Sunday, April 24, 2005

Memory Lane, Alley and Parking Lot

Next week I'm hoping to head back to my hometown in the north of Ontario for an afternoon excursion. Sometime after I left town, a pretty decent skatepark was built. It's kind of like a fenced-in pit with embankments and ledges around the parimeter, and an open space in the middle. It's usually overrun by kids, but if I go during the afternoon it might be relatively quiet there. Often, during afterschool hours, suburban parents will bring their brood to the downtown park, set up lawnchairs against the surrounding fence, and watch their kids thrashing around. It makes the place seem more like a daycare centre than a skatepark, but it's still a pretty nice facility.

Back in the day when my friends and I ran wild in the downtown streets, before the installation of the skatepark and of numerous "No Skateboarding" signs on the streetcorners, we used to frequent various parking lots and public squares. City hall had sturdy wooden benches that we liked to beat to a pulp with the trucks of our boards. The vandalism wasn't intentional; we just wanted to practise bonelessess and ollies, and the benches were a suitable obstacle on which to land. The parking lots we skated are still there, but the once smooth black asphalt has turned grey and pitted with the passing of seasons. The wax has been weathered off the tops of the parking blocks we used to like to slide and grind, and new curbs have been waxed up in new locations by succeeding generations of skateboarders.

Last summer, on another visit, I had the pleasure of doing the downhill run through a pleasant series of neighbourhood sidestreets, from my old highschool to the road leading past the beach to downtown. At my old school, the shuffleboard court outside a flaking recreation centre was still there, but the two or three yellow painted parking block curbs my friends and I had dragged there had been long since removed. The school and rec centre tolerated skaters at that spot, and we used to make all kinds of different arrangements of the curbs--stacking them on top of each other for hight, or on angles for faster slides, or putting three all in a row to see who could do the longest grind or boardslide. Remeber the 50-50 grind to boardslide? That was a cutting edge move back in the mid-eighties.

Anyways, everything changes and comes back again in new forms. This particular skater is feeling a little long in tooth and weak in knee, but he's still greatful to have made it as far as he did. I quit skating in the early nineties and resumed again near the turnover to the new millenium. I can't keep up with all the new flip tricks that kids are busting out with these days, and no one has ever caught me trying to navigate a handrail or ten set of stairs. This second time around I have basically learned how to do all my old tricks, only backwards. Hence the Fakiegrind, my favourite inversion from the list. My recent backwards skating lends a nice symmetry to my career. I'm not really progressing so much as going backwards through time; reliving all the tricks I learned in highschool, but in the opposite direction. It may come to pass that this retrograde motion of mine will soon reach its limit, my skateboard will magically turn into a walking stick with which I will limp into whatever future is awaiting. I guess I will see all or you in the skater's retirement home, where we can reminisce about the glory days, and berate the new generation with all their bravado technical wizardry. Maybe I'm already there.

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