Space invaders

I never could skate. My center of gravity has always been about a half-bubble off plumb, and I still get a little tangled up in my shoes.

But I always admired my friends for whom skating came more naturally. It wasn’t so much what they did that impressed me—though their athleticism was something to envy. I was more interested in where they did it.

When you’re young—when you don’t have a car or much money—there aren’t many welcoming places for you in the urban landscape. Look around. There is the place where people go to sit in their cubicles all day. There is the place for moving cars. There is the place for cars that are not moving. There is the place for consuming grande caramel macchiatos, or whatever. But if you’re not making money, or spending money—or en route between the two—get lost.

But I noticed that with a board, the concretized drainage ditches running behind the subdivision became playgrounds. Abandoned, fenced-in lots sprouted with plywood ramps, and life. Even the benches, planters and curbs around the local shopping mall took on all sorts of new, anti-authoritarian, possibilities.

Suddenly, something creative was happening in all those otherwise drab and inhuman places—at least until the security guards showed up.

The skaters Becca Costello writes about in this week’s cover story (“Skateboarding is not a sport”) may not care much about anything as abstract as repurposing the built environment. They just want to fly. Still, I’m glad they’re out there liberating the landscape.

Somebody’s got to do it.