formative obsessions

In 1987 my family moved from Isnotu, Venezuela to Bartow, Florida -two shitty small towns really, with nothing much for me to do. My brother on the other hand, the great hunter that he is, got along well with small town boys, partly because of his slingshot prowess and partly because he was and still is a badass. We rode bikes a lot. We made launch ramps and tried to see who could clear the most bikes, laid down in rows on the backside of the ramp.

Around, 1988 I got my first skateboard. It had to be hidden at my friend Jonathan’s house. My Mom was in school I think, or didn’t quite have a decent job I can’t remember, but we kids only had the public school insurance, which prohibited skateboarding and motorbikes. It was a tough time, here I was, itching to do a real American thing and I wasn’t allowed. I did it anyway.

Jonathan’s parents let him build a quarter pipe at the end of the driveway. They had a little Bobcat so we also made a dirt jump for our BMX’s. I spent hours honing my skills at Jonathan’s. As I got older I started skating with some of the better guys in town like Mike and Charlie.

After a few years I skated without the restriction from my folks. My Dad didn’t get it, and I can’t really say that my Mom got it either. But I lived and breathed skateboards every day. I spent hours and hours perfecting my slappy grind down at the bank by my house. I could do them better than all the other guys who were perfecting their own signature tricks. I liked slappy’s ‘cause I thought they had style. I would charge the yellow painted curb with as much speed as I could, right before reaching the curb I would carve hard and slap the trucks onto the curb and grind an easy ten feet before coming off with speed leftover. I could do them frontside or backside. Frontside grinds were harder but the backside layback slappy looked the best.

Jonathan and I stopped skating together. He was a shy kid and didn’t really dig the antics of the rest of the crew. I imagine that his family probably didn’t approve of Mike and Charlie either. Both came from broken homes and basically did whatever the hell they pleased.

Those were my formative years. In those years I learned to smoke cigarettes. I learned too that I didn’t have the stomach to steal them the way my friends could. “Bam!” When I heard that I knew Benji or Ham had a pack of Camels in their pocket. We pushed each other to try bigger and scarier tricks. We built launch ramps to clear over bushes and sidewalks, we pushed them up to handrails, and walls -it didn’t matter.

Things changed, we matured, and Charlie went away. One day Dana pulled up in his Monte Carlo. He was vexed at Benji for some reason I can’t remember. Three us were sitting on the sidewalk watching Ham try kickflips. It was hot as hell, all of us soaked in sweat. Dana walked around to the trunk and popped it open. He pulled out a sawed off 12 gauge and waved it around in our faces before settling the barrel in front of Benji’s nose.

No one talked; it seemed to go on forever. Dana was pleased with himself. He put the shotgun back in the trunk and drove away. We called the cops. He got two years house arrest.

Soon after we went our separate ways. Some started doing hard drugs, others moved away. I went to school.

My brother is still a badass.

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