(Mostly) Alone


The self-indulgent journal of a self-filmed video part.

By Cole Nowicki

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The tripod extends, one piece revealing itself from the other until it’s at full height. I place my iPhone in its clasp, point it at the ledge, adjusting it just so to make everything fit in frame. I think to myself, is this vlogging?

***

She’s not happy. I’d asked politely if she could move to the other ledge just a few metres away. I’d been skating the one you’re sitting on for a while now, I try to explain. Who do you think you are, she states, not asks. Proclaiming that I do not have ownership over this property, which is true. But I was here first. But I was here first, she mimics, getting up in a huff. 

Many unsuccessful tries later, I pack up and roll over to the woman a few metres away and let her know that the ledge is hers to sit on now if she’d like. I apologize in case I was rude earlier and she balks. You were fine. I just thought you were annoying. And you were. But that’s not your fault. I’ve been having a shitty day and just wanted a place to sit and feel the sun on my face. I haven’t been out in so long.

We talk for a few minutes before a pleasant goodbye. She sits and feels the sun on her face.

***

Hurricane on a different, tragically defunct barrier. Shot by Jeff Thorburn.

***

I ride my bike around the block, waiting for the cars to leave the parking lot so I can skate its barriers. On the loop back someone else is already there. They try a backtail. I hesitate before pedaling over. It’s my friend Simon. His iPhone is leaning against a rock, capturing him slide through the barrier’s bend. I pull out my tripod and laugh. We make sure neither of us end up in each other’s footage. 

***

It takes hours. At some point past the 7pm chorus of pots and pans and barking dogs and tubas and air horns and yeehaws and yelps and woos and spoons against mason jars and grateful applause, I ride away. 7:45pm, maybe.

***

At 7am I wake up to go to another empty parking lot. There’s a freedom in being alone. No one can see me eat shit on a 180 no-comply. 

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Confirmed: it’s still nice to have friends watch you eat shit. Stew laughs as I promise one more try. A promise I’ve been making to him for over fifteen-years. 

***

The big blue fencing the city put at both ends of the tunnel to close off the DIY has spikes on top. A group of skaters nearby float the idea of jumping it. There are lots of ledges just over there, I say, pointing in a far off direction. 

***

A family does chores in their yard, cooks dinner, eats dinner at a long wooden dining table that sits in the shade of a row of needled trees. They clean up, take dishes and cutlery and wipe off the table before going inside. In the schoolyard beside them, I toil on the asphalt alone. Exhausted, laying on my back, looking towards the balcony of a neighbouring condo that towers over the house, I watch a child strike a butter knife against its railing. Over and over. Cars honk. A firework goes off. Someone riffs on an electric guitar.

***

A concrete quarter-pipe is built into a stranger’s driveway. We stop and marvel. It’s steep, tight, janky, perfect. If only. The sliding balcony door opens. A flood of young skaters wash out, inviting us to use it. One comes down and moves her car, another brings a speaker out to the edge of the balcony. Death metal. Get it! Skaters only! They shout from above. 

***

8am is the right time. There’s a cool breeze. I am the only one here. A popular new DIY, all mine. A commuter cycles by, riding along the bottom of the barrier’s transition. He looks at me and says weeeeee.

***

Switch drop-in from a less contagious time. Shot by Jeff Thorburn.

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I don’t want you to break your neck, the old man says, gently scolding me with a tired refrain. As I stand on top of a stump six-feet or so in the air waiting to drop in, I can’t really blame him for resuscitating that classic. He and his little dogs leave the alley. By the time they return I’m packing up. He asks if I got what I wanted and seems genuinely happy that I did. He nods when I attempt to explain what this process of going out, searching for things to skateboard on, filming and cataloging those tricks, and editing them together means.

It’s a creative distraction. A nervous energy diversion. It’s the same skateboarding that skateboarding has always been, but there’s a different weight to it. The catharsis is amplified, maybe. Filming myself struggle and occasionally succeed is some sort of evidence. A token. Of what? To what end? Hard to say. But it just feels like the right thing to do, you know? He nods. Okay, then. Have a good day.

***

What’s more masturbatory than writing about your own self-filmed video part? Not a lot comes to mind.

***

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