In Skater's Time

by Rick Beck

Chapter 1


I dreamed of California, but I never thought I'd get here. Along with most of my friends, we dreamed big, but we didn't expect much. Most of their father's worked in the trades, but my father, a mathematical whiz, had secured a job at a company offering computer services.

It was 1995. Microsoft had come up with Windows 95, which was supposed to make computing something everyone did. My father created computer software for businesses. Apple and Microsoft were the giants his firm chased, in order to get a piece of the computer trade.

I was good at math, but I had no direction in mind, once I graduated from high school. I had considered doing what Mr. Bowen, my U.S. History teacher did. He made history exciting. He was my parents' age, and he had been careful to teach us about the chaotic 60s. He'd been there too, and he taught it like someone who had lived through it.

My father worked all the time, even after he left work, and came home for dinner. I didn't want to work my life away. I wanted to do something I enjoyed doing, and I wanted to have a life away from work. What was the point in being alive, if all you did was work?

I wasn't ready to decide anything about where I might end up, career wise.

Now, I will admit, relocating for your senior year of high school, is a bummer. Had I been offered a chance to relocate to a place somewhere east of the Mississippi River, I'd have declined, and I'd have stayed with friends I'd had since I was ten or eleven, and finished high school where I started it.

When my father told us that he was being recruited by a new computer firm in San Diego, California, there was only one answer for a boy who had been California dreaming since before he first heard the Beach Boys sing a single song. When you live in New England and face the kind of winter that can stop most everything in its tracks, dreaming of California was a natural response. It was my natural response anyway.

Like I said, my father worked hard, and he took his work seriously, which is how he got the job offer in San Diego. His new employer told "The money you are making, is not commensurate with the value you provide customers. How would you like to come to work for me in San Diego? I'll pay you what you're worth."

My father had always gone to work in a white shirt and tie, because he had to explain the software he developed to local customers. Sometimes, big customers flew to Massachusetts to get his explanation of how to get the most out of his companies software. My father was thorough and efficient, which made the companies that bought his software happy. If they ran into trouble, all they needed to do was pick up the phone, and Dad would be there.

While explaining his software,to a customer in San Diego, my father went the extra mile, even giving the man his home phone number, and telling him to call, night or day.

Dad explained to Mom, after a late evening phone call, "When you are starting a new company, it isn't easy to get the doors opened. I want the man to be happy with what my company is selling him, and if calling me at ten in the evening is what the man needs, it's my job to take his call."

Dad was worth far more than what he was paid, by a boss who had a yacht and a vacation home in the Bahamas. My mother often reminded Dad of how rich Mr. George was, and how often he left Dad in charge of his firm, while he took another vacation.

My father said, "It's my job. It's what the man pays me to do."

My mother didn't harp on something that wasn't going to change, and Dad's answer was always the same. His responsibility was to the firms customers.

Once the San Diego business was up and running, the owner made one final call to my father. "Boyd, you know that you aren't being paid what you are worth. I can use a man like you. Come to work for me, and I'll correct the situation with your pay." Mr. Easterbrook told him.

The man knew, getting my father to leave Massachusetts, and move across the country, would require a handsome offer. The offer was to double my father's rate of pay, and any software my father developed belonged to him.

instead of my father developing software, selling it to customers, and then teaching the customers to use it, Mr. Easterbrook wanted Dad to do research and development. He'd teach other employees how to get the most out of the software. They'd do the selling, and teach the customer how to use it.

I learned this at the dinner table, the way I learned most things that were going on with my family.

"That's how the new economy works," Mr. Easterbrook told dad. "You are essential to an operation like mine, and I want you to be happy you made the move. I know you won't be sorry to work for a man who appreciates the value you bring to my company."

Dad took the call, while he was at work, and he told Mom at dinner. She looked as stunned as Dad was.

"What did old man George have to say," Mom asked.

"Nothing. I haven't told him yet. You know how overbearing he is. I'm not looking forward to telling him that I'm quitting to take a better job."

"You don't tell him a damn thing. You quit. It's what he deserves, Boyd. You owe that man no explanation. If he can't figure it out, he's dumber than he looks," Mom told him.

I knew it was a serious conversation, but it made me laugh.

My father was a hard worker, and he was a fair man. He'd never quit on Mr. George, without giving him a reason. In this case, the reason was, he got a better offer, and he was taking it.

It was an offer my father wasn't going to refuse, and the move to San Diego went into the planning stages.

"I'd move to Death Valley for a chance to make that kind of money," Dad told Mom one night at dinner.

My mother, seeing how excited Dad was, about the respect his new San Diego employer had for him, smiled broadly, never mentioning leaving her friends, her job, and the only place either of them had known. What would happen if the new job didn't work out?

I didn't react to the bigger pay check, or the cost to a teenage boy, relocating just before he starts his senior year of high school. I would be asked to leave the only place I'd ever lived. While it was all to be considered, and there would be an out for me, if I wanted to take it, but my father said the magic word, "California."

Was my dream about to come true?

When I went to a map of the U.S.A., First, I measured the distance between Massachusetts and California. I did think about my friends, the school I'd be leaving, and just how far away I would be from them. These were definitely negative aspects to the move, and I hadn't been asked to go with them yet, but I knew I would be, once the excitement died down. There was an order to how my parents did things, and they hadn't gotten around to where I fit in yet.

Once I considered what I was leaving behind, I went back to where San Diego was. It was on the coast of Southern California, not far from the Mexican border, and just beyond San Diego, and the thing that sold me on the move, San Diego was on the Pacific Ocean.

As my finger traced the coast of California, it came to the names of the beaches. They weren't merely names, they were the names the Beach Boys sang in their songs. Each beach had a name I knew, as I heard the Beach Boys singing the names in my head. My parents didn't need to convince me to go with them.

"I'm going to be a California boy," I said.

I listened for the next couple of days, as Mom and Dad discussed the logistics of a move across the country. It was going to be expensive, but Mr. Easterbrook would pay the cost of the move, but he wouldn't be able to swing that, until he'd been in business for a few months, and established his credit.

My father wasn't going to let the cost of the move slow him down. Mr. Easterbrook had his real-estate agent looking for homes within easy commute of San Diego. He'd send pictures and a description of anything she recommended, and since we'd never had a house, the requirements weren't that specific. The idea of having a home satisfied both Mom and Dad.

It was after they were discussing houses, Dad came to me in my room, one evening after dinner. It came to mind, more than once, It was a perfect time for my parents to dump their moody kid, and the moment of truth was at hand.

"Come in, Dad," I said, writing in my journal about the goings on.

"I wanted to talk to you about the move. I know this is a terrible time to ask you to move away from your friends, and school. This is an opportunity of a lifetime, Zane. We've never been able to offer you much more than the necessities, and I know some of your friends have a lot more than you do," Dad said. "This move will put us in a far better financial situations. Going to a new school in your senior year is a big deal, but your mother and I have talked, and we want the family to stay together."

I listened for a break, where I could be magnanimous and say, 'The family is everything. You talked me into it. I'll go.'

"Now we've talked to the Kramers, and if you don't want to relocate with us, they'll let you stay with them to finish high school. Then, you can go out on your own. Get a job, or do what you have a mind to do, but we really want you to go along with us to California."

My father said the secret word, and this was no time to be coy.

"I appreciate you talking to me about it. Of course I will go. I want to stay with you guys. California might not be too bad," I said, being a little too agreeable, but by the time he stopped talking, I wanted to get it over with. I had it in mind to make them wait a few days, before being agreeable, but why take risks with my future.

"You won't be sorry, Zane. California is where a lot of things are happening, and I'm positioned to give you things we couldn't afford before. I've been looking at computers, since you've talked so much about wanting one. You'll be able to have your own computer now. It'll help with your school work. You've kept your grades up, and you deserve your own computer.

"Cool," was the best I could do, but that was totally cool.

"We're pretty tied up with making the plans to move, getting our bills caught up, and making sure the old Buick will make it across country. It's been a dependable car, and once we get settled out there, we'll look at mew cars. What we have in mind, wait until school lets out, and then we'll start our trip west."

There was no stopping us now. California here I come.

Two days, after the school year ended, we left. Two of my friends, one foot propped on their skateboards, waved goodbye, as we turned out of the apartments. Dad pointed the car southwest,

The rear seat of the Buick station wagon, faced to the rear. It's where I usually sat, preferring a view of where I'd been. After returning the waves of my friends, feeling a little sick at my stomach, my world began to change in ways I couldn't have imagined. Watching as my friends grew smaller, finally disappearing, hit me hard.

We were driving away from the only place I knew, and the only friends I had. Saying, planning it, even when my friends were happy for me, was one thing. Doing it was an entirely different matter. What if I hated California.

I believed that California would be alive with skateboards and skateboarders. Boys propelling themselves along the streets of where our new house would be. I had always seen California boys on a skateboard, when they weren't surfing, and every teenage boy would surf in California, or so I thought.

Actually, as we drove away from our apartments, away from our town, I didn't know anything about where we were heading. I didn't know much about the country we'd be passing through.

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