Making the most of it

Here's what I'm really into right now - creating opportunity and then making the absolute most of it.  It's a pretty simple concept and works wonders for feeling accomplished and good.  Over the last year and a half I've been working on starting a nonprofit called 4Missoula whose mission is to donate skateboards to at-risk and low-income kids throughout Western Montana.  The company itself is an opportunity to help my community and give kids the necessary resources to pursue a skating pastime, but more than that it is an opportunity to create opportunities for myself and for others.  And that is the beauty of this endeavor.

Some opportunities currently being maximized are:
  • Osprey Ticket Sales - The Missoula Osprey have given 4Missoula 100 tickets to sell and we'll split the proceeds.  If, we can sell all 100 there is an opportunity to re-up and collect 100% of the revenue going forward.  So, my step-son Blake and I have been going door-to-door selling tickets to the July 24th baseball game and we're quickly approaching the 100 ticket mark. This is an opportunity I really want to capitalize on!!!
  • Weed Control Initiative - This is a brainchild of my Dad and I and the idea is to get a crew together, who have collected sponsors, and pick weeds in a designated recreational area.  Different than other fundraisers to date this fundraiser will generate money for our skateboard goal and will leave a park looking beautiful.  It's less of a fun-draiser and more of a work-raiser.  And we shall see how it goes.
  • Horseshoe Bonanza - This is the second annual horseshoe event and this year it is going to be way better on so many levels.  The first horseshoe event was a great learning experience and as I was slicing tomatoes while trying to manage the event it occurred to me that I need to do a better job delegating tasks.  So, this time around that'll be the emphasis...more support from co-workers.  I'm beyond excited about this one; it's just such a great opportunity to "connect our community."
So, that's a little about the haps for Skatepark Mark and I hope everyone can create opportunities for themselves and then make the most out of them. That's just the way it's supposed to be.

Good Soup

I've been boiling a lot of things down lately and I'm fascinated with the reduction. Different than a collective concoction, my focus lately has been on my own personal soup and how it's doing. For the longest time, maybe forever, my soup has been outta bounds and so far beyond my comprehension that I can hardly call it my own. I literally have no idea what I've been doing for the last 38 years.

My soup has a lot of ingredients, however the mixture is stressing me out and needs to be reviewed and cleaned up. I've managed to remove cigarettes and alcohol (smiley face emoji) from the medley, yet I know there is a richer, more refined and more beautiful soup to be created.

Here are a couple important abilities to keep in mind as we progress (towards a better soup).
  • The first is the ability to be honest and the best way to get honest is to get sober. When you have drugs and alcohol on your brain the flavor of your life is compromised and is being made to include your addiction. You say the soup is good, but we all know it's gross. In sobriety the flavor of your life is more accurate because the chef is free to choose their ingredients.
  • A second ability necessary for positive change is the ability to accept criticism. Making an honest assessment of your soup is a start, but then you must admit that some of your ingredients are making the soup taste bad.
  • Then, the final ability needed to improve your soup is courage. Through honest evaluation and education the soup of your dreams is known to you and lies within your grasp. Now, it's up to you to be brave, confront any challenges and make the best soup imaginable.
To be a master one must be entirely aware of what's within their control and then make those things produce a great soup. Some items within our control are: the food we eat, the water we drink (Flint, MI might disagree), the energy we use, the gas we use, the people we interact with, how we speak to people, how we look at people, how peoples' actions make us feel, the products we use, the money we spend and the votes we cast. I find it empowering to know that so much of the world is within our comprehension and there are so many opportunities to make a better soup.

This particular soup is one of my favorites - Flavorful Matzo Ball Soup. The broth is fantastic and complex and, when you add balls to it, becomes the perfect metaphor for my life (wink face emoji).

P.S. Happy Easter!!!

Garbage Can Ollie Sequence

My old JVC video camera, with internal memory, has gone kaput. I was, however, able to transfer oodles of random video to my computer and enjoy the four or five years-worth of footage. On one particular day, my good buddy Edge filmed my agonizing attempt to ollie a garbage can (on its side). I believe I posted the one successful attempt to this blog a couple years back, which likely made me look like a pretty alright skater, but now I have video editing software and am able to show everyone the real story. So, here's my run at the garbage can ollie.

Dre Slide Show

When SPM puts something on a list it's going to get done...eventually. The following video took years to come to fruition, but finally the Dre Slide Show is here. I've always thought that a photo shoot needs to be put into a slide show (with music) to enhance the effect and capture the event as a whole. This video is rough and barely captures the amazing skating ability of Dre, but it does serve as launching pad for future SPM Productions. I'm pretty stoked about it and I hope you are too. Enjoy.

Words to inspire

One of my favorite jobs at work is updating the inspirational quote board. I scour the internet, sifting through compilations of sayings designed to affect the reader in an uplifting way. There are quotes for hope, quotes for getting old, quotes for moving past a bad relationship, quotes for wisdom, quotes for inner-strength, and quotes to energize your spirit. These words of encouragement can really make a person feel better and more optimistic about whatever lies ahead. When I find a quote that seems appropriate, I'll usually run a little background check on the author before posting to the public message board. Mostly to quell my own curiosity, it's nice to know where the words came from, what era and if there are any discrediting characteristics such as bigotry or repetitious themes in his or her sayings. Oscar Wilde, for example, initially seemed like a real cool olden-times dude, but after reading a number of his famous quotes I became annoyed by his cynicism towards love and skepticism towards women. I tend to relay quotes with a positive attitude and a disposition similar to my own. In this regard, these quotes might not be rounding me out much, but they do indeed remind me of what I love about myself, which is good too. Generosity, humbleness, persistence (to the point of dogged belligerence), and hope are key qualities in phrases to my liking. Some of my favorite quotes come from Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Ford, Sun Tzu, Wayne Dyer and Tony Robbins. Here's a supremely awesome quote from Sun Tzu's The Art of War:

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt."

It has been quite awhile since my last post and my skateboarding passion, while still burning strong, has been at bay. Other aspects of my life (raising kids and work) have taken precedence and the discovery of hockey has served well my appetite for physical enlightenment. Many aspects of ice skating and skateboarding are similar - both induce wind-in-your-face freedom and both provide the potential for poetry in motion. The smooth ice surface and sharp metal blades give ice skating a refined appeal, while the gnarly, dirty, bone-hard concrete jungle-land of skateboarding has an undeniable allure as well. The game of hockey adds much complexity to ice skating, i.e. other people. This dynamic, the team concept, is a fine exercise in patience and sacrifice. Fundamentally, skating is a method to escape the commitment-laden and sometimes monotonous grown-up world, and thus human interference might seem unwelcome, yet I enjoy the pairing and find that adding people and direction (a goal) to these pastimes only make them better and more meaningful. Hooray for camaraderie.

Today is my 28-month sobriety birthday and I'm so grateful to have discovered that alcohol and I don't mix. I brought booze with me for twenty years of this journey and found an enormous amount of misfortune. So, I decided to put the bottle down and try something new. What I've found is more precious than gold. What I've found is myself and my ability to share my passion for action and provide words to inspire.

"For changes to be of any true value, they've got to be lasting and consistent." - Tony Robbins

Trashy For Now

Great minds think alike. My friend Shawn Charbonneau, father of "Little Man" James Charbonneau and certified hardcharger, sent me a message this morning that I should join him for an early morning sesh...I was already planning on it homie. Shawn is so fun to skate with! He's older than most skaters (maybe even myself) but shreds just as hard and is totally stoked on the whole scene. He showed me some, as he calls them, "step-off-shove-its" although I think they're also called a "no-comply frontside 180s". These tricks look smooth and stylish and I want them!!! YES a creamy no-comply over the nipple...yum (as Bernard Mickey Wrangle would say), but for now it's a trash can ollie stomp. Getting cleaner at least :)


Epiphanies save us from compulsion. Defined as performing an act persistently and repetitively without it leading to an actual reward or pleasure, compulsive behavior is skater behavior...much of the time. For an observer, many of the pains and risks associated with skateboarding probably make the whole thing seem silly. As I type with an injured wrist, for example, that mildly itches from the inside out (a sign something isn't flowing right in there) I might consider that skateboarding is disastrous, harmful, and even a waste of time. Yet, because of an epiphany - landing ollies on my toes is progress - I revel in the discomfort. Being outside of me, you don't know that these words are difficult to type and thus my crashing is sort of a non-issue, but if you're reading this you're likely grateful I skate/crash and see this blog as the "actual reward" or purpose for skating. That's true for me too. Part of why I skate is to demonstrate the creative process. I believe it's called the Gonzo technique. My crashes produce substance for entertainment...and cause for concern. The crashing part of skating is where thoughts of compulsion come from. Trying and trying to do something unsuccessfully allows for doubt and thoughts of irrelevance, but persistence pays off. Through failure we can reach an epiphany, a notion that out of nowhere gives purpose to our quest and encourages us to continue, to improve, and to ultimately find ourselves better off than before.

Faithful Determination

Superstition plays into addiction. In an attempt to maintain control and be privy to some special insight I tend towards the supernatural rather than the natural. For example, a simple penny laying on the ground has, for some reason, presented itself to me as a road sign; I'm either on the right track (heads-up) or I need to change direction (tails-up). Furthermore, I feel disturbed by the notion that I'm going the wrong way, so I'll interact and sorta beg the cosmos to grant me hope by flipping the tails-up penny until a heads-up sign relieves me. I do this kind of thing a lot and it's emotionally taxing.

Last Saturday I flipped a tails-up penny about 6 times until I got a heads-up. Considering the potential of bad luck (especially at the skatepark) this sign could have been totally troubling, but I knew in my heart that eventually, through God, I'd find my way. So, instead of getting discouraged by the sign or disregarding the whole process as silly, I embrace the fact that yes I'm neurotic and yes I believe God will make everything better.

Taking the flipping episode as a sign, I continued to skate with a sense that success was going to be had, but only after a bunch of trials...and this was the exact case. In the end it was a day of firsts. I figured out how to jump into switch, which eventually looked easy but it took awhile to figure out. Then I conquered the alley-oop. When skating a wall, the natural move is to press down on the tail lifting the front trucks making a pivot possible. I've been doing this for years, but now I have the alley-oop as an option. Instead of turning on the back trucks you press down on the nose of the board and pivot on the front trucks. Way more stylish in my opinion. And the third first was an ollie over a laid down garbage can. This one took some time and while folks were losing hope (myself included as fatigue became a factor) I pressed on and eventually landed it. Not pretty, but success none the less.

In rehab we had a saying, "Let go, let God." This is great advice I think and in this world of confusion, it's nice to know that you don't have worry about straightening everything out. God has a plan and all we have to do is be ourselves. This idea brings comfort and sounds like something I can do...with far less trials than the garbage can ollie.

A few trials and a tribulation.

A shredder from Helena.

Ben making it look easy.

Back to the Grind

Grinds are dangerous and cool. Smooth polyurethane wheels, like waves rolling beneath a Malibu sunset, soothe the soul while thrash metal trucks provide something different, something more violent, more powerful, more shark week. 

My last board, a Creature inspired by the movie Hesh Law, sliced the crap outta my hand with its ground down razor-sharp tail. Thankfully my girlfriend, saving future lacerations, intervened with an early Father's Day present - a new skateboard (thanks Eewee). This time around, inspired by the film Pretty Sweet I went with a Guy Mariano deck, which of all things has a picture of Jaws on it! It seems that everything, even razortail, happens for a reason.

Hay Day

Skate everyday - sure why not, I'm on a roll baby. This blog is hitting rapid fire as raw footage in the tank accumulates. I consider the effect of posting everyday and while the stories are less refined, I believe, having shorts intermingled with longs combined with fresh video content is totally right on. While my creative yearns for an elaborate story-post or a full-on edit booth compilation, now is high time for hot action. So, let's make hay while the sun shines!!!

Stewart on the follow cam.

Dre rolling/grinding into the kidney bowl.

As rain subsides sunshine beams down upon fresh new moves at the skatepark. Yesterday, for the first time ever, Syd 180'd the step-up. It seems that by skating with the persistent sunshine that is Ben Martinez, Syd's skate game is in full BOOM...and we're stoked.

Syd shredding the bowl.

Ben kicking tricks.

Noah rocking a hip transfer.

Curious Encounters

Sometimes the best written things aren't meant to be shared. I just wrote what I thought was a wonderful blog about two interesting people my brother and I happened across at the park, but right before I was about to publish it, in a freak occurrence, I deleted it all and saved a beautiful blank text box. Thus, The Outlaw and The Dog Trainer stories will remain fixtures in my oratory. Better though and probably more fitting is this clip of Dre riding a plastic cruiser like a pro.

Self Worth

It's interesting how my mood dictates how I write, and what dictates my mood...hard to tell. Probably a combination of bodily nutrients, environmental stimuli, physical health, sleep, chemical trails (jokes), and my relationships with other people. Whatever the cause may be, today I'm feeling (as I refer to my chart) confident. I have a chart from rehab that has 70 different feelings complete with the according facial expression. I wasn't really sure of the word for my mood, but the confident face seemed to fit.

I started this post a couple days ago and left it because I needed some fresh skate pics to go along with my ramblings. It went like this: Conformity has never been my strong suit. I don't consider myself a leader and am not here to show people the way or anything. I admittedly have no idea what's going on, but I aim to find out. I have always been very emotional and wear my feelings on my sleeve. That's just who I am and as immature as it may be, I believe that other people care about how I feel. I don't hide things and something tells me that I need to keep exposing myself and everything I believe to be true. One thing I believe is that for whatever reason people put up a front (to other people) like they have their shit together. These fronts are inspired by the media and are making people depressed. The pressure to perform and showcase our talents is creating fear because behind the visaed lies an imperfect being trying to fit into something they don't understand.

I must have been feeling puzzled that day haha. I've been unemployed for well over a month now and the pressure to get a job surges within me sometimes. Yet today, after landing a teaching position at The Lifelong Learning Center, the pressure has relented a bit, giving me some space to reflect on all that unemployment has provided. I now have a handle on the unemployment insurance system, the legal process of divorce, the tax-exempt application process, and most importantly an increased valuation of my time. For the last five years I've been exchanging my time with Lee Enterprises for $13.50/hour, but since being out in the world it seems I can rock a far greater clip. We all have irons in the fire and keeping the fire stoked isn't always easy, but these irons aren't going anywhere and today I feel confident in my ability to forge something that will prove how valuable I truly am. Something useful and elegant. Something beautiful - born from the fire inside my heart. Something to inspire others and remind us all that we're more valuable than we think.

...and now some skating pics.

Back At It

Skatepark Mark rides again! Although the weather was a bit chilly, things got hot quick at the skatepark yesterday. Showing up with little intention of skating, the grip of thrashing took hold and off I went. My daughter and her friend Monika are little Razor girls and the trip was mostly to allow them the shred their scooters and possibly, if we could, introduce Monika to the joys or "2 wheeler" bike riding. With beautiful blue sky overhead, the park called to us and we returned to the land of concrete abandon.

My skateboard is a little worn out these days, but my attitude is fresh and my outlook is lively. I feel like a spring chicken. Cluck! The past few months have been well, an odyssey I suppose. Through some unfortunate events I was forced to re-create myself and admit defeat. Addiction has been such a part of my life for so many years, that being clean was a far-fetched notion. I sorta just absorbed it all and told myself what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. These days, I feel different.

Today is my 6 month sobriety birthday and I feel BLESSED! Enduring pain has always been my thing, but nowadays I feel like toughing it out isn't the best mode. While it's good to be resilient and knowing you can recover from this hard knock life is an asset, I now believe that true strength comes from believing you can't be hurt. I'm nowhere near total self-confidence, but I have faith that through God I can get closer.

So yesterday, after we all got our fill at the skatepark, my crew and I took to the Christian Life Center parking lot to learn Monika about riding a bike...2 wheeler style. Something about the expanse of open lot gives first-time bike riders a little more confidence and with me running behind her holding her up for about 50 yards, Monika rode away on her own. My friend Lyle put it best when he mentioned that she'll always know how to ride a bike now. Believing in yourself is a powerful thing!!

It's worth mentioning that while at CLC Monika's older sister Madison, a novice driver, learned a little bit about parallel parking and how to put the brakes on before she goes too far in the wrong direction. Also, we met a horse there who knows about the perils of barbed wire. Apparently this horse was loose on county roads for months and the rider of the horse was called in to put the horse down. Though, instead of burying him he adopted the horse, helped him recover and now calls him his best horse. I suppose the point of all this is that through love we can help others and through God we can help ourselves. Because from time to time, we all need a little help.

Photos courtesy of Montanaboy Designs. Positive Waves.

Anaconda, MT

SPM hooked up with SPMom yesterday and took our kids east to Anaconda, MT then Fairmont Hot Springs. Hoping to get out of the smoke in Missoula, we were disappointed to find the haze reaching 100 miles away as well. I guess the old adage holds true, smoke follows beauty.

The Anaconda skatepark is a real microcosm of the town, small and down to business. Parker liked the two 1/4 pipes with the box in the middle, Maryan liked the castle at the playground, Emmie liked the expanding tear in the trail mix, Liam liked the changing his shoes, and I liked the view of the McDonalds and Conoco signs. Something about those two landmarks made me feel at home.

After getting our skate fix we cruised to Fairmont Hot Springs. The indoor pools were under construction, so the price was half off. We told the cashier that we were sad about this since we had just driven 3000 miles to get there. I found out later that she believed us. I guess that isn't a stretch at such a destination resort. After a couple duo slide rides, Maryan went down on her own and it was on!! Parker and Mar made laps while us parents soaked it up and talked about bacon wrapped bacon. This convo was misunderstood by a large woman in the pool next to us. She insisted I try a bacon wrapped fist. Haha.

After grabbing a quick dinner at the resort we cruised home and got the kids in bed. Not too shabby for a school night. Nice work SPMom!! We do a pretty stellar job at providing for the family, I must admit :)

Too Tall Woodall

Sometimes the people you work next to everyday, people you would never associate with skateboarding turn out to be rippers. This is the case with Scott Woodall, a salesman at the Missoulian. Scott informed me that he used to skate in southern California and then provided this epic shot as proof. Yeah Scott. It all makes sense now. You can't hide your ridin' eyes!!!

The Mobash Family

In Missoula, Montana, through seemingly impenetrable concrete, love grows at the Mobash skatepark. Our local skate community is flourishing and turning into one big hardcore family. Before the park was built, skaters seemed almost homeless. Their kick flips, hard flips, pop shove-its and tail slides went unnoticed and un-stoked upon. Today, local kids have somewhere to go and get gnarly while feeling safe, encouraged, and supported. Mobash has given many roving kids a stomping ground and has unearthed a treasure trove of talent.

When I was a kid we didn’t have a skatepark to shred. My high school days (and nights) were filled with standing around the Bi-Lo parking lot. My friends and I would meet up there and remain there. We had nowhere to go. Nowadays the skatepark provides a less intrusive option for teenage congregation and while standing around isn’t going anywhere (literally) at least now the rippers in the crowd can crush skate tricks in a more hospitable environment.

Mobash is the only skatepark in town and is the sole destination for skateboard enthusiasts of any age, background, or ability. While new faces are always a welcome sight, the familiar ones – the die hards – are the ones I most enjoy seeing. Their passion, measured not by ability, but by dedication gives the park a personality and a heartbeat. Two skaters who pump more Mobash blood than anyone are Ben and his brother Edge. I love these guys. They’re being raised by their grandma, but live at the park. Ben has tons of natural ability and wicked kick flip, while Edge is teeming with skate swagger and looks like something out of a Hollywood movie. Whenever these guys show up it’s a cause for celebration and when Ben finally throws down a back tail slide and Edge nails the step-up our entire skate family will be very proud.

Last month, the 7th Annual River City Roots Festival swamped the streets of downtown Missoula. Thousands of local folks, me included, came out to eat, dance, drink and be merry. The scene was serene and I was happy to just stand around and soak it up. My five-year-old daughter, on the other hand, was not. As she tugged insatiably at my sleeve an old Willie Nelson lyric came to mind, "still is still moving to me." It seems that when satisfied where we’re at, life has the ability to slow down and become wonderful. As the inclination to roam diminishes we feel closer to home and that’s exactly what’s happening at Mobash. The park that once evoked feelings of fear and distress is now cozier. The people there who once seemed strange are now like brothers and sisters. The skatepark is growing roots and feeling more like home.

With this, the last column of the season, I’d like to give credit and recognition to The Mobash Family. So, without further adieu, big ups to Jake, Ray, Marcos, Dre, and Sarris, you’ve been wonderful interviewees. Thane, you’re super sick and rep Sentinel (my high school) very well. Ben, thanks for going to my website. Edge, you’re the best punk I know. Syd, your bag of tricks is big and getting bigger bro. Emmie, you’re our Skatepark Mom and have amazing kid(s). Austin, where have you been? Eric, you’re qualitative superiority dude. Liam, you’re a natural leader. When you rallied everyone against that belligerent bum it gave new meaning to the term gang mentality. Fe, you’re my iron. Kevin, thanks for the roll-in and Travis, thanks for being my friend on Facebook. Whoever else I forgot to mention, you can find me at the park and collect a sincere apology. I love you all.