Timbre #60: Ego Trip

You ever think about yourself?

Oh, yeah. Of course, it’s a secret. I wouldn’t tell anyone either … if I were you.

Lemme go first, though … to make you feel at ease.

Easy peasy. Ben Raybourn hands out for the sake of comfortable thought. Photo: Matt Price

I’ve admired the extroverted. I’ve admired the isolated. Not at the same time, though. And not right off the bat.

At first I sought validation, verification, confirmation, and a bunch of other “shun” words—honestly and without shame. I did care what other people thought, but I really didn’t even know about it … like a punch you never see coming.

One more thing: I was five.

I don’t recall the exact moment, but at one point or another (most likely after the accumulation of one-points or anothers), I questioned myself. Could have been after noticing other people and how they did their dang deals. (Mine did seem different somehow.) Or it could have been after someone told me I was doing my dang deal differently than their dang deal. Regardless, I came to the conclusion that emulating what I saw might be a good idea.

So noticing this foot forward, that direction turned, those shoes, these tricks, and them-there methods, I subtly steered toward what I thought I wanted.

We are what we pretend to be … Brian Anderson carefully channels Vonnegut and Bazooka Mort. Photo: Sam Smyth

Those who I tried to exemplify had their sureness, their jokes, their dynamite smiles. They asked for an audience, got it, and then played them like a checkerboard. Get it? ’Cause you play checkers on a checkerboard.

But along that route my stoke came out in stumbling bursts—the repeat of something I’d heard, delivered ineptly, or the attempt at friendly shit talk that ended up with someone sad and me feeling badly. Raw and burnt, I turned away a little, searching for a different me. One that didn’t draw so much heat.

Lurching on, I found something else … folks doing their own things. Intriguing—but in a way that didn’t resemble the stage play I’d been attending to. These people engaged in something more like creative hiding. Their audience was an accidental few—if that many—and they all appeared to possess a comfort that needed no endorsement. Everything they did came off like smooth poetry in a language that was new and old at the same time. Whatever was indeed clever.

Get in the van. John Cardiel runs tings from the way-back panel. Photo: Sam Smyth

And again I looked to follow someone else’s set of circumstances—stance, gear, moves, and (shit!) style. That climate, though, quickly proved to be one that didn’t suit my clothes, either. While the second group was more accepting and generally nicer than most, they did not care. At least not in the way I thought they cared. And as I looked to them for what I needed, I came up empty-handed. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to give it up, they just couldn’t.

Now time has passed—not because it was a goal and not because it was an achievement. It’s just because that’s what happens. Some of what I’ve taken a run at—tricks, trucks, and the occasional trend—have worked out fine. But lots and lots of it hasn’t. Of course, credit goes to those whose trails I so eagerly followed: My heroes, my villains. After all of it, you know who I’m down with now? You know who I look to for examples of what’s okay, funny, thoughtless, or all that and then some?

I look to me. I wonder what I’d do. It’s I against I.

The ego is alive!

Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah. Carroll concerns himself with the state of frontsides in a world of big ol’ back sides. Photo: Ben Colen

Call it selfish. Call it weak sauce, too. I’m fine with either. But I care what I think. I care how I do things. I care about what I care about.

Sometimes it gets a laugh, sometimes it gets jammed back in my face, and sometimes it gets bounced off the walls of an empty room.

That’s it, though, right?

Look, it’s not like I’ve come a looooong way and I’m here to tell you all about it. I still look for examples, I still weigh pros and cons, but in spite of that bullshit, no one else seems to know what’s best for me besides, well, … me. And best, so far, means focusing on the few things I know I really care about: Family and friends are in there, and so is skateboarding, but not much else. And audience or not, difficult or not, required or not, I think what’s important to you and holding yourself up as your own guiding example (best and worst) is all anyone can really, truly worry themselves with.

Friends, family, and handi-Montys … only Na-Kel Smith knows what what Na-Kel Smith really cares about. Photo: Sam Muller

I, me, mine.

The ego is alive.

And it’s fine here—just kind of chilling out and minding it’s own dang deal.