He was young. Eighth grade. Nothing bad ever touched his world. Popularity shadowed him. Harmful words and schoolyard cruelty bounced past, like a yellow rubber ball to strike those less fortunate. The forgotten ones. His dad was proud of him. Baseball consumed him and his family. Games and practice. The smell of a leather glove. Bright lights glimmering down on Friday nights. A long drive to left field. He found himself backing up… eyes glued skyward. Lost in lights. Descent. This was it. “Don’t take your eyes off the ball.” He lifted his glove and… Arms hoisted him up. Victory. His father grinned knowingly at him in the rearview mirror that night. “Champ!” His voice murmured back towards him. At home, his friends around the neighborhood had begun to skateboard. The big new skateboard park down the street was overflowing with skaters. Gray concrete hills and moguls meandered over the property as he stood by the fence and peered inside. It looked like fun. “Hey man! Come on. Let’s skate.” His friends called out to him excitedly. He shrugged and trudged home.
He had baseball practice. His father certainly would never approve of such a thing as skateboarding. Later that night, his father asked him what was bothering him. “You’re not on your A game today…” Quiet reflection. Silence. His father downshifted the Datsun wagon as the headlights cut the darkness. He shrugged in the dashboard lights. “I don’t know. I guess I miss my friends… they were all at the new skateboard park today.” His father looked over at him. Stern voice. Commanding. “No son of mine will waste his time doing that! You have the talent to be something. Baseball is your gift. You are a rare find. Someday, coaches will be looking at you from different universities. I’ve invested too much time with you… get skateboarding off of your mind. It’s a dead end.
Years flowed by like dirty water. Injuries and unfulfilled dreams. Baseball lost its allure. “All that glitters…” His father gave up long ago, on living a baseball career vicariously through him. His remaining high school years had blown past in a long exhalation of weed smoke and backseat liaisons. He had managed to avoid a few pregnancy scares. He held a job at a steel mill. Skateboarding was something he had, that made the unrealized dreams and the stress of life somehow tolerable. He hadn’t heeded his father’s advice. He had started skating and it was magical.
They rode empty pools together. They would have BBQ’s and their band would set up poolside and play punk music. He and his friends found skateboarding a common bond. It was a cement that kept their world intact. It brought them together. United. When one of the crew had problems, the others were there. They followed a painful road to a dead end… and they were kings.
Thank you to MRZ for the images. Skate- Ozzie