10.03.2008

The Mythology of Long Island

"The dudes in Poison were famous, but they still lived like jobless guys who never made it out of Pennsylvania. Booze is the greatest of all equalizers. Rich drunks and poor drunks both pass out the same way."

-Chuck Klosterman

(Note: this post is somewhat of a sequel to this post from a few months ago.)

When I started skating the city around 1995-1997, most
of the dudes I skated with came out from Long Island. For the most part, I met them through this one kid who--fuck, I can't remember how I met him at first. Probably at the cube. I seem to recall that we were the only two kids that skated downtown on a regular basis that also fucked with, for lack of a better term, nyXhc. So every Friday, one of us repeated the mantra "You skating today?" and we'd meet up at Supreme or the banks and do the whole circuit. We would often randomly go on midtown missions with other dudes from Long Island, who tended to roll deep, usually to Time/Life, Huf Ledge, or--I can't remember what this spot was called--the loading dock bump that Keenan fakie flipped off of in Paco.
This, combined with semi-religiously listening to Stern, inducted me into the mythology of Long Island.
* * *
As it happens, when skating in an urban areas there is significant downtime--minutes spent on the train, walking up hills, or dining. Therefore, stories get told. The Long Island dudes regaled me with stories of skating the humps, of SUNY Stonybrook, of Keenan and Huf vibing them on the LIRR.
They also related tales of driving past Dee Snyder's house while singing "We're Not Gonna Take It" as loud as possible. Snyder would allegedly come out and shake his fist, his pink jeep in the driveway and "hot" (as also recently confirmed by Howard Stern) wife behind him. One dude I used to skate with also used to drive past Gino's house.
"There's Gino's house," he would comment. That was it. I'm not sure if Gino's and Dee Snyder's residences were close, or if it was a "thing," as if there was a circuit of semi-famous dudes' houses on Long Island that dudes drove by--maybe the dudes from Dream Theater or Blue Oyster Cult.
Based on those two stories, I concluded that Long Island was a typical breeding ground for suburban malaise.

I could not have been more wrong.

For whatever reason, Long Island has, over the last fifty years or so, developed a mythology and artistic energy all its own. Did you know that Stern, Public Enemy, Eddie Murphy, and Julius Erving all went to the same high school in Roosevelt--eight miles from Poets?
This, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated facts ever. What could possibly account for such a volcanic explosion of creativity in a burgh of about 15,000 citizens? Who the fuck knows. I will, however, purport that it taps into the existential, by definition, practice of making meaning out of the meaningless. This is the universal prism through which Stern and the other artistic forces of Long Island view their world.
For example, many of Stern's detractors claim that his show's popularity derives from its salacious nature. However, the segments with assorted females of flexible moral standing, whom he attempts to cajole into disrobing, are without fail the least interesting. Stern's show is magic because he displays an advanced understanding of what is funny. He is able, through nothing more than the force of his own wit, to create four hours of improvisational comedy per day. To do this, he mines the comedy in seemingly mundane situations and turns it into radio gold. No one would think that the jealous rage (directed at another show employee who has infinitely more success with the ladies) of a public-speaking-challenged intern would be endlessly entertaining, but it is. No one would assume that a one-armed alcoholic from Albany who lives in his mother's trailer would be endlessly entertaining, but he is.
Similarly, throughout his body of work, Iannucci has displayed an advanced understanding of what looks good on a skateboard and the processes that make it so. Just like Stern's X-Factor is his wit and ability to just say funny shit, Gino's X-Factor and source of charisma is his style, which several dudes including that tattoo artist dude attempt to qualify in the recent Epicly Later'd feature--the main topic of this post.

* * *
So, enter the Gino Epicly Later'd episode. First of all, I would like to extend accolades to Mr. O'Dell for actually practicing skateboard journalism. Secondly, while it does not emit the epic plot structure of the Cardiel or the demoralizing emotional impact of that WESC video, it mines skate nerd gold in other areas, mainly in video and insight into the halcyon days of the late '90's.
For students of the "acid-washed jeans, plain white t-shirt" era, Gino's commentary on his process while filming his transcendent part in
Snuff is priceless. Indeed, that Brian Lotti/World/Dave Schlossbach company he mentioned is one of the great "What If?" scenarios of all time. Also, the circa-93 video (b/s double-flip over Los Feliz hip) is outstanding.

Most evocative, though, is the "last Keenan footage" at that municipal park, where Gino, after coming agonizingly close to landing one of the biggest b/s nollie heels over a hip of all time, flings his board into the foggy Long Island night.
From the beginning, Gino's story appears to be intertwined with Keenan's. The scenario of Keenan moving back East and getting his shit together reminds one of Hendrix's unfulfilled 1970's agenda, like working with Miles Davis and John McLaughlin and shit.

The third major personality force in the piece is Guy, who seems to hover over the ascendance of Gino and Keenan, observing the whole thing like the Watcher from Marvel Comics. By the way, how awesome Guy's fireplace? It's obvious that the dude does not live in a skouse. Furthermore, how awesome is it that Guy and Gino correspond by letter? Does Gino sit down at his cherry oak Edgar Allen Poe writing desk--a furniture piece that would match the rest of the decor in his shop-- in the back office of Poets and respond to correspondence? That would be fucking awesome. ANYWAY, what I am getting at is that Keenan and Guy play as critical a role in this story as Gino himself. One way to look at it is, to borrow a paradigm from Catholicism, the following: Guy, Gino and Keenan are like the father, son, and holy ghost of "dope" skating. *

Guy created the whole paradigm. Gino is the human, all too human manifestation in the material world. Keenan's spirit still inhabits the world and dwells inside all who choose to follow alongside his footsteps.
ANYWAY, the one piece whose absence was most glaring was the whole "addiction/recovery" thing. Maybe Gino just didn't want to fuckin' talk about it. That's cool. Maybe he feared Gino would say "fuck this" and shitcan the whole deal.
Maybe so.
All I know is that the Thanksgiving story is probably the most Less Than Zero-esque story ever told in the history of skate documentation.
Along those lines, when Guy told about going to rehab in his 48 Blocks interview, it added an entirely new dimension to his saga. By the way, by using the term "program," in one of the final segments, Guy further corroborated my theory that he is an active 12-stepper (he also referenced the slogan "Keep it Simple" in the aforementioned Block interview).
And let's be clear--these are indeed epic sagas--as epic as any of the twentieth century. It kind if bums me out how, if you take a glance at the "sports" section at your local Barnes and Noble, that every C-list ballplayer, no matter how milquetoast, has a ghostwritten autobiography. Even Jeter--Jeter's a fucking decent player and everything, but there are like 10 books about and or "written" by him. Is this warranted? Don't even get me started on the literally fifty or so books about the 2004 Red Sox. Wouldn't you rather read a book about, like, the S
anta Monica Courthouse? I know I would.

However, if Odell is going to continue to aspire to capture these epic stories, it would behoove him, as the de facto representative of the skate nerd population, to attempt to get the whole story. Even if it blows up in one's face. That's the difference between journalism and promotional devices.



*disclaimer: I in no way, shape, or form intend to disparage, minimize, or belittle the Catholic faith. I am simply using the concept of the trinity as an analogy for rhetorical purposes.


ps. Mazal Tov, Howard.

3 comments:

rich said...

nicely said. i love these longer articles because as an english and sociology major, it's refreshing to read well put together ideas like yours, boil the ocean's, and you will soon's pieces. i agree the o'dell might want to push the envelope a little more and i'd love to read a book detailing the history of a spot. keep it up!

time2eat said...

i always look forward to your updates. excellent as usual. thanks.

Watson said...

Holy fuck! References to Dee Snyder, Howard Stern, the What If? comic (AMAZING COVER!), The Watcher, the Holy Trinity, Less Than Zero, and Derek Jeter in one article?!

I really like your writing.