unday, bladers across the world skating in memory of Brandon Jesus Negrete. Rollerblading lost a really important brother when Brandon died in October at the age of 31.
My experience with #forevernegrete817 was even more than a Sunday session in Oakland. It was a homecoming as well. For the last two-and-a-half months, I’ve been traveling across the U.S. (with a dip into lovely Canada) to promote my writing. It was a successful adventure and it was great to meet up with old friends, meet new friends, and learn about all the strong scenes all over this gorgeous country (talking specifically about you, Idaho and Montana).
I was fortunate to experience the hospitality many bladers, skate with even more, and was even luckier they decided to come out and hear me read.
But it was a good to be back in the Bay with friends I’ve been away for longer than any other time since moving out here five years ago. They’ve become my family, and because of them, I’m even more glad to be home.
That, for many bladers, was what it was all about.
Here in lovely drought-ridden Oakland, our sesh extended from JSF godfathers to young groms about to leave for college. We started at the Madison ledges (Spot No. 1 for the 2014 Oakland Blade Jam), made bad dietary decisions at 7 Eleven, and moved to the nearby Westlake Elementary (When I met its principal at a bar, I told him I skated his school and he bought me a shot of tequila).
These two spots are some of the most over-skated spots in Oakland, but, as always, the homies looked around for new things to do and did them. That’s what big homie seshes are all about.
And of course, there were the usual guys visiting from out-of-town. Because who doesn’t want to visit Oakland?
I’d visited so many places this summer and did so much over 73 days on my one-man tour that I never had enough time to let it sink in. Now that I’m home—where the gravity always seems the strongest—it’s great to know that those who will help me adjust to the normal day-in, day-out are my fellow weeknight and weekend warrior blading brethren.
Travel all you can, but never forsake the visceral reaction to coming home. And to me, the Bay is my home. It has after all, some very important things for me here, and some of them don’t even rollerblade.
It felt all nostalgic, as Sunday was supposed to be. Because we were skating to remember Negrete. Those of us who knew him can never forget him, but it’s never a bad idea to skate to honor a homie. That’s why they have the James Short Memorial Session and New Yorkers skate for Cozmik. That’s why the Iowa homies always remember Michael Garcia. That’s why the Be-Mag message board always remembers Jared Weise.
The list goes on and it will only get longer. That’s inevitable. You will lose friends and loved ones the longer you live.
The way you adjust to it, however, is entirely up to you.
Brandon Jesus Negrete was truly an artist. Beyond being able to put together a quality finished product, he was able to inspire. It wasn’t just about the videos he made, but the process in which he did it that was the real inspiration. Brandon had fun, was humble down to the core, and reflected great respect to the people he filmed by making great pieces of blading history and uniting some of the best names in the sport while doing it.
He was simply a rad dude, which is why so many of the best projects—namely Shredweiser’s Americana Tour to Hatian’s corresponding documentation of it—have been dedicated to his memory.
Brandon was an influential person, and losing someone like that is never easy, even if you just knew him from his public persona. When the world learned that Robin Williams took his own life, they felt a loss in their own because of the decades of entertainment he provided to us, especially if we saw Hook as a child, One Hour Photo as an adult, or even if it goes back to Mork & Mindy on Nick at Nite.
What’s worse is when you lose someone influential you knew on a personal level, which Brandon was to so many in rollerblading.
I’ve lost enough meaningful people in my life that I’d give anything for a Jor-El or Dexter’s dad-type experience to recall their wisdom through the years after they’re gone. Instead, we can only guess what they’d say and hope little is lost in translation.
But while we’re forced to cope with the loss of someone important to us, we must also have the resolve to continue to live as they would with one more day on the Earth. Imagine what someone you knew would do with that one last day.
Sure as fuck would be something they loved doing.
They’d skate another day. They’d get that clip. They’d spend time with the homies. They’d stop worrying and let themselves enjoy what they have in front of them.
Since they can’t, we all should.
I’ve been thinking of the many friends I’ve lost, most recently my friend Dean Johnson. We co-hosted an early (as in 5 a.m.) morning radio show on our college’s radio station. We had a blast doing it because we knew virtually no one was listen, which gave us complete freedom. That was until the complaints to the FCC came in (and I was fired), but mainly because of how our wildly different personas balanced each other out. He was killed in a car accident before his 30th birthday.
Knowing that if he walked into my place right now with a 24-hour expiration date, we’d record ourselves discussing the news, arguing over what kind of music to play, and writing. I plan on starting a podcast about news, blading, and other stuff I’ve crammed into these columns, and each and every episode is dedicated to Dean Johnson.
Because that’s what I know my buddy would have told me to do, should he still have a voice to do it. Instead, I have his and other voices from my past tugging at my brain, instructing me what I should do until the day all these cigarettes catch up with me and I get some firsthand experience whether this God guy is real or not.
I’ve been really slacking on writing Blader Digests while on the road, but I know Brandon would be telling me to always write more. So, bud, this slathering of nouns and verbs across a white page is for you.
Thanks for being who you were. Hopefully everyone put together something Sunday worth filming from wherever you are. If not, we’ll keep trying.
Blade or Die,
— Brian Krans
P.S. — I had to quit my job to do this tour, so until I can find another, I’m getting by from my book sales. If you haven’t ordered any of them yet or are behind on all three, you should. Enough people seem to like it so I can say it’s not a total waste of money.
And if you hate it—and order it directly from me—I’ll include the matches to burn it with when you’re disgustingly done.