Los Angeles. 2004
In the neighborhood, they called him “Tiger”. His name was Phillip Flood. He was all claws and all balls. He had developed a reputation for hurting others a long, long time ago. Years of mental illness had made him almost unrecognizable as a human being. He had not one human emotional component that he could lay a finger on. Rage? Despair? “Maybe a bit of both…” He’d mumble and move through the house. Ashtrays filled to overflowing. Dirty dishes seethed with refuse and cockroaches. He left the lights off and the television on. No cable. No channels. Static snowed through the living room like some obscene pale stranger… Nighttime was a curse. He was the disease that consumed all. He’d stride through the city streets. Bootheels drumming the dirty sidewalks. Neon signs and the stars would coldly turn their light away from him. He was the abyss and you better bet your ass on that one.
Coffee shop. Glass door. He entered and took a seat at the chipped countertop. It was dark inside and he rubbed his eyes. It didn’t help. Sometimes his days were dismal shades of grittiness. Voices murmured and reached him. He shook his shaggy head. Silverwear rang on the cups and plates of those eating nearby. He smelled french fries and oil. His voice- “I had love once. I had one who made it all seem…” The rest died on his tongue as his dark eyes lifted and he saw a waitress eyeing him. She smiled with reserve and hesitation. Setting a menu in front of him, she put a waterglass down as well. He looked away. “Sir, would you care for some coffee or something else to drink?” The dark-eyed man motioned her away and fingered the menu. Sandwiches and photographs of dinners blurred his vision. His stomach flopped and turned. “Meat. Meat. Meat. Meat. Meat. Meat. Meat. Meat.” Smiling to himself, he sang the words in his mind and rolled around in them… He saw his lovers face in his memory. She was long gone, this one who had made the days bearable and the nights something he couldn’t let himself forget. He had watched her world collapse and looked the other way. She was there now. Minds eye. “Hello starlight.” She’d smile her crooked grin and touch his arm. He felt her like electric light all around him. She was no more. His fingers toyed with a finger bone he had pulled from his pocket. It looked like worn chalk. “A stranger… in space and time.” he murmured. He slipped it into a ketchup bottle in front of him. Sipping water, he stood abruptly and left a twenty dollar bill on the counter. The door closed behind him and the street spilled away in front of his eager stride.
There was no freedom to be found. He walked from one side of Los Angeles to another. Homeless begged for change. He caught himself mumbling and eyeing up young schoolgirls headed home with their books and lunchboxes. “Not bad…” A crack-addicted prostitute gave him head in a filthy alley. He pushed the person off of him when he saw infected wounds on his legs… After all, a man had to have standards, didn’t he? “Come back here, Mother Fucker!” the prostitute spat venomously after him. He laughed at the little faggot and made his way to a bus station. “Jesus Christ! … and people think that I’m the weird one?!” He payed for his ticket. In a few moments, he took a seat on the tall aluminum and chrome bus. It moved out through the city slowly. Evening traffic snarled and festered below him. Smog drifted across the sun that was dropping across the city. Decline. He peered out of the windows and dozed. Riverside bound…
Riverside. July, 2005
The two older skateboarders skated through downtown Riverside. It was sweltering. They stopped at a 7-11 market and bought some cold drinks. A few younger kids cruised by on bicycles and stopped. They sat under some shade trees nearby, laughing and talking. The kids told the older guys about a pool in the nearby city of Chino that they had found. There was an area out in Chino where all the dairy farms were being torn out. The pool was at one of the old houses out there. They pressed the kids for more information. “Yeah man… we rode it on our bikes. It’s skateable. No one bothered us at all.” One of the older guys questioned them on the shape, surface condition… the whole thing. After all, taking the word of a young kid on a bicycle that thinks a pool may be skateable, is always a dubious proposition . Bicycles and skateboards are completely different animals. The kids told them that the pool resembled “bubbles…” The older skaters nodded to each other. That sounded promising. They soon skated back to the house, loaded up the car and with hastily-drawn directions, headed to Chino.
Once they saw the pool, it was over. Friends were called. This amoeba-shaped pool was all time. Besides the trespassing aspects, the heat, insects and a foul odor that hung over the whole area, it was skateboarding heaven. The word went out quickly. The grapevine buzzed. Pool skaters descended on the Chino dairy pool like flies on cow crap. It was the 4th of July holiday and the thermometer stuck at the one hundred degree mark. Heavy pool skating crews from San Diego, Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley were in attendance. The nearby properties were being bulldozed. The skaters saw the writing on the wall. It wouldn’t last. It was time to gather friends and make it count.
One evening, shortly after they started skating the pool, a man approached. He was looking all around. He seemed surprised at the activity. He wondered what everyone was doing at the pool. He said he was a security guard for the construction and tear down company. When he saw the skateboards and things, he mellowed out. “My name is Phil. I’m just here to make sure that no one steals any of the equipment or fucks with any of the company property. People have been stealing parts from the bulldozers and trucks.” The skateboarders eased his mind on his concerns. They just wanted to skate the pool. He seemed perplexed. Phil sat on an upturned bucket and watched. He told them to stay away from the other buildings and houses. They weren’t to go inside. Someone gave him a beer and he quietly watched from the deck. The police rolled up once as they had seen the generator lights. Phil walked out and spoke with them… “It’s all okay…” he told the police. “I’m here with them. They aren’t hurting anything.” The police left them alone after that. It was the way it should be.
Phil watched the skateboarders for awhile. It was actually pretty cool what they were doing. He tried to imagine himself skateboarding and found himself smirking. Silly thought. It had been so long since he’d had a childish notion… besides, he had his passions just like these guys had theirs. He stood as one of the skaters flew out of the top of the pool and landed back inside. The onlookers yelled in appreciation. Phil told one of the skaters that he’d be back. He had to walk his rounds. He slipped away and melted into darkness.
He walked across a dirt lot that had recently been cleared of buildings and brush. Once, there had been life here… nothing remained from that time. Eradicated. Erased. The farms and families never existed. He walked along a treeline and parted the long grass. The hunter. He smelled them then. Smiling thinly, he knew the others smelled it as well. Everyone put it off as cow manure, farm smells and decay. He knew better. “The Tiger.” he shivered in the evening despite the heat. He flipped a half-hidden mattress over and bent down. She lay there staring at the sky. She had really grown ugly in the afternoon heat. This morning when he visited her, she was much more… herself. His hand waved away flies and white larvae fell out of her hair. “Lovely one?” He raised an eyebrow. Cold seconds ticking… the hum of insects. She remained mute. He didn’t know why she had stopped talking. “Guess I better…” He retrieved his shovel and an hour later rejoined the skateboarders at the pool. Sipping a cold Tecate, he knew that the others were buried out there. He smiled and nodded to those nearest him. They thought him simpleminded and easily manipulated. He was the inky darkness and dread that came with it… The bulldozers would smash and pummel the buildings down. He’s be there, the dutiful employee. He’d make sure they concentrated their steel and diesel fury in just the right locations. The bones and blood. The flesh, a flood. Gone forever. Buried under the rotten soil that opens up for us all…. Thank you to Brian Fick, MRZ and George McClellen for the images. Skate- Ozzie