Category: Skateboarding

Karl Schmieder 1981

30 Things I Did Before Turning 30

In anticipation of my 54th birthday, I answered this question on Quora:

What are the 30 things you did before turning 30 in your life?

  1. Learned to skateboard ramps and pools. Memorized every ditch and was part of an informal word-of-mouth network that knew when a new ramp appeared in Ventura. Convinced my parents to drive me to skateparks all over Southern California, so I skated a bunch of the first-generation classic parks. My home was Oxnard’s Endless Wave with it’s odd, over-vert double-pool. Favorite trick: Frontside air. Second favorite: Inverts. Pool Skating Will Never Die. Biggest lesson I learned from skateboarding: Always get up after you fall. That applies to pretty much everything in life. Fail. Get up. Try again.
  2. Lived in Lausanne, Switzerland for a year, where I studied French. That would inspire me to improve my German, learn Italian, study other languages. I was also part of a Swiss skateboard team that toured that small country.
  3. Took piano lessons for 13 years. Practiced every day. Played in recitals twice a year. Learned to play the trombone in high school, taught myself saxophone. Played in a free jazz punk band called The Love Shortcut that played high school parties – probably to the dismay of the kids that were there to drink and have under-aged sex. The band turned into several solo performance art pieces and later, to readings at poetry slams. I learned that if you put your mind to it, you can pretty much learn anything.Karl Schmieder 1981
  4. Had crushes Fell in love. Had my heart broken. Finally kissed a girl. Eventually had sex but didn’t have it again for a long, long time.
  5. Learned to do it yourself. Skateboard culture with its emphasis on self-reliance gave way to punk rock and its Do It Yourself aesthetic. I would eventually grow bored with punk music philosophizing but never with self-reliance and DIY. This would inspire the way I approach business. See the Lesson mentioned in #1.
  6. Saw tons of live bands during the hey-day of early West Coast punk. Favorite venue: The Whiskey A Go Go. Favorite show: 45 Grave opening for The Cramps. Kept seeing a steady diet of bands in Boston, Denver, New York, and wherever I happened to be traveling.
  7. Started a lawn care business so I could pay for my skateboard habit. Took jobs as a glazier, a lab assistant, a Spanish-English translator, a transcriber, a temp. Learned that I could get a job in 24 hours if put my mind to it. Also, learned that even if I worked for someone, I eventually was going to be my own boss. Call this early lessons in entrepreneurship.
  8. Read far and wide, learning that I like bold ideas and works of the imagination. Focused on science fiction and science fact which inspired me to study science and become a science writer.
    Over Junipero Serra’s shoulder
  9. Moved from my hometown of Ventura to Riverside for college, to Boston, New Orleans then Boulder and Denver for grad school. I miss Ventura every day.
  10. Spent way too much time putting off the real-world by staying in school. Got a Master of Science in Biochemistry, a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, took more writing classes. Eventually decided I needed to learn business, took classes on selling and marketing.
  11. While working on that MFA, studied with Keith Abbott, Kathy Acker, Fielding Dawson and Allen Ginsburg.
    Kathy Acker and William S. Burroughs.
  12. Started keeping a journal. I knew I was going to write but it was my father who suggested it might be nice to keep a journal while traveling. I did and continue today, 30 years later. I have boxes of journals in my basement and on my shelves. I rarely look at them, but occasionally look for ideas I had in the past. I figure I will eventually either plunder them for something worthwhile or throw them into a landfill.
  13. Traveled alone across Europe, mostly in German-speaking countries because I wanted to learn German.
  14. Interviewed a bunch of German experimental musicians, published those interviews, along with reviews of live shows and records. That was the beginning of my writing career. But I didn’t get paid for a published piece of magazine writing until my mid-40s.
  15. Made a guest appearance on a surreal experimental record with Frank Dommert and HNAS because I happen to be in the right place at the right time.
  16. Taught myself Italian because I had a friend who lived in Chiasso, I wanted to speak with to Italian girls, and I thought it’d be fun. Did better with the Italian than with the girls.
  17. Saved my money so I could move cross-country. Moved to Boston because I didn’t have the guts to make the leap to New York City even though that’s where I knew I belonged. Justified Beantown by telling myself I’d work at a biotech company, instead waited tables, took odd jobs, and taught myself to write.
  18. Drove cross-country in a 1970 Karmann-Ghia with my ex-girlfriend’s dog. Realized there’s a reason why Americans prefer big cars. If your parents or your girlfriend live on the other side of the state, driving a small car is no fun – you want a land yacht.
  19. Taught myself Brazilian Portuguese while living in Boston. I was inspired by David Byrne’s Brazilian compilations and the professionals that had emigrated from Brazil to work in restaurants. Made some great friends. Again learned that you can learn anything if you put your mind to it. Also, learned that if you don’t practice what you learn (Portuguese in this case), eventually you forget.
  20. Danced a lot. It took me 20 years to realize how much I enjoyed it and how important it is for all of us. Zumba classes occasionally fulfill this now. We don’t dance enough. You need to dance.
  21. Spent a lot of time angry or depressed and lonely. It took me years to realize that bars and dance clubs, drinking and drugs, and spending money are distractions from the real work of writing.
  22. Eventually realized I could write about what I loved and carve out a unique niche. Used that idea to create a network in New York City. I called every health care public relations agency, interviewed at thirty, and was offered jobs by six. Moved to New York.
  23. Shortly after I started working in public relations, realized it wasn’t going to work for me and remembered I would need to become my own boss.
  24. Taught other people how to get a job by networking directly with decision makers.
  25. Spent every night after work writing five novels and ten screenplays. Collected a stack of form rejections, got close to publishing one of the novels, realized I needed more time to figure out what I was going to write. At the same time wrote dozens of short short stories, published a few, and threw away all the rest because they were all terrible.
  26. Accumulated credit card debt that took me way too long to pay off and learned that it’s too easy – way too easy – to get into debt.
  27. Hiked and camped and learned to appreciate nature.
  28. Learned to listen to myself. I didn’t always pay attention but I definitely listened.
  29. Came to appreciate my parents and my sister, realized I was very lucky to have grown up where I did, speaking Spanish at home, with a pair of pretty great people. My father was a meatcutter who taught me how to work hard; my mother was a Spanish-English interpreter who taught me to use my imagination and creativity. We lived modestly but always had what we needed.
  30. Met the girl of my dreams, chased her from Boston to Albuquerque to New York City and married her.
Karl + Kristen. 1995. 2017.

Of course, I did much more than this.

The Pool at 4AM

The Pool at 4 A.M.

The Pool at 4AM

My father’s pool is, was, and always will be –– all skaters agree –– absurd. The pale blue surface is very hard, durable, very fast, and sentient. The coping is a great grindable bullnose. The shape is a perfect kidney, just under nine-feet deep. To ride the pool from one lip to the other across the deep end, a skater must roll no more than three seconds (I know, I’ve timed it) but to measure this distance in time is folly. It should be measured in synapses fired, neurochemicals released, DNA unwinding from histones and proteins synthesized while calculating your next move, the one you’ll make when you hit that coping.

Its name is YinYangles, not because of the Chinese philosophy of yin-yang or yin and yang which describes the interconnectedness and interdependence of the natural world. (Truthbetold, we’re not so keen on cheap Chinese knockoff paper decks and those living wheels that die much too soon. And fans of their red paper currency we are not.) No, YinYangles is some HighIQ’s joke about the mathematical reduction of the perfect transitions into evolving y-angles and it stuck much to the amusement of dumbshits who don’t understand math and nostalgize the days of lifeless petroleum-based wheels and static, concrete bowls.

Our bowl is the best in the land, every skater rips – a not-so-secret interaction of YinYangle’s intelligence with your own. At this pool every skater’s a legend – an Alva, a Burnquist, a Hawk, a Sheckler, a Way, every fan’s a teaching critic, every biohacker’s an angel investor and every punkDJ’s Kanye himself. To assure the sentient being understood the subtle energies of the sexes and the problem-solving skills of today’s vertical gene-rippers, my father’s genius was to feed the bowl the fearlessness of the male and female skaters who first skated it and the collective intelligence of the bio-engineers and genome hackers who worked in the deep end ceaselessly. Those who do not ride can bask in the glow of the bowl’s subtle energies. I was the only one who thought himself crippled.

(22.100 After Bartheleme. Previously published in Three Pool Rhumba)

Why I Write (Or How I Started Writing)

“Two hundred years of American technology has unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential. But it was the minds of 11 year old that could see that potential.”
– C.R. Stecyk

My first stories were skateboarding stories inspired by C. R. Stecyk‘s Skateboarder Magazine articles, his fabrication and chronicling of the Dogtown’s Z-boys’ adventures. As a sheltered kid turned skateboard geek growing up 60 miles away from Santa Monica, I was blown away by the exploits of the Z-boys and the skaters that became my heros. But I also devoured and dissected the stories and began “borrowing” his openings (which I would later learn he’d borrowed from Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett or Hunter S. Thompson), then wrote my own skateboarding procedurals.

My main character was a teenage private eye, asked to solve some mystery or another, find a missing person. Criss-crossing Southern California in a hot-rodded Volkswagen Transporter, blasting Led Zepplin and Ted Nugent, and (later) punk rock along the way, the stories inevitably climaxed with the arrival at an empty backyard swimming pool or hidden ditch that begged to be ridden. After an epic skate session, he’d solve the mystery and arrive home in time for dinner.

Why I Keep A Journal

Why I Keep A JournalI’ve been keeping a journal for more than 25 years. I should say “mostly keeping a journal” because there have been periods of time where I haven’t written in a journal regularly – though probably, I was writing just not in a journal.

At the pace of one page per day, that’d come to 9,132 pages or some 2,283,000 words. I’m sure I’ve written five times that.

My father suggested I keep a journal of a Eurail trip I was taking after college. Since I knew I’d be spending time alone on trains, in foreign cities, and since I wanted to write professionally, I started writing in a blue lab notebook back in mid-1980s and pretty much never stopped.

If you want to keep a journal, you need a notebook.Keeping a journal became a habit pretty quickly. It’s not something I think about, I just write. (Unlike blogging which I do in fits and starts and am much more self-conscious about.)

I wonder how much that particular point in my life – my early 20s – motivated the writing. I’d just finished my formal education, hadn’t written much more than school papers and a few stories, and knew the only way I was going to become an author was to write. How much was motivated by being in that funny place between graduation and still trying to figure out who I was and what I would do. And how much was motivated by my father’s suggestion that I keep a journal.

Over the years, the journal became my the place where I’ve documented my marriage, the birth and growth of my three sons, my life in Brooklyn, and the ebb and flow of my businesses. It’s where I’ve given thanks for the blessings that fill my life, admitted my jealousies, fears, and shortcomings, celebrated successes and worked out anger and conflicts. I’ve also explored ideas for businesses, stories, novels and articles, analyzed dreams, made predictions, lamented the loss of friends and money, mourned the death of ideas that I’d finally grown out of, confessed and complained complained complained all in the confines of the written page.

The journal has taken many forms. From the blue-covered lab notebook to soft-cover oversized lab notebook, spiral-bound and hard-bound blank-paged sketch books, and loose leaf sheets of paper from companies that changed names or went out of business, canary-colored legal pads, to black-, green-, mango-covered Moleskines decorated with skateboard brand, band and random decals, I’ve written everywhere I’ve lived my life: in dens, kitchens, bedrooms, dining rooms, offices, hotel rooms, on boats, in trains, on planes, in cars. In every city I’ve lived in and visited in North and Central America and brief visits to Europe. It would be rare to find me without some kind of journal to write with.

I have tried keeping a journal on a computer, used Penzu for a couple of years, even have a secret email account that I will on occasion send notes to, but I prefer writing on paper, mostly with a fountain pen (a Lamy 2000).

Keeping a Journal with a Lamy 2000 fountain pen

The poet, Allen Ginsberg, founder and frequent lecturer at The Naropa Institute, warned me that the wrong ink, particularly ballpoint pen ink would destroy the paper. He also warned me that my journal would accumulate and that at some point, if I was diligent with my writing, I’d have to contend with quantity. It’s true, I have several plastic containers in my basement, a suitcase in an attic, and a shelf of my most recent scribblings in my bedroom.

(I’ll continue this post later.)

(19.100)

Dub: Best Dressed Chicken in Town

BestDressedChickenIn my world, Dr. Alimantado (born Winston Thompson, AKA The Ital Surgeon) and his Best Dressed Chicken in Town was my introduction to reggae long before I realized the power of Catch-A-Fire-Bob-Marley, Legalize-It Peter Tosh and Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn Bread Lee “Scratch” Perry.

Public Image Limited’s Jah Wobble’s reggae-influenced thunk-punk bass, morphed into dancehall and reggaeton drilled into my heart, mind and body at live shows and tropical Central America trips where Marley was always and will probably always be blastin 24/7/365.

Now, right now, it’s Deadbeat’s To Berlin With Love electro-Berlin Dub reggae, Bunji, and Major Lazer. What about tomorrow? 



(9.100)

Avoid Obsolete Technologies

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The 1979 Powell ad stuck to my 14-year-old self’s brain and still sticks the way a good song does.

There’s Ray “Bones” Rodriguez, big grin on his face, holding his signature model skateboard in front of a burning car.

“Is it functional or just another high-gloss, high-hype rip off…?

Provocative question, isn’t it?

“Now scrutinize a Powell precision product…

Scrutinize. Not “examine,” “inspect” or “study” Scrutinize – a twenty-dollar word. Precision, like a Swiss watch.

The difference you see are the differences between the future and the past…”

An obsolete technology is a memory.

Eight-track tapes. Cassettes. Vinyl records. Floppy disks. Mini-discs. CDs. The list of dead media is long, growing longer. Obsolete technologies to be avoided.

(3.100)