Skatepark City

A week ago I put on a dress shirt and a tie and I drove to City Heights to talk about building a skatepark there. It was a community meeting in a tiny gathering hall that was sponsored by my employer and Speak City Heights.

City Heights is a low-income part of San Diego that’s full of immigrants. It’s the kind of place where you need to check whether it’s Ramadan before you invite the locals to a lunch.

But the main thing about City Heights is there’s no place to fuckin’ skate!

I can relate. Since I moved to California I have not joined a new-age cult but I did learn to skateboard. I can ride but I can’t do jumps. I can’t balance my board on a steel stair railing and ride it to the bottom.

I’m too old for that shit, which reminds me I went skating one night with my son (who rode his bike) as we tooled down a neighborhood hill that I’d ridden many times. But it had just seen some street maintenance and I hit a crack that didn’t used to be there and was thrown off my board. I managed to do a decent shoulder roll as my ten-year-old shouted, “Daddy! Are you okay!!”

But the pain in my shoulder took literally months to go away. That’s what happens when you’re in your 50s and land on cement.

But back to the lack of a skatepark in City Heights. About two dozen folks turned out for the discussion, and most of them stuck around until the end, since we told them we’d raffle four Kindle Fires. Skateboarder Nick Ferracone was there to tell us why City Heights should have a place to skate. But he also said something interesting and contradictory.

Skaters are brilliant at using the “built environment.” You know… roads, sidewalks, ramps. So why do they need a skatepark?

I can’t remember what Nick said to that, but I know that skaters aren’t usually supposed to be where they are. Bikes have carved out a niche but nobody seems to want skateboarders on streets or sidewalks. Park engineers fasten metal tabs to hardscape to keep them away. Businesses put up signs that say, “No skateboarding.”

The cool thing about this is it preserves the rebellious nature of the sport. I was thinking about channeling that energy into the setting of a skatepark as I loosened my tie and walked to where I parked my car in City Heights… when I saw something beautiful.

It was a kid with a mop of black hair riding his skateboard across a four-lane road. He hit a break in the traffic just right, sped over two lanes, hopped up onto the median and down onto the opposite lanes before he disappeared into some side street, negotiating every road hazard with quickening grace.

City Heights is a nasty, beat-up built environment, and that kid on a skateboard had taken it over.

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