Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Hey Homey

As I am walking home from downtown this afternoon - I cut through the courtyard of a low income townhouse development a few blocks from where I live. As I round the street corner I notice a group of young kids hanging out around the neighborhood community centre. They are all each in their own way defying gravity on their skateboards. I'm reminded that I had a board back when I was a teen (considerably smaller the boards we had) and it never would have occurred to me to try and do what I see kid these days doing on skateboards. For example bannisters adjacent to staircases - I thought an apt display of agility was to slide down it on one hip. Where in God's name would someone get the idea to jump their skateboard up on the rail and slide down? As I'm looking at these large boards they have, I'm thinking "it's gotta be easier to stay on a board that size." Of course I'm then reminded of my age as my next thought is - that wind blowing out of the north is damn cold today (and these kids aren't wearing jackets) meanwhile I'm all layered in my high tech sportswear. Given this reorientation to aging reality - my next thought is "if you come off that board that pavement will humble you instantaneously, and if you break something in the doing, you won't heal like the kids will" Wow though I know physiologically this is likely true how can this thought possibly be coming from the same place that my "minds eye" is seeing me slaloming on one of those boards?

My mental imagery is disrupted as I realize one of the young guys is talking to - I need to pull the iPod ear phones out so I can hear him. "Could you repeat that I missed it?"
"Hey Homey! how's it going?" (Nobody has ever called me Homey before - good thing I watch the movies - so I can "be down - for real, wit where he comin' from" fascinating to me that I ignore my impulse to point out that this is Victoria - not East L.A. or the Bronx and proceed to give him a grammar lesson. No - no - no, this is a time and place where "cool" (or whatever the venacular would be these days, I hear "sick" can mean things are really "cool" but it can apparently also mean not so very "cool" either. I was sick a few weeks ago and it was....... well........ sick can run the risk of using the word in the wrong context, oh my God I need a phrase book!) must be upheld. What the hell do I know about "cool" even when i thought I was cool I never was cool - I think right now I'm grateful, he's calling me "Homey" not "hey you old fart!"
"Ah I'm good" I replied "How are you guys doing?" "Ya we good - what choo up ta?" (Clearly he either never had the don't talk to strangers routine or he just chooses to ignore it - I suspect the latter might be closer to the truth - I gotta say I kinda admire his moxie)

"Not much - I'm just on my way home from town" I answered. "Uh huh - hey how about this, if I can land an "Ollie" (skateboard trick - both rider and board come right off the ground and back down) you have to pay me a quarter?"

"If you land a what?" (There goes the cool - right out the window), anyway I get the explanation of what he is proposing to do. I'm pretty sure I know where this is going - he can do this with is eyes closed - so it's pretty much a given this is going to cost me a quarter. Why not I think - now I kinda admire his entrepreneurial spirit. "Alright - go ahead, you're on, for a quarter"

So my young friend tossed his board to the pavement ran to catch up to it and then jumped on. He spun the board around so that he now faced those of us watching with a few powerful thrusts with one leg he now is traveling toward us with considerable speed - once he arrives directly in front (through whatever technique that was his to command) both he and the board became air borne and then touched down again upon all four wheels. He carried on down the road a short distance before spinning the board around and then coming to a complete stop. The whole performance was done seemingly oblivious to the fact that there where four wheels below him and really a relatively small surface for the feet to regain stability all between him and the asphalt and concrete surface that can painfully adorn large surfaces of the body with "road rash" or snap bones like kindling.

He steps off the board stomps on one end projecting the other end up toward him which allows him to catch one wheel in his hand all without missing a stride while walking back toward me. With a self satisfied grin he says "see I told you I could do it!"

Now some might think of this little performance - nothing more than showing off, is it right to encourage such behaviour? I happen to know that even to do that little kick the board up to your hand trick, rather than the above described result, you could just as easily flip the board up giving yourself a rather nasty crack in the shin or knee cap - which is exceedingly painful and completely self-defeating with regard to the "cool" factor or is that "sick" (I know the pain registering can give a momentary expression of sick - add to that you are with your "crew" so God forbid you let them know the pain you are experiencing - that's more pain than was issued from the original smite.

I know this guy has paid his dues to perform these stunts - for every successfully executed trick there has been a learning curve and in this case sometimes the lesson comes through becoming "one with the pavement"

"Yes you did" I replied, "wow that was awesome, I guess I owe you twenty-five cents." While I'm digging through my pouch - he says "wanna see me jump the stairs for a dollar" I answer - I believe you can do it - and no, at this rate your going to clean me out!" I both don't want to be directly involved in his trying that stunt (for fear if he doesn't "stick the landing" I've got blood on my hands) the other thing is again I suspect he probably can do it and I am aware of a line between appreciating his talent and getting "hussled."

He says, "okay - no sweat I'll do it anyway" so he takes the board up the aggregate stairs to landing in front of the Community centre. Once he is some distance from the top step he drops the board mounts one foot and with three swift thrusts with the other leg propels himself toward the staircase as he reaches the precipice of the top step he leaps him and the board achieve the Grail like "air" and he lands on the side walk below first the board then himself - he remains upright with only one foot coming off the board.

"Wow that was amazing - well done!" I said "do you take debit?" I know full well transactions of this sort are cash only - but I try to add some humour in lieu of "cool" which pretty much flew like a "Led Zeppelin" which I refrain from commenting on the reference quite likely to be lost on this group of 10-12 yr. old. males (suddenly I feel like I was once cryogenically preserved and here I am some considerable time in the future and I'm at a loss how to relate) "SICK!!"

"Where do you live I asked?" "Just over there - he motions with a head gesture - in the projects" (again I'm tempted to reorient to time and place - uh, this is Victoria - but decide against it) this is his reality - who am I to impose my story on him. I don't know what he lives with in there - could be from a home with relative stability it's also possible that he endures a reality behind closed doors that no young person should be part of. This is no profiling or stereotyping - I have walked these streets frequently - I see the evidence of some of what is going on in the area - empty saline vials and hypodermic needle packages, used condoms (well opened if not used) discarded alcohol bottles. What can be seen doesn't begin to foretell that which isn't seen.

I say to him as I'm leaving, I bet you have practiced long and hard to do these tricks and you have met the pavement more than a few times?" "You know it he says!"

"You are very courageous - I admire that!" I respond. "Hey - thanks!" is his answer. Will this seemingly simple interaction change his life - I can't say, all I know is that to be seen and receive the reflection of some accomplishment and value has been very important in my life perhaps sharing that with someone else redefines "cool."