A boy and his board.
I think back to a time when skateboarding brought me to places that I never imagined. Not just the geographic locations that I traveled to, but places in my mind that I have never since been able to access. I guess you could also call them non-places, or the absence to places. I could be alone for hours, just my skateboard and a flight of stairs, a curb, or a slab of concrete. I would attack the obstacle like a guerilla soldier in a freedom fight. Back and forth on my board until the motion became instinctual, trying for perfection. The clean execution of a trick was bliss for me, and once I landed it I could usually pull it off as many times as I wanted after that. It was as though something inside of me took over and my body was just following the motions while everything around me became dim, almost non-existent.
Elation. That is the best way to describe mastering skateboard tricks. Nothing in my life has ever compared to the satisfaction of overcoming innumerable failed attempts just to experience momentary bliss by rolling out on my skateboard that one perfect time.
But that all fell by the wayside as I became older and took on all of the responsibilities of being a functioning member of society. Cars, dating, working, not working, the beach, new clothes. Everything I added to my life replaced a small piece of skateboarding until eventually no more time existed for my practicing. Without practicing the payoff was not as good. Without the payoff skating became a burden. Every time I tried to go skating I became frustrated and ended up calling it quits after a short session. I promised myself I would find more time for skating to get back the feelings that it once gave me. Just as soon as I took care of a few things.
I wanted to be rich.
I wanted a Porsche and jet-skis and money to buy things I didn’t need. I didn’t know the evils of capitalism and the effects that big business has on the global environment. Even if I did, I probably would not have cared. I borrowed money to make money and things just seemed to work out. Before I knew it I had a warehouse and suppliers and customers. 1-800 number to reach me at any time, no charge to you. Faxes from my laptop computer as I drove to the next sales call. Sleeping on piles of product stacked in my house in case I had to do an emergency delivery for a cash-cow customer.
Buying dinner for my friends. Buying dinner for attractive young ladies at the table across the restaurant. Buying video game systems and kung-fu lessons and shoes for all occasions and CDs and classy pants and designer coffee and rounds at the bar and wheels for my car and cologne and the latest phone and golf clubs and a boat and expensive soap and cigars and gloves for driving and watches that are too nice to wear. I even bought a skateboard once. But that never got used.
Then I woke up. I don’t know exactly what it was that slapped my stone-cold face. Perhaps a combination of meeting new friends and deciding to finish college. It was very likely a Literature class where I read Borges for the fist time and my mind imploded, taking the shell of a businessman and compacting it deep in the tissue of my mind, opening me up to new kinds of thinking that in turn opened me up to new kinds of reading that in turn opened me up to seeing that I was a jackass.
Within a couple of weeks my business was shut down. I called it quits for good.
I had a thirst for something different.
I had saved enough money from my business venture to finish college and nothing was going to stop me. I was so sick of buying and selling that I knew I couldn’t stand to go to work. I wanted to focus on expanding my mind and growing rich through knowledge. I wanted to follow a meandering path with no real goal other than to see things more clearly, or rather, to be confused in an intriguing way. Although I had saved money, it was not enough to live off of without working. I did the only reasonable thing that there was to do. I stored or gave away everything that I did not immediately need and set up sleeping quarters in the camper shell of my truck until I finished school.
I pretty much lived in the library when I was not taking classes, showered at the campus gym, and slept in my truck. This way I was able to live off of my savings for a few semesters and not worry about the burden of work. I felt freedom when my classmates talked about having to go to work. There was a sense of empowerment in my lifestyle. I felt as if I was spitting in the face of myself as a businessman. I was making up for all of the lost time that I had spent buying and selling, destroying trees with endless amounts of invoices, burning massive amounts of fossil fuels doing sales calls just to pad my wallet.
Reading became something new to me during that time. I no longer looked at books as permanently existing works to be read and studied by people for years to come. The words on the pages of books were organic beings that joined with me to create a new category of thinking. I read fragments of books, blending many works together to forge ideas that heaved my mind out of the well of ignorance it had become accustomed to. Ignorance that had spread like flaming alcohol on a mirror. Ignorance that traveled like spores from person to person, seeping into their minds, shutting out any acceptance of ideas that were opposed to the mainstream, to society, and to innovation for use other than industrial progression.
I knew what I had to do next.
Next never happened.
Well, not how I had hoped. The accomplishment of graduating college settled my mind on using my degree to find a good job to start living my life in a more conventional fashion. I told myself that I would stick to my ideals, that I needed an apartment so that people would not think I was creepy, but I would still live minimally. Along with an apartment came a phone and cable and furniture and new clothes and nice shoes and a travel coffee mug and a DVD player and nice linens and classy pants and an electric toothbrush and more than one knife, spoon, and fork and a tall mirror and slippers and lamps and picture frames and a printer and baskets to hold knick-knacks and salsa and mayonnaise and mustard and brown sugar and coffee and ice trays and extension cords and a little hammer with little nails to hang things on the wall and cleaning products and too many pens and candles and more clothes to fill up the closet space and more food to go bad in the empty refrigerator and holiday cards from distant relatives and a camera to capture memories of all these things and a vacuum cleaner and an extra pair of eyeglasses to put in the drawer with the extra batteries, rubber bands, paperclips, and scissors and seven ties for the rack in the closet and a broom and jars for storing food and a spice rack and tape and air-freshener and too many plastic bags under the kitchen sink.
Possessions and responsibility traveled like spores from the people that lived near me, seeping into my life, shutting out any feelings I had of breaking free from a life a material burdens. I had let the accomplishments of my time at college become buried under a gigantic helping of mainstream thinking.
I had tricked myself.
I think back to a time when the simple act of riding a skateboard kept me blissfully occupied for what seemed like endless hours. No worries. No expectations. Nothing else in the world but repeated motions that often ended in extreme happiness.
That was before I knew the importance of the simplicity I possessed. Before I went seeking answers to the questions that seem to have eluded me for so long.
I don’t know, maybe I had all of the answers then.
I guess I just forgot them, gave up on them, became distracted by other things, corrupted my mind too much, became too lazy, hid them, imploded them in my mind among other things, left them in a public phone booth, dropped them in a small pond, fed them to my neighbor’s dog, mailed them out with a bill by mistake, left them in the pocket of a pair of jeans I donated, swept them out of the kitchen door, sold them at a flea market, gave them to an ex-girlfriend, left them as a tip at a bar, washed them down the drain, put them in the back of a junk drawer, or perhaps I never had them at all. I need to get back to how I once was, I need to escape this feedback loop of confusion. I need to stick to a path and complete my journey. I must to do it.