Skateboard

posted in: Essay, San Francisco | 0

SKATEBOARDAGAINST THE YELLOW WALL there are no mysteries. There the tall man sits, the slender young man with the green sweater tied around his waist, there he sits, his back against the wall, his butt upon a skateboard, upon its non-skid surface, his legs drawn up, his arms folded around his knees. He contemplates the world. There are no mysteries. There is concrete, asphalt, and metal. There is some brick and wood. Every once in a while there’s a tree. It is no mystery why the tree is there: someone planned it, just like everything is planned–then falls apart. There is nothing natural in the City, and nothing eternal. That’s why the tall young man with the green sweater sits upon his skateboard. If there is nothing natural, there is also nothing unnatural–all is fixed, all is a facade. Skateboarding is just another facade in the City, another way of life.

 All-American punk kids on skateboards: as standard in the City as cream cheese on bagels. You see them in the skateboard shops with their parents, when they’re still squeaky clean and innocent and too young to buy the equipment on their own. They plaster their boards up and down with cartoon decals, hideous monsters and demonic faces of evil. They are delighted by the clash of flourescent greens, oranges, reds, and the black lips of hell creatures.

They wear the requisite multi-colored hi-top tennies and the standard knee-length Hawaiian-patterned shorts. They assemble on street corners, consciously cool post-pubescent boys, wanting to be looked at, never admitting it. One steps out of the circle, gingerly tosses his board to the ground, toes it, makes it pop up, steps on it, makes it squirm, dance. The others watch impassively out of the corners of their eyes; he pays no attention to them, only to his motions, to his performance. But the dance is quickly over, even before any climax to it can be made, and the boy rejoins his buddies. He hasn’t the power to leave them. Not yet.

Frank#4
“Skateboard” was published in “Frank,” an arts magazine in San Francisco in the 1980s, now long out of print.

The girls will thrash on the hills with their rad boys and one of them will end up bloody. It’s cool. Her boy will like her better after that. She widens the rip in the knee of her jeans and exposes the five-inch scab. That’s just one: you should’ve seen what she did to her head!

Out of the City there are the highways, even unto the Midwest. On these highways in ages past and even unto the present there sailed solitary figures in convertibles. They were loners, drifters, free spirits. They were, and ever are, American heroes.

No less, the solitary skateboarders of the City. These few, a very few, feel no tie to heaven and are ever defying the earth, but it holds them. It holds them and twists them, but they twist back, and so an antagonism of forces conspires to create a most startling and unworldly ballet on the streets. Nothing engages these women and men as the act of breaking free. They are a long way from their gangs on the streetcorners, all of whom vanished from the scene. These individuals are on their own. You and I cannot touch them.

A green sweater around his waist, a blue, torn tanktop, some well-worn black jeans, old sneakers–shoulders, arms, and neck bare, skin tanned, jaws wide, hair long, curly, dirty blonde, turned-up nose, cleft chin, high cheekbones, hardened look, wary eyes, eyes that have seen inside the walls of the City, into the cubicles of human isolation, a body that has felt the humiliating blows of ignorance and contempt. Maybe he’ll open up for someone, either a woman or a man, but someone to pound his flesh and heart hard.

This man on a skateboard lives an aesthetics, a philosophy, a sport, and he doesn’t give a damn if you or I or anybody knows it.

But I do.