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.


(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.  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.