California Dreaming

As a boy back in the uk obsessed with skateboarding, the magical land of California was about as close to wheeled nirvana as it got. You gotta understand – I was born and raised in LINCOLN! Which is completely flat, apart from one hill with a giant cathedral on top of it. It is 40 miles from the nearest major city IN EVERY DIRECTION. We waited 15 years longer than everyone else to get digital phone service. It’s insular, and inbred and full of morons who want badly to kill you. For no reason. None. I couldn’t wait to get out.

So the magazines that fed our skateboard dreams filled with golden skies and curved concrete bowls and awesome guys and girls dressed in actual clean sparkly primary colored clothing were the most prized possessions a skater could have. We couldn’t believe that this land existed where it was almost always warm, sunny and beautiful. It truly was mystical. So mystical that when visiting pro skaters would come over, I’d occasionally be lucky enough to be in their crowd hanging with them and could hear all the questions going on. I distinctly remember one of our crew asking Rodney Mullen “What’s the weather like in California?” And the bemused look on his face as he processed this (which we find out 20 years later is actual genius level craziness, but I digress), finally managing to blurt out “kinda like here I guess” as he pointed to the one warm, blue sky over London we had had this century.

By 1984 I had had it – something snapped and a combination of hormones, shitty life choices, desperation at not being included on possibly the greatest scam ever perpetrated on the funding bodies of English skateboarding led me me to quit my job, sell my car and book a flight to San Diego to finally sample the California dreams for real. I was sponsored by Gullwing Trucks at the time, and my team boss, Jim Goodrich had graciously agreed to host me for a few days. I went off on my big adventure, almost dying in St. Louis in a storm landing, but finally making it. I rode at Del Mar, was slightly in awe at all the pros in my magazines gathered in one spot, ran over Hawk in a game of skate tag, hung with Steve Claar and John Hogan a lot, went to some parties where people beat each other up… All good clean California fun. Then I got bored, or homesick, or lovesick or a combination of all of those things and cut the magical trip short and went home. I’d been, done and ticked it off of the the list. It was time to head back and get somewhat serious.

Except I didn’t. My propensity for making shitty life choices was still very much front and center, and I started out on a string of disastrous relationships, marriages, kids, college and moving that would pretty much consume me for the next 25 years or so as I struggled to make a “life” happen. But I digress. There was a natural break and a not so shitty life choice in the middle of it when I got a job with Burton in Vermont and emigrated to the USA, leaving behind my flat homeland for good.

1998 came along and it was time to move along with it. Freshly issued green card in hand, I was free to work anywhere, and once more California reared its golden head, so I ended up in San Francisco working for Vans. It wasn’t bad as cities went, but too much like England with the shitty cold damp weather. The one saving grace was I had to go to LA every few weeks to meet with head office types, which I loved. Of the two cities I preferred LA infinitely over SF. When I tell people they look at me like I’ve just told them I prefer eating human babies over oranges, but that’s their problem I suppose. I just liked the warmth, people, even the driving. Wonderful things, like the Taco Trucks, the ethnicity and the no apologies California candy coated shell over everything. I drank it all in.

2000 and both the tech bubble and my own personal bubble burst, so headed back to Vermont to work for an outfit helping manufacturers throughout the state. It was ok as jobs went, but personality issues with the boss didn’t help and eventually it became another “I’m done” situation. Anyhow – you can see the pattern. I’m still here, about to be divorced for the second time and making yet another new life while still trying like hell to be the Dad I need to be for my daughter.

Which brings me to the present day, and the purpose of this blog post. In two days time, I am going to LA once more to meet my old buddy Brian Shaw and his wife Christine who are vacationing out there. My girlfriend Jodie is coming along as she needs to get some warmth and sun desperately too. I’m going to be skating, touristing, meeting people and skate shops to market and sell Half Dead Skateboards. It’s been almost 14 years since I’ve been there and I can’t wait. I’ll be posting to here and to Facebook as I go. I hope I can remember to come back!