SKATEBOARDING IS FASHION

NYFW, The Olympics, Pants, and ZZ Top

Last week I attended a panel discussion celebrating the release of Kyle Beachy’s new title The Most Fun Thing: Dispatches from a Skateboard Life at the McNally Jackson Seaport book store in Manhattan. The panelists included Beachy, Jessica Edwards, Noah Johnson, Willy Staley, Alexis Sablone and moderator, Steve Rodriguez. Throughout the spirited discussion, two key topics emerged: The Olympics and pants. The latter has become an in-joke/trope of #SkateTwitter, spawning various threads, fit checks, and general discourse but as I left the event and walked through the Seaport I dug a bit deeper into the Olympics and Pants, talked into my phone as a form of notetaking, and now, the morning after the Met Gala, seems like the perfect time to discuss these events.

This is how my New York Fashion Week began.

The core idea of gawking at rich people and celebrities’ clothes is banal. In fact, most people who attend events during New York Fashion Week are not fashionable nor do they care about fashion. Several years ago I attended an event held in a SoHo storefront where ZZ Top performed sponsored by a whiskey brand. I noticed an older gentleman at the bar who—like most of the older people in attendance—was wearing a very ostentatious outfit. I did not care about his clothes as I was fairly sure it was James Goldstein, a businessman who attends 100 NBA games a year. Like Spike Lee, he’s a superfan but he doesn’t yell as much. I politely approached him and we talked about the Boston Celtics before I went outside to smoke a marijuana cigarette with some people in uncomfortable shoes. I may have been stoned but I’m confident ZZ Top played “Legs.” It was also uncomfortable.

Because skateboarding has no true “uniform,” the collective we of skateboarding is obsessed with clothing. After all, it’s part of our self-expression and shit. One could argue that the Olympics introduced uniforms this summer among other things but you can’t even buy said clothes as they’re all sold out and likely to change in three years. As skateboarders, we’re invested in aesthetics; what trick on what spot, the color of our t-shirts, the length of our pant legs, and sticker placement. These visual cues and elevate or devalue the actual skateboarding we consume.

For example, if Jake Johnson released a new part dressed like a “refined Juggalo,” people would have feelings about it. Fans of his would construct deep arguments as to why this new aesthetic fit his skateboarding rather than throw up because he’s so beloved.

Many dislike the clothes Nyjah Huston is paid to wear but celebrate their favorite pushers securing deals with couture brands. We love that Dylan Rieder was a bad boy model or that Lucien Clarke is getting big checks but would never revere Ben Nordberg in the same way. Why?

So what do the Olympics and Pants Discourse have to do with each other and why am I burying the lede? During The Most Fun Discussion®, there was a lot of back-and-forth about skateboarding’s debut in the Olympics and the potential harm it could cause the sport or rather, how it could devalue the perception and precious nature of skateboarding. Conversely, skateboarding garb was often fetishized during the conversation. I don’t want to graph and quantify who has more harm on skateboarding, the fashion industry, or the industrial sports complex but it’s worth mentioning that they are two sides of the same commerce coin—they both want you to buy into something with your time and dollars.

So why do we dismiss fashion as a simple transaction? Why do many resent the involvement of sports corporations in skateboarding but are willing to embrace Celine or Louis Vuitton? And why do we continually tag California as the epicenter of the skateboarding industry when the biggest stakeholders in skateboarding are based in Portland, Oregon, and New York City? You could argue that core brands are paramount to skateboarding but many aren’t located in CA and also, we exist in a time where top-shelf pros exist without a hardgoods sponsor.

Maybe it’s a simple as looking at skateboarding as a shell game with three players: 1. The Core Industry 2. The Corporations 3. DIY Culture. We’re often so focused on “our pea” that we’re ignoring two-thirds of what’s really happening.

All I can do is lay it out and remind you that for as “fashionable” as skateboarders are seen in 2021, I rewatched all of Yeah Right (2003) this AM, and I truly hope that those dungarees/chinos the many were wearing that fit your buttocks and hips snuggly but almost flow into a bootcut fit do not return in the near future.

To simplify things, skateboarding is subject to all the pitfalls of regular-ass capitalism and if we’re to problem solve for it, we have to audit its entirety… as well as ensure the sanctity of pants.

"WHERE DO WE BELONG?"

A Snapshot of Generational Differences In Skateboarding

Colby Carter in Speed Wheels Risk It (1990)

I was recently battling insomnia and after thinking about what work I needed to do, what wares I needed to buy, and what bills I needed to pay, I started thinking about the medium of skateboarding videos and how young the art actually is. For the purpose of this piece we can start the timeline in the early-1980s for “year zero,” then keep it moving.

Right, why am thinking about skateboarding video parts as I wait for Melatonin to kick in? Partially because thinking about videos rather than watching videos was the most mundane, banal thing I could imagine at the time, and soon I’d be asleep, dreaming about working in a paper clip factory owned by Michael Imperioli or something.

Then I took it a step further. I started to map out a timeline in my brain of the videos I watched the most—not the most influential but the ones I wore out due to living in an analog era where VHS tapes were precious and skate videos were sparse.


I got to Santa Cruz Speed Wheels Risk It (1990) and that’s all I remember and the following day I was reminded of my mental #listicle and watched a few parts. Like its predecessor Speed Freaks (1989), Risk It was more of a mixtape than a cohesive video, comprised of a deep cast of skaters that skated everything from downhill to street. Some of the skating in both videos was great, some was ordinary and between the banter, hijinx, and tricks, every part felt like a “day-in-the-life” segment because the parts were mostly filmed in a single day, session, or a weekend. Most of all, these videos were raw and sharply contrasted the Powell Peralta videos of the time, which had a higher production value, scripting, and were often shot on film. That’s not a good or bad thing, just two sides of skating’s coin in the late-’80s/early-’90s.

For whatever reason, I thought about Colby Carter, a former H-Street pro from Arizona who, like Chris Senn, skated everything with a lot of speed and power. His part in Risk It is close to 7 minutes and begins with a montage of him skating several spots in his home zone, broken up by cops, rent-a-cops, civilians, and randoms kicking him out of each location before crunchy California melodic punk guitars kick in and his “real” part begins. I’m fairly sure he doesn’t flip his board once but don’t hold me to that.

In one segment a woman tells Carter to leave because he, “Doesn’t belong here,” to which Carter replies, “We do we belong?”

Another snippet features a security guard booting Carter from a square-topped handrail, asking him how old he is—he was 25 at the time unless he was lying—and then blasting him for “playing with skateboards,” before telling him he should be killing people in “Arabia” instead of grinding handrails. (You’ll note in the screenshot below, the people producing the video kindly added specifics to the guard’s quote)

Both of these quotes stood out to me.

As street skating grew in popularity in 1990 the world was largely unfamiliar with skateboarders damaging their property, making loud noises, and hanging out around a ledge for an entire day. Sure, it wasn’t the first time in history skateboarders were riding around in places not designated for skateboarding but for as small as skateboarding was then, it was the first time that kids went out en masse in their towns looking for stairs, handrails, ledges, and other obstacles du jour rather than banks, backyard pools, or abandoned concrete structures. Modern street skating was more visible and public than skateboarding had been in the past and it drew the ire of many humans so Carter’s reply of “Where do we belong?” made perfect sense at the time whereas today the answer is, “The fucking skatepark, idiot!”

That’s a massive change and something for younger folks to think about not because I’m nostalgic for the ‘90s or any particular era but rather, because it provides some context as to how far skateboarding has come and how different the mental state of skateboarders searching for a place to belong was compared to now.

Without getting too anthropological, late-’80s/early-’90s street skaters specifically were coming up in a unique time where the private parks of the ‘80s were closing and the existing ones rarely had street obstacles and public parks were rare if they existed at all. In fact, outside of warmer climates, indoor skate parks were mostly a cold-weather necessity not part of the daily routine with a monetary barrier to entry that often excluded many skaters.

There was also the insurance angle that comes up in Carter’s part, as the risk of injury was a common concern then, in the wild and in parks. I remember driving several hours from New Hampshire, down to the Playground Skatepark in Connecticut only to be turned away because I needed a parental waiver signed. We ended up skating around Hartford and sleeping at a rest stop before being told to leave by the police at 2AM. That sucked.

The screenshot brings up another crucial point. Risk It was released during The Gulf War and the security guard certainly thought fighting in said war was more admirable than skateboarding, even if he wasn’t quite sure where the conflict was occurring. This was also documented in a much more satirical sense in Blind Video Days (1991), which depicts the Blind team riding alongside a pro-war rally in Downtown Los Angeles rife with Patriots carrying racist and xenophobic signs, punctuated by Jason Lee yelling “No War For Heavy Metal!” with his fist in the air.

Some of the signs don’t even make sense but you know, one can surmise that some Commie Liberals of the day were against the war so there’s always going to be those well-informed Patriots out on the streets, reminding you that war is important to the American experience and we should hate the “arabs,” for a myriad of reasons fed to them by right-wing media or even worse, just tropes embedded in their brains through the cultural ether.

And here we are. It’s 2021 and the world of Risk It depicted in Colby Carter’s part is both distant and present.

Skateboarding is of course mainstream, accepted, and in many cases a respectable living. We do belong to skateparks and for young people, especially those looking for a safe space to have fun, that’s a powerful thing but also, one that has many challenges and massive room for growth and progress. The wealth of parks was just one step towards normalizing skateboarding now it’s up to skateboarding to make those spaces welcoming, accepting, and comfortable for all, unlike the world around us, especially the world that exists in our screens and there are plenty of groups, orgs, and people taking action to do so.

That’s a pretty grandiose statement and a topic to explore another time but for now, let’s just think of how different 1990 and 2021 are before we get into how not different they are.

I mention the Gulf War because if you’ve looked at Instagram or any social media in the past week, the dire situation in Afghanistan has been top-of-mind for anyone scrolling. Without getting into the specifics and complex dynamics of Middle Eastern Conflict (It’s a skateboarding newsletter, remember and I’m a scholar of neither skating nor the Middle East) I’d use this example—the protests, the nationalism, the hatred, the tension—as a reminder that the United States has perpetually been in some form of conflict in the Middle East for decades but we often get so distracted that we forget that… until we can’t.

With social media, it becomes a twitchy climate, where every post feels like a call to action, often without context. It’s confusing, consuming, but also, it can make us more informed, make better choices, and try to understand things we weren’t taught—things we ignored, or things completely out of our sphere that impact the world. Heavy, right?

The reason I bring this up is that skateboarding’s media presence is Instagram—we can agree this is fact—and over the past two years, even if we’re looking for photos, video, nostalgia, our place to belong is often and rightfully disrupted by the world, just as it was in Risk It.

I hope Colby Carter is doing well. I hope you’re all doing well. And thanks for reading Artless Industria®.

SKATEBOARDING IS A SPORT, SO NOW WHAT?

I Watched the Olympics and It Wasn't What I Expected.

After being announced in 2016 and delayed a year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, skateboarding made its official Olympic debut on Saturday, July 24, 2021. During the ramp-up, my skate-centric social media channels fell into three buckets: 1. Supportive 2. Dismissive 3. Ironically excited. I mostly landed in the third lane because I seldom enjoy modern skate competitions but was curious and also happy for all those involved, especially the athletes. It seemed like the opinion that skateboarding was not a sport and this inclusion was a bad thing was the minority take, mostly because it’s a jaded way to view things and we all need to be celebratory on social media… right? Also, skateboarding is a sport and a physical art at the same time and it’s malleable—you can skate in a contest but also film a VX part and be revered by the “core” community. 

If you’re an older person, you’ve seen different waves in skateboarding’s mainstream popularity so the Olympics? Is it really going to change that much and does it really matter? 

Think about the notable “big money eras,” such as the X-Games Tony Hawk 900 boom and later, the Tony Hawk Pro Skater video game boom. Both changed skateboarding by making it more monetarily viable while normalizing it to normies. Woodward Skate Camp enrollment grew due to the interest, there was more mainstream coverage and one could argue that board graphics and branding became safer and more homogenized once big-box stores started carrying “real” brands. 

We’ve been here before and that’s why most skaters don’t really care about what the Olympics will do for skating as it will probably be a boon for the industry overall and that’s cool—we all like money and new parks and shit.

But maybe that’s not only a naive view but a selfish one. Could skateboarding be an analog for capitalism and it fully becoming sport-a-fied isn’t a good thing?

It all starts at the new beginning I guess and for me and several Jenksters, that entry point was in the back of a bar in Brooklyn, New York. One thing stood out immediately. In Brooklyn at this bar, as we waited for the games to begin, Nyjah Huston was a villain. He’s probably not a bad guy in Orange County, California but he is here and it’s apparent by the laughter when he later falls or by the constant jabs people are making. The mainstream narrative was that this was Nyjah’s event to win but he didn’t. Instead, he looked rusty and somewhat gassed. He finished in 7th place and someone mentioned that Ty Evans was making a documentary about his road to the games and how the placing was going to be problematic. Everyone was mostly happy that Yuto Horigome won because he’s really good and he’s not Nyjah. He’s also Japanese and that’s a nice storyline. He genuinely looked overwhelmed when he became the first human to win a medal for skateboarding.

There was a moment of true sport where a group of people who cannot do these tricks—many of whom don’t even like hucking as a discipline—had a vested interest in the handrail showdown that ended the Men’s Street Event®. We all became armchair quarterbacks, arguing about the judges, shouting out what tricks needed to be done to win, talking shit, and acting like regular jocks unlike any Tampa Pro in the past.

I thought about this a lot and it was weird. It felt strange and different and that wasn’t just the effects of alcohol because that usually does the opposite. What if any of these people we were rooting against had real-life issues after “failing” in the Olympics on a global stage? That’s pretty awful, right? Then I saw this and it’s pretty fucking dark. 

Here’s a key section if you don’t want to click said link:

I’ve had a lot of high moments in my career over the years but I’ve also had some very low ones and It’s something I’ve always mentally battled and tried to be better at. I’m human and dealing with all the pressure and expectations really isn’t easy at times. I’m also just so damn competitive and the downside to that is me being really hard on myself when I don’t skate good. Like days after contests when I just don’t wanna talk to anyone and replay everything I did wrong over and over. Or chugging alcohol in the hotel room by myself after a loss thinking it would make things better.

Skateboarding is a sport and as innocent and normal as this all seems, it’s also the beginning of some potential problems. Check it out.

As successful as Street League has been in skateboarding, it lacks the media support to create rivalries or true competitions. No one hates Nyjah or Nugget or Kelvin Hoefler or Alexis Sablone or Leticia Bufonti because of Street League. Prior to the Olympics, we were free to choose who we liked or disliked in skateboarding because of their trick selection, style, sponsors, social media presence, or even their pant width but it’s not unified hate based on competition

I must qualify this a bit as I’m not a Nyjah Huston apologist. I wrote about one of his more problematic statements in 2013. Nyjah has done and has been alleged of doing things that warrant people disliking him and but analyzing him as a person is not a part of this exercise. Instead, we should be thinking about what happens when a true sports mentality enters one that previously lacked it on such a large scale and with corporate interests—why did we hate him more now?

Prior to this moment, I didn’t really give a shit about competitive skateboarding in my adult life. The competitive side of skateboarding was its own world—one that only crosses over with mine when I’m asked to write about it which isn’t often. But that’s a very isolationist view. I can choose to ignore competitions or watch them at bars but at this new level they are doing something that impacts more than my media diet and I think that’s worth exploring.

So I started with a bookmark I set at the recommendation of Kim Woozy. Woozy and Skate Like a Girl started a podcast called Making Moves to explore these very dynamics and Episode 2 of the podcast is extremely relevant:

Episode 2, we further explore the future of sports and social justice, with a panel of guests: Professor Jeffrey Montez de Oca and coaches Christina Rodriguez and Sophie Goethals, led by Kim Woozy and Kristin Ebeling. We take a moment to hear from professor Aaron Miller and how he uses meditation to take a break from technology and improve mental performance. Funding for Making Moves was provided by California State University East Bay and the Center for Sport and Social Justice.

The entire episode offers some excellent analysis but Professor Jeffrey Montez de Oca’s commentary was not only enlightening, but it was also lowkey terrifying. You should listen to the pod but I’m going to paraphrase some of Montez de Oca’s key points:

  • Commercialization creates a structure in sports and its performance principle and that creates a value structure. 

  • Organization changes how we think about skateboarding, how we build institutions, and what people do inside them. 

  • Organization and commercialization create a pyramid. At the bottom are youth sports where everyone is involved, as you go up, it gets less inclusive as athletes are groomed to make money and people fall out by design. There are more coaches, managers, contracts, etc. as a result but it often leaves out any ethical balance.

What he’s saying is that this shit is rigged to get people to the Olympics and make them stars because it makes corporations—not necessarily the athletes—money but they don’t care about the athletes. They aren’t concerned about mental health, wage equality, or inclusion because that’s counter to the process. For that to happen, like other sports, the “players” need to unionize and do all that shit themselves. This has been discussed ad infinitum in skateboarding but it might not only happen now but it probably needs to happen.

Part of the discussion centers around what is actually unique about skateboarding—its competitive edge exists without teams or any structure at all. You’re competing against yourself and that alone is more useful than entering a sports funnel designed to only serve the gifted and profitable.

Think of a young Tom Brady throwing a football through a tire hanging from his tree for hours in his backyard. Sure, he can get really good at it and maybe enjoy it but it’s not going to make him a better football player as there’s nothing stopping him from hitting the target other than his skill. Conversely, a new skater immediately has all the tools to challenge themselves to skateboard the moment they own a board. That’s it. You can push yourself to learn slappies or huck down things as you see fit and as you age, the competition becomes not what you can do but adapting to what you can’t do. So by nature, skateboarding doesn’t need leagues or rules or corporations to be competitive let alone exist because it began on DIY “boards” fashioned from homemade scooters. Yes, the “S-Word.” 

Listening to the episode reframed what I saw over two nights and put everything through a critical lens. It was obvious that there was more money being generated with every country having its own media squad and coverage? How many of them were skaters? If you heard a 50-50 and a 5-0 being confused or no regard for frontside or backside, you could surmise not many. All those mainstream full pieces? I’m sure plenty were written by people who “used to skate” and some were well written but did they add anything? Yes, Tony Hawk was there and he is skateboarding’s ambassador but did my Mom learn anything about skate culture in Japan other than the fact that the skaters were dominant? Takahiro Morita and the legends before him? Nah. Do we think Yuto or Momiji Nishiya will make more money in the wake of the Olympics (they made zero at the Olympics of course) or Cariuma whose bold branding was incessantly shown on the feet of skaters in slow motion?

Lastly, was it disturbing that many of us were actively rooting for 13-year-olds to bail tricks and possibly get injured so that Alexis Sablone could secure a medal for no actual reason before shifting gears once she was knocked out and suddenly caring which one of them got the Gold? It’s fucking weird. 

The Skate Like a Girl podcast panel pointed out that many organized sports are actively dismantling competitive structures that create toxic environments. Skateboarding is just starting the journey up. With all the new interest brings new people. Does that look promising or does skateboarding end up like gymnastics, rife with abuse, sexual assault, body dysmorphia, and other problematic behavior?

Skateboarding’s already had issues within its core structures, most notably with Neal Hendrix so there’s precedent for concern. The thing is, this all feels really abstract and distant—it’s hard to really think how it relates to “us” but that’s the danger. As we’ve seen with Black Lives Matter, when we wait until something impacts us personally, it’s already negatively impacted millions of people, and dismantling those structures is not only difficult, it takes massive global protests to move the needle. 

As The Birdman once told CNN “They need this to get the excitement level that we have at skateboard events. I don’t think we need their validation because we’re already validated. And I mean really, how many more swimming events can you watch?” The validation is here, the games are in progress, and we’re all watching.

What’s next? That’s up for grabs but unlike the NFL or NBA, skateboarding’s “fans” have actual sway because skateboarding is an interactive community, what we do with it could be more critical than we think.

MUSINGS ON QUASI "GRAND PRAIRIE"

The Full-Length Isn't Dead, It's Free

On April 5, 2021, Quasi Skateboards released Grand Prairie directly to YouTube. It’s essentially two videos: a proper full-length followed by raw footage, outtakes, and candid moments of the squadron doing things. This is smart. Rather than a deluge of fragmented parts peppered out over a month, Quasi gifted us the whole jawn, so thank you for that.

In 2015 Chad Bowers launched Mother Collective in Ohio with Jake Johnson, Tyler Bledsoe, and Gilbert Crockett as the marquee names. Johnson, Bledsoe, and Bowers took their Alien Workshop DNA and fused it with the scrolling digital world we no inhabit to create a new space—a tone that had some nods to the Workshop but was a bit more amorphous. They purposely don’t have a set logo and their anti-branding is much more aligned with where skateboarding was then and is now.

Due to copyright issues, they quickly had to pivot and change their name to Quasi and released a full-length titled Mother in 2018, introducing a quiver of new blood to many in the process. In a sense, Quasi was the second answer to a post-Alien Workshop world. Yes, Alien 2.0 is active and thriving but after Mind Field (2019) it was obvious things at The Sect were fraught “upriver” infighting and the crossroads of becoming a legacy brand—Alien was originally founded in 1990. Anthony Van Engelen and Jason Dill left The Workshop to establish Fucking Awesome as a board brand in 2013 bringing some Alien riders/flow peeps along, a now all-star cast of young buls, as well as Dylan Rieder.

What’s interesting is that both brands were able to leverage the cult of Alien Workshop and create two distinctive brands, even if there are occasional board graphic similarities. Shit happens. You think of Photosynthesis (2002) and its impact on skateboarding but often forget that it was Alien’s third full-length. Most people skating today don’t think about Thomas Morgan or Scott Conklin or Steve Claar or even Neil Blender when the Workshop comes up. It’s similar to how Iron Maiden enthusiasts might appreciate Paul Di’Anno’s contributions to Iron Maiden but Bruce-era is the brand.

Both FA and Quasi keep things deceptively aloof in that you see things when they happen. Video projects are rumored but not hyped and teased ad nauseam. When they release video, it’s a moment, directly on their channels.

Grand Prairie is a moment in skateboarding. Like the past year, it’s neither tidy or definitive but rather, fragments of memory captured from a pre-pandemic world and a COVID-19 lockdown era, where the streets could be barren or lined with Black Lives Matter protesters. There are used masks on the ground, celebrations range from joyous to cautiously contact wary, Josh Wilson’s appearance goes from Ivy League to tail-end Jim Morrison minus the bloat. Even Gilbert Crockett sports some moss in some clips.

And there’s great skateboarding. The kind of skateboarding that’s framed in such a way that each part feels unique to the person in front of the lens without the project feeling fragmented.

Mother started out with Justin Henry skating to Psychic TV’s homage to Brian Jones, “Godstar.” This was somewhat of a debut of his skill and style to the larger skateboarding universe. Grand Prairie’s first part is Dane Barker—also a bit of a “here he is” moment—soundtracked to “Time Machines” by Lexo and the Leapers and “Lie Down Forever” by Godstar. See what they did there. It’s also worth noting that fellow Ohioan, Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices, too many to name, and the mouthpiece of Lexo and the Leapers) has become Quasi’s J Mascis in the best way. They’ve collaborated on apparel and skateboards, used his music in edits, and have taken some influence, presumably, from his collage aesthetic. As much as Quasi’s video style has bits and bobs from Alien Workshop’s output, it’s more nuanced and more Americana. I mean fuck, this thing is called Grand Prairie not Phila Memorandum or some shit.

In fact, Grand Prairie visually shares more stylistic similarities to Banks Tarver’s 1996 documentary on Guided By Voices titled Watch Me Jumpstart than Photosynthesis, kinda.

My suggestion?

Put your phone far away from you and watch the video on the largest screen available to you, preferably at night with your beverage of choice. Take in each clip and frame and appreciate that projects like this are a gift—things that people work for years on and then shoot to your devices for free. Yes, everyone wants more Jake Johnson but sometime’s a movie’s most memorable moment is a cameo.

Enjoy the off-board moments, Dick Rizzo’s natural transition and bank heavy footage, people grinding graffiti-covered monuments of offensive dead humans, BDK’s ledge dominance, Gilbert’s tricks, and Gilbert’s pants, Justin Henry’s pro-debut curtains, Dane’s masterclass on outright ripping and hardcore T-Shirt curation, Josh Wilson’s cannonball drive, and the rest of the Quasiness as it floats, jabs, and plods across the screen.

Skate videos don’t have to feel good to be feel-good moments and they aren’t made to check off the boxes of our internal expectations. They document a time and in 5 years, you’ll likely go back and look at Grand Prairie as an encapsulation of a time rife with anxiety and confusion but also, a lot of hope and selfishly, when you could skate a lot of shit that was normally off-limits and highly illegal. Or just watch it and hope your ankle holds up enough to squeak out a noseslide… tomorrow. I’m definitely skating tomorrow.

BACK WITH A BOOK

It's Titled Heaven or Las Vegas and It's Up For Order Now

ORDER HEAVEN OR LAS VEGAS HERE

If you’re a subscriber to this Stack, you’ve noticed radio silence from AI® for months.

This was intentional. After the election, I was burned out. It was a mix of general mental exhaustion, family medical issues, and personal mania as well as strange parts of my body hurting. Things are cool but are they ever?

One thing I’ve learned from writing to y’all is that in the rush to react and respond, things aren’t always delivered or received with the way my brain intends them so I decided to be more purposeful with my writing. There were plenty of things happening in skating that I wanted to address but I have other outlets including an upcoming text with Dr. Indigo Willing.

You can peep that here.

I don’t like the pay-to-play model of this platform and just feel odd asking for money to hang out in my digital space but I do feel fine presenting y’all with a mini-book/short story titled Heaven or Las Vegas.

I don’t know the future of this newsletter but I’m fired up about writing and being able to self-publish is powerful to me and… fuck, it’s exciting, so here we are.

Last year I decided to look back on an old work of fiction I wrote because I knew something was there. It was a rough process. The sentences, the metaphors, the tone was off but there was a story—it just needed to be retooled. I never retool. Ever.⁣

⁣I spent months going back in, changing each chapter, and cutting out a lot of nonsense. I thought about the narrative, I thought about the context, and what was over 100 pages was cut to a tight 60.⁣

The original story felt like it was written by a different human—one that had some ideas about telling a story but not the insight or toolbox to do it. Now, I’m not big-upping myself and saying that this jawn is a masterpiece but I thought it was important to share the value of going backward. You know, people—those motivational types—love to say how “looking back halts moving forward” or some shit. That’s fine. I thought it was a worthwhile exercise to do so but if you know me, my brain is anything but linear, so what happened was me having several Google Docs of drafts and notes and things and cursing myself out and over analyzing shit to the point where I had to say “FIN.”

⁣So is this a book? A novella? A short story? A zook (zine+book?)⁣

⁣I dunno but it’s up for order now and I hope you enjoy this short work of fiction that’s been bouncing around my skull for a decade.⁣

Thank you to Jeff Neumann for the help editing and Walker Ryan for the guidance.

Heaven or Las Vegas by Anthony G. Pappalardo | 60 Pages First 300 Copy Edition Soft Cover | Fiction⁣

⁣She's a popular girl leading a dark double life. He's an intentional outcast, happily existing out of their small town's social hierarchy. They both use every moment outside of school and work to escape the suburban malaise, often with severe repercussions. Nothing ever happens in their town but there's so much going on.⁣

⁣Heaven or Las Vegas is a work of fiction set in early-'90s New England, oscillating between two strong-minded teenagers' distinct worlds and the subcultures they choose as home, no matter how unstable.

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