Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Making of a Skate Punk, Part 6: "Why Is He Sponsored?"

In this update:
-Getting a board sponsor ruined skateboarding
-The best friends I never met
-The vanishing skate crew

Circa 1994 this little board company started up in Boston called Joint 109. It was one of the first ever Boston-based skateboard companies. They asked me to ride for them. I said yes. Getting sponsored is supposed to be every skater’s dream. It had the opposite effect on me. I felt bad about it. Guilty. Self-conscious. Embarrassed. Even ashamed. I no longer wanted to skate around anyone. The reason? I felt like an imposter. A sham. A fake. There were so many other good skaters in Boston. So many that were much better than me. Who the fuck am I? Why the fuck did I deserve to be a sponsored skater (even if was just by a very small local board company)? I didn’t feel like I was entitled to such a thing. No way. No how. And now that I was, I felt a much more critical eye was on me. “That dude isn’t nearly as good as X, Y, or Z. Why is he sponsored?” I also started feeling compelled to both promote the company, and to make sure I was always progressing (e.g. to justify why I was on the team). Neither of which were my “natural state.” Being in the so-called “spotlight” of other skaters, and the pressure I felt (real or not) from the company, started to turn skateboarding into a job, with responsibilities. This was counter to everything I knew skateboarding to be. I didn’t like it. Not one bit. Looking back on all of it, the least amount of fun I’ve had with skateboarding was the period in which I was sponsored. In addition to this, other people on the team were always talking about girls. I could not relate. At all. By this time I was around 20-years-old. I had never had a single girlfriend. I never talked about girls. Things were just getting…awkward. I eventually just faded away from the team and the company. They went out of business the next year, if I recall.

This period occurred around the same time the Internet was starting to become “a thing.” I was a regular contributor to alt.skate-board, and was always chatting away on #skate late into the night with others from around the U.S. (see end of previous post). It was through a.s-b (alt.skate-board) that I “met” Richard Wang. Richard is now a physician. In the early 1990s he was in pre-med school in NYC. Richard was gay. He was out. He skated. He was happy. My mind was shattered. I had no idea any of these things were possible. I had never spoken to gay person before. Granted, all of this was over the Internet, but he was the first person I ever “came out” to. Eventually that spilled over to the rest of the people who were regulars on #skate. The first people I ever came out to were a group of skaters that I had never met in person. I doubt any of them know the extent of it (they will if they read this post), but they all helped get me through a dark period of my life. The support, and most of all the humor, resounds with me to this day. I owe them all my thanks, and perhaps even my life. The early members of #skate will always hold a very special place in my world. Most of us are still in contact with each other, even in 2016. Skaters form a family like no other. Ryan. Rick. Omae. Nancy. Jean Chan, Jenny K. Morbi. Huph. Rolf. Sue. Etc. And especially Richard, I owe you all the deepest gratitude and thanks. Some of the best fiends I never actually met (over the years I did meet Nancy, Richard, and few others in real life).  

I should take a moment to plug Blair Mag. This was something Richard put together way back in the early 90s. It was legit one of the first “internet magazines.” It was/is a hilarious take on pop culture, skateboarding, and other random shit. There was even the Blair Skate Team (click on each person fora "bio"), which includes a funny photo of me with dyed-black hair throwing devil horns. Go play Lesbian or German Lady and/or Gay of Euro Trash. Both are really funny. Or check out How to be a Blond Asian Freak. Blair Mag fuckin' delivers.

I eventually came out to close skater friends in Boston. Some people were very supportive. I never knowingly lost any friends over it. There are some who drifted away, but I don’t know if that was because we naturally just drifted apart, or they distanced themselves from me because they couldn’t deal with having an actual “skate fag” as friend. I guess I’ll never know.

I had been terrified that all my close friends would abandoned me if the truth came “out,” and they did abandon me, but not because of the gay factor. We were all out of high school at this point. “Real life” was starting to take hold. As often happens after high school, people begin to drift away from their hometowns for college, work, or other personal reasons. We were no different. Within a year, my closest group of skateboard friends were all gone from the area, many to Ohio, which was a stinging irony (see previous post.) My skate crew vanished. I was alone. My world and identity were on the cusp of a stark new direction. Everything was about to change, even my very name. Skateboarding would soon diminish into the background.

-The death of "Chip" Sterling
-Skateboarding fades to black
-The economy collapsed, and so did I 
-Old Ghosts begin to awaken (Yes, that is a Vision reference) 

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