Today was a skate day that sneaked up on my feet, and the rest of me too. Just this morning I was thinking how I should give my board to the kid next door and save myself a whole summer's worth of abuse. I should know better, but I must have learned everything I really know by the age of five. I'm not sure if anything new is sinking in.
On my way back from downtown today I decided to cut through the local skatepark, know as The Bease, to see the snow removal status of the place. I've been casing it out for months, watching the snow recede and advance from the humps and hips like the movements of some interminable ice age. A few days ago, one of the curbs were clear, but there was gravel and leaves over all the dry spots. So I was surprised today to hear the sound of wheels and see skaters cruising around in front of the quarter pipe. About four or five guys were there with shovels and a broom, clearing the snow out of the bowl and chipping away at the remaining ice. Not to be left out, I raced home and brought back a spade and broom to help with the cleaning. There was actually only one guy doing most of the shovelling, and then a troop of little kids would carry the chunks of ice out of the bowl, like so many industrious ants.
When it was sufficiently cleared, a session ensued. It was nice to see the Bease Crew returning to skate after a whole season during which the park had lain dormant; it was kind of miraculous really. When I first moved to Hamilton it was winter and I remember passing by the park, wondering what it would be like to skate there. It's actually an awkward enviornment for a flatlander like myself. It's a funnel shaped park, the wide part of which opens out into a little parking lot. It's nesteled at the edge of a larger city park, in between an old brick warehouse building and a small hydro electric station. There is a large half-bowl that started out its life as a kiddie pool. In the early nineties the city turned it into a skatebaord area and paved all around the pool, adding a concrete quarter pipe, a hump and some ledges that are good to sit on but difficult to skate due to their rounded edge and narrowness. A couple wooden structers were added last year, but these have largely decomposed over the winter. The whole are is on a slight incline, so you can work a line or get a good run to launch out of the bowl. What really makes the place are the skaters who regularly gather there. A few of them are grafitti artists and there are some great tags that get thrown up pretty regularly.
I must have skated for about an hour or more when a fellow whom everyone calls Oldschool showed up. Oldschool is another thirty-something skater who has a few years on me. He is one of the founders of the Hamilton Skateboard Association and does a big part in arranging the annual Beasley Skate Jam. He can tear up that park like nobody else, rocking big frontside airs and layback grinds to fakie on the quarter pipe. He can also do a nose wheelie for about a whole city block. The younger guys at the park mostly take turns doing tricks on the flat in front of the quarter pipe. Sometimes they launch off the hump or grab some air out of the bowl. When Oldschool shows up, he works the whole park and doesn't quit until the concrete is begging for mercy.
By the time the sun had slipped behind the downtown office buildings, Oldschool and I were the only ones left in the park. We got to talking and found out that we were virtually neighbours, so he invited me back to his place for a beer. He showed me some photos of the Bease before it was rennovated, when it was just the bowl surrounded by curbs back in the eighties. It was really great to talk to someone about skate history. I've felt mostly like an outsider since I moved here, so it was great to hook up with this guy. He has some housemates who also skate, and were cool as well.
I skated back from Oldschool's place with my shovel and broom slung under one arm, feeling a little like Don Quixote ready to chase down some windmills. It was like a door had opened and I actually felt good about being an old guy who still loves to skate. To get to my house I had to pass by the new park with the B-ball court. It was dark and cold, but the court was lit by a single tall streetlamp in one corner. Thanks to my shovelling earlier this week, the court was almost all dry, so I couldn't resist swooping in for a sesh. Compared to the confining contours of the Bease, the B-ball court is like flying through open air. I did some nice long G-turns, a few helipops, spacewalks, walking the dog. Flatland is like a dance, but when I start getting into it at the Bease, I feel like a bit of a freak. The kids don't glue their tricks together with intermediary moves. They don't even bother to learn them. But I'm having an impact. I've noticed people starting to do 360 shoves, and caspars are coming back too. There's nothing like skating in the night, in the halo of a streetlamp, with a half moon suspended in the sky. The shadows become so intimate. Tonight I landed a bunch of rail-flip to caspars without touching my front foot down like I normally do. It made me glad to be alive.