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.


  1. sweet article. I especially enjoyed the metaphysical moment of CLARITY that you experienced while skating. That shit is real.