Yesterday night I went to watch the fireworks from the park they built last year at the harbour. It's a great skate spot, replete with large, smoothly paved and usually empty parking lots, curbs, trees, water and a great view of the Dantesque sprawl of the steel mill. Add an excellent coffee shop to the mix and you pretty much have a Flatlander's paradise.
My ankle has been sore, so I've been taking it easy, but last night I was busting moves with a vengeance. Well...I was actually going slow, but doing pretty well. There were lots of people around, and freestlylers like myself--though we might act oblivious and self-abosrbed--actually thrive off an audience. Flatland skating is a kind of dance, a magic show performed with the feet, and while people tend to grimace at the foolhardiness of trying to balance on a little rolling board, I suspect that they are also morbidly curious, and secretly amazed when instead of falling we manage to perform graceful and intricate movements.
But it didn't really matter who was watching, I was just glad to be rolling again. The fireworks were nice, going on for about half an hour. The temperature was cool. The only glitch in my evening, besides a certain loneliness, was that I kept on hanging up on tiny pebbles. The wheels I'm riding are vintage Bullet 66s (graciously supplied by Em). They are just the right hardness for street skating, and generally plough with ease over rough, pebble-strewn surfaces. I also thought that the board was rolling slower than normal, but chalked it up to rusty ball-bearings.
They don't make wheels like this any more.
Hanging up on a pebble is one of the worst fears of a street skater--that and car doors. All it takes is one tiny, strategically shaped bit of stone to send you flying into oncoming traffic. Remember this the next time you see one of us cruising nonchalantly down the street. I, for one, am usually nervously scanning the ground ahead of me, praying to the rollergods to clear the way of debris. Skateboarding can make you feel a thousand shades of elation, but it can also be very humbling. When you step on a board you enter into a kind of pact with gravity--one that can be revoked with a moment's lapse of attention.
Last night I must have hung up on pebbles about five times. The first time, the stone left a metre long slide mark along asphalt, and I was sent stumbling forward, doing a kind of Neanderthal walk with my hands and feet until my kinetic energy was sufficiently dispersed. I didn't hurt anything, but it was kind of embarrassing in front of the crowds.
Today I was rolling toward a garage sale down the street, and my skateboard was getting slowed down almost to a halt every time I hit a patch of sun-softened asphalt. It suddenly became clear why I was encountering so many tiny stumbling blocks the night before. I thought that maybe someone had placed a hex on my board--either that or all of my blasphemous ways were finally catching up with me. Actually, it was the heat we've been suffering through lately. Even though the temperatures have cooled, the pavement remained in a softened state, making it more receptive than usual to pebble-grip and wheel-bite. My primitive voodoo brain was assuaged by this scientific rational for the situation. No longer was I the hapless victim of mysterious, possibly occult forces. I had only to keep to concrete and tile over tarmac to avoid the humiliating spills I'd been experiencing.
But I'm still hopelessly superstitious. If the force of gravity really is a curvature in the fabric of space/time created by heavy objects, as Einstein postulated, then harnessing this force for personal locomotion and edification can be a precarious endeavor. With up to 90% of the universe being constituted by an unidentified "dark matter", who knows what the true nature of the massive object generating my personal and idiosyncratic experience of gravity might be. The Great Way remains mysterious and unnamed, so it's best to proceed with caution, not ruling out any possibilities. Perhaps through a balanced blend of attentive living, rational investigation, and the occasional concept-shattering wipeout, one can glean some small portion of wisdom and enlightenment out of the nebulous process we call our lives.