I’ve been putting this off, but I don’t know why.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting tired of the self-centered nature of my current days, and to type about me on top of all that seems like overkill. But like Elvis Costello said, “You should only please yourself. Nothing else matters.” It’s not indulgence I’m after, though. I’m just looking to get out of this rut and I think that would please me.
Ortho Stevens, get on up. Illustration: KW
A year ago, I hyper extended my right knee while running out of a Smith grind. Ripped the anterior cruciate ligament off the bone and then had it replaced with part of my own hamstring. Then about two months ago, I had an unfortunate head-on bike collision and tore my ACL revision, sealing my fate as that dude who hurts himself better than he did the first time.
So another surgery, another winter of wearing shorts, another “learning experience,” and more time not skateboarding.
Before the first surgery, I was tripping out. Since my preteen years, I couldn’t remember ever having more than two months off my board, and recovery from this surgery was being billed on the long side of eight-to-ten months. What would happen? How would the crisis unfold? What about my fantasy? My identity? Would I lose epicness points? Would my fire die from lack of total stokededness? Would my bro card be revoked?
To add insult to actual injury, right after I got off crutches, I was sacked from my skate-related job of eleven years.
It was—as you can imagine—rough.
But skateboarding didn’t go anywhere. Least of all, away. It kept joking with me. It kept the undercurrent flowing. It kept tempting me.
And once I got to the point where I could set up a board without feeling like a guy who was just trying to stay busy, I was given the opportunity—a gift, really—to learn how to skate again. How to turn and push and drop in and carve and kickturn. How to fall.
Falling, it turns out, is a skill we’re all very good at, and if there’s one worthwhile thing that’s come from skateboarding being old enough that it can make historical references to itself, it’s this: generations of skateboarders know what it’s like to get back up.
And if there’s a second worthwhile thing that comes from our middling pastime reaching middle age, it’s this: skateboarders are not above lending a hand to each other when times are tough. Side note: The time is always tougher than the circumstances.
During my dark days of recovery, I got calls and shouts and notes and offers from all corners of the world. Most all of them came from people who’d experienced more pain, and grief, and self-loathing than me, but had gotten through it all laughing, happy, and—not insignificantly—with their love for skateboarding intact. All that contact with the hobbled, diseased, and divorced, the shunned, ruined, and bankrupted gave me just enough courage to smolder through my self-imposed heartache and come out the other side with the idea that I was still me.
Again, if it sounds sorry and self-centered, I suppose that’s because it is.
And here we are again.
Everything I am, and everything I ever thought I was, comes from skateboarding. My kids, my wife, my family, my friends, my enemies, my familiars, my work, my problems, my solutions, and my ups and downs—it’s all real and it’s all skate sourced. And as I sit here with my bombed-out right knee pretending to run the show again for the next eight-to-ten months, I have to laugh a little. This stupid knee doesn’t know anything. This stupid cadaver ACL has no idea what’s in store. This stupid injury has never seen the kind of greatness that comes from a practice of friendly abuse, of historic proportions, of call and response.
This stupid feeling of feeling stupid along with hundreds of thousands of other stupids as we all roll together toward our inevitable stupid endings is indeed something to laugh about, but it’s also something special.
Self-helpy, self-indulgent, back-slapping frat bro, or whatever.
I’m not putting this off, and I know exactly why.
To get your copy of Street Canoe #5, Spring 2016 issue, visit streetcanoe.com.