We never see ourselves as others see us. What we see are only reflections. Despite video, digital abilities, 35 millimeter film, or whatever image-capturing apparatus you might choose, those too are still just reflections.
The successes and merits of the recent ASR trade show can be measured in reflective values. A personal highlight for me was one of those aisle moments, in between everything else. Unscheduled. Spontaneous. The first day of the show. Early in the day I had talked with Tony Alva. I had helped a producer for a television project track Tony down, and I hadn’t been able to check it out with Tony first. I had wanted to make sure I hadn’t put him in contact with someone with no reflective value.
Tony thanked me because the whole thing had worked out very well. It was later that day, though, when I was trying to make my way back to IASC’s Hospitality Suite, the aisles were getting full, and I had just made it past the madness of Tum Yeto’s decoy booth, when I heard Tony’s voice again. He’d come from the Vans booth, and approaching from my right side reached out and touched my shoulder. “Hey, Fitz,” he began, and then he sort of laughed, and looked at me: “You know what I was thinking about the other day?”
I didn’t, and because there was a pause—because there was a moment—we both completely stopped. Talking and walking. Right there in the aisle. Suddenly it wasn’t one of those salmon-upstream conversations. It was just the two of us standing still with people trying to get around and traffic slowing ahead. People began backing up in all directions.
What Tony had been thinking about, what he told me, involved a moment at the 1997 Hard Rock contest in Las Vegas. On that particular day in the desert, beneath that giant illuminated-neon guitar, Tony had gone out of his way to express, in no uncertain terms, his feelings about that contest, any contest, Las Vegas, glitz, and the aforementioned’s relevance to skateboarding. In a voice ringing loud and clear from within the crowd gathered behind the judges’ table, he yelled, “Way to go, Fitz! You’ve really fucked skateboarding this time!”
“I was thinking I never apologized,” explained Alva, there in the ASR aisle. “You know, for what I said that day in Las Vegas.” What he had said that day might have been easily dismissed. Might have been attributed to ravings resulting from cravings. Might have had little merit, except it was Tony Alva, and, of course, there was that haunting thing—that doubt—that lingering knowledge that Tony was voicing what needed to be said.
Which is why, that day in Las Vegas, I hopped over the barriers and beat the shit out of him! “What’s wrong with you, Tony?” I said, clocking him with a right … an uppercut … left … left. “Shut up, damn it!” I said, pounding his head on the tarmac. Then I kicked him. And again.
That didn’t happen.
What happened was that we sat down and talked. Throughout the semifinals. Sat on the rented bleachers where no one was sitting because they wouldn’t have been able to see over those who were standing. What happened is that Tony and I waded through the tank-topped crowd—the girls looking to guys who were looking to be cool. Looking to be hip. Looking.
Tony Alva was in my face, yelling in my ear, as we anonymously made our way through that mass of people for our front-row seats, where he talked, and where he spoke to me about what was haunting him. Tony was pissed off that day in the desert. “You know!” he said to me. He grabbed my shoulders and looked way into me, and said, “You know, Fitz! What the fuck are you doing, man?!”
I did. I do. I do know. I knew that day in the desert, and I know now, too. I couldn’t argue with him. Indefensible. “You know this isn’t skateboarding!” Tony Alva hissed into my face as he gestured about the parking lot of the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas, Nevada. “This bullshit doesn’t have anything to do with skateboarding!”
The truth haunted. So, in my way (indefensible, perhaps, but never without words), in that Las Vegas parking lot, I listened to myself attempt to explain the why and what of how that contest could be good for skateboarding. Interpretation. My message had to do with capturing the opportunity, and using it. Taking advantage of the opportunity. It was bullshit, or maybe it wasn’t. Tony’s emotion subsided, I had to get back to the contest, and we never spoke of it again. Not since. Not until the trade show.
Where I asked, “Apologize? For what?”
“For that day in Las Vegas,” replied Tony. “You know, when I got in your face at the contest … “
It was my turn to look at Tony and explain, “Hey, no apology necessary.” There, in the ASR aisle, with traffic continuing to back up, we both acknowledged our reflections. T.A., following special broadcast recognition from ESPN, with a documentary film in production featuring much of his youth and subsequent influence upon skateboarding, was right to speak up that day in Las Vegas. Are vert contests in glitzy hotel parking lots skateboarding? No. Are they part of skateboarding? Are they a necessary part of skateboarding? Do they lead to an opportunity that we can utilize to direct and nurture what is skateboarding? I think so.
Our opportunity is here, and what we do with it is our responsibility. Those choices will be skateboarding in the future.