Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Sound of Infamy—

A defining feature of the West Point Skateboard Gang is the terrifying sound it produced as its members charged across the streets of the United States Military Academy. West Point residents during the era of the artful dodgers quickly learned the gang’s trademark sound—an angelic cacophony of polyurethane wheels slashing across pavement that heralded the gang’s travels and produced widespread panic across the region. Louder than a gang of Harleys, the source of innumerable nightmares among military families—the deafening roar this tribe of unruly skateboarders made crossing the ‘Point’ signaled to all within earshot the impending arrival of defiant power. Like a gigantic hand scraping its fingernails across the chalkboard of West Point’s concrete, the sound of the dodgers in transit was a fluid social stain designed to disrupt with impunity the otherwise perfect and repressed order of the Academy.

As the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, the sound of each wheel reinforced and amplified the sounds of every other wheel in its proximity, producing a rowdy chorus of rebellion and unrestrained freedom. Of course, the infamous roar was but a part of the larger aesthetic—a blinding blur of flowing hair and bandanas, trailing smoke, faded jeans, cranked music, and wild laughter.

After a classic ‘sesh’ in Pat and Chris’ attic room, 10 or so of us glide down the grass hill by the Catholic Chapel, drop in with military precision onto Washington Road and begin our journey to the half-pipe in Lee area. Crackling like a succession of lightning strikes, each board joins the orchestra of fury—a haunting crescendo of sound that compels mothers to grab their children, freezes dogs in their tracks, halts local traffic, and impels MPs to feel for their gun holsters. Our sublime tornado of sight, sound and fury makes its way past the cemetery slamming-out repetitive clicks from the sidewalk cracks, jets smoothly down and past the PX on Buckner Loop—bodies bent to reduce air-drag and gliding swerves to accelerate the board’s forward motion and then, as if a cork popping from a champagne bottle, lights-out onto Lee Road. The group’s formation elongates into a single line and then contracts again into a condensed phalanx only to elongate again—a living, breathing configuration, a loosely-congealed bubble of orbiting bodies floating effortlessly down the hill and onto the flat, our beautiful cacophony at our heels the entire way. We are magicians who have conquered Newton’s laws, let alone the mere rules and restrictions that suppress the normal residents of USMA.

All subsequent generations of West Point inhabitants can hear the faint echo of skateboard wheels in the distance.
“Lights out, lights out in West Point, hold ‘em tight til the end. God knows when I’m comin’ on my run”.


Mathdude said...

That was quite the trip down memory lane. You nailed it exactly! Well done, sir!

Anonymous said...

Tell me again why you need to glorify your collective bad behavior way back when? You all think that you were so cool, when in reality you were a bunch of misfit losers who tried to make life miserable for a lot of other people. What's so cool about that?
Get over yourselves. I think it's sad that a bunch of adult men have to relive their miscreant years on a blog and romanticize it all.

I would think that you would instead pull a "My Name is Earl" of sorts: make amends to the people that you hurt along the way and acknowledge that your behavior truly sucked.

Mathdude said...

Pampdog, you/we have a heckler! Awesome! "Misfit losers"? I love it!

You're stealing my thunder, Anonymous, I was going to post next week about what you ask. Stay tuned. Care to reveal your identity?

Tony Alva said...

Dave, Well done sir. Fantastic first post.

Rod Wilson gave Ted and I a grand tour of WP last night and it was uncanny how feelings came flooding out on the page as someone once said. We all agreed that a reunion was definately in order.

Assumming anon is not my brother, I'm prepared to respond to your request for collective contrition. In brief, "No, we don't want to".

Reveal thy self and then we'll talk....

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's glorification. It looks to me like a pretty comprehensive history of a small society. If you watch "Dogtown and Z-Boys" ( the doc) you can see how army brats that were stationed in California brought back pieces of that culture - the skateboard culture that arose at the time many of them were living there. This blog and others like it that talk about a very marginal and isolated part of our society - military kids - is helping to preserve histories that might have gone unwritten. That they were a bunch of punks who had a laugh knowing they scared the shit out of people while they had fun is just a matter of fact. Also, it's a paradox. Disorder on an ordered army post. Grey wool vs. flannel and concert shirts.
Anyway, most of these guy became teachers and professors like their dads. So much for being miscreants. But, hey, cool to speak your mind. Keep stirring it up!

So. Cal Livin... said...

Thats cool! Thats how I remembered it. I don't quite understand the harsh remarks from these anonymous bashers, but hey when your life is that empty, I guess all you can do is comment on the lives of those who are obviously much more exciting.

Anonymous said...

Wow that was exactly how I remember it. I almost had to run and hide in my closet or into the woods so they wouldn't see me.
And to the heckler, they have made amends and I talk quite often with one of them and laugh about the "good old days".
It is okay to write about what used to happened in days gone by. What person hasn't thought about what they used to do or be able to do. Even though they used to scare me, it was still a time in my life that I remember real well and I do not have problem with it. If you were not able to skate as well as them or were not included in their group then that is a whole other issue.
We are adults now and wish we were kids. It is not glorification, it is memories.

ROADRASH said...

What the hell did you guys do to the kids after I left town? I don't remember making life miserable for others....'cept mom & dad.

Adult men? Adult? Are you sure? I think the correct term would be: "old misfit loser skateboarders".

Sucky behavior? You must be talking about using Pat's "Capitol Hill"

Move on with your life anonypus. This all happened nearly 30 years ago.

WTF is "My Name is Earl" anyway? Get yer fat ass off the couch and go skate!

Shred the Gnar!

ROADRASH said...

Oh yeah..Sweet original post Dave!

Hey Anonypus...In the words of a skater named Steve Olson:
"Eat a bag of dicks"!

Jackson said...

Eat a bag of dicks indeed! Who IS that loser? I, for one, and I know those who know me will concur, never frightened anybody. I remember being opressed, not being the opressor.

God, how pitiful, to carry that nonsense around for all these years. How utterly sad and pitiful.

I will tell you, not again, but for the first time, why we need this. We need this because we shared a bond in our formative years. A bond of loyalty to each other. Something you obviously never had with anyone.

Sad and pitiful.

Anonymous is always sad, because anonymous has nobody, anonymous is alone, always.

Ward Haskell said...

Annoymous mite be in Alcoholics annoymous thats the only place i know where they talk about making amends in the 8th and 9th step of the twelve step program Of AA. Any way any one who knew you guys knew you were all about having fun and getting stoned and smoking cigs. And we all did our best to try and be cool. It was all about laughs and fun not about intimidation. In fact the skateboarders hated the jocks who were the true bullys of the school and it was they who tryed to intimidate everyone. If any one owes amends its the jocks for they were the original haters. I was a garristone skater and only skated usma a few times i never hit the ramps for lack of testicals. But admired those that did and got some great pics of dave rodgers hiting the ramp at lusk. We garristoners were more into speed boarding and going fast. Id like to know if you guys ever came over to our side of the river and bombed lower station road which is still popular with the garristonian skaters of today.