A few weeks ago, on my way to dinner with my friend Oriana and running super-early, I noticed a tiny basement-level skateboard shop on Wilson Ave. I poked my head in, hesitating because it seemed completely empty, and because, well, I don’t skate. A middle-aged bald guy in a ripped t-shirt, who sounded a wee bit high, emerged from a parked car: “Go on in! It’s open! It’s just hot in there!” Because I had time to kill, and because someone had once mentioned I should get a longboard, we started talking about the skateboards on the walls, types of longboards, etc. He told me about the back injury that made him reconsider his life of business and begin a life of skate shop-owning, and about how he still cruises around from place to place on his skateboard. (It takes him “two kicks” to get the Starbucks down the block.) I mentioned I might someday buy a used board, just to try it, and he said that he actually happened to have one that he’d give me.
Which is how I ended up outside a skate shop on Wilson Ave. with a skateboard that I placed on the sidewalk and instantly fell right off of. I immediately called my skater friend Kirk who reassured me that he’d teach me to ride it, and that we’d have our own skategang. I showed up for dinner about ten minutes late, carrying the board, and while we waited for our table to be ready, Oriana and I practiced riding up and down the sidewalk, barely keeping our balance longer than five seconds before we rolled in slo-mo into the side of the building.
But I’ve been riding to and from work every day, and since Kirk has an actual life outside of our skategang, have been trying to teach myself via the interweb. The interweb taught me that I started off “goofy-footed” and then was unfortunately “pushing mongo”. I don’t know what either of these things really mean, other than I was leading with the wrong foot and pushing with the wrong foot.
I’m getting better. Oriana and I practiced in an empty parking lot on Tuesday night, which sounds cool except we were only practicing going in straight lines without falling off. A forty-something woman with gray streaks in her ponytail, an acid-washed denim jacket and a slur in her voice came out of a nearby apartment building and lectured us pretty hard-core about safety, how her daughter (who now lived in the suburbs) had been skating since she was three years old, and how her son would’ve been our age had he not passed away. She didn’t mention whether his passing was skateboard-related. Oriana had hurt her ankle a few minutes before, and the woman, Stephanie, was appalled. “I’m such a mother, you stay right there,” she said. I felt her start to become the kind of stranger who transcends that very fine line between friendly and over-friendly, but we went with it anyways. We were laid-back skaters. She ambled back to her apartment and returned with an Ace bandage wrap for Oriana’s ankle. (She apologized that she didn’t have much bandage left, most of it had been used as grip tape for her bird’s perch.) Oriana sat on the skateboard while Stephanie bandaged her up. “I’m going to look out for you ladies,” she said.
Last night as I walked home from the grocery store, I watched three teenagers who actually knew how to use their skateboards, gliding along the sidewalk, talking and text-messaging at the same time. Maybe someday.