A: So, I’ve got some sense of the issue here, but would rather hear your take on it. Tell me about yourself.
B: Me? I am fine. I’m a little awkward these days. I am older than I was and can feel a difference every time I go out. My body screams in the night like a rotting tooth. In the morning I stretch with both hands, first downward, cautiously, my fingers yearning for the floor like some ancient, promised land, then upward as if reaching for an imaginary object hovering behind and above my head. I creak and crackle. My girlfriend cringes.
A: And yet you continue to do this thing because you love it, or claim to anyway. But we’ll get to that. First, a pint.
B: Ta. Cheers.
A: Cheers. So, be honest. Are you good?
B: I was better when I was younger. But even then, not particularly good, no. I was a six- or seven-stair dude with marginal tech capabilities, but only when I was going very slowly. If there’s a story, here, it’s the unexceptional tale of a young man who rides a skateboard moderately well for twenty-five years and along the way starts to think about it more than he should.
A: Right, and that’s why we’re here. Some people have said that you’re perhaps taking this all too seriously.
B: It’s true. I think about it all the time, skateboarding, the activity. I think about the activity and think about my – which I extrapolate into the realm our, knowing well that yours is necessarily different than my own – relationship to the activity, what it means to us, why we’re so willing to bleed for it, and give ourselves to it, knowing perfectly well that it doesn’t give a shit back, and will just go on, no matter what we say or think about it.
A: Ah. How about another?
B: Hit me.
A: That’s better. Where were we? Something about blood and neglect.
B: How many of us, I wonder, people in general, humans, have a force like this – some practice or pursuit or activity, an entity or really any kind of thing whatsoever that we fear and respect enough that we don’t lie to it, or try to trick it, or approach it with anything short of total candor. A thing that we know can see through us and will laugh at our folly without reserve, revealing its sharp and yellow teeth, pointing a long finger with its typical maniacal joy. But will just as rabidly embrace us for our persistence, and reward us with a joy that has no cognate, that is its own unique end.
A: This is the way romantic love works, isn’t it?
B: Of course. Which is surely why so many of us are so totally inept at it – our own selfishness will always, as they say, out. And parenthood too, or at least I’ve been told. Someone explained to me once that having a child is like having a vital organ that’s outside of your body.
A: So, I’m confused. You’re saying this is something we should admire about skateboarding, or bemoan?
B: Skateboarding is among a small, select class of activities that lack the infrastructure for the perpetuation of bullshit. Which does not mean that it’s immune to the desires of the marketplace or its politics.
A: Ah. And here is where the drama comes in.
B: It’s one entryway, sure. Whatever rough assortment of revolutionary impulses that “skateboarding” might once have signified with its undercurrent of subversive and basically destructive habits, it’s today been largely pacified. The ledges we most often skate will neither erode nor offer the least resistance – they have been built with metal edges for our personal use. The activity has been domesticated and tamed, and we’ve taken a real shine to our fancy new cage.
A: Right! And so here we’ve come to the source of your friends’ concern. In fact let’s order another beer – they gave me a big budget for this. Good. Now — they worry, your friends, that you’ve completely lost your sense of humor.
B: Right. Yes. We do not want to be serious about skateboarding and shouldn’t be because, well, boo fucking hoo. Anyone who slips into caring about the numbers of new people skating, or what kind of people these people are, what they’re named or what clothing they wear or how their front foot behaves during a three-sixty-kickflip, probably isn’t riding a skateboard for the purest of reasons himself. During the precious moments that we’re actually skateboarding, none of this, and in fact nothing at all, should matter.
A: And why is that?
B: We are not generally thoughtful about what we do because thoughts in our world hold no real purchase. What do we gain by thinking? Nothing. In fact, they’re burdensome: what kind of fool, riding up to a rail or waist-high ledge, wants to consider how even it might go, much less what it means? There can be no second thoughts absent a proper first, so we treat the activity lightly, and joke about it, and use it as an escape from thought.
But if we remain passive, and unconcerned, we’re like children lying on our backs, suckling from a parent who knows us too well, feeding us a dream that tastes like perfect recreation of reality.
A: Speaking of suckling. I’m gonna need another.
B: At the very least, we do respect better than most the physical world’s potential to do harm.
A: Several, in fact.
B: But what if I tell you that I’m still a good dude to skate with? Put me on a board, and all of this shit evaporates. It’s why I need it, still. And also why I care the way I do. The cycle just spins, do you see?