Written by Christian Hosoi along with Chris Ahrens with a forward by Tony Hawk.
I was surprised when I received an email asking if I would like to review an advanced copy of Christian Hosoi’s Autobiography. It was also no surprise that Christian wrote this book because it was obvious that there was a story to tell. Without scanning the table of contents you know what Christian wants to say and why he is saying it…”My life as a skateboarder Junkie Inmate Pastor” as a subtitle to his book really tells everything about the story. It really is amazing…Christian jumps right in and lets it rip from day one in a cool conversational way. Writing alongside added inserts by a cast of recognizable names from every era of skateboarding, all chiming in as the book progresses in an oral history way. It is also littered with great photos and laid out in a way that feels like you are holding a hard bound issue of Thrasher with a long article about Christian. The quality of the book is top notch and the inside of the dust jacket has a killer surprise via the one and only Grant Britain.
I have to admit I could not wait to read it. I think like most people who grew up skating in the 80’s (and are now in their 40’s) we were all thinking…what the hell happened? We all new Christian via mags and videos and then suddenly boom he was gone presumably off the rails and no where to be seen when skating reemerged during the first X-Games. I will not spoil too much but I think if you read The House of Steam and the sub title of Christian’s book its safe to say “drugs were what happened” without spoiling any surprise. I had no idea how prevalent drugs were in the west coast skate seen. It was not like that on the East Coast for me, maybe we were too busy shoveling snow off of our backyard ramps to even have time to discover hard core drugs…I was astonished by this while reading Christian’s tale. Half way through reading I stopped and emailed Groholski and had a brief back and forth about the book, Christian and drugs…he said:
I hear it’s an interesting read… Christian & I are, and
always were cool with one another– I skated with him earlier in the
year, and have seen him a couple of times in as many years. Too bad
the drugs were such a distraction, and a theft of time. Glad he’s
free and rolling again!
…man the drugs were a theft of time. But just like Tom everyone was cool with Christian…Tony Hawk chimes in quiet a bit throughout with similar sentiments to Tom’s.
Like all great books or movies this one starts in media res with Christian about to take a major fall and then the book flashes back from there. Its a great read especially for those that grew up with Christian’s influence. He was the right age to be at the birth of a counter culture and he seamlessly bridged the gap between the Dogtown days and the Bone Brigade days. He duked it out with Tony Hawk for the number one and two spots of every vert contest while creating companies and garnishing sponsorship money. He made the transition from vert to street and then into the death of skateboarding as an occupation. All the while abusing drugs. He hits rock bottom and reinvents himself and his entire world view through the acceptance of religion and then rises up and offers a lifetime of the highest-highs and lowest-lows to some people who are in serious need. Its hard not to write 1000 words here and spoil all the great little details and facts that Christian offers up in the book. Some f my favorite things involved the business side of skateboarding in the 80’s, the number of Hammerheads he made, riding for Stacy in the early days etc etc…its all there for you to enjoy.
Although I have been in Christians presence on two occasions I cannot truly admit to having met him or to know him. The first time I saw Christian in person was in New Jersey in Jeff Roennings back yard. He came to do an in store appearance and then dropped by Jeff’s ramp. He was shirtless and wearing yellow jimmy z long pants. Even in NJ ‘shirtless’ was a uniform for Christian. He ran up the transition, jumped on his hammerhead while in the vert section, pumped once and then front side ollied the channel…with no pads. Unreal! He proceeded to skate and blasted face high airs all to our astonishment:
It was a mountain top moment for all of us…He was not much older, he was not much bigger but he was skating in another realm and after reading his book he would not mind me saying he was more then likely high.
These next two following pictures also illustrate what was going on in the skate world and also how it influenced the minds of skate teens at the time…I am standing in the middle on the platform wearing Jimmy Z shorts and a Green Tony Hawk T shirt…completely torn by the only two culturally waring factors in my world…There was Tony and Christian…Batman and Superman…who was cooler. I was obviously straddling the fence at the time. I know Tony won out by looking at my stack of old Hawk boards and then Groholski trumped them both for me…its hard to best a home town hero like Tom from 3000 miles away. It is fascinating reading Christians book and looking back on your skate youth and see how wrapped up we all were in it. I have to admit looking back on this photo I recall alot of Caballerro in Rocky (in the Blue) and alot of Chris Miller in Jeff (in the red) and there I stand the Cancer/Gemini not wanting to take side yet,
The next time I met Christian was via stories in front of my high school locker…I lived on the wrong side of town and it was hard to get a ride to The Barn for the weeknight sessions but one morning I was floored when Ben Cornish told me that Hacket and Hosoi walked into the Barn (most likely with Tom) they were on route to NYC to film with the bones brigade crew the famed NYC scenes from Future Primitive (which makes more sense after reading Christian and Stacy’s early history in the book) . I was distraught for having missed it and as I write this I cant honestly recall if this occurred before or after he came to Jeff’s Ramp. All I know is I refused to believe it until this photo was presented to me as evidence. Hosoi blasting a seven or eight foot high air over Hacket at the Barn. I don’t care what anyone says this is the greatest vert skating photo ever taken…I wish it was in the book:
I cannot express to you how insane this is…but there it is (and there is Rocky with his wood finish Caballero!)
Now that you have taken a full ten minutes of silence to study this pic I will move on too the second time I saw Christian in person.
It was twenty years later in the east village he was doing a joint art show with Gonz…Gonz painted visuals for Christian’s favorite Bible passages…I had no idea what had happened to him Christian at the time, I was out of touch…it was surreal…there he was…we did not speak:
The 81st post on The House of Steam six years ago:
So hear we are 26 years later and The House of Steam has almost 700 posts and Christian and I have still not met but I feel like I know him now. He had good reason to write this book and it is without question that it will entertain as well as inspire a lot of people. After reading I do believe it is Christian’s hope that this book will save a lot of souls in the way he saved his own.
I have never written a book review before and I was nervous, I was able to find some quiet time and knocked this out, I hope you enjoyed it and I hope I was not too self indulgent or spoiled anything with regards to Christian’s story. It is a cool book and I do believe there will be a lot of people better off for having heard Christian tell his tale of rising, falling and rising again.
We still have not met and Christian if you are out there and happen to read this send me an email email@example.com I would like to formerly introduce myself and congratulate you on as Tom says – being free and still rolling.