I washed my wheels in the sluice of Bloor St., hydroplaning across intersections, coming closer to true surfing than is normally possible on a skateboard. Water gathered in the convex top of my deck, and I knew that my bearings would be nearly seized up the next day, when everything dried out.
A skateboard is like a record needle. It follows the well-worn grooves of the urban infrastructure, translating pavement and concrete into vibrations that broadcast through the rider's body, through the air and ether, echoing off cars, buildings and pedestrians, and creating a music of stylized motion that is said to be most pleasing to the gods. When it rains, the skateboard song is both muted and deepened--as all sounds are made more intimate--accompanied by the percussive static of the falling rain.
The great, grey clouds covered the city like a second skin, like the very concrete and brick transmuted into a new, mobile element. I weaved past pedestrians with unusual stealth, the jet engine rumble of my wheels muted by the watery film covering the streets. The sidewalk traffic registered my presence only when I was past, less alarmed for their own safety as at the fact that someone would actually be out skateboarding in such a downpour.
Urban traffic is oceanic. The floodgates are lifted at rush hour, and the roadways fill with souls in armor, each participant of the mad scramble united with his neighbour in the desire to be elsewhere. But the rainboarder has no such agenda. His cloths are heavy and wet. His sodden shoes grip the board with increased tenacity as the snakeskin path threatens to slip out from under him. Already drenched, the only thing he wishes to avoid is falling off the magic plank that carries him over the abyss.
Crossing intersections is fun. You can pump down the slight gradient where the sidewalk ends, and use the momentum to carry you out onto the generally smoother pavement of the roadway proper. Re-mounting the sidewalk on the other side can be tricky. Maybe there are pedestrians taking up all of the ramp, or maybe a particular constelation of cracks and lips in the concrete complicates the transition. It helps to slide your front foot back on the board some; and get ready to shift your weight around a little, so the bumps won't jostle you off your board.
His waterlogged equipment will never forgive the transgression of employing sensitive technology out of its native element. But the soaked skater is just where he wants to be: meandering through the city like a rivulet of grace. Dirty rain anoints his head like precious oil, and the minutiae of terrain--crack, curb, pebble--celebrate his passing through the shimmering, reflective twilight.
When I was yonger, I was skating down a gentle slope in the rain. There was a pile of leaves by the curb, and I thought it might be fun to try a four-wheel slide through the mass of wet organic refuse. The road beneath the pile, of course, was quite slippery from all the decomposing leaves, and my board went flying out from under me. I might have pulled it off, if I had compensated for the increased slickness of the street, but after the wipe-out I didn't feel like attempting a second run.
His mode of transport is also his destination, and the miracle of static motion unites him in secret knowledge with the flickering streetlight reflections, which, though seemingly married to the flat grey dimension of the road, shine with the knowledge of their being on high.