Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Ontology of Vandalism & the Iron Oxide Dust of the Dissaffected

Today I went to a small, run-down, almost forgotten skate park, far outside the city limits. The ramps were made of metal, and most had rust.

Once removed from larger population centers there are palpable ontological differences. One place these differences manifest is in vandalism. Yes, vandalism. Most “Big City” skate parks are covered in “fresh,” “urban” graffiti like this.*

This nearly abandoned park had almost nothing of that kind. Instead, it flourished with words and images of disaffected youth. Which, unfortunately, is not something you see much of anymore. Seeing it now, in 2019, reminded me of graffiti I saw 30+ years ago in my home town, before “fresh urban” graffiti became gentrified in its own way, and commonplace around the globe.

Angst that was once scribbled on public walls is now on a virtual one, tapped-out with a keyboard. This guy was on the side of a ramp. Did they know he resembled Q-Bert from the 1980s video game, or is he just some “fly-guy” with a vintage hat and an acute proboscis problem? No “tags” are to be found here, nor any of the "Nike SB" or "Supreme" scrawls I've actually seen in the city. Here, there were only creatures that might have crawled out of The Metamorphosis. Gregor Samsa might feel at home in this skate park. I certainly did.

“Memes” have more backbone when they are illegal street art/vandalism, rather than tired social media tropes. Everyone in hell loves Facebook.

This one has some great irony, because it can be read in two starkly different ways (and I am sure that was unintentional). The obvious reading is that “dream life” should take precedent over “real life.” The darker and bleaker meaning is that “dream life” is now over, and “real life” has begun. Both are apt messages for a skate park that falls in the shadow of a high school, with the dreamland optimism of youth in its twilight hours.

The metal ramp was old, rusty, and from by-gone era. Just like me, and my generations of skaters. Knee slides left iron oxide dust on my pads and shoes.

My shoes and pads were now marred with the residue of age. They are marks from the past. Just like all this graffiti, in form, and content.

In another sense, all this graffiti was "fresh," but in the sense that it was "new," and "recent." It wasn't old, like me, or the rust. In the wake of modern commercialism, corporate sponsorship, the Olympics, and greater social acceptance, it makes me happy that this spirit is still (somewhat) alive in skateboarding—that there are some who still want to be outsiders. I salute you.

*I am in no way bashing serious graffiti art. I am just pointing out observational differences of time and place.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Old Skater Manifesto

I wrote this awhile ago for the Neverwas web site. It pairs nicely with the Open Letter to Anyone Who Sucks at Skateboarding

The world is full of really good skateboarders.
We are not among of them.

Some want skateboarding integrated into larger society. 
We do not.  

Skateboarding is mostly comprised of, and marketed to, teenagers/young adults. 
We are an old, irrelevant demographic.

These are our Truths and Decree. This is the Neverwas Manifesto. 

1.    Zero Regulation: There is no “correct” way to use a skateboard. There are no rules.

2.    Anti-Jock: Skateboarding is not win/lose. Point-scale continuums are laughable. The failure/success of one is not the success/failure of another. It is OK to fucking suck at skateboarding.

3.    Anti-Ego: We have nothing to prove, and no one to impress. We do not skate for applause or “likes.”  We skate only for ourselves. The only approval/disapproval that concerns us is our own.

4.    Counter-Narrative: Skateboarding is more than El Toro, Mega Ramps, and NBDs. We are the Common Man counter-narrative to hype media. We are proud of this role, and proud of the counter-examples we set.

5.    Kingdoms of Rut: Some say same tricks/same spot, over and over, is a “rut.” If it is, we hope this rut lasts forever. It is our kingdom.

6.    The Priority of Today: Skating becomes harder with age. We have no remorse over “lost tricks” of yesteryear. Rather, we have only profound gratitude for today’s session. 

7.    Primary Goal of Fun: Progression can be a by-product of fun, yet progression for its own sake is not the objective. We focus on enjoyment, in whatever form it takes. The Serious will never drag us down.

8.    No Illusions: We are under no illusion of perpetual youth and invincibility. We skate accordingly so that we can continue well into the future.

9.    Battle Gear: Avoiding injury today means skating tomorrow. We will proudly wear any amount of safety gear we see fit. Pads are overtly anti-fashion and anti-ego. They are part of a punk counter-narrative.

10.    Anti-Integration: We embrace outsider social status. We do not seek integration with tired social tropes of consume, compete, and outshine. We are not trying to “fit-in.” We are trying to opt-out.

11.    No Carpetbaggers: We strive to only support companies that have their roots in skateboarding, or have skateboarders as their primary market. Locals only. No outsiders. 

12.    Spread Stoke: We keep our spare skate stuff on-hand/in the car/etc. for the purpose of donating it to kids who may need, but cannot afford, better equipment.

13.    Applause: We always cheer when someone lands something they are struggling with, no matter how “simple” it may seem.

14.    Share and Inspire:
We will unabashedly post skate clips on social media, despite skill level. Others have inspired us with their footage, and we hope ours may inspire the similarly situated. That said, rampant selfie-culture is abhorrent. Skate more, film less.  

15.    Anti-Vibe: Greater skill does not mean greater entitlement to make use a of spot/park/etc. We will not be curbed by superior ability. Likewise, if our presence dampens others, we will encourage them to join the session.

16.    Anti-Containment: We seek to skate as few government sanctioned skate parks as possible.

17.    Anti-Trend: We follow no trends. We are who we are.

18.    Follow Own Truth: Others will judge us. Some may think we are “kooks.” Others may “look-up” to us. Neither is of concern. We follow our truths, not other’s opinions.

19.    Purity: We remember why we started. That is why we continue. We are Lifers.

20.    Ambassadors of Stoke: We represent that “skateboarding is fun to do, by being terrible at it.”*  Some may not understand this “contradiction.” Those who do not have missed one of life’s greatest secrets.


CREDITS: This manifesto was distilled from many sources. Some phrases/quotes remain virtually unaltered from their original source. To avoid disruptive cites in every line of text, we acknowledge all sources at a single time. Thank you to the following for their endless Stoke.  

Ditch League (IG @ditchleague)
Jim Thiebaud
*Lance Mountain
Lao Tzu
Lost Boys Skate Club (IG @lostboysskateclub)
Mike V.
Neverwas Crew  (
Old Dude Skate Crew (IG @odsc.official /