Sunday, November 14, 2010

Filth Books Stole My Life

 Skateboard Mike says, "Filth Books Stole My Life"
Originally published Nov. 2009
www.brstrah.com
 
As my girlfriend and I walked from the parking lot to the bus station I saw him; standing there as he's stood before. Stoically. A baseball cap covering his head and a large cardboard sign on his chest leading its way down to his feet. 
Photocred: Adam Crockett 2010
His sign reads: 
Filth books stole my life 
(s)ave me (the s is designed to resemble the Safeway logo)
Artist Skateboard Mike
I'd seen him there before, his brown boots clamped to the ground and his nose running gargoylesque, as if a strange, seemingly demented beggar statue had been erected in the street and adorned with all the accouterments applicable to make it appear as lifelike as possible. For some reason the creepy plastic Ronald McDonalds they put on benches at McDonald's comes to mind.
Two cars pass the red-light-turned-green and Mike yells at them with a guttural squelching as if some great beast disturbing the still of everyday life with a wet roar from bronchitial lungs. People take quick peeks at him but not for too long, because a man like that cannot be looked at too long in fears that he might lash out; it's well known to all the upper and middle-class people that lower class people such as beggars and welfare recipients and people who live in low-income housing are inherently criminal and more animal than them—that if you attempt some kind of communication outside of giving them the pocket-change or the surplus burrito you got at the drive-thru, they might try some sort of vicious attack or some other sort of malevolent stratagem. That's what you see in the eyes of the people of Bellevue, WA. Their professional trainer-toned bodies rotting away behind their peacoat and Prius shields.
The prissy Asian woman with her fifty dollar manicure and designer umbrella looks at the man and then looks at his sign. I can see in her face that she obviously thinks the man has some kind of paranoid schizophrenic disillusionment fantasy wherein he's the victim of some overzealous plot against him by Safeway, and they're trying to bring down his career as an artist; or, maybe as just a former clerk at a Safeway who at one point in time just snapped and lost his job, thus tipping over the first domino in Safeway's vast anti-Skateboard Mike conspiracy, as it were. She doesn't let her eyes wander anymore and looks away from Skateboard Mike, in the direction she's headed. To safety.
A man in a business suit worth more than my car absconds a look with an unringing cell phone to his ear, making his arm obstruct his face, trying to hide the disdain in his eyes and his embarrassment for both himself (for being in the presence of such a detestable man) and for Skateboard Mike (who—my god—probably needs some medication he's not getting). The man thinks to himself that he'd better give money to some organization that gives mental help to people like this and summarily doesn't feel as bad about himself for hating the man, because he would—probably tonight, online—help out ol' Skateboard Mike with a considerable donation to an organization that could clean him up, get him off the street and at least into a mental institution or something.
I admit myself to giving Mike a look and then quickly withdrawing it. I didn't want him to ask me for a smoke or a light or spare change or a number of things I didn't have. Looking at them—I reasoned—makes them target you. Looking at them could have consequences. Looking at them may cause trouble that's not warranted nor needed. Just eyes to the sidewalk or to the opposite side of the road. Even though he was wearing sunglasses on this cloudy day, I was afraid of his eyes. I couldn't explain why. We walked the two more blocks down to the bus station and my girlfriend was off for a day of work. I had the day to myself. I ruminated on what I would use my day for, and then it hit me:
Mike.
It had been a while since I went story-mining; just talking to random people in random places—or perhaps more so calculated people in random places—and Mike looked as though an endless goldmine of interesting stories and a wealth of perceived knowledge or wisdom that may or may not amount to anything discernible or even sensical.
The day was windy and thick gusts blew from the North and the West , closing inward on Bellevue and the surrounding areas, sending the occasional rain horizontal so that no umbrella could keep you dry. Colorful and dead leaves of Autumn hues stirred in diminishing circles on the ground and were quickly swept up by the stirring wheels of import luxury sedans from Germany and Japan and Sweden as the rain alternated between showering and pouring. Umbrellas were not being used at the moment, but they were close at hand for anybody who had lived in the city for long, however some more cautious people with more expensive clothing that doesn't fair well in Northwest weather held fifty-dollar-plus umbrellas with intricate designs above their heads in expectation for worsening weather conditions.
I walked into Starbucks and picked up two of their regular drip coffees, since I wasn't sure if Mike was lactose intolerant or not. I picked up a couple of packets of raw sugar and I walked to his corner. Nobody was there. I was disappointed in my tardiness for Skateboard Mike's statuesque protest and stood in the rain with a forlorn look about me. What was I going to do with two cups of coffee? I didn't really even want one, much less an extra.
As I was getting prepared to resign for the day and go write about something far less compelling, I saw Mike from across the street. I could make out his brown coat with the words:
Artist
www.
Skate
board
mike
.com
written in fat short letters on the back. I could see his inexplicable red and blue neck brace and his well-worn baseball cap, saturated dark brown in hair oils and cigarette tar. He was on the street parallel mine waiting to cross. I wondered if I should cross as well and offer it to him while beginning to walk his way or just stand on the corner dumbly as if we had some kind of appointment. I decided the latter and waited all of a minute while Mike waiting for the crosswalk.
When he crossed the street I started by holding out the coffee towards him. As I spoke he raised his head to reveal a seldom-shaved mange under his neck brace with a recently-shaven five o' clock shadow from his chin upward.
“Hey sir, would you like some coffee?” I said, proffering the Christmas-themed maroon and green cup.
Mike shook his head no and then spoke in a voice that sounded throaty and wet with hints of a rural (possibly southern) accent that had spent a time being converted in a big city. “No thanks, but thanks for the offer,” he said, “coffee just doesn't agree with me. I've got some stuff—some kinda internal problems—and I can't really do coffee. Or any type of beans, I can't do that neither. They just don't really agree with me, y'knowwaddImean?”
I nodded. “Yeah, oh well,” I said, disheartened. I'd just lost my rock-solid “in” to a decent interview. I decided to be candid.
“Listen; I'm a freelance journalist and blogger, and I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions.”
He gave me a suspicious look, “Okay...” he said hesitantly, “sure.”
“Would you mind if I recorded our conversation?” I asked, pulling out my small tape recorder to show him in a sign of good faith.
“No, thanks, y'know,” he said, as if there were some obvious reason as to why he wouldn't want to be recorded.
“Okay,” I agreed. I cold take mental notes.
“Right now though,” he admitted, “I just wanna get someplace nice and cozy and outta this rain and wind, I've been standing out here for two hours and I can't get ain't nothin'.”
“Okay,” I repeated and we began to walk towards the bus station a couple of blocks away.
“You can just check me out on the Internet,” he said, seemingly trying to shoo me, “you can just go to www.skateboardmike.com” I'd already tried before to no avail and told him so.
“Oh, that's because you gotta put 'skateboard' in lower-case,” he said.
“So 'skateboard' in lower case and then 'Mike' in all-caps? Or 'Mike' with just 'M' in caps?” I asked.
“Well,” he continued nonsensically, “you've got to do www, then the skateboard in lower-case and mike and then dot com.”
“So www.skateboardmike.com? I asked, figuring it probably didn't exist anyways. He nodded. A brief moment of silence followed between us.
“So what do you want to ask me?” he asked, breaking the sound of the wind that masked the silence between us.
“Well, first I was just wondering why you're out here; what you're all about, you know?” I generally prodded.
“Well, I'm an artist, y'know,” he said. I nodded. “And I don't want any big thing written up on me on any filth book because I don't wanna be written about until after I'm in the ground, you know?”
“What exactly do you mean by that?” 
“Well, you've got these filth books, you know?” he started. My thoughts hearkened back to his sign, the phrase filth books stole my life. This is the story I was looking for; why he was toiling, his plight, what he was up against and his perceived notions about the world outside himself. “And these books are about these artists while they're alive and they're full of all these lies and whatever and they go to make it so the artist in their life is like ruined. They're like flashlights and they click on-and-off or they're like firecrackers and they explode for these two or three big years, and then they're gone. Like, the real ones,” he says, stressing real as though the real ones are imperative to life as we know it, that they're the only valid resource amongst historians, “are the ones that come out after they're in the ground, and I'm an artist so I don't wanna be written about until I'm in the ground, so I've got real books written about me and not all these filth books, which are the ones bringing me down.”
I shot him a coy look, “So what you're saying is you don't want anything written about you because if something is written about you while you're still alive it's going to bring you down?”
“Right, and when I'm in the ground,” he started.
“Dead?”
“Yeah, when I'm dead they'll write the books about Michael Davis Smith and then you'll know the real truth, but the guys who would be writing them now would get it all wrong and they'd write a filth book, and I'm not even saying they know they're writing it! They could be thinking they're writing all this good shit and whatever but it's going to be filth.”
I nod. “So you think that all these books that come out during an artist's lifetime makes them disreputable?”
He nods knowingly, “I don't think,” he states confidently, “I know because they're the reason that I'm living the nightmare I am right now, they're the reason I'm living under a fuckin' bridge and holding a sign. You have no idea what a nightmare I'm living now because of these books, man. You can't even begin to understand what this whole thing is about,” and now he raises his hand brings it down as though suppressing some invisible orb, “and all the dark book energies that are fuckin' making me live like this.”
I nodded as though I had some sort of idea as to what he was talking about.
“You say you're an artist,” I said, straying from our previous topic, “what kind of art? Painting, music?”
“Painting,” he said, “mostly oils.”
“Oils on canvas?”
“Well, I do some painting with oils but I also use some other stuff like with spray paint and other types.”
“Do you have any art that you sell or that I can see?”
“I got all my art stolen,” he said.
“Oh, bummer,” I reply sympathetically.
“Well, I've still got two lots of art and whatever...” he admits and grumbles the last part, seeming regretful that he disclosed such information. “It's a big long story that I don't even want to begin to get into man,” he said, trailing off again on the end of his statement.
We reach the top of a long set of stairs and wait for a crosswalk. I look at him and ask him, “So you're saying these books are the cause for all your problems?”
He affirms this, nodding and saying, “That's what I'm saying man.” and now he raises his sunglasses over his brow, revealing his eyes for the first time. Blue with one pupil dilated and not the other one. “Look at me, did you know I'm the world champion for going the fastest on a skateboard? Eighty-four miles per hour down Mt. Ranier but all these books are making it so I have to live on the street man! I'm doing this best artist in the world thing and I'm holding a fuckin' sign and all this shit.”
“Huh,” I continued, “about these 'filth books'; can you give some examples about what books you're talking about or some authors that write these books?”
“Man, it wouldn't be too hard. You could even use the Internet, I'm sure, to find out what some of these books are. And there's books that are about these books, these filth books, and you can find them, but they're harder to find but you could probably use the Internet or you could make some calls and I'm sure you could find out where to find these things—these books.”
“Are you saying these are filthy books?”
Mike looked annoyed and he raised his fists and laughed playfully as though I'm was bothering him to the point of menial violence, “Man, I'm telling you man, you're making me wanna...” he lowers his fists and his tone, “the filth books are the ones about the artists and they're making me live this nightmare that I'm in man, and all this dark book energy that's bringing me down.”
I nodded, trying not to appear defensive and in fact casual, as though his motions weren't threatening in any way and this is still a legitimate interview.
“So these books—these good books—the ones about how bad the filth books are, could you recommend some of those to me?”
“That's what I've been trying to tell you man, is that I don't remember but I used to have a couple of them, they're not the type of book you could find in that bookstore over there or anything.” he said pointing in the general direction of the Barnes & Noble close by.
“Think I could find it on the Internet or anything?”
“That's what I'm saying!” he said.
“Do you think I could find it maybe in an Anarchist bookstore or anything? I know there's like an Anarchist and Communist bookstore downtown, and”
Mike interrupts, “Maybe but I don't know. You'd have to make a call to a bookstore and ask them and they might send you to another bookstore, and then you'd call them and they'd send you to another, and then again and eventually you'd get the right place and you could get these books.”
“Oh.” I said. I'm highly suspect by now that the filth books and the commentary books on the filth books are in fact nonexistent. I nod, affirming what I'm quite sure is a delusion. “So you're skateboard Mike, do you still skateboard?” I asked.
“Nah, I hung up the skateboard years ago after I had an accident. That's how I got so good at painting, man, but unfortunately nobody will hear about me until I'm in the ground and then maybe you can write a book about me, but don't be writing—if you're interested in writing,”
“I am,” I admitted.
“—any filth books about me.” he said looking at me as though we were now in league with the same interests.
“I won't,” I said. “But I could write a book, like an expose on these filth books.”
“You could but then they'd just bring you down. If you wanted to write a book like that then good luck, 'cause whoever's in charge would say nope!” Mike said, making a thumbs down with his bare right hand dropping it. “This guy has'ta be brought down.”
I nodded, “Right,” I said.
“Cause, I mean, look at me! I'm a world record holder and look at how I'm living 'cause of these books and their, like, dark energy man.” he said. I nod. “Anyways, man, I have to go get something.” he says, offering me his outstretched fist to me. “Mike, by the way.”
“Brit,” I said, pounding his fist.
“Bret?” he asked.
“Brit; short for Britain, like the country.”
He nodded, “Alright Brit, if you see me around say hi!"
“I will.” I said and he began to walk off.
"Oh hey," he started, turning around, "you smoke and could I bum a smoke?"
"I do not." I admitted and he nodded and wandered off.
I walked back to my car, wondering to myself filth books? Dark book energy? World Record Skateboardist? What the fuck just happened? The leaves were stirred up by the wind and then were dragged to the pavement by the rain as I walked back to my car, ruminating on this strange happenstance.

NOTE: Upon further review and research, there is no www.skateboardmike.com, no matter how you spell it. I cannot find any information as to Michael David Smith or Michael Davis Smith as a skateboarder anywhere around Washington or any kind of record made skating Mt. Ranier. I cannot find his art, his name, his website, or any information about him in court records in any surrounding states. He seemingly doesn't exist.

16 comments:

  1. I was mass curious what his story was. Sounds like too many people I know who rationalize their existence/being, usually induced by by an excessive habit, like alcohol or drugs. It seems as if his whole thing is about flogging himself to ward off the dark energy. Thanks for interviewing "Mike" ;)

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  2. Wow.. interesting interview. I see him just about everyday as I drive back and forth on Bellevue Way a lot. And always wondered what he was about. But.. I have seen him come out of an apartment complex numerous times on Bellevue Way S. E. Which I assume is really where he lives. I have seen him walking towards Down Town while putting on his neck brace. In other words, I think his neck brace is for show.

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  4. I just did some research for this skateboard Mike character. I found nothing. he doesen't exist.

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  5. Brit, it's Andrew. I've been reading these for over an hour. Good shit

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  6. The site forwards to wonderpuppet.com...

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  7. Dude, same thing happened with me and my girlfriend -just saw this character on the street today and thought it prudent to ask him what his story was. Looked up "filth book energy" and your blog post was the only thing I found relevant to what this dude was telling me about.
    Way to document your discussion with this guy.

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  8. I just had a conversation with this guy today and your blog is the only thing I found on "filth book energy" online. The question that I kept pressing him about today was, "If so many people are writing these books about you, then how do they get the information to write them?" His answer (and I asked many more times in various forms) was "People are reading the filth books to learn about me and they write more shit about me." So the people who get the information about him to write all of these malevolent things about him are getting the information from their own books. Indeed... I talked to him for about half an hour and he basically told me all of the same stuff you said, including that his old paintings, which were allegedly painted on cardboard, were thrown away (in a dumpster) by this guy who's house he was staying at. The general story I got was that he probably used to skateboard a bit, got hurt one day and couldn't do anything for a few months so he picked up painting. While he was staying at his friend's house, he painted some trippy pictures on a bunch of cardboard and the guy who he was living with didn't realize they were his artwork and threw them out. Now' his old friend is the object of some delusional resentment in which he was a great artist being sabotaged by some or other complicated forces in the world (dark book energy) that no one else can seem to understand. It seems like he's invented this elaborate story to tell people so that they'll take pity on him in the hopes that it's more likely to get him attention, money, or whatever. I asked him why he wasn't still creating art if he was such a great artist and the best he could give me was that I just didn't understand. Give me a break, Skateboard Mike. As our conversation ended, he asked for change and I told him flat out, "I don't believe a thing you've told me" his reply, "Well I think your filthy, just like my sign says."

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  10. He grew up in south Bellevue and is about 50 years old. I went to Bellevue High School with him. Quite the partier if you get the drift. He liked to skateboard alot. I do not remember him being into the arts.

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  11. Well I am glad that someone actually took the time to acknowledge his existence. Thank you for posting the blog and having the courage to explore the situation at first hand. I am a bit confused as to what he is actually attempting to accomplish with his protest and sign, which I may ad he has been doing for 10 years. I knew Mike from way back in junior and senior high. Mike used to be one hell of a street luge skateboarder. I have skated with him. He is not lying when he says he went 80+ mph. Unofficially he set the world speed record on a skateboard until Lee "Taylor" or as Mike would call him "Rat" began to accelerate and gain the notoriety that Mike probably felt that he deserved, since he taught Lee how to skate like a pro. Mike was in fact involved in a very serious roll over car accident that killed one of my friends and landed my other friend the driver into jail for about 5 years for vehicular manslaughter. Mike was seriously injured in the accident and it did in fact end his skateboarding career. Lee went on to become famous at the X games with pro sponsors such as Vans and Mombosock. I can vouch that Mike was no regular kid on the block. In fact many of us looked up to him, he was respected. Mike did like to indulge in a party or two. People please pray for him. The creator of the universe can do very miraculous things. I am sure he has his eyes on Mike. I am saddened every time I see him. I do not know what filth books he is talking about and I have never seen his artwork. I have hung out with Mike in the past. I personally believe he has a medical issue that has never been delt with. He is a good man at heart. God bless you Mike and get better.

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    1. DITTO Dave Brady, Mike has a big heart and I want the best for him. GOD Bless you Mike!

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    2. i grew up with mike smith. he lived down the street and he was a great skateboarder. he did infact go 80+ mph more than once. he was the guy who always had the best skateboard. he was one of the cool kids.

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