On Monday, December 4th, I went skateboarding.
There are a lot of things about that statement that I believe I need to clarify—for starters, Monday, December 4th was, like, the last ‘nice’ day. On the verge of winter, we had been having some unseasonably and unsettlingly warm days, and December 4th was one of them. It was around 60 degrees, with a slight chill in the wind, indicating that by nightfall, the temperature would be dropping drastically.
By morning, there’d be ice and snow on the ground.
I should also mention that I am not a ‘skateboarder,’ and that is a fact that I have had to reiterate every single time I’ve told this story in person. I own a skateboard—but, like many things in my life, I am barely capable of using it. I bought it on a bit of a whim in 2013, from an Erik’s Bike Shop—a pre-assembled Enjoi deck that I originally used quite a bit that first summer after I bought it.
I also fell. A lot.
On one occasion, I was dumb enough to try skateboarding to work, and on my way back home, I slipped off the board, coming down hard on my left leg, leaving a rather large scrape on the side of my jeans.
A month or two later, I fell again, this time while wearing a brand new pair of pants, putting a huge hole in the leg.
Because I am more concerned with fashion (also my safety, but mostly fashion), as opposed to getting outside, or whatever, following that incident, the skateboard was placed in our garage, where it continued to gather dust for a number of years.
Occasionally, as we are backing out of the garage, the corner of my skateboard, sticking out from behind a shelf, will catch my wife’s eye, and she’ll ask me if I’m ever going to use it again—to which I’ll quickly change the subject by shouting “WHAT IS THAT THING OVER THERE!??!” Then I dive out of the car, while it’s still in reverse, as to avoid any further discussion about the matter.
The topic of skateboarding came up again recently, before the holidays, because our 11-year-old nephew had taken a sudden interest in it—or at least getting a skateboard and decorating it with all of the stickers that he added to his holiday wish list. Or maybe he just wanted the stickers the whole time—I don’t know. But in struggling to make a decision on what gift to give him, we jumped on this presumed interest and I declared I would send him a subscription to Thrasher magazine.1
During this discussion, my wife began hinting, as she occasionally has done, that I should try using my own skateboard again. We were in a restaurant eating lunch at the time, so I was unable to create a diversion in order to avoid further discussion on the topic.
* * *
I’ve owned three skateboards in my life.
The first of which was when I was very young, probably six or so. It was a long and wide board, with chunky yellow plastic wheels, with a Batman themed design, so Michael Keaton’s face was printed in a pattern on both the top and bottom. I’m sure that at some point, I took it outside and rode it around in the driveway, but while my memories of this age aren’t very clear, I can recall safely coasting back and forth on the concrete floor of our basement.
I was in eighth grade when I received my second skateboard—a Christmas present ordered from the JC Penny holiday catalog. At this point in my young life—age thirteen—I believe I was more interested in the skateboarding aesthetic than learning to properly use the actual board itself.2
This was the year I got a chain wallet3, started wearing baggier jeans, and eventually trading in my Fila sneakers for a pair of Airwalks. This was the year that I would be overcome with jealousy when a classmate would bring the CCS4 catalog in to class and I would read over his shoulder as he flipped through the pages of decks, trucks, and myriad t-shirts.
I’m not sure what happened to either of these aforementioned skateboards. They are probably both decomposing in a landfill in rural Illinois, while the Enjoi deck, complete with the company’s trademark panda design painted on the bottom, is simply decomposing on a shelf in my garage.
* * *
On Monday, December 4th, I went skateboarding.
I finished up with work shortly after 1 p.m, and after returning home to eat a quick lunch, I wondered what I should do with the rest of my afternoon. Should I do chores—the laundry isn’t going to wash and fold itself. Should I head to a coffee shop to get some writing done—my constant stream of album reviews and essays are not written on their own.
Or should I try to get outside and enjoy the last ‘nice’ day of 2017—this disconcertingly warm day in December.
After many years of contention, deliberation, and planning, our city built a small skateboard park. And I figured that, if I was going to dust off my skateboard and use it on this December afternoon, the skate park was the place to do it—but I didn’t want, or need, an audience.
I took a quick drive over to make sure the park was empty, and it was. Either all the cool teens had already lost interest, or don’t skate this late in the year. Or they were maybe still in school. But do skateboarders even go to school?
Returning home quickly to grab a water bottle, my dusty skateboard, and my helmet (safety first, folks), I drove back to the skate park, and placing the board on the ground, began slowly coasting around on the smooth, but well warn concrete used in the park.
This isn’t so bad, I thought. What is this feeling I am feeling? Is this what it is like to have fun?
And despite the occasional lost of balance and jump from the board as I attempted to navigate the quarter pipe, I was not yet regretting my decision to give skating another try.
On Monday, December 4th, I went skateboarding. And I feel like I should mention that I skated with a small amount of unease—despite the fact that it was 60 degrees outside, it had rained off and on that morning so the concrete was slightly wet, and I tried to keep that in mind as I tooled around, the ka-thunking sound of my wheels rolling underneath my wooden board.
After maybe 15 or 20 minutes, I had built up a small enough amount of confidence that I thought I could possibly try skating down a small, built in ramp.
This was a mistake.
As soon as I had momentum, and my board tipped over the edge of the ramp, I lost it. The board came shooting out from underneath me, sent sailing forward into the quarter pipe ahead. I flew up into the air, turned to my right side ever so slightly, then descended to the concrete below—hard, and fast, landing with incredible force onto the top of my right leg.
I landed with a vigor that took my breath away. The pain shooting through my leg was overwhelming. Ow, I said. I probably also said some other things too, like fuck, or shit, or god dammit, or motherfucking piece of shit, or son of a fucking bitch my motherfucking leg.
For a moment, I laid on the concrete, wondering what to do next. My instinct was to pack it in—I hobbled over to where my board had rolled, and after snatching it up angrily, I started limping back to my car. Sitting in the driver’s seat, I took a few sips of water, and tried to calm myself down. I thought of that inspirational quote from Batman Begins, where both Thomas Wayne AND Alfred ask, “Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
After catching my breath, I made the decision to hobble back over to the skate park, and ride around for a few minutes longer. I didn’t want this fall to be the end of my supposed fun, sending me back home, feeling sorry for myself, only to put the skateboard right back where it had been in the garage.
Choosing to stay and ride around for another 10 minutes or so—this was another mistake.
The swelling on my hip certainly began almost immediately after impact—I imagine it’s like those lumps that form on the heads of cartoon characters after they get hit with something like a frying pan or an anvil. And it was later in the evening that I realized I had been doing all the wrong things to try and treat it.
Upon arriving home, I took a handful of off-brand, expired Advil5, and I sat with an ice pack on my leg—but the ice pack wasn’t really cold enough to be helping in any way, and it turns out, thanks to my wife’s internet searching on what to do in a situation like this, that you’re supposed to take Tylenol instead of ‘aspirin.’ My wife had, of course, expressed her concerns about my leg—but she is also the kind of person who enjoys watching someone getting hurt6, so we were both glad she did not witness the fall I took.
There was a point later on, after dinner, and after doing the dishes, as I sat down to enjoy my evening cup of tea, that I was pretty sure I was either going to pass out, or throw up, or do both at the same time. Settling into my usual spot on the living room floor, I was suddenly overcome with a cavalcade of feelings: I was dizzy, I was nauseous, and my leg was in serious pain. It was then that I had to reveal the extent of my injury to my wife Wendy, and I had reservations about doing so.
“I’m going to show you and you’re going to say, ‘Oh honey, your poor leg,’” I said, as I struggled to pull my pants over the gigantic welt that had grown over the course of the evening. And I was right. “Oh honey, your poor leg,” is what she said, as I unveiled what appeared to be a grapefruit bulging out of my skin.
* * *
The next day, I hobbled through my shift cleaning cat kennels at the animal shelter. I bought a bottle of extra strength Tylenol and swallowed my allotted six throughout the day. I sat with a heavy duty ice pack awkwardly positioned to rest on my leg. The swelling had, thankfully, gone down from the extreme it reached the night before—but I was still in pain.
Have I broken something? Have I fractured or dislocated something? Should I have sought medical attention immediately after the incident occurred?
The following day, I went to the doctor to make sure this was, in fact, just a very, very bad bruise, and nothing as serious as I was imagining. My doctor took one look at the welt still throbbing on the side of my leg and could tell right away that nothing was broken, and warned me that it was going to both turn a lot of interesting colors, and that the size of the bruise itself would travel down the entirety of my leg in the coming days.
Because I don’t expose myself to enough radiation already from constantly dicking around with my mobile phone, I opted to have an x-ray done—my doctor and I, gazing into the computer monitor, looking at the images of my bones. They, thankfully, were not broken, but the bruise—the bruise was serious enough to create a dark cluster on the image.
* * *
Because I cope with serious things by making light of them, I begin taking slightly obscured photos of my growing bruise and injury, selecting the best Instagram filter that really brings out the purple or black tones my skin has taken on, and then sharing
them online with either no caption, or simply ‘This is fine.’
Within the second week, there’s a day at work when the pain and discomfort really start to get to me—constantly walking around, and lifting 40lb sacks of potatoes and dense, heavy cases of cabbage tend to put a little more strain on my leg than maybe I should be putting on it. My boss notices something is bothering and I tell her about my leg.
“I took a bit of a fall,” I say, explaining the bruise that has formed and the pain that I’m in.
“Those are pictures of your leg?” my boss exclaims. She follows me on Instagram and was convinced they were images of my arm. I tell her that it happened when skateboarding, and she responds with a story about how, during one of the earliest days of her senior year in high school, she broke both ankles by hopping on a skateboard for the first, and only, time.
* * *
Despite my injury, and the concern that it caused, my wife told me she was happy that I at least tried, and she hoped that this wouldn’t be a set back for me—that I wouldn’t spend the entire winter saying ‘never again,’ and letting my board gather another four year’s worth of dust on it.
The truth is that the phrase ‘never again’ went through my mind almost instantly after my leg hit the concrete, and I continued thinking it as I hobbled around the house, when I struggled with lifting something heavy at work, or, as things continued to heal, if I moved in the wrong way, felt a sharp, sudden pain that takes my breath away for a moment.
But, why do we fall?
So we can learn to pick ourselves up again.
1– Not that I am, like, a subject matter expert when it comes to skateboarding, but I was operating under the impression that most people, whether they were aware of skateboard culture or not, knew what Thrasher magazine was. I found this is not the case, as my wife had no clue what I was talking about, and when the free t-shirt that came with the subscription arrived at my nephew’s house, I sent a note to his dad to explain that it was part of our gift. He responded with, “That’s cool. What’s Thrasher magazine?”
2– One could argue, perhaps successful that I teetered on the edge of being a poser. Or a ‘poseur,’ if you will. And you know what, that’s okay. Maybe I was. Maybe I still am. We’re all trying to fit in somewhere, whether we really belong there or not.
3– A long, heavy chain successfully guarded my wallet for almost a decade until early on in the courtship between myself and my wife—who had enough of it getting caught on things or thwapping her. My wallet has been unguarded for another decade now, and I’ll tell you, I miss that fucking chain every day.
4– CCS stands for California Cheap Skates. And for all the years I used to think back nostalgically about my classmate’s CCS catalog, it was only with in the last year or so that I realize that I am a grown ass man, and could go onto their website and order something if I wanted. I started to browse the t-shirts, became overwhelmed and depressed, and realized I may have been too old to be on the site.
5– So we bought two big things of Kirkland Signature aspirin from Costco a long time ago, and I am still slowly making my way through it.
6– My wife has laughed so hard at videos or .GIFs of people getting hurt that she has both been crying and unable to breathe
Kevin Krein has been operating the award winning music blog, Anhedonic Headphones, since 2013, and he contributed the back page column to the Southern Minn Scene magazine for roughly three years. His writing has appeared on Bearded Gentlemen Music, Spectrum Culture, and in River Valley Woman. His presence on Twitter, much like his writing, is ‘disturbing and mean,’ as well as ‘irritatingly ambiguous’: @KevEFly.
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