Thursday, January 26, 2023

The January Desert & Jake Phelps


A few random things…


The Vast January Desert

In my phone I keep short-hand notes of things going on in my life during a given month. At the end of the year, I can look back at what happened during the past 12 months. After the year is over, I save all in the info into a word doc. I’ve been doing this since 2015. It’s a very quick/easy way to look back at my life, and see what was going on during any given period. One trend has clearly emerged: I don’t skate much during the month of January. It is usually a result of weather, injury, and illness (I also seem to get some kind of bad cold, or covid (2021, 2022, 2023), or some combination of all three. That pattern is certainly repeating in this year. I think I have skated….3 times this month (I usually skate at least 3x a week). I had a bad case of covid the first week of Jan 2023. I also pulled my groin muscle, which is keeping me off the board. Thankfully, that is “easier” to do right now, because it has been very, very wet over the last two weeks (snow and rain). Hopefully February will be better.



News broke this week about how Jake Phelps died. I think we all had a pretty accurate guess as to what happened (which was confirmed by the news). Jake had a drug problem. He overdosed and/or took something that was laced with fentanyl. I’m not really sure what to say here. I was never really a fan of the guy, and what direction he took Thrasher. Suffice to say, the manner of his passing was not really a surprise. My friend Brian commented:


“Talk about a complicated legacy. On one hand Phelps, at a certain time, may have saved skateboarding. After that, he just went out of his way to keep it a fiefdom. He pushed and cajoled and influenced a generation to hit the self-destruct button because he was self-destructing as well. The drowning man will always take you down with him.


I use Phelps as a study on how to age gracefully. Do the opposite of what he did and you will probably live a long and healthy life. I don't judge him on his addictions or personality flaws. I never met him. I can, however, judge him for his influence.”


I’ll add to this, with a quote from The Replacements, “Kids Don’t Follow.” They never have. They never will. That’s what makes them kids. That’s why youth is wasted on the young. Skateboarding is mostly a “youth culture” thing. So, you do the math as to what’s going to happen. That said, it is well document how Phelps threw gasoline on an innate proclivity to reckless and self-destructive behavior (from skating vert w/o pads to booze/drugs/party zone). Should he/Thrasher have been an icon of public safety? Hell no. However, Brian said it best, “He pushed and cajoled and influenced a generation to hit the self-destruct button because he was self-destructing as well. The drowning man will always take you down with him.” Much of it IMHO, just wasn’t necessary, needed, or productive.


So, what’s the take-a-way (for me, and for skateboarding)? For me, that is easy. I’ve long held the belief that one should “embody/be the Stoke they want to see in the world.” It’s sad to see what happened to Jake, and sad to see those who have been washed away in the wake of his influence. All of this just further solidifies, and illuminates, the path I was already on. I will keep following, and trying to embody, the version of Stoke that resonates with me (and that is basically the opposite of Jake). If that influences others, great. If not, that’s great, too. What is the take-a-way for skateboarding? I think that is for others to decide…    

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