SHOCK: Ever since your profile in Daily Bread and the Holden Village Life+ section you seem to have disappeared from rollerblading. Rollerblading has missed your creative presence. Why did you leave the limelight?
KAI: Well, it’s all ridiculous. Limelight. But, yeah, I suppose I did kind of disappear. I guess it was partly a choice I made and partly a matter of circumstance. The story is not that impressive. I was living in California on a vision quest of the rollerblading world, which is basically: go to California, skate the best rails in the world, learn how to surf, skate with pros, etc. It’s the proverbial skate fantasy and it’s the same for everyone who grows up in the midwest feeling insular and angry at the “real” world for not being more interesting. I know the need to go to California has changed recently (people are taking more pride in the obscure cities) but I think it’s still a huge part of every midwestern kid’s dreamworld.
Basically, I was living in San Diego with some friends from Minneapolis, some shitty apartment complex with a small pool and a palm-tree courtyard, trying to get famous and figure things out. Every day we’d pile into our big blue van and go skate Escondido, La Jolla, UCSD, Point Loma. We’d stand there looking at the Leap of Faith imagining our legs break. I mean, we were trying to skate these famous spots and find some magic there, some kind of holy grail of something we could barely imagine. I grew up with all these images of Poway, Santee, Orange County, LA, etc., and I just assumed that when I got to the west coast and skated Encinitas with Jon Eliot some kind of miracle would happen.
We were living in La Mesa, a retirement suburb in east San Diego, skating all day and working telemarketing jobs at night. By absolute chance we had moved into this place called the Mount Helix Apartments directly across the courtyard from Jason Marshall (THE Jason Marshall). He brought us around and showed us some spots and told lies about watching his best friend get eaten by a shark. It was a weird coincidence.
But anyway, around this time I was experimenting with my skating and trying to invent new tricks. This was partly because I would hurt myself and have these long periods of time to just think about skating, and partly because I was getting bored with the trendiness of style. Everyone was doing some watered down version of Mindgame, trying to seem creative and wearing what they thought looked rock n roll—usually a Misfits shirt and black Levis. It was embarrassing, really, but I was doing the same thing, and that’s just how it was. But I had all these ideas for what tricks I could do, and what rollerblading could become, and I started to concentrate on expanding my definition of skating. I was concerned with possibilities, not just modifying and recycling my old stand-bys.
This was, of course, when I started to quit. I was trying to understand skating more theoretically, as a kind of dance, or movement art, and it led me to think about poetry, painting, music, and countercultural movements in ways that reflected themselves in skating. When I was growing up in Minnesota I was a cocky kid, but I was also a very sensitive kid. I rebelled against any authority I felt pressured by, but I also tried to develop an original identity—something that was authentically real and true. This was maybe more important to me than the rebellion, but of course, rebellion is necessary for originality. So as I moved out to California and entered the “rollerblading industry” or whatever they call it, I was more inclined to approach it skeptically and reject the impulse to adapt to whatever style I encountered. It led me to hate the social events where the pros stood around looking jaded and stoned and these fourteen year old kids walked around stroking egos. I saw it as very superficial and self-congratulatory and lame. I wanted it to be something more honest or real than the social bullshit I hated about high school, but, apart from the skating, it was the same, and I guess I got a little disillusioned by the whole thing. The guys who were “lifers” in the skating world were doing cocaine with teenagers and hating themselves. They were pathetic men. And I was embarrassed to think I had wanted to live my whole life in this world. I had told myself when I was younger that I would skate until my knees gave out, my ankles broke, my head concussed beyond cognition. But I was holding the skating world to some unrealistic ideal, and when I saw how everything went down, how that world actually worked, I was bored by it, and quit caring about making myself famous. I still wanted to skate as much as I had, but I only wanted to skate for the beauty and feeling of skating. The rest became meaningless.
SHOCK: Do you draw any parallels between your passion for writing poetry and rollerblading?
KAI: Of course. Rollerblading for me was always about entering a kind of motion, a kind of zone. We all talk about this kind of thing with skating, days when you’re killing it, days when the vibe is just right and you can’t seem to miss, when everything flows and you’re entering a different way of being. Something like a visceral work of art. Like a thing of elegance and precision and physicality which you are creating and feeling and living through. It’s all in real time and it’s all visceral. Really an amazing kind of art, and one which no one can understand unless they do it. Poetry for me has to do with entering a similar kind of zone. The zone is mental and based on surfing your brain for intuitive connections to emotion and meaning, but it’s very similar in its goal. I mean, one thing I loved about skating was the instant gratification of doing a trick, of rolling up, jumping, locking, holding it, landing. It’s very intense and you get a consistent sense of accomplishment, of having done something. Poetry is pretty similar, really. It involves an intense focus, a kind of courage and audacity, a sense of precision and getting the words just right. And since poems are usually short, you can write one in a couple of hours and feel that same sense of “sticking it.” Plus there’s the whole performance aspect, and the fact that it’s something you’re doing independently of any monetary influence. You’re doing it because you love the act of doing it. Nothing else. You know what I mean.
SHOCK: What do you love about writing poetry? How would you describe your own style of writing?
KAI: It’s weird when you talk about styles of writing, because it’s a little more difficult to understand than styles of skating. With skating you can instantly recognize good style and you can tell when it’s fake and when it’s legit (unfortunately most skaters try to fake their shit before they’ve skated long enough to develop a natural style, and so you get all these kids trying to tweak their elbows like Dominic Sagona or skate croutching-tiger-hidden-danzig like Farmer). With writing, it takes a lot longer to understand how to hear what’s good and what sucks. It’s about training your “ear” to hear the musical qualities of language, and it takes years. Since we’re so used to seeing things and evaluating sports and athletic feats, judging skating is way more straight-forward, but essentially, it’s the same thing. Good skating is good skating, period. And good writing is good writing, period. You can argue about one style or another style, but Montre Livingston is always going to be sick in the same way Chris Farmer is always going to be sick. The style is legit.
In skating, my style was kind of smooth and stand-up. I liked doing royale tricks and style tricks (backslides, soyales, alley-oops), things that flowed and kept my body tucked up. I didn’t like mizous and mistrials, full-spins and switch-ups. I didn’t like shit getting flowery. I liked doing single tricks stylishly on big rails or interesting objects. I wanted the value of my tricks to be in the way they looked and felt, not in what trick I was doing. When I draw the parallel to writing, it’s very much the same. I like writing poems that are solid, honest, straight-up, brutal, intensely felt and based on real experiences. I write about things that actually happen to me. With skating I went through a long period (when I was 15, 16, and 17) where I learned every trick in existence, and I made sure I could do all the technical tricks I saw pros do. My brother Anders and my friend Nick and I would do what we called “training” tricks, where we’d repeatedly do the same trick (say, a Kind Grind) until we had done it 30 times flawlessly. Then we’d move on to do Misfit, then to AO fish, then to AO porn, etc. We’d run through every trick frontside, backside, topside, alley-oop, AO topside, truespin, truespin topside, and then the weird ones (illusion, negatives, zero spin, etc.). We would skate our toyrails for five hours a day, doing this kind of “training.” I maxed out my technical abilities in skating when I was 17. After that, I started skating for style.
In poetry, I see myself doing a similar thing. You learn different forms of poetry like the Sonnet, the Heroic Couplet, Spoken Word, Rhymed Verse, Free Verse, the Ode, the Ballad, Organic Form, etc., but eventually you just end up writing for style. As of now, I’ve been writing seriously for the last 8 years, and I’m starting to care less about doing things correctly and more about knowing my original style. Or as Whitman says, “Nature without check, with original energy.” But to put it in poetry terms, my writing mode is a kind of neo-romantic lyrical narrative. I write about the people I grew up with and the places I’ve been in a way that makes them (at least to me) sound beautiful. Someday I’ll write a book about rollerblading. Hopefully someone will want to read it.
SHOCK: On the 'SNF' (skate n fight) website you wrote that, "Skate n Fight has nothing to do with sponsors, money, crews, teams, politics, fashions, trends, competitions or bullshit. Skate n fight is everything true in skating and nothing that isn't.' What did you mean by 'everything true in skating'? Now almost a decade later, do you still agree with this statement?
KAI: On some level, yes. I was serious when I wrote that, and I would stand behind it today, even though most people don’t have strong feelings toward the ‘SNF’ ideology (or whatever you want to call it) which is essentially about the struggle to rollerblade.
To give a recap: Skate N Fight originated in Moorhead Minnesota and Fargo North Dakota, towns divided by a slow putrid river on the cusp of the American west. The land is fucking flat. You could stand in a field and turn 360 degrees and see no variation in landscape. No hills. No mountains. No ocean. Just 360 degrees of flatland (how’s that for a skating metaphor). The people in Fargo are generally republican racist homophobic idiots. There are exceptions, of course, but if I did not feel the ignorance of that land in every authority figure I encountered during those formative years, I would not be so brutal. But there is a pervading conservitiveness which does not accept difference, and definitely doesn’t understand skating. This is true in many places other than Fargo, but Fargo was just more extreme. The skateboarders hated us, the jocks were indifferent, our teachers thought we were punks, our parents thought we were wasting our lives. The winters were terrible (negative 5 is considered a warm day). The land was flat. There were barely any skateable rails. The list goes on and on. Everyone and everything seemed to be working against our wanting to skate. So I think we constantly felt like we were fighting very hard to do what we loved to do. We were pushing against so much negative energy that it made us bitter and fierce. We took pride in that bitterness and called our crew Skate N Fight because, to be a rollerblader in Fargo, really seemed like a constant battle.
So when I wrote the statement about “truth” on the website I was trying to make people understand that Skate N Fight had nothing to do with the politics of the larger rollerblading world, but only with the basic desire to rollerblade, to put skates on your feet and roll down the road. Because in Fargo, even just lacing up and going downtown was a kind of bravery.
SHOCK: Are you still rollerblading much? Are you interested in filming some tricks for the Shock video?
KAI: I skate about once every two months and usually it’s just toyrail sessions. But my body is in great shape for some reason, and my skates are in my closet, so, I don’t know.
SHOCK: I know that you have spent the last few years traveling, living the life of a nomad. Tell us about where you have been and what you have been learning?
KAI: I decided to start traveling after I left Fargo/Moorhead, but I never really felt entirely free until I graduated from college. When I graduated I was twenty-four years old and I told myself I basically had another year of doing my own thing until society started tightening the screws (health insurance, student loans, rent, etc.). So I went out to Washington for a while and lived at the place we filmed the Life + sections, living somewhat wild and hiking around and climbing to the tops of mountains. But I spent the whole year in one valley (what’s called the Railroad Creek Valley), so when I got done with that year I decided I wanted to keep moving. No steady job, no rent, no commitments, basically. So I started travelling around and staying with friends, first on the west coast, then the east coast, then to New York, then to Europe, then to Paris where I lived at a bookstore called Shakespeare and Company, then to a cabin in Northern Minnesota (where I wrote two novels during the winter), then to New York again, then the west coast again, then to Portland, and now I’m in Madison. The thing I’ve learned from all this travel is that you can avoid depression by making your life exciting. And there is a kind of beauty in letting yourself become independent of society’s expectations. A kind of stream-of-motion you can enter. I’ve found the less “stuff” I travel with, the more I’m given. The less comforts I have, the more I’m comfortable. The more I risk, the more I learn. The less I plan (literally showing up in cities where I know no one and have no place to stay, etc.) the more I find life illuminated, blazed with intrinsic meaning, floating like centerfold signs all around me. It’s an old lesson to be learned, an old hobo folk-knowledge, but it’s true, and my years spent traveling were reflective of a very American identity. I learned a lot.
SHOCK: You went to the U of M, Oxford, and now you have begun a masters program in Poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Is school the answer? Are you going to be a lifelong academic? If not, what is it that draws you back to school?
KAI: I don’t know, school is a funny thing for me because I’ve never liked the “school” part of it, only the learning part. As a kid I was always very creative and imaginative, but the socialization part of public school was a little foreign. I really liked coming together with other kids to try to figure shit out, I mean, that’s really all it is—trying to figure shit out—but because of how sensitive I was, I always felt like an outsider. I was fascinated by the action and physical style of sports, and I could play them, I mean, I was good at them, but I was never as “cool” as some of the kids who had older brothers or sisters. It seemed like some kids just knew how to act cool before everyone else did, and they set the trends. I remember in second grade this kid named Adam Severson was trading a tiger’s eye rock for a pocket knife with a kid named Nate Thorstenson. Both of these guys would later become my friends, but at the time I remember being aware that they were doing something “cool” and that I wasn’t really sure how they knew it was cool. They had an air about them. They had LA lights and stonewashed jeans. They both had older brothers. But I was fascinated by the idea of “cool” and I spent most of my middle school and high school years trying to understand why people did what they did, why some things were “cool,” and what that meant. I was invited to parties, people liked me, girls liked me, but at the same time, I was always an outsider. I was ordinary enough and good-looking enough to be accepted into popular folds, but I was always very different from the people who took those folds seriously. I felt alienated most of the time, and I spent my days skating. I skated, and I skated, and I skated. I never really understood how people could just assimilate themselves into a mass culture without learning what was good or “cool” for themselves, through empiricism, through their own experiences. I felt the same way about high school and I didn’t take it seriously. I thought I was smarter than most of my teachers, and I didn’t respect their authority. They obviously knew a lot more about life than I could imagine at the time, but they weren’t teaching us about themselves, they were trying to teach us things they weren’t connected to. Things that seemed arbitrary, and prescriptive, and soulless. So I decided I wouldn’t listen to them, and I focused on doing things on my own.
When I finished high school I thought I would never go back, but I started writing and reading more, painting and studying various subjects, and I realized I was doing the same things I might be doing in college. So I went to community college in San Diego very suspiciously, maintaining the attitude that I didn’t need school and could drop out as soon as it didn’t feel legit (I think this is a good attitude for everything, actually). But when I went back, I ended up loving it. Partly because my professors were smarter, and partly because I could do all the work on my own. So I did well, and I transferred to the University of Minnesota, and then I went to Oxford, where it was about as DIY as you could imagine. I wrote three 10 page essays every two weeks and met with a tutor who looked at my work. He would say, I really like this, or, this is bullshit, or, what were you thinking, and we would hang out and argue about poetry. It was great. I had no classes, no multiple choice tests, just reading and writing essays about whatever I’d read. It was more about the quality of thought than getting the right or wrong answer.
Right now I’m in grad school at the University of Wisconsin and it’s even more DIY than Oxford. I’ve been lucky enough to get a full ride and 12,000 a year to live on, which prevents me from going into debt or having to work. I teach a creative writing class to undergrads and I write poetry. It’s a kind of dreamworld, and I feel very lucky to have the opportunity. But I also felt lucky to be living in San Diego, working telemarketing jobs, skating UCSD on the weekends. I mean, it’s all about finding what you know you need to do and saying you’ll sacrifice everything else to get it. Even if I wasn’t in school right now, I’d still be traveling and writing just as much, meeting people and learning whatever they could teach me. I’ll be in school as long as I need to be in school. When it gets boring, or I want something else more intensely, I’ll leave.
SHOCK: Do you think that an activity like rollerblading could serve the same purpose in a person’s life as a religion?
KAI: Yes, of course. But there needs to be more wisdom and legend in rollerblading before that’s possible. Religion is essentially filling a basic human need to commune with other people in a sacred space and collectively admit that we don’t know shit. It stems from the mysteries of life, the unanswerable questions, the unimaginable size of the universe. When things become provable based on a system of reliability, a consistent order, then they cease to be sacred, and they satisfy needs in other areas (such as science, data, math, Taco Bell). Poetry, of course, is obsessed with the sacredness of things and resists qualification at all costs. In relation to rollerblading, I think I’ve always viewed skating as a sacred space among athletics, something that can change organically through the lens of each person who does it, a kind of rebellious dance, a kind of motion that defies what it means to interact with a man-made landscape. Since it’s anti-hero and anti-rule by nature, it depends upon constant reinvisioning and change. This allows for the connection between the spirit of life, or the soul, or the passion (whatever you want to call it) to become stronger. Customs and tradition produce patterns that can be anticipated and contained by the human mind. This is the trap which most religions fall into—they start with a radical illumination of the mysteries, but then qualify and qualify until there is nothing left but a half-cent stale wafer and a thimbleful of Franzia (representing the body and blood of Christ, respectively). The reason this happens is the same reason sportscasters become obsessed with pointless statistics: “You know bob, this is the first time since 1954 that the New York Yankees have lost to the Braves by one run in the bottom of the ninth inning while a volcano on the Greek island of Mykonos simultaneously erupted killing four old men and what looked like a dog.” You know what I mean. It’s the feeble and fearful minded who are most helped by religion but who also corrupt it by needing it always explained. When you pull back the curtain to reveal the stooped old midget who’s pulling the levers, the magic is gone, and the mystery reinvents itself in a different story or a different prophet. With skating, the ability to touch that mystical essence of motion and spirited connection to the universe is there, and it could probably satisfy a number of the same things religion does. But it won’t be able to sustain a life-long devotion until it has martyred heroes, dead gods, myths, parables, and a kind of general life philosophy. When I was skating all the time, the pervading philosophy seemed to be somewhere along the lines of “Fuck it.” You can’t make sense of a life by saying fuck it. Even punk rock needs its Kurt Cobains and Johnny Rottens, commercialized and idolatrized, respectively.
SHOCK: What does the term 'fate' mean to you?
KAI: Funny you should ask. I actually just had a dream the other night where you asked me that. I can’t remember what I said. It was fuzzy. I’m being stupid. Ha ha. Sure sure sure sure sure. Yes, I think fate is a powerful force, but the determination is up to the individual. There is no meaning but the one we create. I think of fate as a kind of mental exercise and a rift in the seams of consciousness. The talk of ‘fate’ is always so new-agey and hippy, but I honestly believe there is a kind of order out there, or a way of learning to flow through the world. I always use the river analogy to think about fate as a concept. If life is a river, each one of us is sailing in a boat. And we can turn the rudder, luff the sail, in order to control our speed and side-to-side motion, but the trajectory of the river is always going to be the same, there is an inevitable direction, and we can’t paddle upstream. Or, at least, if we try to, we will die sooner. But this is not exactly how I experience ‘fate’ in my actual life. In my traveling and wandering around I’ve continuously noticed that there are certain things which seem to happen for reasons, and certain reasons which seem more significant, and certain significances that shine like dreams. You can follow these signs if you want to, or you can just chalk them up to general weirdness. But I’m telling you, the more you travel and look for things like this (examples of fate, indications of fate) the more you see them. It’s obviously the case that we see what we want to see, we find a reason for the choices we make, a destiny, an order to our lives. We take random experience and we create a narrative. But at the same time, when you treat life like a series of dreams, like a spontaneous way of interpreting reality, then interesting things begin happening, or at least, you invite more interesting things to happen. Where there is a need, a lack, a wanting, a hole, the universe works to fill it. And regardless of whether it’s a larger force filling it, or your own self creatively satisfying those needs, doesn’t really matter. If you make yourself hungry, you see food all over the place. If you make yourself desperate, you see salvation wherever you look.
SHOCK: Tell us a 'shocking' story from your travels.
KAI: Well, this is a story I like to tell people about hitchhiking in the midwest, and it involves Madison (where I now live) and some craziness, so I’ll tell it. My brother Anders and I were hitchhiking from Minneapolis to Chicago one summer, sleeping on roofs and dumpstering for food. We got as far as the Wisconsin Dells on various rides from lonely women and hippy stoners. We stopped at a gas station and got some snacks and as we were walking up the on-ramp, not even holding out a sign, a crumbling blue Toyota pulled over and some guy inside told us to get in. I looked in the window and saw an Indian dude with a bunch of tattered blankets spread over the seats. He said, “Come on, let’s go,” and we jumped in the car without thinking. It was a single guy, talked to us straight, seemed okay, and there was no clear indicator of sketchiness.
Once we got in, however, and could see his eyes more closely, it was immediately clear that we had fucked up. The guy was bleeding from sores on his face and he was hopped up on meth or some equally electrifying drug. Everything he said seemed to be illuminating some deep and otherwise inaccessible truth. He told us to watch our feet for the puppies. We looked down and saw these four lumps of fur rolling around at our feet. “They were dying in a cage,” he said. “I stole ‘em.” We were like, what do you mean you stole them? And he told us he was at a going away party for his son the previous night. His son was going back over to Iraq for a second tour of duty, so he was having a final hurrah with a table of drugs and some local prostitiutes. “Anything you needed,” the guy said (whose name we found out later was Frank) “it was there. Heroin, crack, acid, mushrooms. Anything and everything.” So he goes on about the party, telling us all the details, and then says in the morning he went outside to smoke a bowl and he saw all these puppies in a metal cage in the yard. He told his friend they were dying, and his friend said, fuck ‘em, they’re just dogs. So he punched his buddy and knocked him out, and was now driving toward Milwaukee to save them.
He had a little dish of water under the seat which he kept telling us to fill, even though the puppies weren’t drinking. Their eyes looked grey and their tongues rolled out of their mouths like rubber bands. At some point we stopped at a McDonalds drive-through to buy them some cheeseburgers. He threw the burgers on the floor where the dogs rolled around and got mustard on their backs. “Dog food for dogs,” he said.
My brother and I had told him we were going to Madison, and although he was headed to Milwaukee, he said he could swing through Madison on the way. When we came to the split in the freeway where we were supposed to exit, Frank just obliviously drove toward the sign saying Milwaukee. Anders and I were like, you missed the turn to Madison dude, but he just kept cruising and didn’t want to talk about it. He said, “We’re going all the way—we’ll sleep with the wolves if we have to,” and kept driving. Eventually he pulled off the freeway and took aimless turns on some back country roads leading nowhere. He was drinking beers and having me dump the half-finished bottles out the window. Beer was splattering the sides of the car. I honestly thought he might be taking us somewhere to kill us.
He eventually turned into this wide dirt field where a sign saying “Prairie Acres” showed an outlet mall with cartoon people walking around in a parking lot. He stopped the car and told us to get out and stretch. “It’s cramped in there,” he said, and he leaned over and tried to touch his toes. Anders and I got out of the car and stretched our arms and tried to decide if we should run for it. But we didn’t know where to go, and the guy was dangerous, so we just got back into the car and he started taking little white baggies out of his socks and putting them under his seat. He took a gun out of the glove compartment and set it on the dashboard. Then he got out of the car again and took a piss, came back to the car, put the gun away, and we got back on the freeway. It was very bizarre. He drove us back to the Madison exit and dropped us off, trying to get us to take one of the dogs. We told him we couldn’t take care of a dog. He said, “Anytime you guys are in trouble, you call me. I don’t care where the fuck you are, I’ll come down and get you. I got a real good feeling I’ll be hearing from you. I got a real good feeling we’ll be seeing each other again.”
We hitchhiked the rest of the way into Madison and swam in Lake Mendota with the sun getting low and a wedding party dancing near the shore. We slept on the roof of a boathouse.
SHOCK: Is there anything that we haven't covered that you would like to share with the rollerblading community?
KAI: Yeah, I’d just like to talk about the weirdness of quitting skating, but still being connected to it. Nobody really talks about this, because it’s a point of shame for anyone who took skating seriously. When you read interviews with older skaters who obviously don’t skate anymore, they’re often very quick to give the impression that they’ve still got the goods, that they still go out on solo missions and thrash like the good old days. But it’s just not true. When people get older and fade out of the rollerblading lifestyle, when they get new friends, jobs, etc., it’s usually the case that they just stop skating. They straight up quit. And this isn’t a bad thing. There are a million different ways to spend the hours of Any Given Day (shout out to Zeb) and it’s not about doing any one thing or another but about how you do what it is you do. There’s the belief among young kids in the skating world that skating is some kind of True Love, that once they break up with their true love they will kill themselves and never love another. Partly, this is because young kids depend so heavily on skating for a sense of identity. You see this in punk culture, in traveling culture, in music culture, etc. It’s this sense that you need to galvanize your identity around a compartmentalizable stereotype and you need to put in your time (usually a few years) to prove yourself legit. Once you prove this legitimacy, however, there’s the fear that your measure of self worth depends upon it, and you begin to rely on skating to provide a sense of dignity. This is a problem. Dignity should not be dependent on the activity of rollerblading. Our culture breeds this kind of identity formation and sets people up to be puritan assholes who end up clinging to one shred of specialization so desperately they end up hating anyone who opposes them or identifies themselves differently. This is true in academia too, and it strikes me as a very American thing. The Misfits have a song called Hatebreeders which essentially sums up what I’m trying to illustrate.
In the case of rollerblading, people are discriminated against so much (literally by everyone) that they need to draw lines. They need to say, “I’m going to do this shit until I die, because skating is the best thing that’s happened to me, and it’s the thing I believe in the most. Without it, I’m nothing, I’m formless, I’m weak. And so therefore, I will do it with every last particle of my living soul and I will take this shit my grave.” This is the way I used to think about skating and it’s passionate talk, for sure, but it’s not realistic. People stop skating, people start skating again, people get hurt, they go to school, they find other things to love in life. It’s not a point of dignity to say “I skated from the time I was twelve until the day I died” (obviously you wouldn’t be around to say this) but I think it is a point of dignity to say that I did what I loved and I loved it as much as I could. There are times in your life when different ways of living make more sense than others, and sometimes those ways of living change, and it’s important to be able to accept those changes when they need to be made. I will always love skating. I will always care about it passionately and defend its legitimacy to the tooth and nail. But I will not feel like a sell-out for not skating any more. I poured my soul into skating and I sacrificed bones, ligaments, blood, dignity, friends, school, sports, and everything else to do it. I feel proud to have been a rollerblader and I still consider myself a rollerblader (even though I don’t really skate).
SHOCK: Shout Outs!
KAI: Well, I don’t really feel like I’ve earned a shout-out section (usually you only get to say thanks in an interview if your tricks were rad enough) but I’ll do some anyway. Thanks to all my friends in Skate N Fight who were down to skate in our garage every day during high school (for five hours a day) in below-zero temperatures with Guns N Roses, or Twisted Sister, or Bob Dylan, or CCR playing in the background. Thanks to Matt Kramer (founder of Skate N Fight), Nick Brenden, Billy Brenden, Tom Pilon, Pete Brooks, Pat Nagle, Devin Brewer, and Corey Dodd. Also thanks to Kevin Yee, Chris Farmer, Matt Jorgenson, Blake O’brien, Zach Flugum, John Haynes, Grant Kjos, Nolan Huton, Zeb Huset (who is in an MFA program at the University of Washington), Santee Crew, LDR Crew, Dan Busta, and Jeremy Heimer.
Thanks to my family, Anders, Olaf, Mom, and Dad, and my extended family for not giving up on me when I continuously chose to make decisions against their better judgment.
As for the writing world, thanks to my teachers, DeGrout, Dennis Brown, Raine, Hermes, Wordsworth, my brother Anders, my brother Olaf, Jacob Berns, Shanley Jacobs, Karen Herseth Wee, Rebecca Wee, Steve Ringo, Quan Barry, Noah Green, Julienne Alexander, Josh Kalscheur, Bri Cavallaro, Nancy Reddy, Louisa Diodato, Jacques Rancourt, Seth Abramson, Alyssa Knickerbocker, Ryan Donaldson, Marymorgan, Seth Thomas, Faye Dayan, Brett Defries, and Carolyn Carlson. Also, thanks to anyone I’ve traveled with and had adventures with. You make me want to stay alive to see another.