Just recently, my nephew reminded me that his birthday was a couple months away and he already knew what he wanted for a gift. I, of course, asked him what it was he wanted. His response?
No more "Ninjago" Legos.
No more "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books.
No more hockey goals or Lacrosse sticks or Nerf guns either.
Ah, that word was candy to my ear canals. Both my brother and myself had been skateboarders -- oh, pardon me, I meant to say "thrashers" -- during our childhood years and I thought the skateboarding gene may have been successfully passed on to my nephew. His sudden interest in skateboarding seemed to indicate that this gene was, indeed, present in his DNA and this gene would be GOD DAMNED if it was gonna spend its living days in a recessive state.
This was all very exciting to me, the thought of my nephew possibly becoming as passionate about skateboarding as I was when I was young (heck, I'm still passionate -- or maybe I should say 'stoked' -- about it now). My mind flash-forwarded eight or nine years to when my nephew would be in his teens. Would he still be skating? Would he be the next Tony Hawk or Natas Kaupas or Julien Stranger or, even better (in my opinion), the next Rodney Mullen?
Rodney Mullen (doubling for Christian Slater) in the highly-recommended skateboarding film Gleaming the Cube (1989 starring Christian Slater, also with Tony Hawk).
Then I realized, damn, maybe this wasn't strictly a matter of nature. Maybe it was up to me -- Uncle Matt -- to nurture his sudden interest in skateboarding. He was already heading down the right path, the skateboarding path. I needed to keep him on that path!
I immediately dug into my old VHS collection, which was located in a large plastic bin collecting dust under my bed. I rifled through my VHS versions of E.T., Indiana Jones (Last Crusade) and, um, You Got Mail, then I found what I was looking for: 1991. Powell-Peralta Productions. A 40-minute skate video simply called "Eight". As soon as I picked up this video and held it in my hands I could hear the Archangels sing from the heavens. It possessed powerful energy. It made my flesh tingle.
In the late 80s and early 90s, former Dogtown Z-Boy skateboarding pioneer Stacey Peralta produced a library's-worth of super, kick-ass skate videos, one of which was "Eight". These videos featured the "Bones Brigade" skateboarding crew, consisting of such skater greats as Tony Hawk, Mike McGill and Steve Caballero. In Stacey's words, (paraphrasing) "I was a great skater but it wasn't until I got behind the camera that I really shined."*
I dusted off my VCR, hooked it into the coaxial jack on the back of my TV, popped in the Powell-Peralta masterwork, adjusted the tracking just a liiiiitle bit and I stood in front of my TV absolutely mesmerized by what I saw...
Opening skating sequence: Mike Frazier thrashing upon an enormous vert ramp somewhere in Florida. Catching major air. Nailing nasty grinds. Tail slides. Nose slides. Kickflips. Heelflips. Tail-grabs. And even a nasty hand-plant that he holds for about three seconds, maybe more.
After the Mike Frazier sequence came three street skaters: Adam McNat, Chris Senn and Pat Brennen. Holy crap. These dudes were pulling the nastiest of tricks. We're talking nose manuals. Regular manuals. Ollying stairs. Nollying stairs. Fifty-fifty grinds down railings. Five-O grinds. Nose grinds. Manual grinds. Board slides. Dark slides (okay, no dark slides, I got carried away). In short, they were friggin' ballerinas on boards, man. Screw The Nutcracker or Swan Lake; street skateboarding should be on the same level, if not on a higher level, than ballet. It's considered the lowest of the low "sport" or "hobby" but it should be the highest of high art.
Oh, and what was it about California, man? I mean, seriously, they literally designed all their towns -- the concrete, the benches, their railings, parking lots, post offices, banks, even their friggin' picnic tables -- in a way that begged for a skateboarder to come and thrash it all up. Why didn't they do that on the east coast? The Northeast had no school parking lots with curved lips in the concrete that could be skated upon as if they were gnarly quarter pipes. In fact, everything about California schools were so skater-friendly. A jungle of concrete. A playground for skaters. All the world's a skate park.
Watching "Eight", I felt a rush of energy take me over. All I wanted to do was thrash and thrash hard. Then I remembered how, when I was young, I would watch these Powell-Peralta videos over and over again, go out and skate, and I would hum the skate video's music to myself while I grinded curbs and copings so nastily. The video fueled me with so much energy that I actually skated better after a viewing.
"Oh man," I thought, "I gotta show this video to my nephew. 'Eight' will absolutely blow his mind! Surely this video will provide the nurturing he needs to become the next Rodney Mullen!" So, next chance I got, I sat my nephew down on the couch, asked him if he was ready to have his mind blown for the first time during his eight years on the earth, then I popped in the Powell-Peralta special, AND...
My nephew wasn't too impressed. He said he had seen much better tricks on a video he saw on YouTube. He wanted bigger ramps. More insane tricks. Tail-grabs weren't impressive enough. Neither were hand-plants. And as far as the street skating went? Weak sauce, bruh. He didn't share my sentiment about street skating being a more advanced form of ballet.
"But...but...don't you...don't you see what I'm seeing...all the...all the grinds...and the nose manuals...."
No. He didn't see it.
I was heartbroken. I expected a reaction more along the lines of, "Wow, Uncle Matt, what in the world am I watching right now?" and my response would've been, "What you're seeing, nephew, is the energy of God manifested in the form of skateboarding." And then I would become his favorite uncle because I had exposed him to such a sick skateboarding video.
Nah. Didn't happen that way. YouTube has basically sucked the fun out of, well, basically everything. Gone are the days of acquiring one sick skateboarding video that you watch over and over again until the tracking withers away into a windy storm of analog and then a snow blizzard and then eventual oblivion. Now you can surf YouTube and you're exposed to the best of anything and everything you want. In short, YouTube has made us jaded. Nothing impresses us anymore, or, well, it takes a lot more to impress us, that's what I'm saying.
I guess I sound like a ninety-year-old's flatulence, though. Yes, that's my creative way of saying I was an old fart. You probably got it but I wanted to be sure.
Anyway, that was it for me. My attempt at nurturing my nephew's (potential) skateboarding gene failed. I leave it up to nature now because if he's not impressed by Powell-Peralta videos then, in my eyes, he's a lost cause. If my nephew becomes the next Tony Hawk, that's great. But it won't be because of me.
Oh, I'm just kidding. I'll still nurture him. Sort of. Just kidding not kidding. Opposite day regular day. Fingers not crossed fingers crossed.