Gasbag September 2005

Waterloo, New York-the birthplace of Memorial Day. Fallen soldiers have given their lives so that our right to freedom of choice is protected. Antiestablishment has no place in this town, nor will the attitude ever be welcomed, especially by me, at least until this journey began-the journey into the world of the skateboarding abyss.

So how exactly did I end up in this abyss of the skateboard world? If you are a parent stick around for a while, if you’re a skater, please leave this where your parent or guardian can stumble upon it. I am a middle-aged-okay, 47-year-old, blue-collar, union-card-carrying member. I work for the largest chemical company in the world. I am also the father of two teenage boys, Joseph, fourteen, and Joshua, thirteen. Somehow Joseph got me into this.

I grew up playing football, basketball, and lacrosse, and needless to say, skateboarding in the 70s-get real. During June of 2004, I’d totally lost contact with my eldest. No matter what I did it wasn’t working; we grew farther and farther apart. Before moving back to my hometown of Waterloo, New York, we lived in Redlands, California, where the boys and I started skateboarding when they were four and five years old. I tried everything I could think of to get back in touch with my eldest. Those things that I enjoyed as a boy growing up-lacrosse, basketball, and football were just not working.

While I was observing Joseph one day as he was riding his skateboard, the light went on, “Why don’t I try something he likes? “Oh, but he only likes skateboarding.” The next day at the skate shop, it was a blank deck, Independent 169’s and a set of Flip 53s-looks like something from a geriatric ward. Working second shift, I got off at midnight. At first the boys wanted nothing to do with skating with dad, especially my oldest. My youngest would ride his bike while I taught myself how to ride a skateboard again. Riding at night was where it was at-no one to see me fall, slide, and crash. It’s amazing the difference ten years makes, harder falls and more recovery time needed. After a couple of weeks, Joseph started coming along. Going down the center of the street at 2:00 a.m. and watching your child skate with the glow of the streetlights has an eerie visual effect-it’s totally awesome. Before long it was, “Dad, are we going riding tonight?” When I’d get home they would be at the door-it sure beats watching SportsCenter, or a movie that’ll have no profound impact on our lives.

Now I get to the driving force in this article: in my home town, which as I stated happens to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, skateboarding isn’t allowed on the sidewalks or any other public place for that matter-and if you were wondering, just like every other town or city in America, it’s alright to ride your bike on the same sidewalk. Recently, the skatepark was shut down for a month-due to a rule violation, I was told by the person responsible for the chain locking of the gate, who also happens to be the person who made the decision that there was a rule violation. So now all of those who use the park will pay the consequences for one man’s decision-or is it because of the conception that the public has about skateboarding?

But what about the people who ride bicycles? They can ride on the sidewalk. Maybe it’s okay because they only have two wheels. Baby carriages-they have four wheels just like skateboards. Should they be banned, too? Oh, and my friend Robby who is wheel chair bound-again, four wheels. Maybe they will be next. All of these things seem a little preposterous. So does the thought of banning skateboarding publicly, which is effectively what has happened. Seems like wherever you go there are signs that say, “No Skateboarding Allowed.” Where were these signs when I grew up? I think it’s safe to say that the generation that I grew up with are the same people deciding to put up these signs.

Skateboarding’s crossed over from a fun pastime to a political issuee. Here is a political view for the politicians! At fourteen years old, my son is not allowed to ride his skateboard on the streets, at eighteen years old, he could be expected to tote an M-16 in defense of our country and risk his life in the name of freedom and democracy. Defend our boundaries and protect our freedom of choice is what we are taught. How do we trust them to protect and defend, when all we do is remove privileges-the privilege-to-skate privilege? Should our streets ever need to be defended, it’ll be our sons and daughters who can’t ride a skateboard publicly who’ll be defending them. What irony-poetic justice.

Now is the time to advocate for the youth! Anytime we allow an activity the public enjoys, as long as it’s respectful to be infringed upon, our freedom of choice has been violated. And when childhood issues are removed, it opens the door for more removal of privileges in the future.

Although I’m still trying to find my way out of this abyss, the destination is outrageous. Youth of the skate world, you’re awesome. Be independent. After all, we all just ride.-Skip “Sk8daddy Cilbrith”