Archive for February, 2021

Down And Out In Dunktown

February 28, 2021

“It was one of the oldest neighborhoods around, but back then, nobody was really trying to live there. Nothing going on, every once in a while somebody would try and hype it up again like, hey, remember this place? Some cool stuff would pop up here and there but it was close to a notorious part of town. Nothing really wrong with the neighborhood itself, but it was more like, outta sight, outta mind.

“Other parts of town got crowded up and too busy, and here and there, people started moving back in. At first it was your typical mix, like young hipsters and sophisticated thirtysomethings. And you could see why, it had that a little bit of a more classic neighborhood vibe, kinda old school feel, for sure simpler than everything going on downtown. So people started moving back, they’d talk about how they’d loved the area all along and all that, and sure enough after a couple years you started to see some high rollers and upper crust types coming in. The vibe was changing no doubt, but you could find a reasonable place if you looked.

“It was still a nice place to be, nothing about the neighborhood itself fundamentally changed, but as the years went by it just started to get really crowded. And the free market did its thing. Rents went up. Bidding wars for coveted spots turned really intense. Different types of rent control programs were tried, some got pretty creative, but people were just getting so crazy with it — hiring programmers to build bots to help them land a spot, offering bribes, assaults, death threats. Kinda funny, since it was the old residents that were supposed to be the riffraff. Some landlords wouldn’t even give out their places’ address, the heat got so intense. But at the end of the day the developers and landlords didn’t turn anybody down, and you know, a lotta business and investment was coming in. Developers would sometimes try and set aside space for the longtime residents, but the same thing would always happen. And it’s starting to happen in other parts of town too.

“People say the bubble’s gonna burst soon, but they’ve said that before, and either way, most of the old locals who made the neighborhood what it was, by now they’re pretty much gone. All the streets, lines and angles are still the same, more or less, and it’s still possible on paper to live there without deep pockets and connects. But hardly anybody sees the point in trying, especially with the kind of money you can get for it if you do somehow land a spot. And there’s plenty of other neighborhoods around, some just as nice, some probably better, some whose roots in the city go even deeper. So this neighborhood’s theirs now, I guess, as long as they can afford it.”

The Snowblower Is The New Bolt Cutter

February 14, 2021

The story of ‘earth’ (the planet) is defined by the eternal tug of war between man and his environment. Viewed from above, land is carved into multicoloured squares and circles, crops to feed man’s teeming billions. Below ground, humans tunnel into soil and rock to extract minerals and gemstones that power cities and festoon foreheads. While tropical islands are constructed from trash or military equipment, each day people display their own minor triumphs over nature, driving heavily laden trucks up hills, relaxing in aeroplanes, boldly growing plants in Antarctica.

Erik Herrera, young fleet-foot now riding officially for Chocolate, this week put up another W for humankind, melding numerous pushes and an anti-ableist cement slope to fling a backside flip over a sidewalk and up a five-step, stoking out Tyler Pacheco and mankind generally. Despite the lack of a slow-mo angle, this backside kickflip more narrowly represented another ripple in the decadeslong environmental push and pull that birthed, developed and continues to define skateboarding. Asphalt embankments provided the friction and gravity for Z-boys of old to approximate surfing sans water; the pools later barged helped ferment the outlaw raiderisms that would be required to persist through the skatepark closures and vert ramp scrappings that would follow. Forced adaptation to office plazas, loading docks and schoolyards required fashioning tricks and entire disciplines around the street biome, working within the terrain’s natural limits and sometimes toppling them. The ingenuity required to translate picnic tables and staircase aids into platforms for innovation and progression allows a new form of vision, like slipping on the enchanted sunglasses from ‘They Live’ and seeing the Sistine Chapel in a New Jersey backyard.

Watching backside kickflips like Erik Herrera’s, on screens powered by rare earth minerals and housed within temperature-controlled rumpus rooms made out of dead trees, it’s easy to feel victorious. Science and technology have provided bondo and sawzalls and the power to make nigh any spot skateable; Thrasher’s March 2021 issue featured a how-to interview with a masked superhero knowed only as ‘Knob Buster.’ Those with mall shop and video game money, properly funneled into the pockets of laid-back warehouse landlords, have unlocked private TFs capable of sidestepping both security and inclement weather.

Yet all of this is a feint, dodging the real and ultimate authority: weather. No less a visionary than Mike Carroll recognized the climate’s paramount rule when, in the ‘Modus’ credits, he mutters his capitulation to the wind, seeking solace in the embrace of a video game controller when persistent breezes made all flip trick attempts pointless. Pat Duffy and Ronnie Creager and Marc Johnson wowed generations by taking on handrails and pic-a-nic tables in the rain, but these remain novelties, with malevolent nimbostrati continuing to reroute domestic and international filming trips to local bars. Even in these pandemic times, the only surefire cure for winter is southbound airfare.

Or is it? The same combination of ingenuity, courage and hardheaded masochism that hurls bodies repeatedly down stairs in pursuit of the clip, and that certain euphoric zen, are now pushing the meteorological envelope further than ever before. John Shanahan’s uncanny ability on the slippery snow-skate is one thing, but as blizzards rake the U.S.A. over past weeks, ways are being found to best even the uncooperative climate itself. The Philadelphia contingent again curls their collective lip toward any barriers before their ledges and cans — deploying a damn snowblower to cut paths between Municipal Plaza’s benches, leaving gaps for young Chris Falo to push and pop over as needed. Further west, Josh Kalis’ Grand Rapids group took the same approach to liberate an even more minimal spot from old man winter’s icicle-fingered clutches, in Boston and Cincinnati they’re skating snowbanks. Kevin Bilyeu’s bubblegoosed nose manual and trash can kickflip aren’t even the point, it’s the principle involved.

Is the snowblower the new bolt cutter? Could an iced-over parking lot or frozen Canadian pond, properly Zamboni’d, host a powerslide event worthy of a wintertime Dime Glory Challenge? Will the future bring affordable and localized weather-controlling machines to skateparks and leave yet-to-come generations that much more confused over why anyone bothers with street spots at all, or will varied temperatures, locales and other environmental trappings be required to properly model the premiumly priced softgood pieces that will support the pros of the day?