1993, a year in the life of me

Buried in my facebook notes I wrote two entries on my history as a skateboarder. One I titled ‘Baltimore 1987 to 1992,’ and the other one I titled ‘Summer of 1992, moving to Toledo.’ I’m not going to try to find those entries for my blog, but since I wrote those I wanted to write about 1993 and skating in Toledo that year. That year was memorable to everyone that skated anywhere that year, and I’ll tell you why. For me, I turned 16 that spring and if my memory is not deluded and false to myself I was a good skater.

Last summer, 2009, I got internet at my apartment which has improved my life greatly. Skateboarding is represented well online. So I can reminisce by viewing classic skate videos that came out that year.  This includes Virtual Reality, Super Conductor Super Collider, The Real Video, Falling Down, and Snuff. I think these videos showed progression and the bringing back of style to skating.  The videos of 1991 and 1992 skaters tried to land bizarre technical combinations. The emphasis was on doing new tricks, not necessarily doing them well. Watching some of these videos and others online today you appreciate the lines (multiple tricks in a row) that seemed to be a standard back then. Several of the top pros today were young and in the videos from that era.

I did re-read my facebook note, ‘moving to Toledo’ and that was a definite event that took place that made that entry work.  In 1993 nothing life changing happened to me, I did not move like in the year prior, and I did not go crazy like I did in the next year. I’m having a hard time organizing the year chronologically, but I just know I have some great memories and nostalgia for that year.

Spring is a good time to start, and spring is actually lovely in Toledo. You wouldn’t think it, but it’s true. There is one memory I have of portside in downtown Toledo. It was early spring of that year, the weather had just turned. It must have been a party in the park where the city gets bands to play on a stage by the water.  Years later at this city event I saw Bo Diddly, Crosby Stills and Nash, and other noteworthy musicians. Party in the park used to be a big thing each summer in Toledo. Anyway this memory I have most of my skater friends were there: Derek, John, Paul, Charles and other skaters I did not know. There were punk rockers, alt chicks, I think a few people from my school were there, and other people hanging out. Some guy was flashing his new piercing on his testicle; it was kind of the height of the alternative days. Youtube the group, ‘Sonic Youth’ and that was what some people dressed like back then. I remember the skating felt great that day, I was relaxed. I remember John doing switch kickflips with pop off of the stage. It was cool to see him do them that good and consistently.   I think I did fakie nosegrinds fast on the small part of the ledge and skated well, but the tricks that day do not matter to me, I just remember it as a positive fun experience to skate with my friends in front of a crowd at portside.

That spring I went to Prom, everyone in my high school went to prom because the school was so small. School was something I really enjoyed by spring of 1993. I felt accepted there, and not invisible like at the large public high school the previous year in Baltimore. I was the only one that skated at MV, but that didn’t matter. I almost had two different enjoyable lives, with people from school, and with my skate friends. Anyway the prom was on a wonderful spring day. My friend Bennett made dinner for like 4 couples. Halfway through the prom night I got dumped, but to the point of being dumped it was awesome. Anyway the more I think about it, the spring of 1993 was something else. I think that previous winter was incredible harsh, so the spring seemed that much better. So I have a lot of memories of just sunshine from skate spots or driving in cars. Every day going to school we would drive down river road in Perrysburg to Maumee to Toledo. The spring rides on River Road were beautiful. Along that road it’s lined with trees and it overlooks and goes along the Maumee River. Impressive houses are on the water as well. My sister drove to school everyday and we would sometimes pickup Steve and Bennett on the way in Perrysburg. It was a good way to start the day and some of our conversations were ridiculous. Another great friend from school I started hanging out with was Zia, who today I consider a life long friend. Because I moved around so much in my life I do not have many of those.

Before I move on to summer I will talk about an occurrence that took place that winter. Maybe it was the next winter, but it’s a good story either way. We got free periods at my school which we could kind of spend how we chose. One day these friends of mine at school, Ben, Sarju, and Rasheed had clippers and were cutting each others hair. I asked for a haircut and somehow up to my ears was shaved for a ridiculous bowl cut. I looked at and told them just to shave it all, that a shaven head would be better than that hair cut.  So my head was shaven, my head had a green tint to it, and there was a growth on my head, like a fungus scab thing. I remember seeing my sister Beth in the common area of the school, and she just stared at me for a good couple of minutes before saying anything. At home my dad was concerned about the growth on my head. So an appointment was made and it was removed from my head. Thankfully the tests showed it was not cancerous at all, but unfortunately hair never grew back in that spot. So people for all my adult life have thought I’m going bald when I don’t think I am. I’m pretty sure my head shaving was during that winter, and I remember it took a million years for my hair to grow back.

With that shaved head in the winter a few things happened. I got into a dance club in Bowling Green with a few of my skate friends. It was 18 and over, but the stamp they used could be easily transferred onto someone else’s hand. I had a huge parka and a forty in the inside pocket. When I got into the club I drank it quickly in the bathroom. Then I danced, and I remember one of my skate friends joking at how I danced with one girl. This girl, a college girl, was short and I tried and failed to put my hand on her rear end. But my arm couldn’t reach hey butt and apparently I looked silly with my arms flailing as I danced with this girl. That’s when I learned that I was a dancing fool. I got to practice again that winter at a rave in Toledo. This was in the downtown area near where the Oliver House is. It is an area of old warehouses. A lot of my skate friends and people from school went too. I liked the alternative dress up there and stayed late. I wore my ‘ravers suck’ t-shirt. I think half of Toledo was there, and it was a really good night. Actually I think there were two of them, but I’m not sure. At one of them, the one I wore the ‘ravers suck’ t-shirt I danced provocatively with a girl there, it was awesome. But it got interrupted at one point. Some guy came around passing out pixie sticks. The girl took out a couple and tried to pass one to me, and I declined. I thought it might have been drugs. After I declined the girl walked away. For several years after that, occasional I would go to dance clubs in Toledo and usually I had a good time. I wouldn’t mind going to some dance clubs today in NYC, but no one I hang out with seems interested.

This blog was supposed to be about skating that year, but it seems a good exercise to try to remember that whole year and time of my life.  To get back to skating I think I’ll describe the portside spot as best as I can.  It was brick, which for me was a plus. A famous spot in the videos at the time was EMB in San Francisco which was brick as well, and I felt like portside was Toledo’s EMB. Skating on smooth brick is fun, and it creates a neat repetitive little sound while riding on it. It had a stage that at the lowest point was the height of a curb, and at the highest point about hip height. The stage was wood, but with a metal edge around it, and part of the stage was cement, with a two step set.  There was also what was called ‘The Pit,’ which was two huge step blocks. Approaching it was about curb height or a little higher because it sloped downhill. Then it dropped to the height of about four feet. A regular ollie over it looked substantial. One day I almost kickflipped it, and I’m sure that I was able to switch ollie it. Also downtown there was the Mariett Hotel spot that had smooth marble ledges. Usually we’d get kicked out quickly, but it was worth it. If we’d get bored with those two spots, in the general area there was much more to skate. It was kind of a skaters’ playground. Several skaters from Toledo moved to Portland Oregon and started a blog called dudebarn that I follow. On an entry last fall they put up several pictures of the downtown spots. Here is the link: http://dudebarn.blogspot.com/2009/10/toledo-oh-toledo.html . This blog entry is where I got that great picture image of the stage at the top of this blog.

I spent a lot of time in the downtown area. I think I progressed at skating and I goofed around too.  Years prior to that I went through a jumping phase, and I kind of returned to that juvenile type of behavior in the general portside area. I remember one night jumping the first grass section step at the top of Portside, and near the steps jumping from the top about ten feet high over the cement portion into the grass. It was a lot of fun, and a good distraction.

I got my license that summer, and I was able to drive myself around. It was really nice for older skaters up to that point to pick me up for skate sessions, but I got used to being able to drive quickly. I picked up other friends without licenses yet to skate. That summer, my friends from Baltimore, Chris and Andrew came to visit, and we skated the whole week. I forgot to mention skating in Rossford where I lived. The church was good blacktop with a four set of stairs, and the high school had a double side ledge that was on a slope so the height varied. I guess I was kind of a messed up teen. Trying to impress my friends when we got kicked out of the Rossford church I spun a donut in front of the man who kicked us out.  A cop showed up at our house and gave me a warning in front of my mom. I got grounded and not able to use a car. Other than that it was good to see my friends from Baltimore, and we skated so much that week. At some point that summer I visited Baltimore for a week and we skated there quite a bit. I remember watching ‘Virtual Reality’ in Chris’s basement to get amped to skate on my visit there. I guess I’m painting a picture of happiness for 1993 in Toledo, but I think I still wanted to be in Baltimore quite a bit. I’m sure everyone that moves in high school has issues with where they want to be. Visiting Baltimore gave me some variety in the summer, but looking back I wonder if I should have embraced Toledo more. This blog entry is a testament to the dilemma I have of focusing too much on the past where the present or today is the best thing to focus on.

Now I’ll tackle the music of 1993 which was nothing short of epic.  For skating that summer a hip hop song came out from a bay area group called Souls of Mischief. The song was called ’93 til Infinity’ and was an anthem of sort. Here is the youtube link to the video and song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mt3vZHDiM8 , and watching brings back memories. I think skateboarding itself got smoother for the riding styles but also for what people wore. In 1991 and 1992 the clothing style was ugly and simply the bigger the better. In 1993 the clothes went from balloon size to slightly baggy. It became a uniform of sorts to wear baggy blue jeans and a regular sized white t-shirt. Watching the ’93 til Infinity’ video I think skaters learned to dress that year from that video. But the song was more than a fashion statement, but a connection that skating affiliated itself with hip hop.  A lot of people will disagree with me but I think the punk rock skate image of the late 80’s to early 90’s had to go, it was too constricting and narrow focused. Yes, in 1993 every skater dressed the same but affiliating skating with hip hop made the market much wider. In any city in the country or world you could skate, urbanity was cool.  You didn’t have to drive to or build skate parks, you just needed to go into a city and explore. Today, kids into skating listen to whatever they want, and dress however they want which is as it should be, but for some reason music is important to most skaters I know or encounter. When you go to skate parks I notice a large percentage of the skaters wear I-pods while they skate. I think people related to this Souls of Mischief song as a good representation of time and place. Later that year, Wu-tang become popular, and I do like Wu-Tang but it has a more negative vibe than ’93 til Infinity’, Tribe Called Quest, De la Soul, and other hip hop from that year. The last thing about music is the reason they market music to teens, is that discovering new sounds as a young adult has an impact, and defines that times of their lives. As an adult you either like a song or not, but do not get particularly attached to it.

I smoked pot a few times that year and started partying a little bit, but it did not define me. I was proudly a skater, and focused on that. Most the time at parties I was simply bored with sitting around. I have no regrets for that year, and I don’t think it lead up to my psychotic episode in the summer of 1994. I think I was a nice active kid that perhaps wanted things too fast. I wrote this over a few sittings and days, and I think it’s a good exercise. For my writer friends take a part of your life and just write about it, memories come back quickly, and it’s a good thing to reflect on. Of course the memories are overly positive, and probably exaggerated. I think I had a lot of angst back then that I didn’t really go into.

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