In Skater's Time

by Rick Beck

Chapter 3

New Vistas

My generation also thought we'd change the world, but before I changed anything, I needed to finish school. By that time, I should have some idea what I was good at. Once the time came, I'd learn as much as I could about the vocation of my choice. Once I was ready, I'd find a place where I wanted to work.

Mr. Bowen had been cool. He could have gotten into trouble talking openly about the things he knew to be true. While the stories my parents would tell me were rated G, they were basically the same story Mr. Bowen told us, but he didn't soft peddle the truth. It was another reason why I liked history. The truth was out there, but you had to go find it, or you could believe what you were told.

I wondered if the Beach Boys number was listed. I bet they could tell me all about California, if I asked them, but then, again, their music did their talking, and California was in every lyric and melody..

I got bored with writing about the landscape, when it didn't change for miles at a time. I'd set my journal aside for later, and later was when some thought came to me about Massachusetts, or California. It was funny how my mind worked. There wasn't much to do but watch where we'd been.

While my mind was on California, and skateboards, I began wondering about both. I didn't know who designed the first skateboard. Like most fads, it didn't

appear in a store window as a sleek, one size fits all, mode of transportation for the young adventurous kid. There had to be a degree of research and development, to get the proper combinations of space age technology on the boards you bought at places like the Skate Shack.

It isn't how skateboards started. No one knew the flat boards with the hard roller skating wheels attached to it, would become a fad. Then, JFK decided to send a man to the moon, and more importantly, return him safely to the earth. Getting everyone's mind off nuclear war, Kennedy opened the door to the modern world, and the age of computers and plastics, By 1995, computers were everywhere, and plastics had universal uses.

I remembered the first crude boards with roller skate wheels. I didn't ride one, because it was a board with roller skate wheels on it. It was a generic board. The ride was rough and the wheels created a clatter against the cement, if you could find a sidewalk smooth enough to stay on the board, which was more an orange crate than a board.

I was told that some of the boards with roller skate wheels, had wooden contraptions that allowed the rider to hold on to it, while propelling himself along with one foot. There were some contraptions that had front wheels that turned, and if you were lucky, it actually turned in the direction where you wanted to go..

As guidance systems went, it was crude. It was a matter of the idea getting out of control. Steering was a consideration, once you took the roller skates off your feet. Someone had to see that the box on the front that gave you the ability to keep the board under you, wasn't ever going to catch on.

I don't think those original boards were part of the fad that had become a culture of its own. I imagine a surfer, trying to figure out a way to surf, while not being near the water, came up with the idea of a small surf like board on wheels. He could surf the sidewalks of California. The idea was way ahead of the technology, and while skateboards are awesome today, it took a while to achieve.

You can see the relationship between a surfboard and a skateboard, it you look close and use your imagination. Back home, most of us never surfed even once, the boards were simply too pricy, and the ocean was too far away to be convenient to boys on skateboards, but they knew the connection, and sometimes a substitute will do, until you can afford to go bigger.

The fad came right out of the space age. Once Kennedy found out that the Soviet Union wasn't the threat we'd all been led to believe they were, he decided a nice space race would get people's minds off of imminent armageddon. He decided w3 really needed a space race. Kennedy knew the U.S. would beat the Soviets to the moon without breaking a sweat, but even JFK wasn't smart enough to see the neoprene wheel coming, along with a million other advances in plastic and computer technology.

Some folks say we never did get to the moon. It was filmed on a movie-set in Hollywood, but then how did we end up with so many advances that became part of American's every day life, if there really wasn't a space race, and if there wasn't a space race, where did those synthetic wheels come from. When you used those suckers on a board, you had a hell of a smooth ride. That created the fad that came east from California, and every boy, no matter where they live, could have his own skateboard for transportation, and that's how I know men did go to the moon, just like JFK said they would. Would a politician lie to us?

Even in Massachusetts, before the space raise, before synthetics wheels came along to make everything sleeker and lighter, you had to be one tough dude, if you wanted to ride on a board with roller skate wheels. I suppose the men who went to the moon had the kind of toughness that few men had, and how'd anyone know, they'd come back with a Neoprene wheel, that made skateboarding the fad it became. What it cost to send men to the moon, and return them safely to the earth, paid off in spades., and we lived in the Space Age., and the missile technology advanced as the moon launch came closer.

And that's when they built the first Skate Shack, and every surfer boy in California, began to surf the sidewalks. That created the fad that came east, and Massachusetts boys were able to surf their sidewalks, if they weren't covered in a foot of snow. The sidewalks, not the skaters. If the sidewalks were covered in snow. Then we walked, like regular folks, whose cars were buried in the snow.

It's funny how much stuff goes through your mind on a drive across the U.S.A. These were things going through mine.

My 10th grade English teacher recommended I keep a journal.

Mrs. Rogers told me, "Most writers start writing by keeping a journal. You might want to consider doing some writing one day."

I think she said that because my name is Zane, and Zane Grey was a famous author, but I wasn't named after Zane Grey.

My mother's brother, Uncle Zane, who I've seen twice, told his sister, "I'd like it if you named your first boy Zane?"

I'd like it if my Uncle Zane got lost. I didn't bother explaining this to my teacher, and I don't know who Uncle Zane was named after. Maybe I am related to Zane Grey. I know I'm related to my uncle.

That's how I came to be named Zane. Where was my father, when I needed him?

The kids in first grade didn't know who Zane Grey was. They thought more on the way of me being Zany Boyd. I don't know what my mother would have named me, if I'd been a girl. Then again, being a Boyd means being named after an old time cowboy actor. What was a boy to do?

I became Z. It left little to make fun of, once you got passed zoo.

I didn't do all that well with keeping a journal. I had too much to do to write everything down, but when I picked up the books I was taking along to read, they were on top of the notebook with my journal entries. I hadn't read one of the book yet, but I've thought of plenty of stuff to write down.

My excitement over moving to California, land of the Beach Boys, had been replaced by apprehension. I wasn't going to know anyone in California, except for my parents. The thought wasn't comforting. The friends I left behind, were beginning to look pretty good.

Looking at where we'd been, I dozed on and off. It's when I got the idea of writing things down. I wrote down the states we went through and what they were like. I wrote down stuff I remembered about Massachusetts. I began to write about my feelings. While wild to get on the road to California, I was now facing the realization that I'd probably never see my buds again.

How did I write that down?

The writing deal meant complicating an already fuzzy situation. How did you write about what you were saying, where you'd been, what you'd done, without having feelings about it? Writing about the feelings I was having became more and more difficult.

There was more to life than the arbitrary decisions we made, no matter how sure we were, at the time we made them. For every action, there was a reaction. I had begun to deal with leaving my entire life behind me.

Everything I knew, everything I did, I left behind in Massachusetts.

It was toward the end of June, when we made it to California. Once we left Arizona, there was a long way before we reached our new home. There was a lot of barren land in Arizona. The landscape took on a red hue that became even more red than New Mexico.

There was a lot of open spaces, once we reached California. Once we hit the mountains, we were getting closer to our destination. El Cajon wasn't far from where the mountains ended, and one community after another led the way into San Diego.

Once we reached the last mountain, which slowly took you down to where the land was close to sea level, my father stopped the Buick to stretch his legs. On our right was solid rock and cliffs, but on the left, it dropped off into a long slow decline.

"You see where the horizon meets the sky, Zane?" Dad asked, as he yawned from five days of being in motion.

"Yeah, that's quite a drop off," I said. "Is that San Diego?"

"No, actually that's Mexico, but more precisely, where the horizon ends, is the Pacific Ocean. We can't see the water, but it's there," he said.

I didn't know how my father knew that, and I didn't ask him. I also didn't realize, our house was twenty miles from the ocean. I also didn't realize how flat El Cajon would be. No matter where I went back home, you had to go up and down hills. The best El Cajon had to offer, as a rise that you could hardly notice except for the most eastern part of El Cajon, where the mountain ended at close to sea level. Our house was off a main streets. It was complete flat.

It was hot starting the third week of June. It was still cool i when we left , but not humid, which meant it didn't feel that hot. The land around our house was flat, and one row of houses gave way to the next, and every few blocks, there was another highway, and they went in all directions. I didn't know where any of those highways went.

In Massachusetts, we all knew that we were surfing the sidewalks, even when most of us would never find our way to California, and most of us wouldn't surf on a wave, but we talked about going to California, and surfing there.

I wasn't most of us, and I made it to California, and I had a plan. I intended to get a job, save my money, buy a surfboard, and I'd hitchhike to the surf, if that was the only way to get there. I didn't give up the idea of finding an easier way. Which was where friends came in, but I didn't know anyone, and the first few days I went out, there weren't any chances to meet and talk to kids my age.

Were they all on holiday, now that school was out? Did they stay indoors, until they were to meet up with friends? The sun did shine bright, and if was hot, but not hot enough to keep kids off the street, when they wanted to get away from the house.

All I could do on the streets of El Cajon and Santee, was look for the guys riding boards. With my board leaning next to the front door, all I had to do was grab it on my way out to meet my buddies. Now, my board still rested by the front door, and I still grabbed it on my way out the door, but I had no friends to meet. I wasn't sure of where to go. I wasn't giving up until I made a friend.

It was easy to spot skaters a block away, but it was surprisingly difficult to catch up with one. When I did catch one, he was on his way somewhere else. Even in passing, these boys looked good to me. They looked a lot like the boys back home, only these boys were blonder, thinner, and always on the move.

California skaters always had some place to go. For a while, I was looking for the red-headed skateboarder I'd seen from the bridge one day early on. Then, after seeing no read-headed boys, I looked for anyone on a skateboard. It didn't make any sense to be too particular about who I met first.

Whoever I met first, would open the door to the local skaters culture. I'd worry about what color hair they had, once I made some friends. Because I'd lived all my life in one place, I didn't expect to fit in with the locals automatically. It would take some time and effort, but if I was in California for the rest of my life, I had plenty of time..

I knew the skaters were out here, and I needed to be out here to find them, and, in time, I'd meet them. I was new. No one knew me. Being in places where I could meet skaters was my aim.

Like most skaters, when I dropped my skateboard on the sidewalk, I was on my way somewhere. Once I got there, if there were no skaters in the vicinity, I'd decide where to go next. One day, we'd end up in the same place, at the same time, and once I knew where that spot was, I'd know where to go. I didn't have horns, and neither did they. Once we made contact, I'd be OK, even if I was the new kid.

By the second week in our new house, I was experiencing loneliness. I began thinking about the friends I'd left behind. I wonder if they thought about me. They probably pictured me skating with golden haired skateboarders, while skating in the California sun.

The kind of emptiness I was experiencing could only be cured by the company of other boys. It was in the second week that I saw the boy with auburn hair doing his ballet on wheels in that half pipe, near Santee. I'd seen a few skaters up under the bridges that passed over the storm drains. It hadn't rained since I'd been in El Cajon. It never rained in Southern California, but I imagined, when it did rain, those concrete halfpipes channeled the water to prevent streets from flooding.

I hadn't forgotten the red-headed boy, and I looked in every halfpipe I skated over. If I didn't see him, I might see other skaters. It was the kind of thing we didn't have back home. Nothing in particular was the proper place to take a skateboard, once you left the sidewalk. While the streets would do in a pinch, they were filled with turns, drops, and rises, that were part of the landscape. If you got too frisky on the streets, you could end up a hood ornament.

Being in a new place, meant being careful not to get in over my head. I didn't want to get labeled in California, any more than I wanted to be labeled back east. I'd be available to guys who played their cards right. I'd let those guys know that I could be as sexual with them, as they were with me, but even that would be subject to the impression they gave me.

While the idea of getting with a boy had been working its way to the forefront of my thinking, I wasn't going to rush into anything. I was careful back home, and the boys I saw were boys who saw the advantage in keeping quiet about it. Even in the land of milk and honey, I didn't imagine too many guys were going to come on to me in front of other skaters.

I could decide on how to handle that, once I got a read on the attitudes of the boys who lived where I lived. We'd need to know each other a little while, before the conversations were going to stray into the realm of possibilities. I didn't know if there was a possibility I'd be willing to help other boys out. I needed to meet a guy first. I'd need to sense how the boys swung. Was it up tight, like back home, or was it easier to be yourself out here? I didn't know diddlysquat about California boys. I'd need to find out, and I would need to take chances, but what did I have to lose?

Helping each other out was what skaters did, after all. We were birds of a feather, and we were all horny all of the time. I was gay, even if I hadn't explored that as much as I would like. Being older, and hopefully wiser, I could wait until I found boys who I didn't think I'd run off by being honest about my sexuality.

Most good things came east from California. I had to figure at least a few skaters were as open about what they did sexually, as were the skaters back home.

It would be a delicate balance, fitting in without standing out. First, I needed to meet other skaters. They'd tell me where to go to become part of the local scene. Then, I'd see what I could see, and I'd see if being from the east disqualified me from being one of them.

I had to admit that my skater friends and I, weren't all that friendly, when it came to new guys showing up on our turf. Now, I realized how dumb that was. There were probably some really super dudes that we snubbed. I saw things from the opposite side of the coin now. Maybe the boys out here were more enlightened than we were back home. I certainly hope so. I was more enlightened, and I'd only been here a couple of weeks.

Now that I was in California, and my parents didn't know how delighted I was to make the trip, I was wandering the streets of El Cajon, looking for skaters.

It shouldn't be so hard to make friends. I'd never been the new guy before. I remembered how my buds and I treated new kids, that moved in during the school year. I'm not proud to say that I was no nicer than my friends were to new kids. Now that the shoe was on the other foot, and I was the new guy, I wanted to go back, be nicer, and at least be friendly to new kids. No one was unkind to me in California, because everyone was too busy to notice me, and I knew that was a way you treated someone you didn't know back home.

I'd just begun to explore the possibilities in my new home. I really didn't know what El Cajon had to offer. I'd decide what I wanted to try, after I took the time to look around. While loneliness wasn't my favorite thing, I didn't need to rush into finding friends. Once I was out there, looking around, I'd run into guys on their skateboard. When I got one of them to stop and talk to me, I'd ask him about the skater's culture, where we gathered, where the hangouts were.

Back home, there was a burger joint where we went in the evening, before we decided if we wanted to go to the arcade, a movie, or just hang out. I'd ask where the local skaters met up. Once I met one, the rest would come easy.

Once I met one skater, he'd have loads of friends, and I'd start meeting more skaters. I'd made it to the promised land. I didn't need to rush things, and if I found a boyfriend, well, that wouldn't hurt my feelings. Back home, having a boyfriend wouldn't be all that popular with the guys I knew. Besides, boyfriends took up a lot of time, and I needed to study to keep my grades up, and a boyfriend would occupy all my time.

In California, I could have a boyfriend, because I didn't know anyone, and they couldn't freeze me out, once they figured out I was gay. When you have a routine, and you've had the same friends all your life, you didn't necessarily want to risk it all, by announcing that you are a little different. It was another advantage to moving to a new place, and starting over. It gave me more options.

If I found a California boyfriend, he could teach me how to surf. Not only that, he could show me around, and introduce me to other skaters, and after we were boyfriends for a while, he'd lend me his surfboard, and I'd complete a dream the Beach Boys told me about years ago. Then, I'd really be a California boy.

What wasn't there to like about that?

California had a lot to offer a New England kid. I wasn't sure what I had to offer a California boyfriend, but I'd give him a run for his money, once we met.

Being alone wasn't something I did well. Maybe because I'd never been alone before. I'd grown up with the guys I knew, and I realized, starting over in California would be challenging, but being in California made that challenge acceptable, except when I was feeling isolated, realizing I was without friends.

I needed action, some activity to keep from driving my parents nuts. I didn't mind skating alone, when I had somewhere to go, but once I got where I was going, there was no one to talk to or to share an experience. In El Cajon, there were a lot fewer places to go, because I didn't know the places where skaters hung out.

I suppose, when you're on the outside looking in, it seems like it takes forever to get inside. That's how it felt to me. It was summertime. School wouldn't start for two months. I knew I'd meet people then, but where were the skaters? Maybe they were all on vacation. Maybe they were all at the beach.

Once the third week started, and I was still skating alone, I decided to do something about it. Drastic times called for drastic measures.

I had to meet someone today. I wasn't going through another week alone. I thought about grabbing the first skater I saw. I'd grab him and start talking, and I wouldn't stop, until he told me where the skaters hung out in El Cajon. He'd need to be cute - of course, maybe tall, maybe a year or two older, more experienced. Maybe I needed to go back to stopping the first skater I saw.

I needed to start making friends today. I'd risk getting punched out by some hormone-driven creep. My buds and I always hung at the

Circle K back home. Meeting there, we could skate to the mall, or the Burger Haven. The movies were OK, if something good was playing. We met at a designated spot to decide what to do. It was so easy. We'd been doing it since we'd first gotten together, when I was ten or eleven.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead