Sunday, July 27, 2014


Hello my friends, fans and whoever has stumbled upon this blog!  
"I Escaped A Satanic Ninja Cult" will be concluded in the early autumn and I'm happy to annouce my next graphic novel project will be about (drumroll) SKATEBOARDING!  In preparation for this project I have written a short memoir about my first skateboard.  I hope you like it. 


When I was in kindergarten, I simultaneously was given a book entitled "the ultimate skateboarding book" and a NASH toy store skateboard for Christmas.  I had been begging my parents for a skateboard for a while.  Along with the skateboard came a handful of stickers (one being the classic Jim Phillips Santa Cruz screaming blue hand) that I would decorate the bottom of the board with. The illustration on the bottom of the board was of a gigantic great white shark jumping out of the water while eating a skateboard, breaking it in half.  Its color palette was two-tone; a safety cone orange with comic book black ink.  The board's functionality by my standards today was a piece of garbage; an imitation of the real thing with plastic trucks. It was a beginner's board, but to this day it remains one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me, with my fire engine red fender Stratocaster squire guitar as a close second. 

  My mother was terrified I would injure myself on the board but to her pleasant surprise I was more interested in posing on the skateboard than riding it initially.  I was imitating the photographs of the skateboarders in the book.  Besides, it was winter in Ipswich, Massachusetts so a few feet of snow covered my circular driveway.  Riding would have to wait for the spring. 
Ipswich is as Puritan as an American town can get; a town of roughly 13,000 people forty-five minutes driving from Boston, it was established in 1687 and claims to be the birthplace of American Independence (it's important to realize just about every town on the north shore of Boston claims to be the birthplace of American Independence.  Relatively speaking, there is some merit to this, but in the general it's pure baloney).  
Living in an American town of such history obviously had its perks, but there were some drawbacks as well.  While there were plenty of intellectual lefties to go around, a city of such history can't help but feel conservative, at least in aesthetic.  The colors of the town were Earth Tone; I was surrounded by forest and got accustomed to seeing terre verte and burnt senias.  Our clothing was selected by my mother from either LL Bean catalogs or were hand-me-downs, so sparks of salmon pinks, sunset oranges and electric blues were limited.  The surroundings I was in left me underwhelmed, which was probably good for a high energy/high risk child such as myself.  The only time I would witness bright colors would be in the stained glass windows of the first church of Ipswich on Sundays, which literally is in the center of town on a hill.  It was established even before the town, in 1634. 
So when I opened "The Ultimate Skateboard Book", it was the first time I was being exposed to neon and florescent.  This did something to my young, impressionable, developing brain, and I haven't even mentioned what was being visually communicated in the book.  The illustrations on the skateboard decks in the pages of the book were dynamic, subversive and sometimes even mannerist in composition.  They weren't blocky and pixelated like the video games on my classic Nintendo.   They were hand drawn, spray painted, rough, aggressive and most importantly, wildly imaginative. 

Spring did arrive of course and I would spend hours on the weekend doing laps with my great white shark buzzsaw skateboard, curving, shifting my balance, kicking, pushing, coasting and feeling comrodery with the flamboyantly dressed pros who were in the book. I would pose by kicking the tail while making "hang-ten" hand signs.  I would hold balance at the tip of the nose of the board and throw out my arms to make a T; I must have looked like a baby Jesus on the cross, but in motion on pavement. 

My parents applauded these acts of athletic creativity and were so happy I had found an outlet at such a young age.  But they had mixed feelings; skateboarding seemed dangerous and with every day of my practice I grew more confident, hence upping the bar of my dare devilish abilities.  Slowly my poses became more and more complicated and the margin of error got wider.  Eventually I was going to hurt myself on the board.  What my parents didn't understand was as I took more and more risks on the board, my self-esteem was growing. 

It is important to mention the more I skateboarded, the more I drew.  I would use the Ultimate Skateboard book as reference and make crude figure drawings of skateboarders doing hand stands on drained pools with wild Mohawks and tattered punk rock clothing.  These drawings were done with pencil, crayon and magic marker.  Not much remains of these illustrations of neon warriors, but of what does I cherish dearly.  This was the first time I was artistically inspired and it was happening in Kindergarten!

Finally, the axe fell, someone got hurt, but the axe ironically didn't fall on me.  My older sister wanted to join in and we shared the board.  She didn't have the same passion for skateboarding, but she had a natural curiosity. My parents were urging and warning about skateboarding without proper equipment; helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, etc.  Us kids nonchalantly paid no attention to this.

The memory of that day when my older sister fell I can remember vividly.  I remember where my sister had placed her feet in an awkward, amateur position on the board (remember, I had a whole book instructing me how to skateboard and all winter long I had practiced my posture by posing), I remember the crack in the pavement and I remember my older sister flying backwards as the skateboard jetted forward.  She fell, hit her head and immediately started screaming. 

I didn't experience the pain so I am in no position to reflect on her experience, but I do remember years later she reminisced about how the guilt of falling startled her more than the actual injury. It was a "I told you so" moment that my parents took no pleasure in saying because they obviously cared more about the safety of their children than having their concerns be validated.  There may or may not have been blood, but my father rushed outside to immediately comfort my older sister. She was escorted inside as I sheepishly skated around, half worried, half embarrassed.  The fantasy of being a west coast neon warrior skateboarder had just been injected with an overdose of reality.

From that point on my parents were more stern about skateboarding.  I wasn't allowed to ride my skateboard without a helmet.  I rebelled regardless, but this would only mean being scolded by my parents, which would lead to an unpleasant argument.  Skateboarding had become problematic.  I was furious at my older sister for putting a damper on my passion and recklessly jumping on the board without studying the sport.  Of course, being a younger sibling, I said nothing. 

Some may wonder what the big deal was.  Besides, it was just a helmet.  In hindsight it feels like a good compromise.  My parents could have very easily just thrown the damn skateboard in the trash.  But summers could get hot and the helmet would become stinky, distracting and sweaty.  It would mean I couldn't wear my Boston Celtics snap back baseball cap on my skateboard(the dog ate it a few years later).  If I were to venture out into the neighborhood to play with the older skate rats it would mean always having to keep it around and in sight, which was an added responsibility, which is exactly what I was trying to avoid.  Some of my peers didn't wear helmets so automatically I appeared timid.  But most importantly, the helmets we had were foam bicycle helmets that made your head look like the tip of a circumcised penis.

Worst of all, deep down inside I knew my parents were right.  They were being reasonably protective of their children while simultaneously acknowledging the benefits of skateboarding. They were being reasonable and there is no good reason not to wear a helmet.  I had no argument.  I had taken skateboarding seriously, had been cautious, knew the risks and paced myself,  but it was all for nothing.
But I would not be denied my freedom to skateboard ... yet.  The end of the Great White Nash Skateboard had a far more common ending.  In the end, this period of skateboarding in my life came to an end due to my own immature negligence. 
I had been doing my laps around our circle pavement driveway, tepidly wearing a helmet.  Twilight had descended, dinner would soon be served and the day was coming to an end.  I had been riding particularly hard that day, really going for it, generating speed and had become lethargic now that I was done.  Instead of returning the skateboard to our shed, I left it outside, unaware of what effect the morning dew would have on the skateboard. 
The next morning, my neglected skateboard had mutated.  The elements of the outside had beaten down the grip tape and the board was water logged.  From merely holding it in my hand, I noticed a change in weight; the wood of the board had absorbed the prior night's rain.  The board had become damaged, never to return to its prior state.
I placed my foot on it and remembered after about a session of laps or two the grip tape began to fall off, making the board truly dangerous and decayed.  I had destroyed the board, not from effort but from childish neglect. 
The board slowly collected dust in the back of the shed until it was disposed of.  I asked my parents for another board, but the skateboarding experiment had showcased that the practice was probably too much trouble for too little reward. The trauma of my older sister's accident was too much for them to invest in my hobby again. Soccer was more socially accepted and safer (ironically, I sprained my ankles about a dozen times in my soccer career to say nothing on dislocating a thumb and breaking an arm).  Besides, they were paying for my toys, not the other way around, so they called the shots and what's not to say I'd just leave it out in the rain overnight again?  I was too young to buy things for myself; most kindergartens didn't have paper routes, then or now.  My parents couldn't see what that reward was, because its benefits were internal and subtle. 

I never cried for the Great White Nash Buzzsaw Skateboard because I had no one to blame but myself for its early death, but I certainly did grieve over it.  Losing that board was a hard lesson learned and I wouldn't buy another board for a long, long time. 
But an impression had already been made on me and the legacy of the Great White Shark Buzzsaw Skateboard lives on in my artwork to this day.  Within the panels of my comic books you can find vibrant, mannerist compositions displaying aggressive, subversive illustrations.  My colors are blasted with saturation, they glow with lazer blues and radiating fluorescent.  I approach the page like Tony Hawk; owning the canvas like a whirling skateboarder gracefully soring back and forth on a half pipe, demanding control of the elements.  Years later I'd master the Ollie and take whirls up and down ramps at skate parks, but at heart what I loved most about that board was the illustration of the shark.  It captured my imagination, transported me into a fantasy where I was in control and helmets, or any type of limitations, did not exist.   

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