Tuesday, June 22, 2004

I Am Poser

[The following item was written as a contribution to a minicomic collecting various memories about and perspectives of skateboarding. Edited by Dan Moynihan, the zine will be available this coming weekend at the MoCCA Art Festival.]

Those of you who do not know me could probably not care less, and those readers who do are probably not all that surprised, but I have a confession to make:

I am not a skateboarder.

Oh, I know that I put on a good act. At 31, I wear Vans, once subscribed to Thrasher magazine, played 720 at the local Aladdin's Castle, and still say, "Rad." But truth be told, I am an imposter, a pretender, a poser.

Pardon my French, a poseur.

I wanted to skate. Really, I did. I was fully prepared to skate or die. But despite the best efforts and intentions of the collective denizens of Dogtown, fallen pro Mark "Gator" Rogowski, and the ongoing video game series Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (for which I use all the cheats), I couldn't.

And I didn't.

Instead, throughout junior high, high school, and college, I hung out with skateboarders, listened to their music ("Skate Rock" on cassette, thank you very much), watched their videos (The Search for Animal Chin rather than Gleaming the Cube), and wore their clothing. I still do.

How come?

For me, the discovery of skateboarding came hand in hand with that of punk rock. It was 1988. I was in Madison, Wisconsin. And I had just picked up issues of Maximum Rocknroll and Thrasher magazines. Back in the day, Thrasher was printed on easily smudged newsprint, much like MRR's then-rival Flipside. Transworld was almost always more mersh.

I was floored. While MRR impressed and inspired me with its DIY make-your-own-media ethic, Thrasher upped the ante somewhat. Thrasher -- and therefore skateboarding in general, in my limited Midwestern mindset -- was more than music, politics, and community. It was all that plus food, clothing, and sport: almost a plug-and-play lifestyle.

The "Mailbag" lettercol taught me how to communicate with my near-peers. "Puszone" turned me on to new music. "Skarfing Material" told me what to eat -- and what not to. And the rest showed me what was important writ large: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Long story short, my friends skateboarded, but I didn't.

I couldn't.

That's not to say I didn't try, if by "try" you mean design and price the perfect skateboard only to realize I couldn't afford it, try skating on a friend's Variflex only to scar my ankle trying to kick flip off a launch ramp, and resort to making fingerboards with pencil erasers and Matchbox car parts.

I tried to skate. I hurt myself. So I gave up. And even though I know I should've, could've skated harder, I decided to leave it to others: Brett, Chase, and Jason. They could do what I couldn't, and I was happy to sit on the sidelines, watching them carve lines in front of the public library while I wrote lines of my own kind.

They skated. I wrote. And while zines helped us stay connected for a time, we strayed. They kept on keeping on, and even though my skating memories are relegated to their experiences, it's not too late to redeem myself. After all, I do still have a new deck outfitted with Thunder trucks and Spitfire wheels just waiting for grip tape.

It's never too late to skate or die. Or lie trying.

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