A Place to Begin, Again

I was blogging before the term was created. Back then I was writing a weekly, sometimes-daily column. It was published on a website of a skateboard sponsor I had called Movement Skateboards. We have long parted ways and all the writing I did back then sits in files in my computer. It was all a series of thoughts, stories, poems and ideas I was working through back then. Some of it made sense and some of it was purposefully bizarre. I wanted to find out how people would react to it. It was really fun and the best part was that people actually read it back then. That is one of the biggest differences I have now. No one is reading my writing because I am not sharing.

I have not wanted to open those files and re-publish the work I once did. I could but it consists of thoughts I had on distant days that I am not thinking anymore. We must grow and evolve with life and what we think in our 20’s is not exactly relevant in our 40’s.   I have grown since then and with new growth come new thoughts, hopefully more sophisticated, and new challenges that can sometimes be more difficult. It is not as easy to write like it once was. I care a little more now. I like to think I am a little more thoughtful about how to choose my words. That is certainly debatable and I welcome that kind of debate with anyone who would enjoy dialectic. Now, it is more important for my words to truly communicate my thoughts and ideas. I have not felt very driven to start blogging. Mostly because I don’t particularly care for the term. So much that I will not even capitalize the word. It is offensive to me. I would rather think of this as a provocation to multiple unseen emergent dialectics. Perhaps I can get people talking about what I think is important?

I am beginning this incitement with the general period when I was hit by a car for the third time.   I have decided to start from this vantage point because I feel that it was a moment when I took on a divergent path. This path was not far from what I once walked or rolled upon. In fact, the two consist of each other; they overlap and have so many similarities that sometimes I cannot see them as different. Maybe they aren’t? After all, this is merely one life.

The first two car accidents I experienced were minor and took place while skateboarding. When skateboarding it is easy to get out of many situations without major injuries.  People love to talk of how dangerous skateboarding is. It is not. The majority of skateboarding takes place within a foot from the ground at a very slow speed. It only becomes dangerous once you progress and push yourself to try more difficult tricks. Most skateboarders don’t get too far before quitting let alone take it to an amateur or even professional level. For the most part you have a bunch of weekend warriors who dust off the board and take it to the mini-ramp or local skatepark. You would be hard pressed to find a skater over 35 pushing their ass off down a street. I know this reads as pessimistic but it is the truth. I am a skater that is over 40 and during my later years in my 30’s I hardly saw anyone out there at that age. In fact, I was praised for being older and keeping it up.  What about the kids?  They go play games of skate someplace or hang out at the skatepark until it’s time to go “stack clips.”

My third tangle with an automobile was by far the worst and completely changed my life. I was on a bike. It was the first time an incident such as that had happened on a bike and I was hurt badly.  I was on the left side of a road when a car turned about 3 feet in front of me. I was cut off and managed to turn with the car but my bike got pressed up on the side of it.  When my leg hit the side mirror I flew over the hood and dove into some really rugged Philly sidewalk pavement.  If I had not been used to falling for my entire life I would not have known to first land onto my elbow and shoulder.  I broke some of my momentum. Unfortunately, the impact was too hard and I ended up stopping the dive with my face.  I didn’t care too much about the bruises, cuts and scrapes.  I pulled a chunk of skin out of my nose, looked at it for a moment and threw it onto the sidewalk.  Fuck it. Time for a hospital visit.

 

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The worst part about it was the Post Concussion Syndrome that had quite a few disorienting side effects.  I had trouble organizing objects.  Sometimes I would get very dizzy, start getting cold sweats and feel like I had the flu.  I couldn’t do much for a few weeks let alone go skateboarding.  That was my job and I felt like I was betraying my livelihood. My right leg had a hard piece of scar tissue in it and was badly bruised for weeks.  Arnica Gel did the trick to heal that.  Just about every limb of my body was wrecked and I was sitting around drinking beers for weeks. The beer tasted great. I did a lot of thinking and got to spend time with my parents who are really great and supportive people.

This incident provided me with a few great lessons in the end.  On one hand, I was paid a settlement that allowed me to pay off all the debt I had accumulated while I was a broke skateboarding student trying to get through college. Getting out of debt was one of the greatest accomplishments I have had in this lifetime. Debt is akin to slavery and while in it, the system owns you. When you are out you are truly free. On the other hand, I learned the real dangers of riding a bicycle.  In addition, a dialogue about handbrakes and helmets began that would eventually lead me to coin the slogan, “Helmets and Handbrakes Cause Headaches.”  All the people in my life started suggesting that I wear a helmet.  They were all confused as to why I would ride a bike without brakes.  There was no way to explain any of it to them because they had already made up their minds before giving me advice.  It is fine and I understand that people care very much for me.  It is great to be loved but I still have to do what I will.  Otherwise I will become bored and start getting into trouble.  However, this rhetoric surrounding helmets and handbrakes was giving me a figurative headache.  I appreciate the concern but the conversation makes me quite tired.

People must understand that I have never had brakes and for the most part I always rebelled against wearing a helmet. Skateboards don’t have brakes. Snowboards don’t have brakes. Low and behold, bikes don’t need them either as long as you have a fixed gear drive train.  However, they do have brakes.  They are organic rather than mechanical and it seems people have lost faith in the ability of the human organism to regulate speed and trajectory on objects of movement in a given environment.  Someday there might be a law forcing me to put on a suit of armor to protect me from myself.  As if I truly want to get hurt.  As we say in Philly, “Really!?”   The very same principles that are used to control the speed of a skateboard and snowboard also work to control the speed of a fixed gear track bike. You can carve, skip the tires, skid the tires, slide here or there, swerve, back pedal and most of all pay attention to where you are in relationship to the moving or stationary objects around you. The great and in some perspectives unfortunate thing about the bike is the increase in speed from the skateboard.  The snowboard, however, might be able to go faster.  What about a surfer? Should they wear armor to save them from the sharks? Better put the brakes on skis while we are at it. Perhaps we could invent brakes for pedestrians as well? You can see that this dialogue is ridiculous.

I wasn’t able to think about getting on a bike for about a year after the accident and was skittish even when crossing the street. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about bikes.  Especially track bikes.  The first time I experienced a fixed drive train it was like skateboarding on a bike for me.  I thought, “This is how I always wanted a bike to feel.” I used to think bikes were kinda wack. You know the rivalry between BMX heads and skaters? I was in that generation and if you skated you didn’t ride a bike unless it was to joke around. This new thing, this fixed gear thing was a trend. I knew it was lame and all the clichés that come with it I thought. I found out about it when it was getting old and the hipsters were on their way out. I still kinda felt like a poser. It was strange. I was confused and many of my friends thought I wasn’t skating enough. I was falling away from skateboarding.

 

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There were days in my later years when I would be walking home from the school parking lot. I would be extremely depressed after skating alone, not landing shit and almost in tears. I would think, “Is this how it ends?” All the hard work I put in for 30 something years and this is where I end up? All my travels across the US and abroad to bring me here? To a shitty parking lot in West Philly feeling like a downtrodden shredder who is an aged skateboarder? To only skate alone? I was one of the illest skaters from Rochester, NY! I skated with everyone out there and had a presence! I skated everywhere! Shit, I was in Best of 411 # 33! I was mad good and now I fucking suck?! There is no one here and I go full circle to feeling like I was starting over again in my driveway. You don’t’ ever want to feel that way. Or perhaps we do? Therein lies progression?

I had found a new way to roll. I found a new passion on two wheels that was a little more fitting for a dude getting older. My knees are torn, I have PTSD from too many injuries, my wrist has a torn ligament and I cannot lift heavy objects. I have nine screws in my ankle and have rolled both of them countless times. Half my teeth are false and I am covered with scars. I paid my dues as a skater and I lived it to the fullest. I was a little kid at 14 when I got my first sponsor and I worked really hard to get better. To get the best I could be in this lifetime. I made lots of great friends who are all getting older now and I hear from them less and less. Most of all I had a lot of fun, went to lots of contests, demos and was up in some sick videos. Check The Lion and the Ghost.

The Lion and the Ghost

That was one of my favorites. Shit, I had the last part in a Krudco video once. The curtains!

Krudco Orange – Greg Lang

Yet, I had developed a fascination with cycling that would not seem to leave me. Eventually I decided to buy a new bike, a heavy steel track bike, one that would work in the way I wanted the conversion to. One I could learn on and climb my ladder of ability.  One that snobs would scoff at so I knew who to stay away from.  Soon after that purchase I completed my first metric century in sneakers, untaped track drops, with a brake, in a helmet and never wanted to stop pedaling again.  One of the best aspects of cycling is that it is more diverse.  I can do it with my girlfriend.

 

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These days I don’t have handbrakes.  But, I just about always wear a helmet to protect myself from irresponsible drivers. I am working on a PhD and with so much invested in my brain I don’t want to allow someone else to ruin it. Every once in a while my girlfriend makes me go skating and I can still land a tre-bomb, back-tails and I have a mean switch-flip.

 

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