"Greetings From Dogtown" ... So, it's a big moment for this kid from Philly. He's just done something he never EVER imagined he’d do – he’s traded in his snow boots, ski jacket, and cheese steak for flip flops, tank tops, and a fish taco. Holy shit, I moved to LA. And beyond that, I am now fully immersed in the art and culture that as an aspiring skate punk of the 80’s and early 90’s, I only knew from the pages of Thrasher Magazine.
My inner 12 year old is basically doing back-flips every single day. Welcome to Dogtown, son; it’s real.
Full disclosure, my time spent during the 80’s as an aspiring bad-ass skate warrior for the youth counter-culture was honestly pretty short. Unfortunately, I was a chubby, non-athletic suburban kid with the agility of a slug. However, that never once stopped me from buying an expensive skate deck (I had a blue/green, Jeff Grosso demon based on a Virgil Finlay piece bought mostly for the artwork), a subscription to Thrasher, my skull and crossbones Vans, and all the skate tees I could find at my local mall. Why? Because even if you can’t skate like a bad-ass warrior for the youth counter-culture, you have to at least look like one.
Now, beyond all of the skate punk image and half-pipe daydreams, I sincerely loved all of the artwork. At the time I didn’t know that I’d actually grow up to be a professional designer or an illustrator. I truly had no idea of what it meant to be a “professional” either one of those things, but I definitely knew that all of the artwork I saw on skateboard decks was awesome, and I spent hours being inspired by all of it and drawing all of my own versions.
Day-glow skulls, fire, patterns hell-bent on making you ill, demons of various sizes and shapes, devil stars, eye-ball creatures, zombies, graffiti fonts, and logos for every metal band you could think of (along with a few that I made up), all along side ads for Sims, Powell-Peralta, Vans, Vision, Bullet wheels, and Slime Balls. Such was the imagery and purposefully thrown together home-grown style that shaped a huge portion of a generation. My generation. And here I am, now living almost literally in the middle of it.
I’ve only been here in LA for a couple of months, but I’ve already gotten ample history lessons from the locals of Venice and Santa Monica. They recount all too familiar tales of gentrification (similar to Nashville, or Austin, or Seattle), of local artists and working-class folk being priced out of the area, of local businesses now unable to afford rent and unable to keep up with the never-ending tide. And no, I don’t mean the ocean, or the Alabama Crimson - I mean the seemingly unending wave of money that has been sweeping into an area of the city that used to be dominated by artists, ‘creatives’, dreamers, and derelicts - alike.
And while it is true, the biker bars on Santa Monica pier are gone, tech companies have moved into the East side of town, and there are no more empty pools for the “Lords of Dogtown” to “surf” (in part because GQ named Abbot-Kinney the “Coolest Block in America” in 2012), I am pleased to say that the Venice boardwalk is still a full-on circus, and there is no shortage of ‘grit’ to still be found around town, especially if you go looking for it.
From visual artists to writers to musicians, I can absolutely attest that the creative spirit is absolutely alive and well on the West side. And beyond the backflips, my inner, 12 year old, bad-ass, counter-culture warrior is more than honored to finally call myself a part of it.
Stay tuned for more – I am going to explore every inch of my new LA home-world and then some!