February 26, 2009

Kill Fee: Peter Ramondatta Connected

Photo jacked from C1rca

The following is a piece that I did for The Mag just about two years ago; at the time it was one of the longest things I'd done, prose style, with someone I'd never really met. It was an interesting process for sure, though, it sat in limbo forever for want of a photo to go along with it. Eventually, it befell the same fate of the previously posted Keegan Sauder interview, and never got published. Therefore, here it is, the Peter Ramondetta Connected that never happened. Totally.

My girlfriend thinks it’s ridiculous that I try to avoid, at all costs, conversations with people that I went to high school with. Of course, I still have a group of skate friends that I hang out with regularly who toiled away with me for those four long years. However, by and large, unless someone was a part of an ever smaller and smaller circle of friends and acquaintances that originate in my secondary education years, I will stop at nothing to not be noticed by them, avoiding any and all contact.

I think everyone can relate at some level to this anti-social behavior of mine. Coming up skateboarding through high school in the late-90s wasn’t exactly the best plan of action. It’s been said a thousand times over and will be repeated for eternity; skateboarding wasn’t always as cool as it is nowadays. What that means is that there was plenty of people who gave me shit back then, and now, having years to have gotten over any grievances of the past, I still don’t need to socialize with them. These folks, lo and behold, aren’t really the problem. We weren’t friends before, and we won’t be now, so the awkward “what have you been up to” conversation isn’t a factor. My problem is with the people who would find it rude if I gave them the cold shoulder. They range from guys that skated for a couple of months, chicks you had a couple of classes with, and probably the worst out of the lot, the kid who hated you for the better part of three and a half years of high school, who then had a change of heart, and now, years on, has a much rosier recollection of events than is actually true.

I realized shortly after graduation that I was way better off avoiding face to face contact with another Hopkins High School graduate. I ran into a girl while skating on the University of Minnesota campus, who was half of a pair of twins. I never could tell her and her sister apart, and now she was confronting me, alone. After a five minute conversation of completely un-interesting catch up boredom, I was snapped out of my passive nods and “uh huhs”, after she came to a very accurate realization. “You don’t know who I am, do you,” she shot point blank. Tactlessly, I lied to her face and told her, “Of course I do. Well, see ya,” I said, as I skated off to safety. That incident made me acutely aware of how important it was to never again be caught off guard.

Since, I’ve refined and honed my skills. One of my most recent successes occurred while sitting in a bar quite conspicuously, avoiding an ex-girlfriend of a high school friend. Having passed her multiple times on the way to the bathroom, I was rewarded for my hard work when I overheard her telling friends, “That guy looks just like Mike Munzenrider.” My companions for the evening couldn’t understand why I was so ecstatic over this, but it was perfectly clear; I had become something of a social ninja, with the ability to blend into the surroundings of any social situation, even when in plain view.

When it came to asking Peter Ramondetta about his run-ins with former high school classmates, I was sure that he’d share in my neurosis a little bit. Peter is 24 years old, which means that he and I would have graduated about a year apart, and both of us are from the Midwest, from cities of similar size. With all of this supposedly going for me, the line of questioning ended being a total non-starter. “I don’t really run into anyone, I didn’t really have any friends from high school anyways,” he replied to me, with little pause for thought. He went on, “Even if I did run into them, I wouldn’t know them.”

Right off the bat, I found his bluntly honest admission somewhat amusing, though, upon further thought, it made perfect sense. Shortly after graduation from high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Peter was put full on Real Skateboards, and shortly after that, he made the move to San Francisco, where he has lived for the past five or six years. It seems logical that Peter, ripping so hard just out of school, wasn’t as concerned with getting to know his fellow students as he was with getting out and skating every possible moment.

So what of Peter Ramondetta’s time in Tulsa, and his wider upbringing in Oklahoma? “I was born in Wichita, Kansas, and when I was one we moved to this little town in Oklahoma called Guthrie.” Guthrie is a town of about 10,000 people, half an hour out of Oklahoma City. “I started skating in Guthrie,” Peter told me. When he was ten, Peter and his family moved to Tulsa, the second largest city in the state, behind Oklahoma City. To put things into perspective, Peter explained, “I think, area wise, {Tulsa} is bigger than San Francisco.” In fact, having asked Wikipedia, I found that Tulsa is in indeed much larger than The City, almost four times larger, based upon area in square miles. “It’s pretty much like coming up anywhere else,” he said, “There’s spots everywhere, there was a lot of skaters in town, and I had plenty of people to skate with.” The stereotypical letter to the editor about mid-western skateboarding life didn’t apply to Peter, except on maybe one level, which is often not addressed. “The only thing, just being in the middle of the county, I guess it’s a lot harder to get noticed than living out in California.”

One of the things always on the mind of skateboarders from warm climates is the strange and enigmatic thing called winter, and Tulsa felt its affects. “It didn’t snow too much; there would be two or three bad snows in the winter, but it would only stay around for a week, week and a half, and then it would dry up and be good,” Peter said. However, snow isn’t winter’s only inconvenience. “It used to get cold, really cold. We used to put on thermals, wear like three sweaters, jackets and stuff, and go out and skate, trying to stay warm.” At the time, Tulsa had no real indoor skating options. “Occasionally we’d go to Joplin, Missouri, they had an indoor park down there. That was the closest park to Tulsa, and that was like an hour and a half drive.”

Even with the inconvenience of winter, Peter is quick to say, “There’s a pretty big scene out {in Tulsa}.” When asked about what shops were around, Peter said, “For the majority of the time, it was just two shops, one called The Market, in the mall, which was kind of like a skate shop slash head shop. There was another one, a bike store slash skate store, and that was it.” Later during Peter’s Tulsa days, a couple of his friends, Rob McNair and Scott Bennett, opened a “core shop” (as Peter put it), called The Board Shop.

In a way, Scott backed up my earlier hypothesis about Peter, and had this to say, “Pete was always that kid that kind of kept to himself; kind of quiet. He came onto the scene out of nowhere.” Scott also explained how Peter, who was hooked up so quickly after being noticed by the larger skateboard world, first came onto the Tulsa radar. “When we first saw him, it was like, ‘Who is that kid,’ you know what I mean?” Scott continued, “He kind of caught us off guard with his clean style. So that would be the best thing to describe Peter, clean style, good attitude. And camouflage shorts, I think he was always in camouflage shorts.”

I’m always interested in how successful skateboarders from the Midwest started on the so-called “road to glory”, and of course, I asked Peter how it went down. “I started going down to Houston {Texas}, because I met this filmer guy Eric, everyone called him Big O”. Peter explained further, “Big O had a small company out of Texas called Instrumental, and I started getting boards from them. I was down in {Houston}, and I skated some rail that I guess the Real team went to, or Mic-E {Reyes} went to. He thought it was pretty hard to skate, and none of the guys wanted to skate it. This photographer shot a photo of me skating it and sent it Mic-E to say, ‘Oh yeah, people skate this rail, people skate these spots.” Evidently, Mic-E, Deluxe team manager, must have been impressed. “Mic-E just gave me a call, at home, maybe like a couple of months after that. He started sending me boards, I went to Tampa Am and met him there. After that, he took me on a tour, and after the tour he put me on.”

Peter is one of not even a handful of pros to come out of Oklahoma. Between Peter, Rob McNair and I, we could come up with two others: Don Nguyen, and Peter’s Real teammate and fellow Tulsanite, Ernie Torres. Before moving out West, Peter hadn’t even met The Nuge. “Don Nguyen, he came out of Oklahoma City, but I never met him. The first time I met him was out {in California}, I never met him or saw him when I was in Oklahoma.” Peter thought of one other skater who could be noteworthy. “There was this guy that used to live in Tulsa, Troy Eckles. A long time ago when he was like 12, he used to ride for Human.” Nowadays, it seems like there’s hope for more professional skateboarders to come out of Oklahoma. As Peter said, “Last time I was out there, it was like a whole new generation of skaters.”

Peter still makes it out to Tulsa, though not too often. Most of his family has moved back to Kansas, though his brother still lives in Guthrie. “I usually get out there around Thanksgiving, like once a year, unless a tour randomly goes through there.” He still has some friends in Tulsa, along with the guys at The Board Shop. “I still know a few people, that when I go, it’s cool to see them, and go skate with them. One of my good friends, Dane Hale, he still lives there, he was one of the few guys I used to hang out with everyday.” Even if Peter’s ties to Tulsa have loosened over the years, and he is in no way planning on going to his ten-year high school reunion, no love is lost on him. “I want to get {an Oklahoma tattoo} pretty soon, I’m trying to think of a cool one to get. I was just recently thinking that it would be cool to get something that represents Oklahoma, where I’m from. I’ll always represent Oklahoma.”


Anonymous said...

Great story. It sucks that they couldn't get Pete in for a shoot.

Anonymous said...

That was just beautiful