We came from Florida, Brooklyn, Portland, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Long Beach and Japan to meet in Houston, TX — Open Arms and Open Hearts. Our Common Ground: Art, Music and Skateboarding. From there, well, Anything Is Possible!
No corporate initiative or marketing strategy, just Friends Coming Together to Express their Love for the Peaceful Arts: In-Tune-Ment. What started as a Dream has become a Community: The Street Plant Battalion.
Once Houston was pinned on the map, we reached out to Friends in Austin, Dallas and Wichita Falls, TX as well, with a simple idea: Skate, Create, Relate and Enjoy! And this became the Open Hearted Texas Tour 2017.
We were 4 hours late to our visit at Evol in Izumo, Japan. When we were still an hour away, Hiroshi said to me, “You have a lot of fans waiting for you.” It sounded so implausible, amusing even — “Fans” — like that was a real thing. I mean, I understood what we were doing, driving a great distance to meet people but I had never thought about it like that and I just don’t and can’t frame things in my mind in that way. I just don’t think in terms of “fans” or that I have any sort of obligation to do this. For me, it’s about People and a desire to Connect. I just show up and Live in that Moment. I don’t take for granted that anyone will be there, ever.
As we turned the corner onto the street where Evol is located, we heard a loud roar rise out from the parking lot. Everyone who had taken the time out of their lives that day to come see us, and had extended that time into the night, cheered our arrival. I hated being late, it just feels so typical, but this really was a special moment. Still, I immediately thought of those who may have had to leave and miss our visit because of our tardiness and so, my joy was leveled by an equal pang of regret.
Any exhaustion we may have felt after driving all day and into the night was immediately vanquished by a surge of excitement, fueled by the Love and Enthusiasm of the Beautiful Faces greeting us as we stepped out of the van.
Photo and autograph requests ensued but due to failing eyesight, I had to step into the well-lit skate shop to see what I was doing. Also, I wanted to make sure that anyone who had waited that long to see me at least got a decent photo. I hate to be rushed in those situations, especially when people are pressing in, that’s when it becomes vital to slow everything down and humanize every interaction. Or what’s the point?
Once we’d shaken every hand, signed every item and taken photos with everyone, spotlights were focused on a jump ramp in the middle of the parking lot indicating it was time to Skate.
I grabbed my board and helmet and joined Joey and Kristian in a jump ramp session under the lights. It reminded me of being a kid and playing Little League Baseball. The night games, under the lights, always had an elevated aura and I’ve always Skated better at night. Not that I Skated all that well this night, but the energy was right.
My now poor nighttime vision, a very skinny jump ramp and a crowd pressing in too close (making me concerned about bailing and my board striking someone) made for a Fun yet reserved session for me. No one seemed to care though, it was all in Fun. Plus, Joey and Kristian killed it and I’ve found myself having as much or even more Fun documenting their Skating as pursuing my own at times.
All in all, it was great visit in Izumo. Much Love and Thanks to Tomokazu and EVERYONE who came out to see us at Evol!
Our vehicle for the past two Street Plant Japan Tours has been a van fronted, mini-motorhome: The Isuzu Fargo. Unlike any other vehicle I have ever ridden in or driven, the Fargo looks like something that the Jawas might have scavenged on Tatooine. Its wheels seem too small for its hulking body and its engine lacks any hint of power, but somehow it has proven its merit and transported us from Tokyo to Sendai, to Yamagata, Niigata, Toyama, Kanazawa, Fukui, Zushi and then from Osaka to Kanonji, Kōchi, Saga, Sasebo, Karatsu, Kumamoto, Izumo and Kobe. That’s a lot of kilometers.
Kristian Svitak compares riding in the back camper to “rocking around like a boat in rough seas.” He sat in the back at the table, facing stoically forward out the front window, it’s all he could do all day long to keep his lunch from making a return trip up his esophagus.
When I have taken my turn behind the wheel, relieving our faithful Tour Manager Hiroshi to rest, Kristian has joined me up front, and you’d think by his shit-eating grin that he’d just won the lottery. Nope, just a few hours in the front cabin.
Though expensive, due to tolls, driving in Japan is a very pleasant experience. First, the landscape of mountains, hills, forests, rivers, seas, tunnels, villages and cities is forever stunning. Secondly, Japanese drivers are courteous, they do not suffer from the disease of entitlement, they respect the passing lane and thus traffic flows orderly and peacefully. In fact, I don’t remember ever hearing one horn honk, nor have I ever seen any sign of road rage while in Japan. Without the usual American manner of the highway being a pressure cooker, and an added stress to one’s life, driving truly becomes a much more enjoyable experience.
Over these past two tours, the Fargo has become an integral part of our experience, a 6th member of our touring party. I’ll never forget turning the corner, 4 hours late to arrive at Evolin Izumo. As we made our way down the street with the shop in view, we heard a loud cheer from the parking lot ahead. The locals had recognized the Fargo by sight.
Japan is a Spiritual place for me. A wellspring of Inspiration and Motivation. But it’s not at the foot of the Beautiful temples that I find Glory (although I do worship the manmade architecture). And it’s not even at the Shrine of the Seas or Mountains that I bow (although Nature is my denomination). It is at the altar of the People where my Faith is Consecrated and where I am made Whole.
The is no language barrier between us. What is spoken from the Heart, goes to the Heart. Every relationship is Purified by Essence. Words fall away, replaced by Light and Tone. Love is its own language.
The Positivity and Energy that the Japanese Skaters give to me flows to every fiber of my being and informs my very existence: If we Live Right in This Moment, there is no need to worry about tomorrow. Every interaction Lives and is Honored in the Never Ending Now.
My Gratitude and Adoration for the Japanese Skaters breaks through and Rises Above jet lag, exhaustion and a natural introversion to Celebrate Our Common Ground, Our Love for Skateboarding, Our Love for Life! My Skateboard reveals itself under my feet and I Sing a Song of Love!
The Street PlantOpen Hearted Texas Tour 2017 was a great time. Adding music to the equation was very Soul Satisfying. From playing inside Cactus Music in Houston, TX to the sidewalk in front of Deviance Skate Supply in Wichita Falls, TX we ran the gamut on where a band could set up and play and that is exactly what I was hoping to accomplish: Make the music accessible and immediate, FREE and ALL AGES.
The band for these shows was put together by my Brother In Open Arms, Tommy Luna. I told Tommy that I was coming to Texas and that I wanted to play some songs from my new EP: The New Arms EP, Produced By Matthew Ryan, and I asked if he could help get a band together. The answer was an immediate Yes! — And what a group of musicians he assembled. The chemistry was immediate. Even though we had only rehearsed for two hours before our first show, I felt like I’d been doing miles with these guys for years. We even had a personnel change after the 3rd show where Guitarist Kevin Bernier left for Australia for his regular gig w/ The Suffers while Drummer JP Rios switched to Guitar, Tommy Luna continued to hold down the Bass and we were joined on Drums by Isaias Gil. And the first gig with the second line-up at 4DWN in Dallas, TX was done on the fly, no rehearsal.
Much Love and Thanks to The Texas New Arms v1.0 and v2.0:
For years and years I had this reoccurring day dream.
That one day I would truly own my very own Skateboard Company, and that I would run it out of my Garage.
That I would somehow remove myself from the parasitic world of brands, sponsors and promoters and the oppressive commercial culture that they cling to.
That I would find the hole in the fence, and leave the small gray ghetto of the industry, filled with the endless broadcasting of self congratulatory noise, and step out into a Wider Reality where there is no sweating scramble for profit and domination, and no need for distinction.
I dreamt that I would one day Create My Own Destiny, By Myself, For Myself, and that I would cut a path that was clear, away from the misdirection and evasions of corporate initiatives.
I dreamt of a Skateboard Company that had a Positive Purpose.
I dreamt of a Skateboard Company that Connected People.
I dreamt of a Skateboard Company that was a Sincere Dialogue.
I dreamt of a Skateboard Company that was Open Hearted.
I dreamt of a Small Flower pushing up through a crack in the concrete.
I dreamt of Street Plant.
Thank You and Much Love to the Street Plant Battalion for helping make this dream come true.
In January of 2015, we started this little Skateboard Company in our Garage. Born out of Love, Strength and Inspiration, Street Plant has been sown and cultivated with a Woman’s Touch, and it has made all the difference.
In my 31 years in Skateboarding, it was a rare occurrence where I shared a conference room or discussed the marketing or the business of Skateboarding with a Woman. I had to step outside of the industry, past the errors of tradition and shake the chains of commerce in order to find my way Home, into the Loving Arms of my Wife and Daughters, where I could finally Think, Feel and Attend Justly to my interests. It was here, that I once again found the Romance in My Nature, the Dignity to Go Forward and the Encouragement to Keep Dreaming. I truly have my Wife Ann and our Daughters Emily and Lucy to Thank for that.
Street Plant: A Skateboard Company Owned By 3 Women and a Street Scoundrel From New Jersey.
The Songs I wrote with Saints Of Low and Good For You represent the road to Street Plant. I had been lost in my own darkness for many years. The writing of these Songs was an exercise in self-assessment. Whatever rueful reflections they engendered, they also Illuminated the first steps in what would prove to be a long ride home. The Songs on this playlist represent that journey. These Songs were Good For Me, maybe they could be Good For You.