Thursday, June 16, 2005
Yesterday, the neighbour's kid, who's named Michael (not to be confused with Michael from Spilt Wine), mistook me for the Flatlander and asked if I would take him to the skatepark. I suppose I do look a little like our AWOL webmaster--that is, when I'm not wearing my superhero costume as the Endtime Adjuster. Michael has been having a hard time at school lately, so I obliged him, though I wasn't sure what we were going to do when we got to the park because I don't really know how to skateboard. But the weather has cooled the last couple of days, so it was actually a pleasant early evening for an outing.
I can see why the Flatlander likes the Beasley park so much. It's a little oasis of neighbourhood spirit in the midst of the sometimes desolate downtown sector. The colourful graffiti, the lush trees, the mixture of generations--from young immigrant kids to the old Parsi man who, I was told, walks through the park at the same hour each evening, makes for a friendly environment.
Whenever a new skatepark is being built (as is currently the case here in Steeltown) cities invariably have a horrible time trying to find a suitable location. Residents never want a skate facility in their own neighbourhood, fearing increased noise, garbage, graffiti, vandalism and drug and alcohol use. What residents should really be wary of is the frame of mind that tries to exclude everything in society that threatens their sense of egotistical security. All the "evils" just listed exist at the Beasley park, granted, but this doesn't stop families from bringing their young kids to use the playground situated right beside the skatepark, nor does it prevent young children from utilizing the skate facility itself with their bikes, trikes, scooters and wheelieboards.
The way things are situated at the Bease, the adolescent locals are embedded within a larger social fabric of generations, and this seems to have a dampening effect on their sometimes aggressive energies. The older kids will sometimes drink and smoke, and occasionally they will throw empty beer bottles over the fence separating the park from a small electrical plant, but they have their own little area for these activities, away from the rest of the people who frequent the park. And I think that the other park users actually feel more secure for having the skateboarders around. It's a known fact, as demonstrated by the degeneration of Love Park in Philly, that the presence of skaters in a public area seems to keep away less desirable elements of the population. In this respect, skaters act like a street or motorcycle gang, but without the blood feuds.
Michael seems to like going to the Bease, though he often falls off of the skateboard that Flatlander put together for him. What he seems to like more than rolling is to be around other kids his age, or to sit and watch the older riders from a spot on top of the quarter pipe. Still thinking me to be the Flatlander, he repeatedly asked me to use his board. "Do a Spinoza!" he would say, naming the oldschool nose-spin trick that Flatlander claims to have originated. Eventually I gave in to Michael's promptings and stepped on the board, expecting to fall flat on my face within several seconds. I surprised myself at being actually quite proficient at it--an ability I attribute to a native sense of balance, enhanced by my superhero training. Within a few minutes I was carving up the park, hitting the quarter pipe and the bowl like I've seen done in some of Flatlander's old Powell & Peralta videos. It was actually pretty fun. If our missing skateboard veteran doesn't turn up before the skatecamp starts, I might impersonate him and stand-in as a camp counselor myself!