Normally this would have been a ridiculous post supplied by the inimitable Dave Carnie to island hop between our more momentous graphic events, but I'm sure you've noticed the sudden dearth of his absurd words and that he's nowhere to be found. Well, that's not true, I'm just being dramatic and shit because you can now find him writing full-time over at the resurrected editorial board of Creem Magazine. Yes, that Creem Magazine, the one made famous by the infamously critical words of Lester Bangs and the happy-go-lucky li'l "Boy Howdy" character drawn by Robert Crumb. And while I'm sad for us (waah!), I'm stoked for him (yeah!) because his voice deserve a far, far greater reach and audience than our little waste of a cyberspace outhouse.
Time waits for no man except Christian Hosoi. Here we are all on Beale Street in Memphis while waiting for him to join us. Left to right: Mark DeSalvo, me, Blair Alley, Jason Adams, and fellow Wisconsinite ex-pat Paul Kobriger.
What this does mean, though, is that I now have to step up my keyboard game and start feeding the beast that can never ever be sated. And since it's gonna be a New York minute before our next noteworthy release, I'm gonna have to whip out a metropolitan quickie like a flasher in Central Park. Normally this would be yet another cause of instant anxiety for me , but I just so happen to have a recent-ish experience in the hopper, so here's an afterthought recap of my brief, deep, and dirty stint with the Punk Rock & Paintbrushes crew in the South.
If you're unfamiliar with Punk Rock & Paintbrushes, congratulations, you are exactly like me when I first received a message out of the blue from Paul Kobriger, who asked if I'd be into joining the artist roster for two events in the cities of Tupelo and Nashville. The last art shows I can vaguely recall doing were all way back when, like before the world shut down because some random ass black market pangolin ate bat soup, so I jumped at the opportunity not knowing a damn thing about what I was even jumping into. But just the idea of getting in a van and out on the road with several other like-minded arty skaters was too enticing to pass up.
As it turned out, there was more—much more—that I didn't know about this trip. For instance, when my wife asked where I would be going I replied, "Kansas and Tennessee."
"Kansas? Where in Kansas?"
"Tupelo," I said.
"Um… Tupelo is in Mississippi. Do you mean Topeka?"
"No, Tupe… oh."
So much for my once imagined geographical prowess.
Groupies Jason Adams, Blair Alley, Paul Kobriger, Christian Hosoi, me, Ray Barbee, and Mark DeSalvo on the relocated front porch of Elvis Presley's birth home. (Photo: Giovanni Reda)
Another thing I did not know—or at least didn't fully comprehend prior to our arrival—is that once in Tupelo we would join forces Wonder Twin-style with Chris Nieratko and his Super Skate Posse. Nor did I know that the city of Tupelo foot the bill for most if not all of the Change Festival festivities, including our very being and staying there, so bright and early on the morning of September 1st we were all ushered onto a tour bus and taken out to the birthplace of Elvis Presley, a man I honestly know nothing much about aside from that he played some rock 'n' roll, starred in a Hawaiian movie, may have had blue suede shoes, lived in a place called Graceland that isn't always open, was just a couple rhinestones shy of Liberace, and had a hunka hunka burnin' love for peanut butter, banana, bacon sandwiches and a pharmacopeia of pain pills—the constipated combination of which lead to him not pooping for a stupefying amount of time and may have ultimately contributed to his untimely croaking on a porcelain throne. Apparently there's much more to know about him, though, as I was soon schooled on the steps of his birth home that he grew up on the poorest side of the Tupelo tracks and was primarily friends with all the local African-American kids.
Clyde Singleton, always larger and louder than life.
Did I mention Clyde Singleton is a member of the Super Skate Posse? Thank Christ, too, because his presence that morning was welcome indeed—especially when he walked out of the gift shop where he'd just abused his per diem to buy kitsch Elvis glasses and pajamas. Much to our delight, Clyde loudly and proudly proceeded to don the ensemble then and there for the rest of the tour, but this came much more to the dismay of a retired elderly school marm whose apparent job it was to lock us in this one-room church and subject us to a very white, very Christian, and allegedly very copyrighted video display that ran in stark contrast to what the other gentleman had told us about Elvis's multicultural upbringing.
Whole lotta shakin' goin' on. That's Giovanni Reda flat on the deck with his corresponding view of Christian Hosoi's footplant back into the Change bowl.
That night, Matt Robinson, the tip of the spear behind the Change Festival, hosted a VIP warm-up event at his local skate shop where food was eaten, skating was gnarred in the shop's indoor wooden bowl structure, and live music was appreciated outside in the parking lot. Long gone are the days of my late night Big Brother mischief, so upon an early return to the hotel I more or less snuggled into bed all comfy and cozy only to be woken up the next morning by a text from my son saying that some yahoo had commandeered an aeroplane at the Tupelo airport and was threatening to crash it into the nearby Walmart Supercenter on the edge of town. What the fucking fuck? This was just too crazy of a coincidence, let alone circumstance, but sure enough, the story was indeed true and I can now state in all solemn seriousness that I survived Redneck 9/11.
This is Ray Barbee doing one of the many things he does best, but I'd like to highjack the rest of this caption to say thanks to Matt and all the skaters of Tupelo for their Southern hospitality and making our brief stay there a great and memorable one.
While the world waited with baited breath as the would-be domestic terrorist circled around town until he finally ran out of gas and "landed" the plane in a field, a full-blown music stage and skate course were being erected smack dab in the center of downtown Main Street (the Punk Rock & Paintbrushes show was installed sideshow-style in the nearby Gumtree Museum of Art). That disaster-free afternoon, a whole slew of local bands kicked out the jams while skateboarders from all corners of the Deep South descended on Tupelo to duke it out in a shop contest. True to half-ass journalist form, I can't recall who won, but I do remember what happened next: a truly amazing giveback/giveaway to a hundred kids from the Tupelo Boys & Girls Club, courtesy of the Super Skate Posse. Seeing all these kids with big, broad smiles and holding dearly to their brand new boards, helmets, and shoes was damn near tear-inducing and filled our hearts to the brim for the rest of the trip. Here's to hoping for the next generation of rippers from the South! And here's also to hoping Clyde finds himself back on the mic for any future skate events, because his commentary during the shop jam reminded me of what's been sorely missing from every contest since he had the mic taken away from him many Tampa moons ago.
Chef Clyde kicked off the festival morning in Tupelo by serving up a Southern meal of his own cooked devise to Super Skate Posse Commander-in-Chief Chris Nieratko and all the other VIPs. (Photo: Blair Alley)
I couldn't help but think the production designer of The Walking Dead was hired to orchestrate and dress the skate course set-up on Tupelo's Main Street. No idea who this high-flyer is, but good on him for getting up there in front of the building where Elvis got his first guitar. (Photo: Blair Alley)
Not even a sudden cloudburst could dampen the spirits of the Tupelo Boys & Girls Club in the giving face of the Super Skate Posse operation. Jaime Reyes and several other pros—most notably Zion Wright, Christian Henry, and Justin Henry—were on hand to provide tips 'n' tricks to all the kids once they had their gear. (Photos: Blair Alley)
All the feels. Good job, Super Skate Posse! (Photo: Blair Alley)
The next day we parted ways with the Super Skate Posse, jumped in a plane for a quick flight to Nashville, and quickly checked into our hotel to meet up with Brandon Novak before heading over to a VIP-esque speaking event held at Caldwell Guitars. This was the first time I'd seen Brandon since 2010 when we were shooting jackass 3D, so it was a trip to finally meet him in a remarkably coherent sober sense and hear the story of how he made it out alive from the bottom of his addiction. Following his and Christian Hosoi's harrowing accounts of finding sobriety, all of the artists were asked to do a Q&A session that I was wholly unprepared for—perhaps even more so after all the heavy storytelling. Public speaking has never been my forte, let alone being in public, so when it came time for me to introduce myself I mumbled my way through a haggard spiel and pretty much yada yada yada'ed the entirety of my career, completely blanking on the whole point of what I think I was ultimately trying to say: everything I've done—from all the fantastic shit I've been involved with to all the amazing people I've met and all the places in the world I've seen—I owe it all to skateboarding. I wouldn't have experienced anything at all without that anything but useless wooden toy.
The PR&PB show in Tupelo took place in an old bank cum art gallery. Make of that what you will, as I'm only really including yet another art group photo because of the Creem Magazine T-shirt I'm sporting.
The skateboard, however, is the very same reason I couldn't walk in a normal manner for several days after the Punk Rock & Paintbrushes show at Sixth Avenue skate park in Nashville. That morning we were "blessed" to skate crowd-free with the entire park to ourselves. I had no intentions of stepping up beyond my curb-size game, but Paul and Brandon were ripping it up and it was hard not to get caught up in the infectious energy. There's not much left in my shallow bag anymore—I've either lost or ceded most all of what I was once able to do—but the one thing I've desperately tried to hold onto is also the very thing that enamored me to skateboarding in the first place: the ollie. I've shed more inches over the years than I would care to admit, but I challenged myself to get up and onto something higher than I've managed to in probably over a decade—mostly due to the encouragement of Paul and Brandon who refused to let me give up. Granted, I did strain most every muscle in my legs in ways they've never strained before, but at the age of 53 skateboarding remains to be the best kind of pain I've ever known.
One of the more intense and inspirational duos you'll ever meet: Christian Hosoi and Brandon Novak.
Thanks again to Emily Nielsen and all the PR&PB regulars for having me along for the Deep South ride. It felt damn good to be back in a packed van swapping skate tales with y'all! —Sean Cliver
1. It's a left brain/right brain thing, I think, where it's not always easy for me to shift gears between writing and drawing. If I try to do both simultaneously, one or the other and sometimes even both suffer accordingly.