Friday, January 29, 2010
i really didn't intend for this to happen.
a couple months ago, i jotted down some yo-yo rules, which turned into some more, and which a few people read. now i've got a yo-yo and a comic with my likeness on it, illustrating the lot of em in a quirky cartoon-folk-art style. crazy.
collaborating with john higby has been a whirlwind dream. i feel as i imagine a young streetball player would if he were approached by magic johnson and asked to play one-on-one. awed, maybe a little confused... but 'OF COURSE!' in this case, magic plays yo-yo, and though known for his showmanship and art all over the world, he liked my idea and wanted to run with it in his way.
about 5 weeks and many e-mails later, i received a huge parcel with several examples of the finished product, along with some of the original artwork created by john. to call this stuff priceless to me would be an obvious understatement. it's cartoon-yo-yo-ME! mind you, it doesn't make me feel more important - more as a tugboat would if tied to the back of a luxury cruise-liner. 'we're going to the caribbean? ... mmmok!'
i like proflys. i like them a great deal. compared with pretty much every 'popular' yo-yo out there, they aren't easy to work with at all. before the axle breaks in, they can be downright snagalicious. and even after they do, the teeny gap is a harsh mistress, punishing hubristic hands which would try to control her. what john does to clear yo-yo's is positively insane. i have one clear '66', but i'm really only keeping it that way to provide a controlled counterpoint, standing out in relief next to the paint explosion pervading its peers. my favorite (the one in the foreground of the first pic) looks like it's teeming with multi-colored bacteria. during spin (or still), it seems to pulsate with a fecundity that no splash-ano on the planet could match. another example calls to mind swirling galaxies from the old charles & ray eames video 'powers of ten'. it makes me feel tiny (and huge).
playing them is a joy, and a lesson in humility. a mature person will not see the two as mutually exclusive.
i'm used to playing wood axles now. i prefer it, not because 'it's so zen' or because 'it makes me feel fancy'. i just prefer it; i prefer the tricks i do and the way that i approach them. i play my flying v's a ton, but i'm always looking for ways to make them feel more like wood, which i realize seems a little counter-intuitive to most people. a thin bearing caked with thick lube does the job, as does breaking open said thin bearing and using the inner race as a fixed axle (props to steve buffel for that idea).
this past week, matt carter reappeared on yoyonation. under the alias 'scarecrow', matt was a fixture on the old skill toys board, and recognized for his aesthetic talents (it was he who designed the graphics for both the quatle and celtic no jives - remember those?). talking to him reminded me of another yo-yoer from the past, one who (unfortunately), i have yet to meet: mr. bill alton.
mr. alton wrote a great newsletter in the early 90's called 'the noble disk', and even a book called 'the care and operation of the noble disk'. the book is particularly great, and takes a novice reader through the nuances of yo-yo play from 'beginner to advanced'. what's awesome about it is the fact that it was published in 1996, so all of the standards are going on 14 years old. alton boasts about his 12 second no jive sleeper (14 with a proyo), and describes a time when the differences between looping and string tricks were not yet so delineated. yo-yoing was a simpler (and perhaps more difficult) thing back then, and though i certainly don't 'rue the boom' or wish to turn back the clock, i do think that our present yo-yo culture could stand to relearn some of the lessons of the past.
it seems as though every time i check a yo-yo board, i'm confronted with some variation of the question 'i just did _________, is that good?'
exponentially-expanded technology has enabled yo-yoing to become so vast and complicated that it's no longer easily divided. completing x, y, or z alone won't make you a master, or expert or whatever. yo-yoing makes you a yo-yoer, and that's plenty. one of the defining hallmarks of adolescents is the 'desire to arrive' at something (yeah i used to be one too), so i can't expect them to fully 'get' that concept... but i do hope our next generation will find the patience to appreciate their own rate of development for what it is. imagine playing yo-yo for years, with a 12-second sleeper being the clearest result of efforts. imagine the time before youtube and regular contests, whence you might go YEARS between seeing yo-yoers of your own skill. it's only been one generation, but somehow the kind of patience and persistence it takes to accommodate those obstacles would seem ludicrous to much of our community now.
however, the point remains today. in a world where everyone knows kamikaze, the ability to do hydrogen bomb is not 'valuable' on its own. what's valuable is the WORK you apply to your craft. in the end, the work is the result; the journey is the end. the old guard understood this because they had to. otherwise, why on earth would they have persisted? i don't think you have to play a no jive or profly to understand (maybe i do, but that's my problem). i think all you have to do is recognize that there's NO end. you will never 'arrive'. unfortunately, that truth is really difficult for some people to swallow.
you want to be good at yo-yoing? really commit to it, and you will be. you want to be GREAT? commit to it for a lifetime... and you might be.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
yeah, i know. it's been a long time. i don't owe any kind of explanation. i've always intended to update it when and if i have something to say.
i received this yo-yo for xmas. it was in my stocking along with a few other nifty trinkets (an old 'whirl king', several packs of ancient cheerio string, one of those silver gorham yo-yo's, and an autographed trading card of my very good friend, mr. john higby - with whom i am presently collaborting). in our family, my mom does a lot of the big-box shopping, and wraps them in thick, fine paper with a crisp brilliance that i will never be able to emulate. but the stockings are my dad's exclusive province. he loves it, and though my brother and i are all grown up now, our stockings are still replete, year after year, with small but shockingly relevant gifts. the o-boy stood out, however, as a yo-yo that i've always coveted.
one of the earliest models released by duncan following its buyout of the flores company, the first o-boys were essentially identical to the elliptically-profiled flores models of the day (we're talking about the 30's - old). those first models featured extra thick dowels for axles, and i can't imagine that they spun for very long at all. the model now in my collection materialized considerably later (don't have a date). the profile is a little wider and the axle is (thankfully) considerably thinner, so it actually spins pretty well. i can hit kwyjibo on a 50+ year-old yo-yo, which is kinda cool. shortly thereafter, it falls apart because the axle is not glued.
my dad scored all of this stuff on ebay. he's become a total ebay-junky, scouring the site for auctions of old original ansel adams yosemite photographs, 1st edition copies of john muir books and ancient medical tomes. he and my mom are collector-types. they keep everything, and each corner of their home sports some manner of miscellanea. while the untrained eye may waltz in and not understand the crumbling detritus, i see it as the substance of my youth.
i'm the third edward haponik (out of four). my father has always gone out of his way to embrace pretty much whatever i do (aside from my proclivity for sneaking out to 'roll' houses growing up). with the exception of playing baseball though, i'm not sure any of my obsessions has ever really resonated with him: skateboarding, jazz, martial arts, yo-yo (though he gave me my first - an original run yomega brain). one might expect a parent to react to their offspring's varied and apparently disconnected pursuits with a kind of benign neglect, but not my dad. he's always been secure enough to appreciate the things that he never pursued himself and to look diligently for their connective tissue. i guess i played chess, to which he could relate. i even beat him - once. (i suppose there is also the matter of our mutual appreciation for the early film work of steven seagal.)
dad's a successful doctor, and in some respects, i feel as though i may have let him down. elementary school teacher, stay-at-home-dad, yo-yo player... not the kind of stuff that typically garners one great accolades. and yet i know he's proud of me. i truly wouldn't feel 'worth it' had i not spent my entire childhood (and now adulthood) being SHOWN that i am by both he and my mom.
my most persistent memory of my childhood is probably playing catch with my dad. i have no sense for how many hours we spent in our various backyards (or at campsites, or at the grand canyon, or at the 'field of dreams' in dyersville, ia) tossing a baseball back and forth. it seems as though our relationship was built up gradually, one throw at a time. i first recognized the end of my childhood following one such catch around age 15. i was a strong (though wild) pitcher, and i turned the fingers of his left hand into swollen sausages and covered his palm with a pulpy bruise. i've always had a problem with accuracy (i once hit three consecutive batsmen, and then gave up a grandslam - no joke), but when i threw the ball across three lawns he never complained, beyond mocking his own inability to leap the 8 feet needed to catch them or else pick them out of the dirt. he never laughed or discouraged me. he did, however, make me run after them, which i did not fully appreciate at the time.
there are a number of things that i just could never imagine him doing. virtually all of them are dishonorable. he compulsively deflects praise to those around him, especially to my mother, which is appropriate considering the yeoman's effort she brought to our family. my dad isn't some kind of saint, as i'm surely making it sound... he just tries really hard to be a good man, and he's done it for so long i don't think he even recognizes it as 'trying' anymore. it's taken me a lifetime to fully understand it, but if he weren't my dad; if he were some random guy that i met at a dinner party and learned a bit about... he would still absolutely be my hero.
it's too easy to see my parents as an inseparable unit, ignoring their individual outlooks and efforts. they're as head-over-heels in love today as i imagine they were 35 years ago, a fact i found nauseating as a teenager, but which i find endearing now. while i've always seen my dad as a calm, consistent force, my mom is just pure, unyielding energy. the second of six sisters, the rhode island home where she grew up still shudders with laughter whenever the family is together (probably even when it's empty, at this point). she will kick your ass in whatever board game, whether you're 6 or 60 (though her ferocity has dimmed slightly through playing against her granddaughter), and although my dad loves the outdoors, i've always seen it as my mom's affinity for growing things that has sent the pair of them hiking through essentially all of our national parks. it was not until i became a [comparatively inept] homemaker and cook that i came to appreciate the full spectrum of what she did for us. she plays with my kids for hours. not 'watches them play'; plays with them, and usually harder than they do. my daughter loves when she comes over, not just because she's willing to play pretend... but because no one else has ever dared her to be so imaginative.
it was my dad who serendiptously picked out the o-boy, and this post was meant to be about him... but to try and yammer on about him and NOT my mom would be tantamount to pulling a portuguese man-o-war from the ocean so as to point out its features - it would immediately disintegrate. my mom loves my dad like the sea loves living things, and vice versa. each is now composed of the other.
i know an awful lot of people who have had really difficult, awkward relationships with their parents. in some respects it makes me feel guilty for having so many warm memories of my own. i didn't do anything to deserve an amazing family - no one does, just as sure as no one deserves a dull or abusive one. the worst of it is the knowledge that there is absolutely no way to repay them. ever. my dad didn't 'sweep in' and save the day valiantly one time. he saved EVERY day. my mom maintained a kind of glue that not only kept our family together; it electrified it. they're not dead, and i don't mean to preemptively eulogize them. but my whole life, now both steady and exciting in its own right, has been built around the scaffolding they provided. the closest approximation to karmic recompense that i can imagine is to be that kind of father - that kind of person - for my own son and daughter.
alex is up from his nap... guess i should get off the damn computer. ;)