip: Used for removing the bearing shields (on Bones bearings) so you can clean them.

VI.  RANDOM STUFF
  • “Field Notes”: I keep a small notebook in my backpack. In the notebook I keep a list spots to check out, tricks to try, or random skate notes. This might be an odd item for some, but it is an absolute essential for me. Often I see some trick on Instagram/Internet/etc. that looks really fun to try. Usually, if I don’t make an actual note of it, I will have forgotten about it by the next time I go skating. My “Field Notes” is a central dumping ground for all this info. If things feel stale at a session, I’ll just have a look at the Field Notes. It never fails that I find a spot or a trick I had completely forgotten to check out or try.
  • Pen: See Field Notes above.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Trash is lame. Reusing stuff is better for the environment. Don’t be the turboclown who litters or buys an excessive amount of needless plastic crap. 

VII.  SPOT STUFF
  • Push Broom: IMHO, this is one of the most important things on this list. A true necessity. So many spots need a sweeping to get things rolling. Dirt. Rocks. Leaves. Acorns. Salt/sand in the winter. Yes, I’ve even swept up syringes at a sketch DIY. A broom is an absolute must have.  If you are on Instagram, check out @Broomkult for an amazing feed on why brooms are the lifeblood of all skaters [I am not affiliated with them in any manner. I just think they are hilarious/know what's up.]
  • Dust Pan: When you sweep-out a bowl/pool, how else are you going to get the shit out of the bottom?
  • Wax: Get those curbs and ledges grinding.
  • Spray Lacquer: This stuff is great. Read all about it here.
  • Brick Rub: I am also surprised how many skaters don’t know about these. They are like sand paper for concrete. They can help smooth out the edge of any curb/ledge to make it more skateable. Brick rub + wax/lacquer = It’s fuckin’ on!
  • Snow Shovel: I live in New England. It snows in the winter. It can been too much to shovel out a decent sized street spot, but local mini half-pipes can be quickly cleared to provide endless fun in an otherwise snowed-in world.
  • Ice Breaker: Helps get frozen snow/ice off ramps when shoveling them out.
  • Blow Torch: The snow shovel and ice breaker will only go so far. Sometimes there is black ice on a ramp that will only come off by melting. Break out the blow torch, and you’re skating in no time.
  • Towel: Can be used to dry off ramps, or to dry off your board (e.g. when it shoots off the side of the tranny, and then lands in the pile of snow you just shoveled off the ramp).
  • Steel Wool: In the winter, metal coping on ramps can get absurdly rusty in very short time. A quick rub down with steel wool will get the major crud off that would just cause your trucks to stick like glue.
  • Blue Tooth Speaker: Skating is so much better with music (esp. if you’re at a mini-ramp or bowl). 
  • Dust Mask: There are a few spots I skate that get insanely dusty. When we sweep them, an incredibly dense fog of super fine powder-dust gets kicked-up. It gets so bad that you can write your name in dust on the side of a car after 30 seconds of sweeping. Shit is nasty, and really unhealthy. No way I am breathing that in. Unfortunately, sometimes there is no way to skate these spots unless you sweep them clean—sometimes you have to pay to play. How bad does it get? Check the photos below, and you’ll immediately know why a dust mask is an absolute necessity.  These photos were taken with the same iPhone. 

This is how this spot looks on any given day.
This is how it looks three minuets minuets after sweeping started.
This is about seven minutes after sweeping started. If you look real hard, you can still faintly make out the parking block on the right side of the pic. All the mine canaries were long dead by the time this photo was taken. This place is brutal when you sweep it.

VIII.  FIRST AID
  • Ibuprofen: Nothing keeps a (old) skater going better than this stuff. Great anti-inflammatory and pain reducer.
  • Band-Aids: Sometimes you need help to stop/contain your blood from spilling all over the streets, especially on the bigger cuts. Band-Aids deliver.
  • Antibiotic Ointment: I always throw some of this on if I get a cut when skating a really nasty spot, or end up getting a lot of dirt in a cut.
  • Ice Packs: Sometimes you really need to ice an injury after you get home.

     And there it is. As I said in previous post, call it what you want—Essential Gear, A Complete Buyer’s Guide, or a Sick Hoarding Problem. Whatever you call it, this was the first stuff I packed for my move, the stuff I prioritized over everything else I own. And thus, items on the above list are arguably more important to me than any other tangible things I possess. My priorities are exactly where I want them to be.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Tangible Earthly Belongings, Part I: Essential Gear? A Complete Buyer’s Guide? An Acute Sick Hoarding Problem?

I recently had to move back in with my parents. My mom fell and broke her hip. Dad has been in a wheelchair for years (Polio). They need some help while my mom is recovering. Hopefully I won’t be there too long, but will remain as long as needed.

In any event, I was chatting with a friend about the move, and the skate equipment I was/wasn’t brining to my parents’ house. He suggested a “What’s in Your Bag” blog post about the essential gear I was taking with me. Similarly, a common trend in camping, hiking, outdoorsman, living history, military, etc. circles is the “Loadout” or “Kit” photo. What a Loadout/Kit photo shows is all the vital gear/equipment a person will use on a given event or trip (or just all the gear they own). When getting all my essential skate stuff together for the move, I decided to take a Loadout photo of all the gear, and to follow my friends’ advice with a blog entry. That brings us to this post. What can I say; I’ve got a lot of extra time right now while hanging out with mom.  

After 30+ years of skating, the photo below shows every skate-related item I now view as essential. While I may infrequently use some of this stuff (e.g. snow shovel), all of it has kept me rolling at some point in time. I’d be at a loss if a single item went missing. Every single thing in this photo was obtained for the single purpose of making/allowing skateboarding to happen.

This photo includes only essential stuff directly needed to (1) maintain my board, (2) provide for simple skate spot maintenance, and (3) maintain me (e.g. skate shoes, pads, etc.). Not included is stuff for heavy spot construction/maintenance (e.g. concrete, saws, masonry tools, etc.), non-primary skateboards, collectables, shit I’ve built, etc.

Call it what you want—Essential Gear, A Complete Buyer’s Guide, or a Sick Hoarding Problem. Whatever you call it, this was the first stuff I packed for my move, the stuff I prioritized over everything else—and thus, what is seen in this photo is arguably the tangible Earthly belongings that are more important to me than anything else I own. And Yes. That is a bottle of Ibuprofen. Most important thing in the photo.

A follow-up post will contain commentary on some of these items, and what makes them essential (at least to me).




Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Chasing Phantoms & The Mythology of Rainbows


There had been a few passing rain showers in the area. The skate park, however, was mostly dry. The sun began to peek-out from behind the clouds.  A few moments later a huge, vibrant, double rainbow appeared in the sky. I thought it would make a cool/funny backdrop for a skate photo (esp. considering the whole gay thing). With the rainbow in the background, Joe took my cell phone and filmed me ollieing over a makeshift picnic table/box. This is a screen grab from that video.


  (Here is a side shot of a different time I ollied it, so you can get a better idea of the size)

 
A little kid, who was about 12-years-old, came up to me afterwards. He looked up at me with big eyes, and sheepishly asked, “How do you ollie so high?” I laughed to myself when I heard the question. When I was his size and age, I wondered the same thing about older skaters. I responded that my legs were stronger than his, that I was taller than he was, and most of all, I had been skating for a very long time, and had spent years doing ollies. I told him that if he kept skating, he would be able to ollie much higher as he grew up, and got more practice. I gave him a few pointers on ollie technique, and then went to sit in the shade for a bit.

I sat down behind the mini ramp, and looked up at the two giant rainbows that lingered in the sky. I followed their arcs with my eyes, looking to see how far they stretched, and where they ended. Then it really hit me.

The mythology of rainbows is that a pot of gold lies at the rainbow’s end. Of course, no one can ever reach the rainbow’s end. It’s actually quite a stark, and bleak metaphor: there are hopes and goals you can never reach, no matter how hard you try. Worse, while chasing phantoms, you lose sight of the fleeting gift that is right in front of you; the rainbow itself.

“How do you ollie so high?”

As a kid, I chased that pot of gold. I wanted to ollie over a crack in the sidewalk. Then a stick. Then a curb. Then a bench. Then a handrail. Always wanting to go higher and further. Never satisfied with where I was, or what I could already do. Always pushing. Sure, there is merit in that.  But then a 12-year-old kid asks you a simple question, and your world changes.

To that kid, I had the pot of gold at the end of rainbow. The ollie I did was unimaginably high and unattainable, at least to him.  When I was his age, I thought the same way when I saw people do “big” ollies, or pretty much any trick for that matter (well, actually, I still pretty much think that when I ever I see anyone else skating).

Personal progression is always a part of skateboarding, no matter how old you are. We always push for longer, higher, faster, or to learn something entirely new, or relearn something we used to be able to do. We are doomed to forever chase targets that we ourselves are always moving.  

That 12-year-old illuminated something profound. Sometimes it’s better not chase, but to just enjoy what already is. I sat behind the mini ramp for a while, and watched the double rainbow fade away to nothingness. Its existence now just a memory. Another perfect life metaphor. From across the park I heard my friends laugh while skating a curb. I stood-up, looked at the sky that was now nothing but gray clouds, and smiled.  With a profound sense of gratitude, I pushed-off in the direction of my friends, and that simple curb.       

Friday, December 29, 2017

Death of a Shop / Tears of Joy

I am lost. I really don’t even know how, or where, to start writing this post. That is because I am also a bit lost, existentially, at the moment. Today my local skate shop closed. Forever. A number of us hung there this afternoon, drank beer, and said our "goodbyes." It was a fun party, just as it should have been. Now, it’s just a huge swirling maelstrom of emotions.

In the late ‘90s I totally withdrew from skateboard culture (I’ve written about this elsewhere in this blog, I won’t rehash all of it now). While I never quit skating, I no longer had skater friends that I skated with on any regular basis. I avoided the local hot spots. I didn’t go near skate shops. I mostly skated alone. This was a complete 180 from when I worked at Boston’s main skate shop, was a staple “scenester” at Copley Sq. (Boston’s version of EMB at the time), and was sponsored by a shop and a small local board company.

About five years ago a new skate shop opened near where I lived, called Maximum Hesh. I’ve never liked skate shops that appear to be some weird version of clean-cut corporate “retail outlet.” As my friend Jason said, “I like places that look like a dirty living room.” I went by Max Hesh, after-hours, a few times just to look in the window. You can tell a lot about a shop by what it looks like, and what they stock. I wanted some idea of what I might be walking into, IF I was ever going to cross their doorstep. I could tell, within 15 seconds of looking in the darkened windows, that Max Hesh was something altogether different in the modern world of skate retail.

To make a long story short, Max Hesh drew me back into skate culture. Within three years I went from being a random solo skater, removed the skate industry and world, to being featured on the Deluxe web site, getting movie suggestions from Julien Stranger, getting personal mail sent to my house from Jim Theibaud, helping to set-up one of the only Barrier Kult video premiers / skate jams in U.S.A., building numerous DIY spots around Boston (so much so that people started calling me The DIY guy), winning a Deluxe DIY grant, and most shocking of all, at 43-years-old, I became a shop-sponsored skater again. All this happened because of a shop like Max Hesh. 

But most of all, most important, above and beyond anything else…and this is the part where the tears are going to start…I met some amazing people, laughed a lot, and had a tremendous amount of fun along the way. All of this happened when I was at somewhat of a low point in my life, so in the proverbial sense, the shop was a real life-saver. A good skate shop is more than just a store, it is a community center. Max Hesh wasn’t a skate shop. It was a social movement in the Boston scene, which just also happened to sell skate stuff. In my 30+ years of skating, I have never seen a shop that was run the way Max Hesh was, or had the same vibe that it did. Countless others say the same.

While I am beside myself with loss over the shop closing, and I feel as if a giant hole has been ripped in my life, I am filled with nothing but a deep gratitude; gratitude that the entire experience even happened.

A heartfelt thank you goes out to the entire extended Max Hesh family. A thank you for everything that you have given and meant to me, and to the community at-large. As Todd (the owner) always said, "The shop is not just one person; it is everyone who comes in the door and contributes to the scene we are creating." 

Whenever I think about this period of my life, and the people involved, and all that happened, and all that it meant to me and so many others…a few tears will certainly fall from my eyes, but the radiant smile across my face will show they are tears of joy, not sorrow.

Godspeed.

(Below are assorted Max Hesh related pics that capture some of my favorite memories and/or show what Max Hesh was all about. I'll post more pics in the coming days.)



When Jim T. came by to hang out.

When the shop donated bunch of boards to at-risk kids.

When Todd and I dressed up as construction workers to paint a curb in a high-visibility commercial area.

Paul Schmitt!

One of the only TWO premieres of Horde II in the United States.
When they broke all molds and announced that some old dude was now one of their team riders (e.g. me).

Orange Abe from Fancy Lad fame and Todd gearing-up for a pop-up skate park / art show.
The day I got to hang out with Mike Vallely. As a 12-year-old I looked up to him because he was a rad skater. As a 43-year-old, I look up to him because he "gets" it. Not often that childhood heroes remain relevant in adult life.

Ben at our epic Wednesday Night Summer Slappy Sessions.

Love this shop sticker.

When Deluxe put us on their web site. Me, with Spitfire shirt. 

This was so rad. Todd was always trying to get more of the non-stereotypical people into skating. He was hugely supportive of all the local female skaters.

Pete Talbot, of the infamous Pete's Pigs, was often by the shop dropping off decks. An internet video of Pete skating recently hit the 1 million viewers mark! A true local legend, and amazing guy. 

Shows at the shop!

Zak, wallie at the HORDE II skate jam.

When REAL put us up on their Instagram account. We raised more $3,000 with the Build Project that Deluxe sponsored, which was among the highest of all the 250 shops involved.

       
My wall-hanger.

Button Kevin T. made and passed out today at the closing party. All the letters are from famous punk bands / skate brands.

      

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Clash of the Titans: Thunder v. Indy

Snow in Boston. Temps in the single digits for the next week or so. Not much skating going on. Hence, here comes a bunch of blog posts. Let's dive in with Indy v. Thunders.

Trucks Compared
-Indy 144 8.25” Forged Hollows (53.5mm), with Bones Bushings
-Thunder 148 8.25” Team Hollow Lights (49.78mm*), with stock bushings

Well, despite this post, I am riding Indys again. I had written a much longer review/response, but I’m just stripping it down to the basics. Here are the main points I figured out after riding Thunders for 6 months or so.

(1)  I like Thunders better for transition because they are lower to the ground. They feel much more stable/predictable, and much more “sensual” on lip tricks. I feel like I can lock-in to grinds better on transition with Thunders. I was mostly riding tranny the day I said “Indys, you are dead to me,” so that explains how that came about. Had I been riding more actual street that day, I probably would have had pro-Indy results.

(2)  Thunders have a weird baseplate that does not clear the distance of the wheels. This causes problems for me on nose/tailslides (e.g. my WHEELS lock-up on vertical side of curb/ledge unless there is a turbostupid amount of wax). Look at these two photos below. One is an Indy, another is a Thunder. Both have Spitfire 53mm wheels. On Thunders the WHEELS hit the edge, and the baseplate does not. On Indys (and every other truck on the market), the edge of the baseplates hits, and the wheels don’t. As a result, I can nose/tail slide much better on Indys than I can on Thunders (e.g. because there is no “wheel bite” on Indys).

Indy. Baseplate touches the wall. Wheels do not. No "wheel bite."

Thunder. Baseplate does not touch the wall, but the wheels do. Nothing but "wheel bite."

(3)  Indys are taller than Thunders. Thus, they give me more pop. Watch this video with Prof. Paul Schmitt, as he explains the science of “pop” as it relates to board height. When Prof. Schmitt talks, you should listen. For me ANY ollie/nollie trick on Indys feels like it requires less effort and is more controlled than with Thunders, DESPITE Indys being noticeably heavier than Thunders. Yeah, I could add a riser, but then I’d have trucks as tall as Indys, with weird baseplates, that don’t turn as good as Indys…so, what’s the point? The height difference between Thunders and Indy is small, but combine that with the shorter wheel base of Indys, and I can absolutely notice a difference.

(4)  Nothing turns / feels as good as Indys. Nothing. I missed that while riding Thunders.

I am not some pro who can rip on any skateboard. I need to pick and choose equipment that works best with the skill set I’ve got, and plays to my own strengths and weaknesses. Thunders weaken my nose/tail slides because of their “shorter” baseplate. I don’t seem to have this problem with Indys. Thunders don’t seem to “pop” as good as Indys, due to their lower height. Indys simply turn better. Indys win out on street for me. Thunders, all the way, on transition, because they are lower and feel more stable. My dream would be a Deluxe made truck that has Independent height and geometry, but with reduced metal (like Thunders) to make them lighter. Why Deluxe? Because they are concerned about a lot more than just profit margins. Not sure I can say that about NHS.

Ben Degros does a good Thunder 149 v. Indy 149 review on his YouTube channel. If you watch Ben’s review, you will see he and I agree on some of the exact same points, and differ on a few others (granted, we reviewing slightly different trucks).  

*This Thunder add claims that Team Hollows are 49.78mm high. Tactics claims they are 50.78mm high. When I measured my pair, I found them to be 51mm high. There is no such controversy with Indy forged--they are 53.5mm high, and everyone claims that, even my tape measure (standard Indys are 55mm high).    

  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Prelude: Thunder v. Indy


            Lots of product reviews coming up in the next month or so. Well, that’s not really true. I recently bought a bunch of stuff that I don’t normally ride. Different sized decks. Different trucks to fit. Wheel shapes/sizes that I don’t normally ride. Why did I get all of it? I’ve been riding the same set-up (8.25” AntiHero, 8.25 Indys/Thunders, 53mm wheels) for the last 3 or 4 years (well, 8.5” trucks before the 8.25” came out). I think it’s good to occasionally question your basic assumptions, if only to reaffirm them. Hence, I’m trying out some different stuff. I won’t be doing per se “product reviews” of all of it, but I will be writing about the entire process, and what I like/don’t like about a given piece of hardware.  

            First up: Thunder v. Indy, and how/why I ended up on Indy again, esp. after I had posted this! I should have it up in the next week or so.

The Liberation of Daily Life


I wrote this for a ‘zine last year. This is the first time it has been published on-line.

The Liberation of Daily Life

The Liberation of Daily Life. If you can’t find salvation in a cup of coffee, laughing with friends, or a bone crushing skateboard slam, then you won’t be able to find it anywhere.

People find salvation in many places. Jesus. Oprah. Heroin. Nickleback. This weekend, as part of a WWII living history event that was deep in the woods, and friend and I dug a hole in the ground. That night we slept in it. A pick axe. Two hand shovels. All we had to dig it with. The soil was mostly rock. It took hours to make a hole 4’ by 4’, and about 2.5’ deep. Hand blisters. My shoulders, and back, ached. It went down to the low 30s that night. We didn’t have sleeping bags. Just a bit of straw, and some thin wool military blankets (the kind you often see homeless people with). I usually do this about once a month. Even in winter. Where do I find salvation? One of the places is at the bottom of a pit. A hole that more closely resembles a shallow grave.

The problem with salvation is, like a shower, a meal, or the next drug fix, they are temporary. The effects wear off. You get dirty, hungry, and fiending again. You need to do it again. And again. And again. And then one day you’re dead, and the game is over. Salvation is only something you can find in this life. It is only something you can find today. Now.  

Some needs can never be met. Only sustained. Kept at bay. Detoured. We mostly exist in a state between fulfillment and satiation.

Salvation often resides in the dark places. Outside comfort zones. The places where norms start to breakdown and collapse. Salvation is something you bring back from those places, and hold-on to as long as you can. In time, however, you always again find yourself looking for it.  

That one make after countless attempts. The empty, vacant, parking lot at 4am. Next to sewer water in a ditch. The filthy spot under the bridge that only skaters, and the homeless, haunt. The only salvation really worth anything is the one you can find in a gutter. Yes, these bruises, scars, and open wounds are from skateboarding. I am OK with that. These wounds are what I brought back with me. From a place of enlightenment. From salvation. They are reminders. Scraped tokens. Bloody sign posts that show The Way.

Between satiation and fulfilment is a curb. With my blood on it. My altar. My purpose. My deliverance and redemption. Don’t look to the heavens for salvation. Look below your feet, for that is the only place you will ever find it.