Monday, March 07, 2005

The Gaze of Envy

Rain today, washing away the snow. Might make it out this week. I like to skate at the new basketeball court down the street. It's on a high patch of ground where a factory once sat. The factory burnt down creating a "brownfield" -unusable land due to pollutants in the soil. There were plastic pipes set in the earth for a couple years to vent out the toxic fumes. Last year they brought in bulldozers and landscapers, installed a pagoda, walkway, saplings and sod, and the basketball court. It looks nice but I'm not going for any picnics...

I went skating there for the first time a few weeks ago, when a warm spell had melted the snow off the black smooth asphalt of the court. It's the perfect place to freestyle. There is a little downhill path that feeds into the court if you want to get speed, and there is ample room for working on slower moves. I was practicing spacewalks across the whole length of the court when an SUV slowed down on the flanking street to watch me. It could have been a drive-by but there were kids in the back.

The park is surrounded by warehouses and abandoned factories. Train tracks run past the park on two sides, one line going west to the yards and one line south to the steelmills. As I was skating a train came by. It was short with a string of empty oar cars that were open to the sky. A yard worker in coveralls was sitting on the back of the last car, straddling the bin. He was watching as I did some spacewalks and G-turns so I waved at him. We exchanged glances, and he waved in return. I was a bit jealous of him, moving through the open air like a hobo copping a ride as the train clattered past on its way to the yard. I wanted to trade places, feel the breeze on my face, the lurch and vibrations of the great metal machine moving through me. At the same time I realized that for him it was just another ride on the back of a train at the end of a work day. The novelty had probably worn off long ago, but I like to think that the envy in my eye him gave him an inkling of how wonderous he appeared to the child in me. Perhaps he envied me as well, spinning and gliding wildly on my skateboard, though for me such manouvers have become routine, the thrill of their initial mastery dimmed by endless repetion.

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