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