This past Friday morning amid the flurry of announcements for Max's and Timmy's pro model debuts, my wife Donna asked if I felt like I was missing out by not being present at their respective events being held over the weekend. "Of course," I said, "but, you know… it just wasn't practical." Because Donna is kick-ass, she responded, "What's not practical? This has been a dream of yours. You should definitely be there." And just like that, 30 minutes later we were all booked up with a flight departing early the next morning for a whirlwind 48-hour celebratory trip back to the Midwest.
Straight off the plane and into the Uprise to successfully surprise Timmy.
We hit the tarmac at Chicago O'Hare International Airport just after 4pm on Saturday, just in time to get our rental, see the sun set, and sit in an hour of stop-and-go traffic for the 12-mile trip to Uprise Skate Shop where Timmy's in-store event was already two hours deep. Fortunately parking wasn't the nightmare I'd feared, so we were able to sneak in the door at 6pm and stand in line to surprise Timmy who was busy signing boards and had no idea I was showing up. Even though he'd already had a friends 'n' family gathering the previous night the shop was packed with people, the boards were all sold out, and his smile was damn near ear-to-ear. Uprise had really gone all out for the event and wrangled photos to frame and hang all throughout the shop from everyone who had shot Timmy over the years. Donna was correct: I really would have regretted missing out on seeing all this.
Timothy Johnson, as seen through various photographers' lenses throughout the Chicago years.
By coincidence, my mother's birthday just happened to be the next day, so right after Timmy's big night at Uprise wound down we were back on the highway and headed north through a bitterly cold night for several hours to my hometown in central Wisconsin. Deer were seen, none were hit, and the next morning we enjoyed a surprise birthday lunch with her before packing it all back up and veering southeast to Milwaukee. Mind you, this paragraph is entirely irrelevant and unnecessary to your life and well being, and I'm mainly just shoehorning it in to underscore our supreme lack of any downtime for the entirety of the weekend.
Photos clockwise from top: Wisconsin represent—me, Jon McGuire, Jesse Geboy, and John Pearson; Donna, the one who keeps me centered, present, and positive; and a family photo affair with Max Murphy and his dad Lawrence (not Santa Claus).
While en route to Milwaukee for Max's party that evening, the texts began to fly between myself, John Pearson, Jesse Geboy, and Jon McGuire with the goal to meet up for dinner beforehand; however, every restaurant Jesse suggested was closed on Sundays. Not knowing anything else, I proposed going to this Mexican place, Cafe Corazon, where we'd gotten burritos with Max last year after our annual Cream City Christmas session. Well, I guess I should precede this all by saying that I've only ever been to Milwaukee a handful of times over the course of my life and have no geographic concept of the city whatsoever. So when booking a place to stay that Sunday night, I selected some random ass hotel not far from where Max's party was slated to take place. As serendipity would have it, Cafe Corazon just so happened to be three blocks from our hotel, McGuire lived just across the street, and immediately after we walked into the restaurant Max and his pre-party crew entered as well (including Timmy who had made the trip up from Chicago). Talk about one hell of a cosmic coincidence vortex !
A "Where's Waldo" moment from the Cactus Club.
Once a substantial amount of food was lodged in our respective stomachs it was off to the Cactus Club, which was already jam-packed and humming with friends, family, good vibes, and nothing but stoke for Max and the Midwest. Here, again, I had to turn to Donna and thank her for getting me up off my ass and back into the circle of life. Skateboarding has certainly given me more than my fair share over the decades and it felt good—damn good—to be giving something back, especially to these two skateboarders and the scenes in which they've lived, thrived, and survived throughout the years. As many who came up to me and stated on the two separate evenings, Max and Timmy have long deserved this moment and I'm honored to have had the opportunity to share this dream with them firsthand in their hometowns. —Sean Cliver
1. Speaking of coincidences, similar cosmic connections happened with both of their graphics. When I first shared the final illustration with Timmy, he asked me if we had ever discussed the final color selection. We had not and it turns out his breakdancing crew's colors are red and gray. That alone was kinda neat, but then Max told me at the party how his parents had reminded him upon seeing the final board that the kitchen in his childhood home had yellow walls and a black-and-white checker floor. What's funny, though, is that I hadn't even intended the background of his board to be yellow—it was supposed to be the stained wood veneer. I only chose to run with yellow after Chicken texted me from Screaming Squeegees saying that they'd accidentally printed a full white base coat on all of Max's boards. So... crazy plates of shrimp or just another case of apophenia? You be the judge, but me, I'm siding with Miller on this one.