Discover more from Blackbird Spyplane
Never cop garbage again with Molly Young's "crazy brain-hack"
Her custom LIFE IN HELL surfboard is super wavy, too
Molly Young is one of the best culture writers in the game. U wanna read a ‘definitive profile’ of ‘the fit god’ Jonah Hill, full of sharp observations and BON MOTS APLENTY?? Molly delivered a classic for the NYT Magazine. At GQ she’s written stories with HIGH-SPICE CONTENT about St. Vincent, Donatella Versace, and a sleeper must-read on celebrity menswear super-stylist Ilaria Urbinati. Oh, u love exquisite literature? Molly is New York Magazine’s literary critic so do yrself a favor and check in with her books newsletter, Read Like the Wind, and also buy her extremely good new zine about gross old rich weirdos, The Things They Fancied, which BBSP highlighted here.
On top of all that, Molly has Mach 3+ taste levels when it comes to copping weird & unique s**t, so when we learned that she owns a custom surfboard featuring a design from Matt Groening’s pre-Simpsons cult-classic comic LIFE IN HELL, we hit her up to find out more…
Blackbird Spyplane: We had to do this call in the afternoon because this morning u went surfing — did this beautiful custom board do its damn thing in the saltwater??
Molly Young: “Yes! It was in the disgusting cloudy water of Rockaway Beach at 5:15 a.m. along with 300 other people. The crowds have been huge recently, but the general attitude of people who surf in NYC is very gentle. That’s kind of odd, because obviously surfing operates on a scarcity dynamic — there can only be 1 person per wave, and there are only so many waves and only so many spots at any one time — but everyone’s out to have a good time and be a kook, and I like that.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Yr originally from the Bay Area, a.k.a. BEAUTIFUL BLACKBIRD SPYPLANE COUNTRY — how do the 2 surfing cultures compare?
Molly: “I learned to surf in Bolinas, which was such a locals-only scene: There was actually this guy called Steve the Enforcer who would hold your head under water if you sneaked him on a wave, even if you were a 14-year-old girl — he didn’t do it to me but I saw it happen, and I hated that so much. It made me hate surf culture. So it’s refreshing to be out here in a place where the worst thing that can happen is the water is full of dorks instead of full of assholes.”
Archival Groening >>>> Archival Raf ???
Blackbird Spyplane: How did this board come into yr life?
Molly Young: “I never cared about having a really good board and I’m not good enough for it to matter — whatever the board is, it’s just gonna be me flailing on it. So for a while I had a Craigslist board covered in duct tape that I’d take to the Rockaways, which was fine because you don’t need a ‘performance board’ there.
“But last year I took a couple trips to South America — to Panama and Peru — and it became clear I needed a board with a very specific shape that I wasn’t going to find on Craigslist. So I got one from my friend Coleman Buckley in Santa Cruz, who has a company called Ride Engine. I wanted a 6’ 2” thruster that was very thick but narrow with a square tail and not much tail rocker — someone described it to me as a ‘1980s performance short board for a very fat man,’ which is pretty dead-on. I needed something that was thick enough to have float but just short and narrow enough to get a little carve-y…”
Blackbird Spyplane: Those specs all sound super popping but what about the dopest spec of all, i.e. the fire design??
Molly: “My husband Teddy is a designer and has an x-ray view into my brain, & he came up with this fantastic idea of Bongo from Life in Hell surrounded by dancing Akbar and Jeffs done in the manner of the Grateful Dead dancing bears. You can get designs printed on to fiberglass, so we did that, and Coleman wrapped it around the board.”
Tear-outs from Molly’s GREETINGS FROM HELL postcard book…
Blackbird Spyplane: What do u love about Life in Hell?
Molly: “We had all the books at home growing up. They exemplified this very specific late-‘80s / early ‘90s counterculture humor, very Gen-X, like old alt-weekly magazines with the sex ads in the back that were free on every corner in San Francisco. I was born in 1986 so by the time I was reading these I could sense the contours of the world Matt Groening was describing and be fascinated by it, even if I didn’t always understand it. Those books were my gateway to adult topics, like AIDS, sex work, depression, illegitimate children, and they’re very acute without being cynical, which is the one kind of humor that repels me.”
Blackbird Spyplane: There’s some cool old Life In Hell merch out there — we found this Apple college-marketing brochure on eBay for $249 (!) and put some other joints in the BLACKBIRD SPYMALL. Do you collect this stuff?
Molly: “They have these postcard books called Greetings from Hell that came out in, like, 1989, and I have a stockpile of those that I found on eBay for like 12 bucks. My brother had a baby and there’s a funny card I sent him about whether or not to have a child; there’s one about gay friends; there’s one about coworkers; there’s wellness cartoons, struggling artist cartoons — there’s really one for every occasion.”
Molly has been known to make cool limited-edition tee shirts with her husband, Teddy Blanks, and also their bathroom looks like a lush jungle inhabited by a beautiful leopard
Blackbird Spyplane: Are u a big rare-joints seeker / accumulator?
Molly: “Yes and no. I actually discovered the craziest brain hack when it comes to online shopping — I used to go into eBay wormholes and I’d end up with basically garbage being shipped to me. Then I started gardening and I realized that the dopamine pathway of gardening is almost same as online shopping, where you place the order and get a hit of dopamine and you enjoy the anticipatory period of waiting for it to arrive. Gardening is the same thing — you plant the seed, which is its own reward, and then you wait, and what emerges from your effort is not the thing you think but it’s something surprising, which doubles the dopamine reward. So I fully accidentally cured myself of what had become a very bad habit… All those neural pathways were hijacked by gardening.”
Blackbird Spyplane: As longtime readers know, BBSP is 100% GARDENING GANG.
Molly: “The happiest ppl I know are ppl who fill their lives with little tricks to make themselves happier, with little to no resources. It could be gardening. It could be as simple as adopting a dog. If you’re prone to being blue or depressed, as an adaptive measure, you’ll come up with those hacks.”
-Molly Young’s on Instagram here.
-We put cool vintage Life In Hell stuff in the Blackbird SpyMall.
-You can check out various jawns that Molly and designer Teddy Blanks have collaborated on here.
-Surfboard-maker Ride Engine’s website is here
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