I’m house-sitting for a friend. I’m doing it very gladly as this house is considerably nicer than mine. It has AC, my house doesn’t. And it’s high up in the hills offering spectacular views of the low, sprawling mass/mess of Los Angeles. Certain landmarks are easy to make out. It occurred to me that a few years ago, I’d probably have been able to see the Public Storage building on Santa Monica and Highland. The one adorned by a floor-to-roof iPod advertisement – one of a series that depicted dancing figures in silhouette, plugged into ear-buds, lost in their individual moments.
This particular mural was of a young girl, probably African American going by her hair. Her shape contrasted against a bright pink chroma with some copy in the corner. It probably said ‘touch’ or ‘nano’ or something. Those ads were everywhere. On a hard drive, somewhere in your closet, are digital photos taken from around that time. In the background of many of these will be a black silhouette, ‘funking’ or ‘rocking’ or ‘souling’ or ‘trancing out’, alone in a sea of an unnaturally vivid hue.
I know a guy who supplements his income by DJ-ing at fancy parties, openings, fashion shows and the like. He is under no illusions that he’s the next Qbert. He’s just happy to be flown about from time to time to play Joy Division to pissed-up punters. The most lucrative DJ gig he ever got wasn’t a catwalk show, or a supermodel’s birthday party – it was a residency at the photo shoots for those iPod adverts.
I’ve never asked him what the shoots were like. But I imagine the scene as follows: a large, white studio in NY or LA, a handful of models chosen for their contours alone – for what their body shapes suggest, rather than any explicit features – a dozen PAs, producers, runners, agency folk, marketing folk, movement coaches, a photographer and all his assistants gathered around as, one by one, each model takes their turn to wear an iPod and have a little dance, whilst my mate plays an LCD Soundsystem remix of a Franz Ferdinand tune.
I suppose I like the interconnectivity of it all. The whole silly, torturous journey that things take to get where they are going: from booking the DJ, to approving the final ads, to pushing a worldwide campaign, to securing a prominent LA location to advertise on, to standing on a balcony looking at a giant eyesore of an anonymous lady dancing in the sky.
I was in this same house over Thanksgiving, and I got talking to a teacher from San Francisco. He asked me if San Francisco had played a prominent part in skateboard culture, and whether there were any locations of note. I explained the city’s importance in street skating. I told him about Pier 7, EMB, 3rd and Army, but I knew he’d be most interested in Hubba Hideout.
So I explained how a particularly gnarly concrete ledge, part of a pedestrian walkway leading to a concealed area favoured by the crackhead community as a good spot to smoke crack – or ‘hubba’ as it was referred to at the time – grew in popularity amongst skateboarders; about how this slang word for crack became eponymous with this ledge, and how any ledge that bore a resemblance to it the world over would soon also be referred to as a ‘Hubba’. I told him about how skateparks in Antwerp are now designed to feature a perfect Hubba, and how if you were to walk down the toy aisle at Target or Walmart, you could find a plastic, scale, Tech Deck, fingerboard-sized replica of Hubba Hideout – a children’s toy of a wall that goes down some stairs in San Francisco, that crackheads smoke rocks behind. As I was telling him this I was struck with that very same feeling of interconnectivity.
Photograph by Creative Commons