It matters who you are. I’m not referring to nepotism. I’m certainly not writing about drinking the cool-guy Kool Aid and all the nonsense that goes with that. I’m thinking that it matters the sort of person you are on the inside. I certainly am not the man my father is. Stoic. Sober. Self-sacrificing. I’ve become a bit of those things but it took awhile. Fifteen years ago, I took a skateboard tour on the road and completely let everyone down. My drug and alcohol use sent me to the emergency room. An agonizing flight back to California was accompanied by shame, guilt and self-loathing. There was money missing… I asked myself, “How did you spend five thousand dollars in less than two hours?” Blackout. The answer is somewhere out there. Theft? Drunk decisions? Unknown. The point is this: It matters who you are. Especially in the greater scheme of things. Once I became sober, I had to go back and try to make amends. I made a shameful, grave mistake. It may not matter to others, but it does to me. That story is still bandied about with plenty of laughter directed my way. It’s cool. I certainly deserve it. Like I said, I’m not the man my father is.
This entire thread of thinking was brought on by a pool that Kent Senatore found last summer. Kent is one of the original pool destroyers from the Los Angeles area back when it all started. He was there as it was invented because he was one of the pioneers. He’d constantly look for pools. He found them everywhere. Kent was one of the first skaters to go over love seats and grind over death boxes. There are no versions of the truth. The truth is simply the truth. He was there. Kent was always given carte blanche by the Dog Town skaters. Tony Alva said it himself, “Kent was one of the only outsiders allowed at the Dogbowl because he surfed. That got him a pass with us…” Kent Senatore has lived on the North Shore in Hawaii for many years. Whenever he comes to Los Angeles, he quickly finds himself looping through the hillsides and the San Fernando Valley looking for pools. Old habits die hard. The blood quickens as blue tiles are spotted through a privacy fence. He knows. He’s been doing this longer than most.
Last summer, Kent was driving the twisted streets of the Hollywood Hills and parked his car. He checked out a pool he had seen on satellite. It wasn’t worth the effort. Walking back down the hill towards his car, he looked over the side of the road to peer down into the yards below. Vantage point. Always take the high ground. He saw a flash of blue. Continuing on, he soon found himself in front of a well-maintained house set against the hill. The gate was open. He couldn’t believe it. He could see an empty shallow end! He called out. No answer. Gardeners were working. He stepped in. Empty kidney pool. “Sometimes, you just get lucky.”
No one was around, so Kent took a photograph and told me about the pool later that evening. I went and spoke with the owners. She told me that she was an attorney. My heart dropped. Litigation. Injury. Blah, blah… Surprisingly, she made coffee and told me that John F. Kennedy Jr. was once an intern at her law firm. She would have parties and John and the rest of the revelers, would jump off the house roof into the pool. It sounded pretty fantastic. After a bit, she agreed to let us skate the pool. There were black ceramic fish on the right side wall of the pool that were in the line. They were definitely a problem. She asked, “Can you take them off?” I called Lance Mountain and we all decided to work on the pool the next morning.
I thought about John F. Kennedy Jr. that evening. I was driving cross country in 1999 when I heard that he had flown his plane into the Atlantic Ocean. Instant loss. Not only did he lose his life, but his wife and sister-in-law’s as well. Here was a man that embodied the concepts that I’d written about at the start of this tale. Who you are. His father was President of our country. Nepotism could certainly apply. I would think that it must have been very difficult to live in such a shadow as his father cast. Yet, John John — as the press called him — was his own man. He became an attorney, started and ran George Magazine and the man that he became was unique and inspiring. A man with class and intelligence. A man with his own opinions… he wasn’t simply a parrot repeating his father’s words. I read interviews with him. He was thoughtful and kept an eye on the common man.
The pool was aptly named ‘John John’ and Kent, Lance and I met up for some pool improvements. The homeowner made us coffee and her children came out to talk with us. They were college students and knew all about skateboarding. They weren’t surprised that she was letting us ride. “Mom is the coolest!” We couldn’t argue with that. We chiseled the black porcelain fish off the pool and smoothly patched over the spots. In no time, we were cruising about the old Blue Haven kidney. The owner and the kids were stoked as Lance pulled frontside airs and Kent and I pulled grinds. The shallow was small and difficult but we wanted to do John John some justice. It matters who you are. We skated the pool periodically over the fall and winter. Kent shared the love, I did what I do and Lance lent his expertise. We gave the family shoes and gifts. Gratitude.
I took friends. Tony Alva, Andy Neal, John Zask, Bulldog, Lorrie Palmos, MRZ, Brandon Wong, Cam Dowse, Robbie, Chuck Hults, Arto Saari and Kevin Burke. We’ve all sat on the shallow stairs and marveled at the scene and the session. Although the pool was pinched in the shallow, everyone quickly got into it. Happiness. Stoke.
Human beings are a unique blend of good and sometimes bad. Conflict exists inside of us. We find things that help us escape. They often bring us to our knees. Becoming an individual, remaining unique and confronting our weaknesses and errors is of paramount importance. I think that it matters who we are.
Thank you to the owners and huge thanks to Kent Senatore for the pool. Thank you to Lorrie Palmos, MRZ and the Associated Press for images. Thank you to the readers of Blue Tile Obsession. I do what I do… for you. – Ozzie
The fairweather friend. The user. We all have or know of at least one in life. The person who phones when they know you’re having a party. Selfish sponge. The person that needs something… They want what you have and although they rarely feel anything for anyone, they certainly feel you out for a space between your ribs so they can stick the knife in. Tony Alva called them “parasitic people”. Perfect. I had a recent weekend start with such a thing. It’s okay. I know what they are now all about and have banished these people from my life. Their inferiority complex is fully justified. I try and keep only quality friends. These are the friends that know me well and love me anyway. My past is not so laudable. I’ve been a fecal pile in two shoes and I try everyday to do well. It is good to have a few real friends. I phoned up some of these people recently and set up a pool day. Low key. The weather was perfect. We met up at the appointed hour and Brandon Wong and I looked into a few early morning possibles.
The house sat at a twisting bend in a gritty neighborhood. Huge trees sagged over the run down home. Dawn was only a few short hours behind us. Quiet. Sunday. Sleep. I pulled myself over a wall and looked the pool over. The pool had a lid on it. The plastic had long ago gave way and hung in tatters. I peered down underneath. The transitions were strange. Sloping walls led down to a radius at the pools bottom and I ran an experienced eye over the whole thing. I checked for water, power and squatters. Soon I was in the truck again. The entire recon had taken just under three minutes. I pulled the truck around the corner, punched in the satellite and scanned the rest of the neighborhood. We drove to meet up with the rest of our pals. We were skating with Kevin Burke, Shawn, Gopa and Scott Ward. It would be a fun day. Enroute, Brandon told me about a possible pool nearby in a really seedy area. We agreed to look into it.
We consolidated cars and drove to the first pool. A neighbor came out in his yard and spoke briefly with us. He was young. Tattoos covered his arms and neck. He had hard dark eyes. I approached him and asked about the house. He was surprised when I told him we were planning on skating in the pool behind the house. I asked if that were okay with him. “Yeah, that was once our house. I used to swim in it.” He said they lost the house and he looked away. I asked if we were cool to check it out. “This neighborhood is run by my uncle so you guys are good.” I nodded and we slipped behind the house in short order.
The pool was a funnel. A pit. The walls were flat, sloping and steep. It was a pool nonetheless and we were happy to be in a struggle with her… Decaying. Old and broken. She wouldn’t always win. We abandoned her after a short time. Visiting an old favorite, we then checked a few more, knocked on doors and every time I looked around, I saw happy friends. The fairweather friends had been abandoned and discarded until only the good ones remained. Thank you to Scott Ward for the images and thank you to my good friends. Skate- Ozzie
The winter is in full grip here on the East Coast but the desire to ride transition is stronger than the cold weather. While on the left coast for The El Gato Classic, it seemed to me that there is a sweet skate spot around every corner. Back home on the right coast, opportunities to skate are fewer and far between – especially for a fifty year old with two active kids and a business to run.
When it was listed I would be attending The El Gato Classic, Brian Finn reached out to me to see if I wanted to skate. He built a huge vertramp in his warehouse. I gladly accepted his offer and made several trips to his house to get back into skating again after a long hiatus from skating vert. For me, everything seemed new again since my skating sessions were few and far between over the past twenty years. Brian’s ramp is big and gnar. Over two feet of vert is not the way to ease your way back into the challenges of skating. The sessions were fun – just me Brian and Anthony Anastasio. There was no pressure, just three friends enjoying that feeling of weightlessness on vert. At first we were all a bit rusty, but soon we were all getting back in to the swing.
After three or four sessions at Finns ramp, Anthony mentioned that friends were building a pool in a warehouse. He showed me and Brian a picture of this virgin pool that was still curing. From the picture, I knew I wanted to ride it. This pool is reminiscent of the pools that spoiled me during my days as a full-fledged Bones Brigade airman. It’s also the reason I faded from skating for so many years! No concrete. No curves to carve for decades faded my desire to challenge Isaac Newton’s laws of gravity for many years!
It’s Eddie Elguera that reconnected me with this lost love. The invitation I received from Eddie to go to his reunion of my Gold Cup Series competitors sparked a flame. I asked Anthony if we could go up upon my return from the El Gato Classic. I was fresh home from California with some great pools and loads of old friends to stoke me. I made the effort to get a group to skate this fresh new pool. I contacted Anthony, Brian, Tom Boyle, & Charles Treece. All were hopeful to skate, but in the end it was just me and Brian that were able to commit. With Anthony unable to skate, Patrick Guidutti reached out to us since he has access to the key. The last time I skated with Patrick Guidotti was also the first time – almost two years ago at Falls Township public skatepark in Bucks County, PA. Patrick’s style and bag of tricks was bewildering to me, especially since we were riding a mini ramp that he rips like it’s a vert ramp. I was stoked for the chance to see him ride this new pool and grateful that he invited us to go along.
It was February 12th and winter was still torturing the Right Coast! Brian and I met on the PA Turnpike to start our journey for a two hour drive to this fresh secret pool. The ride with Brian passed quickly as we drove through some heavy snow squalls and spoke of my recent sojourn out West. We spoke of many we knew from our past like Tom Groholski and how he blazed on at skating long after I took a hiatus from skating. We spoke of Sean Miller and how the rest of the world was discovering his talents just prior to his tragic death. Brian Spoke of Tom Boyle and how he lives so close to him yet rarely skates! I told Brian that I knew we’d get to skate with Tom soon. Just a few winter sessions with good friends is all it took for me to realize why I still skate. At fifty years of age, looking back, I realize the talents I mastered as a teenager have withered a bit, but I can still do it and do it cautiously! In 1980, no one thought that some of us would still skate, but if you can do it why lose it!
As we got to the supposed location of this warehouse we called our host Patrick and there was no answer from his phone. We knew we were in the right area but we were just not sure which door was the right one. The door that held secrets from the throngs of other skaters that wanted to skate a pool. We came this far and were not going to turn around just yet. Finally a man opened one of the many warehouse doors in this alley where we stood freezing. I asked him if he may know of a secret pool in one of these warehouses. He quickly replied that it was just three doors down from this one.
I banged hard on the door for several minutes. Finally a man with a full beard answered my knocking.. He asked who I was since my board was still back at the car. I told him I was a friend of Patrick Guidotti and anxious to skate.. He introduced himself as Rob and was the key master as well as the pool’s originator. I entered the warehouse and was awed by its existence. Before me a left hand kidney sits in the front of the warehouse and a nice standard mini ramp lies in the rear. It was twenty five hundred feet of pure joy hidden in this unassuming warehouse . It was close to 9:30 when we got there and a session was already in full swing. The only one I knew skating was Patrick, but he was not the only one utilizing the bowl to its full potential.
Brian and I quickly got our gear on and went straight to the pool. Each concrete pool is unique and hence its attraction! I was under the assumption that most of the fellow skaters were locals to this privy pool. Turns out Bill Pribble and his friend Ray Conklin were from the Washington DC. Area and drove five hours for the lore of new carvable concrete. A guy named Chris — I didn’t get his last name — was another rider that night and he possessed a smooth, clean style that got my attention. Corey Rubin was also a new friend that rounded out this private session.
All in the warehouse felt a warmth and closeness even those not skating. A good skate session is like a good party. We all made new friends, shared smiles, and felt the buzz of the energy that our bodies and wheels had made. This is often the case with a good pool session. People that don’t even know one another seem to feel a closeness just from their abilities as fellow skaters. Here at this session I only knew Patrick and Brian yet we all shared in the energy of the moment. We admired the lines and styles that are inherent to each skater.
After two hours of skating we all felt a bit younger in our heads from the energy we created indoors. At close to midnight on a week night with kids and wives waiting for us, it was time for Brian and I to wrap up our session. We said our thanks and good-byes and were all pleased with the course that our night had taken.
As we opened the warehouse door to the biting chill of the windy twelve degree night a smile came to my face knowing that the desire to skate can overcome anything – even the cold grip of winter! I anxiously await the next opportunity to skate this spot again knowing it will be there for another session. I am hopeful to share with both new found friends and those I have yet to meet!
Thank you to Jami Godfrey for the words and John Falls for the images. Skate- Ozzie
One day, Tony Alva and I were driving in Orange County. We were going someplace I no longer remember, but it was probably skateboard related. We were sitting at a red light on Brookhurst and he calmly points to his right and states, “That’s where the Fruit Bowl was.” I was quickly rendered inept as I followed his gaze. No longer watching the lights and traffic, I peered around as he pointed to some condos in the nearby distance. TA continued, ” My dad once lived over in those condos. They were built on the site of the Fruit Bowl…”. A car horn brought me back from his reverie and I stabbed the gas pedal to get through the green light that had changed. Traffic was moving.
I asked TA how the pool received its name, Fruit Bowl. “It was at a rundown mental hospital”, he grinned. Recently, I spoke with David Hackett about his first time visiting the pool and he told me that he caught a ride there, as he was too young to drive. He was really stoned that visit, but remembered that there were at least fifty people there. ” It was a heavy scene. Waldo Autry was king there. He ruled the place. He did ‘forever figure -eight′ carves and frontside and backside carves over the stairs that were on both sides of the pool.” David Hackett said that TA and Jay came to the Fruit Bowl. Both rode really well, pulling edgers and Jay tried hand plants on the wooden tombstone extension.
“If you didn’t have pool skills and couldn’t rip, you sat in the shallow end. You watched. It was a gnarly scene there.” David told me to talk with Steve Olson as he had ridden there early on. I phoned Steve Olson and he added a bit of history as well. “I was one of the first people to drain the Fruit Bowl. Guys that I knew, rode their bikes in it. One guy named Willy and some others. It was insane! The pool was not a bust and lasted like six months until it became a party spot and the police finally shut it down.”
August 1977. The city baked under the angry glare of the sun. Smog. Pollution. A yellow haze hung in the air like a bad reminder: “Don’t breathe too deeply.” Cars jostled for position on the freeways and the streets were crowded as always. Concrete. Humanity. A frantic-paced world of chrome, glass and sweat. Jerry Valdez and Kent Senatore cut down an offramp from the 110 freeway. They slipped the car into traffic and moved into the sun driving up Exposition Boulevard. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum squatted on the left side of them like a giant statue to the gods. Its sprawling parking lots were empty and the team pennants and banners hung lifeless in the hot summer air. Jerry lit another joint and inhaled deeply. Ted Nugent wailed away on the stereo as he handed the smoking weed to Kent. They were headed to the Coliseum Bowl. The neighborhood had changed in the ensuing years since the city had built the Coliseum. Poverty reigned now. Houses sat vacant. Liquor stores flourished and drug dealers peddled their vice to an ever-hungry population. Escape. Despair. They both knew that there were awesome pools to be found in the ghetto’s of Los Angeles. They drove around and found them. They kept it positive and real.
Kent laughed as Jerry made faces and yelled out of the car at a few teenage girls walking nearby. They pulled up to the pool. Kent helped get the brooms and buckets out of the car. The house sat boarded up. Life had left this place a long time ago. Jerry and Kent pulled old furniture and a bathroom sink out of the deep end. It was a beautiful square pool and the mid wall transitions looked perfect. A few local kids cruised by and watched. Once Jerry and Kent started riding, the local kids grew excited. This is what skateboarding is all about! Jerry pulled frontside grinds as a few local thugs came to the pool. They tried to intimidate but Jerry wasn’t having it. They kept riding and the drug slingers left them to their pool. This one lasted for a short while only to be replaced by others. Shelf life then no life. Bulldozers reduced the property to rubble. This image and Jerry’s memories are most of what remains. It seems that it is all we’ll ever need. Thank you to Jerry Valdez for the memories and Bill Sharp for the image. Skate- Ozzie
George Powell and Stacy Peralta have always supported my deal. At Woodward Skate Camp, Mission Valley Skate Park and up to the present day, they have been there for me. George has been making great skateboard products for a very long time. I rode my first set of white Bones in 1978. I ride Bones still. He’s motivated to engineer and deliver the best skateboarding products that he can. Check out this documentary that Stacy put together. – Ozzie