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Monday, October 1, 2012

The Skateboard, Rick Hartwell

     I remember one late night in San Francisco.  It was after we had stood in line for hours and had seen Glenn Yarborough at the Hungry I that closed at two.  We were walking home to a basement apartment halfway up the hill, and crossing through a moon-shadowed park.  We were listening to the tempoed slap of steel wheels as a skateboard crossed the cracks of the sidewalk in the park.
     Skateboarding in the park at night in San Francisco seemed just right, and Ben and I gave the kid a buck to rent the skateboard for one hour.  Steep price, one buck, in 1965, but worth it all the same.  No one questioned why the kid was there at night alone.  No one questioned whether it was safe to be there, or legal, or even wise.  Back then those questions just didn’t come to mind.
     The kid kept pace beside us, keeping track of his property.  That skateboard had a history.  It was not made of the nylon wheels and flexible plastics of today.  It was not purchased property.  It was made of pilfered steel skates from a birthday gift and a rough-shaped board lifted from some building site.  This was the kid-made fun of yesterdays, purchased from the heart.
     Ben and I took turns, skating for an hour, drunk with the breeze of speed and the clacking of the wheels across the cracks.  His second wife and my first, continued to visit with each other, their irritation growing.  Ben and I continued to revel in the childishness of what felt deeply good and right.  The passage of time interfered with us and we were told we had to stop because it was so late, or early, or whatever.  We returned the skateboard to the boy who knew no bounds of time or responsibility.  The boy clacked away down the park’s steep hill, while Ben and I were led home to dulled beds.
     I haven’t seen Ben since then, although I’ve heard he’s been married twice and has a son who bears my name.
     Yes, I remember one late night in San Francisco skating through the park.

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