Alright… Alright… Alright…
Loitering? Yeah, I did it; just because I had nothing better to do. I would skate, because I was about the punk scene and enjoyed the freedom it offered versus riding a bike. Kick and push, the fundamentals to any skate trick. Pop music, punk music, it all blended together for one magical summer. Dyeing my hair became the norm… every week. Tattoos were an obsession. And this is what I did, for a few years. I sometimes yearn for those days, to not have such responsibilities in life, or at work, or with bills. Anything, really. I guess that’s why being grown up, isn’t half as fun as growing up.
This was my early adulthood past time. I was a young 18, 19, 20 year old with dreams of wasting my summer doing nothing. Although my nothing might not be your nothing. Nothing to me, is just enjoying life, the outside weather by accomplishing nothing but catching the breeze against my hair. The time that ticked slowly, as compared to how fast it goes these days. Or in winter even. Winter was snowboarding, and summer was skateboarding. Only, summers last forever. The dog days of summer, chilling with friends, getting tattoos, dying my hair… and skating. For those who enjoy a car ride, or bicycling, or swimming, and the freedom it offers in those moments, that’s what skating does for me.
I’m not talking about doing all kinds of tricks either, because that was never really my strong suit. Hell, I remember one summer it took me and my friend the entire 3 months just trying to ollie. We weren’t Tony Hawk, or Bam Margera on a board. Hell, we weren’t even Rob Dyrdek. Little Fun Fact: Rob Dyrdek actually started out as a skater, before he starred in his terrible MTV shows. Bam Margera was the same, only his shows were enjoyable. And Tony Hawk was a skater long before he was just a face and a name for a wildly popular videogame.
So, I couldn’t, or didn’t really care to learn about, doing tricks. I knew some former classmates who were pretty good at doing that type of stuff, but it just didn’t appeal to me as much as just skating around, wherever I could… or couldn’t. It’s funny, because there used to not be signs up of NO SKATEBOARDING. Now, I see them all over businesses. Classic cool. I’ve been yelled at before or told to go skate elsewhere, and I always did. But it just amazes me the perception skateboarders have. Why is it ok for a kid to ride his bike or a girl on a scooter, but heaven forbid, a skater comes by?
Loiter, Skate. Kick, Push. Pop, Punk. Dye, Tattoo. Rinse, Repeat.
Maybe it’s the moppy hair, the tattoos, the punk themed attitude that goes with it. I don’t know about you, but during these times, before I found poker and partying, I just wanted to live. Just go through the motions, day by day, with a gust of wind blowing my hair back, or seeing a sunset, hoping tomorrow’s would be the exact same. I didn’t cause trouble back then, I didn’t cut in front of cars when I skated to be funny, I was respectful. Did I loiter, sure, but when I skated in a parking lot, it was usually pretty bare.
I would skate before and after movies in the wide open areas of the theater parking lots. And during these early adulthood years, while working for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, I would skate in the parking lot at 2 AM, while waiting on the trucks to arrive. Now that was a cool job. Just work but a couple hours every night, delivering papers in Ozaukee County. Sure, it sucked that it was every night, but I was always up during those times anyway, and I didn’t drink or party back then, so I was sober. It was the perfect nothing job for me, when I first started college. Make a few hundred a week, live in a small, but my own, place and just live as free as the bird in the song.
I was a Z Boy. In Fredonia, WI. No, I was in Dogtown.
When the movie Lords of Dogtown came out, I was 20, soon to be 21. I had the wild, long, blonde hair. I had that, indestructible way of doing things. I would try skating down hills, hitching rides from my friend’s cars while they were driving, and me hanging on the back end, while on my board. Somehow, someway, I was never hurt. I really was indestructible. I might have turned some ankles or what not, but never broke a bone, never sprained anything. Just a few bumps and bruises.
Regardless, I was my town’s very own Lord of Dogtown. My hometown is really a mile strip of nothing. Not much to write home about. Back then, it was a population of 1,000 filled with a school, a grocery store (which I worked at for about a year as a teenager), a gas station, two churches, two bars and two banks. Yes, two banks occupied the town. Weird eh? But, Fredonia, WI, was my Dogtown. It was just as the movie depicted their town being. It was my Mid-Western version of it anyway. Anything I could to find a semblance of theatrics to make skateboarding seem cool and unconnected, I would. So when the movie came out, I felt like it was me on that screen, living as they did.
I now live in Milwaukee, with a condo to boot and a Cadillac CTS in the garage. I have a pool, filled with water, not emptiness to skate in. I guess you could say I sold out, in some ways. The old me would have kicked the new me’s ass. He would have laughed at me. Called me an old man, who’s bald, and puts those tattoos to shame. But then again, the present me, would have called the old me a loser. Someone who had no direction, no future, nothing to do but waste time. And time is money.
Well, both of me is right. But recently, I’ve been trying to find that middle ground. That reason to feel free and enjoy life again. As I once did for summers on end. As I type this, June is but a week away from being over. That’s crazy! Time sure does fly. And time is never on your side. It’s the one thing we want more of. It was the one thing I had all of, when I skated.
It was the one thing, that made those summer days feel like each one would outlast the other.
And now, as I look back on those long, sun filled days, I can’t help but want those back. To be young again, to be free. To skate. To just be reckless, but respectful. To have that enjoyment out of being outside again. And this week, I had that feeling.
As I was cleaning out my garage, I came across two skateboards. One was my favorite. A hot pink, Element – Bam Margera board, with a few punk stickers on the bottom (My Chemical Romance and New Found Glory, to be exact). The wheels were worn, the grip tape was, well… not grippy? The wood was chopped and screwed. But it told a story. It brought me back to those days. Just seeing it and holding it, running my fingers across the wheels, spinning them, it was awesome. What a feeling! I was brought back to my wild hair days, of being a young punk, and I had quite a few memories go through my head in those few minutes.
I remember the time my friend and I bought new boards, and thought we’d head out to the local skate park. Yes, there was a skate park that opened up but 10 minutes from us! Such joy and awesomeness right? Wrong. It was filled with other skaters doing all kinds of tricks. It was embarrassing and we stuck our tails between our legs and couldn’t help be feel like the old losers who couldn’t do anything but ride, really. Hell, even my youngest sister got in on the action! She went and got herself a Wal-Mart skateboard and off she went!
Funny how when you’re not even 21 you feel so old compared to teenagers.
I also remember my friend wiping out with trying to go down a ramp. Once the other skaters were gone, we would try our shit and bust our shit. We were not the best. Ok, we were probably the worst at trying what we saw these kids do. But it was fun, and even more funny when my buddy wiped out, landed on his head, got up and threw his board in the bushes. See ya never, indeed. I’ll never forget my last line to him before he took off. “You gotta commit man!”
I’ll also never forget breaking up with a girl once, only to be so frustrated and starting to tear up, I just took my board and left. Which was also funny, because I had a car and could just drive, but there’s something to be said about skating at midnight, with no one around. But mere streetlights and time to think. You don’t get that option in a car. You can’t take your time, sit a few minutes, anything without having to stay in motion or be worried about getting pulled over, because that’s what the world has come to.
As for the other board, it was a near brand new one. Toy Machine was the brand, with slick black wheels and grip tape that still stuck like glue. With a sleek looking logo on the bottom. Man, it was barely used! It was a gift to me, and I would like to start breaking it in, but such contrast in boards, but similarities in life. The old board was like me; worn, beat up, covered in stickers (tattoos), but still around. The new board is me. A new polish, all new possessions, and waiting to be molded into something great. I like it. And I will never get rid of those skateboards.
Those skateboards represent me, and everything about my summers.
So, what’s a 32 year old, suit wearing funeral director to do? Get on that fucking board and skate, man! Just let her rip. And rip I did. For about a few seconds, until I hit a rock in my driveway and almost wiped out. Haha. Ah yes, the little things that you have no control over, yet, could be the difference between having a face or not having a face. But I liked that little rush. I got right back on my skateboard and went for it again, this time gliding through the lot, with no cars in sight. For that brief time, I felt as if I could skate with my eyes closed.
It’s just like riding a bicycle, they say. With everything, am I right? I had to regain my balance technique, hunched over, with my front foot perpendicular to the board, and my back foot in the center of it, aligned. Rad, man. When skating, it’s just a totally different feeling. The breeze goes by coolly, and slowly, and time seems to stop. You see things in a separate light, almost slow motion. But in a way, it can all end just like that. Just like a rock derailing a wheel.
I didn’t care, because it was worth the risks to keep skating in my parking lot. Stopping occasionally to have a sip of beer, or to crank up the song playing in my garage. Bonus Fun Fact: I also busted out my old Bob Marley cassette tapes! And I had a stereo that encased a cassette player! Now that was an old school time and a half! Boy howdy! And honestly, those couple hours were the best time I had all week.
Such simple joys. Such simple fun. Such simple… life.
I know that I’m older (but wiser). I know that I’m bigger (but stronger). I know that I’m career orientated (but passionate). These are things I know, to be true now, but that’s not to say I still can’t dial it back, grip it and rip it once in awhile. My days of just hanging around with nothing to do are gone. It’s just not in me to not have a plan or have something I want to be doing. When I’m by the water, say a pool or a beach or whatever, then I can make an exception. But for skating, it gave me my freedom. And I enjoyed every bit of it.