[Hooping.org's Editor Philo Hagen remembers his.]
by Philo Hagen
One night at a party I was at, Jason Strauss handed me a hoop to play with. I was reluctant to give it a spin to be honest. It was larger than any hoop I’d ever seen and stood as tall as my solar plexus. Having barely been able to hula hoop as a child, my head told me that I wasn’t going to be able to make this work either. Inside that first hoop, however, I found relief. You see, I hadn’t even wanted to go to that party. I just wasn’t in a partying mood. I’d had a break up the night before that was weighing heavy on my heart. Someone else was going to be at the party I really didn’t want to engage with due to a personal conflict. My head was yammering on and on about not going, rattling off everything I could do instead, telling me that my outfit sucked and so did I. No, it really wasn’t a night to be going to a party, but I went anyway and I’m so glad I did.
Hooping outside on the back deck that very first time after an evening of deliberately keeping myself on the fringes away from it all, as the hoop begin to spin I soon fell into a rhythm with the motion that matched the dream house music the DJ was spinning. I felt the hoop connect and connect and connect with my body with each and every rhythm. I suddenly noticed beautiful towering redwood trees stood before me. Had they been there all night, or was I the one that had been previously missing? As the evening and the hoop and I spun onward I soon realized I was coming into myself and my body in a way I hadn’t in quite some time. Then I noticed that my normally agitated head had become suspiciously silent. My mind had become acutely focused on the rhythm of the music and keeping the hoop moving to the beat. Little else mattered as the centripetal force spun away all other cares and concerns. A hoop, or rather a magic circle, had rolled into my life and I, for one, would never be the same.
At the end of that night, Jason gave me the hoop to take home that I had been so unwilling to share with anyone else for hours all evening. It was made from 1″ 100psi black polyethylene tubing and he had made it himself as a collapsable with an orange bungee cord inside that allowed it to “break” down into four sections while still remaining a unit. The taping was orange and black and red. I spent countless and untold hours with that hoop over the next several years and while I’d try other hoops at hoop jams from time to time, there was nothing like my first. In fact, I’d always go back to it, at least until that fateful day when a newbie I’d never seen or met before picked up my hoop, gave it a spin and fell in love with it the same way I did. The beaming smile on her face, a look of impending nirvana arrival in her eyes, watching her I knew she was coming home to herself inside a hoop the same way I had. I couldn’t bring myself to interrupt her hoop bliss and at the end of the day I was shocked to find myself giving her the hoop to take home in the same way it was so freely given to me.
Truth be told, however, I did have another hoop in my life I’d also become incredibly fond of, and it was the other first hoop in my life of great significance – the first hoop I made myself. My friend Seth had invited me over to his apartment to make hoops and when I got there the hallway seemed to be filled with coiled black tubing everywhere. Using special pvc cutters I carefully clipped off a section for myself. He didn’t have a hair dryer to heat the tubing and the idea of boiling water instead wasn’t one we were aware of yet, so we warmed the ends of the tubing using the hot flame from the gas stove in the kitchen. My first attempt melted, but by my third I had it down and the connector fit solidly in place. I started off with glow-in-the-dark tape and even though the glow factor was minimal at best, it sure felt cool to secure the sections in place using dark green electrical tape and neon green gaffer. When I was finished I looked at my handiwork proudly. Even though it was slightly wonky in shape, and even though the tape job wasn’t even close to perfect, I immediately fell in love with a hoop all over again. The making of your very own hoop for the first time is a hoop community ritual I highly encourage everyone to experience. The connection that you make with a hoop of your own creation is a most beautiful thing indeed.
That hoop was with me for several years as well and was dearly beloved, to say the least. When it was stolen at a World Hoop Day gathering in San Francisco, I will fully admit that I cried. It was the hoop I had done my first pizza toss with. It was the hoop I had found great solace inside of when my dearest friend Suzanne died of cancer. I’d used it for my very first performance. That was the hoop that always brought me back to center when I needed it the most. I still wonder where it is from time to time. Yes, we will always remember our first, won’t we? And wherever that hoop is today, I sure hope someone is enjoying it as much as did.
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003.