everyone who's ever been stoked to spin a yo-yo, even for a short time, recognizes the toy's potential to transcend the mere act of throwing it. like almost any radical and worthwhile pursuit, yo-yoing maintains the capacity for a lifestyle. to me, mark mcbride has long symbolized this understanding.
his early advocacy for the nascent 3a style, 40-watt halo vids & t's, his book the yonomicon, and his role as consigliere-for-life of the duncan crew (particularly during their early-2000's renaissance) ensure his place in the yo-yo pantheon. to me though, his coolest enterprise was fiend, the yo-yo magazine which, though ephemeral and never attaining the mass appeal it might have, went a long way toward giving yo-yo players a rallying point for their [sub]cultural identity.
although, as is print's tendency and (perhaps) it's eventual downfall, you can't easily find an old copy of fiend. incredibly, the internet has hung onto parts of its old web presence, which if you haven't perused, you should. in describing fiend, bride tapped a literary vein far better than i ever could. yo-yoing's a tough thing to describe, but he nailed it here:
What is a FIEND?
A Fiend is into playing in a deep and serious way. He (or SHE) recognizes that yo-yo (or juggling, or top spinning or whatever prop you choose) is about more than just contests or lists of tricks. Those are merely tools to help you achieve the real "State of Yo." You really get it when you're throwing and you become one with the forces of nature and physics that make it all possible-your movements are a dance with infinity. You are surfing the wave of reality. The trick doesn't need a name, you don't need an audience, you've moved beyond all that. You just know that THIS IS REAL. An old Hindu text asks, "what is the difference between the dancer and the dance?" A Fiend answers "nothing."
at the time, the idea of being so 'serious' about playing yo-yo as to define any aspect of one's self by it seemed absurd. it's a toy, after all. but then, i'd always thought of myself as a 'skater'... i'd rock vision street wear at school, slap bones brigade stickers all over my notebooks and lockers, pre-emptively duct tape my sneakers to avoid ollie-holes (this was before skate shoes), listen 'religiously' to faith no more and suicidal tendencies, and nod in agreement with thrasher's philosophical observations. for years, skating had somehow held enough sway to effectively carve the stylistic path on which i diligently tread. was yo-yoing so different?
at the time i wasn't ready to consider it, but now, from the moment npr wakes me up to when i crash at night, i'm a yo-yoer. it doesn't just mean that i know this trick or that. i choose my pants based on which yo-yo's fit well in the pocket. i wear my callouses with the same pride that wrestlers take in their cauliflower ears. most of my best friends are 'fiends', and though i may only see some of them a few times a year, the dedication we share for this simple toy is all the common ground we need. for the love of pete, i've written 80-something blog entries on life as a yo-yoer! evidently, somewhere along the road i decided that 'the noble disk' (another great 'zine) is, in fact, a worthy centerpiece to one's sense-of-self... oh, and these days my notebook is covered in yo-yo stickers.
lately, it feels as though things are really spinning (oh, the pun), and i'm not talking about the whole 'boom' thing. i'm not interested in # of yo-yo's sold, but in how yo-yoers perceive themselves, and how the world sees them. bride was years ahead of his time with 3a, and likewise i feel as though the right confluence of variables for a sense of the 'yo-yo 'collective' is [finally] coming together.
you have chris allen, who, while perhaps absent of bride's edge, has worked his ass off to create (in yoyoskills.com) the means for yo-yoers and manufacturers to hear each other. you have paul han and bombsquad borrowing from the norcal skate scene to reinvent the 'yo-yo aesthetic'. you have the studio sessions guys pushing tricks into new and glorious territory (i think of them lately as our equivalent to the aforementioned bones brigade). you have save deth, at long last picking up fiend's torch and releasing a combination dvd + magazine which emphasizes not just tricks or toys, but music and lifestyle. and you have steve brown, once a contributor to fiend and now 9 days into his effort to document and present a yo-yo trick for every day of 2011. modern yo-yoing brims with the kinds of charismatic iconoclasts which, ironically, tend to inspire a sense of cohesion.
it's always a good time to play yo-yo, because yo-yoing is fun and interesting... but this is truly a good time to BE a yo-yoer, because it's starting to feel like something exciting again. my humble thanks to mark mcbride, and to anyone who's ever made that their mission.