(I would like to apologize for the length of this entry. I usually try not to write so much, but I got caught up in the story and memories. So I had to just let it all flow out. I’ll try to keep it shorter next time.)
As I was driving around my home town of Silver Sprung (a.k.a. what the hell happened to all the homeless people and filth, MD) Maryland, I was suddenly and inexplicably thrown back into a reverie of the halcyon days of my youth when I and the rest of my friends (Silver Spring Crew, 301 represent!) used to terrorize the downtown area on rollerblades.
We grinded on curbs, slid down improbable handrails and made outrageous jumps off of staircases, (well, not me personally. I was usually afraid of falling and breaking every bone in my body in multiple places and being forced to use a colostomy bag for the rest of my life. So I mostly hung out and watched everybody else perform these aerial feats of daring-do.) It provided such a rush to be part of a thriving urban landscape in a way that the designers of the city had not planned. We saw
But one of the most fun things we did was the parking garage races. You see, at that age just about everybody we knew had rollerblades or a skateboard, but not everybody was willing to strap said skates on their feet and attempt to ride a handrail down a flight of steps, (they had no balls in my hypocritical opinion.) So, if we wanted to involve as many people as we could and try to take over the city with a wave of pimply teens we had only two options: 1. playing roller hockey, (I bet none of you remember the movie Solar Babies. It’s a curse to love such bad movies) or 2. parking garage races.
Our favorite parking garage for such activities was known as the Spring street garage. We liked it because it wasn’t so popular that you’d get run over and dragged five levels by a car, but it was still in the city enough that you never knew what could happen. Ah, youth, when we purposely played Russian roulette. Those were the days!
Allow me to drag you back with me to one of those races, so that you may enjoy them as I once did. Shall we?
Saturday afternoon, 2 p.m, April, 1996. You get the most people out and able to participate on weekends, during the week days everybody’s busy doing drugs or having all types of inexperienced sex.
We have quite the turn out today, there’s about 20 or 30 (my math sucked back then too) kids out here on the fifth floor of the parking garage. We even have a few skateboarders, but those guys never get props because if they are ever in danger they can just step off their boards. Those of us with things strapped to our feet don’t have that kind of option. But it’s okay, we let them participate anyway.
It’s always great to have so many people out. That way maybe they’ll get run over by cars instead of me. I like the odds.
I look down at my skates. I enjoy participating, but this early in my illustrious skating career, I didn’t have the right equipment. (Fer chrissakes, my skates had sparkles on them!) Not the most popular brand, in fact, nobody else wore anything similar. That should have been a clue.
The 30 or so of us line up, (sorta) at the top of the garage. We have five levels of pain, suffering and speed to get through before one of us emerges victorious. Anything goes, it’s like Road Rage baby! If you can do it and get away with it without falling yourself, then go for it! It’s Mad Max on rollerblades! I look to the left and to the right; sweat beads on many a forehead. Looks of intense concentration abound. Teeth are gritted in anticipation and barely restrained enthusiasm to hurt our friends. There’re big guys, who look like college linebackers, but they’re nothing to worry about. With such high centers of gravity, one well-placed shin-punch will take them right out. The people to worry about are the small ones. They’ve got low centers of gravity and just cut through the air like little shark fins on wheels. The current champion, Brian, is someone to look out for. His beady, little eyes belay his ferocity. The time has come to race. We prepare ourselves.
Everybody is off to a good start. At this highest level in the garage there’re no cars yet, so we can take it easy. Everybody goes around the first turn with grace and style, but that matters not. There are still nine more turns to go.
On the first straight away we lose our first racer. It’s a pity considering how early in the race it is, but oh well. As long as it’s not me I don’t care. I have to stay focused, keep my eyes on the prize, (actually, there is no prize) and keep my head in the game. As we continue we tend to follow the ways of the great NASCAR racers (who’s names I can’t think of because it’s a stupid sport and I don’t follow it) and begin drafting, to get as much speed with as little energy as possible.
Three floors to go and people start making their moves. Elbows are thrown, people are tripped, thrown into columns and those annoying guide wires that always seem to have bird shit all over them. Pain and blood are the order of the day. Gashes, cuts, abrasions and contusions will be the trophies of this day’s battle!
Four turns left to go, we all cut as low as possible and try to stay inside, but it’s not possible for everybody, somebody’s going to be forced to the outside, and, unfortunately for that person, this time there’s a car coming up the ramp. I try not to watch. I stay focused. I hear the screeching of the tires, the blast of the horn, and the odd crunching noise, but I pay them no mind. That’s one less person in my way. The fact that it was Brian, the current champion, certainly doesn’t make it any worse.
I duck and dodge and make my way to the front of the group. It’s not pretty, and nothing I should boast about, (sticks and other obstacles in front of the skater next to me was my specialty) but it gets the job done. I’m in the top three! And I have yet to fall myself! I have a good feeling about this race.
After five intense minutes we can see the end. Daylight. With Brian out of the race it looks like I might have a chance. This is great! A misplaced skate drops the guy next to me. It was his own skate, so it’s his own fault. The wind on my face feels good, it pushes the sweat out of my eyes and makes me feel like I’m going fast. I look around, to my left, to my right. Nobody is close to me. I’m in the clear! The end is right in front of me, the last turn having come and gone. I can see daylight. It looks so beautiful. I look behind me and am pleased, nobody could catch up to me if they tried!
One hundred feet left, ninety, sixty (I told you I was bad at math) I check my skates to make sure they’re still on correctly. They’re good. Another look behind me to ensure my victory and I’m good. I face confidently to the front. I am sure of my inevitable victory! Finally, for once I will be the hero instead of the goat (thanks Charlie Brown)! I will be the winner!
The tension mounts as the finish line draws closer. My blood pressure rises, my breathing speeds up. This is it! The thing that will define the rest of my life! This race, and this race alone is how I will know whether I’m destined to spend my life as a winner or a loser. This is the most important thing I’ve ever done! The rest of my life hinges on this moment!
Ten feet remain! The tension is unbearable!
I’d like to take the moment to point out, to people who don’t know me, that nothing ever works in my favor. And while this might ruin the ending, I’m sure you’ve all guessed that there’s no way in Hell I can win this race. Pretty obvious ending isn’t it?
Brian glides into the finish and crosses the finish line with seconds to spare. I’m so distracted by the fact that he recovered from his being run over and managed to win the race that I pay absolutely no attention to what I’m doing.
And get run over by a car. Isn’t life grand? Good times, good times.
This entry of Eighty-Four Glyde goes out to: Jesse “Curly a.k.a. Taco Style” Miyoshi, Amiri “Oompa Loompa” Roberts, Thomas “Legs” Cordella, Fred “Roller Derby” Irby, Pat “insert nickname here” Callahan, Rich Clarke, Brian Cooney, Mikey Marshall, and the dozens of others who used to be down with the S.S.C.