What sort of teenager actually shakes hands with people?
I don’t know what started this odd pattern of behavior, where rather than throw a nonchalant nod of the head, a generic yet socially-acceptable “’sup?” at anyone new that I met, I actually, with an honest smile and earnest tone in my voice, fully extended my open hand and took theirs, pumping it once twice, “Hi, I’m Costa”. It’s like I was grooming myself to be a young Republican. Or a Log Cabin one, I still hadn’t fully decided on whether or not other dudes were worth making out with at that point. Ask me about the McDonald’s dream sometime to find out what that means.
I approached these two guys one day skating, they’d robbed a construction site and dragged a 12-foot long length of steel piping, squared, to this park and were grinding on it as it was propped up at one end on a marble bench. Not wanting to jack their shit without asking, knowing full well what the hardcore skate crews in my neighborhood did to chumps like that, I just stuck my hand out like I was selling Bibles or cars.
He actually shook my hand back! “Hey, Adam.”
“Phillip” the other guy said. “Give it a go.”
It was an interesting way to get by, seeing as how I was so bereft of social graces, even the supposedly egalitarian subcultures that the X-Games popularized and probably brought to your attention, was a treacherous river to ford. But like I said, I had reasons to fear.
Local hardcore skate crews where I lived at the time were actually incredibly territorial, not to mention total fucking dicks. The most popular story I heard was about a group of older guys jumping two or three out of town younger kids who were skating their spot at a war memorial, intent on teaching these one-uppin’ motherfuckers a lesson. They stole their boards and shoes, the ultimate condemnation of behavior and a clear warning. NOT WELCOME, ASSHOLES.
Over time I ended up occasionally hanging out with what loosely constituted a “crew” at the one spot I frequented, a motley assortment of this guy on a BMX who was occasionally homeless, a few other skaters, and some graffiti artists, all of whom incidentally allowed me to photograph their art and moves for the one time I thought I could be artsy and whatnot for a photography class I took in 10th grade. When the spot ended up being used for the sickest trick ever, done by a citywide local legend, and the footage in a commercial for a local burger chain, we were united in our awe that our neighborhood was on TV. When homeless guys who slept in the park smashed their beer bottles on the ground, for our wheels to get stuck on and shoot up at us as we rolled along the marble and concrete, we bemoaned together and nursed war wounds, shouting obscenities and gawking like the unrefined morons we were at the occasional cute girl who’d accompany her equally cute friend and boyfriend tot eh park to cheer him on as he one-upped us. He was like, 19 though, and we were 14 and looked 10. So, no shoe-stealing and ledge-destroying for us I’m afraid. We limited ourselves to strictly theoretical pursuits.
I’m pretty sure I had a point here, so hold on while I compose myself a minute.
OK, I’m back. I spent a recent Saturday night telling stupid stories until 4 am, including the one above, dudes getting jumped and their shoes stolen like they were drunk in the streets of Victorian London by street urchins. Every time I end up like that, sitting on a couch with someone and swapping tales of all the stupid and cool shit I did and saw when I was a teenager, I usually think one of two things. One is “Wow, this is some weirdness right here, Charlie Brown. What the hell are you doing regaling these nice folks with such sordid tales of violence, injury, and moderate insult to practical standards of decency?”
Yes, I think EXACTLY like that. Fuck you, you don’t know what the hell goes through my head!
The other option is “Wow. You sir, are indeed a wordsmith cowboy of, I’m not ashamed to say, moderately overwhelming talent. Remember how you always felt about being a dork who never did anything? Guess what, shrimp dick? You’ve actually had a few Moby Dick-esque moments of adventure worthy of getting a sidekick named Ishmael, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!”
One night I went out skating and fell off the board in traffic, rolled and skidded and slid for about 10 feet before I stopped, rolled onto the sidewalk, and then ran back into traffic to get my board. It was 9 pm, dark out, and I was on a poorly-lit side street dressed all in black. Smartest motherfucker EVER right here, boys and girls. Another time I was skateboarding with my brother and two kids basically tried to rob us at knifepoint. First time ever in my life I was glad a cop showed up at a skate spot. The only time, actually, come to think of it.
Another time a party I went to almost got mobbed by about 30 bikers, all because we wouldn’t let them hang out with us in this kid’s tiny apartment. Also, a couple of Yugoslavian kids threatened to beat the shit out of me once in the locker room for standing up to them and calling them advocates for genocide for supporting Milosevic or something like that. That one stung, mostly because I lost a lot of respect for a bunch of people after that. I’ve also been offered a handjob by a 300-lbs. hooker at 3 am. She called me “Papi” and was as white as the driven trash. Twice as old and beat, too. I’ve been offered crack three times in the span of 15 feet in Times Square, stranded in a near-flooded park in Britain for a week during constant rainfall, and scared shitless by a donkey when I was blinding drunk on a dirt road in Greece.
Yeah, I’d say I have a few interesting stories.