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.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

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.