Wow, just Wow

It has been a hard few months. Family health issues are very frustrating. On the other hand, my new librarian job is going really well, and I’m stoked, and it’s just great. But the stuff outside work is difficult. I have to admit, I have not been at my best outside of work. People tell me it is justifiable, and I certainly don’t claim to be anything more than a human being, but still it is hard to be positive all the time. Sometimes the frustration comes out as excessive sarcasm and cynicism. I suppose that awareness is the first step in maintaining composure. I’ll work on it.

Tonight

13886374_10153612418536502_1203958413849544637_nTonight I went skating with my friend Chris. I met Chris my senior year in college. He was a freshman, and was skating around campus, and he met me and my friend Mike as we were out riding. That was 30 years ago.

Tonight we went to a Methodist church near his house, where he’d discovered some nice, low, round, painted curbs. We spent an hour making them more Holy. Afterward we sat on the curb and talked, as we’ve done many times before.

Skateboarding is still the beautiful curse.

 

Trump Sucks

There’s a lot to detest about Donald Trump. Upon reflection, even beyond the boorish, brutish, low-brow, bullying, bloviating exterior, what bothers me is his “vision” of the American dream.

He wants us to “win” and to be “rich again”. That’s his idea of the American dream. Not to actually be better, kinder, smarter, better educated, or creative. It’s the shallow pathetic vision of a person of no depth of intellect, feeling, or character.

New Job

Well, sort of. I am still a librarian, but after 20 years in special libraries (NASA, the Texas legislature, semiconductor industry, and government info), I have been given the opportunity (much needed) to reinvent myself.

I am now a public librarian specializing in services and programs for teens.

This is a great change for me. Over the last few years I’ve done a lot of teen programming for our system, so I’m looking forward to doing even more. It is also nice to be working alongside like-minded, smart, progressive colleagues. Today begins my second week in the new position.

One big change is working one night per week, and one weekend per month. This is my night, so right now I’m home writing this — don’t have to be at work until noon. This is also going to be my weekend, so I have Thursday afternoon off, and all day Friday. It will be nice to have some weekday time off every month.

So I got up this morning, had coffee, and went to the gym with my wife. Came home, relaxed, had some breakfast, and started writing this. Will have about an hour when I finish to do some reading, before I need to leave for work.

 

A little Peace

Well, my trip to the Paderborn freestyle contest got cancelled due to some family health issues. Its a bit complicated, and private, so I won’t go into the details, but everyone is OK. Or what passes for OK these days, which I really can’t bitch about too much because it could be a lot worse, and of course having your skateboarding vacation ruined is a total first-world white person problem and I’m fully aware of that. There are people in the world who are hungry every day. But I’m still disappointed, and even though I “did the right thing”, it was in fact the only thing I could do, and my spirit still kind of feels like it has taken quite a beating. The only good thing to come of this was the early return of my wife from a research trip, so she could help me, which was much appreciated. She is truly the caregiver of the caregiver, and keeps me upright when I could easily fall. I simply cannot thank her enough, or show my appreciation enough. Getting to spend that last week with her was the only thing that kept me from going nuts.

So no awesome trip with my friends in England, to the mother of all freestyle contests in Germany, to camp, skate, and forget about the world for a few days. This is kind of a big thing for me, because even though I’m a person with an easy life, a good job, a great wife, a loving mom, and good friends, I really needed some relief. Instead I got more stress, more bullshit.

Yeah, I’ve venting a little.

I finally got out to do some skating last night, a week after the whole thing started. I was tired. My “soul felt heavy”, or something like that. But I was back at my practice spot, now with another year before the next Paderborn contest, so I skated. In the summer I don’t go out to skate until about 7:30pm. It’s just too hot before that. I don’t even mind the heat, its the blazing brightness of the sun. You can almost feel every beam of sunlight blasting against you. But in the evening you just get a nice, good sweat going. I plugged my computer speakers into the outlet, plugged in my iPod, and skated. I did my best to empty my mind of everything but the music, the board, and the spot.  You gotta find your shelter where you can.

OK, enough bitching. This is the last anyone will hear of this.

A new skate spot

Last week my friend Dale found this little bank, hidden off a main street back behind some warehouses. You can see it if you look, but it doesn’t jump out at you — unless you’re a skateboarder.

We went back, scooted a parking block into a nice arrangement, and skated. We just shot a few moves on my iPhone, and here they are. Lots of fun. We’ll be going back.

Rollins on Enterpreneurial Art

I normally steer clear of business podcasts and books. Too often they are very much kind of a “flavor of the month” thing. But as this one featured Henry, I gave it a listen, and found it pretty engaging and good. It was cool to hear Henry talk about things you haven’t heard him discuss before, rather than his more typical sound bites.

Bad Ass Skating

My friend and podcasting partner Tony Gale got 5th place pro division last weekend at the World Freestyle Roundup in Vancouver. He should have been ranked higher, but judging is hard to do, and mistakes happen.

This is his 1st run from the Semi Finals. It is perfect, and extremely difficult. Three 540 Shove-It variations, difficult kickflip and double kickflips, etc, etc. Perfect run. Ripping. So proud of him.

Street Skating

As I’ve been working on a new zine for the last few months (Man! It takes a long time to do a good one!), and as that zine is about skateboarding on natural, found terrain (mostly) and flatland freestyle, and in particular a very non-ollie-oriented version of street skating, I’ve been thinking a lot about street skating lately.

When I started skating, most of what I did might be called “street” skating. There was no skatepark. There was our neighborhood, which consisted of sidewalks, curbs, alleys, banked driveways, and school parking lots. We didn’t even have ramps. We did have Skateboarder Magazine, and a couple of other magazines to show us what was possible, but the terrain depicted in those pages was out of our reach. We learned tricks — any tricks — on the terrain available. I was naturally drawn to flatland freestyle, as there was a big school parking lot three blocks from our house, but tended to adapt freestyle tricks to other terrains.

When a skatepark opened not too far away the summer before 7th grade, I began going there once per week. Now, that’s not enough to get good at riding skateparks very quickly. It didn’t help that for half the time between 7th and 10th grade I was on some pretty terrible equipment. Now, it was not terrible by those days’ standard, but boards didn’t really start showing advancement into forms that helped, rather than hindered, until I was at least a year into my skating life.

All that aside, once a week at the skatepark, but skating every day, makes you a street skater by default. I did freestyle, but the street was always there.

As skateparks began to die, the skateboard industry, via Skateboarder Magazine, began to push “street skating”, as well as DIY halfpipe skating. Then Skateboarder mutated into Action Now, and then disappeared entirely, to soon be replaced by Thrasher, which did a good job of covering the once again underground activity of skateboarding, which included a lot of street skating.

But street skating, really, has always been the “real” skateboarding. I say that because for most of the history of skateboarding, most skaters had only sporadic or infrequent access to skateparks. Most did their thing on the terrain available to them every day — the streets and secret spots. While the skateboard industry and media, during the boom of the 1970s, tried to transform skating into a respectable thing to do, confined to skateparks, with organizations and authority figures, that was never the reality for 95% of skaters.

As the 1980s progressed, the flatground ollie allowed skaters to go skate the streets with greater efficiency. We’d always been able to go up curbs, but now a more graceful method of getting up and down higher obstacles existed. A new generation of skaters came up, worshiping the Gods of Vert, but doing most of their skating in the streets. As the decades passed, and street skating became the most popular form of skating, vert and freestyle tricks were adapted to the street (as they’d always been). Heading in the 1990s, the impossible became the commonplace. To be a “good” street skater came to require more and more risk, balls, and injury.

But what is a good street skater?

Regardless the tricks done, I would contend that a good street skater is simply a person who can gracefully skate in the street – be it a suburban cul-de-sac,  or a New York City thoroughfare — flowing through the environment, using it’s elements, and enjoying himself/herself. It has nothing to do with hand rails, flips, or whatever. It’s about flow through the environment, and THAT is what the real beauty of modern street skating is. That is the real gift of the street ollie. It matters not if one can slide a handrail, grind a ledge, or 360 flip a 6-set. A good street skater becomes one with the environment at hand. The rest is just fluff.

End of rant.

 

A Trip to the Ball Park

This week I ran face-first into the America. I went to a professional baseball game.

I come from a baseball family. My dad and his twin brother played minor league ball. My cousin played minor league ball. My other cousin was a major league pitcher for many years. I inherited none of that skill, talent, or competitive nature. I’m OK with that. I’m proud of what my dad, uncle, and cousins accomplished.

When I was young my family went to many Texas Rangers games. Honestly, it was really just about the only thing we ever did. We didn’t go camping. We didn’t go to the movies. We didn’t go on vacations. We went to baseball games. Oh, we went to Houston a few times. To see baseball games. I didn’t really know that other people did things besides go to baseball games, so it didn’t bother me.

One of my favorite memories of going out to the ballpark goes something like this. We drove out early (as we always did) so we could be there for batting practice (not even kidding). For some reason we stopped at a Mr. M food store (kind of like a 7-11). There was a comic book rack. I procured what I believe was a “giant size” issue of Justice Leage of America. I was so happy! This was a real find! When we arrived at the ballpark I left the comic in the car, so as not to get it dirty or torn.

What followed was four or five hours of glorious anticipation of the time I could be back with that comic. The game couldn’t be over fast enough. I watched each and every moment of that game, silently urging them to finish so I could leave, go home, and read that comic.

That story encapsulates my level of interest in baseball at that time. A few years later I played one season of little league baseball. This was the mid-1970s, way before today’s world of little kids having private coaches, “travelling leagues”, etc. Even so, I really wasn’t into it, and I sucked. By that time I had discovered skateboarding, and so began my lifelong condition of really not caring too much about anything else.

As the teen years came along, I went to the ballpark with my parents less and less. When I did go, I often had a Sony Walkman and a paperback book to read. Yes, I was the kid in the stands with headphones on, listening to the Vapors, while I read Elric of Melnibone stories. I wasn’t intentionally “being rebellious”. That was just my way.

Now, decades later, baseball does hold some level of nostalgia and goodness in my mind. All of those years of going out to see the Texas Rangers play, and often lose, must have seeped in somehow. The year after my father died, the Rangers actually went to the World Series for the first time. Of course they lost (like he said they would), but still it was cool that they went. I think my dad’s absence increased its meaning for me. Then they went to the Series again the next year! And lost again! That pretty much used up my entire lifetime supply of Fan Power. Still would like to see them win, but I’m not gonna invest a lot of emotion into it.

My wife is a fan of the Chicago White Sox. Growing up in Chicago’s South Side, she learned early on to hate the Cubs and their fan base of lawyers, investment bankers, hedge fund scumbags, and other such vermin. So when the Sox came to play the Rangers last week, we procured tickets and went to the ballpark.

Now, this isn’t the same ballpark I went to so long ago. Back in the old days, the Rangers played at Arlington Stadium, which was the slightly improved stadium of the minor league team that had been there for some time, the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs. I believe it had been known quite glamorously as “Turnpike Stadium” ( the imagination just soars, doesn’t it?).

As a side note, the “Turnpike” refers to what is now a 30 mile stretch of Interstate 30, which connects downtown Dallas and downtown Fort Worth. I had a little trouble remembering some of this, as it was pretty long ago and I was a child, but the Wikipedia entry is pretty interesting, noting how the creation of the Turnpike stimulated the growth of the cities between Dallas and Fort Worth. The City of Arlington, in particular, capitalized on this with quite a bit of vision, with the creation of Six Flags Over Texas and many other sports and amusement attractions over the years. They continue to do so.  This guy has some cool pictures of the old toll booths.

OK, where am I going with this? Oh yeah… the ballpark, sarcasm, and elitism.

So, off the “the Ballpark in Arlington” we went.

Flashback. We tried this six years ago when the Sox were in town.  Six years ago, we had my recently widowed mom with us. About 5 minutes into the game (or maybe before), it was announced that some very severe weather as moving in. The sky darkened. Radio reported a tornado in the general area of the stadium. Full-on ruined evening baseball tornado apocalypse was upon us. We decided to split. I ran to get the car, but had to take cover in a nearby government building as the tornado sirens were blasting and the rain got fierce. Meanwhile, my wife and mom were waiting for me to bring the car. Stadium employees were instructed not to let anyone leave, as the shit was about to hit the fan. My wife, having learned the lessons of Nine-Eleven quite well (if they say to stay in the building, ALWAYS leave) said “F this, we’re getting the F outta here”, stuck her foot out so the gate couldn’t close, and got herself and my mom out of the stadium. They waited outside, under an overhang. Finally I was able to get to the car and pick them up. We drove back to Dallas in-between two massive and violent thunderstorms.

So this last week, when we sat down in lower left field, and saw the Dark Clouds of Doom rolling in, we wondered what kind of curse had been put upon our House three or four generations back to warrant such a run of luck.  The game began, by the middle of the 3rd inning the wind whipped up, the rain started, and we took cover down inside the stadium. This time it was only a massive amount of rain, wind, thunder, and lightning. No tornados. We stuck it out for an hour or more for the rain delay.

As we leaned against the wall eating a small mountain of “Cajun Fries”, what else for the obsessive blogger to do but to observe, evaluate, and chronicle the parade of Humanity before him?  Let me just begin by saying that while individuals may be almost genetically indistinguishable,  the outward diversity of humanity is staggering, and America’s Pastime attracts a very substantial slice of the phenotypic pie. I reckon this to be a good thing. It is something I like about The America.

Now, I don’t go to a lot of sporting events, so I am not really used to seeing people in such deplorable physical condition, in such great numbers, as I encountered that night. I’m not exaggerating when I say that at least 50 percent of my fellow sports fans that night were seriously, morbidly obese. No judgement here. Just the facts. Just reporting on what I saw. We gots ourselves a problemo, but for the consessioneers there was no problem, as many beers, $6 hotdogs, and other stuff was sold and devoured that stormy night. Honestly, the Cajun Fries — I could only eat about six of them. Six fries. Upon hitting my stomach the combination of grease and seasoning was sickening. We threw more than half of of ‘em away. Was this an subconscious desire not to end up in one of those scooter chairs with a reaching stick? Probably.

That all being said, and with the rain interrupting the game, I saw nothing but smiles on faces. People getting along, stuffing their faces, and spending the last of the rent money. Games aren’t cheap! Outfield tickets fairly low in the stands were $40 each! Taking a whole family to the game is not something for the financially weak-of-heart.

When the game resumed, the people sitting directly behind us included some classic ballpark loudmouths. I remember them from the old days. These were apparently “super fans”. They knew all the players, and enjoyed shouting insults at the opposing team’s outfielders.  When the 7th inning rolled around, and the Rangers were losing badly, these super fans decided it was time to have one last beer for the road and take off, for adventures unknown. Had they stayed, they’d have seen a comeback by the Rangers, scoring seven runs in the bottom of the 8th, to win 13 touchdowns to 11. People got excited about this! Sox fans reacted with disappointment. Bloggers found themselves in states of detached amusement. An exciting match, and probably an olympic record!

My wife of course gives no credit to the Rangers, insisting it was simply the collapse of the Sox that enabled the home team to “win.” But as a great man once said, “That’s how baseball go.”

 

2 Tricks

Went ditch skating tonight. Here are some results.

I really like Bones Street Tech formula wheels. For my particular style, with lots of slides, they are great. They are fast, smooth and resilient for hard wheels, slide like BUTTER, grip when I need them trip, and wear down very slowly. Great, great wheels.

German Street Style

I decided today that when I go to Germany this summer for the Paderborn freestyle contest, I’m going to also enter the “street” (meaning park) contest the day before. Why not? I’m not a horrible street skater. Not state of the art, but not horrible! Need to work on a few bank and quarter pipe moves  between now and then. I’m pretty good on banks. Quarter pipes – not so much. Need to practice a bit.

This is how I normally street skate….