July 10, 2015

Wylie on Elijah

"Our Good Soldier, Elijah Collard"
By Wylie Tueting

I’ve seen many skateboarders in my short life. I don’t know where most of them went, since I never saw them skate again. I don’t doubt that there’s an intriguing account to wherever Tony Lanners or Peter Edge went, or, less locally, to wherever went Colt Cannon or Alex “Trainwreck” Gall. But I haven’t seen anything more of their skating – anywhere, for too long – so I don’t care much to ask. Please forgive me that. Conversely, there are skaters who I met long ago who still skate, for whom I yet sigh, softly, whenever I see where they went – their skating notwithstanding. I’m talking about Dane Vaughn, for example, whose life I can’t help viewing as partially rotten, as much as I try viewing it as superbly American. Please especially forgive me that. As childish as it sounds, I really just wish a skater would resolve to continue to skate, to change as they get older, but not stagnate.

That’s it, and trust me: it sounds “childish” as hell.

But something struck me recently, and I realized I’ve been wishing too long, because there’s been someone – in the streets and at the parks and lurking in the shadows – who’s been skating, filming, and evolving for over a decade. That someone is Elijah Collard.

This piece is about him and his wholesome complexity, so far as I’ve distilled the two. And although parts of this piece may ring like a funeral eulogy, it’ll be better to think of them as echoing like the vaults of the Basilica, in a moment of rebirth. (That’s religiously poetic.) Now let us consider things good from the testament of Elijah.

~~~

Few people ever master anything, but of those who do and skate, even fewer know when enough is enough. Andrew Reynolds has mastered the fs-flip; yet who thrilled but Ryan Gee when he fs-flipped the LOVE gap, numbed in leather? Almost no one, since he did it privately and lazily. On the other hand, sometimes a skater holds mastery over a trick for several years, and finally triumphs by doing it in a special way – right before time snatches it up forever. Such has been the case with Elijah’s nollie fs-boardslide. NFSBS at 2:19

Years later, I can still recall Elijah’s regretting how many times he did the trick in Shitheads Vol. 8 (he did about four), but what no one will ever regret is his doing the trick in Open Iris on the mega-hubba at 3rd Lair. Why so? Because he landed it only once, though it was filmed from two angles, in dim light, which felt right, since he was past his prime, yet was doing an impressive trick on a strange hubba, thus doing a strangely impressive trick, which he did perfectly. Elijah did it totally perfectly. That’s something special, especially since you rarely ever see people do nollie fs-boardslides, no less down a strange hubba. Then again, David Nelson both did the trick and down a strange hubba in DEBRI2; but I hardly register that. David’s felt just different, like he’d been having a good hair-day and had nothing else to agonize over, whereas Elijah’s felt pure, purely natural and perfect and special, which is to say: just masterful.

~~~

...Seven years later and I’m skating the U of M with Jason Katz. I finger a platform-ledge, to ask about it. And a vital revelation about Elijah appears. It began like so:

“Hey! Does anyone ever ollie onto that and manual it?”
Jason answered, “Sure. I’ve manualed it before. I skated it with Elijah last month.”
“What?! You weren’t with Elijah. No one’s seen him in years!”
“No seriously, I was. People see him. He skates, definitely skates. If he didn’t, you wouldn’t hear of any new Roll videos anymore.”
“Wellllll, I guess. But if he’s still skating, then he must be still skating like he does in the Roll videos, which I guess means he’s still in some sort of transformation that I’ve never figured out – because his skating just doesn’t look the way it used to.”
A hard silence, and then –
“He simply got older, had to start skating less. The point’s that he’s still skating.”
And there in those last two sentences, Elijah’s vital revelation appeared before me, loomed obscure for an instant, hovered neutral, then unrolled into its final, lucid form.
It spoke thus: So then . . . the changes wrought in Elijah’s skating over the years – such as his rolling less quickly, landing more loosely, lining for longer, and filming whomever doesn’t mind skating in such a manner too, relatively speaking – were never retrogressions but progressions. Since it takes great bravery and clear-headedness to recognize that with time passing, it may be impossible to be as good as you once were at the activity which you still love, but that the best way to surmount that difficulty – in order to sustain your love – is by modifying your approaches to the activity. Which Elijah did, which showed great strength and clear-headedness. O! indeed so much more strength and clear-headedness than those guys who take their talent and leisure for granted by starting, say, a new board company as primitively entitled as Fucking Awesome, or Primitive...

...Yeah, Elijah’s undoubtedly not one of those guys! And because he isn’t and wasn’t, it lead him to compose ten (that’s two digits) Roll videos, videos which revealed a great diversity of locals and styles, and an even greater diversity of spots – so, so, so, so many spots, spots that people just weren’t skating, regarding seriously, but which we skate now, or at least don’t dismiss. Because ultimate truth be told about the Roll videos: “Even though they weren’t the best presentation of metro skating, they surely were the best documentation of it,” as one Shane Brown recently told me, as the sun hung bronzy over a rough and snaky manual-pad atop a St. Paul plaza. The manual-pad had once been skated, we knew, but by Elijah only. . . .

And so the revelation rolled and rolled – more or less, maybe not exactly – but that’s because it’s still rolling, between past and present, from present to past.

The prophet’s great lesson had been deciphered in the middle hour. Gratitude was born from it, and gratitude has since reigned.

~~~

Not all things in skateboarding can be that sublime. Some things about it are tiring, if not awful, stirring up tricky feelings of hate. For example, I hate Jim Greco’s contemporary clothing (which tends to be awful) about as much as I hate each time an older skater pines for (which gets tiring) how “raw and perfect” skating in the 1990s was. And what’s tricky is that Greco is exactly the type to pine in such a way, so let’s just stop thinking about Greco. Yet let’s begin to conclude by thinking about specific clothing: Elijah’s older clothing.

To do so, we must first remember that there was once a metro clothing company called Supernatural. It had fair patrons, sponsored teammates, degrees of fanaticism, odd-fitting T-shirts, a tour or two, and one mild-mannered owner who could yet seem fierce or Italian. Skaters wore the clothing because its handsome designs felt soft and localizing, but not all of them wore the clothing as well as others, since a certain skater wore the clothing best. That skater – you knew it – was Elijah.

From his red Supernatural hat turned back, to his grey Supernatural zip-up hoody of the navy-platinum lettering, to his Supernatural jeans of mysterious blue hue with the leaf above the right pocket – Elijah had the smoothest look. Or rather he had the smoothest Supernatural clothing, which he’d finessed how to wear – baggily, but not too baggily – given the particularities of the early 2000s, and of his stocky build. Yep, Elijah sure had the look. Splendidly, he also had black iPath moccasins, shoes in which only he ever seemed assured. That I know because he’d catch loose nollie heelflips in them, whereas when Brian Godfrey tried to do the same thing in the Open Iris friends section, he barely got the board off the ground. (Brian Godfrey was never nice to me anyways, so let’s just stop thinking about him.) Instead, let’s almost conclude by thinking about time: how even a local skater’s former dress, gets better and better with it.

~~~

Elijah Collard isn’t literally dead, not now or anytime soon, hopefully. So why would Wylie write these things about Elijah, if Wylie isn’t extraordinarily gay? Because as much as I dislike nostalgia and calls for respecting heritage, I’ve changed with time too, and I now refuse to dislike the older local skaters who came before me and who are still before me. In other words, I can’t help appreciating them, particularly for the wholesome contributions they continue to make by still skating, changing, and not being that self-conscious about either.

Don’t get me wrong: it can no less be hard to sense the nature of such appreciation when, say, I show up to the Familia HQ at 9 a.m. to find Chad Benson there, individualized and impossibly frustrated by the recent additions to the Chocolate Team, an issue which I guess he then works out for himself by doing a nollie heelflip to fs-lipslide to fs-tailslide pretty fast, twelve tense minutes later. Or when I see modern Elijah at the HQ on consecutive winter Wednesday evenings, looking more like Eazy E than I-don’t-know-when, with that hat and the rubber bands around pant-cuffs as he does an unmatched switch nose-manual across the entire long-box, mere seconds after telling me, “At this point, I think Minneapolis sucks for skating.”

Or further still, when I observe Rob Sissi on the HQ pyramid as he does some sort of unflinching and pivoting fs-360, a trick which earns him fair applause from onlookers, yet a trick that he and I need not talk about as we take turns criticizing The Berrics some thirty minutes later in the shop, while he inserts the new Bronze DVD which we both let transfix us instead.

There’s something more to those moments than meets first impression. There’s something appreciatively mature in them, enduring and happy. For it’s those guys who’ve really done something with their time lived in the metro – amid the metro’s queasy smiles, pretty women, unsophisticated professionals, clean downtown streets, inspiring Somalis, pathetic male sports, quite clueless manners, disciplined Hmong, etc., etc., etc. This is not to deny how elevating it can be gassing on Corey Millet in the present tense, on Corey’s propulsive Midwestern drive; but Corey is young, and too much lifestyle indifference and he could wind up as just another passing Dane Vaughn, not a dignified Emeric Pratt.

Speaking of Corey, though, I spoke to him several months ago – we’re going to end on this.
I spoke to him about a specific spot he’d filmed on.
He told me he was pleased to have filmed a trick there, since he was the first guy to have ever done a trick at the spot.
I told him I was pleased for him too, and for his Malcolm-X-handsome looks; but that he wasn’t the first guy to have filmed there, since Elijah Collard filmed there way before that.
Which made Corey pause for a decent moment, and then tell me that he hardly knew anything about Elijah Collard, or about any of those older guys, for that matter.
Well, I thought to myself, I just may have to do something about that.

10 comments:

Mighty Roll said...

Thanks Wylie!
This state is filled with skate history. Not all of it reaches the knowledge of the masses but one of my favorite things when I was younger was asking the older guys about who the best in their eyes was from Minnesota, and it was always someone Id never seen skate. Skating is a young mans sport if current industry trends continue (longer, higher, more tech, etc) and it can be hard to remain at a top level when life catches up to you and you have to pay the bills. Skateboarding was never meant to be this big thing...at the end of the day just being able to ride down the street do some ollies, what more do you need? Skateboarding is not a sport as much as the people cashing in on it (mountain dew, red bull, street league, tws, etc) would love for it to be one. Thanks again for the nice article, means alot having something i worked hard on properly appreciated as I intended it to be. Big ups Wylie! And Mike too for keeing the Plat going all these years. Where do I donate? - Elijah

Wylie Tueting said...

Dear, Elijah,
It was my pleasure and duty. There are certain local skaters whose efforts become unforgettable with time, at least to me.
I welcome skating in its awkward entirety, but I know the dignity rests in the skaters that've had to grow up, no matter how much that tones down their skating.
You make a prime example. Neil Erickson makes a realistic example, given how funnily he skates now. And Chad Benson makes an impossible example, since he keeps turning out to be better, healthier, and more energetic and argumentative than before, i.e., he's got mega-dignity, and deserves an essay too.

Mighty Roll said...

Much appreciated. Certain names that come to mind for me are Dan Jackson (Just watch all his parts and you will see how he put so much into each one...not a bad part ever, hard tricks and good poppy style), Ryan Hanson (one particular session comes to mind from way back just cruising dt with him...the guys pop/skill and overall persona cracks me up), Seth McCallum (dont give me credit for finding spots without mentioning him...we used to call em Seth spots meaning they were hard to skate and alot of people would skip right over them, plus his additude was always beyond positive). Those are the names that I would say locally had the biggest influence on me. If I left you out dont feel bad...hard to pick 4 people when youve skated with probably 400. There Is something purely genuine about these 3 to me though for sure. -Elijah

Wylie Tueting said...

Yeah, at least speaking for Dan Jackson - since I nearly never witnessed, first-hand, Mr. Hanson or Mr. McCallum skating street - he's part of the select several as well.
And the best part is, I can prove it as easily as pointing to his Weekend Warrior's part, since "he did just about every respectable trick in that part," as I once said to Dan Rusin. Mr. Rusin nodded.

sprntrl said...

Well written Wylie. Lol at the Brian Godfrey diss.

Wylie Tueting said...

Thanks so much, Mr. Sissi (I think that's who you are).
Yeah, I don't know how many skaters still remember Brian Godfrey, but I do. He was the type who'd make you feel weak if you weren't goofy-footed and versed in bs-tailslides on marble ledges.
I'd been meaning to bully-rag him for years, as well as Jamiel for telling me to "go back to the kitty-room" at the old 3rd Lair.
Jamiel turned kind, however, after his Open Iris part, after he couldn't deny that his style looked stiff and noodly. I was always proud of him since then, and especially now.

Tom Rohrer said...

Wylie! It's Tom R. dude it's been a looong minute. Just checking up on The Plat again haha. Not sure if you'll read this by now but I actually just wanted to get Dane's back on here. I skate with Dane out here in LA and I am not kidding, no joke, Dane is the most motivated, talented, and constant skater that I know today. He skates more than anyone I know out here!!! Every single day and watching him skate is something everyone should experience. Yeah he may be getting flashy with the posse but dude Dane is as real as it gets and is honestly one of the most fun people ever to skate with. He wouldn't care if he was getting hated on because he is having too much fun doing what he loves. I just wanna argue that statement bc I always point out how motivated and over-the-line talented Dane is. Just know that he is probably out there right now getting at it. And probably because he's had an optimistic attitude the whole way. I love you Wylie, I haven't seen you in yeeears, and I hope you're still holding it down in MPLS. Just know that there's a lot more going on behind the covers... Dane is the man and he would think the same of you if you saw him again

Wylie T. said...

Dear, Tom,
First, thank you for all that you said; I appreciate every part of it. It gratifies me anytime any local -- whether formerly ambitious or presently ambitious -- comments on here, though the site remains Mike's. So please keep commenting, and dare Davis to comment too - Davis, that young man of increasingly shadowy relation to us in the metro. (Personally, so often I've wished that Davis would spend more time with me than Mike Mo, but that's a wish.)
And second, getting back to Dane Vaughn, I mainly said what I did because after examining Dane's Instagram one day, I felt rather woozy and confused, like I'd been a part of something unclean. Which wasn't a big deal, though it made me realize that if I'm going to publically question any local's behavior someday, then it's going to be Dane. But if we're going to speak broadly about Dane, let's agree: Dane is a from-the-ground-up American legend, and his skating in the DGK video was so ambitious and so forceful. And if Dane is continuing to skate so ambitiously, so forcefully, and (as you clarified) so diligently, then I have firm respect for him. I don't know that Dane could've become who he did in any other country but America, so to hear that he's not squandering his special talent: that's about as good as it gets. Once again, thanks for commenting. Sincerely,

Tom R said...

Wylie,
Of course dude thank you for sharing too. I just read it and had to back up the side of Dane that I always see. On the outside you would think much differently of him and I also can't relate to the DGK/clean and more materialistic lifestyle myself, but maybe it's something that he never got growing up or anywhere near. Either way, Dane is honestly theee man. Not judgmental at all and such a great human being to go skate with and be around. I just had to back him up because he really does have some amazing qualities and doesn't let his ego get in the way. I've reconnected with him a lot out here after not seeing him for some years and I'm always so hyped to get out and skate with him and the homies. He's definitely going to blow some minds in the very near future. He's got a lot of love and a lot of good energy. And yes I miss Davis too. I need to hit him up one of these upcoming days. He's been on quite the route. Seems like he's in a good place though. He still hangs with a lot of old friends out here and makes that time for it. Dude WE gotta reconnect again! I'm coming to MN on the 13th. Only in the cities for a few days but maybe we can get a sesh in?! Facebook... I'll message you

Wylie T. said...

Tom, I agree with about everything that you said, once again. And believe it or not, I actually think the DGK Team is fairly polished - in their diligence, camaraderie, and progressive lines.
It may be too bad that Keelan Dadd departed them, but when he departed DGK by Tweeting "I dont fuck wit U," I rather got the sense that he may not be a serious guy . . . except towards his Asian girlfriend, who is a most awkward topic as well.
Dane Vaughn carries a much better American story!