That’s how I ended my last post. To quote an old Foundation ad, “When you are at the bottom, the only was is up.”
At the bottom of my new street was a school. They had two basketball courts. Stripped of almost everything I knew, I was returning to some very basics. Skateboarding was one of them. I went skating at the courts one night. I was shocked at just how rusty I had become, and how many flatland tricks I had lost. This was a reality check. I had been a good flatland skater in a previous life; I was the first one in Boston to ever do nollie kickflips (Well, Dan Gallagher was, but he was a fuckin’ rad freestyle skater). The trick hadn’t even appeared in a single pro video yet. But now? Damn. My body was slow, stiff, awkward...and old. I was even more shocked at how sore I was the next day. A further reality check. I was not 20 anymore. Skating will be not be like it used to be. Between 2010 and 2014 I putted around a bit. I was certainly skating more than I had been, but it hadn’t consumed me. I still had periods were I was off the board for weeks at a time. There was residual bouts of depression left over from “the collapse,” and no doubt that was a factor. In the early fall of 2014 I was visiting my parents to help them out with some stuff. My mom wanted something out of the attic. Everything was about to change, yet again.
While in the attic, I found a box. In it was a bunch of old Thrasher and Transworld Skateboarding magazines from the late 1980s. Some of the first issues I ever owned. I started flipping through them. Then something happened I was not expecting. A bolt of lightning from a clear sky. A reality-based epiphany washed over me;
(1) There is nothing I have loved more than skateboarding. There is nothing that has had a greater impact on my life.
(2) I am now 40-years-old. I am not going to be able to skateboard forever. Age will defeat me. The clock is running shorter than ever before.
(3) I need to fully enjoy what time/ability I have left, before it is gone forever.
Tears actually began to stream down my face. Tears of joy. Tears of appreciation. Tears of loss (with the acute realization that someday, skating would be over). Tears of love. Tears of clarity. Tears of awareness. Tears of purity. Tears of...enlightenment. It was one of the most emotionally overwhelming experiences I’ve ever had. It was as if I came face-to-face with my own death, and my greatest love, at the exact same moment, and in doing so, achieved a very, very, deep spiritual awakening. Since 2010, I had been skating a bit more, but something had been missing; passion. Somehow, sitting in my parent’s attic it returned. A dam burst. The levees broke. It all came flooding back, with an emotional force I had never known before. I have heard Jesus-freaks talk about a “born again” experience. This one moment, sitting in a dark, cold attic, I became a “born again” skater. Later that same afternoon my mother made an astute comment. “Christopher, you seem different. Happy. I haven’t seen that in some time.”
In the latter half of 2014 I started skating a lot more. The rust was coming off, but it was obvious there were somethings I would just never again be able to do. I started checking out skate media on a regular basis (even in the “off years,” I would check-in on favorite pros, favorite companies, and see what was going on with them, but it certainly wasn’t a weekly occurrence). I was now shocked at both (1) how much everything had changed, and (2) how much nothing had changed. From watching video clips, I was under the impression that every single person who skated was now doing switch kickflip backside lipslides down 12 stair rails as warm-up tricks. I was pretty self-conscious about hitting local skate parks. Did people my age even seriously skate, at all, anywhere? How much of a turbo-clown was I going to look like? Did it even matter (deep inside, I knew the answer to that)? I soon found out that tons of older people were still skating. Awesome.
At some point that fall, I was skating alone at a local park. I was getting frustrated that I wasn’t consistent at 360 flips, or a lot of other things, anymore. Then, a voice from deep inside of me spoke, and said something I had not heard in a long, long, time. When I worked at the skate shop, and during my sponsored period, I often had younger kids ask me how to get sponsored, and say that wanted be in videos/magazines, wanted to turn pro, etc. I always used to say the same thing to them. It was a phrase I had not uttered in years. There, alone in that park, I said it out loud; Do it for the right reasons, or don’t do it at all. I then also a remembered a great quote from one of David Thornton’s podcasts. “Greater ability does mean greater love” (and that certainly includes the greater ability I once had). A smile came over me, and then the rest of that afternoon was the best time I’ve had on skateboard since I was 12. Every since then every session has mirrored this.
The winter of 2015 hit. Historic snow fall in Boston. We got over 7 feet of snow in about 6 weeks. The city looked like Hoth.
|Boston? Hoth? Stalingrad? Who knows.|
|People started digging tunnels in order to get around.|
|Parking meters were buried.|
|This pile of snow did not melt until June. Yes, you read that right. June.|
In late 2014 and into 2015 I began to creep from the shadows. I slowly started getting directly involved with skate culture again. Somehow, I ended up as one of the main coordinators of local DIY projects. I even ended up on the Deluxe web site (that’s me, dead center, with the Spitfire shirt), I started skating with other people again, and connecting with other skaters. Soon free stickers, magazines, artwork, t-shirts, and even decks started showing up in the mail. Skaters are indeed a family like no other. They take care of their own. (You all know who you are. Thank you!)
All of this brings us to the present day. February, 2016. What have I garnered from this trip down existential-memory-lane? What has it taught me about my “now?” Where do I go from here? Harking back to my first post in this series, and the one, single, question that started this entire story, “What does it mean to be a skater?” All of that to be explore in the Epilogue (future post). I’ll end this series with a batch current photos of me doing what I love most, and two quotes.
"Skateboarding led me to a point where I became totally free. The whole DIY attitude of skateboarding pretty much made me who I am today.” –Tommy Guerrero
“Skate and enjoy.” –Mike Vallely
|Over the box. Still have some pop for 41. Summer 2015.|
|Smith grind into the heavens. Summer 2015.|
|Blasting off from the square planet. Autumn 2015.|
|F/S Hurricane. Spring 2015.|
|DIY barrier blunt. Winter 2015.|
|Shadows and lighting are my favorite thing about this pic. Summer 2015.|
|Forgot what this is. Disaster? Noseblunt?|
|F/S 180 to Fakie 5-0. Summer 2015.|
|Feeble. Everything I do is. Summer 2015. Backing the 18 since Day 1.|
|F/S nose to revert. Winter 2015.|
|Crail. Summer 2015.|
|About to do Barrier Battle. HAIL BA.KU.! Winter 2015.|
|B/S tailslide. Winter 2014.|
|Ollie my bike. Fall 2014.|
NOTE: While the title of this post may seem otherwise, this is only the final post in this series, not the final post of the blog. Lots more to come.