Philadelphia has been in a bit of a transitional period the past several years. From the neighborhoods to the architecture and even to the sports teams, there has been a noticeable upscale change sweeping across this traditionally grungey town. When I first moved here in late 2002, I was fifteen years old. By the time I was turning twenty I had already been living in the city for a few years; and by time I was moving out of the city, things were already starting to get very strange and different.
Not long after 'The Truth2' had been released in 2009, prominent members of the rollerblading community were beginning to move elsewhere and exploring new aspects of their lives. Jimmy Shuda was leaving South Philly for the suburbs along with his beautiful budding family; Bronx export, Mike Johnson, who was then residing here in the 'sixth borough,' was only a handful of self-taught digital media lessons away from flying out to California for a new career and new family of his own; Chris Cheshire had [understandably] just about had it with rollerblading in general; and both Sean and Colin were soon to be embarking on a tour that would lead them to a prosperous yet temporary home in Kansas City. Meanwhile, Majette and Killgore's skateshop, which had acted as a home base of sorts over the years, was quickly kicking the bucket and being transformed into what is now a successful printing company with a name that may ring a bell to many veterans of the game: 'Denial Print Co.' In all aspects, it seemed like the historically controversial yet always-thriving scene of Philadelphia was coming to a swift and ruthless end at last...
Okay, okay. Let's not pretend to be so naive, people. There are no true endings to these sorts of things, just slow and often complicated transitions. In something like rollerblading, for example--where the sport hasn't died but it has certainly had to reinvent itself--the theory proves truer than ever. So here we are in all our distinguished glory. "The Rollerblading Great Depression," if you will. The money has evaporated, businesses have gone under, dreams have been shattered and lives have been lost. Instead of bread lines we have self-promotional edits, (the low quality kind you see presented daily on Rollernews.) Instead of the rampant spread of fatal diseases we have Justin Eisinger and that one little magazine he still insists on publishing. Yeah. Still going. Like, to this day. Still making that crock of crap a thing that exists in the world. I'm sorry, but Jesus Christ. How? Who reads those? Are there regular subscribers to that magazine? Is it even a magazine anymore or is it just an instagram account that has had @dadchuk blocked for the past two years for a few less-than-flattering constructive criticisms? Does he charge money for them? Does he have a team of half-wits that assist him in that satanic sludge? I apologized for using the Lord's name in vain a few sentences above but I won't apologize for my ranting. I fucking hate our current media outlets and the shitty visions they try to perpetuate to the world.
And so, we change. We move on with our increasingly pathetic 'culture' and we tinker with the little resources that we still have left and we toss it up in the internet airwaves and see where everything lands. Then we do it again and again and again until it's something that appears a bit more satisfying to the eye and to the heart. That's what anybody with wheels on their feet should be doing today if they really care about what it is we're all doing. That being said, I believe we do it best.
Now I'm not saying that there aren't some really talented and great, inspiring, and creative crews out there currently. Personally, I enjoy a good number of skaters and scenes across the world. I like what Collin Martin and the rest of the Chicago dudes are doing by and large; I like the Mushroom dudes in Vancouver and Kamloops and wherever their extensive crew resides for their consistent and well thought-out creative output both on wheels and off; I don't know much about the San Francisco scene but mostly everything I see from that region has historically grabbed my attention. There are so many sweet crews popping up and establishing themselves in the surviving class of this hobby of ours that just refuses to sit down or shut up. I could pick my brain all day and night and I'd still wind up leaving some serious key players out of my mentioning, so I'm not going to go any further with naming names.
But why are these crews worth mentioning at all? What is it about them that stands out above the rest? There are undoubtedly numerous crews in Chicago, but what is it that separates those dudes from the others? Its everything. It's the manner in which they approach rollerblading: their style, their mindset, their spot selection, their skill sets, their output, their paid dues. It's the same basic elements that make any sect of anything more interesting than their colleagues. It's a solid representation of how those dudes envision skating and its potential. It's natural and it is noticeably fun. Most importantly, it's not boring or predictable. When you skate or do anything in life, you tend to flock to people who share the same mindset as you do and you consequently become friends. When enough friends with similar visions on how to live or, say--how to skate?--spend enough time together, a crew is established. This doesn't mean they don't fuck with other crews or other skaters. This doesn't mean it's a league where all the different crews battle it out for a first place fucking trophy, all the while talking shit at ESPN press conferences after a session. It means they like to hang out together and have fun pushing each other to achieve that same vision they each want to see rollerblading reach eventually. It's a crew. Look at it as a battalion. It's not an entire army, for God's sake. When the United States of America decides to rough up a few hundred Yemeni women and children they don't send in the entire military. They send in a squadron or two to go in there so they can plot and pillage before moving onward. (Actually, it's just a bunch of drones that are sent in but we'll let that detail go for the sake of this stupid ass analogy.)
But yes. A collection of crews that make one big family. That's how it's always been in skating. Especially back in the day when the numbers were there and every household seemed to have at least one pair of neon-laced inline skates lying around. You can't expect a city such as New York, Chicago, and yes, Philadelphia, to cruise around spot to spot en masse like one, big, kool-aid drinking community holding hands while weaving in and out traffic to the next handrail, hubba, or flat ledge just so that everyone can feel comfortable participating in the session. Unfortunately, you can't even expect a small crew of five or six to cruise from spot to spot around North Philly in more than three cars without an argument brewing. (Shoutout to this past weekend, bacemen!) Long story short: accept the different crews in your city, town, whatever. Not everyone can be with each other for every session and besides--a little variety is probably, maybe, kinda, sorta, perhaps, per chance...beneficial to the growth of our sport. No? Yes? Yes. That's right, nod your heads and say it with me: "A little variety is beneficial to the growth of our sport."
One more thing...
Yo, Philadelphia: Don't be offended if you and your twenty boys aren't called up for a session to an orange fire hydrant on a coarse sidewalk in West Philly just because you feel you're highly deserving of that torment or whatever your reasoning may be. The good news is that you have so many other options to explore on your own time, with your own crew, with your own frame of mind so that when we run into each other we can share ideas or just shoot the shit or laugh about something that happened during a particular session that the other crew may find hilarious or informational, being we all travel around the same territory. There shouldn't be a fucking trail of tears on the internet every time me and my friends go out to skate. We've been called both "divisive and exclusive" for finding the time to hang out with each other a few hours a week in the midst of our busy adult lives. We've been labeled assholes for going out and showcasing rollerblading--yes, that's right: ROLLERBLADING--in the manner as we see fit for entertainment. If you don't like the content, don't view it. If you don't like us, don't support us. It's literally that simple. I've seen some really corny behavior from adult peers in the past six months since 'Valo Philly' was released and I'm not even sure why. I find it confusing and odd that a collective super-group claiming "divisiveness and exclusivity" from one small crew is carrying out the same indecencies that they got bent about in the first place.
What more can I or anybody actually say on this issue? Ah, how about this: If you can't or won't donate your own time and energy to formulating your own crew with it's own philosophy and its own unique plan of attack, the best option for you may very well be to sit back, shut up, and trust the process.