In Skater's Time

by Rick Beck


A Rick Beck Story

Editor: ijk

There's ordinary time.

There's daylight savings time.

Then, there is skater's time.

©OLYMPIA50 2021 all rights reserved

For David


In the East, where I was from, we skated on skateboards or inline skates. No matter where we were going, we had our transportation. Our wheels had come east, from the West Coast. By the time I came along, and we were the generation that followed my parents' love and peace generation, no one had to tell us how to get around. My skateboard was beside the front door, waiting for me to go out.

While it was obvious where skateboards came from, and we'd all listened to The Beach Boys from birth, even in far away Massachusetts, every red blooded American boys dream was of having that Endless Summer, surfing his way to fame and fortune, and if not that, we certainly dreamed of a place where we never shoveled snow again, or shivered in below zero weather, while doing it..

If anyone told me, 'You'll live in California, and skate with California boys one day,' I'd have laughed a them, but that is what happened. My parents led a quiet lower middle class life, and they were happy to have what they had. When I came along, it was a time of austerity, when people were happy to have a job, and for being able to pay the bills on time. Once my parents paid the bills, there wasn't much left to buy the new car they needed, or splurge on a night out.

My father was quick on his feet, when it came to math. He could add two and two, and he refused to do what every family I knew did to get that new car, or have a night on the town. They charged it.

My father said, "We have a solid roof over our heads, and none of us has missed a meal. It's OK to want nice things, but running up debt we can't pay, is wrong. When we can afford a new car, we'll buy one."

I'd never missed a meal, and I had my skateboard, and California was calling..

My dreams of basking in the warm California sun were particularly vivid, While I was shoveling two feet of snow out of the driveway. I was born, and raised, in a town in Massachusetts no one had heard of. During my waking hours, and sometimes in my sleep, I didn't dream of skiing or snowboarding, which would have been a lot more convenient for a Massachusett's boy. I could see myself on a surfboard, and I was always surfing the Pacific Ocean.

Once I was in California, in the middle of the summer, snow never came to mind. As thrilled as I was to breathe the California air, and feel the California sun, my mind wasn't on how good that felt. I wanted to find the local skater's culture. I needed to find, and follow, the local skaters. They'd be my first California friends.

While skating over a bridge, built over one of the many concrete culverts, that funneled rain water away from the streets, I spotted a boy on a skateboard. He was looking into the concrete structure. These storm drains looked like halfpipes.

This one was shaped even more like a halfpipe than most, and I realized that he was about to skate down the wall across the bottom, and up the other side. I could see the boys in Massachusetts, daring each other to do this, after one daring boy decided, this is the thing he most needed to do at that instant in time. Me, and my buds, were then obligated to do whatever insane thing he did.

This boy seemed to be mustering the courage to take the plunge at a spot that looked almost perfect for it. I needed to gather my courage at times, to do something stupid all my friends just did. Once such a challenge was offered, there was no backing out. No matter how insane, if your buds did it, you had to do it, or you would be called names, and that was a fate worse than death.

After I stopped to watch, I picked up my skateboard, placing it on the railing, hoping he'd notice me. He'd see the board. He was older than I was. Maybe he was in his early twenties. From twenty-five or thirty feet away, looking down on him, made it hard to tell.

He was maybe six foot tall, a hundred and fifty pounds, and his most striking feature, auburn red hair, more red than brown, but the way it was styled, he looked like a million bucks. He wore the skater's uniform, which most skaters wore, tight black spandex shorts, and a bright orange tee-shirt..

Being in the middle of a bridge, with cars flowing behind me, I thought about going into the halfpipe to talk to the boy, who was standing still, his board in his hand, but by the time I got to him, he'd have done what he was going to do, and he'd be gone. I didn't want to take my eyes off him, because then, I'd miss whatever it was he had it in mind to do.

Being from Massachusetts, I was no stranger to guys with red hair, but this was the first red-head I'd seen in California, and, since red hair came in so many shades, his dark auburn hair was attractive, or, I was attracted to him. I needed a friend, having only been in that place for a couple of weeks, and the boy mustering his courage, would do fine.

I wanted to yell, 'Hey, will you be my friend?' but it was obvious he was busy, and I wasn't that bold.

I was sure he was about to find his courage, drop his board, and plunge down into the bottom of all that concrete. In my mind, in a skater's mind, I'd looked long and hard, trying to summon my courage to do something I wasn't sure I could do. My buds were always looking for a challenge.

Maybe he was new at skating. It was California. Boys in California were given their first skateboard while still in the crib.

I leaned on the railing, watching the skater study this perfect course. It was smooth and well shaped. I'd seen skaters skating in the storm drains. I'd seen some sitting up under bridges of in the distance. It was probably a good place to go and not be hassled.

Then, as I waited for this guy to get his courage, he dropped his board, and in an instant, he skated straight down into the half pipe, straight up the other side, going four feet above the lip. I watched, fascinated by his agility.

Reaching down with his hand, he positioned his board for the dive back into the bottom of the half pipe. He went straight up the other side, turning in mid air, and placing his board under his feet as his ballet on wheels continued. This guy was good. This guy was the best I'd ever seen, and I was mesmerized. I'd never seen anyone ride a board like he rode his, and I'd gotten a lesson in the difference between summoning courage, and a boy having a laser like focus, because he knew what he did, he did better than anyone else.

After doubling the distance between him and bridge, he began working his way back to where he started. This time the board shot up a few extra feet into the air, and the guy grabbed it, landing on his feet, right back where he started.

That's when it happened.

He turned his head until he was looking straight at me. He knew I was there all the time. He saw the amazement on my face. He smiled broadly. I smiled back. He waved my way. I waved back.

It was the kind of moment you only experience once. Me, and a guy I didn't know, had made a connection. As badly as I needed a friend, any connection was good, even one that was fleeting.

He, a wonder of athleticism.

Me, amazed.

While on the way to somewhere, he'd taken time out to do what he did better than anyone I knew.

I watched him long enough to memorize his moves, the boy in the form fitting spandex. I would frequently dream about that encounter. I'd never forget the red headed boy with the magic skateboard.

He reached down, placing his board where he wanted it. His feet immediately found it. He skated into the bottom of the halfpipe, propelling himself away from the bridge, and me. He skated on one side of the concrete storm drain, switching to the other side, if he encountered things that might slow him down.

I watched him go. I wasn't going to forget him, or how well he skated. I'd come to California to make it my home, and I now had someone to look for, as I felt my way around this new place.

How hard could it be to find a red-headed boy, who skated like a pro?

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