Friday, October 12, 2012

The Night Eddie Spaghetti Invited Me on Stage.

The last time I saw the Supersuckers, live and in concert was the first time I attended an over 21 only show. It was at Berbati's Pan, a small club in downtown Portland -- the fact that it is a relatively small venue is worth noting. I went to the show with a number of friends, but by the end of the night I'm sure they would have testified that they didn't know me, and I don't blame them. This night was to become a seminal point in my maturation process, and it goes to prove that I usually have to learn things the hard way. 

Seeing as how I was an immature drinker, I didn't know how to pace myself and I dived right in. Drinking heavily from the opening band (I have no idea who they were, I probably never did) in anticipation of the Supersuckers set. I really loved them as a band, and they carry this persona that conveys bad-ass, and general not giving a shit-ness. In fact, I guess I bought into this persona that they played up that I thought they would appreciate a drunk guy in the back of the club screaming "F@*# You!" and "You suck" at the top of his lungs. I thought they would understand that this was my ode to their persona, and general rock-star awesomeness. I did this screaming for awhile, got tired, drank a bunch more, visited with different friends but then went right back to screaming vulgarities and insults at what was my favorite band. I was probably giving them the finger -- I don't specifically recall. 

And then it happened. I was screaming at the band. There was at least a hundred people dancing and singing and generally having a good time and being loud between me and the stage. But Eddie Spaghetti (the lead singer) still must have been able to hear me and my vulgar offerings. He also must not have understood the manner in which I wanted him and the rest of the band to take said offerings. He stopped the music in mid-song. He pointed at me and said something to the effect of "Hey punk, you think you can do a better job, why don't you come up here and show us all how its done." Well, okay. 

Perhaps a drink or two earlier I would've understood this as my cue to slink away into the darkness and stop being such a jerk. But no! I thought that this was my time, my time to make friends with the band, to show the rest of the concert goers that I was in fact the biggest and best Supersuckers fan of all! So I went up to the stage, and Eddie handed me the microphone. It was very quiet and the people looked unhappy as I looked out upon their faces. I'm pretty sure I screamed into the microphone "F#$* You!" I then dropped it and leaped off the stage. I had envisioned the crowd yearning to come together, triumphantly lifting me up so I could body surf to the back of the club where I would be placed back into my original position and  metaphorical place, which was the king of the Supersuckers fandom. But No! I leapt and the crowd parted like the Red Sea on steroids and I landed on the beer soaked, cigarette encrusted concrete floor. The one friend that witnessed all this came to help me up and at that point she knew that I wasn't totally okay to be left alone; not only was I a danger to myself, there were a couple of hundred people who were not at all happy with me at that point. She got me home, I assume with a cab. 

I can only imagine what I would be thinking to myself if I was at a show tonight and some 21 year old jack ass pulled what I pulled that night. To say I would be scornful would be a statement of minimal quantification. There is no doubt that I've continued to make a fool of myself, with or without imbibing in spirits since that fateful night, but that was (that I can think of right now, at least) to be the night I peaked; where my personal wave of drunken stupidity crashed upon the rocky shores of Mt. adult. I'm glad it happened as early as it did. The next morning I had to be reminded why my side hurt so much and why my hip and lateral thigh was so badly bruised. 

So, even though all my Supersuckers CD's are long gone, and I don't have a Supersuckers station on Pandora, I still, at times, lean back and think about that night and I probably always will. Thank you Mr. Spaghetti. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Kickflips, Kitchen Confidential, Carpets, and Coagulation Cascades.

I've written about this before, but with summer coming to an end (even thought that really doesn't mean that  much in California) I feel compelled (perhaps a dash of early mid-life crisis is stirring) to write about skateboarding. It is a relatively recent development that has led to skateboarding being omitted from my daily thoughts, much less activities and social life. I'm okay with this, and am very excited for the future, which will undoubtedly have very little skateboarding in it. But, once in awhile, it is fun to go back and remember exactly what it was that made me fall in love with a kid's wooden toy on wheels.

1992. Summertime. I spent a couple of months in Edmonton, AB Canada with family. It was a glorious time, filled with cousins and friends who all were caught up in skateboarding -- except me, I was not a skateboarder, but the allure of 36mm wheels and jeans with a 36" leg cuffs, a World Industries with a Rocco and a Jason Lee not yet on network television was too much for me to resist: I was all in. 

At the end of the summer of 1992 I bought an old Alva Skateboard, with generic trucks and wheels from a friend's older brother. Even at this point it was outdated and a point of ridicule. Thankfully my birthday was right around the corner and I did my best to ensure that my parents would supply the new setup that I needed. I remember calling, everyday, the main skateshop in Portland at that time, a place called Cal Skate, which even though they were in a different location back then, is still in business today. At one point, after calling every day after school for what was probably weeks, the guy who answered the phone said, basically: "look little kid, we have the Morrision New Deal board in stock, we will have it in stock, PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE STOP CALLING EVERYDAY!" Luckily, my birthday came and I was able to get my new setup. I'll never forget that I got a New Deal, Andrew Morrison model, with an everslick bottom, Venture low profile trucks and some grey Sidewalk Surfer wheels, probably about 42mm in diameter. I no longer looked like a "poseur," I was finally on the inside.

I learned to ollie and heelflip on the carpet in my parent's basement, and then took the tricks to the dangerous concrete of the garage. Portland is a rainy place, and finding places to ride when it rains is tough. What the climate does do, however, is engender a tighter nit community than otherwise would be found in metro areas of similar sizes. Perhaps this is part of the reason I so eagerly glommed on to the "skateboarder" persona. Undoubtedly, the relative unpopular nature of skateboarding in the early 90's had a lot to do with it as well. There were a couple of other "skaters" at the high school I attended, and but I really began to make friends with the other skaters all over the city, which meant I nearly completely withdrew from any and all social aspects of my high school. I am thankful for this.

My thoughts, as far as this specific post is concerned, is much larger than a teenager and his coming of age via skateboarding (not nearly as kinky as it sounds...) but more to do with the various labels that we either construct for ourselves, or find thrust upon us -- usually an amalgamation of both is in a perpetual flux, a constant waxing and waning of who we want to be, who we actually are and, of course, how others perceive us.

In my moments of deeper reflection I can easily distinguish different "epochs" of my life, in that my geographic locations, occupations, peer groups, short and long term goals have drastically changed. The first twenty years of my life were spent surrounded by family, close distant relatives -- literally hundreds if not thousands of them at different times. I am thankful for this time in my life, as I feel as if I was raised by a village and that I am better for it. But, most of these people haven't known me in a long time, and the last time they've seen me (or, perhaps even heard how I was doing) was in a time when my short and long term goals were directly related to skateboarding and the culture there within.

Understandably, when these people hear that I am in  medical school, an element of surprise is present. If I were asked, twenty years ago, if I would be the one out of my peer group (well, depending on who I was with at the time...) to become a doctor, I would have laughed in scorn for even suggesting such a thing.

I would also like to think that exogenous states of being, such as one's occupation, level of education or cultural sensibilities aren't as judged as harshly as they are. Of course, they are. And, of course, I often fall in the same trap. I find myself judging those who can't spell or use grammar to a certain degree, which led to this as a birthday gift a year or two ago.

In no way does it surprise me that people perceive me differently when they know I am a student-doctor, versus when I was a career coffee roaster, a line cook (ahem...chef!) or a construction worker -- or, a skateboarder. But, I really try and remember that I am still the same person as when I did all those other things. This isn't as difficult as I am making it sound, as I do still feel like the same person.

When I hear stories of doctors that act like jerks (thus far, I've actually heard many, many more stories versus dealing with them in person) I can't help but imagine that they've burrowed into the persona too such a degree, they can't see their way out. I'm thankful for my days as a skateboarder (even though I still consider myself a "skater") and all the other personas I've embodied, whether by perception or by construction over the years, as sometimes any help we can get to help us stay grounded is necessary.

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