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.


**2018 Update: How times change. I am no longer riding Thunders on transition. A few months back, I ended up at a ramp, and only had my street board with me (e.g. Indys). After skating the ramp for awhile, I thought, “Wow, I really like the way these are feeling.” I put Indys back on my ramp board, and have been riding those ever since. Today, I decided to revisit Thunders on transition. I didn’t like them. While the board felt slightly more stable (lower to the ground, wider wheelbase), it just seemed to lack some non-tangible item that I couldn’t put my finger on. Soul, maybe? Indys certainly have that. I have now come full circle with Indys. Somehow that seems fitting. 


(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 always surprised to hear some people says Thunders turn better than Indys. Thunders have a longer wheelbase, by almost ¼ inch, which is a huge amount in wheelbase terms. I found Thunders to turn noticeably slower than Indys. I accredited that to the longer wheelbase.


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.   

Monday, August 14, 2017

Indy, You're Dead to Me.


I’ve ridden Indys my entire life. I had tried a few others over time. They didn’t compare. For the last 15 years, it’s been Indy, and nothing else. About six months back I decided to give Thunders a shot. Why? Deluxe is an amazing company, and they do so much to give back. I already was only riding Deluxe decks, and Spitfire Formula 4 wheels. I figured why not give Thunders a try to round out the entire thing (I like supporting companies that do more than just produce products for consumption).

I grabbed a pair of the Team Hollow Lights, and set them up on my deck. I liked them. A lot. Way lighter than Indys. A tid-bit lower. Slightly longer wheel base. They didn’t turn as quick as Indys, but they still turned great. NO AXLE SLIP. I’ve ridden Thunders ever since, and been happy with them.

However, I had always intended to do a “long term follow-up.” The door was still open to return to Indys. After I had ridden Thunders for a while, I wanted to try Indys again, to see how things went. Would I suddenly yearn to have quick-turning Indys back on my set-up once I tried them again?

Today was the day. I put my old Indys on, and went over to a favorite spot. I skated for about 90 min, but the verdict was pretty clear right from the start. I hated them. Too heavy. Too high. Wheelbase was weird. Turning felt…unpredictable. AXLE SLIPPAGE. The door was closed. I never thought I’d ever say this, but…

Independents, you are dead to me.    

OCTOBER 28, 2017 UPDATE: I am back on Indys, and loving them. Well, there is one catch. More details coming in a future post. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Roll For Rob, DIYing It, and Some Other Stuff

[I’ve always tried to only post when I have some larger point or message to convey. While this has not always been the case, it mostly holds true. I’m going to end that, at least for the time being. I have long maintained (and written about) that if you can’t find liberation, or meaning, in daily life, then you won’t be able to find it anywhere. Hence, I am going to start including more posts about “mundane” daily life, and the meaningful things, good and bad, that I experience on the day-to-day.]

It’s 12:50am on Tuesday night. I am at work. The bar is empty. Consequently, I don’t have much to do. I broke out the laptop, and started typing away. A few updates from “This American Skate Life” (phrase stolen from David Thornton).

(1)  I’d be a miss if I didn’t mention something about this…There was Roll for Rob event last weekend in Boston. Friday night was an art show / silent auction. Various people donated artwork for it, including the likes of Todd Francis, Mark Gonzales, Jason Jesse, Mark Oblow, Shapard Fairey, etc. Todd Francis is a favorite of mine, and I would have loved to see an original of his in person, but no go. I had to work. Oh, well.

Saturday was the big skate jam at the Lynch Family Skate Park. Despite the park having been open for over a year, I’ve only skated there about three times. I hate dealing with big crowds at skate parks. Always have. Always will. I headed over to Lynch on Saturday because (1) It’s a good cause, and (2) I wanted to meet Jim Theibaud. He and I have been conversing on Instagram for a while, and I’ve been involved with a few of the Deluxe Build Projects (via Max Hesh skates hop, and I won one of the individual grants). I rode my bike over Saturday afternoon. The place was total chaos. Worse than expected. So many skaters. Despite having my board, I decided I wasn’t even going to bother trying to skate. Place was just too hectic. A few promotional booths were set up to one side. I hung out near those, and just watched for a bit. After I had been there about 15 min, Jim T. comes skating up to the booths (he had JUST arrived to the park). After it looked like he was finished making the rounds with everyone, I went over to introduce myself. Before I was even done, he said, “Yeah, I know who you are. I recognize you.” I was floored. I responded with, ‘Well, I just wanted to say hello,” and then I wandered off, not wanting to force some weird manufactured conversation. I had said all I wanted to say. Shortly after I headed home, and went skating for a while in my area of the city, alone. I was still rolling for Rob, however. 

Yesterday, I saw this group photo taken at the event. Skateboarders do amazing things off the board, too. All of it was very inspiring, on many levels.


(2)  We’ve been making a lot of renegade DIY stuff the last month or so. We built up abandoned street in Boston, and it’s really turning into a legit DIY spot. Six builds are there already, with more soon coming. It’s a great feeling when I see clips on Instagram people doing rad shit, and having fun, on something I (and friends) built. It’s a cool way to give back.

(3)  I turned 43 in April. I’ve been feeling physically old. It just takes so much more effort to do the same things that were “effortless” when I was younger. The effort it once took to skate a bench now feels like the same amount of effort it takes to skate a curb. Noah Baxter said it best, “Gravity is stronger now.” It certainly is. Worse, it takes so much longer to get “warmed up.” Age is a real thing. It’s coming for me. I consider myself lucky enough to be acutely aware of that fact. Hence, it makes everything in the moment more meaningful, and for lack of a better word…precious. I certainly won’t be able to “roll forever,” but I’m riding this train till the fuckin’ wheels fall off.             

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Tao Te Chin(g) of Skateboarding: A Guide to Stoke (Part 3)


See this post for introduction. 

This post contains 20 chapters of the Tao (I had been posting them in groups of 10).

21
The Master keeps his mind
always at one with the Stoke;
that is what gives his skating radiance.

The Stoke is ungraspable.
How can his mind, and skating, be at one with it?
Because he doesn't cling to ideas, tricks, or styles.

The Stoke is dark and unfathomable.
How can it make his skating radiant?
Because he lets it.

Since before time and space were,
this Stoke is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside skateboarding, and myself, and see.


22
If you want your skating to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up.

The Master, by residing in the Stoke,
sets an example for all skaters.
Because he doesn't display himself,
people can see his light.
Because he has nothing to prove,
people can trust his words.
Because he doesn't know who he is,
people recognize themselves in him.
Because he has no goal in mind,
all of his skating succeeds.

When the ancient Masters said,
"If you want to be given everything,
give everything up,"
they weren't using empty phrases.
Only in being lived by the Stoke
can you be truly yourself.


23
When skating express yourself completely,
then keep quiet.
Be like the forces of nature:
when it blows, there is only wind;
when it rains, there is only rain;
when the clouds pass, the sun shines through.

If you open yourself to the Stoke,
you are at one with the Stoke,
and your skating can embody it completely.
If you open yourself to insight,
you are at one with insight
and you can use it completely.
If you open yourself to loss,
you are at one with loss
and you can accept it completely.

Open yourself to the Stoke,
then trust your natural responses,
and everything will roll into place.


24
He who stands on tiptoe
doesn't stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn't go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can't know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can't empower himself.
He who clings to his own skating, and work
will create nothing that endures.

If you want to accord with the Stoke,
just skate, then let go.


25
There was something formless and perfect
before the First Push, and before the universe was born.
It is serene. Empty.
Solitary. Unchanging.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of all skating.
For lack of a better name,
We call it the Stoke.

It flows through all things,
inside and outside, and returns
to the origin of all things.

The Stoke is great.
Transition is great.
Lines are great.
Skaters are great.
These are this four great powers.

Skaters follows the lines.
The lines follow the transition.
Transition follows the Stoke.
The Stoke follows only itself.


26
The small slappy is the root of the giant handrail.
The unmoved is the source of all movement.

Thus the Master skates all day
without leaving home.
However splendid the spot,
he stays serenely in himself.

Why should the lord of the country
flit about like a fool?
If you let your skating be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your roots.
If you let restlessness move you,
you lose touch with the skater you are.


27
A good on-the-road skater has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition
lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
and keeps his mind open to what is.

Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn't reject anyone.
He is ready to skate all terrain
and doesn't waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.

What is a stoked skater but an unstoked skater’s teacher?
What is an unstoked skater but a stoked skater’s job?
If you don't understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.


28
Know ollies,
yet keep to the ground:
receive the world in your arms.
If you receive the world,
the Stoke will never leave you
and you will be like a little child, with his first board.

Know backside airs,
yet keep to the lip:
be a line for the world.
If you are a line for the world,
the Stoke will be strong inside you
and there will be nothing you can't do.

Know the smooth concrete of an expensive skate park,
yet keep to the natural crust spots:
accept the world as it is.
If you accept the world,
the Stoke will be luminous inside you
and you will return to your primal self.

The world is formed from the void,
like a deck from a block of wood.
The Master knows the utensils,
yet keeps to the block:
Thus he can use, and skate, all things.


29
Do you want to improve your skating?
I don't think it can be done.

Your skating is sacred.
It can't be improved.
If you tamper with it, you'll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you'll lose it.

There is a time for being ahead of others,
a time for being behind them;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for a vigorous session,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for trying tricks that are safe,
a time for trying tricks that bring danger.

The Master sees, and skates, things as they are,
without trying to control them.
He lets them roll their own way,
and resides at the center of the bearing’s circle. (see Chap 11)


30
Whoever relies on the Stoke in governing his skating
doesn't try to force tricks or style
or become angry if there is something he can’t do.
For every force there is a counter-force.
Anger and violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon oneself.

The Master skates his session
and then stops.
He understands that skating
is forever out of control,
and that trying to dominate all tricks
goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself,
he doesn't try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn't need others' approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole world accepts him.


31*
Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.

Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is his highest value.
If the peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but human beings like himself.
He doesn't wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?

He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral.


32
The Stoke can't be perceived.
Smaller than an electron,
it contains uncountable galaxies.

If skaters could remain centered in the Tao,
all of skateboarding would be in harmony.
The skate-world would become a paradise.
All skaters would be at peace,
and the law would be written in their hearts.

When you have trick names and style forms,
know that they are provisional.
When you have institution trends
know where their functions should end.
Knowing when to stop,
you can avoid any danger.

All skating ends in the Stoke
as rivers flow into the sea.


33
Knowing other skaters is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering other’s style is strength;
mastering your own is true power.

If you realize that you have enough,
you are truly rich.
If you stay in the center
and embrace death with your whole heart,
your skating will endure forever.


34
The great Stoke flows everywhere.
All skaters are born from it,
yet it doesn't create them.
It pours itself into a session,
yet it makes no claim.
It nourishes infinite skateboarders,
yet it doesn't hold on to them.
Since it is merged with all skaters
and hidden in their hearts,
it can be called humble.
Since all skating vanishes into it
and it alone endures,
it can be called great.
It isn't aware of its greatness;
thus it is truly great.

35
He who is centered in the Stoke
can go skate where he wishes, without danger.
He perceives the universal harmony,
even amid great pain,
because he has found peace in his heart.

Music or the smell of good cooking
may make people stop and enjoy.
But words that point to the Stoke
seem monotonous and without flavor.
When you look for it, there is nothing to see.
When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear.
When you use it, it is inexhaustible.


36
If you want to shrink something,
you must first allow it to expand.
If you want to get rid of something,
you must first allow it to flourish.
If you want to take something,
you must first allow it to be given.
This is called the subtle perception
of the way things are.

Soft truck metal overcomes a hard curb.
Slow overcomes the fast.
Let your workings remain a mystery.
Just show people the results.


37
The Stoke never grinds anything,
yet through it all grinds are done.

If skaters could center themselves in it,
the whole skate-world would be transformed
by itself, in its natural rhythms.
Skaters would be content
with their simple, everyday lives,
in harmony, and free of desire.

When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.


38
The Master doesn't try to make his skating powerful;
thus his skating truly is powerful.
The ordinary skater keeps reaching for powerful skating;
thus his skating is never powerful enough.

The Master learns nothing,
yet he leaves nothing unlearned.
The ordinary skater is always learning things,
yet many more are left to learn.

The kind skater does something,
yet something remains undone.
The just skater does something,
and leaves many things to be done.
The moral skater does something,
and when no one responds
he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.

When the Stoke is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos.

Therefore the Master concerns himself
with the depths and not the surface,
with the fruit and not the flower.
He has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality,
and lets all illusions go.


39
In harmony with the Stoke,
the spot is clear and spacious,
the obstacles are solid and full,
all skaters flourish together,
content with the way they are,
endlessly creating new stoked skaters,
endlessly renewing the session.

When man interferes with the Stoke,
the spots become filthy,
the obstacles become depleted,
the equilibrium crumbles,
skaters become extinct.

The Master views the parts with compassion,
because he understands the whole of skateboarding.
His constant practice is humility.
He doesn't glitter like a jewel
but lets himself be shaped by the Stoke,
as rugged and common as stone.


*This is the original text, unedited. I attempted to rewrite Chapter 31 substituting “weapons,” “enemies,” etc. with things like skate stoppers, wax, scooters, security guards, cops, and a whole host of other things. Nothing seemed to fit and/or feel right with the original meaning of the passage. Instead of omitting the entire chapter, I decided to just include it, unedited. Perhaps someday I’ll grasp a way to rewrite this one. Maybe a reader will show me The Way.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Tao Te Chin(g) of Skateboarding: A Guide to Stoke (Part 2)

                                  The Tao Te Chin(g) of Skateboarding: A Guide to Stoke (Part 2)

See this post for introduction.


11

We join seven steal balls together in a bearing
but it is the center hole
that allows us to roll;

We shape concrete into a pool
but the emptiness inside
is what we occupy

We hammer wood for a DIY
but it is the space between features
that make it skateable

We work with Being,
but non-Being is what we skate.


12

Colors (of graphics) blind the eye.
Sounds (of grinds) deafen the ear.
Flavors numb the taste.
Thoughts (of skating) weaken the mind.
Desires (to improve) wither the heart.

The Master skates, and observes, the world
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His Stoke is open as the sky.


13

Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.

What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
you position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.

What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
When we don't see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?

See the Session as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the Stoke as your self;
then you can care for all that skateboarding offers.


14

Look for the Stoke, and it can't be seen.
Listen, and it can't be heard.
Reach, and it can't be grasped.

Above, it isn't bright.
Below, it isn't dark.
Seamless, unnamable,
it returns to the realm of nothing.
Form that includes all forms,
image without an image,
subtle, beyond all conception.

Approach it and there is no beginning;
follow it and there is no end.
You can't know it, but you can be it,
at ease on your board, and in your own life.
Just realize where your skating first came from; The Original Stoke.
This is the essence of wisdom.


15

The first skaters were profound and subtle.
Their Stoke was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it.
all we can describe is their appearance.

They were careful
as someone crossing an iced-over stream.
Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shapable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unrolling
till the right line arises by itself?

The Master doesn't seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
he is present in the session, and welcomes all things.


16

Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.

Each separate skater in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don't realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where your skating first came from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Stoke,
you can deal with whatever a session, and life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.


17

When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.

If you don't trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
skaters say, "Amazing:
we made a DIY, all by ourselves!"


18

When the great Stoke is forgotten,
goodness and piety appear.
When the body's intelligence declines,
cleverness and knowledge step forth.
When there is no peace in the family,
filial piety begins.
When the community falls into chaos,
competition and comparison are born.


19

Throw away holiness and wisdom,
and people will be a hundred times happier.
Throw away morality and justice,
and people will do the right thing.
Throw away industry and profit,
and there won't be any thieves.

If these three aren't enough,
just stay at the center of the bearing*
and let all things roll on their course.

*See Chapter 11


20

Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value the trends, tricks, and style that others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!

Other people are excited,
as though they were at a product toss.
I alone don't care,
I alone am expressionless,
like an infant before it can smile.

Other people have what they need;
I alone possess nothing.
I alone drift about,
like someone without a home.
I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty.

Other people are bright;
I alone am dark.
Other people are sharper;
I alone am dull.
Other people have a purpose;
I alone don't know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.

I am different from ordinary skaters.
I drink from the Great Mother's breasts.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Tao Te Chin(g) of Skateboarding: A Guide to Stoke (Part 1)

                             The Tao Te Chin(g) of Skateboarding: A Guide to Stoke

     The Tao Te Ching is a mind-blowing piece of Eastern literature and philosophy. It was written circa 6th century BCE, and speaks to the true nature of the universe, and humans’ place within it. In English the title roughly translates as “The Book of the Way of Virtue.” Anyone who has ever ridden a skateboard, and read the Tao Te Ching, will observe that the Tao also speaks to some of skateboarding’s deeper “spiritual” aspects. In turn, these are guidelines for a meaningful existence. For a long time I’ve wanted to revise the original Tao text into a skater’s version of the Tao. This post is the first part of that project. The original Tao has 81 “chapters,” which are more like short poems. I will post these in groups of ten chapters at a time (e.g. one post containing ten chapters). My adaptations are all based off Stephen Mitchell’s translation from the original Chinese, should anyone want to compare the original translation to mine. On this note, where Mitchell uses the word Tao, I use the word “Stoke.”  Once I have completed/posted all 81 chapters, I hope to compile all of them into a ‘zine or booklet format. I’ll burn that bridge to the ground once I come to it.  

NOTES ON SEQUENCING: When it comes to the Tao/skateboard comparison, parts of the Tao text almost rewrite itself. Other parts are much harder, if not impossible, to correlate to skateboarding without twisting, torturing, and bending the meaning of the original text. In such spots, I have no intention of distorting the original meanings by forcing a square peg (skateboarding) into a round hole (the Tao). For now, those chapters will not be included in my adaptation. I may rework them at some point in the future, but I do not want a few tough chapters to hold up the entire project. If a chapter is omitted, I will make note of it in my posts.

Onward we go…


1

The stoke that can be told
is not the eternal Stoke.
The session that can be named
is not the eternal Session

The unnamable first trick of a child is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from competition, you realize the mystery.
Caught in competition, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all skateboarding.


2

When people see a style as beautiful,
others become ugly.
When people see tricks as good,
others become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short grinds define each other.
High and low ollies depend on each other.
Before and after a session follow each other.

Therefore, the Master
skates without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
New tricks arise and he lets them come;
some tricks disappear and he lets them go;
He has but does not possess,
skates but does not expect.
When his session is done, he forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.


3

If you oversteem great skaters,
others become devalued.
If you overvalue certain styles,
others begin to emulate, and lose their own essence.

The Master skates
by emptying people’s minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
And toughing their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know.

Practice not-doing,
And everything will roll into place.


4

The Stoke is like a skatepark:
Used but never used up.
It is like an endless curb:
Filled with infinite possibilities.

It is hidden but always present.
I don’t know who gave birth to it.
It is older than God.


5

The Stoke does not take sides;
it gives birth to all forms of skateboarding.
The Master does not take sides;
he skates all that is before him.

The Stoke is like an unridden deck:
It is unused, yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

Hold to the center.


6


The Stoke is sometimes called Chin,
empty yet inexhaustible,
it gives birth to infinite sessions.

It is always present within you.
You can use it at any skate spot, in any way, you want.


7

The Stoke is infinite, eternal.
Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has no desire for itself;
thus it is present for all skaters.

The Master stays behind;
that is why he is ahead.
He is detached from all skate trends;
that is why he is one with skateboarding.
Because he has let go of himself,
he is perfectly fulfilled.


8


The supreme good is like a curb,
that nourishes all skaters without trying to.
It is content with the low, gutter-places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Stoke.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work and skating, do what you enjoy.
On your board, and in family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don’t skate to compare or compete,
everybody will respect you. 



9

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after fame, money, and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval of your skating
and you will forever be their prisoner, and the true Stoke
will never be found.

Skate your session, then step back, and roll away.
The only path to serenity.


10

Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original Stoke?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love skaters and lead a DIY project
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from your own mind
and thus understand the Stoke in all things?

Giving birth to, and nourishing, your skating,
having style and tricks without possessing them,
skating without expectations,
leading and not trying to control;
this is the supreme virtue of the Stoke.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

29 Years of Wall Rides

These two wall rides photos were taken 29 years apart. One was in 1988. The other was taken today, in 2017. When I think about the 30+ years of joy that my skateboard(s) have given me, I am humbled in gratitude that I have been so lucky to have been doing it this long. Find what you love, and follow it to the grave.

1988.

2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Life Parable From Skateboarding


I went skating tonight w/two friends. Didn't have much energy. We were just tooling around at a basketball court doing flatland. Seemed like it was taking me *forever* to get warmed-up, and pull any of my "warm-up" tricks. None of them were coming consistently. Noticed a trash can in the corner. Pulled it out, and laid it down. Took me a few tries get a clean ollie over it. Not a good sign. Likewise with f/s 180s.

For some totally unknown reason, despite feeling really sluggish, despite not skating all that well so that session, and despite the fact that I hadn't done one over anything that large in almost 20 years, I decided to try a b/s 180 ollie over the trash can. First try, I chickened out, and was like "Old man, there is no fucking way you're ever doing a b/s 180 that high/big again. That ship sailed a looong time ago." A few minutes later, I was riding away from one, as clean as can be. 

Skating, and life, work in mysterious ways. You never know what you will, and will not, be able to do on any given day. I wouldn't have it any other way. Go with the flow, and be glad you're still rolling.