Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ghosts in the Machine

Everyday I get up and think, "Maybe it's time to pack in the skatebaording". It usually has to do with my knees complaining when I get out of bed, or out of the shower, or up from a chair. The cold I've got compounds the arthritic aches. I do have other intrests. Lately it's been Ms. Pac Man. I'm trying to roll the score past 99 999, but so far I've only managed to get about 50 000. The game gives you just one free man-at 10 000-and that's it; from there on in you are three incarnations of a little yellow puck shaped blob evading the jellyfish ghosties. The original Atari game has four different screen designs, then it starts repeating the last two until you expire. I love the dramatic moment when Ms. Pac Man eats a Power Pellet and the hunted suddenly becomes the hunter. After the fifth screen, however, the immunity given by the pellet only lasts about two seconds. The ghost has to be right on the other side of the pellet when you eat it, or else the spook becomes potent again and kills you instead. You rack up the most points in the first three screens, when the immunity gives you enough time to eat at least three or even all four of the ghosts. The critters all have names, but to learn them you have to find the arcade version of the game and sit through the promo. The Atari version is pretty sophisticated, though, giving limited personalities to each of the ghosts in terms of the speed with which they navigate the maze. I've also noticed that Ms. Pac Man moves faster through the maze when it's clear of pellets. Gobbling slows her down, so if you are being pursued you should stick to the clear paths. I'm not sure what the deal is with the little fruit pieces that bob through the maze from time to time. I guess Ms. Pac Man needs vitimines to supplement her diet of maze pellets. Maybe it's all some sort of experiment. I wish I knew the origin of the ghosts. Why are they doomed to haunt the maze perpetually? And why must Ms. Pac Man cruise the maze in perpetual motion, like a shark, constantly consuming and evading her pursuers? When, in this busy schedual, does she ever find time to hook up with Mr. Pac Man over in his slightly more primitive universe of one repeating maze design and minimal sound effects? Is there some intermediary zone where the two of them can meet up for a quick date? Maybe when I finally roll the score these questions will become clear. Who has time for skating with so many mysteries to ponder?!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Garbage Man

OK, that last post was a bit of a downer. Where would the world be without a little slapstick? Today the sun made a brief appearance and the crumbling buildings of downtown were lit by hazy halos. I found a broken skateboard on my way home (high-end Wal-Mart) and salvaged it for spare parts. Someone lodged a chewed-up deck in the tree beside the bridge over the railway tracks (the oldest steel bridge in Ontario, scheduled for possible demolition). The deck had a picture of a Cannabis leaf drawn on the grip tape in white paint. Spring is definitly here, and the landscape is blossoming with abandoned skategear. I also found a discarded Nike knee gasket by the side of the road. If it survives washing it could help keep my joints together for another season. Today I was smiling at everyone I met, for the simple reason that we all made it through another winter.

City of Phlegm

I keep dreaming about high school. I sometimes wish that I didn't remember my dreams, that I was one of those people who aren't troubled by introspection and self doubt, but just act on instinct and go merrily about their way. Yesterday in Toronto I passed a guy sitting on the sidewalk. He asked for money, but I only had a dollar. It wasn't even really my dollar; someone had given it to me. And I needed to buy cat food. Anyways, I told the guy I was broke. He said, "But I'm going to kill myself." And I said, "Don't do that!", and kept going down the street.

I was waiting out front of a health food store for my friend, standing on the sidewalk with her two year old child who would start crying if she took him into the store. A tall woman came and tied up her little dog to the parking meter beside us before entering the health food store herself. As I stood there, people passing mistook the animal for my own, putting on warm smiles at the congenial contstellation of man, child and dog. This is how appearances can be deceiving, because neither the child nor the dog were mine, and I had a lot more in common with the guy sitting on the curb and begging for change, but nobody was smiling at him.

My freind was taking forever in the store. It was a cool grey spring day on a busy Toronto street. Someone was washing the window of a shop a little way down. A burley man was standing outside of a restaurant. He had shortly cropped greying hair and bulldogish features. He was lighting a cigarette when the beggar came staggering up the sidewalk. The beggar walked up to the smoking man and asked him for money, then started waving his hand back and forth in front of the smoker's face in some kind of compulsive, vaguely aggressive gesture. Maybe he was trying to fan away the smoke. The smoker started flicking the beggar's shoulder with his free hand, attempting to drive him away. The two figures remained locked for a moment in their mutual frantic gestures, like a scene from the Three Stooges, until the beggar took off down the sidewalk. The smoker attempted to deal one more blow to the beggar's back as he fled, and yelled, "Get off of Roncesvalles!". Then he looked around, attempting to make eye contact with me, the sole witness to the incident. I deliberatley avoided meeting his gaze, since he seemed to want some sort of commendation for his treatment of the deranged beggar, but I was just disgusted by the whole incident and feeling guilty that I had not given the man my dollar earlier.

I partly envied the disagreeable smoker, who evidently felt justified in his indignation agianst the beggar. Maybe he had dealt with the man before. There seemed to be some sort of familiarity between them. The impulse he acted upon had not been compasionate, but at least he had carried it through. I, on the other hand, had not acted on my impulse to give away the dollar, and both hated myself and the smoking man, who became a kind of projection, my own fear and intolerance made flesh.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Word of the day: TENACIOUS

Now at Fakiegrind you get TWICE the blog entries for your money; and since it's a free service provided BY the aged and decrepit FOR the aged and decrepit, that's a pretty good deal. Provided that the 30+ skateboarders out there actually know how to read. Skip too many English classes to practice 180 bonelesses in the parking lot behind the school? Not to worry. I'm sure we'll figure out a way to add pictures sooner or later. OK, enough acerbic abuse for now.

If you detect a note of spleen in my diatribe today, it's because I just got back from a two day Easter celebration in Toronto. It was actually pretty nice. There was lots of food and merriment. People were speaking Polish and German and even some Chinese. Like Kil-Joy, I too have a cold, and over the weekend it nestled into my throat making the act of speaking any language painful when it was even possible. I did manage to make it out skateboarding yesterday morning, despite the phlegm. There is a downtown school I like to skate with some ledges and ramps. A couple little city kids were there working on kickflips and eating begels. What they lacked in skill they made up for in attitude. Some older guys were playing soccer on the field beyond the pavement. The sun was out and the ground was thawing. My knees felt pretty raw.

At the house where I was staying there lived a skaterguy who showed me some recent DVDs: the "Environment" video with lots of Toronto footage, and a 411 issue with a story about Love park in Philladelphia. I didn't get to skate with him because there was too much going on for Easter. I think if we had have gone out, I might have had a hard time keeping up. I'm not one of those cool bigcity skaterguys. My shoes are all chewed up and I only paid twenty bucks for them in the first place. The tail of my board is all ground down and it's getting into the unridable zone. I don't have any money for new shoes or decks or hip clothing, and I don't do any of the tricks you see in videos made after 1992. I'm pretty much just an overaged freak who is unwilling to let go of adolescence and merge with the rest of society. But I'm nothing if not stubborn, tenacious even. Like the Phil's Tenacious Oil I use on my bearings. To quote Beck, "I'll just hold on to nothing, and see how long nothing lasts". I'd like to hear his latest album, to see if embracing the void paid off for him.

Friday, March 25, 2005

You Know?

You know how it is when the sun comes out and melts all the snow off of your street, so you go for a walk down to the harbour, and the ice has half melted off the bay, and right where the water meets the still melting sheet of ice it sounds like a thousand ice cubes are jingling in a thousand martinis and you think you might even see some fish deep down in the cold black water, but you know it's just your imagination playing tricks on you; and you have the flu but the sun is still somewhat in the sky, so you walk home to pick up your skate and head down to the park where the long winter has made you forget about the poser BMX dudes who like to pump the stereo in their car so loud that it's rattling your bowels, and you skate around a little bit, dizzy and feeling drunk off all the anti-bodies in your system, coughing up phlegm with your heart pounding away like a cardiac patient; but you keep skating and more and more kids show up, making you realize just how old you have become, but you can still kick ass with moves that no one has seen except maybe on some old video they put on for kicks at the local skateshop; and you win your first game of SKATE ever, because instead of trying to do all the heelflip variations that the kids are throwing, you leave them all in the dust with an airwalk, shove to manuel, frontside heli-pop and then the killer backside heli, and nobody even knows what the hell you just did or what it's called; and then you keep on going until you are sure that you will need a knee and hip replacement just to make it home, and the sun is going down past the silhouettes of downtown buildings painting everything in shades of grey and mauve, and you are glad to just be alive even though everything is hopelessly screwed up and you haven't got the faintest clue what it all means or where it's supposed to be going?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bitmap Heaven

Snow flurries today, and I have a cold so any possibility of skating is a bust. Lately though, I've been honing my reflexes with my Gemini video game system. I've had it in storage for a couple of years, but I dusted it off, and the thing still works! I've got several different cartridges, but seem to switch between Megamania and Mrs. Pac Man, with a little Berzerk and Missile Command thrown in for diveristy. The Gemini, for those who remember, was one of the first of the Atari 2600 clone systems. It played all the classic Atari games, but was significantly cheaper than the original system. The Gemini I had as a kid is long gone, but a few years ago I was visiting a friend in Quebec, and his father picked up my current system at a garage sale. he talked the owner down to five bucks for the game system, twenty cartridges and a nifty cartridge holder! The thing even has it's original box and most of the pamphlets in case you forgot the rules to Space Invaders or Canyon Bomber. I love the sound effects. They put me in a sort of trance, and I forget for a little while that I'm an old schooler, that the eighties are over, and that Duran Duran are only surviving due to hair implant technology.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Under the Weather

Kil-Joy in Australia is ill. Flatlander in Ontario has some sort of bug. It may be a coincidence, or maybe there is a global pandemic abrewing. Fakiegrind's advice: stay indoors and drink lots of OJ, but if you do have to go out skateboarding bring a can of Lysol and spray everyone that tries to come into contact with you. Once you get back home, sterilize your cloths and skateboard in boiling water.

Reliable sources have indicated that the stylish disco clip, still viewable under 'links', is likely Estonian in origin. However, it may also be a trap set for Austen Powers to lure him to Dr. Evil's Island of Doom in the Gulf of Finland, so be forewarned!

The expression, "Under the weather" is puzzling, because the majority of earthlings spend their entire lives situated under, or at least 'in the midst of' the weather. The only people exempt would seem to be astronauts who could honestly claim to be 'over the weather'.

The fakiegrind Question of the Week: Do turntables in Australia rotate in the opposite direction (counter-clockwise), than those in the northern hemisphere?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Learn Disco Today

I'm thinking of trading in my skateshoes for some disco gear
Check it out by clicking under "links"

New banner motto courtesy of Kil-Joy!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Happy Spring!

Jumpin' Jehosephat on a pogo stick! The mysterious Burrowaugh has surfaced from his subterranian den and seen his own shadow. It's the first day of Spring!! Amazing! To quote the morose master of Canadian letters:

"The little lambs are leaping through the Easter hoop so the insomniac can get to sleep but he's caught without his knife and fork because it's probably Spring. It's probably Spring. You can give away your money for an hour. You can resume your childhood plan. You're naked and the snake is hungry but the viscious thing won't sting becasue it's probably Spring."

Ah Leonard! People say your latest work is too happy, but I'm glad you found some contentment up there in the Zen monastary. I love the song that goes,

"By the waters dark I staggered on
I gave myself to Babylon."


"You loose your grip
and then you slip
into the masterpiece"

Both quotes are from his second last, allegedly happier, album (thanks to Dr. F for that Christmas gift). Wherever you are today Leonard, playing Spanish guitar to the sparrows, or sipping wine in some dark lady's chambers, I hope it is spring for you too. Burrowaugh! Burrowaugh!

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Bease

Today was a skate day that sneaked up on my feet, and the rest of me too. Just this morning I was thinking how I should give my board to the kid next door and save myself a whole summer's worth of abuse. I should know better, but I must have learned everything I really know by the age of five. I'm not sure if anything new is sinking in.

On my way back from downtown today I decided to cut through the local skatepark, know as The Bease, to see the snow removal status of the place. I've been casing it out for months, watching the snow recede and advance from the humps and hips like the movements of some interminable ice age. A few days ago, one of the curbs were clear, but there was gravel and leaves over all the dry spots. So I was surprised today to hear the sound of wheels and see skaters cruising around in front of the quarter pipe. About four or five guys were there with shovels and a broom, clearing the snow out of the bowl and chipping away at the remaining ice. Not to be left out, I raced home and brought back a spade and broom to help with the cleaning. There was actually only one guy doing most of the shovelling, and then a troop of little kids would carry the chunks of ice out of the bowl, like so many industrious ants.

When it was sufficiently cleared, a session ensued. It was nice to see the Bease Crew returning to skate after a whole season during which the park had lain dormant; it was kind of miraculous really. When I first moved to Hamilton it was winter and I remember passing by the park, wondering what it would be like to skate there. It's actually an awkward enviornment for a flatlander like myself. It's a funnel shaped park, the wide part of which opens out into a little parking lot. It's nesteled at the edge of a larger city park, in between an old brick warehouse building and a small hydro electric station. There is a large half-bowl that started out its life as a kiddie pool. In the early nineties the city turned it into a skatebaord area and paved all around the pool, adding a concrete quarter pipe, a hump and some ledges that are good to sit on but difficult to skate due to their rounded edge and narrowness. A couple wooden structers were added last year, but these have largely decomposed over the winter. The whole are is on a slight incline, so you can work a line or get a good run to launch out of the bowl. What really makes the place are the skaters who regularly gather there. A few of them are grafitti artists and there are some great tags that get thrown up pretty regularly.

I must have skated for about an hour or more when a fellow whom everyone calls Oldschool showed up. Oldschool is another thirty-something skater who has a few years on me. He is one of the founders of the Hamilton Skateboard Association and does a big part in arranging the annual Beasley Skate Jam. He can tear up that park like nobody else, rocking big frontside airs and layback grinds to fakie on the quarter pipe. He can also do a nose wheelie for about a whole city block. The younger guys at the park mostly take turns doing tricks on the flat in front of the quarter pipe. Sometimes they launch off the hump or grab some air out of the bowl. When Oldschool shows up, he works the whole park and doesn't quit until the concrete is begging for mercy.

By the time the sun had slipped behind the downtown office buildings, Oldschool and I were the only ones left in the park. We got to talking and found out that we were virtually neighbours, so he invited me back to his place for a beer. He showed me some photos of the Bease before it was rennovated, when it was just the bowl surrounded by curbs back in the eighties. It was really great to talk to someone about skate history. I've felt mostly like an outsider since I moved here, so it was great to hook up with this guy. He has some housemates who also skate, and were cool as well.

I skated back from Oldschool's place with my shovel and broom slung under one arm, feeling a little like Don Quixote ready to chase down some windmills. It was like a door had opened and I actually felt good about being an old guy who still loves to skate. To get to my house I had to pass by the new park with the B-ball court. It was dark and cold, but the court was lit by a single tall streetlamp in one corner. Thanks to my shovelling earlier this week, the court was almost all dry, so I couldn't resist swooping in for a sesh. Compared to the confining contours of the Bease, the B-ball court is like flying through open air. I did some nice long G-turns, a few helipops, spacewalks, walking the dog. Flatland is like a dance, but when I start getting into it at the Bease, I feel like a bit of a freak. The kids don't glue their tricks together with intermediary moves. They don't even bother to learn them. But I'm having an impact. I've noticed people starting to do 360 shoves, and caspars are coming back too. There's nothing like skating in the night, in the halo of a streetlamp, with a half moon suspended in the sky. The shadows become so intimate. Tonight I landed a bunch of rail-flip to caspars without touching my front foot down like I normally do. It made me glad to be alive.


This week I made four days in a row swimming at lunch time at the local rec. centre. It's the same bunch of guys who show up there each day, and I've gotten to chatting with them a little. There is also a really cool lady who works at the Mennonite thrift store just down the street from the pool. This is one of the best thrift stores I know, since everthing there is rediculously cheap and they don't charge tax, being a charity orginization. I haven't skated for a few days. The only skateboard related activity I've indulged in is taking the trucks off of a couple of old decks that were in the storage room.

Last summer, when I left my board with a friend up north in an attempt to quit, I would start jonesing and go prowling for wheels at the Mennonite store. For a while I was riding a DSC (Dominion Skate Corp.) "Ramp Rager". This was an old fat piece of crap with plastic baseplates and wheels that hardly turned. That deck eventually broke and I found a replacement, another DSC model: same shape but with cartoon graphics of a skating Kangaroo. Finally, I made it back to my friend's place in the northlands and retrieved my skate, which was pretty beat up but was dreamy compared to the stone-age planks I had been using. My friend also gave me his old skate.

A few weeks later my neighbour brought over yet another DSC monstrostiy that she had found by the curbside; appearantly someone was throwing it out. This one looked like it had never been ridden, but had sat in someone's shed for about twenty years. It was lime green with yellow grip tape and green wheels. On the bottom is a gnarly graphic of a blue, lion-headed demon wearing a crown and leaping out of the mouth of a fishy behemoth creature. In spooky letters above the picture it says "King Oedipus". I never skated this board but I wanted to keep it because of the wild graphics and the classical reference. I guess some overeducated guy in the DSC art department got bored of drawing skating kangaroos and decided it was time to bust out some serious Cthonic imagry.

So yesterday I removed the trucks and wheels from the thing and added it to my collection of DSC skate art pieces. The collection is actually sitting outside on the picnic table, allong with some other derilect items that should be thrown out, but somehow never make it to the curb. These include a portable RCA turntable-in-a-suitcase thingy that doesn't work, a single DVS skateshoe with the soul torn off, and five yellow candles shaped to resemble Strawberry Shortcake. Why can't I just throw that stuff out?! Sitting there half covered in snow it all together resembles an abandoned art school project, or a neglected voodoo shrine of some sort. Crap just seems to accumulate in empty spaces. Didn't Einstien have some sort of formula about that?

Boards with Great Graphics I Skated and Threw Out Eventually:

The first Ray Barbee model with the scarecrow graphics -I went through two, a green and a white one
A blue Skull Skates, Hackett Street Sickle -a true classic
SMA Natas mini that I painted with a black and white hommade reindeer stencil
A green Dogtown logo board, mini - I don't know why I always ended up with minis -I'm a big guy
Powell & Peralta Caballero with the dragon head on the bottom and the Bonite for added druability
Pink Per Wellender freestyle board with a giant sticker of Super Dave Osborne on the bottom

The Ray Barbee was my favourite.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn

My clearing off of the B-ball court paid off. Yesterday, half the surface was moisture-free, and today it might be all clear. It being March break, the neighbourhood kids are out in force so I had to share the space with a couple diminuative hoop shooters. There is still plenty of ice and snow lying around, but the sun has been out and you can feel spring coming.

Yesterday I was working on 360s - not 360 variels, 360 kickflips, or 360 judo airs - just plain old spinning on your back wheel wheelies. Does anyone remember into the dim days of skateboard pre-history, before the question kids most asked was not, "How high can you ollie?" or, "Can you do a kickflip?" but, "How many 360's can you do?" Yes, there was once a time when one's skating prowess was measured not by jumping through the latest technical circus hoop, but by one's resistance to vertigo -like seeing how many shots of tequila you could down at the bar and still stay on the stool.

My friend and skate mentor remembers these days and once told me that "most 360s" has its own category at skate competitions. This is back when downhill slalom was also big. Serious riders would have special metal wheels for their boards, and would do their spinning on metal plates placed on the ground. The metal-on-metal made a good connection, reducing friction resistance and maximizing spin potential. I checked the Guiness Bood or Records online, but couldn't find an entry for "most skateboard 360s". Tony Hawk's 900 spin on ramp seems to have eclipsed interest in the flatland version of the trick. But I'm sure that the flatland 360 record would be something amazing and unbelievable.

In the Rubbish Heap video ( Rodney does about 25 rotations on the nose of his board, and looks like he could do a lot more, but Rocco probably told him to cut it short (they had to save room for that five minute manuel clip). At Bob's Trick Tips you can see a fellow doing 9 spins: Personally, I can only manage to do a maximum of three spins without losing momentum or getting flung into the outer void by the massive centrifical forces involved. I would like to spin effortlessly, like the Earth on her axis or the disco ball over John Travolta's dining room table. The Sufi whirling dirvishes turned spinning into a religious discipline, and I try to approach flatland 360s with the same reverence. I believe that the secret is to find the spiritual Eye of the Hurricane, like at the laundromat when you stare at the point in the very centre of the washing machine window -that mysterious still point where all of your whites and colours blur into one Mystic Garment. "What!" you say, "You don't separate your whites and colours?!!" Naw. Can't be bothered. I've got more important things to do, like spinning round in circles on my wheelieboard.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Patience, Grasshopper

Lately I've been waking up and hobbling around on my sore knees thinking how I don't have to go out skating if I don't want to; I can just let it go, ease myself into middle age and try to regenerate some cartelidge where it counts. Then ol' Kill-Joy will send me an inspirational message and I'll think, "Dang, he's right! Skating isn't just a way to make yourself unfit for military duty, it's a whole way of life, a spiritual survival mechanism and sacred brother/sisterhood; a disorganized religion for the undogmatically minded; a rolling life preserver for the soul." And then I flip through an issue of Slap magazine that I keep which features Og DeSousa, a Brazilian shredder who kicks ass despite the fact that he can't use his legs. The artical has several photospreads of Og doing noseblunts, bs tails, kick(palm)flips, and a 13 stair railgrind -all of which he does by grabbing the tail and nose and holding himself on the board with his big, burly arms. He says, near the end of the article:

"Skate na veia! 'Skateboarding in your veins.' Think about feeling good, try to do what you like. That's the real pleasure -to do what you like, do it good, try to improve yourself. Never quit and be patient. Skateboard because you like it and not because you have to make money."

There's never been much danger of me making money at skateboarding, but the rest of the advice seems pretty good. Especially the part about being patient. How long does it take to master a trick? I've been trying caspars for years and I still don't have them wired. What I have now in troubled middle age, though, more than in my troubled youth is patience and that has improved my technique considerably.

peace out!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Walking on Air

Don't know what got into me to criticize the amazing skating in the Viscious Cycle video last night. I think it was mostly sour grapes over the fact that I'll never be able to do any of those tricks. March break starts today and I saw a couple of kids going down the street, taking turns trying to do ollies on a crappy old discount board. An old couple was getting out of their car and making funny faces at them. Nobody likes people who are younger and more agile than you are. I'm pretty sore today from yesterday's outing. Never broken anything that I know of, but I'm imagining that my bones are full of more cracks and fissures than the San Andreas fault line. I think I'm starting to enjoy writing about skatebaording more than actually practicing it. So here's the first in a series of nostalgic looks at skateboard moves that I love to love.

The Airwalk

There must be thousands of kids walking around out there who don't even know that their shoes are named after this elegant move. In the change room at the pool last week there was an older guy wearing an Airwalk T-shirt, and I'm almost positive he didn't know the origin of the logo on his chest. I have no idea whether the trick was invented first on a ramp or flatland, but I enjoy the flatland version. It's basically a double decker move: your board is suspened over the ground, and you are suspended over your board. The secret is to do a normal ollie, but jump higher than your deck. Instead of levelling the baord off with your front foot, you grab the nose with your front hand and then kick your legs out in opposite directions.

This trick is largely passe, but kids love to see it done. Ron Allen used to do mean, high speed Airwalks on flat (see, I think, the Streets of Fire video). Rocco did 360 flatland airwalks (or maybe it was Natas-I lost the magazine), but the master of them was, of course, Rodney Mullen. The guy must have invented about 50 different variations on the move, including Frontside 180 AW, AW fingerflips, Saran Wraps and fingerflip variel variations the names of which I have no idea about. He gets the board so its perpendicular to the ground with his legs flung way out straight. What a champ.

My favourite move to bust in this category is the Half Cab AW, but it's kind of hard on the ol' back these days.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Dinosaur Sr.

A big thanks to kill-joy for suggesting the Viscious Cycle video download (see, "I Quit" comments). It was neat to see spots in the Apple, some of which I recognized from magazines and others that were new. If I were able to travel back in time and show this vid to my skate buddies from ten -more like fifteen- years ago, we would all be bugging out and likely throwing our decks in the wood chipper out of sheer dispair. Some of the sequences probably wouldn't even register in our consciousnesses, the way they say that a true UFO would go unrecognized by perception because it can't be related to anything we allready know. "Not only is he ollieing up to manuel across a huge ledge and doing a tre flip out, he does it backwards!!"

At the same time, I was also starting to doze off a bit while watching this vid, and it wasn't just because of the new-school rap music. There were a few wickedly complicated technical tricks that I haven't seen before, not that I watch alot of videos, but the main emphasis in vids these days seems to be doing the same bag of tricks on newer, bigger and crazier obstacles. I'm glad that people are making use of public art for more than just eating lunch and feeding the pigeons, and grinding away at handrails and marble is a laudable response to corporate culture in my opinion, but I'm getting tired of seeing tre-flips and crooked grinds and huge stair bombs. Not that I can do any of those tricks myself. There was probably only one move in that entire video that I could likely pull off: a kind of bench-plant variel where the guy focuses his tail upon landing. So maybe some of my boredom has to do with my not being able to relate to the skating because I simply can't do it.

That being said, what I miss seeing is style and innovation. It would be nice if the makers of videos, and the skaters who are featured in them would take the chance to showcase moves that aren't necessarily the hardest, most technical or current, but that reflect more the individual pesonality and taste of the riders. There is a limit to how far skating can go in any given direction, though the level to which skaters have risen far exceeds anything my friends or I would have been able to dream or predict when streetskating was in its infancy. Skaters will inevidably seek new challenges in terms of technique and terrain, but when I see current videos or magazines I often feel like the fun and creative aspect of the sport is being usurped by a competative, 'keeping up with the Jonses' kind of mindset. I predict that there will be a retro backlash in which the weird old tricks of the past are resurrected and celebrated, allongside all of the wild new innovations, and it will be a huge skateboard block party from coast to coast to coast with live DJ's spinning wicked mixes of every cocievable musical genre. Until then, if I see another tre-flip I might just puke.

So that's my Dinosaur rant. Next week I'm going to write about some of my favourite tricks, and indulge in further reminiscences of my sordid skateboarding career.


OK. Today I went out skating again. First I shovelled the layer of snow and slush off half the B-ball court. If it gets a couple good hours of sunlight tomorrow that asphalt will be as dry and smooth as Mr. T's buttcheeks. Chances are it will snow again tonight but you never know.

After shovelling I found a dry stretch of road beside the Beer factory. There was some occasional traffic but nothing too bad. It felt pretty good to roll again and thanks to swimming I didn't pull any muscles. There were some Canada geese hanging around on the snowy field across from the beer tanks. Sadly, I was drinking water. Kickflips over a flat manhole cover were fun. I've never really tried going for distance before.

Missing Church

This morning I set out with the intention of going to church, but I didn't make it there in time. When I got to the doors I could see through the old glass that the choir had allready started singing, so I didn't go in. It was actually a relief. I realized that what I like is not so much attending church, as having a place to go on Sunday morning. I love setting out on foot for downtown. The streets are quiet and mostly devoid of cars. Today the sun was out illuminating some gigantic cloud formations that were drifting across the sky. It is my habit to take a shortcut across some railway tracks and then down a utility road that has an aboandoned warehouse on one side and a prison on the other. Lately, each time that I pass the prison, there is an inmate who pounds on the window. I assume he is trying to get my attention, since there is never anyone else around, but the windows of the prison are tinted, it seems, because I can't see in or even locate from which window the pounding is emanating. So I wave in the general dirction of the prison and hope that that is enough recognition to give some sort of comfort to whomever is watching from in there.

The reason I didn't make it in time for the church service is that I was taking my sweet time getting there. I'm tired of rushing around trying to assimilate myself to artificial scheduals. What do I hope to accomplish by carrying around such a time anxiety? My dad is a slave to clocks and it is one of the irriating things about trying to go anywhere with him. He's getting better in his old age, but there is no real reason to follow a military schedual when you are on vacation, or going out for an afternoon. It's largely a form of arbitrary conditioning, and I refuse to be victemized by it. So I was ambling allong on my way downtown, enjoying the scenery and the sound of the songbirds who have just reappeared this past week from wherever they go in the winter. Even at the pace I was going, I probably would have made it to church if I hadn't stopped to look at the old Lister building.

A couple of months ago, a recently installed plaque got me interested in a downtown structure called the Lister Block. It currently sits vacant, with broken windows in its upper stories, and boarded up storefronts on the street level. Even in its delapidated state, it has a certain beauty and grandeur to it, and I can only imagine what it was like before they kicked out the tennants and boarded it up about twelve years ago. You can read a history of the building at The site gives a nice description of the building's terra cotta pilasters, tapestry brick, copper spandrels and cartouches. I would love to see inside, where there is an L shaped arcade with skylights. However, this was not the building that made me late for church today.

I was recently talking about city architecture with the owner of a downtown used bookstore and he told me that he much preferred the old Lister building over the new one. By this I though he meant the original Lister Block that had burnt down in 1923 and I was amazed because the book store owner didn't look as though he were old enough to remember the original structure. But what he was referring to was a smaller, four story building situated next to the Lister Block and called, appearantly, the Old Lister Building. I have stopped to look at this sturcture several times since talking with the book store guy, but today, with the sunlight shining down and the songbirds chirping, it took on a new aspect and I could fully see its charms. True, it is not as grandiose as its larger neighbour, but it has a quiet dignity and stature that sets it apart. Like its neighbour, the windows on the top three stories are all broken out, and the pigeons fly in and out of the shelter they provide. It has a weathered, brown brick facade that is largely free of ornamentation save for sculpted pediments over the windows. From the sidewalk I could see the ceilings of the interior chambers, and the plaster had cracked and fallen off in many places, exposing the wooden slats underneath. I can only imagine the mess of pigeon crap and debrise that must lay strewn about the floors, but I would love to see whatever hidden charms remain inside the building.

Walking back home from downtown, past huge mounds of melting snow and sunlit cascades of rooftop runoff I was reminded that this whole blessed world is one big church.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

I Quit!

The heavens unloaded a heap of snow on us today. When I stepped outside all the colours and sounds had been absorbed by a thick carpet of solidified white static. It's amazing how quiet the world can become under a fresh blanket of snow. I walked around for hours until my boots were soaked through to my socks.

I headed down to the cafe by the water (see "Snowed-In"). There was a different girl working, but the place was just as dead as the last time I was there. I ordered a regular hot chocolate with whipped cream, and she gave me a deluxe, claiming that the machine had broken down. Deluxe means they use real cocoa. I wonder if the machine really was broken, or maybe she just liked me. She didn't stick around to talk, but dissappeared somewhere behind the counter. Maybe she had a some kind of little bunker down there, because she only seemed reappear when customers came in. When I left she said, "Have a good night" and I should have told her the truth, that the likelyhood of my night being good was pretty slim. Instead I said, "You too." and left.

This is not the place to complain about my life. Whatever barren waste I have made of it is my own damn fault. The shape it has taken seems to me to be related to my great delight in negation. There is such a thrill in quitting something. I had a job as a stockboy that I simply walked away from one night. It was a liberating experience. I've never been a fan of the two weeks notice thing. I quit school numerous times, but in the end I got my university degree, so the ratio between quitting and returning is exactly equal in this area. As far as girlfriends go, I have been the one to break it off about as many times as not, so the dumper/dumpee ratio is about even on that front as well. Lately, I've been quitting things in a premptory manner, before I have even really begun. So, while I went to the orientation session to be a volunteer English language coach at the library, I later told them that I wouldn't be able to commit to anything at this point. I've been going to a church, off and on, for about a year, but have passed up becoming an actual member whenever the opportunity comes up. I'm actually looking forward to the day when I can quit going alltogether, that is to say, when I can find something better to do on Sunday mornings. As far as work goes, I don't even look anymore. I've quit looking.

We make a virtue out of committment in society. You get commended just for sticking with something, regardless of what it is or whether you really want to do it. It shows that you have persistance, reliability, backbone. It shows that you can subordinate your own ego to some sort of cause. Marriages can become like that, a matter of principal over true feeling. Having kids is a comittment that doesn't go away in any short time, and there is a whole culture of duty, commitment and self-surrender that is associated with it. If you reach a certain age without having a job, family, kids or religion, you start to become something of an enigma, which is a polite way of saying "freak of nature". And yet there are lots of us out there. For the last few years, while quitting almost everything else in my life, I have continued to skateboard from time to time. At least once per week, weather permitting, and often more than that. There was a period over the summer where I deliberately left my board in another city, so that I wouldn't be able to skate, but I just ended up borrowing other people's decks at the local skatepark. I simply have nothing else left to do with myslelf, no other reason for being. Skateboarding has been my primary joy and satisfaction, the only time I really feel alive.

But, friends, I'm old. My joints are getting sore. I've tried special anti-arthritis diets and regular yoga stretches, and I still feel the pain. Also, frankly, as much as I love the sport, I'm tired of putting myself up on that pedastle, even if it's only in my own mind. You skate around, four inches off the ground, feeling like some sort of god, and it's a kind of drug. The trees, the sky, the sunlight, always look more focused and beautiful after I have been skating. The cars and pollution and garbage don't bother me as much, nor does the absolute void that the rest of my life has become. Hold on to a virtue for too long and it turns into a vice. You can see where this is going. I've taken my walk in the snow and I have decided to quit skateboarding. It brings me pain to type those words, and I don't even really believe them. Nobody is even going to read this stupid blog, but I'm going public with this avowel anyways. It's over. I'm done. This has been a lousy Saturday night and the only slight thrill I can squeeze from it is this final renunciation of my last worldly satisfaction. At this rate the only thing I'll have left to quit is quitting itself.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Picasso in the Parking Lot

Today it was warm enough that I could go out in a wool sweater and touque. There was some snow, of the light fluffy variety, and the roads were damp all day. I had a pretty good time last summer, skating in different cities and meeting people. Skateboarding is a kind of universal, non-verbal language. You can tell alot about a person just by watching how they skate, which moves they do and their whole attitude toward the activity. I've certainly mellowed since my teenage days, and it has made me a better skater. I don't have the same durability that I once had, but I've got more finesse and patience. It has also become a more solitary activity. This is largely because of my age. Most of my skater friends from youth have moved on, and I'm no longer in contact with them. Also, I like being alone.

Skaters are generally individualistic souls, but there is also a kind of pack mentality that develops in places where practitioners congregate, like skateparks or hotspots. Sometimes it can be a good kind of energy that is generated; people just start showing up and falling into a groove that is inspiring and energizing for everyone involved. Other times, the spot gets too croweded or "skated out" like a fishing hole that is overused. It's good to be able to move around and skate different spots.

My neighbourhood is full of kids who all know me as the local skater. Often I have to sneak down the block with my board tucked under my arm to avoid attracting their attention. Sometimes it's nice to have a posse of kids gather. They ask questions and request tricks. Sometimes they ask if I'm a pro, which is flattering. But usually when I skate I want to be left alone. This means finding new skatespots.

I'm always on the look-out for parking lots. These places are the true wastelands of our modern cities, but afterhours when the cars are gone and one is left with an expanse of open space through which to glide they become transformed into a flatlander's paradise. These areas were obviously not designed with aesthetic enjoyment in mind, but the act of skatboarding in such a location changes it, teasing music out of the barreness.

When I lived in Montreal it was hard to find skatespots. The downtown core is beautiful, but also very compact, and there are few large parking lots or paved open areas. The sidewalks and streets tend to be crowded and in disrepair. Peace Park is a famous spot, but the skateable area is actually very small and you always have to deal with the bums and cops. There was a large grocery store about twenty minutes away from my appartment that had a big, recently paved parking lot that I liked to frequent. I would go there at night, following the intricate cracks of the sidewalk down Cote des Neiges. Often there would be a band rehearsing in one of the appartments across the street, and I could hear live drums and guitar while I was skating. Aside from a couple curbs and some concrete dividers, there were no obstacles to skate; just lots of flat, relativly smooth pavement. The first time I found the spot, I skated for about half-an-hour in the humid summer heat, sweating profusely. In need of refreshment, I crossed the street to Harvey's where I bought one of those orange drinks that can't really be called a soda. I was so thirsty from exerting myself, and so elated at finding the parking lot that the drink was one of the best tastes I had experienced in a long time. I returned often to that spot, and had more orange drinks from Harvey's but none of them were as memorable as that first one.

This was in the year that the Musee des Beaux Arts was housing an exhibition of Picasso's erotic art, and hanging from the streetlights that flanked my parking lot were some vinyl flags with Picasso's face printed on them. Despite the recent decline in Picasso's popularity, he is still one of my favourite 20th century visual artists, and as I was skating around I felt like his spirit was somehow present watching me. On my second or third visit to the spot, a young kid came up riding some variety of Wal-Mart board. He lived in one of the surrouding appartments and looked to be from an immigrant family, though he spoke good English. I taught him a few basic manouvers; kick-turns and slides and such. The windows of his appartment must have faced the parking lot, because he started showing up often, sometimes with a friend in tow; a plump Quebecois boy on rollerblades. It was fine with me, since there was plenty of room for the three of us at that spot, and they usually wouldn't stay that long. One time, we set up some cardboard boxes and I gave them a show to see how high I could ollie.

Despite the visits of the kids, the spirit of Picasso looking on, and the night trains that would pass across the trestle in the light of the flanking billboards, it was a lonely spot, and looking back at myself gives me a slight tinge of agorophobic anxiety. I don't recal feeling anything of the sort at the time. Perhaps the feeling of being watched I experienced was really just the eyes of my future self, sitting here now and recreating the scene in the camera of my mind, a world within a world.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Eternal Damnation at the Movies

Freaking ice and salt all over the roads. Even if they were clean it's ten below and windy. So I went to see a movie tonight to get away from it all. Everyone has been telling me, "Go see sideways", "Sideways is great!" "You'll love it!". The newspaper gave it five stars, whereas Constantine only got two. Sideways seemed like the reasonable chioce, but Constantine was calling to me. It was a dilema: respectable movie about wine and male bonding, or chancy comic book-turned-into-blockbuster affair. Maybe it was time that I endeavored to educate and enlighten my soul rather than opting for cheap thrills and monster gore.

Before the movie I had a burger, and the advertisement on the wrapper said, "The Flames are Waiting For You" underneath a big picture of a Whopper. The guy at the next table was reading a motorcycle magazine and the headline on one of the articles said "Hellbound". I was getting some serious universal feedback in the infernal dirction, but I bought a ticket for Sideways and found myself a seat in a nearly empty theatre. A chatty group of middle aged men and women arrived, laughing and rattling their drinks and popcorn. I felt about ten years older all of a sudden. When the trailers started they were all for dramas and comedies aimed at mature humanist types: the new Woody Allen, The Hitch Hiker's Guide, and one about some kids who find a million dollars. The latter movie looked worth seeing to me, but I was starting to have second thoughts about my current cinematic situation.

If I want a nice, human drama about real people going through the real world in all its perplexities, I'll rent it and enjoy it in the comfort of home. When I shell out bucks to see something on the big screen I want to see BIG BUDGET FX: monsters, explosions, panoramas, good pitted against evil with the eternal salvation or damation of the hero's soul at steak. A major hollywood production was being shot in my neighbourhood recently and one of the guys told me that it costs a minimum of 60 grand per hour that they are on set, though it could run up to twice that figure. With that kind of money going into a movie, you might as well have an appearance by the prince of darkness, or at least some of his minions, and a werewolf or two thrown in for good measure. So I made as if I going for popcorn, grabbed my coat and shimmied my way out of Sideways and across the hall to catch the beginning of Constantine.

I guess I will remain unelightened about the finer points of wine culture, but I learned quite a bit about the cosmic struggle between God and the Devil going on right under our noses, and I got to see some pretty neat tableaus of Hell. Not to mention insane angels, mondo exorcisms, and a wicked twist at the end. There was a bleak period of self-doubt while I suffered through the overabundant trailers for embarrasingly shallow adventure and slasher movies. None of them were very appealing and I started telling myself that being forced to sit through Constantine would be a good lesson to me in finally "growing up". But as soon as the first scene came on with the two Mexicans in the desert sifting through the skeletal ruins of a church for The Spear of Destiny, I knew that I was right where I belonged, and that what the critics who gave it a measley two stars just "didn't get" would most likely contribute to the eternal damnation of their immortal souls.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Skateboard Dreams

For me, skateboarding dreams are the equivalent of what flying dreams are for most other people. I feel a sense of freedom and elation that is stronger than in dreams when I actually am flying. The skateboarding segments of my dreams are usually rather short. I manage to do a few crazy tricks -moves that I long to do in reality but am unable - and then my board will turn into another object, like a milk carton or a plastic tray. Othertimes the deck just goes all soggy beneath my feet, and my wheels melt, or I look down and realize that I have misplaced my shoes; then the skateboard portion of the dream gets forgotten and the narrative turns into a quest for lost footwear.

Once I met Rodney Mullen in a dream. I was doing some strange nose wheelie trick, and the veteran freestyler came up to me in a freindly sort of way. Maybe I shook his hand or asked for an autograph, but then he knocked a box of wax crayons off of a shelf, and they scattered all over the floor making further skateboarding impossible. In pondering this dream I wonder if it points to a link between skating and creativity? Or was my unconscious trying to say that skateboarding is like "child's play" and something that should be left behind? Maybe Rodney's gesture was my unconscious dismissing my skateboarding efforts as being primitive and childish. I often suspect that the meaning of dreams is blantantly obvious but I don't want to listen to what they have to say, so I pretend not to understand.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Gaze of Envy

Rain today, washing away the snow. Might make it out this week. I like to skate at the new basketeball court down the street. It's on a high patch of ground where a factory once sat. The factory burnt down creating a "brownfield" -unusable land due to pollutants in the soil. There were plastic pipes set in the earth for a couple years to vent out the toxic fumes. Last year they brought in bulldozers and landscapers, installed a pagoda, walkway, saplings and sod, and the basketball court. It looks nice but I'm not going for any picnics...

I went skating there for the first time a few weeks ago, when a warm spell had melted the snow off the black smooth asphalt of the court. It's the perfect place to freestyle. There is a little downhill path that feeds into the court if you want to get speed, and there is ample room for working on slower moves. I was practicing spacewalks across the whole length of the court when an SUV slowed down on the flanking street to watch me. It could have been a drive-by but there were kids in the back.

The park is surrounded by warehouses and abandoned factories. Train tracks run past the park on two sides, one line going west to the yards and one line south to the steelmills. As I was skating a train came by. It was short with a string of empty oar cars that were open to the sky. A yard worker in coveralls was sitting on the back of the last car, straddling the bin. He was watching as I did some spacewalks and G-turns so I waved at him. We exchanged glances, and he waved in return. I was a bit jealous of him, moving through the open air like a hobo copping a ride as the train clattered past on its way to the yard. I wanted to trade places, feel the breeze on my face, the lurch and vibrations of the great metal machine moving through me. At the same time I realized that for him it was just another ride on the back of a train at the end of a work day. The novelty had probably worn off long ago, but I like to think that the envy in my eye him gave him an inkling of how wonderous he appeared to the child in me. Perhaps he envied me as well, spinning and gliding wildly on my skateboard, though for me such manouvers have become routine, the thrill of their initial mastery dimmed by endless repetion.

Saturday, March 05, 2005


It's two degrees today and the snow is melting. Maybe tomorrow I will be able to find a dry patch. Reasons I want to quit: my one wrist has a permanent slight sprain. My ankle and knees have a constant dull ache. My neck often hurts (yoga accident).

On the other hand, I am thrity-two and a better skater than I've ever been. Last year I learned a pile of new tricks and every time I go out it seems I develop something new. I invented the Spinoza last year, and haven't had a chance to popularize it. I don't bomb stairs or handrails anymore (not that I ever did handrails). I skate flatland, curbs and small ledges, the occasional transition. The last time I went skating at the B-ball court down the street, I landed my first casper-to-casper flip, a trick I've been attempting for a couple of years. Increased muscle tone from swimming is improving my board control. If my joints will hold up I will keep progressing.

Friday, March 04, 2005


Didn't realize it was March until today. It's been a good week-and-a-half since I stepped on my board so I've been swimming and telling myself that I will finally kick the habit. But I know that as soon as the pavement shows its face again I'll be out rolling around on the basketball court, working on fakieflips and bigspins.

Stopped for a hot beverage at a deserted coffee shop near the water, and the girl behind the counter started up a conversation. I think she was bored out of her mind but she recognized me as a skateboarder. She asked how long I've been skating for and I said about fifteen years. She was kind of young. Maybe she was crushing. I think my new goatee works.