Sunday, June 3, 2012


 While I've been stewing over the price of gas and wondering what happens after we die, a whole Southern California subculture has been utilizing google maps to find abandoned pools and perfecting the art of skateboarding. Who knew: a whole group of young folk are able to swoop, glide, hover, sail around steps, skip beats, skirt disaster, turn around in the air, come feet down back on a 30 by 10 inch board, and basically defy gravity, death, and all good sense by propelling themselves across, around, through, and above a grungy "death hole"-pocked concrete pit.

All the while smoking weed, dodging the occasional adjacent-lot irate homeowner, and keeping one eye out for the cops. This came to my attention last week when I streamed Dragonslayer, the award-winning 2011 documentary about pool skater Josh "Skreech" Sandoval. 

There's the pool skating itself which even if, like me, you know absolutely nothing about it, is bare-bones, beautiful, dangerous, and heart-in-your-throat thrilling.

There's the fact that to get that good must take tens of thousands of obsessive, joy- and pain-filled hours (I'd be afraid to walk down the sides of an empty pool, never mind ride a skateboard).

There's the fact that a kid from Fullerton, fueled by little more than booze, pot, nicotine, chili fries and Dr. Pepper, has given his life to...a sport? an art form? a way of being? that manages to evoke Fred Astaire, Lou Reed, Philippe Petit, and something all his own.  

Dragonslayer is a tour de force.  Director Tristan Patterson follows Josh for what was apparently an especially difficult year in his life. You get an impressionistic sense of the pool skating subculture, the camaraderie and insularity, the dead-end employment opportunities, but the film never tries to send any politico-social "message." It's a film about beauty and about sacrifice and about taking what the rest of the world has thrown away and making art of it. It's a film about devoting your life to something that is useless in the eyes of the world and that is somehow worth everything. It's a film about one otherwise ordinary guy who has taught himself to do something that combines elements of ballet, bull-fighting, drag-racing, jazz, opera, stand-up comedy, sky-diving, and punk rock, and that no-one else on earth quite can do the way he does. 

It's a film about the price we pay for the choices we make and of being secretly proud of making them anyway.

From a recent interview with director Tristan Patterson in Paradigm Magazine:

How are we defining a “decent future?” I think Josh is struggling with the same things we all struggle with—even those of us who have devoted ourselves to a proper education and a 9-5; he wants to figure out a way to stay true to himself and be happy...

There seems to be this tremendous corruption we all have an instinct to fight against, but the corruption is so complex and systematic, it’s hard to even begin to figure out how...[M]y social, psychological and spiritual integrity while making Dragonslayer was to try to make a movie that was honest, kind and graceful. Also, while making it, I wanted to conduct myself in a similar way...

It’s just the poetry that hangs in the air in a place like Fullerton. It’s the words of the D.I.Y. punk generation that raised Skreech at his local skate park...

[P]unk rock is a celebration of putting it all on the line and going until you can’t go anymore, and it’s tragic that like everything else, it can’t save you in the end. I’d add, I don’t think anything is stupid if a kid sincerely cares about it. I definitely think Josh would tell you, if he wasn’t skateboarding, he’d probably be dead. But that’s not a radical statement. Everybody in life needs to find something they sincerely care about otherwise, what reason is there to live?...

I’m not interested in making films that simply point out what’s bankrupt. I’m interested in making films that uncover what’s beautiful and still possible...

Read the rest of the restore-your-faith-in-humanity interview here.
Watch Dragonslayer yourself.
And start scouting for pools.


  1. Dr. DeAtkine, I accidentally hit the wrong button and just deleted your comment: can you send it again! Thank you--I used to hang out with surfers, or have a surfer boyfriend, back in the 70's, but no, I haven't been hanging lately with the skating crowd!

  2. David DeAtkine, Jr., MDJune 4, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    Oh, OK...just wanted to remark that me and my skate-bros were skating pools in the late 70s...and that this has been part of the surf/skate culture for a long time....regards, DDD

  3. Off topic but golly, am I glad I read via RSS in my email inbox 'cause, girl, this new colour theme is, um, well, retina shredding. Lurvsyou anyway.

  4. I have been on a mad, crazy green kick, which I am not about to give up entirely, but maybe this is a TEENY bit dark, dear Owen...will fiddle with in the coming days...

  5. Green. Ordinary time. Ireland where the 50th International Eucharistic Congress is about to begin and where our daughter is currently on route to. Green, the colour of me when I think of the preceding information. Green. I guess you're good to go with that then.

  6. Well, maybe this is TOO obvious, but I couldn't help myself:

    (Probably one of the best examples of Joe Raposo's genius- not to mention Ray's.) And a favorite of mine from the first time I heard it. Pete and I sang it last night.

  7. Nice, Mary Beth! I was just listening to Ray in my car...I have got a green editing site now, too! Though different greens than this one...

  8. I just finished the film Heather. Drunk skate punks talking about reading David Hume's philosophy on Ethics is what resonates with me the most. Influences that are not helpful to Josh's or our own search for peace, ease, and comfort. The smart sophisticated girlfriend with an interest in Sociology, who stares blankly when Josh asks her "why did you let me get this drunk?" When she tells Josh that Joan of Arc is one of her heros, Josh responds about her being another religious fanatic. Pro Skater Lance Mountain's personal gift to Josh, new skateboard shoes, and a copy of Our Daily Bread, which Josh say's he keeps simply because he personally wrote him words of encouragement on the inside. A helpful insight into the new evangelization...

  9. Thanks for checking in, FabienFan. I don't know anything about the "new evangelizaton," but I do know my heart was moved by the beauty of the skating, and the heart and pain and sacrifice that went into it. I think that's what the human heart IS moved by: beauty and paradox--in this case, of a culture, a landscape, a life; by questions that can be posed but not answered. And I think to keep Our Daily Bread, or any book, because someone inscribed it to you with love is EXACTLY the "right" reason...

  10. There has been a chicness to streetpunk panhandling pillpopping skayers for a long time. The recession has just multiplied the numbers.

    1. I didn't think of the skating as chic, Johnny; I thought of it as beautiful. The recession has multiplied the numbers of people who got a crap start in life and, like Sandoval, work at minimum wage.


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