Thursday, June 15, 2006

Skating the Golden Gate Park Loop

Back in the college days, my friend Matt and I would get prepared and go skating in Golden Gate Park. At the time we both lived in the Sunset district and rode longer boards (40 inches) with fat wheels for speed and slolom. We'd zip down the Great Highway to Java Beach, get a latte, say hi to Kevin and the evil Irish girls... loved their attitude... then off to MJK jr. Blvd for bumper chase. We would hover around the intersection just down from the bison and wait for the ideal motorist. An Ideal motorist has a relatively slow car with handles and a 'down with that' driver. I prefered the small old pick up trucks with racks, while Matt was not as picky. He'd hold onto anything, windshield wipers, wheel wells, door handles and often, bumpers. Back then the roads were tolorable with few and far between pot holes, rarely a crack and virtually no rocks. Sometimes we'd catch a car together. This made it easier to convince the driver to let us hang on. Lots of people were cool with us hanging on and would even go the speed we asked. While other times you in for an adrenaline rush that would leave you second guessing your better judgement. There was this one pick up truck that was not trilled that I was hanging on the back and started to speed up as though I wasn't there. By the time I realized how fast we were accelorating it was too late to let go. The truck with me hanging on the tailgate were probably doing 40-45 mph past the bison with tourists staring and my only thought was of how I was going to jump in the back of this truck if I could feel my board starting to speed woble out of control. Matt had bailed out earlier, clearly a smarter human at the moment and I was left shaking out of control by the time we reached the stop sign by the lake where they have that model boat club. About 5 minutes later Matt cruises up on the back of this rag top with 2 girls inside and say, "Get on!"
Still shaking I grab the edge and explain my more than exzillorated look. "I almost died," I said, as if Matt had no idea what had happened to me. "Dude, I though you were gonna eat it for sure."
It would usually take one to two more cars from the lake up to the part where the city would put up the fences for the pedestrians, bicyclist, fruitbooters and skateboarders. We'd push hard up to the De Young Museum area and grab a car or two and go around those funky trees. Then we'd set off to the slollom course where the fruitbooters would gracously set up these little white cups for us to weeve through. Or in our case, knock over... oopps. We'd shoot the hill a few times then bottem out to the left and push up by the tennis courts, play footbag for an hour or so then find lunch.
This is when the real fun would begin. We'd head out of the park around 9th avenue and up to Judah to catch the 6 Parnassus to the top of the hill (don't forget your transfer). 5 minutes later you're at the top near Sutro tower. From the top of the hill you can smell the ocean and look out at the most spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. The waves would be pumping and so would the wind and when it wasn't foggy, you could see our apparments down by the ocean downhill about a mile or so away. I'm not sure where we were most of the time because Matt and I were like Bones Brigade, The Search for Animal Chin. Have you seen him? We were looking for speed and banked driveways to carve. Somehow we'd end up on Lawton above 19th avenue and time the light to be at full speed at the intersection. After that it's less scary and more fun, but the speed that we could carry would take us 12 blocks down the street. Then it was push 3 times, walk up a small section and get ready to time the Sunset Avenue light. Just as fast, but smoother roads with fewer cars, this was my favorite part of the ride. I had my lines I would follow with my routines for each banked driveway along the way for another 12-13 blocks all the way to within one push of my front door. If there was time and Matt didn't want to go surf, we'd catch the N Judah and take the 6 Parnassus with the transfer to the top again just because we could. We called our transfers lift tickets.
The midnight maurading was the true test of courage... and stupidity. Again, we'd get prepared and take Muni up to the top of the hill, these times had to be dry and preferably a full moon otherwise I would pass. Skating on wet streets at high speeds is not fun. There was this cat named Cory, Matt's roommate, who would come with us. Dude looked just like the guy at that skatepark called "Trashmore" on Bones Brigade II. You know, the one with the long hair, bandana, talking about asking his mom not to let the racoons in his truck.... you old school skate fools will know what I'm talking about. No pads, no helmet, no idea just how absolutely stupid we were being because the fun factor out weighed the danger. We'd bomb the hill side by side screaming and yelling with excitement, causing people to stare out the windows and contemplate calling the cops.
One particular night we were exceptionally prepared and flying down the upper part of the hill above 19th avenue somewhere... we always went a different direction up there because it always seemed to spit us out at Lawton, so I still don't know exactly which way I went down each time. There was this one long curve section that was particualrly rough so we would foot drag a little just manage it. I got going too fast and jumping off meant I was going to crash and roll for sure, so I tried to ride it out. Then came my choices; manhole cover and crash or outside the manhole cover into the gravel that had built up on the side and crash. I took the lesser of the two evils and spun out in the gravel. The backside slide I was in pitched me forward and onto my hands. I impacted the ground, rolled over my hands onto my back and tumbled around 3 times before I came to a stop. I sat there stunned looking for my skateboard and at my hands with tiny rocks embedded deep into my palms with a nice burning sensation in my knees and elbows. The blood soaked into my clothes as I got up. Still not quite sure what had happened, I found my board and checked it for damage and staggered down the hill to where Matt and Cory waited impatiently for me. They started in on me calling me slow, but when I got closer they stopped. I sat down for a minute, but Matt made me get up and ride home.
Amazingly, I didn't hit my head. I protected that. But my wrists were both hurting bad. I took some advile, grabbed the tweezers, hydrogen poroxide, a few ice bags and sat down on the couch. My left wrist hurt way worse than my right and all I was thinking about was this bowling tournament I had in a few weeks. And oh yeah, how was I going to work and go to school all busted up. I still had insurance through my parents, but I was too embarassed to say I had fallen skateboarding riding down steep hills at midnight. So I did what any stupid twenty-something in denile would do... ignorred it. Yeah, I taped it up, but I figured my right wrist was fine, the other one couldn't be... broken?
I just got used to it hurting I guess. Something to do with that Kirkagaard philosophy I once heard, " If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger." Although totally taken out of context, it was my story and I was sticking to it. I began compensating for it by using my right side prodominantly for just about everything physical I was doing. I played volleyball, did pull ups, push ups, basketball, whatever.
Two and a half years later, I'm in my last semester of college at SFSU and I was skating home from Dan's house on Central street and Heyes. We were watching the the NY Knicks in the play-offs... rememeber that game where Starks jumped up and threw down that sick baseline slam dunk over Hakeem Olijajuan? Patrick Ewing was still good... anyway, that very day I'm just cruising down Lincoln heading home and somewhere around 22nd avenue I go up a driveway like I'd done a thousand times and I caught a back wheel on the edge and went forward. I had been training myself to protect my wrist so I tucked it in and took a dive on my shoulder, thud. I wasn't going fast at all. In fact, the fall was like in slow motion and I truely expected to get up, brush myself off and move on, embarrassed that I fell, but not hurt. As I sat there in disbelief, my neck felt a little tight on my left side and when I went to move my shoulder I couldn't lift it above my head. I went to rub it with my right hand and felt a bump I didn't quite remember being there. It could have been there, I wasn't sure. I mean how oftern have you checked your shoulders for bumps? I tried to compare right and left shoulders but I couldn't make my hand reach my right shoulder without serious discomfort. I realised I was in shock and had about 20 minutes of adrenaline to make it home before the real pain would set in. Cursing myself for being so stupid all the way home, I talked myself into survival mode and psyched myself up to the task.
I get home, Erin, my roommate, was not home. I find the advile and the ice and contemplated calling an ambulence. 5 minutes later Erin shows up and I convince her to take me to Marin General. When I get there they gave me a pain pill of some kind and had me waiting for X-rays when I ask, "Hey, could you also x-ray my wrist, I think I broke it a couple of years ago."

Separated shoulder, check. Broken left navicular, check.
A Hurbert screw permenantly in my wrist and a cast for 8 months, check.
To my disappointment, it doesn't set off metal detectors at the airport. Oh, by the way, never choose a black cast no matter how mad you are, it just gets unbareably hot, sweaty and stinky in July, especially if you drop a chunk of garlic in the thumb hole.
Surgury on the day I start my spring vacation, check.
But wait, it gets worse. I'm a fool. I know this. No has to tell me I've lacked reason and judgement at times. I mean, I'm the guy who used to kick bowling ball returns when I'd get an open frame. John MacEnroe was my hero and Pete Weber was cool. But this next move takes the cake. I have surgery in mid April, and I'm back on my skateboard 3 weeks later with Peter Fain when I instictively go over a manhole cover on a flat street and fall onto my shoulder again. The bump was back. I had undone what the surgery had fixed in the blink of an eye. Now I have to have an additional surgury and this one could only take place on the day I'm supposed to walk for graduation from SFSU. No big deal, what's to be proud of? 7 years to get a 4 year degree. At least I graduated. Two weeks after that I started working at this summer camp in Burlingame... otherwise I had to move back in with the parents. Not gonna happen. That summer was going to officially suck. I was so frustrated on this 6th consecutive 100 degree day as camp councilor that I took a swiss army knife saw blade and hacked the thing off so I could go swimming. I duct tapped it back on, but I don't think the doctor was impressed. I got to go to Hawaii at the end of summer with that camp I worked at, but I basically got fired on the last day when these 20 year old Russian girls tried to climb out of their 2nd floor window to meet me... but that's a story for another time.
Do I still skateboard? Yes. Just not as much and not with such recklous abandon. I still skate the Golden Gate Park and the hallways of the schools I work in... after hours when there are no students around of course, wouldn't want to be a bad roll model. ;) But, no more railslides, large gap ollies and I won't ride those little trick boards the kids these days ride... wheels are way too small... and they would get so mad when would do a 4 wheel slide for 30 feet. Something about flatspots? Snowboarding has replaced my need for speed... haven't hurt myself on a snowboard, yet.


Blogger Cass said...

dude you are SUCH a skater. and it's not a crime!

10:03 AM  

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