Leonard is not your typical skateboarder…he is one of those educated types into philosophy and the art of reading. This is most likely the explanation for his methodical approach to skateboarding (resulting in some high-tech maneuvers in miniramps). I took an attempt to get into the mind of this character in this interview. Who is Leonard Houx? Actually what is a Houx? According to Wikipedia, it is a common holly. Let’s delve into that a bit. Holly is used around the holidays…they call “vacation” holiday in the U.K….Leonard lives in the U.K. Hmm…I must say, however…he is no common variety. Read on.
You have related skating miniramps to the likes of gentleman's sports (yachting, archery, fencing, etc.). How did you feel when Daewon and Haslam jacked your association and titled their miniramp massacre video 'Cheese and Crackers?'
Daewon and Haslam also jacked my hopes and dreams of doing anything new on a miniramp since they pretty much blew miniramp skating completely out of the water.
But if they were going with the gentleman's sports association, they dropped the ball. For they could have taken the theme a way farther and it would have been sick. Instead, they seemed to only allude to a very awesome motif and mixed it with a bunch of unrelated stuff. Like, the whole Rube Goldberg machine theme. In the end, they should have called it Capes and Tires. Or maybe something aggressive like just Eat Shit, Bitches.
But one of the many things I like about miniramp skating is that the whole social dynamic is different compared to street skating. People tend to be friendlier, more talkative, more encouraging. Maybe its because when you skate a miniramp, it is this enclosed space. You just go back and forth. It's like a 'courtroom drama' style movie like Hitchcock's Rope where the characters stay in the same room the whole time.
Incidentally, last weekend, Caireen and I went to a friend's cottage in Somerset where we watched the village's yearly match of cricket. Talk about gentleman sports. They wear all white, play on a beautifully manicured field, and mostly stand around. They even have an orange juice break planned into the game. Caireen (who is Glaswegian) told me "this is definitely the most English thing you have ever seen, because this is the most English thing I have ever seen."
Frontside wallride - Brooklyn Banks
Speaking about things gentleman-ly, you seem to have been in higher education schools for half your life and your career choice is within the education realm (library industry). What's with the sophistication? Is it the means to an end, or do you just get off on learning/knowing things?
Well, I do like reading and learning. But some of it was accidental. After my first degree in Theology, I went into Seminary (three years of graduate school) because I really thought I was going to be pursuing ministry in some form in the 'Eastern' Orthodox Church. I finished the degree and was even accepted at Princeton and Yale for further study, but I bagged the whole thing and opted for couch-surfing at my friend Jason's in B'burg as I had come to the realization that I had been pursuing something very crazy. It was crazy for a number of reasons, but the most important one is that there is no God.
So, anyway, newly liberated, I still thought I would go on for a PhD, so I got a job at Columbia University which allowed me to take classes for free. I took serious advantage of that and completed over a year's worth of coursework. I was really very fortunate to be able to do that.
Now I am finishing this MA course in library science. I chose this as a way to progress in the work I have been doing in libraries and as a way to get a visa to get the UK so I could be with Caireen. This is now my fifth year of post-BA study. Teh course was not as academic as I expected, and most of the teachers were embarrassingly bad. Even then, I am glad I did it since I can move on now into a more professional stage of my career. I actually just got a job offer from Ravensbourne College. I am really excited about it.
In any case, for someone who has studied as long as I have, I don't feel like I have become the amazing educated person that I might have imagined. It is still painful to write papers and my marks in my MA course were not as good as I would have hoped.
A lot of the effects of my education have been negative. I think it freaks people out that I studied to be a priest and the fact I studied so much tends to make me have irrationally high standards for teachers, writing, and my own life. Also, if you tell people that you feel intellectually understimulated you sound like an asshole.
Then again, I have a few friends who have been in PhD programs for over five years without an end in sight. Other guys I know finished their PhDs but cannot find any decent jobs. So it is not an easy game.
Wallride nollie shuv out - Downtown Portland
Tell us the best and worst of: Portland, New York, London.
Portland Best: Stumptown coffee is the best coffee in the world as far as I know. Beautiful pine trees. Access to nature. Biking everywhere. Burnside. Department of Skateboarding. Outdoor parks everywhere. People who are seriously, seriously down for skateboarding. Dunes bar. The fact Pat Smith lives in Portland now. Kyle Reynolds. Hornbecker. Scott and Heather Anderson. Jason Wilson. My mom.
Portland Worst: Shit economy. Commercial art pawned-off as fine art. College-educated types who have no idea how folksy, under-educated, and parochial they really are. Passive-aggressiveness. Kids wearing helmets when they skate. Snowboarders. Burnouts. Shyness. The fact it is my hometown and I know so few people anymore.
New York Best: Seriously, if you are a guy, I think your odds of getting a girlfriend where you wouldn't have had a chance with her in nearly any other city have to be the best here (just look at me). People who are actually smart, fun, and serious about their lives. Brooklyn Banks. Chinatown generally. The TF (sorry, Eby). Anna Maria's Pizza. KCDC. The Union Pool. Rad people like Alan and Eby. All my Lacanian homies.
New York Worst: Non-skating skaters. Drugs. Rent prices. To be honest, I still miss NY really badly.
London Best: Tate Britian. The V&A. The Barbican. The ICA. The library consortium scheme SCONUL. Ravensbourne, where I am going to work. The University of Greenwich where I had been working. Socialized health care. Politeness! The economy. The fact only one person has tried to give me a speech about the US since I have been here. Seriously down skaters. Cantelowes park. Caireen's family. Caireen.
London worst: Loud drunks. Expensive public transportation. Shitty lectures at City University. Implicit arrogance. Social conservatism. The Guardian (newspaper). Little space for bicyclists. The fact
everything that was cool about 5 years ago in Brooklyn is finally surfacing here now.
Banana Slide - Upper West Side, NYC
When I met you, you were rocking a sick 'stache like my uncle used to have and mustaches weren't even trendy yet. You seemed to have cut it once it hit the Billyburg (Williamsburg, BK). Is there any chance of it re-emerging anytime in the future?
I did kind of like it. Hmm. Maybe. I think it is just, conceptually, like, too ironic still. I would want to it for serious and not as anything anyone would take as a joke. BTW, you know that the 'stache style is hitting Portland just now?
Talk trash on your least favorite thing/person in skateboarding right now.
Hmmmm. Well, I think the sad thing is that skateboarding is so fucked now that nothing bothers me anymore. I used to get a little sad about cool-guy-ism, but now even the cool guys don't seem so cool, which makes me even more sad. I am thinking about epiclylaterd and that whole thing it represented. this idea nowadays is, well, impossible to believe in. I think this idea was that people who skateboarded weren't just meatheads: or, more precisely, skateboarding allowed for this open space where people could act however they wanted because they were a part of something creative. It's that whole idea of the skater-artist, the skater as artist. Now that skateboarding is mainstream culture, there are only cool people who happen to skate. But the idea that there is some connection between being interesting and skateboarding is pretty well ruined. In any case, now this blog which had at first so amazed me now just looks like some desperate softgoods promotional and my teenage hopes have been dashed.
Bigspin - Lower East Side, NYC
Who are your top 5 skateboarders and who would be their character equivalents from books you have read?
I will match skaters to philosophers
Chris Fissel — Plato, in the sense that Whitehead said all Western philosophy was more or less a footnote to Plato. A lot of modern skateboard, likewise, is just variations on the tricks Fissel did 15 years ago. Late flips, shovit late flips, all the pressure flip variations, lipslide to kickflips, 360 fs shoves. Fissel did so many things first. He was a skater obsessed with new tricks, with bringing new tricks to skateboarding. Total pioneer. People may not remember Fissel, but they are doing his tricks.
John Motta — Richard Rorty. I just want to put someone semi-analytic in here. Basically, Motta is like Rorty because Motta is really tech, but also really smooth. His part in PVWHL is just such a pleasure to watch. Similarly, Rorty can write about the philosophy of language and make it a totally easy, relaxing read.
Matt Beach — G.E. Moore. Wittgenstein said that what appealed to him about the Oxford philosopher G.E. Moore was the honest, almost childlike simplicity in the way he approached philosophical problems. Similarly, Matt Beach skates with the simple, childlike faith that he will actually land everything he tries, which turns out to be the case.
Daewon Song — Slavoj Žižek because Žižek is one of the most synthetic philosophers out there. He can talk about Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Politics, or Movies. Really, whatever you want. An example of one of his earlier works was Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Lacan (But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock). His idea is to generally combine the high-brow and low-brow as radically and distastefully as possible. Philosophy-wise, Žižek invented the remix. Well, at least, he mastered it. A lot of people try to copy his style now (The Simpsons and Philosophy) or whatever, and it just comes off horribly. To me this is what it is like when you see Daewon doing a blunt tre-flip on a highway divider.
Dan Drehobl — Kierkegaard, because Kierkegaard wrote in a method he called "indirect communication" where he would communicate some conceptual point through something else entirely. Kierkegaard could write a fictional comic-satirical diary, for example, and, in a secretive way, hit you with some totally life-changing question. You basically experience philosophical surprise-attack. That is a similar experience to when you see a fat, slobby looking guy roll up a transition a do a tailslide, which he then pops up into a backwards 50-50 to fakie.
Frontboard board snap - Portland
What is the best trick you have ever seen a skateboarder do in person? What was the worst?
Brett Marks used to do stuff like double inward heel to 5-0 on ledges. That was pretty serious. Also, Jayme Fortune did a halfcab kickflip into a noseblunt slide. Also fairly serious.
Incidentally, you know that Dave Hupp was the first to do the rock to kickflip? He did one from a halfcab to bs180 out. Tony Magnusson told him that he couldn't put that and a couple of other tricks in the video because it made the pros look bad. Then Alphonso Rawls copied Hupp's tircks in his section.
Speaking of, you were supposed to film a video part for my video, things happened and it never happened (still could, btw). What would your ender trick be if it happened?
Something with an overflip, probably, like blunt to overflip (shhhhh). Maybe some unspoken wall ride or manual variations. I have a bunch of tricks in my head. But I feel like I have a responsibility to land the blunt overflip in some form or other.
Blunt shuv blunt fakie - Autumn Bowl, Brooklyn
Your mom is pretty cool and says some funny things. What is your best mom quote?
"It all goes down the same" (I was a kid and had broken my candy cane)
What would your lifestyle be like if you were rich? I assume nobility. Describe how you would live.
I would basically be a part-time grad student in philosophy and/or comparative literature. The rest of the time I would spend skating, trying to land tricks like blunt to overflip. I would also own a house and get my girlfriend pregnant. I would also consider living on the continent somewhere.
Switch frontside rock - Autumn Bowl, Brooklyn
This is where I would ask for your sponsors, but since you don't have any, make up your ideal sponsors. Book publishers? Brooks Brothers? Robe designers?
I think my ideal sponsor would be maybe the University of Middlesex's philosophy department for a fellowship where I get funded for half the typical amount of work for about twice the typical amount of money. I think that sounds reasonable. Maybe also someone to buy me a house. Stumptown coffee while we are at it. Skateboardwise, I am too old and over it to ever aspire to skate sponsorship, but I am always psyched on Coda, 5Boro and Tribute.
Switch wallie - Portland
Department of Skateboarding. Dunes bar. Ravensbourne College of Design. Eby. Billy Rauscher. My brother Damon. David Senior and Rene. Caireen.