|Skateboarding in Boulder, Colorado with my son, Josh.|
My new skateboard was a dream-come-true. I cut the grip tape with scissors myself into the Chinese symbol of harmony in the Universe, a Yin Yang intersecting red and black wave curves with opposing dots to symbolize balance … perfect for a board deck. With red Kryptonic wheels, extended-axle kit Bennett trucks, and a laminated deck with a shaped kicktail, I was the envy of skate-rats across the expanse of my universe … our neighborhood. We lived in Laguna Beach, California, and rode the hills from our middle school at Top of the World down to the Pacific Ocean at the bottom. In the 1970s and 80s, we were the first to bomb Park Ave., Skyline Dr., High Dr., and other insane drops from mountain tops on tiny planks with plastic wheels. Most believed we were insane, doomed, and beyond the standard reason that we were fed with sharp forks by our parents and teachers. But, we were the future, something I knew in my cells. Our generation would go on to spawn adrenaline junkies and extreme sports the world over. At the time the only thing I wanted to do was to skate, surf, and to ride my BMX bike on the trails we cut into the hillside using my father’s shovels; trails that looked down onto the Irvine Bowl at the Festival for the Arts, a venue for local artists to peddle their wares. I rode my skateboard every day that first week, and sleeping with it every night was the norm, so it goes without saying that it was coming with me in the car when we had to go to my dad’s company picnic. The family had to show face at the annual event in order to face-time to the establishment that put food on our table. In the car my skateboard was either on the floor under me with my feet visualizing the ride in my head, or nestled next to me in a loving embrace. I was in love … so fondling and wheel spinning to my heart’s content was also the norm.
Normally the company picnic was held closer to home, in Irvine, where my dad designed suburban living arrangements. This time it was a long haul inland, away from the hills and my friends. And this time, like always, I had to sit in the back seat where I would inevitably be cursed to feel carsick the whole time. I’ve had an issue with motion sickness my entire life, and I do still today. Growing up, it caused me to hate everything from roller-coasters to road-trips; and today, when I am unable to drive myself, I still turn white at every stop, start, and banked turn in cars, on boats, riding trains, and traveling by plane. I am plagued to this day with an inner-ear torture-chamber wreaking havoc and mayhem upon my sanity when compromised into erratic motion without sitting in the driver’s seat, without being in control. This biosuit malfunction has made me quite controlling, as you might imagine, and when I can’t control the situation my operative strategy has always been to regress into myself, control what I can, and concentrate on the horizon and everything calm and reassuring in the Universe. The epitome of this idea happened to me while whale watching off the coast of Madagascar’s pirate island of St. Marie. The waves were 10 feet high, and through the sporadic rainfall, as I barfed over the side of the boat we had hired, I stared at the horizon and tried to center myself on a point in space. As I longed for the stability of the shore, the first whale sighting of the day happened in exactly the view I had focused on to meditate. It breached tail and all, and I heard myself utter a cry to the rest of the boat, “Whale!” They all turned, thankfully focused on the opposite horizon, to see me puke in the direction of the behemoth as it splashed down and then sank into the depths.
After the company picnic it was the same; like the good son of an urban designer father, I politely whined to my parents in the front seat of the car that I would like to get out. We had been stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for an hour on a winding country road and the starts and stops were pushing my central button. I wanted to throw up my guts. We were in unknown territory, even for my parents, and they were reluctant until the traffic became so thick that reckless abandon crept into their processing software. They stuttered agreement to let me out of the car, stating that they’d catch up to me when traffic began to move again. I grabbed my skateboard and flipped it onto the street, barely shutting the door behind me. Then I was gone. Immediately my stomachache went away. I was sailing, slaloming through parked cars lining the center of our side of the street. Oncoming traffic was sparse, letting me carve excess speed out of every turn in the opposing lane of traffic. It was a mountain road that we had been traveling on, and we were moving downwards into a wash-canyon. The shoulder on the right side of the road was large enough for me to carve a turn right back in front of each stationary car. I imagined the look on the faces of each person stuck in traffic as I sailed past, free of the bondage of the wheeled prison cell that encompassed them all. I was finally free, and in that moment I remembered my family stuck in the car behind me. They must have seen me as I disappeared over the curve of the horizon, as it disappeared into the unknown. My tether’s reach was beyond their knowing, but I was still aware of theirs. I was space walking into the unknown, bringing their awareness with me. Even if they didn’t see it yet, I was their liaison to what was to come.
The traffic began to fidget again. Then I had a moment of depression as what I perceived as orange traffic cones began to move. The cars morphed and then inched forward. My stable world had begun to collapse. Worried about the future, my mind began to creep into my subconscious mind. I began to vociferate about the oncoming wave of uncontrollable torture. I was reentering the physical world. I was going to be landing soon and I had no idea where that would be … well, I knew exactly, but didn’t really want to; that’s the real truth… My parent’s car caught up to me quickly. I tried for a while to skate in the opposing lane as my lane of cars moved past me, but realized it was a futile attempt and waited on the side of the road instead. Once inside the car we all felt … even me … a sigh of relief at finally being on our way home. Every breath was a nourishing relief. We banked and curved again around the mountain road turns, still a distance to the bottom of the wash-canyon. Then the cars slowed again, brake lights and flashing Kojaks forced one lane of traffic flow. A winch on a boom arm was actively pulling a cable stretched into the ravine below. With a low hum, heard through our open car windows, the apparatus pulled a silhouette form up out of the shadows. The evening light shone from behind him, but when he was high enough to see we saw he was dressed in biker black leathers; it was obvious, the black, because of how white the man’s skin was. Limp and stiff at the same time, the man suspended in midair, as we traveled around a hairpin turn on our way home from the company picnic, was dead.