Tuesday, October 20, 2009
yo-yo #'s 66 & 67: save deth freehands
there's no such thing as a 'save deth freehand', strictly speaking. for awhile, the proprietors of that most 'now' of yo-yo lifestyle companies (big pond, there), seth peterson and dave poyzer, were selling little vinyl decals with their logo. although the circular decals could be used for any number of purposes, they were made to fit perfectly upon the caps of the ever-popular duncan freehand. ironically, the decals were printed and cut by none other than brandon jackson, then-graphic-design-guru and NOW, the head of marketing for duncan toys.
i first saw the decals at ecc in 2008, where dave gave me a pair of the purple ones. that contest also marked the first time i saw an enyo freehand, which had just been released as a collaboration between duncan and yoyonation. i'd heard people begging for a freehand made from the super-hard and super-sparkly enyo plastic for years, and was psyched to finally score one at the contest. when i got home, i dot-3'd the caps (brake fluid is the best way to remove the printed logos from fh caps, if you were wondering) and applied the decals. one of them went on perfectly, the next i stuck on just a bit off-center. the issue with 'a bit off-center' with spinning objects is that they end up looking 'really off-center'. perfectionist (psycho) that i am, i ripped the errantly-placed decal off angrily, replacing it with a tiny green triangle project sticker, which also looked egregiously dumb.
i liked it ok at the time though, and i sent the zero off to my pal chris hicks, who was modding everything not nailed-down. chris had done some very consistent (if simple) work for me in the past, but he had grown into his lathe pretty well and i was just asking for a silicone job. when i got the zero back, i was in utter shock. it was (and remains) the single best-playing freehand zero i've ever used. chris ended up doing a silicone-schmoove job, cutting the schmoove rings super-shallow compared to the inner silicone-ring. though simple, it was just a flawless job; pristine. and when, a few months later, seth sent me a set of green decals with a shirt i'd ordered (and i actually stuck em both on RIGHT)... i was in freehand zero heaven.
it's a funny thing about freehands; some seem to play better than any yo-yo out there... and some are total lemons. i'm not sure if it has to do with the tolerance of the plastic or the axle or the spacer set-up or what. a few months ago, i received a white 'duncan boy' zero in a trade (no idea for what). it looks totally ordinary (or it did), and yet, as some zeros just seem wont to do... it outplays almost anything. it's just a fricking MACHINE, and it doesn't even seem to care what bearing i toss in. like it's aforementioned brother, it was the beneficiary of the least complicated mod imaginable. and yet it was just perfectly executed, enabling this little hunk of plastic to manifest its highest level of play. you know, it might piss me off that there's such inconsistency from one duncan yo-yo to another... if i didn't have a few that are just completely perfect.
it was so good that i wanted it to match the aesthetic of my other super-zero... so when i snagged yet another pair of decals from seth at indy this year (pink ones - the last he had), i knew right where they needed to go. i always kinda found those duncan boy caps (and the duncan boy mascot in general, now that i think on it) to be pretty friggin' lame - a poor successor to either the original circle-headed duncan or the weird little cartoon bell-hop, both of which have a simplistic, classic feel. anyway, i stuck the decals on some sparkle blue caps with the kind of accuracy that experience alone can yield, held my breath when i clicked them in (cause wonky caps can upset an otherwise-perfect freehand)... and yet again, i had a zero that qualified as 'functional art'.
every time i pick these yo-yo's up, i'm reminded of a virtue that has seemed to apply every meaningful endeavor i've encountered: do a small thing well.
i'll relate one of my favorite stories surrounding the swordman, musashi miyamoto, a hero of mine (inasmuch as legends CAN be heroes). musashi was bathing and relaxing in the fief of the renowned swordsman, yagyu munetoshi, who had secluded himself in the mountains and taken to delighting in the simple pleasures of gardening and the tea ceremony. like musashi, a group of burly samurai from kyoto had come to the fief to test their skills in fighting the old master. politely declining to meet with these challengers, munetoshi sent a single white peony from his garden, along with a message intimating that he no longer had any interest in teaching or in fighting. the samurai scoffed at the peony and left in a huff. out of kindness, munetoshi's courier then delivered the peony to musashi's room, who, upon seeing it drew out his short sword and cut the stem in two. picking up the fallen piece while the terrified courier collected herself, musashi compared the two cuts at either end of the stem. from the angle and smoothness of the original cut, he deduced that the peony could only have been sliced by a sword, and that his own stroke was decidedly inferior. upon learning that the peony was cut by lord munetoshi, himself, musashi arrived at the conclusion that he was not yet ready to challenge such a master.
of his performing career, steve martin said "being great is easy. every performer can count on nights when the stars align and everything goes to plan. nights like that are statistical, but being good - every night - is difficult." similarly, when i was growing up, i confided to the poet maya angelou, a family friend, that i wanted to grow up to be a great man. her response was that "the world is too full of great men as it is. be a good man, which is rare." while throughout my youth, i was awed by every sort of flamboyant virtuosity... in my adult life, i have come to respect consistency, simplicity, and and sincerity above all else. it might seem like hyperbole, but a carefully-siliconed freehand reflects these principles as well as anything. nothing you do - not the way you cut a peony, the way you perform on stage, or the way you silicone a freehand - is ever trivial.
i play these guys more than any other zeros, probably; even more than my mg's. partly on account of their anomalously wonderful play; partly due to the fact that i think save deth remains one of the coolest entities in yo-yoing. sure, they're sparkly, but their real value lies beneath the caps. like expert flower-arrangers, their respective modders found the way to bring out the best in these yo-yo's, either by diligent practice or serendipity. playing them reminds me to try to 'do a simple thing well' in the context of my own life...
every simple thing.