June 25, 2017

Remembering CJ Tambornino

UPDATE: According to CJ's family, a memorial celebration for CJ is being held July 6 from 2 to 5:30 p.m. at Familia HQ, 835 E. Hennepin Ave. in Minneapolis. There won't be skating but it is a chance to celebrate CJ's life.

~~~

CJ Tambornino was an outsize personality and an audacious skater. From the huge red beard he grew once he was able to quit his job at McCormick and Schmick’s and focus on skating full time, to his trick selection — nobody knows for sure what it was, but wasn’t it a nollie 360 bigger spin triple flip? — the dude stood out based on style and skill.

He was a skate rat. Back when he was 12 or 13, it happened more than once, he’d be traversing the 26 blocks of East Lake Street from his house to get to the old 3rd Lair and get jumped. He was never all that phased, he’d dust himself off and skate.

I was 18 or 19 and working at the Lair. He was endearingly annoying, the prototypical shop-lurking kid you had a hunch would end up ripping, the kid who’d always challenge the guy working the counter to a game of SKATE, who had a chance of winning.

An image from that era to which I always return is him skating with an above-the-elbow cast, yellow Supernatural shirt and weird wicker hat, flicking nollie bigspin flips over the hip — style and skill.

It was either Jamiel Nowparvar or Mike Guy, two guys who know a thing or two about positivity, who said CJ put the “G” in genuine. He was humble, even though a part of what made his skating so electrifying was a certain cockiness on board —and no humble man thinks he can do the shit CJ did on a regular basis.

CJ is nothing short of a legend in Minneapolis skateboarding — one of the few who can legitimately claim to be from the city —and an argument could be made a plaque should be placed at The Marbles to memorialize the three-trick wonders he put together there. Or else the old Science Museum triple-set should just be knocked down, since CJ already laid waste to it, anyway.

CJ was 30 years old when he died this week. His death is marked by deep sadness and tinged by anger. Skateboarding and all his friends are better off for having him.

#thecallofcj

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The Front Benches works, too.

March 16, 2017

Chicago notebook

Cropped scan via The Chrome Ball Incident -- Blogger doesn't want to make it a better size.

I wrote a feature about Chicago's place in skateboarding. It was borne out of years of watching smaller cities do their mightiest to be noticed by the wider world for their modest contributions to skateboarding while the big metropolis on Lake Michigan never gave a shit -- at least that was my read on the skaters from there I met who called and still call Chicago home.

Why isn't Chicago a bigger deal in skateboarding? I'm still working towards an answer -- I doubt it remains that way, though, as hinted at in the story. Even though the piece ballooned far past my initial word-count estimates (thanks Lucas!) there were still some details from interviews that just never quite fit. Everyone I spoke to for the story was really generous with their time. That meant I heard at least two fathers fathering their kids and that Chaz Ortiz put up with the craziness of my crying then-3-month-old daughter while we talked. Here are some quotes that didn't make the cut:

Dave Ruta:

Ruta reiterating the weather situation: “There’s been times when certain things have blown up, but I think for the most part it doesn’t have a crazy scene like LA or New York for the main reason because of the weather. Everybody knows the shit gets rough.”

On why the Grant Park plaza is whatever: “Now, there’s kids popping up and they’re on the radar. My whole thing, I think, which is the whole problem with skateboarding period, right now, is the skatepark kids … you know? In my opinion, looking at the talent out there, I’ll go to that plaza, the new plaza they built down here, it’s like a breeding ground for those kids and that’s all they’ll do. That’s all they’ll skate. I’m downtown -- been skating downtown for 20-something years and I just don’t see those kids down there.”

On indoor skateparks in the suburbs and why they only help so much: “There’s been stuff in the suburbs, but you know kids got no cars, we luckily knew a dude here and there who had cars. You have to travel an hour and a half just to go skate.”

Kyle Beachy

Beachy on an idea that was very hard to articulate for others: "Chicago exists on its own because Chicago doesn't really care too much because Chicago is a self-sustained entity. It's the same with neighborhood culture here, music, it's a totally contained ecosystem."

On certain spot issues in Chi: "We've got the fourth-largest public school system in the country and like four ledges total between all of them. It defies logic, man. You cruise around town and stare at what you swear is a spot, then get closer and realize it's maybe a good place to wait for someone, but otherwise there is no activity to be performed there. It really is uncanny, it keeps happening, it's a city haunted by disappointing spots."

Josh Kalis

Kalis on the stigma attached to blowing up the spot: “When skate teams would show up out at the skateparks -- Rotation Station or whatever -- I remember it being kind of frowned upon on inviting those teams downtown to skate.”

On one memorable time downtown that would have been 800 words if fully hashed out: “All the skaters scattered across the city and I remember going across the river and we were on the lower level of a bridge and we were walking right past a cop … and over his radio, you hear the people saying ‘Calling all cars, motherfuckers, we’re looking for skateboarders! Grab any of them!'”

On the Grant plaza: “I hear people all the time, who are not from Chicago, and they’re just like, ‘Man, I can’t deal with the hassle.’ And with the skatepark, most kids think it’s 100 percent legit to film in skateparks, so why would they even bother [to skate downtown]?”

On the Uprise heads how have been downtown for the past 20 years: “If you go down and spend a night with Loof Life, it’s just one of the greatest feelings a street skater could ever have. Just being in the city and pushing around and bouncing from spot, to spot, to spot, with a great group of dudes. It’s literally awesome.”

Chaz Ortiz

Ortiz on having space to move in Chicago: “There’s so much of the city -- I mean, it’s been skated, don’t get me wrong -- but there’s a lot of room out here to do shit compared to like, New York, or Cali, you know what I mean?”

On his canine companions: “I’ve got two dogs, those are my fuckin’ kids.”

On the Grant plaza's effect on downtown: “There’s a lot of skaters in the city, especially now with the plaza and shit. Because kids come out just to skate that and then they’ll cruise around the city. You see skaters now more than probably ever.”

On maybe why more dudes don't come up out of Chicago: “I just feel like it’s really easy to get caught up in the city, in Chicago, especially when you’re like 21, there’s a lot of bars around … like every other fucking corner there’s a bar. I see a lot of fools falling off, you know what I mean?”

On the city's attitude: “People will be fucking dicks out here. Kid from Cali came to the park the other day -- he thought he was a cool kid -- everyone was like, ‘You’re fucking wack, nobody cares that you’re from like, Huntington Beach. You’re in fucking Chicago!'”

On all of the good stuff, and the fact it might actually really be the weather: “That’s why I can’t leave -- but it’s cold as fuck.”

February 27, 2017

Crunching numbers on Minneapolis skateboard tickets

Kevin Romar's infamous encounter with the MPD, as seen here.

Based on personal experience alone, one would assume the Minneapolis Police Department issues a decent number of skateboarding tickets each year. One of the more enjoyable aspects of my day job is writing a police blotter, and between the reams of citations written to people driving with a revoked license in the suburbs I cover and the fact I got my first skateboarding ticket at 14-years-old (albeit from the University of Minnesota Police Department), skateboard tickets would seem like a normal occurrence. Maybe not.

Based on information requested by Phil Schwartz of Minneapolis police, linked to here, between May 2006 and June 2014 police patrolling downtown Minneapolis for the First Precinct issued 67 skateboard tickets, sometimes to multiple people involved in the same incident. An imperfect way of framing that -- because of winter -- is to say MPLS police gave out .67 tickets per month over that nine year and 99 month timeframe. Sort of underwhelming.

Still, there are things to be gleaned from the spreadsheet. Schwartz said he requested the information based on curiosity about how large a shadow an officer James Bulleigh (an actual cop's name) over the mountain (or molehill) of tickets. Schwartz explained why Bulleigh was of particular concern:

"I’ve gotten about five skateboarding tickets in my life and for a majority of those, he either issued them to me, or was present. I remember my first skateboarding ticket was about a year after I started skating. I ollied over a crack outside the Uptown McDonald's while waiting for a showing of Dogtown and Z-Boys at the Uptown Theater. And he came out from his dinner break at McDonald's to ticket me.

A couple years later, at the underground garage with manny pads at 50th and France was the next ticket I got from him. Also, I got a ticket downtown from Metro Transit Police for skating on the sidewalk -- not illegal, I appealed it and it got tossed out. As they were writing the ticket officer Bulleigh happened to be nearby and must've thought 'Ooh, skateboarder getting a ticket,' and came up and egged on. Just had to be there. Seemed like he wanted to be a part of it.

Another time, I was skating on Nicollet Mall and he said something along the lines of, 'Just because your parents didn’t do a good job raising you doesn’t mean you can come and skateboard downtown.'"

Schwartz was onto something -- of those 67 tickets written over a nine year span, Bulleigh was involved with 28 of those incidents -- a solid 42 percent of them.

Bulleigh is also known amongst other skaters. Schwartz did the legwork for me and sent out a text querying other dudes who frequented downtown in the mid-to-late 2000s.

At some point, Bulleigh stopped Dana Ross and taunted him for skating with a bunch of 16-year-olds. He gave Kirian Stone a curfew ticket once while he was out skating (an educated guess says that's case number 241507 on the spreadsheet). Bulleigh was also present for one of the more memorable examples of MPD cracking down on skaters -- it's pictured above, he's at left he's the guy at right, in the thick of the action.

Kirian?

The clip is from an ├ęS tour clip circa last decade. Somewhere on Nicollet Mall, Kevin Romar, one of many of a group of skaters but singled out, is mashed into a bench as he's handcuffed. There's not much context but it obviously looks bad, and through the grapevine, Schwartz said he'd heard dudes from the trip thought the whole thing was racially motived.

The spreadsheet does list the race of those stopped/ticketed -- Schwartz said that was another data point in which he was interested. Of the 67 tickets, 13 of those were given to someone the police listed as black; three were given to people listed as "other," race-wise, and two had no data entered.

For what it's worth, that ratio of black skaters ticketed to those of other races matches Minneapolis demographics, if not exactly -- skaters listed as black make up 19.4 percent of those ticketed. Minneapolis is 18.6 percent black.

There may be no real secrets hidden in this skateboard ticket data. It would be illuminating to see it from other agencies -- U of M PD in particular -- and for a broader timeframe than 2006-2014. Schwartz has volunteered to ask for more data from the MPD, covering more years. A followup post will likely happen, but it isn't imminent: he said his initial request for information took roughly three-quarters of a year to be filled. Other highlights from the existing data:

* The youngest skater ticketed was 13 years old, the oldest was 30.

* The vast majority of tickets were issued on Nicollet Mall -- 57 of 67 -- a good 85 percent of them. What will policing be like on the remodeled mall, assuming there's something to skate?

* The year the most skateboard tickets were written was 2006, the year the data starts, with 16 citations. The numbers essentially decline from there, bottoming out with no tickets written in 2012 and a total of three between 2013/2014. Here's the breakdown:

2006: 16
2007: 6
2008: 10
2009: 15
2010: 7
2011: 9
2012: 0
2013: 1
2014: 2

* One piece of information not included in the ticket data? Sex -- seemingly everybody assumed it was all guys ticketed, myself included, until I checked.

~~~~~

Schwartz said he thinks Bulleigh retired a couple of years ago. Of note: In spring, 2015, Minneapolis Minneapolis settled an excessive force suit filed against Bulleigh for nearly $10,000. Can't remember when you were last ticketed? There's a chance the ticket will be listed on the Minnesota court records portal

January 18, 2017

Harbor scene

Recently dogged by the notion that familiarity breeds contempt, FACEBOOK! guided me to a short skate video that's been on the internet for two months, and salvation.

Mike Rapaich's Male Talent, set in that strange confluence of hills, college and industrial rot, Duluth, starts out hard with a nice Red Tube allusion and provides new spots and new skaters (yo, I know Justice Simmons, full disclosure). Highlights of the video include Duluth, super-kid Carter Nguyen and Stephen Pestalozzi, along with everyone else. It's a departure from Lake Superior harbor scene that I knew from a decade and more ago: Pocket Park, the library and Jack Boyd, et. al. Watch.

December 28, 2016

'16 Platty's


By Pat Smith, right?

A great blogger once said, all the random, few and far-between updates from throughout the year are all for naught if you don't handle your annual, end of the year post. And here we are. This blog is paid for through 2017 -- maybe even 2018.

Arbitrary local skateboard awards done in the style of the T-Eddy's. PAST YEARS: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.

Shows No Rust: Hiatus

Balancing Act: TJ Moran

Came In After Deadline: insano

Big Things: Alec Majerus

Hair Hero: Cody Davis

Heckuva Year: Lorenzo Obnamia

Jim, Turn Him Pro: Jack Olson

Banned/Reinstated: Henry Gartland

Best Night Of His Life: Dana Ross

Solo Project?: Phil Schwartz

SP: Tabari Cook

Probably a Terminator: Chad Benson

Downunda' (still): Andrew Leibman

Stay Thirsty, My Friends: Dan Jackson

Could Have Ended It There: RIP Switch Crooks Kitty

Jumping Rope: Dennis Burdick

Where's Your Blog?: Wylie Tueting

Ramp Jesus: Jay Jenson

Resurrected: Back Yard Ramp Jam, Aqua Jam

Lazarus Man: Dom Randazzo

Still Waiting: Minneapolis public skateparks

Rad Dads: Tucker Gerrick, Augie Van Art, myself

What Happened?: Local skate Twitter

Get 3 Parts in 3 Years!: Jan Jacobson

Engagement Party: Davis Torgerson

Haven't Been There Yet: Burnsville plaza

Up All Night: Dan Rusin

Mustache Rides: Corey Millett

Still Shouting: The Hesh Dot Com

South Of The River: Adam Bovee

Still Deadly: Ricky Nunn

Extended Vacay: Pat Gallaher

On Background, In The Streets: Rob Sissi

What's Next?: Local shop videos

Still Here: CJ Tambornino

The New Oak Street Cinema: Capri Theater

Endurance: The garage

Best Event: Air Bump Challenge

Can't Hardly Wait: 30+ session

Weird, Right?: Minneapolis X Games

November 30, 2016

Under the wire

Mark your calendars! Hiatus is premiering Saturday, December 17 at the Capri Theater.

A photo posted by Kevin Horn (@kevin_horn) on

It's premiere season -- Kevin Horn is breaking now ground now that basically all the old first showing venues have been knocked down or vacated with a move to the Capri Theater. When the name of the flick was revealed, way back at Day of Familia, Muldoon and I figured we were the only ones in the room who noticed the bit of Planet Earth Skateboards trivia attached to the moment. Pete Spooner's also got a solo joint on the way. We're all grown up, now.

October 30, 2016

Summer Chronicle

ThümbDrive. from PetertheJones on Vimeo.

There's a lot of local video footage flying around right now -- dig the Peter Jones flick that's essentially an LA/Downtown Minneapolis summer chronicle.