Eventually this post will, I swear, provide an answer to that question, but for now I'm going to fly in the face of upstanding journalistic standards* and veer straight off to Tangent Land rather than land in Main Point. If you've come to expect anything from these entries, though, it's that the bar should be set very, very low, because: a) I'm my own worst editor; b) I'm not getting paid so there's no reason to be all professional and shit; and c) I'm by no means equating myself to Kurt Vonnegut, but similar to his novel Breakfast of Champions I do think I'm in the process of purging all the garbage that has been piling up in the assorted sordid waste bins of my mind—and, if I may be entirely honest, I wish the contents were more substantive in nature to reflect a life well lived, but… well… so it goes. Especially when this had a more profound effect on my life than anything else:
So let's tackle a different tack first: How did we get here? And by here I don't mean the creation of mankind and subsequent rise of civilization, but the ingenious idea** to do a conspiracy-themed series. Well, it's twofold, really. For a simple starting point, my partner Nick has been after me to do a Bohemian Grove graphic for several years now. He's also wanted me to do an illustration that consisted of a primarily blue and yellow color palette. Boom! Done. Two birds—or owls, if you want to get all avian accurate about it—on one stone. Or wood. Whatever, you know what I idiomatically mean. The second fold is of a more complicated nature, though, because I'm of the mind that conspiracy theories rank fourth behind hot dogs, baseball, and apple pie in terms of Americana. But what is it about this First World American experience that provokes such wild theories from the fringe? Our culture is rife with conspiracy lore from dollar bills to deep states, and it doesn't take much for anyone out of step with mainstream society*** to be sucked into an illuminated rabbit hole—or so I frivolously say as a little weirdo who once devoured every book, movie, and comic devoted to the offbeat, bizarre, and more often than not extra-terrestrial****. Despite this predilection and a rather pigeon-toed right foot, I still managed to walk the fine line between having an observer's appreciation versus being a raving fanatic; or, in other words, one person's Illuminatus! Trilogy is another's Atlas Shrugged. Mine was the former and, as such, my absurdist heart will always go on.
"Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you're here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on"
—an excerpt from "My Heart Will Go On," by Celine Dion
If this all seems a tad confusing, well good on you. The metaphor made flesh.
Are conspiracy theories considered as big of a deal in other countries as they are in the US of A? Because I have no idea. I can barely deal with the whirlwind of shit in my own cultural wheelhouse, let alone sit and wonder if Tunguskans even give a Siberian rat's ass about their own prominent event. I'm not Russian—although I may qualify as an honorary Canadian in some regional aspects—so we chose a few uniquely American topics and institutions of conspiratorial repute and doled the stories out to Todd Bratrud, Don Pendleton, and myself to get graphic on. Some might surely ask, "Why not a Roswell or Area 51?" to which I might simply respond, "Would you like fries with that?"
Okay, enough of the questions dangling like participles. Here's how it got there, the operative "it" in the initial query being the official StrangeLove Tin Foil Hat Kit™ that accompanies each and every one of our conspiracy-themed boards.
I guess it all goes back to being a kid on the constant quest for the juiciest cereal box premiums—you know, those non-edible freebies that would piss your mom off after you dumped out an entire bag of cereal to retrieve whatever crumb-covered, cheap plastic crap was at the bottom. Naturally, as I've stated somewhere before, cereal and skateboarding go hand-in-glove, so I believe it was sometime in 1991 when we were working on Bucky Lasek's second Powell-Peralta pro model that the idea of including an extra with the board came up. Since the graphic played off Bucky's penchant for lighting farts—a long story best not gotten into now but goddamn does it make for a funny split second in the opening of Dumb: The Story of Big Brother Magazine on Hulu—I wanted to include a special matchbook with every board. Unfortunately, I was quickly informed that this was not practical and possibly illegal, so I kicked the dirt, said "Fuck it," and went to a grocery store to buy a couple boxes of blank match books after procuring two rubber stamps made with "Youth Gone Bad" and "Blue Flame Specials." To this day, I still remember sitting on the back patio of my apartment on San Remo Dr. in Santa Barbara, burning the tips on all the matches and double stamping each book. I can't remember how many I did in all, but whatever the amount was they came shrink-wrapped in the first production run of Bucky's board. Bitten by the bonus bug, my next big endeavor was going to be a perfume-scented card included with Adam McNatt's original Claudia Schiffer graphic so the board would smell like a Cosmopolitan magazine once the shrink-wrap was opened, but no one really needs to hear that story again (if you do, though, you can find it in Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art).
Luckily, my next employer, Steve Rocco, was a little less strict and a whole lot more fun in the sense that rules were viewed as utter nonsense. Brian Lotti's first board on Blind—and probably a little to his dismay—came with a rabbit's foot keychain to complement his PETA rip-off graphic. Although I technically did do the "art" on the Lotti, the rabbit's foot was all Rocco's idea, as was the next notorious gimmick for Ronnie Bertino's debut Blind board, "Mr. Butts," which included a "smoker starter kit," consisting of a cigarette and a match. What a time to be alive! Or at least for the 546 kids around the world who were still skateboarding during this dead in the water time period, circa 1992. Lastly, years and years later during my Birdhouse period, Jeremy Klein had me do a "Sour Cat" graphic for one of Heath Kirchart's models that came with a pack of candy. Or at least I think it did? For whatever reason it's always so much easier to remember the dumb shit you weren't supposed to do in life…
Anyway, when it came down to this series for StrangeLove, I once again got the bonus bug up my butt to include a piece of aluminum foil with each and every deck. This was rad in theory, but ridiculous in practice, I guess, if only because I'm not simply a company owner and artist but the warehouse worker*****, too. And so it came to pass that I sat on the bed for two days to stuff, staple, and package a million-billion****** Tin Foil Hat Kits, the silly fruits of which may bear a quick snort or chortle at best and be tossed in the trash at worst.
So was it worth the effort?
* Ha! As if these even exist anymore. Careers in every Cracker Jack box, mate!
** Let's just be clear that this is by no means a genius or original concept. After all, entire companies have been built on the notion—one being more Atlantean than alien—but that's like saying Powell cornered the market on skulls—I think? I'm not even sure what I meant to say here in this aside, aside from the fact we're definitely more on par with Wile E. Coyote than Stanley Kubrick.
*** Sadly, all weird eventually gets watered down to the mainstream level, as evidenced by the Taco Bell "Illuminati" ad campaign and 98.3-percent of Hot Topic's inventory at any given time.
**** So much so that each and every night after turning the light off, I mentally prepared myself to be abducted by aliens in much the same way as I woke up to an alarm clock each and every morning fully expecting to see a nuclear holocaust mushrooming on the horizon, which, in hindsight, may explain why I'm the nervous, anxiety-riddled wreck that I've been for most of my damn life? Revelatory self-therapy through cutting-room-floor rumination!
***** Not entirely true. This may be a garage operation, but I don't have a garage so we have to employ the services of a fulfillment center to process and ship all the orders. But if we want to do anything special, e.g. sit and open every box of boards to insert some bonus crap, that's when I have to go down the mountain and do all the heavy lifting (fortunately my wife Donna shares a similar lust for larks in life and assisted me on this particular day).
****** I'd like to attribute the novelty of this amount to Natas Kaupas. He'd said it offhand one day way back when and it stuck to a crook in my cortex like hot shit on a shoe.