Tony Alva was an inspiration to me when I was a young outcast in central Pennsylvania. I would obtain a copy of Skateboard World magazine and read EVERY single letter, cover- to- cover. The magazine was my bible and skateboarding my religion. I would be forced to go to church every Sunday morning and night. The bible of the church had interesting stories. I liked that people lived to be nine hundred years old, had tons of wives, water was turned into wine, prostitutes and lepers flourished and people fought during massive bloody wars. There were even sacrifices and fires… I love fire! All-in-all, the bible was killer reading when you are forced to be there on a Sunday.
I would sit there on the mahogany wooden pews, thumbing the cabbage-colored pages of the bible. I would stare at the stained glass windows and think of skating. At Woodward, I heard a kid say, “I would rather be riding bike in the woods, looking at the beauty of nature that God created, than sitting in church thinking about my bicycle.” It was that way for me. We shared the same sentiment. I liked church. I loved the pageantry and hated its punishment. Sitting there, watching the candles cast wavering shadows on the walls, I wondered–even then–if God actually hated us. Like it dawned on him–one day–what a colossal mistake he made in creating us. Rage, war, inadequacies, pure destructiveness. Maybe he would have enough and send in the Calvary. Then angels would come, carrying savage weapons. Angels- One, Humanity- Zero. God hates us? I thought he must have.
I mean, Jesus sounded pretty rad to me. You have to like a guy that teaches and feeds people. You have to love a guy that goes into a room full of money-lenders and starts breaking things up with a stick or a whip…. I have often thought of going into Bank of America myself and laying into a few people with a stick! I understand. Human beings are greedy, cruel and self-absorbed. I try not to be those things, but I am sure I have hit the mark from time to time.
Regardless, I would pull out my well-thumbed copy of Skateboard World and stare at images of Tony Alva and others. I would place the magazine inside an opened copy of the bible and peer urgently at the world I wanted to be a part of…. a world so foreign to my surroundings. Pennsylvania. California. The math doesn’t even add up! I taped photographs of Tony Alva, Wally Inouye and Jerry Valdez on my wall. I constantly reminded myself what I loved. Skateboarding. It was just it and me. There was no bullying. My skateboard never struck me in anger. My skateboard never mocked or ridiculed. It was ALWAYS there. It provided an endless escape from the dusty country life that ran away in every direction I looked. The roads were buckled and cracked asphalt. The streets and people were old and they followed even older ideals. I could cruise my ramp and pretend. In my mind, I was with Tony Alva and Wally Inouye, skating Fruit Bowl. I was hanging with Tony Alva at the Long Beach arena when he kicked ass! These thoughts pulled me through the rough times. In a strange twist, I have met Tony Alva and most of my childhood heroes. I hang out with Tony Alva pretty frequently now. We are friends. He just celebrated another year of sobriety and once again….he is an inspiration and motivation for me. I love skateboarding. Thanks to Arto Saari for the images. Skate-Ozzie