There are riders in every local scene who can consistently be counted on to do the most or least amount of work to create skate spots. Among this latter group, there are those who will always do the bare minimum amount of work to forever claim they contributed to a project and have a right to ride. You know who I'm talking about because every skate scene has them. This is the guy who shows up at the ramp project with a borrowed cordless drill to install the very last screw in the flat bottom before the very first session. Around my parts, competition can be fierce to win the not-so coveted "golden screw award" for driving in the ceremonial spike like Leland Stanford did in Promontory Summit, Utah in 1869 to complete work on the United States' First Transcontinental Railroad.
But, this is a backyard pool blog, so I'll shut up about ramps. While I try to come up with a derisively appropriate name for a pool slacker award, I'm reminded of a story that a friend told me recently about the time he and some other guys were helping empty one of Chris Renner's pools (more about him later). My friend was passing the hat for donations to rent a trash pump and was denied by a local dude who wouldn't cough up one measley dollar, but fully planned on sticking around that permish backyard to skate when the pool was finally emptied and dried. As the story goes, it wasn't as if the guy didn't have on his person a single, solitary bone to kick down, it was simply that he had concluded that others would take up the slack and all would be good in his life. No one will be surpised to hear that this same slacker was at a later time time caught curbstoning for personal profit a trunk full of those two-wheeled swizzle stick boards to poor urban neighborhood kids at a local DIY spot in Washington, DC that some misguided company had donated to a local charity. Maybe there should be established a Leaky Bucket award for these types. The latest word on this Leaky Bucket slacker, though, is that he's volunteering time at a nearby skatepark build. So, maybe there's hope for all of us, whatever our shortcomings (real or perceived).
There are also those who reside at the polar opposite side of every local scene. These are the folks who build ramps and pools in their backyards and are forever on the hunt for pools, drainaige ditches, and dare I say, street spots. Such folks are the types who populate municipal skatepark planning meetings and fundraise for their completion.
Somewhere in the mix resides our Blue Tile Obsessed Ozzie. Said another way, these are the people who put up with all the real and literal mess that comes with the local skate scene day in and year out. We should all be respectful of these people in life and when they pass from this great world. Like most of you, we’ve all probably worn holes in such friends’ welcome mats; but, hopefully, and at a minimum, we’ve all managed to pull our weight when stuff needed to get done…and that we cleaned up more empties than littered.
The guy who epitomized this selfless skate scene builder in the middle part of the East Coast was a guy named Chris Renner. He was forever fundraising to build a concrete skatepark in his hometown of Baltimore, MD, and always on the hunt for a backyard pool in this part of the country where they don’t come up often. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer took Chris from us last April at the age of 46, and he is survied by a great wife, two kids and a skate community that will never forget him.
I may have known Chris the least well of all the local area skaters who learned to drive in the 80s, but I definately got to know the essence of him as someone who was relentlessly optimistic about life. Chris was a hard charging guy who truly cared about everybody around him. During the year or better that he was receiving cancer treatment, I would occassionally run into him at any number of local spots, but mostly at a local skatepark where he would endlessly carve and grind its eleven foot pool. For a while, Chris had a weekly medical/skate regiment that went something like: go get jacked up on chemotherapy on one day, fight to regain strength for a couple of days, go skate any number of local pools for another couple days, repeat… That dude is surely ripping some big left handed kidney in the sky right now.
If you ever find yourself at Landsdowne Skatepark, look for Chris Renner’s initials at beginning of the upper snake run and say a kind word before you push off. The pics are of him , friends and of one of the many pools that Chris found and shared with everyone in the local skate scene. RIP, brother, you’re the best!
Thank you to Jason Zdun & Chelsea Greene for the photographs & Bob Pribble for helping everyone remember a great skateboarding pool pal-Ozzie