Monday, February 16, 2009

A Side Of Hamburger, Please

Good grief - looking back on my childhood, I'm amazed that I made it out without being maimed or horribly disfigured.

Continuing with the series on my death-defying childhood, I give you yet another story involving bad ideas, wheeled toys & asphalt.

I can’t remember if it was before or after my physics lesson via the rear spoiler of a Ford Pinto (my bell got rung pretty hard then; a lot of memories were jumbled in the process); I think it was when I was in seventh grade. One of my best friends, Patrick Fisher, lived in what could be called a “rural” area, smack dab in the middle of the Jurupa Hills, offering us plenty of trails to get lost in (we were “extreme mountain biking” before it was invented). The street that he lived on was pretty much a race track, with cars routinely flying by at 70+ mph, so, our on-road escapades were confined to the neighborhood behind his house. The only problem with the streets on that side of his house, though, was that everything was uphill; the upside(?) to it, though, was that for every uphill, there’s always a downhill, &, boy, were there some doosies here.

One night, Patrick & I had the brilliant idea to tow each other around; using his Diamondback BMX bike, Variflex skateboard (any oldtime skaterats out there remember Variflex’s? Cheap, nearly an inch & a half thick & the crappiest trucks known to man), & a length of rope, we took turns pulling each other uphill. To say it sucked to be the tow-er (me) would be a massive understatement.

Finally, it was my turn. My struggle up the hill pulling Patrick along had paid off, as I got to be towed along the relatively flat part of the street along the top of the hill. Given my difficulty in maintaining balance on a skateboard, I was grateful for the smooth ride & the ludicrously tight trucks on the board. Decked out in a pair of shorts (the short, early 80’s corduroy beach variety) & a sleeveless hoodie, life was good.

Until we got to the downhill part.

Being young (read: stupid), we saw not our potential deaths at the end of the street below, but a hill that had to be tamed, preferably at high rates of speed. So, we were off, going faster than I think the Variflex’s hard rubber wheels were meant to go. Eventually, I was going fast enough that the towrope went slack & I was riding next to Patrick on the bike. About halfway down the hill, Patrick pointed out that the street t-boned into the cross street below, right into a curb, & that maybe stopping would be a good idea. I agreed &, against all logic, ditched the rope, leaving Patrick behind.

Cruising down the hill, I thought to myself, “Maybe I should’ve held onto the rope.” Seeing that the curb was quickly getting closer, I began to formulate my plan to stop myself. Not being at all seasoned at skating, I rejected the idea of braking myself by stepping on the tail of the board & grinding myself to a halt. By this time, I was really, really wishing I still had the tow rope. I decided to go with my next idea which, like many of my plans, was not thought through very well; I figured that I could put my foot down on the ground & slow myself down enough, maybe even to the point where I could execute a bit of a tail slide. With nerves of steel (& brains of pudding), I put my plan into action, taking my right foot off the board & placing it on the asphalt speeding by me below &…

Have you ever started doing something, knowing that it’s probably not the smartest thing in the world to do, but you did it anyway? Never works out too well, does it? Well, neither did this, for, as soon as my foot touched the ground, I was brought not to the slow, gentle stop that, in my mind, should’ve happened; no, instead, my foot made contact & I was immediately - & I mean IMMEDIATELY – separated me from the skateboard. The next few moments were nothing but a blinding flash of pain as the asphalt turned my bare skin into raw hamburger. I believe the equation went something like this:

Inertia + 30 feet of asphalt – several layers of skin = OUCH!

Adding insult to injury, I watched as the skateboard landed softly in a lush, grassy yard off to my left. I could swear it was laughing at me.

Amazingly, I don’t think I cried; I was too busy making that sucking-through-the-teeth sound to be able to cry. My side, from knee to elbow, was nothing but raw & bloody skin, with pieces of asphalt added in here & there, y’know, for decoration. Patrick gave me the bike &, unable to bend my left leg, I pushed myself back to his house for more fun with Mr. Bottle of Iodine. You’d better believe that wearing long pants was a joy for the next couple weeks.

And so ends another tale of youth & stupidity (yes, I realize that’s redundant). Come back next time to find out how not to recharge a 9-volt battery.