The end of summer. A time for reflection. A time to break down to its essential components that which is truly important. A time to pull out one's favorite sweater on the first day that it's cold enough to wear a sweater and not be looked at as some kind of weirdo.As usual, much of my reflection centered around pre-2000 World Industries. Two very specific events precipitated this: First, the release of Disposable: A Skateboard Bible. Subsequent to that, my long-awaited purchase of and immersion in the World Industries Complete Video Collection 1989-1996. I did not, alas, purchase Disposable 2. I pulled that move where you read the book in three minutes in Barnes and Noble. One night my friend Sam read a whole Bukowski book there. How the fuck do they stay in business. ANYWAY, Disposable 2 focuses on more 1960's/1970's decks this time around, without much of the narrative that made Disposable 1 so critical. However, it does feature about three pages of world/blind/plan b/101 decks that were absent from the first book, including this "Kareemsicle" graphic, a piece that holds particular meaning for me because I specifically remember asking the guy at my local shop if there were any controversial World boards in the back. I seriously doubt that is what I said verbatim, but you know what I mean. In addition, the gentleman also brought out a Henry Sanchez board with a Daniel Dunphee graphic that looked very similar to this:
I ended up setting up the Sanchez board, taking it to Israel and skating the Tel Aviv park. I think I simply kicked it down to my friend when it wore down to the nub. As one would imagine, this graphics retains a great deal of sentimental value, elevating it to "holy grail" status. I'll look on eBay every few months, but I've pretty much given up hope of every tracking it down on the "NOS" circuit. I was reminded of this during the bonus footage in the world box set, in which York, Karl Watson, and Shamil skate some marble benches in and around some BART station with crisp new world/blind boards--the Rudy Johnson "sparkplug graphic, for example-- that they undoubtedly focused or sold to some french tourist after skating it for three days or some shit.
I felt a certain apprehension taking the above photo of the kareemsicle board in B&N--kind of like that scene in Wall Street in which Charlie Sheen pretends to be a maintenance dude and scans a shitload of inside information with that "hand scanner" device--
--a peripheral that probably cost something like 3K back then in the late Eighties. Speaking of Wall Street, a particular piece of news about said film also punctuated the end of this summer: a possible sequel that allegedly will do to hedge fund managers who live in Darien, Connecticut what the original did for insider trading corporate raider motherfuckers that summer in the Hamptons. This is usually when I would descend into some elaborate Gekko/Rocco analogy, but I don't think it apt this time around. Granted, both displayed an astounding level of unorthodox business acumen and were vilified by colleagues for said practices, but Gekko's mind lacked an actual philosophy besides "greed is good." Rocco didn't buy out Foundation and liquidate Tod Swank's office equipment or some shit like that; he simply acquired his most valuable, most progressive am and published a hilarious ad about said acquisition. Along with a gallery of equally ridiculous ads, the Rocco philosophy is encapsulated on three video discs in the World box set. As for the commentary, Rocco himself and Rodney Mullen do the honors for Rubbish Heap, mainly giggling to themselves and muttering "What the fuck happened to that guy?"
Clyde Singleton, however, hits a home run with his commentary on 20 Shot Sequence. In true trip-the-fuck-out fashion, this career highlight reminded me of another end-of-summer ritual: COLLEGE. First year, I happened to meet the only young lady in my class who, for lack of a more effective term, was "down" with the skate scene and all that entailed at the time. If I recall, she had kicked it with Ethan Fowler and the Menace dudes (not at the same time, that would have been a crazy one though) the previous summer. One evening, we went to some hip-hop club on Canal St.; the only song I can recall them playing was this. I think they played it for like half an hour straight. ANYWAY, at one point she tapped me on the shoulder:
"You see that guy right there?"
"That's that dude Clyde Singleton."
Trip the fuck out. As I recall, he was shorter than I thought he would be. I later ran into him at Astor Place, where he attempted to acquire cigarettes and aggressively sell product, as was the norm.
So once again, life moves in fuckin' circles, bro--14 years later, I sit down on my coach and trip out on Mr. Singleton's uproarious yet concise and insightful commentary regarding Henry Sanchez ("the Mexican Terrell Owens"), Lavar ("well on his way to smoking too much weed and ruining his career"), and Maurice Key ("hustling before dudes even knew what a hustle was").
In his reflection on Gino and Kareem's parts, though, Singleton deconstructs the mid-Nineties aesthetic down to its lifeblood: looking cool on a skateboard. What else is there? That's what it's all about, right? "It should be against the law to look that cool on a skateboard," he proclaims as Gino b/s nollie fakie nose manuals at Wallenberg. As Kareem's ("Don Cornelius on a skateboard") part kicks off, Singleton lets us know we are in for "some cool shit." For all Kareem's sketchy business dealings, his part in 20 Shot embodies what made the Nineties so fucking cool. A certain way of doing things. Procedural knowledge. But from where does this knowledge originate?
Maybe it all boils down to influences. I remember some Tim O'Connor interview where he states that "kids today" are how they are, style-wise, because of the influences that they have. It is what it is, nosegrind tailgrabs and b/s nollie bigspins* and all. Indeed, the dudes that one looks up to when one starts skating are one's most essential stylistic influences; to this day I can't for the life of me shed that almost-falling-off straight-legged style that Kareem and Clyde utilized. Stripes on a tiger.
Along those lines, Kareem and the other LA dudes became what they became because they learned, through practice and osmosis, from the coolest possible influences. When they started, everyone idolized Hosoi and the Venice dudes. Those fine gentlemen invented looking cool on a skateboard and synergized skating with the "fast life" of clubs, women, and everything that entails. When Shiloh and Kareem and the eventual roster of World/Blind/101 first started killing it, who was killing it the most? Jason Lee, the dude that made street skating look cool while concurrently progressing hard as fuck. The best possible influences. World/Menace/Blind/101 as a Nineties hip-hop-influenced Hosoi.
Shiloh himself, along with Richard Mulder, provides commentary to Love Child and New World Order. and also elucidates one of the critical components of the Rocco philosophy. During the Love Child credits, when Jovantae's fakie 360 flip manual revert comes up in slow motion, Socrates mentions that, in the process of filming it, he was unaware that Turner was going to 180 out. Shiloh then cites said seemingly unconscious move as an example of the "fluid," improvisational nature of skating. Taking a fuckup and turning it into something cool through some kind of nebulous unconscious process.
On some Steve Vai type shit. A dude like Steve Vai doesn't plan a solo; he just does it. Along those lines, Clyde also specifically goes into his process during one of his improvised lines in 20 Shot--the process of not knowing what one is going to do next. That is one facet of what makes this genre of skating so much fun.**
Even though former Rocco employees Jason Lee and Pastras created an organization with the mission statement [insert Dennis Hopper voice] "Skating is like JAZZ, MAN!! It's FREE-FORM!!", Stereo was more about appropriating the Blue Note album cover aesthetic than applying Coltranian principles to skating. Rocco facilitated actual free-form improvisation.
*I concur; in general, it's kind of a half-assed trick. Can be cool on transition though, or if your name is Mark Appleyard. For the most part, though, b/s nollie bigspins are to nollie bigspin heels as varial flips are to 360 flips.
**The "making of a line" bonus feature, documenting Daewon's 15-trick line at the beginning of his Love Child part, convinced me that Daewon is AT LEAST in the conversation of best skater ever. If he were a guitar player he would be Steve Vai--a dude with an encyclopedic body of work that's been so ahead of everyone for so long that everyone takes it for granted. Not sure who Clyde would be; at first I thought Vernon Reid but that's too obvious. The dude from 24-7 Spyz? Help me out here...