Woah, haven’t updated in awhile. I don’t think anyone reads this anyways so I could probably type anything here. I might just write the new great American novel… but probably not because then I’d have to be relatable and be able to type my thoughts out clearly and communicate ideas effectively. Ya’ll know I ain’t about that life. I’m mostly gonna talk about what Broke has been up to which is mostly what I’ve been up to since this is a one man show still.
I moved to Pittsburgh for about four months and that was an experience. In that short time I skated a lot in the streets and at a few parks. Now I’ve got to say I’ve lived in the Bay Area and thought I had seen some gnarly hills but Pittsburgh has them beat by a lot by being completely unskatable for the most part. They’ve got the steepest street in America in that town and the road conditions are so bad it’d be a suicide mission to bomb. God speed to anyone that tries to GX the hills in Pittsburgh. The concrete situation is pretty bad there as the city is pretty much crumbling, in fact a major bridge collapsed while I lived there completely fucking up traffic in the Squirrel Hill area. I have a lot of respect for the street skaters of Pittsburgh that make it happen everyday there.
I helped put in a rail at Oakland DIY and I think they have a really great crew of folks helping out around there. It’s a small but solid crew for sure and they have a few guys that work with concrete and masonry in their day jobs so they build stuff pretty solid at the DIY. A lot of the people I met in Pittsburgh were pretty blue collar and down to earth people and in a lot of ways reminded me of the Milwaukee skate scene so I felt pretty at home.
Got a part time job at Switch & Signal Skatepark too. I’ve been skating there since it opened whenever I’d come to town and knew about it before it was built. Kerry and I met in Chicago in like 2009 at a vegan restaurant and we’ve been pals ever since. We even lived in Oakland at the same time and skated a bunch together. The saddest thing about leaving Pittsburgh to come back to Milwaukee was quitting the skate park. That park is one of the best ones in the country and is really well designed and planned out on top of it being one of the most inclusive and accepting places I’ve ever skated at with the coolest coworkers. I got spoiled being able to go there whenever I wanted to skate. I even started to teach kids how to skate at some of the skate camps and did two one on one lessons with some kids before I left town. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy teaching people how to skate, I mean, I can barely skate myself so I felt like my advice was kinda lacking but somehow the kids I taught had a fun time with our lessons and so did I. Maybe I’ll do that again sometime out here.
I also frequented Radio Skate Shop and made friends with Eric. Radio is probably my favorite skate shop outside of Sky High. Just a really cool vibe where you can drop in and shoot the shit with people and hang out. Radio also carries all the stuff I like to skate and the shop is run by people who care about skating and want to see it grow but not just in a financial way or an industry way, they want skating to grow as a community too. As skating has gotten more blown out it’s becoming more and more rare to see people in skating with that mentality.
During the pandemic and everything it was hard to keep Broke going. Some of the people I was helping with boards found bigger and better things so I was sort of feeling like Broke was losing a lot of momentum. Stuff was slowing way way down. The video project I was working on didn’t go according to plan and that was sort of disheartening. I think I was looking for something to kickstart some new ideas and new projects for me with this little skateboard company and give me something to be excited about. It hasn’t really happened that way though. I still love skateboarding and do it just about everyday but loving skateboarding isn’t enough to justify doing something that’s essentially a solo art project at this point. BUT!!! I still have a ton of fun doing Broke, and to me that’s the most important thing! I don’t really care if Broke is popular or considered cool. I’d rather just do what I want to do and have fun and put stuff out there in skateboarding that I want to see. So until it stops being fun I’m going to keep doing this dumb little skateboard company.
I had big plans this summer. I had a few spots picked out and had planned some tricks and some lines that I was going to push my 39 year old ass to get filmed. As much as I was trying to motivate myself to get this done there was a part of me that was also sort of afraid I’d not be able to accomplish it and the video I had envisioned would become another idea that never became fully realized.
I knew I needed help with this video and also I wanted to film some of my friends that I grew up with to show that the old crew was still out there making shit happen. Especially I wanted to make a part for Stuart because he has always been one of my favorite skaters here locally and I never felt he put out a part that really showcased his ability. After a few sessions and some group texts it seemed like it was on track to go down. We were all going to film and put stuff out in our late 30’s for the world to enjoy. I was hyped.
Well we got maybe three sessions of serious filming done before the whole thing fell apart. Stu got a lot done in those sessions but I still feel it doesn’t do his ability on a skateboard justice. Oh well, I didn’t film much either because after those three sessions I couldn’t ever find anyone to film the tricks I wanted to do for me. I spent most of 2020-21 skating by myself. Thanks a lot COVID.
Anyways, I threw this together in a day. It was still fun to make but it’s not even close to what I envisioned.
Warning: This is just one person’s opinion based on being involved in a lot of DIY projects not just within skateboarding but also in independent music/art spaces and activism. Everything written is from my personal experience and I haven’t done a ton of up to date research on the topic I’ve chosen to write about outside of my observations, conversations with other skaters and community members. This won’t be from a perspective of someone in the housing/real estate investment industry so I’m not going to speak on what their perspective might be. If you want that go read Forbes or something.
One thing that I think a lot of people outside of skateboarding don’t get is how connected to our environment skateboarding makes us. If you mention an area of the city to any skater, they will have a spot that they have skated or know of in that neighborhood. Not only that, they will know a lot of specific details about that spot like what the concrete conditions are like, the likelihood of getting kicked out/ticketed/harassed, and possibly even know the vibe of the neighborhood and if it’s friendly to skateboarders or not. We’re always looking for a new spot to skate, we tend to notice the abandoned spaces where we can skate free from harassment that normal people don’t notice even if they pass by the spot everyday.
Because of this skateboarders tend to have interactions with their cities homeless/disenfranchised communities that a lot of other people don’t get to have. Historically skateboarders tend to occupy the same spaces with these homeless folks. Whenever anyone mentions a famous plaza like Love Park or EMB there’s always stories of interactions with people on the street and the cast of characters that also call these spaces a home. Sometimes these stories aren’t the most sensitive to these folks on the streets’ situations. Sometimes skaters aren’t super tuned into what someone on the street might be going through and sometimes these interactions become confrontational and sometimes they can become violent and shitty. Granted we’re all just people, and skateboarders are a diverse group, we aren’t always perfect about being compassionate or understanding to others especially when it’s fucking up the session. We’re just trying to skate, right? “Why won’t these bums just chill?” is something I’ve heard a few times over the years.
I think we could all maybe do with a little more compassion towards these folks honestly. In our pursuit of finding and skating the next spot we sometimes forget that a lot of these spots are people’s homes. People who don’t have a roof still have to occupy a space and still have to live their lives. And as much as I love DIY building I think that it displaces a lot of these disenfranchised folks and more than that it’s almost an insidious way that gentrification begins in an area.
Think about it, we find a spot that would be good for a DIY and we just start building hoping that the property owner doesn’t care or won’t find out. Which is why we tend to look for the most abandoned spaces possible. The more remote and overgrown the better so that we don’t draw attention to our build by the cops or the upright citizens brigade. But these spots are oftentimes also attractive to the homeless for the same reasons and many times already have a homeless community in place before skaters even discover it. But I don’t think we as skaters really ask these folks who are just trying to get by and live if they’re cool with us building a skatepark in the middle of their home. A lot of these folks seem to just go with the flow because they don’t want to lose what little they have by resisting people with more economic standing than them (ie- skaters) and I can’t blame them.
I’ve seen some DIY projects get encouraged as a way to purposefully remove some of the blight in an area with little investment from the city government and once the area becomes safer because of the increased traffic of skaters scaring off homeless folks and drug dealers only to get bulldozed to make room for condos. Basically the skate community did the job of the gentrifiers and got nothing to show for it. This isn’t benefiting us as skaters or the homeless that are already having the deck stacked against them.
I’m trying to look for ways the skate community can work with homeless folks to prevent this from happening but I don’t know if radical autonomous zones for skating and living is a conversation that the skate community is ready for. But I think it all starts with communicating with these groups that already occupy these spaces. At least putting it out there that these people can be heard by us is a good start. I’d like for skateboarding to look more like a place where the voices of disenfranchised people has a place and can be heard and respected. I want skating to be more than a community only out for itself and it’s interests and I think DIY culture is a good doorway to this mindset.
Yesterday we had some decent weather and so some of the crew decided to visit this tennis court spot. This guy Mike from NY brought a parking block and joined the session. It’s crazy what a day of 55 degree weather will do to make you seize the day.