October 11, 2012


Skateboarding Legend. Owner of SKY HIGH Skateboard Shop.

I met Aaron a few years ago at an art opening when Colin Matthes & I were still running the Astrix Gallery in Walkers Point. I was introduced to him by his longtime partner the artist & organizer Faythe Levine. who runs the Sky High Gallery tucked in the back of Sky High. I was only just getting to know Faythe at that time as well and I remember thinking to myself, "Holy shit Faythe dates a wild animal man.” 
That’s all pretty irrelevant.

At any rate, Aaron and Faythe invited me to live upstairs above Aarons skateboard shop Sky High where I have been holed up in a bathrobe making products for Art Vs. Craft. Also irrelevant.

We are seated on two stools at the Blackbird Bar in Bayview. There is a birthday party going on around us. The lights are low. Everything is red and yellow and blurry. 

Makeal Flammini: Would you say you are a Milwaukee skate legend?

Aaron Polansky: Don’t legends have to be dead?

MF: No.

AP: Well, I’ve done plenty of shit. I have lots of friend’s country wide because of skating.

MF: Do you have as many cool moves as friends?

AP: No.

MF: How many moves do you have?

AP: Each year that I get older it divides by four.

MF: When did you start skating?

AP: When I was little I had a banana board and then I bought my 1st board from Target when I was 13.  I didn’t know what it was or meant. I just liked it.

MF: So you found skateboarding on your own- no one really introduced you to it?

AP: Not really, no.

MF: Who bought you the banana board?

AP:  My mom’s friend Joanne Grimm gave it to me.

MF: So what did you do once you had it?

AP: I skated on the driveway and sidewalk of my grandmother’s house, learned to go in a straight line. My dad poured cement in our garage then I bought a bigger board and could go in circles on that. That’s when I realized something bigger existed. I would see dudes carrying boards but never riding them. I never actually saw it happening. When I finally did I was like, whoa. First time I saw tricks I was like Oh Shit! I was into BMX and riding bikes.     

MF: So everything changed after that?

AP: The first skate video I saw was Curb Dogs. (Side note: I wrote this in my notebook as Curd Bocks)  I rented Cheech & Chong Up in Smoke and Curb Dogs from the local video store. It was for a date with the first girl I brought to my house. It was funny because my parents were divorced and my mom came over just because she wanted to see me on my first official date with a girl.

MF: So what did you do? You watched Curb Dogs on your date?

AP: Twice. I was totally blown away.

MF: Was the girl?

AP: She couldn’t give a shit. I think she broke up with me a week later. It made me realize there was this place all different kinds of kids could come together. Punks, mods, skaters, metal heads, whatever.

MF: So what was your first trick?

AP: Well, I took the wheels off my board and copied what they did. I would jump off my porch onto my board. First I spray painted it.

MF: What color?

AP: White with a giant knife and I wrote ‘Suicidal Tendencies” on it. That girl I dated her brother was into Punk and I was a Metal kid.

MF: So you turned Punk?

AP: No, it just showed me new shit.

Aaron showing me the signs of a skate spot.

MF: Do you think I would be a good skateboarder?

AP: Yeah.

MF: Really?

AP: You have Passion.
MF: I knew it.  So did skating give you an identity?

AP: No, well… Before skating I wanted to fashion an identity after skating it dissolved that thinking. I definitely found something in it. It took a year or two for me to say, “I’m a skater” It let me step out of that Junior High identity where I was always deciding, “this is cool” “this is not cool.” Skating blew it all up for me. It was all different kinds of kids doing it. Skating brings People together.

MF: So after the porch jumps without wheels? What was the first trick?

AP: Tall shit. Stand on a bumper and jump onto a board. Back then it was called an “Acid Drop.”

MF: Is it still called that?

AP: Once its nicknamed it sticks.

MF: Did you have a nickname?

AP: Later in High School.

MF: What?

AP: It went from – I had this friend from Tennessee and when he said my name it sounded like Ern. So Ern turned into Ernie. That spread.

MF: Do people still call you Ernie?

AP: No.

MF: Do you want to bring it back?

AP: Not worried about it.

MF: Do you have others?

AP: Uh. Lopan from Polansky. Lopan turned into Lopes and others strains of all sorts of shit. Lo-pants, Lo-panties, Pole-Candy, Pole Shanty, and then Po-Po and Popes. Uncle Aaron, Uncle. That’s the standard one.

MF: Who taught you all the cool lingo?

AP: Ha, Okay, well, you just listen. Sometimes you make up your own shit. I don’t know. Most of it was Racine slang and it changed monthly.

MF: What’s an old slang?

AP: What? Skate Speak or in general?

MF: Either.

AP: Let me think.

MF: My favorite thing you say is “Crewed up just chilling” I could never say that and be taken seriously. It sounds so good when you say it.

AP: Friends were a crew, break-dance crew...

MF: Wait. You can break-dance?

AP: Well I wasn’t a B-Boy. We had performances in my grandma’s basement with my cousin’s boom box. We would choreograph them.

MF: Do you remember any?

AP: Just the worm and the helicopter.

MF: Could you still do it?

AP: In High School I tried it drunk as fuck and got a rug burn on my forehead. I thought I could pull it out after 5 years.

MF: So you own Sky High?

AP: Yes.

MF: Since when?

AP: 1999

MF: Are you happy?

AP: Yes. I love it. Not always happy but I love it.

MF: Where is your store?

AP: Bayview. 2501 S. Howell Avenue.

MF: What do you sell?

AP: I carry boards, shoes, clothing. Everything that a normal shop would carry except I take very personally what I bring in because it’s the shop I sit in all day. So I carry brands that other shops don’t and I do well with that.

MF: You do have good shoes. If you saw me doing helicopters on the carpet what would you say to me?

AP: I’d say, All right be easy.