Collecting tales of skateparks, underground movements, memoirs, poems and more, Life and Limb presents various writings about and by skateboarders. Some pieces focus on skating, while others simply sketch life from the perspective of inveterate skaters. The best offerings, like Jeff Parker’s “Ovenman,” Michael Burnett’s “Get Radical,” and Justin Hocking’s “Whaling,” reveal skaters struggling with an anomie that seemingly characterizes skateboarding: the subtle awareness of a life purpose mislaid or traded away for the pleasures of grinding rail. Or, sometimes, the sense that others perceive one’s purpose as having been missed. As unsettled and uncertain as Holden Caulfield on wheels, they nevertheless cling with fatalistic tenacity to this thing—not a sport, not merely an activity—they love. It’s no accident that Hocking’s character compares himself to Ahab.
Though I wish I could identify with these guys, unfortunately my brief tenure on wheels was spent posing: I was a terrible skater. But while I couldn’t ollie over a termite, I was into skate culture as hardcore as a $5/week allowance allowed. I spent every cent on cool stickers, putting them in exactly the right place on my deck, meticulously arranging my grip tape design, choosing my slide rails to color-coordinate with my trucks.
What a dork, right? But one lesson of Life and Limb is that skating is full of unapologetic dorks. And two of them wrote a book about possibly the dorkiest skater activity of all: collecting skateboard stickers. That is, Mark Munson and Steve Cardwell decided to make a coffee-table book about stickers that go on skate decks (which are, of course, not allowed near Mom’s coffee table). That book is titled—wait for it—Skateboard Stickers. Mostly devoted to full-color prints of selected stickers, it contains interpolated vignettes about the history of skate stickers and the famous skaters who love them. The sticker phenomenon is variously characterized as cultural statement, as vehicle for political action, as a means of self-expression, and as obligatory product placement.
If you ever skated or have even a grudging liking for the culture, you’ll recognize at least some of the designs—probably not all, because skateboard stickers have always been adhesive ephemera. But this book can quickly transport you—I stopped cold when I saw Jim Phillips’ Rob Roskopp glaring-eye sticker, much like my 13-year-old self in the skate shop. The VCJ artwork from the halcyon days of Powell-Peralta is here, as are stickers for old-school skaters like Mark Gonzales and Christian Hosoi. I wanted to tear pages out of the book and pin them to the wall.
The demands of domesticity will keep me from redecorating the house with Santa Cruz ‘Screaming Hand and Slimeballs, but at least I now have a respectable alternative. I can reminisce about the good old days of shredding, live vicariously through the stories in Life and Limb, and thumb through Skateboard Stickers while sipping my latte. Yeah, I know. Poser.