31 January 2007

On The Lamb

I first heard about Jay Dords of Bogginzine fame from my good friend Josh Einsle who is currently living in Northern Ireland. On one of Josh's return visits to Oregon he told me about this headcase he'd been skateboarding and surfing with, who also does a zine. Anyway, Jay and I exchanged a couple of emails and stories, so I decided to post this classic tale of travel, adventure, pilgrimage and evading the US INS. Hmmm, a celtic lad coming to America to skate a legendary skate spot only to have his mellow harshed by the INS? Sounds vaguely familiar. Josh, if you are reading this, bring more copies of Bogginzine please.

by jay Doherty aka raoul ramirez

‘….if you ever see me comin’

and if you know who I am,

don’t you whisper to nobody

‘cos you know I’m on the lamb…’

I’d been on the lamb for 9 months, living a sort of day to day, looking over your shoulder existence with no assurances and no certainty. Trying to remain invisible in the eyes of the law, a person that on paper doesn’t even exist. Whether or not I even had the right to exist and scrape a living in California was of no consequence-if the powers that govern had caught on, I’d be on the first plane back across the pond, most likely after a lazy weekend break in the local cooler. On the lamb, on the run. I was a wanted man for sure, but that’s a different story altogether.

The chief informed me of their arrival by email that afternoon, they’d been in my local bar asking questions, demanding information. They came in search of ancient rough transition, of desert bound adventure, of backyard pools. Four strong now was our Irish contingent, four more shoulders to be looked over. 4 Paddys ….ON THE LAMB!

Ok so now reinforced with a 3 man 4 man crew, I was ready to do some damage to both myself and to some crete. Mount Baldy, high in the hills of Upland is surely the most famous surviving pipe of the 70s fullpipe era. The Badlands pipe lies amidst an arid desert near the summit of Baldy, guarded closely by hoards of snakes and rats, tumbleweed and scrubland. For years it had almost been out of commission, nearly too rough to skate, til a crew of east coasters made the pilgrimage, much like many other old school skaters, only this time armed with buckets, trowels and cement. Before their stay was out the whole end section of the pipe was refurbished and ready to roll on, smooth as in days of Waldo Aultry in the 70s. We got there shortly after one of the few rainstorms of the year in LA, the basin beneath the pipe (the gap you have to jump over), was full of water, rats floating on the surface, and a trickle of water running through the pipe itself. Tradition holds that you must leap the gap of doom on your first visit to Baldy. There is a wee barrier bridge across one side, but to impress Lord Salba a real man has to jump the 10 foot chasm. It’s as far a jump as I’ve ever made, and I’d say for my compadre in arms The Black Knight, probably a foot or so further than he has ever leapt. ‘Too close Knight, too damn close, look at those dead rats in the filth below you man, and hang in the air another second.’ The pipe itself looked to be unskateable, at least til we hit the local pet store for a mass of cat litter, the pool driers best friend. This stuff is magic; it sucks up water like a sponge. We swept and scooped with buckets and brushes, til we had left a semi dry pipe, with a damn of litter and mud holding back the oncoming flow of rain water. We skated a total of 20 minutes, maybe 10 runs a piece hitting 9, 9.30, ten o clock news with Trevor McDonald. What an epic session, 2 boards and nearly one man down into the pit, we left our own wheel marks amongst those of Salba, Lance Mountain and Bob Burnquist and a host of other legends of the past 3 decades. Now we are really part of it. We returned the next day with ropes to rescue the lost 2 boards, and with the Black Knight with a trail of bruises from the dead arms he received the previous night. Quiz question for 2 points- how many boards does the Black Knight need for a session at Baldy?, Answer- at least 3.

There are a few places in this world which live up to their promise, and fewer still that exceed your wildest fantasies. Now for someone who has spent his skateboarding life dreaming of skating Californian pools, The Ox could maybe have dreamt a perfect abandoned tiled pool, with smooth transitions, a mellower deep end and a tight fast shallow end with quick corners. For The Ox, we did have such a pool, only this one lay at the top of the Malibu Mountains with a backdrop of mountains and countryside and right down to the beaches and surf of Malibu and across the dark blue Pacific. Breathtaking spot to house a few grimy Irish skaters for an hour or so. Get in there and do your worst, for it will surely be a long time before another such opportunity presents itself. I’d love to rhyme off a trick list, but this is pool skating. Carving and speed was the platter of the day. Higher up the transition each time, closing in on the lip, scraping the occasional grind. So simple, so innocent – perfect.

Back into to town there’s talk of another abandoned pool, this time in the blissful suburbia of Santa Monica. Housed in the backyard of a partially built mansion, a smaller tighter pool, green paint, dusty as hell. Another session ensues with the now confident pool posse; a few attempts are made at carving over the light, a few slams into the dirty pits beneath. A few sketchy makes over the light, we are now men, we are pool skaters I tell you, if only for these few days. The sound of a distant siren startles the crew, then we laugh, surely not. A minute or so later we are over the back fence and running like the fugitives we are. The cop car had pulled up outside and not a word need be spoken from the skaters, they just knew to bust. At least one of the crew had too much to lose. Later we would high five each other in the unlicensed car. Back on the road towards an evening of 40s and a Father Ted import. A small bit of Ireland to wrestle us back to reality.

Now my man Rockabilly Rome is a different bread of cat altogether. I think he has invented a new style of skateboarding for himself, for if you ever have the chance to bear witness you will see a man with a tricktionary unlike now other. Tricks with no name, and with no history. Rockabilly Rome awoke us the next morning anxious to visit a pool we had heard rumours of on the grapevine. Another mountain climb in the ’86 Golf, up Topanga mountain this time. Like a scene from Herbie goes to Monte Carlo, we dodged cars around hairpin bends up the steepest mountain roads. Too close to the edge of the ravine at times. Ignoring the guard dog signs we jump the fence and begin to prowl the abandoned grounds of a ramshackle mansion, again at the summit of another Californian mountain. Rumour had it that the guys from a major shoes brand had taken over the land and were about to pour some fresh crete into an ancient transitioned pool. Reality had it that they had not only began but had also got too close to completion to hold us back from our 3rd pool of the mission. The pool was now an almost perfect kidney bowl, metal coping and mosaic tiles as d├ęcor. Smooth as the cream in a Twinkie, and a makeable deep end light to carve over. Now this is where rockabilly Rome breaks out his magic. After a series of slams and rolls he throws his ginger quiff out around the deepend light and back to the shallow to continue a run of berts and slides. This was Rome’s hour, this is standout chapter in his story.

Into the evening we skated the pool, sometimes trying old miniramp tricks, almost forgetting what a gift we had just stolen a part of. Sometimes it did became just another session with friends. Mostly though we would just shake our heads as we sat in awe of spending another night on the west coast of the USA skating pools. It may not be an ideal way to survive, on the run, trying to keep beneath the radar. Far from ideal true, it does scare the hell out of you, but there’s magic there too. It’s times like these that keep us, not just living but truly alive and savouring every heartbeat of the day.

Click here for Jay's video. Pogues soundtrack = golden.