A War To End All Wars
May 12, 2012
I read Catch 22 in fifth grade. Although I have forgotten most of the characters and plot, the quote “man is matter” has resonated throughout the years.
I think about this truism often. Whether machine guns from a German fighter plane shatter one’s glass machine gun turret in a B-25 or one falls on one’s shoulder while f/s grinding and one’s knee lands on one’s board, thereby tearing a piece of one’s shoulder muscle like an Airhead®, the end-sum game is the same. We consist of a bunch of bones and junk.
Although I have been psyched on olde-tymey shit for mad long, my recent World War I obsession came into being with the introduction of the Phantom of the Opera-esque, PTSD-addled, obsessively efficient assassin Richard Harrow on the television show Boardwalk Empire. The idea that gangster-ass ganster dudes in the 1920’s learned to and became alarmingly comfortable with killing people in the trenches was sick as fuck, as was Jimmy’s moment-of-death flashback to going “over the top.” I don’t know if Jimmy would have skated in mid-10′s central New Jersey,* but these olde-tyme cruisers from that Euro company Nomad** are pretty fucking cool.
Then came Downton Abby, which I started watching strictly off Patton Oswalt’s twitter. In all honesty, were it not for the WWI subplot I would not have delved into this show, but it ended up being pretty tight (I will further discuss my Anglophilia in the next post, #comingsoon). Say what you want about English folk, they always kept it together, even when they were living in a river of shit with a family of rats. Always shaved. Never ended a sentence with a preposition. Knew when to use “who” and “whom.”
ANYWAY, based on the above, I reached the following conclusion: WWI was the most “gnar” armed conflict ever, except maybe the US Civil War. Specifically, if Dyrdek put a gun to my head and instructed me to get in his time machine to go enlist in a war—any war—I would pick WWI last. Vietnam? A rock n’ roll drug party. WWII? Taking the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan into account, one also stood a chance of flying to an island in the South Pacific or banging nurses on some Italian beach (as in Catch 22, the book or the movie). WWI dudes entertained no such options; the closest thing, I suppose, was patronizing one’s favorite Parisienne house of ill repute while on leave.
Along those lines, the various storylines on Downton dealing with mentally/physically disfigured WWI vets coincided with my own bout with injury. I take nothing for granted here—not heath insurance, nor the various miracles of modern medicine for which it helps pay. For example: Magnetic Resonance Imaging, during which they slide you into a circular coffin with an opening at one end and shoot you with loud-ass magnets (how do they work?). Diagnosis: no shoulder surgery needed, just playing with a theraband™ for a couple months and some weird exercises performed with a broom. The process drags on, though; as I am a child of Nineties spastic arm style, some tricks still result in acute pain.
Truth be told, until I joined their ranks, I had never given thought before to the percentage of homies that, at any give time, occupy their time with other pursuits due to injury. I have no data to support this, but I would guestimate the figure stands 30%. The sudden brutality with which dudes join the ranks of the walking wounded was demonstrated recently on Kelly Hart’s instagram, on which, in one of the most effective uses of social media by a pro/sponsored dude, he posted a photograph of his just-snapped, grotesquely inflated ankle. I then reached the following conclusion:
With all due respect to the individuals in our armed forces who place themselves in the line of fire every day, skaters are the closest thing out there to soldiers.
Way back when the draft was still in effect, military service was considered an opportunity to travel, see the world, and obtain essential “life experience,” or some shit. They touch on this in Feedback during one of those voice-over monologues set over epic slow-motion security guard confrontations, but skating offers a similar crucible. The feeling of skating a new downtown area for the first time is not unlike a paratrooper jumping into a hostile urban camo/urban warfare environment. Road trips and psychotically obsessive levels of travel/road trippage/filming missions are par for the course for dudes still skating in their 20’s. One has a weapon that one must clean and maintain. Instead of learning how to dig a trench or create a booby trap or whatever Special Forces dudes do, one learns how to mix concrete, make a cinderblock ledge, or countersink holes in angle iron. And although I have no data to support this, I reckon that the part of the brain one activates when dropping in on a six-to-ten foot concrete bowl for the first time is not unlike charging a fuckin’ machine gun nest.
There is also an alarmingly high rate of dudes going MIA. Like, “What happened to that dude that used to rip?”
“Who the fuck knows.”
The military archetype also is deeply rooted in skate culture itself—ostensibly all the way back to the Bones “Brigade.” ‘Round the late eighties, though, two distinctly different schools of thought developed:
“I AM AN ARTIST; THE STREETS ARE MY CANVAS.” –Mark Gonzales, Neil Blender, Natas (to a certain extent)
“I AM A SOLDIER; THE STREETS ARE MY BATTLEFIELD.”
-Ternasky, Ron Allen
The former has universally been more celebrated than the latter. However, the continual influence of the soldier paradigm is undeniable. The stark cover art of Soldier’s Story continues to resound with a visual power like few other graphics. Indeed, I still remember that a dude a year older than me had it affixed to his locker in HS. If anyone has kept alive the austere, working-class aesthetic of Life it is Jamie Thomas; I remember some Dyrdek interview where he says the dude takes ams and molds them into “street soldiers.” Indeed, “Permission to rip, sir” aside, at the “Fresh ‘til Death” demos last summer the Black Box am squad hit the tennis court setup in all black everything and mostly crew cuts, like some paramilitary guerilla organization.
Ternasky’s main acolyte, Danny Way, has also kept the flame burning by essentially becoming a cybernetic super-soldier. I have yet to see Waiting for Lightning, but the slow-motion shots in the trailer of him looking up at the 500 ft. drop-in (or whatever) are dramatic as fuck–as if he’s gazing up at the benevolent visage of our lord and savior Himself. Does one of the plot points tackle the SD Sports Arena double set 360? Truth be told, I have yet to see the mega ramp trick that equals its badassery. However, some lady in another trailer noted that Way harbors dark personal experiences from which he found solace in skating. Indeed, as we saw in the Jimmy’s story in BE, soldiers as well as skaters often seek that serenity that comes with intense momentary experiences. It’s impossible to think about anything else when snipers take aim at you or while f/s nosesliding (shove-it out, natch) some ledge.
ANYWAY, the one dwindle distribution brand conceptualized like a paramilitary organization is probably the least nostalgized: A-Team. I have no idea why; the first graphics run juxtaposed camo with cybernetic robot avatars corresponding to each team member’s personality essence.
MJ – [Carolina] panther
Rodney – bunny rabbit (of course)
Chet Thomas [all-American] eagle
Gershon – scorpion (can’t figure this out. If you have some insight here, you are on a quantum physics/organic chemistry/Walter White level of skate nerdery)
Later, Rodney and them recruited Dave Mayhew and his dinosaur avatar. Truth be told, if that Tyrannosaurus Rex graphic is an allusion to his arm style, it’s one of the funniest graphics ever—no question.
ANYWAY, I may be wrong here, but few mourned A-Team’s inevitable demise. What were they fighting for? Who was surveilling them by holding VHS cameras out of curbside garbage cans? I only remember one dude ever skating their boards, and he pathologically, obsessively devoted himself to dwindle product–moreso than I have ever met. If I recall, he even skated flameboy team boards and shit like that. However, maybe now the time is right, given the current camo revival, for an A-team reboot. I haven’t figured out if it’s ironic or post-ironic, post-recession or working-class resurgent, but when Katy Perry, as in that one video, is all-in, one knows that a phenomenon has reached critical mass. Let us not forget–what she lacks in a voice that is appealing to listen to, she more than makes up for in a)breasts and b)an uncanny ability to tap into the zeitgeist of the moment. Last summer—saxophone solos. This summer—camo. Next summer—triple-stitched carpenters? Who knows…
But if an A-Team revival as a deck company isn’t in the cards, perhaps it may find success in another medium. Indeed, the surveillance/paranoia-innate-to modern-life narrative in its section in RVD2 resonates more strongly now than ever. So, quick–get Spike on the horn. Set up a pitch meeting for a full-length feature film adaptation of the A-Team section in RVD2 with CGI animal avatars. Cast Katy Perry as this chick:
If she’s unavailable, @shaymariaa. If she’s unavailable, Rhianna.
This is a no-brainer, people.
* always wanted to skate this spot @ Princeton, never did tho
**does Petr “Euro Wenning” Horvat still ride for them? Is that still an appropriate moniker for anyone?
ps. up on that twitter [ @carbonite1994 ] and that insta [ @frozenincarbonite ]