Florida Trip Report

Repost from yesterday’s return trip from Florida.

I’m at the airport, waiting to fly home to Texas.

I got to Jacksonville on Thursday afternoon, late, and Terry Synnott picked me up at the airport. Spent the evening with him and Jenna, at dinner and then watching some old freestyle videos.

Friday morning we hit starbucks a bit late, and went to a public skatepark in Jacksonville. Nice little park, with a flat area not too bad for FS. A bit of a slope, but manageable. We skated the park  bit, and did some FS too. It was hot, but there was a nice shade covering and benches. A dude with a “come to Jesus” sign showed up with a guitar to talk to kids.

Our plan was to go to Kona, but after wearing ourselves out in the heat skating, then eating some too-big vegetarian burritos, we were done. Went back to Terry’s and watched more videos. Then more eating for dinner with Jenna, and THEN we went to Kona. It is 100% mind-boggling sanity-rupturing 4 dimensional madness. Everything is HUGE. It’s on the side of a hill, so there are all these levels. Like stepping into a Lovecraftian city of cyclopean madness.

Saturday morning we got up, once again hit a Starbucks near the beach and went to Terry’s main freestyle spot. (the Synnotts do this together every Saturday and Sunday). It was warm, but not too bad, and so close to the ocean there was a nice breeze. We skated for a little over 2 hours. It was really fun to skate with another freestyler. Terry has become a really good friend over the years. He would tell you he’s not at the top of his game now, having sustained a horrible leg break a couple of years ago. Top of his game or not, he remains my favorite freestyle skater. It’s nice to be friends with your heroes.  We skated, talked about some new ideas for tricks and sequences, and worked on ’em. Jenna shot some video. We need to do this a lot more often. Like quarterly. I know it would help my skating a lot. We then went for a late lunch, and back to the house for more videos.

Oh – Terry has a huge collection of video footage of freestyle contests from the late 1980s. Stuff that was never published, of old NSA and CASL amateur contests. So few of those guys skate anymore. I think Terry is one of the only ones, and probably the only one who does freestyle regularly.

Time for one more meal. We went out for Thai food. Really good stuff. Then they took me down to see the ocean which is always nice for a pale Texan who lives a couple of hundred miles from the coast.

Overall a really great trip. I can’t thank Terry and Jenna enough for hosting me. Good people. As good as you’ll find. They are doing a lot for the freestyle skateboarding community. From producing great boards and wheels to supporting younger skaters, they are doing it right.

Skate Trip

I’m at the airport, on the way to Florida, to skate with my friend Terry Synnott and scout out a location for a freestyle contest next year. Should be a good trip. Terry is a great dude and a ripper. We’re going to Kona Skatepark at some point. So I have my freestyle board and my “park” board with me too, in addition to my helmet and pads.

So far it’s been a low-impact trip to the airport. I have TSA-PRE, which allows me to get in the short line at security, and you don’t have to take your shoes and belt off. It’s nice.

More later…

Another friend gone

An old friend of mine who I’d not seen, frankly, since my wedding in 1990, died last night after months of treatment for pancreatic cancer. Eric was a couple of years behind me in school. The Venn diagrams of our social circles intersected in a few places, and I was lucky enough to get to know him back in highschool. Eric was one of those people who everyone loved. Everything considered him a best friend. Super friendly, smart, outgoing.

I regret that I didn’t get to know him as an adult. I think that many of us who went away to school had paths the diverged from those who stuck around home after highschool. So yeah, I do regret missing out on Eric all these years, but I realize that our time is limited and the truth is there are so many good people out there and there’s just not enough time to connect with everyone as we’d like to. But this is a reminder to do the best I can. I can do better.

I could bitch about cancer seeming to take the really really good people too early, but I don’t think Eric would like that. I don’t get the impression that’s the kind of person he grew up to be.

Bollocks to Winter

First session since October last year. Always fun to have to relearn all my shit after the much-hated winter. Still, not too bad. Pretty much made everything today. Just need to get the smoothness back and not do weird shit with my arms.

Black Panther

I saw Black Panther last night. It was great.

T’Challa is the hero we need right now. Someone strong but merciful and noble. Not the guy who just kills his enemies or tortures them. That’s so played out and weak.

More on death

The guy in the previous story – who died suddenly. Two things. 1)He was only 47, and 2)It was the flu. Get your damned flu shots people. I don’t know if he had gotten his, but regardless, you should get it. Does no harm and it may prevent you from getting sick or more importantly from infecting someone else who is more at risk from a bad outcome. I’m sick of every armchair epidemiologist who says “I never get the shot, because it doesn’t work”. Same with anti-vaxers. They are playing with your health and mine.

Death

Found out that today a good friend’s brother, himself a friend as well, died. Today. Two days ago he was going to see music and living his life. Today he is dead.

Death doesn’t fuck around. I resolve – once again – to live my life deliberately – without fucking around.

Shodan, and life goes on.

So, I tested for Shodan rank (1st degree black belt) in Aikido this weekend. The test went well. I’ve seen the video, and I wasn’t as horrified as I usually am. In Aikido, we normally test for black belt ranks at seminars — big gatherings of aikidoka from around the region and beyond. I tested at the Spring Seminar (Kagami Biraki) at Aikido of Dallas. I was honored to be tested by Harvey Konigsberg Shihan. His teaching over the weekend was subtle to say the least, and fascinating. Thank you to Aikido of Dallas and Bob Mason Sensei for again hosting the seminar.

You never “just take the test.” In aikido, they normally do the testing after at least a couple of hours of practice. In this case, after 4 hours, with a lunch break in the middle. So yes, I was tired. The idea is to see what the student can do when “there’s no gas left in the tank.”  Critical issues are not freezing up, forgetting how to do things, etc. It’s all about keeping your composure, from which you maintain your center, your posture, and your flow.

As I’ve said before, Shodan is really a beginner’s belt. It signifies you have what you need to really start learning. As I’ve prepared for this test, and now taken it, it is clear that my journey in aikido is getting a new start. Time to look at things with a beginner’s eyes again, and really evaluate the basics of distance, movement, centering, and everything else. Wouldn’t hurt to improve my cardio a lot either. And keep the weight under control.

I’ve thanked a lot of people, but I really want to thank my wife. Having a spouse that understands and supports my endeavors and shares in my joy and accomplishment means the world to me.  So thanks, Toni, for supporting me now and in the days to come.

Right now I’m on my way to a funeral. My aunt. My mom’s youngest sister. I will sure miss her. It will be good to see my extended family, laugh, cry, and celebrate her life. Smooth sailing, Aunt Trish. I love you.

Next week – Shodan?

A week from today I’ll be taking my black belt (Shodan – 1st degree black belt) test in aikido. I’ve been practicing for a little over 11 years. It has been a long but great journey — one I don’t intend to stop. As I may have written before, Shodan is really a beginner’s belt. At this point, I should know enough to really start learning. The closer I’ve gotten, the more apparent this has become. I’m 53. I had really hoped to do this by the time I was 50, but life had other plans, and that’s just fine.  I have 1 open mat practice, and 2 normal practices before the test, which will happen at a yearly seminar.

My friend Bachar will be testing with me. We have prepared together, with help from our classmates and our patient, excellent teachers. I’m glad he’ll be out there with me. I’m not nervous. It will just be nice to take the test alongside a good friend.

So this week is all about practice, rest, remaining uninjured, and getting my mind where it needs to be. The primary challenge of this test is mental. Keeping your composure. I know all the stuff fairly well. Now is the time to do it all calmly, smoothly, beautifully, to the best of my ability.

What I got for Christmas

So, I got a new Zoom H4N Pro digital audio recorder for Christmas, to replace the very similar Tascam I used to have, which broke. My uncle, who does this kind of stuff for a living, told me that he’s had bad luck with the durability of Tascam products. Frankly, mine saw such very light use it is pretty ridiculous that some of the buttons stopped working.

This Zoom recorder, like the old one, will allow me to plug two XLR mics into the bottom, which will be perfect for on-site recording of interviews, so in 2018 I can get back to my Texas Skateboarding Oral History project.  Suggestions for who to interview? Comment here. So far, here’s my list. Jeff Bower, Paul Neumann, Dan Wilkes, Michael Niemann, Stewart Singer. It would be nice to do one per month, but I know I’m probably not going to get that done.

Post 700

Various thoughts…

  • Yoda was cool in the Last Jedi. Yoda is cool in everything. But really cool in that.
  • They are working on a Venom movie. Venom is a dumb character.
  • This is the second Christmas with my mom in memory care. It’s still weird, but I’m glad she is happy and content.
  • I have  lot to do in 2018.
  • I want to get back on the podcasting this coming year.
  • Shodan test in January.

Wishing all my friends mucho peace and happiness this Christmas and in 2018. It’s been a rough year with a mean moron in the Whitehouse and it seems like kindness is in shot supply up there. Let’s vote ’em out as soon as possible, and in the the meantime all try to be better people.

Things I’ve Learned from Star Wars #1

When building massive space ships/stations/structures, make sure to include vast chasms spanned by narrow bridges with no handrails, store data in tapes kept in towers several hundred feet tall with no way to reach the data if the little grabbers malfunction, etc. Also preserve the possibility of someone falling to their death.

Thor and Justice League

I went to see Thor: Ragnarok. It was a big, goofy, and joyous.  Thor did lots of cool stuff. You could tell what he was doing, as the battle scenes weren’t total chaos. The interplay between the characters was really good, and brought of feeling of depth to the relationship between Thor and Loki — a relationship thousands of years old. A lot to like about his movie.

Then I went to see Justice League. It was kind of “meh”. I’m easy to please. Superheroes doing cool stuff makes me happy. I got that. The feeling of the film, however, did not leave me wanting more Justice League. The villain, and a lot of the film, just looked like a video game.  I’ll watch it again on streaming when it comes along, but yeah, I felt it was pretty mediocre, considering the insane amount of money spent on it.

Skateboarding

Well, we are now officially in the crappiest time of the year for skateboarding. Nice cool weather, but short days. By the time I get off work it is getting dark, and soon it will be completely dark by my 6pm quitting time. I will have to resort to going to a skatepark in the evening, which is always kind of a bummer due to crowds. But it’s better than not getting in any skating at all.