Sunday, September 7, 2014

Andrew Tries Skateboarding as an Adult

So the other day I saw how empty The Wedge Skate Park was. It’s a mile from my apartment, so I figured I get to skate there all day, with the park to myself! A childhood dream!

I got today’s schedule cleared. It’s skateboard day. I’m doing this. I have plenty of disposable income, and I deserve something nice.

So I roll up to Scottsdale Sidewalk Surfer, relieved that it’s still there after all these years.

I park in the tiny lot behind the shop.

There’s a guy about my age crouched in the shade, having a cigarette and a Rockstar energy drink.

“Good afternoon!” I say, too excitedly.

“Heyhowsihgoin,” he tells the ground.

I skip around to the front door. Nostalgic stickers of brands from the good old days cover the entrance.

The door glides open, and I’m slapped in the face with things I don’t understand.

Who are these names, these companies, what is this. No.

Most of the store is packed floor to ceiling with clothing, shoes, sunglasses, stickers and other accessories. Everything related to skateboarding without actually skateboarding.

Behind some massive sale racks of shorts and hats, I see the wall.

Yes, the wall of decks. I’ve missed it.

A lone employee, college aged, is handling a gaggle of 12 year olds and their mom.

They’re keeping him busy, perhaps a little stressed.

It’s okay, I want some alone time with this place.

I scan every item in the glass cases. The engineering behind all the bits has changed. They’re sleeker, lighter and stronger now.

I recognize a few brands, like Spitfire. There’s a dusty Element deck, signed by their skate team from 1999 hanging up high. It’s a farewell deck.

Those old pro skaters are probably fat and nursing a bad hip by now.

I look back at the door, then the kids, and I feel like leaving.

But then I see it. A classic Black Label deck. It’s got the little elephant on it. I like it. Behind that one is the memorable Toy Machine devil, but the deck is 8.75” wide, too big for my taste.

Okay, everything’s going to be okay.

I’ll just… I’ll just ask for what I remember and hopefully they understand me.

The kids are ADHD and are pointing at stuff and touching things they won’t actually buy.

Then a backdoor opens and shuts.
The guy from outside emerges.

He sees the noisy kids and tries to remain unnoticed.

“Hey, would you mind helping me for a moment?” I say to him.

“No problem!” he thankfully heads over to me. We’re on the opposite end of the service counter, where it’s dimmer. More pleasant.

“So what’s up man?” he says, scratching what remains of his surfer dude hair.

“I’d like an entire setup. But it’s… it’s been a long time,” I tell the wall of decks behind him.

“How long, brosef?”

“At least 13 years.”

“Ah. Well you’re in the right spot. This is the classics section.”

“Wha… what? Classics?”

“Yeahp. I hear ya,” he grimaces and gives a nod to the kids, “We’re old now, man. Shit’s different now.”

“How different?”

“Whale, y’see these trucks here?” he points to some sleek new truck set. I don’t recognize it.


“Freakin made a hollowed out titanium now. Feather light and strong as hell.”

He hands one to me. It’s laser-cut, perfectly shiny, barely heavier than air.

“Do… do you just have like… you know the regular kind?”

“Stickin to whatcha know, eh? My kinda guy. I keep a set of oh-gee Independents hidden away just in case a guy like you shows up.”

He reaches down low inside a hidden compartment, and reveals the Independent trucks I remember.

He blows dust off them and rubs them carefully with a cloth.

“I still run these. These make sense. Don’t tell the kids workin here though, they’ll make fun of us.”

“I too fear change,” I reply.

We both laugh.

He tells me his name. Aaron. He works here for fun. Has nothin’ better to do, he says.
I ask him what happened to Black Panther, the bearings I used to love. He said they ‘kinda dropped off’ and Black Label has broken into sub-brands. Emergency is a new brand of old skaters stuck in their ways. The ‘classics’ he kept saying. That’s the stuff and the names I remembered and understood.

Aaron builds my skateboard, which seems much faster now than it used to be.
He had this little compression tool thing that put the bearings in the wheels in seconds. He asked if I wanted logos or cutouts in my grip tape. I asked if they just have the normal kind, like Black Magic.

He nodded with a knowing smile, and found an old strip of it.

He mentioned that the wheels now are better, harder plastic. Not rubbery, no more uneven wear, he said.

So I let him pick the wheels: 56mm ‘Bones’ wheels.

I take the free stickers that came with all the glossy new skateboard parts and noticed something.

These logos, all of them, are warning signs of what’s to come.
Not even trying to hide it. Like its sole purpose is to scare me away from doing what I’m about to do.

Look at this jagged fireball. Heartburn. Pain.
Bones. The logo is literally broken bones and a skull.
There’s a cutout for spray paint, so you can vandalize easily. Next to it says “CHOOSE DEATH”

14 year old me would have been all over that. Current me worries about how irresponsible I’m being for not having health insurance.

The other customers have long cleared out. I pay for the board. $157, built entirely how I wanted it.

“Well ya wanna go try it out, man?” Aaron asks, holding it out to me like I’m about to be Knighted.


“Okay, I’ll watch!”

So we both go out front.

I step on the board, cruise up about 10 yards along the sidewalk.

“Wow this is smooth as silk! These new bushing designs are too loose for my liking, but buttery smooth. Not a sound from the wheel bearings either!”

“Sweet huh!” he calls back, lighting a cigarette, “Do an ollie!”

An Ollie. Easy. I can do those.

My brain tells my feet, hips and legs what to do but that’s not what happens.

What happened was a contorting seizure of rocks and scrapes. A hard clatter of softened 9-5 office job body on hot pavement.

The board rolled out lazily into the street, mocking me.
Cars honked and drove around it.

Aaron’s laughing his ass off. I would be too, but I’m too busy moaning in agony.

When did this hurt so much? God. Oww my back. My knees, my ear, my left elbow. Why. What happened to me. This was a poor decision.

It took a good few minutes for me to stand up and retrieve the board. One hand rubbing my spine. 

Aaron’s still laughing.

“Maybe I should just learn to golf?” I holler to him.

“Golfing SUCKS though!” he yells back, smiling.

He gives me a fistbump-goodbye and I hobble back to the MR2, already sweaty.

But happy.


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