Sun 1 Jul 2007
Maybe I’ve written of it before, but my favorite time of my childhood was when I lived on Holly Drive in Hollywood in the mid-1970s, primarily because there were a bunch of neighborhood kids around my age and there was a vacant lot on the corner where we’d have occasional baseball games and dirtclod fights. We traded baseball cards and skateboarded and rode bikes up to the Hollywood reservoir and played a fair amount of war and saw films together like “Earthquake” and “The Bad News Bears” and “Carwash.”
I was reminded of the following incident by Tim who blogs at L.A. Daddy and who was one of the participants in last Thursday’s L.A. Bloggers Live event. He read a wonderful post that recalled him painfully learning to ride a bike and the lesson included a pretty disasterous trip down a steep hill.
My incident also involved attempting to negotiate a grade on wheels, but in my case it was a skateboard, not a bike. It was spring of 1976 that I got my first polyurethane-wheeled skateboard (that my mom bought me from the old The Akron store on Melrose near Western for my 12th birthday). Around that same time the big event me and my buddies were all looking forward to was the debut of a 7-11 down on the corner of Yucca and Cahuenga. Each day was spent on the lookout the better to keep ourselves informed as the store drew closer to opening for business and we got ever more eager to waste our allowances on Slurpees and such.
When that big day finally came it also coincided with plans we had that morning to “bomb” Primose, a nearby avenue that featured the steepest and straightest drop of all the streets in the immediate vicinity. It wasn’t anything crazily graded, but there was no denying the opportunity to go downhill fast. So thrillseekers all we all rode our skateboards north through the tunnel under the 101 Freeway and then continued up until we arrived at the bottom of Primrose. Any thrill I was seeking at that point pretty much disappeared as I looked up at the summit of the street. Sure, it was one thing to come down it on my 10-speed as I’d done dozens of times, but looking up at the top and imagining coming down on four wheels and a plank was something else entirely. But as is the case with these things, there was no backing out now. To do so would be to suffer being called a chicken by your peers and I would have none of that.
In all honesty, I don’t know how many of my pals went before I did, but I know no one came down after me and my spectacular wipeout — which started out well enough. With heart pounding and a couple pushes I was over the crest and well balanced with knees bent as I immediately picked up speed coming down the face of the frozen swell. It wasn’t long after that — perhaps a hundred yards down — when things started to go wrong thanks to my ignorance in neglecting to tighten up my board’s trucks from the loosened and flexible state I kept them in to better execute sharper turns as part of the substantial freestyling I enjoyed down on level terrain.
When that first relatively minor wobble hit and reverberated through my legs, I tensed up pretty much instinctively knew that once the wobbles started there was really no stopping them from getting progressively worse. But despite my mind screaming “BAIL OUT NOW!” I lamely tried to counter defeat the wobble, which of course only succeeded in making it worse and almost immediately the board was sidewinding wider and wider back and forth beneath my feet. It was someplace right around here and again in some pretty serious ignorance that I attempted to step off the board. My fatally flawed thinking seemed entirely logical at that moment. I figured I’d get one foot on the ground and hustle to bring the other in front of it and then de-accelerate until I was at a fully stopped and upright position. That had a good chance of working if I’d been rolling at 10 mph, but I was moving up near or beyond the 2o-mph mark and when my right foot landed before my left foot could follow in that footstep I was entirely surprised to find myself suddenly airborne and traveling headfirst for whatever time and distance it took for my left shoulder and the left side of my face to land on the asphalt where I continued sliding for what seemed like forever until finally coming up against the curb and to a stop in the gutter.
I was immediately surrounded by my pals some of whom I heard say aloud that they thought I was dead. I slowly got up to prove that I wasn’t, but my face from temple to check was spectacularly abrasioned and bleeding profusely, which may have grossed them out more than my corpse would have.
Someone retrieved my skateboard where it had come to rest somewhere further down the road and while I didn’t remount it from there on the incline, like a true gamer once we got back down closer to sea level I did climb back aboard for the roll home with everyone else behind me and silent as if following a hearse.
Upon arrival at home and after my mom got over her inital shock at seeing her son so severely shredded, she cleaned and dressed my wounds while everyone else went and enjoyed the new 7-11 without me… none even willing to bring me back a Slurpee, dammit.
I never attempted to bomb Primose ever again.