Friday, May 7, 2010
it occurs to me that i'm of the last generation of yo-yoer's who learned to throw during a time when transaxles and ball bearings were not widely available. although, somewhat ironically, my first yo-yo was a yomega brain, i traded it away for what was essentially a glorified imperial. fixed axle yo-yoing was just 'yo-yoing' in the 1980's, and for most of the 90's. and while i wasn't a 'serious' player by any stretch (and thank god for that as a child), i think you never really get away from how you defined yo-yoing when you were first exposed to it. my old teacher, the composer thomas oboe lee, once told me that as you 'grow up', you begin to take the greatest delight in the music you heard as a child - that's 'what music is' to you, and you come back to it.
this yo-yo was given to me by matt carter. when i first became aware of the online community, matt was already an established 'yo-yo artisan' with his own aesthetic-mod forum at dave's skill toys. at the time i was much more concerned with function than with form, and i largely ignored his corner, though i'd been regularly impressed by his work.
i got to meet matt at ma states this year, and even played one of his 'crow'd fusions', which i found gratifyingly similar to the flying v in play. although it was not clear to me before this year, matt is hardcore about his wood yo-yo's. i figured he'd dig no jives, seeing as he designed the graphics for at least 3 of the 'modern mandalas', but throwing wood really is his bag. we're kindred spirits in the 'school of lo-fi'.
he handed me this yo-yo at the contest and asked me to throw it around. it's a late 90's blank from the workshop of brad countryman, purveyor of the hummingbird and bc lines, and later tom kuhn yo-yo's. while the bc-era no jives are generally seen as being slightly inferior to those of the san francisco days, he's always had the fixed gap, glued-construction woody completely dialed. this example being no exception, it slid along on the string like molten butter on glass, and i was surprised when matt told me that he, himself had put it together from the parts.
though i protested for a second (or maybe just pretended to), he bade me keep it; to finish it up on my own - paint it or carve it. i've actually left it alone, owing to my sense that i really couldn't add to its simple perfection in any constructive way. he actually gave me another, in parts, to assemble and finish on my own. for whatever reason, it's still in pieces in a cloth bag... perhaps because this one plays so well.
yesterday, i was talking to my friend drew. as usual, we were discussing one thing, and gradually, like some heliocentric plant, our discussion naturally bent toward yo-yoing. drew's planning on buying a longboard, and we were discussing different models. i've frequently highlighted the distinctions between ball bearing and wood axle yo-yo's, and how they compare with other tools of 'dynamic art'. electric vs. acoustic guitars, new school vs. retro surfboards... standard 'trick' skateboards vs. longboards. in each case, the exponents of the former tend to focus on 'results' (fast, progressive shredding, 'destroying the wave', tré flips to smith grinds) while the latter tend to emphasize an attitude of 'cruising'. certainly there are people who attack an acoustic guitar with blindingly fast arpeggios, and i'm not gonna lie - i could hit some pretty complicated tricks on this yo-yo... but i'm not INCLINED to. and i like that i'm not.
as i told drew (and as egomaniacal as it feels typing this), i'd like to develop myself in to the 'gerry lopez' of yo-yoing; and not (please understand) in terms of recognition. it's true that as a surfer, lopez was unmatched, known as 'mr. pipeline' throughout the 70's. he cultivated a tremendous style that became immediately recognizable on any wave. what i find far more impressive, however, is the fact that he has aged with absolute grace. by his own admission, he can't go out and surf pipe at 62 the way he did when he was younger, or the way the young lions attack it now. but he continues to surf, with dignity and elegance, and he seems to treat every wave like it's a gift - which of course, it is. though he was once one of the most celebrated surfers of his era, he's absolutely the kind of guy you can imagine standing waist deep in the shorebreak, pushing some kid into his first wave... without even telling him his name. unlike gerry, my name really IS irrelevant, but i still want to 'be that guy'.
this is the kind of yo-yo i'd like to throw as i grow old (should i be so lucky). i once heard a compelling comparison between psychoanalysis and art. both are designed to explore the inner intricacies and compulsions of the human mind. what divides the two, however, is what's done with the discoveries. when psychoanalysis arrives at a discovery, it holds on to it, applying the truth to one's life and actions and attitudes. when art makes a discovery, it lets the discovery go. when an artist tries to rehash the same idea again and again without moving forward, the result tends to feel unnatural; forced, obscene, stagnant. art's got to be allowed to move on. i don't see myself as old, but i'm acutely aware of the direction in which my yo-yoing is headed. where a couple years ago coming up with a complicated combo would feel fulfilling to me, now i'm more interested in being aware of how a yo-yo feels at it spins, or in the 'thwack' of the wood as it connects with my palm. it's not a lot... just everything.
i don't really believe in the idea of 'transcendence' (at least in terms of moving 'beyond' this moment or place)... but i like the idea of growing past the compulsion to 'do tricks'; at least the fancy ones. i love watching the insanity my friends come up with on a yo-yo, but the older i get, the more the ideal of 'complexity' seems to shrink off into the horizon. when i'm old, i'd like to be the 'archetypical old guy', shooting the moon in the park, approached by some kid who aims to show me up with his new-fangled toy and new-fangled skill... i'd like to be secure enough to let him. a heavily idealized image, to be sure, but it reflects my desire to 'move on toward simplicity'.
i'd like to find the way to apply gerry lopez's 'soul arch' to yo-yoing, and to let that be enough.
because it really is.