Ian MacKaye on How Skateboarding Changed His Worldview
Skateboarder/photographer Atiba Jefferson has a new magazine simply called The Skateboard Mag. Each month they feature someone well-known in the non-skate world who also skates. Last month it was Teen Idols/Minor Threat/Embrace/Fugazi/The Evens/Dischord Records’ Ian MacKaye.
To say Ian was a major influence on me would be an understatement. I’m sure I’ve already said this elsewhere in this blog but watching him in Another State of Mind on USA Networks late at night in the 80s was a turning point for me. I didn’t relate to Mike Ness putting on mascara, but Ian MacKaye talking about not knowing what he wanted to be but knowing what he *didn’t* want to be — that’s where I was at 15, I didn’t know what I wanted to be but I knew I didn’t want to be like everyone around me in Goshen, Indiana.
It’s funny, in searching for this video I realize this is almost the only part of the movie I remember. And I must have seen this movie a hundred times before I was 16.
But that was 25 years ago. In 2010 Atiba does a one-page interview with Ian in The Skateboard Mag. You can read the full text here. What inspired me to post tonight is Ian’s description of how skateboarding contributed to his worldview:
What I can say about skateboarding is that I really learned how to reassign properties to the world around me. This was not a conscious practice, but still it was occurring. Suddenly the weather means something completely different to you. Swimming pools take on a new potential reality. You’re not just taking a swim anymore. If you go into a parking lot and there’s a little bank on the side of it, you make a mental note of it. The surface of the streets, are they rough or smooth? There are any number of lines that you start to see.
I think when skaters walk down the street, they’re looking at it with an entirely different grid in their minds. I think this practice enabled me to redefine the world around me—to take what was given and then readjust it to make it work. When I got into music, specifically punk rock, that sort of redefinition was central. I would look at a situation, the circumstances that had been presented, and think, “Okay, I’m just going to change all of this, or at least change the way I’m thinking about it.” I come at things from a different place, and I think that’s something I really developed through skating.
To this day I swim to the bottom of swimming pools just to check out the transition.
We all look at the world through the prism of what’s familiar. But I agree with Ian, looking at the world through the skateboarder lens, working with what you’ve got but constantly redefining what’s possible with the tools you’ve been handed, has always served me well. The Solitary Arts in general seem to spawn useful thought and good people, most of the people in my life are represented in Geoff McFetridge’s piece below, especially if you take that typewriter and add a CPU and an Internet connection…