Planet of the Skates
I had been backloading my escape plan for quite some time. The Noodles Tours came to an end since the SkateZone had become an extreme skateboarding destination it made little sense to go anywhere else. Chris was spending more and more time with Jeannie and JW had his own car, so I didn't need Midnight for skate safaris anymore.
I bought a Jeep pickup with four-wheel drive and installed a mobile phone, in 1992, an early adopter. Mechanically, the Jeep turned out to be problematic. I hadn't quite learned my lesson about domestic vehicles, but it was the right size, I liked the look of it and I got a toolbox that I bolted into the bed.
The move to PCHQ turned out to be a miscalculation in the minds of many. It would be bizarre for me to criticize it, since everything worked to propel JW and me through the unfolding drama that would fulfill all our dreams. Nothing like the SkateZone would ever have happened. So I have to thank everybody that played a part in the way it all came out.
Once committed to this one big space, the company had lost its flexibility. It could grow but it could not shrink. Sales reached their historic peak about the same time we were moving into the building, and then plummeted when the skateboarding industry as a whole fell into one of its inexplicable crashes.
Something was going on at the core of the company. Powell-Peralta was the Santa Barbara group plus the L.A. group. In Santa Barbara, we made the products, with the exception of the videos. The L.A. group was the team and the video unit. It had always been a hyphenated company. When Stacy Peralta made a decision to back away from the company and pursue his career as a documentary filmmaker, it had an effect on morale at PCHQ.
For me the fun was going out of it anyway. With the industry undergoing one of its baffling cyclical downturns, new skateboard companies were starting up, adding to the competition in a diminishing market. Powell was especially hard hit, and the company had to scale back many of our dreams, and it was likely that the SkateZone would have to be dismantled, so that the space could be rented out as warehouse space or some other use, and there were going to be a number of layoffs in all departments. JW had moved down to an apartment near the City College, to begin to experience his freedom, and I was confronted with the fact that this stage of my parenting had come to an end, and it was time to be my own independent self again. I began to think, "Now where was I before I finally settled in to being a single parent and focused on taking JW on this adventure?" I felt drawn to the Bay Area where Dick and Carol had gone to work for the Grateful Dead. It was a well-known happy hunting ground, as far as building projects went.
Some of my favorite cohorts were gone from Powell. Joel Watson had moved on when he realized there was no future for him there. He had pushed a few too many buttons among management. I became the facility manager in his place, a role I could fill with success in most areas, but I wasn't a natural honcho like Joel had been. And I was experiencing the pressures and antagonisms of his position.
It all started out to build some ramps for my kid and take him on an adventure. Mission accomplished. So what was I still doing there? I wrote a haiku that summed up my state of mind at this time:
Hot Summer morning.
A hat full of bees.
If I hadn't resigned, I might have been laid off, or worse, someone else who really wanted or needed the job would have lost his job instead of me. I had lost my inspiration, especially since an upcoming "building" project would likely be the DE-construction of the SkateZone ramps. If there is anything I couldn't bring myself to do, it was the dismantling of that skatepark, or any skatepark. That would be the ultimate un-fun. Anti-fun. Especially since I had something to do with building it. I'd have been sick the whole time.
I was in this mood when it came time for my main funnyman, Ves Fowler, to go. On the one-year anniversary of the horrific death of his son, he began to have reactions that would be described as "post traumatic stress" and could no longer trust himself to operate machinery, drive, or deal with the daily workings of the skateboard factory. We agreed that I should lay him off, for medical/psychological reasons. He had always been dependably fun. That was my last official act as facility manager, to lay him off. Then I laid myself off.
The hat full of bees was gone, and I was free again. I packed it all up and was out of there fast. Once I decided, there were wings on my feet. George Powell came out to say goodbye as I drove my last load of belongings off to storage. He wished me well and I him. I didn't see him again for twenty years when JW and I encountered him and Jim Fitzpatrick at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, attending a showing of the new film, Skatistan, about a group of European skaters setting up a school and skatepark in Kabul, Afghanistan.
© 2017, 2022 John Oliver
All Rights Reserved