California is car country, we know that. The beautiful highways, brilliant weather and room to cruise makes this place paradise for automobiles. From NASCAR events at the Sonoma Raceway to sideshows on East Oakland streets, car culture is thick out here.
But we’ve got more than just cars rolling through the Golden State.
Over the next few weeks, the Rightnowish team is turning to the stories behind the tires on Northern California’s terrain. In five interviews, we’ll look at how wheels power community, culture, self-expression and fun.
San Francisco’s Richard Humphrey has been on roller skates for five decades. He’s been in films, on TV shows and even has a signature skate shoe. Over the past year, while teaching his roller dance techniques at parks in Alameda and San Leandro, he’s seen the uptick in roller skaters twirling to pop songs and spinning to R&B tunes. Now his goal is to make sure these new skaters understand that their moves aren’t just part of a social media trend brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a part of a deep-seated culture.
Berkeley’s Omar "Meez" Jones bends corners all throughout California with his bike crew, photographing their lives and branding what they do. He also appears in front of the lens. Recently, a photo of him and his buddy, Almighty Gio, was pasted on billboards around the Bay Area as part of an Apple campaign. Meez talks about his perspective on biking culture and what it means to make a living off your lifestyle, even if that means working with big corporations.
San Francisco’s Marsha Howard calls her hometown a skateboarding mecca. She’d know, given her experience: on top of bombing Twin Peaks and hitting kick flips outside of the Ferry Building, Marsha is a former skateboarding model and longtime employee at Thrasher Magazine. We discuss how she created her own network of women who skate after she got tired of navigating the “boys club” that exists within the skateboarding world. And we talk about how she currently uses videos of her falling off her board to teach elementary school students about the concept of perseverance.
Santa Rosa’s Randy Harlan and Bolinas’ Garnett Silver-Hall are co-founders of the Northern Californian chapter of the extreme wheelchair sport league, WCMX. Lately, Randy has been holding it down in NorCal while Garnett plays wheelchair basketball for the University of Arizona. On this episode, Garnett and Randy discuss the culture and camaraderie in “chair skating,” and how they’re working to ensure that other athletes have a clear path to participating in this extreme sport.
Sunnyvale’s Angel Romero says her mother made sure she knew two things: the value of community service and how to cruise the strip in a lowrider. Now, Angel, president of the all-women car club known as Dueñas, likes to ride through her old neighborhood and give back to it through volunteering.
In this episode, Angel and I discuss her intergenerational family tradition, the changing the perception of lowrider culture and how she adorns herself in preparation for cruising her vehicle down the avenue.
Even though we cover a lot with these rich conversations, there’s still much more to be said about how wheels shape our lives in Northern California. So, while we’re pushing out these stories over the next month and a half, we’d also like to hear from you about what your set of wheels, your community and your culture mean to you. Feel free to take a pic and post it on twitter or instagram, and tag #Rightnowish.
And be on the lookout for the episodes from this series… First one rolls out this week!
Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.