For quite a while—much longer than my memory stretches—I’ve admired a cute little saying from afar. I felt like it applied to me a little bit, but also, the slow and steady way that things of any significance happen. Whenever I’d hear it, I’d smile and whisper to my inner whisperer, “That’s us, man.”
Dan Wilkes kicks a quiet bean over Lynnhaven’s onion. Photo: Blender
I couldn’t hear if he whispered back, but the reaction I sensed was an agreeable head nodding, eyebrow-raising sort—yes we’re still here and we should stick around. It’s getting good.
The whispering whisperer and I never made shirts or repeated the saying into a memorable catch phrase, but when we thought about the three words, “just show up,” it made us grin a little and exhale. We’d showed up once, we hadn’t left, and that, we figured, was the reason we were able to participate in all kinds of cool stuff—music listening, friend having, and skateboarding.
I’ll stop talking about myself as we now, though. We’re starting to bug me a little bit.
Jump, man. Mike Smith plants a fast one at the Mouse Ramp. Photo: O
But back to the saying.
A few months ago, after showing up in my own living room, I heard the phrase—our phrase—on one of the many channels my television set receives as part of an expensive subscription package. And it was repeated again and again and again. “Just show up.”
Turns out, it was some social media call-to-bandwagoning for marketers and advertising professionals … or was it part of a list of mottos from someone’s self-help advice memoir … or was it a suggestion to jam your foot in the door somewhere, anywhere, and reap hecka benefits as the stubborn last man standing—getting what you deserve without actually having to do anything about it?
But like when the bully steels your joke or when a lifted F150 rolls by blasting The Smiths through twenty-inch subs, my whispers—our whispers—sounded unexpectedly shitty when they were being shouted back at me. I knew then that a) I didn’t mean it like they meant it, and b) they definitely didn’t mean it like I’d meant to mean it. It also dawned on me that I’d never really showed up to anything, anywhere—justly or otherwise. In fact, I’d been doing the opposite of showing up this whole time.
So now I have something to tell you, and I’ll whisper it so that it doesn’t come off too loudmouthed.
Don’t show up.
If we bump into each other somewhere, though, don’t be too surprised. I’ll be the normal looking guy standing there with the other normal looking guys and girls, being where we’re don’t have to be, doing what we don’t have to, and deliberately wandering about. And while we’re all not showing up—on door steps, on radars, on computer screens—we might also try doing something intentionally, doing something thoughtful, doing something on purpose.
I know that lately skateboarding seems like the thing that’s being shouted back at us with ever-increasing volume, but it’s also, as one friend explained to me so eloquently, one of the few things on the planet that can’t be faked. Ten times out of ten, consumption, talk, look, and just showing up will take a back seat to the actual act of riding a skateboard. You can’t phony your way through it, even if you’re the first person to show up—justly or otherwise.
Jeff Phillips pauses for effect. Photo: Swank
It’s not attractive or even memorable, but it’s real, it’s easy to remember, and it ain’t going anywhere.
All right, then.
Won’t talk to you later.
Won’t see you around.