Go Skateboarding Day
An old man stands by helplessly and watches as the world goes to hell in a hand-basket.
A Boy Becomes a Man
by Gentle Jones
June 22, 2005
My homeboy Marshal called me early on Tuesday, "Hey man, they're having a birthday party for skateboarding or something like that today in Philly."
"Huh?" was my groggy response.
"Yeah dude I don't know exactly but supposedly lots of cats are coming out, my girlfriend's little brother, Dustin, said its been in all the skate mags for months."
Since it sounded vaguely like a good time was to be had, I agreed to go along for the ride. I had planned to buy a disposable camera to document the events but Marshal said he had a fly digital camera which I could use if I promised not to break it. I made no such promise but still accepted the camera. It sucked, the batteries drained completely twice in the course of the day, and there was a delay on the shutter so it was basically impossible for me to get a solid action shot. But it did work enough for me to bring these images to you.
Marshal, one of my oldest friends who I've skated with since the 80's, was our ace rental car pilot for the adventure.
Dustin, young mack in training. Dustin had never been to Philly, had never met a professional skateboarder, and was a virgin. Marshal and I decided that today he would be invited into the ranks of manhood.
We entered the "City of Brotherly Love" without much idea what the day might have to offer us. We had sketchy information at best, but it seemed the day started pleasantly and we were determined to make a go of it.
We didn't see too many skateboarders on the way into the city. Dustin said he saw some cars on the highway that looked like it had some skaters in it. To me it seemed that Philly was quietly going about its business on this gorgeous Tuesday morning.
Our first stop was Elite skateshop, where it was known they would have maps to the secret locations of the skatespots. This gentleman came all the way from Michigan to partake in today's festivities.
Referred to as "maps to the skater homes" this flyer detailed the routes and times of the gatherings. 2nd and South Street at noon, Love Park at 2pm, and Front and Tasker at 3pm. On the back was this disclaimer "Skateboarding is a dangerous activity. Participate at your own risk, Obey all traffic laws. We assume no liability for any injury. Wear your safety gear, and skate smart. Skateboarding in LOVE Park is illegal. Do not skateboard in LOVE Park."
On South Street, we arrived to hundreds of skateboarders feverishly skating several wedge ramps and slider bars sprinkled across the block.
I saw my good friend Ricky Oyola and we chewed the fat for a few minutes.
My old pals Mark Waters and Adam Wallacavage turned out to enjoy some skateboarding fun.
As far as the actual skating, it was a mad snake session. Cats were packed shoulder to shoulder, watching and waiting for a few feet to open up between the bodies so they could roll for a short moment. All action was in brief bursts.
As is usually the ritual at this sort of gathering, young kids bring markers so that grown men may write their names on favorite personal items.
Local skaterat and graphic artist Jim Howser came through.
The Harley Davidson Tour skaters rode in on chromed-out iron horses, the roar of the bikes competing with the roar of the crowd.
Three of Philadelphia's finest officiated the opening ceremonies.
To get young Dustin comfortable with the fairer sex, we had him introduce himself to several ladies and pose for pictures.
After establishing his street cred with the ladies, Dustin felt confident enough to meet some of his favorite pro skateboarders and document the occasion for bragging rights when school gets back in session.
Good vibes were at an all time high and fun was had by all. Next we rode over towards Love Park.
As we approached Love Park it was becoming obvious that something was happening in the city. Apparently, there was a week long conference of the BioTech industry in Philly all week, and several protesters had been demonstrating in the Park that morning.
Anarchy was afoot. I spoke to a journalist from Cuba who described the scene as we arrived, "The police were gathering up some of the BioTech protesters when this massive swarm of skateboarders rode up like the cavalry! The police were overwhelmed and ran away."
As the fuzz exited the park, the skaters surrounded the central fountain and began slapping their decks on the ledge, the combined sound was that of machine gun fire and traveled for blocks.
One dude climbed up on top of the Love Park sign to proclaim Philadelphia under the complete control of Jodie Foster's Army.
Wilmington, Delaware was in the house.
There were hella people. Thousands easily.
A few female revelers decided to dance among the high powered jets spraying water in the center of the fountain. While waving their arms in jubilation, one girl's tank top was shot a hundred feet into the air by the seething waters.
Dustin was overjoyed at this turn of events.
As is often the case, as soon as the party started getting good, the cops showed up.
The police formed a barrier around the fountain in an attempt to corral the skaters. In another part of center city the officers had barricaded the BioTech protesters and an anarchist threw a bottle of water at the cops. The police immediately moved on the protesters and in the scuffle one 52 year old officer had a heart attack and later was pronouced dead. Nobody at Love Park had any idea this was going on.
Some people were were getting bummed out.
The stalemate lasted a short while until a member of the Foundation team, Ethan Fowler, broke the police ranks by sitting on the ledge for the pause that refreshes.
The upper level of Love was as rowdy as ever. Journalist from around the world stood agape at the spectacle of these scores upon scores of skateboard aficionados.
I thought this guy was a vert skater, but it turned out he was just an anarchist who didn't like Philadelphia Mayor John Street.
Here FOX News interrogates Mark Waters as to how he gets the board to stick to his feet.
Shortly after, the entire crowd broke away and began the trip to the next spot, under the bridge on Front Street. On the way over Marshal passed a girl on a longboard and asked her if she wanted to ride with us to the spot. She took him up on his offer and hopped in the back seat with Dustin. I introduced us, "This is Marshal and that's Dustin, he's never kissed a girl before," after which she immediately leaned over and planted a smooch right on him. I declared, "Dustin, now you are a man!" Seemingly in physical response to this biological maturation, Dustin's face immediately turned 6 shades of red. Marshal beamed with pride.
There were already hundreds of people under the bridge when we got to the spot.
Here there was a little more elbow room, and no cops as far as I could see. Skateboarding was in full effect. Freestyler AJ got busy. Afterwards, Marshal, Dustin, and I went to Borderline Skatepark in West Chester. Lucky for us, there were only about 4 people there. Stoked to have the place all to ourselves we skated the remainder of the evening away. A happy Skateboard Day for all involved, indeed.
Also as you reported - the BIOTECH thing happened at another place in town thus having NOTHING to do with the SKATERS.
npr.org reported on the radio that the catalyst for the situation with the police may have been the fact that these two groups were competing for the same piece of center city.
listen to their story for yourself:
click for NPR.org
glad you enjoyed the article.
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