Saturday, December 31, 2016

Curbe Diem & Gratitude: The Story of 2016

     I’m sitting in a café. It’s December 31, 2016. 2:46pm. I’ve mused the content of a year’s end post for a week or so, but nothing has really “grabbed me by the pussy.” Instead, I am just going to go the gestalt route, and wing it, now. Carpe Diem. We’ll come back to that. 

     Many seem to think that 2016 was bad year. Looking back on it, I don’t feel that way. Quite the opposite, actually. I had a lot of fun this year, and did a lot of things that were meaningful, even if they were not easy. What else can you really ask for? When I think back on 2016, a few things stick out in my mind, but one word hangs heavy; gratitude. More than anything else in 2016, I learned the meaning of that word. Here are a few of the reasons.

Skateboarding 

a.    Skating with friends (esp. Joe, Jason, Ben, and Todd). A lot of laughter, heckling, and fun times were had. As I mentioned elsewhere in this blog, for a long time I had removed myself from the skateboard world. Yeah, I still skated, but I was so disconnected from skate media, local events, and most of all, other skaters. That all started to slowly change in 2014, but in 2016 there was a drastic shift. And all for the better. 2016, I think, was one of the funnest years I’ve ever had on a skateboard. The last 12 months reminded me so much of how “pure” skating is, and can be. I have not had this much enjoyment from skating since 1986, when I was a 12-year-old kid, just starting out. 30 years later, we have come full circle. A lot of that is due to my skate “squad” (hate that term).  I have a lot of gratitude for all the people in my life, especially my skater friends. Thank you.

b.    No major injuries. I am also grateful that I was able to skate a lot more in 2016 than I did in 2015. Yeah, I’ve got my lingering old-man injuries (that may never fully go away), but I didn’t have any *major* injuries in 2016 that kept me off the board for months at a time.

c.    Internet Rock Stars. I also “connected” with a lot of rad skaters on the Internet…people I’ve never met in real life, and prolly never will. Despite that, those people have provided me with all types of stoke, laughter, and thought-provoking content (not to mention the stickers, zines, wheels, decks, and all sorts of neat stuff). Again, nothing but gratitude for so many of you!

d.    1 8. It is a well-known fact that I am one of the biggest Anti-Hero “fan boys” the world has ever seen. I take no shame in that—pride, if anything. It was great to see both Brian Anderson “come out,” and to see him end up on Anti-Hero. Long-term readers of this blog will understand how meaningful all of that was on a personal level. I couldn’t have dreamed of something more perfect. The sometimes overt, sometimes subtle, political/social aspects of AH have always amazed me. Even more so this year, with so much going down.  

e.    Max Hesh. A good skate shop is not just a retail outlet, it is a community center. Boston is lucky to have a shop like this, and I am very fortunate to have become good personal friends with the owner. 

Time With My Parents

A lot people died in 2016. A lot people younger than me. A lot people younger than my parents. It could be any of us, at any time. Combined with my own aging, the mass deaths of 2016 really helped me put it all in perspective. At this point, I consider time my biggest gift, and what I have left of it to skate, enjoy the world, and enjoy time with people I care about. My parents are going to turn 70 in 2017. They are old, and frail. To be crass, they could "check-out" at any point now. For certain, I don’t have too much time left with them, and I have learned to appreciate the time I *do* have with them all the more. The same holds true for every moment I have on my skateboard.

My Job
I have a job I love going to, and co-workers who make me laugh and smile. Too many to name. You know who you are. I am grateful to all of you.   

Just before I started writing all this, I saw a New Year’s Post on the Smelly Curb Instagram feed. “Curbe Diem.” Possibly the best two words ever written, on so many levels. The Curbe Diem concept ties in with so much of this year, and so much this post--I can’t think of a better end 2016, or this entry, or as a better way to usher in 2017 than with those words “Curbe Diem.”

Here are few photos of me, and friends, from 2016.

Jason, at Malden.

Ben, at the barrier.

Todd, at Plymouth DIY.

Joe, B/S Smith at the barrier.

Me, Smtih Grind.

Me, B/S Blunt at the barrier.

Me, under the 1 8, sitting in an abandoned chair, and along side the devil.

Me, Tail Block.

Me, Crail Wallride.

Me, F/S Hurricane.

Me, F/S something or another.

Slappy Andy, Jason, and Dan at The Crust Belt.

Jonathan, F/S Pivot at Plymouth DIY.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Der Winter Ist Angekommen.


Der Winter ist angekommen. Everything sounds more ominous in German (Winter has arrived).

Winter has arrived. Temps finally dropped into the 30s this week. Real feel was 17 degrees last night. The first real snow is supposed to be coming in two days. Winter is notoriously bad in New England. Being a skateboarder during dark months is always a challenge. Not only is it cold, but there is the sand. And salt. They put it down in the roads, streets and parking lots. It gets everywhere, and does not get cleaned up until the spring, usually in April. Nightmare. The broom, the parking garage, and lots of layers are winter skater’s friend. And I haven't even mentioned the snow, ice, and sleet yet. Yeah, there are indoor parks, but they are far away, crowded in winter, and I’ve *never* liked the atmosphere of indoor parks—I just would much rather be outside. 

The mini-half is much easier to shovel out than the entire street course. In early 2016 I shoveled it, and a path, at a local park.  
 I shouldn’t complain much. All of October and November were above normal temps (much like most of the world now is). It didn’t rain much. There was a drought, actually. We had a really good run this summer, and fall. But now it will be below freezing for a few months. It is harder to move in winter because of wearing more layers, and feet go numb. Everything feels sluggish, and takes more effort. It takes longer to get warmed-up (in every meaning of the word). Under Armour cold gear. Winter beanies. Sweat shirts. Thick gloves. Face masks. Cold toes. Slams that hurt more. Chapped lips. All the hallmarks of skating in New England winter.  

Shit got crazy in 2015. I biked home from work that night. 5 miles. Went skating the next day, when it warmed up to -5 degrees.  There is a fine line between hardcore, and stupid. I am way over on the stupid side.

 As a kid I used to skate all winter in my parent’s basement. There wasn’t much room, but there was space for a tiny ¼ pipe, a make shift curb (stall tricks only, no room for moving grind/slides), and slow moving flatland. If I lived in the suburbs, I would still do that, even at the age of 42. An apartment in the big city, however, doesn’t lend itself to well to basement skating. No question, I skate less in the winter. Always have. Always will. The weather just complicates things. People in the south, south west, and California don’t realize how good they have it. It is unfathomable to think that I could skate year-round in “warm” weather.

In some respects, I welcome the winter, especially this one, and to the fact that I won’t be skating as much. I’ve been pretty banged up this summer and fall. Old-man problems with tendonitis in my knee, and Achilles. I hope that less time on the board will help with recovery. It’s just too hard to NOT skate during the nice weather, which certainly doesn’t help things heal-up as quickly as they could/should. Like much in life, winter can be a mixed blessing. I just hope this one ends quickly, and without too much snow, or super cold weather. Onwards we go into the cold darkness.  
          

Sunday, November 6, 2016

1 Week Later: The Wax Wars Follow-Up


If you have not read the first part of this test (seen here), you should do so before proceeding any further.

ONE-WEEK FOLLOW-UP: I returned a week later to skate the curbs again, and rerun the tests. Unfortunately, my friend Joe was not with me to compare results. I did not add any additional wax or spray to the curbs. I wanted to see how weathering, etc. impacted their performance. As a reminder, the enamel and lacquer were applied about one week prior to the very first test. So, keep in mind that they had two weeks of exposure compared to the waxed curbs. How did everything hold up?

(1)  DIY WAX: Wax on top of curb was mostly gone. Could still see some on the grinding edge, but not much. The vertical surface still had a bit. I expected this to happen. This is the wax I’ve been using/making for a few years now. It is soft, melts off in the Sun, and is subject to weathering. One the flip side, it is very cheap, and easy to make. How did it grind? It didn’t. At all. Tail slides were a no-go. Too much of the wax had weathered away. I know from previous experience with this wax, that a quick reapply would have made things grind/slide again. 

DIY waxed curb, 1 week later.


   
(2)  Shorty’s Curb Candy Wax: Visibly, it was the same as the DIY wax (e.g. mostly gone). However, its 50/50s were a go from the first attempt. This surprised me. It wasn’t as fast as last week, but no question, it was grinding. Tail slides were a little sticky, and didn’t go far, but they went. Curb no longer smelled like a Martha Stewart Christmas Holiday Project. Thank God.   

Curb waxed with Shorty's Curb Candy, 1 week later.
  
 (3)  ENAMEL: The curb appeared just as it had last week, maybe with a little less sheen. It did not grind, at all. Likewise with tail slides. I was surprised by this. 

Enamel, 1 week later (well, 2 actually).
   
(4)  LACQUER: This also appeared just it had last week. It was still slick, and grinded/tail slid right from the start. I wasn’t AS slick as it was last week, but it was still the best of the four.  

Lacquer, 1 week later (well, 2 actually).

FINAL CONCLUSIONS & TEST WINNER
1st Place: Lacquer, hands down winner.
2nd place: Shorty’s Wax.
Tied for 3rd/4th Place: DIY wax and Enamel.

Notes: It seems that for best results, use lacquer for initial priming, and then touch-up with Shorty’s if/when needed. Since these posts have gone public, a few others have mentioned bar soap and Gulf Wax (paraffin) as other good options. As result of this test, I know have a lot of extra enamel, lacquer, Shorty’s Wax, and DIY wax. I will replicate these tests on different type curbs, and throw soap and Gulf Wax into the mix. A long-term follow-up will be posted at some point in the future.   


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Wax v. Enamel v. Lacquer (Wax Wars: A New Curb)


 Welcome to The Wax Wars

DISCLAIMER: Lubricating any grinding surface is a socio-political issue. This article will not enter such realms. Those situations must be navigated on your own. Tread carefully, as there is no fury like that from an over-waxed surface. What follows is based on the assumption that one seeks to prime a virgin, concrete, unpainted curb/ledge. With that assumption in place, what are the best options? Below are findings from a comparative test of common “moisteners.”   

INTRODUCTION: Our test case was four identical, concrete, raw, unpainted, virgin curbs. We did not brick rub them. Each curb was treated with a different lubricant. A friend (Joe) and I then did about seven 50-50’s on each. After the grinds, Joe would do about 5 nose slides, and I would do about 5 tails slides. We would then compare notes, wipe off any residue on our trucks/board, and move on the next curb, and repeat the process. The review will include wax/spray application, initial skating, and a one week follow up session. The “winner” will be assessed on all of these factors.   

TEST INGREDIENTS
(1)  These curbs (seen in their virgin state). 



(2)  Independent Trucks (Joe and I both ride Indys)

(3)  Homemade wax (8 white tea candles, ¾ teaspoon vegetable oil)


(4)  Brand Name Wax (Shorty’s Curb Candy). Thanks to Max Hesh for hooking me up with these and/or sponsoring Wax Wars research. 


(5)  Rust-oleum Clear Spray Enamel

 
(6)  Valspar Spray Lacquer (“Salba Sauce”)


    
TEST 1: INITIAL APPLICATION & APPEARANCE
(1)  DIY WAX:  I ran the wax twice down the edge of the curb, without much pressure. This wax was pretty soft, and went on easy. However, because it was soft, it was a little messy on my hands. Once on the curb, this wax was almost invisible to the untrained eye. In photo above of the DIY wax, it has been applied to the curb, but not yet skated.  

(2)  SHORTY’S WAX: After I took the plastic wrapper off, I was hit with a wafting smell. Scented wax. Great. Just what I always wanted—a nice aromatic curb. This wax was much harder/denser than the DIY wax I made. As a result, I had to put in real effort to rub it into the curb. Worse, my hands now smelled like a Yankee Candle air freshener or some other kind of Martha Stewart potpourri holiday incense project. Super dreamy. Because of the color (blue), it was now apparent that someone had done something odd to this curb. I forgot to take a photo of the curb right after the Shorty's wax was applied.    

(3)  ENAMEL: To be honest, I had never before used spray enamel or lacquer on an unpainted concrete curb. As such, I wasn’t sure how much to apply. I ran the spray twice down the length of the curb, top, edge, and side surface. It went on fast, and covered more surface area on the curb than wax did, and did so with an even coat. However, the curb instantly looked stained, or as if it was “wet,” or had been “defaced” in some manner. This appearance did not change once the enamel dried. After about 15 minutes (and when it appeared to be dry), I added a second coat, going two lengths of the curb. I am not 100% sure what the actual dry time is, as I did not skate this curb till a few days later.

Curb with enamel spray, photo taken right after it was applied.
 (4)  LACQUER: Same as above, but the lacquer appeared to “stain” the curb even more than the enamel did (although it looks the opposite in the photos).

Curb with lacquer spray, photo taken right after it was applied.
 
(5)  TEST 1 COMMENTS:
a.     Sketch Factor: Spraying shit on a curb from a can looks really sketchy. People are definitely going to think you are up to something if they see that going down. However, it goes on faster, and you can quickly cover a larger area. Putting wax on a curb can done in a more subtle manner, and doesn’t immediately look like you have defaced property. 

b.     Mess Factor: With spray, the curb immediately looks stained, wet, and messy (like you actually vandalized something). This appearance does not go away when it dries. The white DIY wax did not immediately appear to blemish the curb, and could go mostly unnoticed by civilians. The Shorty’s was blue, and added a bit if color to the curb once applied (not to mention the Christmas Tree Shop aroma).

c.     GO! Factor: Wax is ready to go as soon as it is on the curb. Spray needs to dry. If you are adding a second coat, it takes even longer before you can skate it.

(6)  TEST 1 WINNER: No clear winner. Wax is more effort to put on, but is instantly skateable, and does not appear as if you have just vandalized property. Sprays go on very fast and/or cover a lot of surface area, but it takes time to dry, and might look a bitch sketchy.

TEST 2: THE FIRST GRINDS
(1)  DIY WAX: The first few grinds didn’t go that far. In fact, the board came to an almost dead-stop a few times. After a few 50/50s, and a bit of aluminum getting laid down, I was grinding the entire length of the curb without problem. I still needed a bit of speed, and needed to lean back, but things were indeed grinding. I skate a bit faster than Joe, so I was getting 50/50s out of this curb before he was, but not by much. A clear scar was seen on my trucks, so this was a definitive grind, as opposed to just gliding over a slicked-up surface. A noticeable amount of wax residue was on my trucks after a few grinds. Tailslides went ok, but they felt “waxy.”  
 
(2)  SHORTY'S WAX: Curb immediately grinded for both of us, and did so with a nice feel. However, the effect/wax seemed to wear off quickly; the curb soon started to stick. Tailslides were a go at first, and felt lass “waxy” than the DIY stuff, but then they also started to stick. Joe had the same experience with both 50-50s and noseslides.   

(3)  ENAMEL: I sprayed a curb with enamel on Sun 10/23, and we did not skate it until 6 days later. No idea if this had any impact on the slickness of the curb. Joe and I both had a hard time getting the enameled curb to grind, or do a decent nose/tail slide on. These results struck me as odd. I've heard good things about enamel, and expected it to be faster. Of the four tests, enamel had the worst initial results for both of us, on 50-50, and nose/tail slides. I have painted parking blocks with red enamel paint before, and those became super fast. Maybe it was the lacquer I also used in that case??  

Enamel curb, right before we skated it.

 (4)  LACQUER: Likewise with the enamel, we were not able to skate this until 6 days after initial application. Lacquer was the clear, undisputed winner of the initial grind test. It immediately grinded for both of us, and was much, much faster than any of the other test cases. Nose and tailslides were also very fast. The curb itself even looked slick. It had rained earlier in the day, and Joe and I both noticed that water had beaded-up on top of this curb. This was not the case with enamel.   

Lacquer curb, right before we skated it.
 
Water beads on the lacquer curb.
NOTES: After skating all of these curbs for the next 30-40 minutes, both waxes and the enamel started grinding a bit better. We naturally assumed this was due to layers of aluminum getting deposited on the edge of each curb. With time, nose/tail slides became a little bit stickier on both the enamel and waxed curbs. The lacquer never changed, and remained slick and fast the entire time.

(5)  TEST 2 WINNER: Lacquer was the clear winner. Shorty’s Wax came in 2nd place, and DIY wax and enamel were tied for 3rd place.  

A one week follow-up session will go down this weekend. I will post results, and final winner, in the near future. I assume that results will not change much from what has already been reported.
 
Joe, mid-test on the 1st Place winning lacquer curb.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Dylan Rieder 1988 - 2016

Dylan Rieder died today. He was 28. Cancer. The news is all over Time, Rolling Stone, People, etc. Ozzy Osbourne even tweeted about. Pro skateboarder, and model.

Commenting on the dead is always an odd situation because, in reality, you are commenting for the living.

I was out skating tonight with some friends. My knee started giving me some problems. I became a bit depressed about this; at the old age of 42, I simply can not skate as much, or as hard, I used to. Despite that, no matter how broke-down the level is, I can go skating tomorrow. Dylan can not. Never take what you have for granted. We are all going to die. Enjoy what is here, now, before it is gone.

Roll forever, Dylan. Roll forever.



Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On Brian Anderson...


By now everyone knows Brian Anderson came out of the closet. Considering previous subject material covered in this blog (here and here), NOT including comment on BA would seem a deafening silence.

But what to write about? Anyone following media has seen the tremendous support BA received. They have seen Brian, and many others, express why it is so important that this finally happened. I have no substantive additions.   

Write about what it means to me, personally? Well, actually, it means very little to me. I mean, yeah, it’s rad to see it happen, but I have been “out” for over 20 years. I am comfortable in my own skin. I don’t need a skate “role model” to help feel more at-ease with myself. If I were a closeted skater in middle of nowhere, sure, it would be huge. But that is not the world I live in, thankfully.

Write about what took so damn long for (another*) pro to come out? It’s a moot point, IMHO.  While that question may merit some substantive discussion, I don’t really want to dwell on past social conditions and hypothetical “what-ifs.” I’d rather just focus on the now.  I’d rather just focus on how Skateboarding responded once someone did come out. And holy fuck, did skateboarding ever respond. Nothing could have prepared me for what followed.  The explosive support has far, far, far exceeded the support ever seen in any other “sport” community (once someone came out). It really is unparalleled.  So, way to go with that one, Skateboarding. You fucking killed it. It might have taken you awhile, you might have been late to the game this one time, but once it did happen, holy hell, your response was better than anything ever witnessed, and you blew the rest of the fucking world out of the water (just like you usually do).  Well done.   

  
But, I suppose that is just it. If anything, the aspect of the entire BA story that has the most meaning, is how Skateboarding responded to BA, and how in the process, skateboarding again affirmed itself as one of the best things in the world. Skateboarding has long been a cesspool for turbo-freaks (I mean that in a positive way). Yet, there had not been overt affirmation that the LBGT crowd was included in that cesspool. Now, there is (although, many of us knew that to already be true on local levels, BA included). Yeah, sure, there will always be a few turbo-clowns who can’t deal with “different” people, but fuck them. They are clearly a minority, and a dying breed. Out of the entire BA saga, what moved me the most, and what resounded the deepest, was the dignity that Skateboarding showed once the news broke. There were hundreds and thousands of comments on all forms of social media that were not just affirmations of BA, but affirmations of Skateboarding (e.g. that skaters are all family, that inclusion is WHAT skateboarding is about, anyone is welcome, etc.). That, THAT, is so much more profound than just giving BA props, and it goes so much deeper than just any one person. BA’s coming out didn’t make me feel more proud, or more secure, or more validated about being some random gay dude. Seeing the response to BA's announcement, however, made me all the more proud to be a skateboarder. I actually look forward to the day that skateboarding is “over the rainbow,” and things like this aren’t newsworthy, and they don’t merit any of my time to write about it. I’d much rather spend the time discussing the metaphysical impact that a good slappy session can have on one's soul. I mean, who wants to get into the mess of identity politics when we could be talking serious curb philosophy/enlightenment? I certainly know where my allegiances lie.     

POST-SCRIPT: Anyone that knows me personally, has read enough of this blog, is friends with me on Facebook, or follows me on Instagram (Lone.Sentry) knows that I am a huge Anti-Hero fan. Maybe I’ll get into the exact reasons for that in some future blog entry. As of writing this post, it appears that BA is about end up as the next pro for AH. Signing a 40-year-old dude, and putting out a deck for the first openly gay, pro skater, who is certainly past his prime? No question—That is one for the history books. That deck, for certain, is going up on my wall. Anti-Hero, you continue to amaze me, and affirm everything that I think is horrible about the world, and rad about skateboarding. Well played. Well played.        

*Jarret Berry and Tim von Werne were way ahead of their time.

POST-POST SCRIPT: Jenkem Mag just did a great interview with Jarret Berry, as can be seen here. There is a great quote at the end of his interview that I would also like to end on.

"The internet has been blowing up after Brian’s interview, and everybody is saying shit – there’s been a lot of gay shit coming out in the past few weeks. (Can I say that?) Now this interview is going to come out and people are going to be like, “Fuck, still? Why don’t you let this gay shit rest?” I get it, let’s get back to watching Guy Mariano or Brian Anderson footage. Let’s get back to skating. But the thing is, this is skating. People say politics don’t belong in skateboarding, but we became political a long time ago just by riding a skateboard. They said don’t go here, don’t skate that. They called us fags. They always put skateboarders down. But we were rebels because we didn’t follow their rules, we were going to go be ourselves and fuck what the world thinks. Skateboarders have always brought up social issues. So this has everything to do with skateboarding — we’ve been freaks forever."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Summer's Twilight

Walking is a little hard this morning. Almost all great mythology and religion teach spiritual redemption through physical pain. Skateboarding is no different. Especially when you are old. Last night was, what will probably be, my most remembered skate session from the summer of 2016. For that, I am limping around today, but it was worth every last second. In late August, the nights are starting to become a bit cooler. The days are beginning to grow noticeably shorter. That black day, the first bell of the 2016-2017 school year, is less than a week away. Summer is in twilight.

A few of us gathered at the local community center skate shop. We have made a regular thing of Wednesday Night Slappy Sessions (or "old guy skate night") for the last 2 months or so. We got a bit of a late start because we were trying to (unsuccessfully) convince Joe to put leopard print grip tape on his new deck. We eventually left. Todd (shop owner), Joe, Ben, and I made our way over to our favorite slappy curb. Josh, Nick, and a friend of Nick’s, met us over there. Seven guys, all in their 30s and 40s. A few of our other regulars couldn’t make it out, unfortunately. Once there, we got down to bid’ness, and by bid’ness I mean heckling. It’s far too absent from modern skateboarding, and can provide for side-splitting laughter. After about an hour, a security guard came out. He was probably in his late teens or early 20s. The irony of someone that young, kicking out skaters twice his age, was not lost on any of us, including him. He was actually quite sheepish in doing so, and even apologized. 

Some months back, a few of us made a DIY spot out of two jersey barriers that were nearby. We went over to fix an angle iron one night, and ran into these two other guys skating there. We skated with them for a bit, and then I asked them if they had been to our other DIY spot just up the road. They had not. I gave them all the info. In return, one them asked us if we had “ever skated the slappy curb around the corner.” We all said that we hadn’t, and that we were unaware of any such curb. They took as about 2 blocks away, and showed us a little slice of heaven; a long painted curb, that was just slightly slanted, making it a perfect “west coast” slappy curb. Slanted, skateable, curbs in New England simply do not exist. This was only the second one I have seen in my 31 years of skating around the east coast. Hence, Wednesday Night Slappy Session were born that evening.

After the teenage security guard kicked us out, we headed over to the DIY barrier spot, as it was close by. We ran into two other kids skating over there, and quickly made friends with them. When you hit a real skatepark, you always run into other skaters. Usually, you don’t end up talking with too many of them. When you hit a small DIY, and run into other skaters, you almost always end up becoming instant friends. The vibe, and the people, at DIYs are just different. Joe is a professional photographer, and he broke out the camera equipment, and started doing the whole photo thing. Some of the photos he took last night are at the end of this post. The skating isn’t all that impressive, but the photos certainly are.

What made last night’s session one of the most memorable of summer 2016? Hard to say. Like I mentioned in my last post—about the intangible elements that make up a good skate spot—there is also an undefined “mix” that makes up a good skate session. I had just set-up a new deck that afternoon. Nothing beats a new deck. There was a fun group of people, all of whom were in a good mood. The curb was grinding really well. We taught someone to do slappies, for the first time, ever. The weather was great. The heckling was hilarious. The skating was good, and fun. The irony of getting kicked out by someone half our age. Making new friends at a DIY, and telling them about the slappy curb, just as someone had told us about it. The laughter. Joe getting some cool pics to document part of the night. All of this, plus more. We’ve had sessions very similar to this almost every Wednesday night, but this one was just different, at least for me. Ultimately, it just comes down to the basics. Rolling around, with friends, and laughing. That, is the real essence of skateboarding, and the only one that really matters. And for that, I am limping around today. My old man Achilles and Patella (knee) tendonitis are bearing the brunt of last night’s fun. I prolly won’t skate again for at least a week, while things heal a bit. The pain I am feeling today will be gone at some point. The memories from last night…those, those are here to stay.

I don't know his name. He was one of the people we ran into at the barrier spot.

Me. Popping out of a backside blunt, on that crisp new deck. 

Ben, getting rad.

More of Ben getting rad.

Me again. Frontside pivot, in tribute to Neil Blender.

Austin. He was one of the other people we ran in to at the barrier. Frontside ollie.

Nose stall backside revert, by a person who remains unnamed.

Best for last. I love this photo. Ben, with the frontside boneless.


              
  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

SALEM’S LOT: A Black Altar, and DIY Worm Holes in Time


A few days ago I cooked-up the idea of building a small platform/ledge that I could keep in my car. I could tote it around, and set it up at different spots. The possibility of throwing it atop some local banks, creating a make-shift bank to curb was quite seductive. I planned on constructing the platform to be 42” long, 30” wide, and about 9” high. These are the dimensions of old railroad pallets. In the late 1990s, one of these pallets appeared at a local skate park, and it was super rad to skate. The idea of a portable skate toy sounded fun. It was time to make it happen. I figured I could build it for pretty cheap, too. First, I snagged some “free” 2x4s at a nearby site (all these years, and still a “plywood hood”). A few hours later, I was at my local skate shop, and the owner told me he had some left over Masonite. It just happened to be 30” wide, and 48” long. Too perfect. I decided to make the platform 48” instead of 42”, as it would just require less work cutting stuff to size. I purchased a 4’ length of angle iron, and a 4’x’4 sheet of ½” plywood, and 4 cinder blocks that were 8” squares (to raise platform off the ground). I also had an old iron bed frame, which could be cut up and used as angle iron. I built the platform, and installed the real angle iron on one 4’ side of platform, and the bed frame angle iron on the other 4’ side. The Masonite went on as a top surface, flush against the angle iron. Everything had counter-sunk screw holes, so the entire thing was smooth as butter. As a final step, I spray painted everything all black (inc. the cinder blocks), and stenciled the name on top. Total cost, including spray paint: About $30.00. The free Masonite, 2x4s, and bed frame angle iron certainly helped reduce the cost.


I live in Boston. Middle of the city. Not much space to set-up something like this, without bothering others, or disrupting traffic. There is, however, one industrial/office park not too far from where I live. It is quite isolated. At night there is a very large parking area that becomes empty and vacant. I have named this place “Salem’s Lot” (I’ll let you ascertain all the implied meanings and symbolism of that). The area is surfaced with very level, smooth, fast, blacktop. Lighted. No one around. Woods on three sides. But more important than any of this, the place has energy. A feel. A good vibe. Something skate-spiritual. There is an intangible element that makes some spots much better than others. We all have that one favorite curb, ditch, hill, ledge, ramp, etc. What makes it a favorite? Often it is more than just the object itself. The surroundings, the context…the feel of the entire area and setting often play huge roles. Skate spots are as much metaphysical as they are bare existence. The ledges at EMB would have a very different “experience” than skating a ledge of the exact same dimensions behind a Walmart in the middle of Iowa. Salem’s Lot has that magical element to it. Prior to building The Black Altar, I would frequent the Lot when I was in the mood for a midnight flatland session. Now that The Black Altar was built, the area was about to enter a whole new realm of enchantment. 

I went over to the Lot spot a few nights ago for The Black Altar’s christening. The first thing I noticed was how different the bed frame iron and the “real” angle iron were from each other. The angle iron was a harder metal, had a sharp 90 angle edge, and was unpainted. The bed frame iron was a bit softer, had a slightly more rounded edge, and was coated with some type of paint. With my first 50/50 on the angle iron, my board stopped dead in its tracks. I threw a slight film of wax on it, and added a lot more speed. It grinded, but it was clear this was going to take a bit to really break in. I would certainly need to get a layer of aluminum laid down on the edge before it was really “functional.” As the bed frame metal was softer (I knew this from drilling screw holes in both of them), I expected it grind even slower than the “real” angle iron. I could not have been more wrong. It was slick as ice, right from the get-go. After thinking about it, this made some sense. It had a more rounded edge (e.g. didn’t dig into trucks), and it was painted. So, take note, anyone DIYers who may want to build their own version. The contrast between the two made for some fun, and it was nice to have a little grinding variety. The Black Alter proved to be a total success. I may have to get additional cinder blocks, to allow for more height options. I am really happy with how it turned out, and I can’t wait to fully tap all its potential. 

After skating for about 45 minutes, I sat down to take a break. Sitting in the warm night air, with the cicadas droning on in the nearby woods, I suddenly realized how much Salem’s Lot physically resembled a night spot from my distant youth. Maybe that was why this place had that certain sense of magic to it. Then, it seemed as if the fabric of time began to unravel. A distant memory experience came flooding back to me. A hot summer night, when I was about 12-years-old. I was skating in an empty parking lot. I had found some wood, and some bricks, and made a small platform. 12 am. Age 12. Empty Lot and a platform. 12 am. Age 42. Empty Lot and a platform. Suddenly, I was 12, and 42, at the same moment. The continuum of time had collapsed. Generally, we experience our “now” in terms of our future short and long term goals and possibilities (e.g. take the next left turn in the road, meet a work deadline, retire at 65, find the mounting hardware bolt I just dropped on the floor, etc.). How we comprehend and interpret those goals and possibilities is contextualized in/by our prior experiences. Our “now” is future orientated, but guided by our past, all of which fuse into a present understanding of our “now.” Here, in Salem’s Lot, all of this was breaking down. The past was guided by the future, 30 years ago was now, and the “now” was a lived-memory…all at the very same instant. The experience of past, the future, and the now, became a single, seamless, timeless, experience, in which it was difficult to parse apart one from the other. My mind swirled. All I could do was look at my skateboard, and smile, for it…it… alone was the single string which fused the past, present, and future together in this one moment. It alone was the portal.

My friend Ben made a home-cut board a few months ago. It flashed in my mind. Part of the graphic were the words “Lot Lurker.” Flash to Kyle’s blog post. Flash to a previous night I had. Flash to Luchaskate comments about parking lots. A collective unconsciousness. A shared experience. A skater’s transcendental truth. 

Salem has many lots.  They all have a lurking magic.