Pet Peeves


Skating By

By Mark D. Crantz
By Mark D. Crantz

I’ve morphed into that old guy my friends and I used to make fun of when we were kids. I tell today’s kids to turn down the music, not to smoke and not to skateboard over the fire hydrant in front of my house. And the kids’ reaction to me is to turn up the music, smoke more and double the fire hydrant jumps. Just the other day one smart aleck called me Mr. Wilson and I responded, “Watch it, Dennis the Menace.“ Bad move on my part. It just solidified his bad boy image to his buddies and sparked my wife to say, “Kid’s right. You look like Walter Matthau.”

It will come as no surprise, but I’m all for a skateboard park. I speak for the Walter in me. I support any skateboard park anywhere, so long as it’s not in front of my house. A recent Indy article commented that many residents feel the same way. It was unclear whether these residents had been compared to Walter Matthau. I hope not. It’s age bullying that’s hard to stand up to when standing up becomes a sporting event unto itself. And standing up requires specialized sporting equipment, too.

You’ve seen the walkers outfitted with non-skid tennis balls. Several years ago the city council outlawed the skateboards and tennis-ball walkers on Nyes and other steeply graded Laguna streets because walkers were beating skaters to the bottom of the hill and damaging the fragile psyche of local teenagers. As one high school junior put it, “It’s not fair if a senior wins the downhill and can’t come back the next year to defend the title because the oldster is still convalescing at Mission Hills. Young people can’t make a name for themselves in a sport that has an endless supply of Susi Q seniors who look mortality in the face and cackle, “Let’s die old with a bad looking corpse.”

I’m not insensitive to young people. I was a young person once and got over it. Better yet, I was a pioneer skateboarder. Back in the ‘60s, when I wasn’t pulling the wings off flies, I was pulling the wheels off regular skates and nailing them to long boards. There was no turning back then. Hop on and hope for the best. It was straight dead ahead at incredible speeds. Spotters were positioned to wave away encroaching cars. There were no skateboard parks back then. Parks were used for making out and muggings when you tried to make out. To my foggy recollection, parking was a far more dangerous sport than skateboarding without turning.

Skating runs in my family. A favorite skating memory is of my mom dressed up as a white rabbit on skates. She was in her early 60s at the time. My dad asked her to do a comic bit with him for the Pittsburgh Press Club Awards dinner. “The Broadcast Man of the Year” award was being given to James Stewart, the famous actor. Stewart starred as Elwood P. Dowd in a 1950 movie “Harvey.” Dowd is a wealthy drunk who starts to have visions of a giant rabbit named Harvey. The sketch called for my mom to make an entrance and roller skate around the stage. Mom, who hadn’t skated in years, forgot how to stop and proceeded to cross the stage and exit through the Press Club’s swinging kitchen door only to be stopped by a waiter coming the other way. The sound of crashing plates off stage took my dad, Stewart and the audience by surprise. A few tense seconds later Mom peeked out through the kitchen door and gave the “I’m okay” sign. She was just skating by. The ensuing laughs were louder than the crashing plates.

Top that Dennis. You menace.


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