The theme song to The Mary Tyler Moore Show can be heard faintly from downstairs, but otherwise it’s an eerily quiet Saturday afternoon. A single bird blows out a series of hollow hoots while others briefly chime in melodically before falling back into silence. In the distance, I hear cars swooshing toward the coast on Newland Avenue. A siren dimly whines very far off. Teenage girls in conversation ride by on bikes. Then a goddamned leaf blower starts up, snapping me out of my daydream, breaking the suburban tranquility with its gravelly racket and gaseous smell. In a nondescript, childless, five-bedroom house, I’m slumped in front of a computer screen working on a new book project exactly 2.5 miles from the Huntington Beach Pier.
Vision Street Wear’s 1984 film will forever have a place in my heart, because it’s one of the first skate videos I ever saw. There was a shop near my house—not the coolest shop but the closest one—called Beach Surf Center, and they would always have it playing. Agent Orange did the soundtrack, and whenever I hear those songs, sweet childhood memories are triggered—details right down to Beach Surf Center’s smell, griptape dust on the carpet, and sanded-down glass countertop covered in stickers. Agent Orange’s cover of Dick Dale’s “Miserlou” plays in the film, and since I heard that version first, it’s always a trip whenever I hear the original. Even the opening scene of Pulp Fiction makes me think of Skatevisions.
I barely ever watch skate videos anymore, but just this week I watched the new Emerica video because Braden Hoban, one of my young Toy Machine team amateurs, is in it. Braden’s skating melted my face off! These current kids look like video game avatars doing the same things I’ve done my whole life but on a whole new level. The evolution of skateboarding is real, and it does not give a damn about your age or your feelings. Watch this video if you wanna see something special.
Rights of Spring
by Rights of Spring
I was too young and clueless to find this post-hardcore band from Washington DC when they emerged in the mid 1980s, only coming to them way later in life. But their 1985 debut album has been one of my favorites since I first heard it.
Skating through Surf City, USA
In the mid 80s, kids in HB inevitably ended up surfing or skating. I was way too poor to buy a surfboard and a wetsuit, so I gravitated to skating. I was able to cobble together a complete board from hand-me-down parts from friends. So, my only interaction with surfers was at school. Before the teacher would get to class, they’d tell me stories like, “Southside, 2 to 4 this morning, fully pumping, bruh. I shoulda ditched today. Some poser dropped in on me and I was like, ‘Meet me on the beach, kook.’ He did and I beat his ass. Look at the cut on my knuckle.” As progressive as we like to imagine we are, both the surfing and skating communities are populated by a depressing number of bigoted, homophobic, and toxically masculine people. Progressively hip-looking on the outside, but close-minded on the inside.
PAPER & INK
This book continues to have a really big impact on my own art practice. Photographer Jim Goldberg befriended and documented a group of teenage runaways as they migrated back and forth between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The photos are a gritty look at the lives, loves, hardships, family damage, and drug use of these kids. Beyond the images, the book includes interviews, ephemeral items, drawings, documents, and hand-scribed notes from the subjects themselves—all interwoven to tell their stories. What sucks about recommending photobooks is that the great ones are rare and expensive, so the chance of people being able to find a physical copy is slim. But you can flip through Raised by Wolves in full online by clicking here.
I usually say my favorite Toy Machine deck art is my “Religion, Politics, Lies” board (left), which shows a man wearing TV glasses getting injected through the ear with a syringe filled with its namesake. More recently, I did a deck called “Flag” (middle) that also has a not-so-subtle message. Since last year, the “Never Wore a Mask” deck (right) is my new favorite. It pokes fun at the people that see a simple safety measure in place to help reduce a global pandemic as something political. Check out more Toy Machine decks here.
A View From the Pier
I shot this photo of two kids fighting at HB Pier one summer afternoon. As the adult among them, I should’ve stepped in to stop it. But it was so stupid how it started that I decided to step back and let them go. The first kid walked up to the other kid, who was in the group I was talking to, and asked, “Do you want to fight?” The second kid said, “Sure,” and they started swinging at each other. It was so sudden and ridiculous. I shot a few frames, and finally another adult ran over and stopped them. The look he gave me was like, “What are you doing, man?” I just shrugged because the whole thing was high comedy. I’ve seen it all at the pier: Guys illegally catching a young great white shark and trying to hide it, people having sex nearly in the open underneath the pier on packed days, kids jumping off the pier and getting tickets for it, whales coming right up to the pier and seemingly saying hello to us.
For the first time ever, a book of my drawings is being published and I’m very happy with how it came out. 87 Drawings is available to order from Nazraeli Press by clicking here.
Well, back to the editing and design work for my new photography book, titled Wires Crossed, which is finally nearing completion. It’s a project I started in 1994 to answer the question, “What’s the life of a professional skater like?” I figured who better to answer that than a pro skater like myself, so I picked up a camera and started documenting my life and the cast of characters I was surrounded by. I’m also yearning to go stare out over the Pacific and look for whale spouts to counteract all of these hours staring at my screen. Remember, “If you don’t send a ship out, yours will never come in.”