Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Coolest Kid On The Block

Growing up, I was the oldest kid on the block. And one of the biggest. I was also an incredibly slow runner, which the smaller kids exploited by mouthing off to me while just out of arm's reach. What they never caught on to was that I was also one of the most patient kids with the longest memory for betrayal & would wait until they forgot about their treasonous act of defiance & would then pummel them into submission. It was an effective brand of street justice that worked quite well in my favor.

One thing that was also pretty well known was the fact that I couldn't ride a skateboard if my life depended on it (unfortunately, The Boy seems to have inherited this quality from me). But, as bad & uncoordinated as I was on a board, I was a master of the bike. I'd race anything & anyone. I'd take corners so hard that I'd nearly lay the bike down, just to zip past an opponent. I was the master of two wheels.

My friends, however, were all skaters. I don't know if it was economics or that they just preferred four wheels to two, but few of my friends rode (or even owned) bikes. This worked to their benefit, though, as they always had me around to give them a boost when jumping a ramp.

One day, my friends had constructed a crude launch ramp made of a cinderblock, a very thin piece of plywood & the curb. Having had their fill of being towed & sent flying off the ramp, they challenged me to try jumping on my bike. I was only too happy to oblige.

I was a very stupid child.

The street we were on sloped downward just enough to add some speed to my approach. I took aim & hit the ramp, probably doing a good 20+ miles an hour when I made contact. To my surprise, the ramp did not snap in two, as I had feared. In fact, the whole set-up held together beautifully. There was a slight flaw in the planning of the jump, though. You see, my friends on their boards hit the ramp at about two to five MPH, went about three feet in the air & landed about five feet from the base of the ramp. I, on the other hand, hit the ramp at the aforementioned 20+ MPH & launched about five feet in the air - right into the branches of a mulberry tree. This, unfortunately, was not the worst part of my jump. No, that would be when, as everything moved in slow motion, I heard one of my friends say "Heee's gonna hiiiit the waaaaall!!!"

Yes, just past the tree was a block wall.

As I made my way, waist-deep, through the branches, I spent what seemed like an eternity trying to figure out what to do when I hit the ground. Do I try to bail? Do I try to turn as soon as I make contact with the earth? No. What I opted to do was to hang on for dear life.

My tires hit the ground, leaving 1 1/2 inch deep impressions in the dirt. I somehow managed to land with both tires hitting around the same time & squeezed my brakes for all they were worth (I had a free-wheel dirtbike). When I did that, the front wheel caught somehow & twisted, catching my shirt with the handlebars. This caused me to endo toward the wall. I closed my eyes, waiting for the excruciating combining of the molecules of my face to become one with the wall.

When I opened my eyes, the tip of my nose was about a quarter inch from the wall.

That jump was spoken of in reverent tones for years to come, thus cementing my status as the Coolest Kid on the Block.