Skatepark Daze:

Tyler Francischine                         @thataintdancingsally

The rain pounded down on me, drenching me instantly. The cut on my arm dripped blood all over the ground, and all over the door handle I was repeatedly and uselessly yanking at. I screamed at the top of my lungs: “Let me in there, you piece of shit, you scum of the earth, you yellow-bellied little weasel!”

You see, my one job at the time was maintaining some semblance of order at the Sebastian Skatepark. However, that was all shot to hell when, after I got into a brawl with one of the “customers” (he never paid his entrance fee in all the years he attended), he locked me out of the little aluminum attendants’ shed, in the rain. After some time had passed and emotions ran their course, we ordered some pizza. I still consider him one of my close friends.

Getting hired as a skatepark attendant back in 2008 changed my life forever. For three consecutive summers, I was thrown into a culture where kids lived dangerously, nay recklessly, and my job was to pick up the pieces. I was thrown into a culture of incredibly tight connections, and some of the friendships I made during those years continue to be relationships of trust, love and hell-raising.

I spent most of my workdays sitting in my frayed lawn chair, watching the talent, making sure the talent wasn’t running over the 8 to 12-year-olds, and repeatedly yelling at everyone involved to put their helmets back on their heads.

I developed an admiration for the determination these kids possessed. It would be near 100 degrees out on a July afternoon, and the gits were out there, their cheeks flushed and lined with sweat, trying to land a trick over and over again, not stopping until it was perfected.

I admired the skaters who showed no fear and no pain. We all heard the crack their limbs made as they hit the ground; we all saw the blood pouring out of their fresh wounds, but we never saw them break down. They’d get back on their boards and keep trying, amazingly. Or if they were really, really hurt, they’d skate all the way home, leaving a trail of bodily fluids in their wake.

I remember watching some kids and truly believing gravity didn’t apply to them. One kid in particular – I think his nickname was J-3 – would glide around so effortlessly, his body hardly moving an inch, I wondered how he was propelling himself, and if his board’s wheels were really making contact with the ground.

I can recall when kids earned sponsors and disappeared from the daily line-up. Then one day, they would return, dressed head to toe in the same brand, their new hat brims crisp, their jeans absent of rips. But still with those shoelace belts – why is it uncool to have a real belt? I never got a straight answer. The social structure here was dense and highly stratified but democratic. Anyone could become top dog if he worked hard enough at his craft.

There was the time a skate rat not four feet tall produced a knife from his tiny pants pocket and waved it in my face when I demanded he cough up the $3 entrance fee. I remember calling the cops continuously on kids who earned trespassing warrants from the park, yet still couldn’t quench their thirsts to skate it.

My time at the skatepark helped me craft the suffer-no-fools attitude I use today at my restaurant job. My time at the skatepark provided me with a window into a world I would otherwise be ignorant of – my lame, fruitbooting self—and for that I am grateful. Them was some golden years.