No Skate Park for Old Men

A growing line of cars has taken up position behind me. I’m unconcerned by their presence. The cars wait patiently for a chance to slide by on their way to the pier or wherever it is they’re headed tonight. I guess they’re tourists because locals would simply zip past me without a second thought. Out-of-towners tend to be more cautious. I’m navigating the bike lane on Seacoast Boulevard whilst listening to The Kinks and in-general not paying much attention to traffic. I am an Ape Man and traffic does not concern me. I am too busy watching the Pacific burn under the heat of our setting Sun. If the world feels like it’s sliding by me on a track that’s because it is. I’m perched atop a skateboard, which just a few short weeks ago would have seemed highly unlikely. So, perhaps I should explain how I came to occupy the bike lane without a bike.

Fifteen-year old me would be happy

Skateboarding began it’s ubiquitous cultural journey more than sixty years ago in the surf towns of Southern California. Imperial Beach is one such surf town and living in here had me reminiscing about the Bones Brigade days of my youth. “Adult skateboarding” is not viable in the northeast US for a multitude of reasons, so it’s been a mere twenty-five plus years since I’ve ridden a board. Caught up in the magic that is IB, I asked myself a question: If you could be skateboarding, then why aren’t you skateboarding? Who would prefer to walk?!   I was developing an eye for the cushy long boards often ridden by happy looking people with a dog on a leash nearby. I wanted to count myself among them but picking up a skateboard after so long seemed like a non-adulty idea in my adulty-conditioned brain. That changed when Wyatt said he wanted to skate. Liz & I have always tried to encourage the kids with any sport they show an interest in learning. Skating with Wyatt would help get him out of the house and give us a chance to spend time together. I thought I was taking one for the team when I bought that sweet long board in the Surf Hut window (actually it was in a pile in the back room), but I was really doing myself the favor.

Picking up any sport after a long absence requires some amount of re-tuning. For me, this process was lengthy, painful and quite revealing. Wyatt knew that I skated when I was a kid so of course he expected me to step right back in to it with ease. I succumbed to the dad-pressure and began trying to find my balance again. This is a good time to point out the obvious: re-learning to skateboard at forty-two means being in constant fear you will end up explaining how you fell to an emergency room nurse who’s setting your broken arm. It turns out that 28 years was enough time for me to become terrified of falling down. That fear got in my head. Nevertheless, I was unwilling to accept that I could no longer do what I once was able to do many years ago. We have good health insurance and dad-pressure is real, so away we go.

In search of smooth pavement

My confidence was slowly coming back when Wyatt asked me to take him to the skate park one afternoon. The trip would involve a ten block ride across town. I crossed my fingers and we took to the streets. After a few early yips, I was quickly reminded of how great it feels to glide down a road on new bearings and smooth pavement. It was even better when I looked over to see Wyatt keeping pace while doing tricks on the curbs. Fifteen-year old me would be very happy seeing how things worked out.

I was hooked by the time we skated back from the park that afternoon. Lately I’ve been happy to get home from work with a sliver of daylight left so I can ride down to the beach and back. Doesn’t matter if the boy is with me or not. I set out for the pier on one such recent evening with a carefully curated playlist in my pocket. James Taylor, Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffet…really cliche skate music I know, but it was a sunset ride. I was stopped on my board about a block or two from the pier (playing Pokemon Go) when I noticed a sheriff’s vehicle stopped in the road. A sheriff emerged from the cruiser and asked me if I was “Greg”. (I am not) I responded accordingly and she reluctantly accepted my answer.

I can’t remember the last time I was approached by the local constabulary, so the exchange was a little weird for me. I skated another block towards the pier and then saw the sheriff pulling over. She stepped out and motioned for me to stop, which I didi. I’m starting to get a bit nervous when she tells me that I match the description of a person she’s looking for. She asked me for ID and in that moment I was provided with a good example of privilege. I wasn’t carrying ID, because why would I need ID to cruise up and down Seacoast in IB? I’m guessing if I wasn’t a middle-aged white guy, that alone might have been enough to put me in the cruiser. Instead, I tried to prove I wasn’t “Greg” by showing her my work email, because who would lie about working at a bank? She still insisted on confirming I didn’t physically match “Greg’s” description, which she revealed to me was, “white guy on a skateboard.” I’m thinking she’s going to have a busy night.

My magic carpet ride

Eventually the sheriff, who was quite nice I should mention, let me go on my way. Apparently I didn’t match the description and I was sent along with a sincere, “Thank you.” My insistence that I was just a boring, middle-aged guy acting like a fifteen year old on a skateboard may have helped my case. “Greg” remains at-large.

What started out as semi-selfish attempt on my part to spend more time with my kids became something that reminded me of something I had forgotten. Wyatt & I skate together every week, usually back and forth to the skate park so he can engage in the tribal rituals with his friends. That frees me up to cruise around town in search of those choice side streets where the pavement is as smooth as glass. (I’m talking about you Elm *smug look*) I’m still living in a persistent state of fear that I’m one pebble away from a faceplant, but I’m glad I’m not letting that stop me. Even with the police breathing down my neck, I’m still out there getting it done and repping middle-aged guys everywhere.