Monday, February 20, 2012

beautiful inconsistencies and the end of frivolous wandering

yesterday i had one of my first "structural" catastrophes so far. the 'eh' was lounging comfortably in the left pocket of my jean jacket, which was draped over a chair at the kitchen table. when i plopped myself down upon it, i felt the subtle, yo-yo shaped indentation a millisecond before the full weight of my posterior transferred itself. though i was proud of my reflexes, the damage had been done. on the next throw, something was off, and when you spend all of your time throwing one yo-yo, having something 'off', even by a little, is like a toxic splinter lodged deep within your mind.

the 'eh' had picked up a slight flutter, and i immediately realized that my ineptitude at the table had resulted in a very slight bend, either to the axle or (more critically AND more likely) to one of the set screws inside the halves. when i pulled out the replaceable axle (my last good one), i saw that it was warped like the tour. i've bent the bejeezus out of wooden yo-yo's before, but it's a little less stressful when you've got 50 other 3-in-1's just like it (and a near-unlimited supply of axles). with patience and intensity that i'm sure my cats thought were ridiculous, i bent the shape back as well as i could and changed the axle sleeve. i had to shim it and remove the dead sticker i'd been using because the gap was a bit on the thin side. it was a pity, because earlier, i had the thing playing perfectly.

so far, it's behaving. no real vibe or inconsistency, but yo-yo's don't heal, and if i screwed something up it'll show its face again. it's funny. if i ever have to switch to my backup, it'll really kill me to have worked in the finish so well. they are really two totally different yo-yo's now. not unlike the human condition, the fragility and transiency of a wooden yo-yo never ceases to inspire me.

years ago, jason tracy (one of the late 90's best yo-yoers and even more a wood fanatic than myself) told me that what he liked best about wood yo-yo's is the fact that you have to accept the inconsistency. your yo-yo is not going to feel the same on a hot, muggy day as it does on a dry, wintery one. a microscopic change to the axle or inside-profile, and tricks will go from being your bread and butter to straight-up unthinkable. i delight in developing the skill to minimize those issues, but it never goes away. and while i understand that most yo-yo players have gear on the brain so as to never have to worry about issues with consistency, the natural variability of wood is one of the aspects of yo-yoing i find most compelling.

with a bit of practice, anybody can surf in a wave-tank. always the same shape, temperature, lack of chop. but surfing is about coming to understand not so much the technique as the ocean. somedays it'll be big and burly. some days it'll be tiny and unassuming. very rarely is it 'perfect' (and when it is, you feel all the more blessed if you come to it through difficulty). it's about coming to terms with all of the vast factors outside of your control, and being the best version of yourself in spite of them. accepting your place not as master and commander, but just part of the "ocean"- the greater mystery - is what playing wood is all about.

the re-evaluation of my miniscule jurisdiction of control aside, one of the aspects of this project which i'm finding most challenging is my method for developing new tricks. there's a whole class of yo-yo tricks (like stalls and stop-n-go's and other regens) for which this sort of yo-yo is perfectly suited. i love those tricks, but i'm also trying to push my regular old 1a forward concurrently, and that's tough. this yo-yo sleeps fine for wood, but depending on the string and gap i'm using, i have about 20 seconds of MAXIMUM exploration time before i'm out of spin. (i might be able to eek out double that on a straight sleeper, but not if i'm making my way through some hold.)

as a result, the 1a tricks i'm coming up with are much less 'exploratory' and much more 'theoretical' (if that distinction makes sense). with a bearing, i'd follow the tried and true process of starting a trick or combo i know and purposely 'messing it up' to explore a new concept. i don't have time for that anymore. by the time i even know where i am, my spin is dying, and i have to see the exit like a chess game, a few moves ahead, or else try to complete the trick with a dead yo-yo (a technique i've seen henry dineen employ frequently).

today, while lying in bed and listening to npr, i worked out an entire trick in my head, from mount to flyaway. i've been trying to do something new with escolar's pure143 mount for weeks, and i dunno... i guess something about the rick santorum story really inspired me to focus on... anything else.

i went downstairs with a whole trick in my head, but no idea if my tools (or skills) were up to the holds. i've definitely done this with individual moves before, but never a complete trick, and it was pretty neat to have the whole concept together before i even threw down (particularly since i'd been grappling with the entry). it took me over an hour to get through a 10 second trick, but it was so rewarding. as a yo-yoer, i've never really been much of a theoretician. i try stuff, and since most of the stuff i try is extremely short and to-the-point, it doesn't require much in the way of forethought. i just do it till i land it, and if i happen to find a new path along the way, i'll stroll down and check it out. now that i no longer have the capacity for such idle meanderings, i can feel my trick ideas becoming more focused and centered. it's neat to have necessity dictate the terms of your approach to a new trick.

i've never really thought that yo-yo tricks need to have a 'point', and yet my tricks' content are suddenly dependent upon them, as idly 'following leads' runs me out of gas every time. it's one thing to call out a mount and then synthesize real-time feedback as you see and feel where it goes in front of you. to connect an entry, a series of holds, and a relevant escape and THEN get it under your fingers is a skill for which i find myself grossly (and delightfully) unprepared.

i could have told you that this experience would cause me to reevaluate aspects of my playing, but i could never have predicted which aspects those would be. even after years of playing wood, it never really occurred to me how dependent i was, creatively, upon using a bearing yo-yo to figure out ideas before migrating the technique to more a difficult medium.

in other news, my friend Luke Hildebrand sent me one of his yo-yo creations, which i received in the post this afternoon. a 1-piece cocobolo beauty with embedded buffalo nickels, i can safely say that this is the first yo-yo i've been tempted to play since i started with the 'eh'. i think they're sold out at, but you should check out the blog regardless.

No comments: