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As he waits weekday mornings at the Auburndale station for the Long Island Rail Road to carry him into Manhattan, Joe O’Neill passes the time throwing, which sounds just a bit menacing until one realizes it is simply one of the terms — along with the dizzy baby and the boing boing — spoken by O’Neill and the other members of the New York YoYo Club.
“Sometimes I take a break [from work] and just go out on the street. It doesn’t require batteries, you just throw it around whenever you have a break,” he explained. “I like the hand-eye coordination. Especially as I get older, I want to keep my hands and my eyes busy.”
The 47-year-old said he rediscovered yo-yos about six years ago after he had given them up as a teenager.
“After a while, usually when you discover girls, yo-yoing goes out the window,” he joked.
It was when his wife bought his 9-year-old son a yo-yo that O’Neill really started throwing again.
“I started playing with it so much, he bought me one,” he said.
It was also around this time he found the yo-yo club, where enthusiasts get together to talk shop, show off their gear and trade tips on the newest tricks they are practicing. A few years later, O’Neill took over running the club, and now he sets up meetings every week where about 10 to 15 members ranging from beginners to experts walk-the-dog and rock-the-baby with their Duncans, YoYoJams and Yomegas.
“I try to create an environment where you can do what you want to do,” said O’Neill, who is currently working to perfect his execution of a trick called Poppin Fresh.
“It’s hard to explain, you kind of have to actually see it. But like with a lot of tricks, the name invokes what it looks like. It looks like it’s popping out of the triangle,” he said.
The club meets Sundays at Washington Square Park, and some of its members compete in contests, such as the upcoming Massachusetts State Yo-Yo Contest or the World Yo-Yo Contest, known colloquially as simply “Worlds.”
In competitions, participants are judged in five different categories, which start out with your basic tricks and range all the way to freehand, where the string is not actually attached to the finger, but is manipulated by throwing around a counterweight.
Some of the 20-plus yo-yos O’Neill owns cost upwards of $100 and are made of aircraft aluminum. He said people come up to him all the time when he is throwing.
“People say, ‘I haven’t seen that trick in years,’ or, ‘I haven’t seen a yo-yo like that before,’” he said.
O’Neill said there are plenty of good plastic yo-yos out there that can be used to perform one of his favorite tricks.
“It’s called the Double or Nothing. You go around both of the fingers to try and land the yo-yo on the outer-most string,” he said. “If you hit the double you’re good; but if you don’t, what are you left with? Nothing!”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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