The testosterone runs so thick at the skateboard park in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, you can almost cut it with a knife.
Boys of every age, nationality, shape, and color assemble in order to practice and perfect their skills. Whether it’s skateboarding, rollerblading or BMX (a remarkable flying bike) these kids gather and somehow manage to avoid colliding with each other.
At the end of the day, they leave worn out and satisfied as the sun begins to set. Some stay even beyond sunset when the great spotlights illuminate the basins, volcanoes, wild inclines and steps.
Girls show up from time to time and some of them put the boys to shame with their expertise. Proud mothers escort their tiny sons to the park and the kids watch with wide open eyes as teenagers perform their tricks. Sometimes teenage girls drop in, sans wheels, dressed to the nines, just to watch the boys. The population, however, is predominantly male.
Fathers find the skateboard park a great place to bond with their sons from the safety of the bleachers.
“I live vicariously through my son,” said a proud Dad as his son did a death-defying flip.
When I was growing up on the North Shore of Highland Park, Illinois,skateboard parks did not exist. It seemed as if there were no place that young people could congregate in large numbers without being hassled by the police.
Skateboarding caught the public’s eye in the 70’s with the invention of the urethane wheel, both as a means of low-cost transportation and as a sport. It really began to catch on when high profile personalities like Tony Hawk and Steve Caballero were caught on film and traveling shows set up competitions and shows in heavily populated urban areas.
Before long kids began to build their own ramps out of plywood and set them up on city streets. Parents were persuaded to drain their swimming pools and create thrilling challenges for their offspring. Sewer pipes became a popular place to practice certain tricks.
Unfortunately, a sector of society began to regard skateboarders as renegade vandals who destroyed property. Bumper stickers shouting, “Skateboarding Is Not A Crime” started appearing and tempers began to flare.
Fortunately for all concerned, a new generation of politicians and civil engineers began to fill the ranks of local government. These young, energetic civil servants had a fondness for young people and wanted to give them something that they never had: an unstructured safe place to have fun as well as a way for them to hang out with friends.
Civil engineers called local kids into their offices and gave them the opportunity to design their own parks. What they came up with not only changed the face of recreation but has also made the world a much, much better place in which to live.
The skateboard park is a place that lacks any sort of adult supervision. Aside from occasional maintenance and graffiti removal, young people have shown themselves entirely capable of keeping order and promoting a peaceful and lawful society. Acts of kindness and generosity are everywhere to be seen as the older boys help the younger boys learn to do new tricks and also protect them against vicious bullies.
And the kids have a language of their own using words like, “Goofy, Grind, Ollie, Fakie, Acid Drop, Air, Brainless, Fishbrain, Soul Grind and Tailwhip,” to describe the tricks they perform.
Us older folk can learn a lot by visiting our local skateboard park and watching the kids in action from the relative safety of the bleachers. (The kids love to show off!)
Not only is it inspiring to watch the amazing things that the human body can perform, but it is also reassuring to see how kids can resolve their differences without having to call in adults to do the dirty work.
Thank you for visiting Chucksville.