Sunday, February 27, 2011

Eastern Pulse, Milford, CT

Many thanks to the skater's grandmother we met in Rhode Island yesterday, who told us about Eastern Pulse, an indoor skatepark in Milford, Connecticut.  Sk8terdad took Sk8terdude there this afternoon, since I was skateparked out and busy with OlderBrother, who needed to finish collecting data for his (required) school science fair project.

And many thanks also to Sk8terdad, who dutifully took photos and reported back with details.

The park is about 6500 square feet, smaller than some, but a fun skate (reports Sk8terdude).  According to their website, the park "features 5' kidney shaped pool, mini ramp, rails, wallrides, rollers, hips, boxes, and pyramids."  Not bad for a Sunday afternoon.

The "parent lounge," on the other hand, leaves a little something to be desired...

Less of a lounge and more of a loft above the skatepark, the word on the street (or, in this case, the text message from Sk8terdad's iPhone) was that the lounge was cold and a little lacking in some standard amenities.  Neither of the two televisions were working although Sk8terdad was able to access the internet through the park's wifi.  And there's only one bathroom for everyone at the park, which Sk8terdad reports was really dirty, which might explain why there were no moms in sight.

Of course, if you're a teenager, you might find that the lounge is exactly what you're looking for, as it did boast an air hockey table, a foosball table, and a great view of the giant skull painted on the far wall.

Sk8terdude put in about two hours at Eastern Pulse, which may be our go-to place for the remainder of the winter, with Haven reporting on Facebook that they may be closed until the end of April.  Although Eastern Pulse is smaller than Drop In, it's considerably closer to home.

Meanwhile, the weather report is for warmer temperatures over the next ten days.  Maybe the snow will melt and the outdoor parks will be able to open before March ends...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Make It Count part 2 - Greenside Skate Park Post-Mortem

After seven straight hours in the skatepark, three more hours in the car, and one drive-thru Burger King meal later, we are home.

Sk8terdude was amazing.  Okay, okay, I admit I'm not even remotely objective, but in my defense let me say that I'm NOT talking about his skateboarding, even though I'm going to take a minute or two to describe it.

He was surely one of the youngest kids in the competition today...or at least one of the shortest.  The 14+ skaters outnumbered the 13 and under group (contrary to early predictions by Greenside staff) and within the 14+ group it looked like the 18+ skaters may have held the majority.  In the too-blurry-to-paste-here-photo I took, he barely reaches the other skaters' shoulders.  As I watched from the parent lounge, I could see that he was intimidated by the size, speed, and temerity of the other skaters.  For a good twenty minutes he stood in the pack, waiting for an opening to take a practice run down the ramp toward the A-frame, while skater after skater stepped in front of him or raced toward him from the other side.

Eventually, either impatience or determination took over and he launched himself down the ramp, early-grabbed the transfer, kickturned on the wall, and olley/nose-grabbed the a-frame.  (Don't worry if you have no idea what that means.  He had to dictate that last sentence to me!)

He managed to get about three practice runs in and then it was time for the 13 and unders to skate.  The only problem was that they were starting on the pyramid....which he hadn't had a chance to practice since earlier in the day.  Bravely he stood at the top of the ramp (he says 7-feet...), then took his turns across the pyramid, kickturning and coming back to manual the pyramid.  (Again, dictated.  Let's just agree that from now on anything technical that I write about skateboarding was something someone else told me to write.)

He skated the zone 1 competition (the pyramid), then waited while the older group took their turns.  Eventually the winners of zone 1 were announced and, to no one's surprise except maybe his own, Sk8terdude did not win his age group.  More everyone-for-themselves practice time ensued.  Sk8terdude was able to get in some runs on the pyramid, then of course it was time for the zone 2 competition on the A-frame.  He skated better in this round, but again did not walk away with the prize.

Let me be clear.  I'm not complaining that he didn't win, or suggesting he should have.  The winners definitely outskated him.  But Sk8terdude is not generally a good loser.  And by this point he had been at the skatepark for almost seven hours.  And he hadn't really eaten lunch (Chipotle Grill, a sponsor of the Make It Count tour, provided burritos to the skaters, but he only had a few bites of his).  So he was hungry and tired and it had been a VERY long day....but he didn't complain.  Not once.  Not a tear.  Not a whimper.  Not even an argument when I said he could not stay for the third and final competition (the stair set - which was bigger than any stair set he'd ever skated and which, I knew, would be a recipe for disaster, not to mention injury, if he tried to compete at that point in the day).

So although he didn't end the day with a trophy (or, more precisely, a new skate deck, skate bag, Skull Candy headphones, new wheels, etc.), he did come home with a sense of accomplishment for having skated with the "big boys" and for having survived the day.

And I couldn't be more proud.

(p.s. Congrats to the under-13s who DID win today...whose parents were my fellow lounge-lizards!)

Make It Count Competition at Greenside Skatepark

It's been a long, frustrating, no-internet-access morning...but finally we're back in business!

Sk8terdude was the first person at Greenside this morning, and for about 20 minutes he was the only person in the park.  Slowly but surely the other skaters started to arrive along with a small but dedicated group of parents.

Some, like me, traveled across state lines:  three from Vermont, one from Maine, a handful from Connecticut.  The general consensus is that we may get less press than the soccer moms, but we're no less dedicated!  (And, by the way, there are an awful lot of dads in the room.)  We're a grumbling group.  And although no one is listening, I'm posting our official list of demands in the hopes that future skate competition organizers might take note.

Skateparks and skate competitions seem to be run primarily by a bunch of young guys who don't have kids.  That's great.  But maybe they could take a few pointers from us parents in terms of organization and communication.

Early promotions for this event said admission to the competition was a can of food (presumably for a local foodbank).  But on arrival yesterday, we were told that they would take the food as a courtesy but there would be a fee to enter the event.  That's fine for us.  But what about the kid who gets dropped off in the parking lot and isn't prepared to pay?

The Element pros headlined to appear changed at least three times that I know of.  Again, maybe not a big deal for most people, but what if you traveled here specifically to meet your skating "idol," only to find he is a no-show?

Let's talk registration, too...  The pre-event advertising talked about pre-registration on Friday night, with giveaways, at the local Chipotle Grill.  Only it turns out the "local" Chipotle is an hour away from they didn't run the pre-registration last night.  And this morning, instead of registering skaters as they arrived, the organizers decided to wait until noon to open registration.  I'm not sure why it is preferable to have a big line of people trying to register all at the same time instead of getting as many pre-registered beforehand as possible, but so it goes.

That said, the park has filled up nicely.  The older skaters look like a solid bunch and I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do.  And Sk8terdude is really excited, a little nervous, and completely out of his league, even if he doesn't know it!

Greenside: Frusration

The wifi connection keeps failing. I've given up the ghost and put away the laptop. Can't keep you all updated via iPhone (too hard on the thumbs) so you'll have to wait for the recap later tonight.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Am I a Helicopter, or Just Human? Greenside Parent Lounge - end of day 1

I'm exhausted...and I wasn't the one skating.  Sk8terdude is exhausted, too.  He's half-asleep beside me, trying desperately to stay awake just a little longer since, even long distance, he somehow knows that OlderBrother is not yet in bed!

We had an amazing dinner at Sunrise Viet Restaurant, conveniently located in the same parking lot as Greenside.  In fact, if it hadn't been pouring rain and windy, we could have walked.  Sk8terdude and I each had a bowl of pho (chicken for him, beef for me) - the perfect food for this nasty weather.

We went back to Greenside for one additional hour of skating.  The park was busy with (mostly) older skaters preparing for tomorrow's competition.  Greenside is laid out so that skaters go both front to back (ramps, stair set, funbox, etc.) and side to side (across the "plaza" bordered by quarter pipes at either end).  Somehow the skaters manage - most of the time - to take turns and avoid collisions, but for a younger skater it can be a bit overwhelming.  Sk8terdude migrated to the bowl, where it was a little less crowded and where he made a few friends closer to his age.

We came back to the hotel for a little post-skate relaxation session.  Through the windows, we could see the rain turn to snow, as fluffy flakes started to float into the hotel courtyard.

I parked myself in a lounge chair by the side of the pool (no lifeguard = mom on duty) and thought about the day I spent at the skatepark.  Usually Sk8terdude wants me nowhere in sight.  His typical request goes something along the lines of "Mom, you're not going to STAY, are you???"  But today he did not make the request, which I don't think I would have honored, anyway.

He's skating in a new park, in a new town, in a new state.  No one we know was there, or anywhere nearby.  While I might have considered leaving him alone during the clinic this morning, I certainly wasn't going to leave the building this evening.  The park was crowded.  Most of the other skaters were easily five years older than him and many were significantly older than that.  I don't know the culture at this skatepark like I do at some of our regular haunts.  (Do they get annoyed at younger, less capable skaters, or are they friendly and considerate?)  So I never even considered leaving, despite the fact that they had my cell phone number on file (part of the waiver every skater is required to have before entering the park) and despite the fact that the hotel is right next door.

And I began to I a hovering helicopter parent?  Or just human?

What do you think?

Greenside Parent Lounge - part 3

Guilty confession:  remember the work I said I was going to do?  It turns out, not so much.
Skating in the park are Element pros Donnie Barley, Chad Tim Tim, and Mark Appleyard.  Skating with them?  Sk8terdude!  Oh, and all the other kids from this morning's skate clinic, too!!
I have to admit that I'm really enjoying watching the pros skate the park in addition to enjoying the fact that Sk8terdude is in seventh heaven.  He just ran up here to the parent lounge to hand me a tech deck and stickers he won in the mini "clinic competition" the kids just had in the bowl.
Doesn't he know it's lunchtime?  I don't think I'll ever get him out of here!

Greenside Parent Lounge - part 2

This is what the park looked like this morning when we first arrived.

Greenside Parent Lounge - part 1

And we've arrived at Greenside Skatepark...after a quick detour to Mystic Aquarium yesterday.  Our hotel is located next door to the park, and whether it's by coincidence or by design, we can actually see Greenside from our room.

The good news about Greenside (for me) is that this might be the nicest parent lounge I've ever seen, although this picture doesn't quite do it justice.  My only complaint is that there are no electrical outlets running along the bank of windows, so I'm tethered to the wall at one end of the room and the only other parent here is stuck at the other end.  If there were more of us, we'd be fighting for space to plug in our laptops!

The long bank of floor-to-ceiling windows, left, overlooks the skatepark, which is visible almost in its entirety.  Sk8terdude is in a two-hour skate clinic, along with a handful of other boys and one girl.  The advance team from Element is here setting up for the Make It Count competition tomorrow.

I'm going to try to get some work done but will check in later...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Don't Go Anywhere without Duct Tape!

Last night was a rough evening, but Sk8terdude and OlderBrother are coping with our loss.  They both went to school today, shared their news with some friends and teachers, and returned home asking if our other cat seemed sad.  Both boys continue to say that it all seems so unreal and hard to believe because it was so sudden.  Many thanks to those of you who reached out to us with words of comfort.

In the meantime, we are looking forward...

Sk8terdude is busy packing for our first-ever-mother-son-skateboard-themed-road-trip!  We plan to spend the next two days at Greenside Skatepark, where Sk8terdude will participate in a skate clinic on Friday and the Elemental Awareness Make It Count skate competition on Saturday.  His packing involves skate gear, multiple pairs of skate shoes, and the requisite Shaun White tee shirts.  Mine involves more mundane items such as toothpaste, socks, and duct tape.

Now you might well wonder why I would pack duct tape for a trip to Rhode Island, and the only answer I can give in response is that I never leave home without it.  The evidence speaks for itself.  Below is a photo taken about 15 minutes after we arrived at the Greenwich Skatepark one day last fall.  Sk8terdude was olleying a gap into a half-pipe.  He landed it the first time.  The second, not so much.    He reports, "My trucks hit down so hard that they popped out of the sockets."  He fell.  He slid.  His pants pocket caught on a nailhead sticking up at the edge of the halfpipe.  This was the result:

Might be cute on a teenage rock star, but not so cute or convenient for a day at the skatepark!  We didn't have a change of clothes in the car (note to self:  next time, pack a change of clothes in the car) but we did have the aforementioned duct tape and I wasn't about to give up without a fight.

So I channeled a little Martha Stewart, sent up a quick prayer to Tim Gunn, and did this:

Sk8terdude and I were delighted with the sartorial results.  Unfortunately, my efforts to rescue his skateboarding day turned out to be for naught, since duct tape couldn't repair the broken trucks.  After a quick trip up the road to Capsule Boardshop (where I took this second photo), Sk8terdude was the proud new owner of his current skateboard.

Will you be skating in Rhode Island this weekend?  I'll be the mom wearing a roll of duct tape as a bracelet.  Be sure to say hello! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

OT: When the Unexpected Happens

This morning I made an appointment for Sk8terdad to take a stuffy-nosed, coughing, sneezing Sk8terdude to the pediatrician in hopes we could cure what ails him before the Elemental Awareness tour arrives in Rhode Island this weekend.  I also asked Sk8terdad to take our two cats to the veterinarian (my least-favorite task, since I am allergic to the cats, and they shed tons of fur when we try to get them into the cat carriers and into the car).

I left for work, confident in Sk8terdad's ability to take one mildly ill child and two healthy cats to their respective doctors' appointments.

By midday, I knew that Sk8terdude was not getting an antibiotic (doc thinks it's viral) or a prescription for oral steroids (even though he's wheezing, as usual, with the onset of a respiratory infection), and I knew that our older cat, who had been losing weight, most likely had a thyroid condition.  The younger cat was still at home, since Sk8terdad had not been able to get her into the carrier by himself, but he had made a second appointment for later in the day so I could help him.

Getting the cat into the carrier was no easy feat.  It took all three of us and about 40 minutes and ended only after two beds were completely dismantled because she was hiding under first one and then the other.  She's always been a "scaredy-cat" - rarely seen by non-family members - and today was no exception.  She yowled and scratched and clawed and did everything she could to evade capture.

Once she was safely secure in the carrier, I left to pick up OlderBrother at school.  Sk8terdad and Sk8terdude drove around the corner and dropped her off at the vet, promising to return an hour later for her appointment.

My cell phone rang while OlderBrother and I were on the way home.  With Sk8terdad on speakerphone (I forgot to grab my bluetooth on the way out the door), OlderBrother and I were both listening as Sk8terdad told us that the cat had a heart attack and died at the vet's.

We were stunned.

And heartbroken.

I could hear Sk8terdude crying in the background.  OlderBrother started to sob in the backseat.  I drove the rest of the way home and we talked as a family about what a wonderful cat she had been and how much we would miss her.  We gave both boys the option of going back to the vet to see her and say good-bye.  OlderBrother didn't want to see her, but Sk8terdude asked to go.  Together we went to the vet's where he was able to spend some time petting her and saying farewell.

Rest in peace.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Parent Lounge by Any Other Name...

I spent time this weekend in several parent lounges, so to speak, although neither had anything to do with a skatepark.

On Friday evening, OlderBrother went to a school dance.  Since Sk8terdad and Sk8terdude were planning to see a movie, I was able to take a few hours and head to the mall with a friend.  This is a rare occurrence these days, and although I didn't do any actual shopping (she did!), it was great fun just to relax with a Starbucks drink in the center court.

That is, it was relaxing, until we heard a woman nearby start to scream at her child to get up and come to the car.  We could see the mother yelling - the child was sitting on some stairs so she was blocked from our view - and then suddenly we could see the mother start to slap and grab at the child, who was clearly hitting back.  The mother got louder and louder and we could see the situation was escalating out of control.  For a split second, my friend even wondered aloud if this was one of those television shows that places hidden cameras to see if anyone will get involved.  Since no one seemed to be helping, and with no security guard or police in sight, we decided that we needed to try to help the mother calm down and to make sure the child was okay before things got any worse.  I approached the mom, placed my hand on her shoulder, and calmly said that I had been in her shoes, that she needed to take a deep breath, that our kids do their best to try to push our buttons, and that I wanted to help.

[FYI - I've never been in a slap fight with either of my boys - but I figured telling her I had been in her shoes was a quick way to get her attention and, I hoped, to get her to listen.]

I turned to take a look at the child and, to my surprise, found myself looking at a very mature teenage girl - surely at least 16 years old - who didn't look like she needed any help defending herself (at least not physically, as she was clearly larger and stronger than her mother).  The mother was still upset, but she had backed away and they were no longer hitting one another.  We talked for a moment, she settled down a bit, and the daughter finally stood up and started walking toward the exit, which was what the mother wanted.

If this is what teenage girl drama is all about, I'm glad I have boys....which is not to say we don't have our own drama here!

I went from my unofficial "parent lounge" in the mall back to school to pick up OlderBrother.  Like most mothers of teens, I've been officially banned from almost all school functions, and he's given me strict instructions to remain silent in front of his friends, to speak to other parents only when necessary, etc.  I was a few minutes early, so I dutifully waited in the car (my "other" parent lounge!) until the dance was almost over, then went into the building and stood, silently of course, near the door, careful not to do or say anything lest I be accused of intentionally embarrassing him.  I guess I did a good job...on the way home he actually shared some stories from the evening, said he had a good time, and thanked me for letting him attend.  A small but priceless victory...

Today I spent time here:

Do two chairs and a chain link fence qualify as a parent lounge?

Sk8terdude was visiting a friend from overnight camp and the other mom and I took the two boys to an indoor go-cart facility on Long Island.  They stood in line for 20 minutes so they could race for 3 minutes...and then repeated the process two more times.  Good thing I like the other boy's mom...

I'll take a view of a skatepark over this any day!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Balancing Act

I remember watching Sk8terdude learn to do an axle stall (here's a how-to video for us non-skating parents:  how to do an axle stall).  He was practicing on a half-pipe, trying to nail the 90 degree turn at the top so his board would balance on the coping before taking another 90 degree turn to skate back down the pipe.  The first time he got it right it took him by surprise, and before he could really register that he was successfully perched at the top, he was already zipping down and up to the other side.  After that first success, there were quite a few misses before he could routinely get an axle stall correct, and then it took longer still before his "muscle memory" kicked in and he was able to do an axle stall each time he tried, almost without thinking.

In that brief pause, when the board stops, just for a split second, before he turns and drops back down the ramp, I am reminded how much of a balancing act skateboarding really is.  And it's as much a balancing act for me as a parent as it is for him as a skater.

With indoor skating such an ordeal this winter, how do I balance his need to skate with the needs of the rest of our family?  Both boys have basketball on Saturdays, which only leaves one day each week when he could reasonably expect to skate.  Do I devote EVERY Sunday to a skatepark trip?  Of course, Sk8terdude would say yes...but this past weekend we had to say no to skating.

Saturday night Sk8terdude was invited to watch the Harlem Globetrotters as a celebration for a friend's birthday, which meant it was already a late night out.  We had tickets for Sunday night's Danbury Whalers game against the New York Aviators at 5 p.m.  Somehow I couldn't see adding a trip to Drop In Skatepark on top of everything else we (he) had going on.  He wasn't happy, but he survived.

At his age, Sk8terdude sometimes still has trouble understanding why we can't just do all the things he wants to do.  For me, it's a non-stop challenge:  trying to find a way to meet everyone's needs, including my own.  (This weekend that meant that OlderBrother had a group of friends over for an evening of xbox while Sk8terdude was at the Globetrotters.)  The boys usually want to go in different directions, and Sk8terdad and I don't always want to go along for the ride.  Some weekends are easier than others.

But every once in awhile, the stars align, everyone is happy, and, for a moment at least, I get that split second where everything stops, and I'm balanced perfectly on top of the coping, and I can look around and take a breath, before I plummet back down the half-pipe to the other side.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Missing warm weather...

Here's an old photo of Sk8terdude - in warmer weather!  I remember the day this photo was taken was particularly hot and humid...right now that doesn't seem so bad (although I promise to complain about the heat this summer).  When I drove OlderBrother to the bus this morning, the thermometer in the car was registering a cool 3 degrees Fahrenheit.  Brrr!

The continued deep freeze makes it hard for us to believe that outdoor skateboarding could be only a month away.  After all, our driveway still has snowbanks that resemble icebergs both in terms of size and texture, so I can't imagine the skatepark looks any better.  (I guess I could drive past and see...)  And local indoor skateboarding also eludes us.  The latest entry on the Haven website says that they will be closed through the end of February for roof repairs - and possibly longer.  So for us that means either another long trip to Drop In or an even longer drive to Garden Skate in New Jersey (which only makes sense if you know that I have friends and family nearby).

This post would be longer if my fingers weren't frozen.  Have you seen the price of heating oil?  (That's a whole 'nother subject...)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Odds and Ends...

I just broke the news to Sk8terdude that our school district has decided to cancel the February vacation due to all the snow days we've had this year.  He was NOT happy (and that's an understatement).  Sk8terdad and I discussed the options and decided that Sk8terdude needs the long-promised road trip to the indoor skatepark more than one additional day in school, so we're going to cut our road trip down to one park over a long weekend and let him miss one of the make-up days.  Looks like Rhode Island is our destination...which means he'll be enjoying the morning skate clinic at Greenside Skatepark one day and competing in the Elemental Awareness Make It Count contest the next.  He's looking forward to meeting pros Levi Brown (the skater, not the football player!) and Donny Barley.  And now that I've looked more carefully at the website, I guess we're both looking forward to Mexican food for dinner the night before (since pre-registration apparently takes place at the nearest Chipotle Mexican Grill).

In happier news, the 2011 opening weekend of Graham Dickinson S.P.I.R.I.T. Skate Park in Ridgefield, CT is scheduled for March 12-13, with free skating planned for all.  Of course, if the crazy weather continues, we may be watching snowboarding on the ramps instead of skating...only time will tell!  Sk8terdude pointed out today that if the skate park was opening in four weeks then he was only a month away from getting a phone (I told you once he gets an idea in his head, he can't let it go).  But he graciously conceded that perhaps the phone wouldn't actually arrive on opening day, since he couldn't be at the skate park AND shopping for the phone at the same time.

No...I haven't yet broken the news to OlderBrother...

Meanwhile, Sk8terdude is angling for a return trip to Drop In this weekend.  I need a convincing argument to get Sk8terdad to agree that it's HIS turn to sit in the parent lounge.  Any ideas?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lucky break for us...not so lucky for Haven

So it turns out that we made a good decision yesterday when we decided Sk8terdude should head to Drop In instead of Haven Skatepark in North Haven, Connecticut.  According to this article (from the New Haven Register, but I couldn't find the original), Haven had to close due to roof damage from the snow.  The Haven website says they were closed all weekend (I'm sure I looked at their website yesterday morning to see the times for the skate session but I don't recall seeing the notice that's there now....) and will most likely be closed all week.

If you've been living under a rock for the last two months (or sunning yourself on a beach somewhere), we've had a record winter since the end of December, and buildings all over New England are falling under the weight of all the snow and ice.  Most have been flat roof commercial buildings but some have been homes, too.

Reading about Haven started me thinking (again) about if/when we should give Sk8terdude a cell phone.  The debate has been raging here ever since OlderBrother got his more than a year ago.  Sk8terdude was more than a little incensed at the perceived injustice, but we pointed out that OlderBrother needed the cell phone because he goes to private school two towns away and we sometimes need to reach him (or him, us) during the 40 minute bus ride home.  Sk8terdude, who attends public school only six minutes from home, isn't even allowed to use a cell phone at school (not to mention that there's no cell phone service in the building), so what's the point?

But Sk8terdude is not easily deterred...once he has an idea in his head he'll beat it to death before he lets it go, and the cell phone argument is never over for long.  He's been arguing that he needs a phone, in particular, so that he can be dropped off at skateparks and still be able to reach us if necessary.  Up until this past year we always stayed in the parent lounge (or parking lot) when he was skating, because he was too young to be left there alone.  But this year he broke through the minimum age barrier and begged to be dropped off, which we allowed, begrudgingly, at our local park where he is a regular.

That was fine until one day in early November.  We dropped him at his late afternoon lesson and headed north to pick up OlderBrother who, inconveniently, had missed his bus.  We promised to be back by the time the park closed (6 p.m. in autumn)...but the sun was setting earlier and earlier and the local outdoor park isn't lit.  So the park closed early and we arrived to find Sk8terdude happily doing olleys in the parking lot, in the near-dark.  When we asked why he didn't ask to use the skatepark phone to call and tell us the park was closing early (in which case we would have called a friend nearby to run and pick him up), he said it hadn't occurred to him.  He was fine, by the way, and would have gladly continued skating in the dark no matter how long it took us to show up - but that's not the point.

So now we have a new hypothetical to add to the list:  what if he had been skating at Haven, and what if I had left him to run errands (or, more likely, had gone to Starbucks to hang out...after all, it's the "alternate" parent lounge), and what if that was exactly the moment they evacuated the skatepark???  He would have been outside, in the freezing cold, with no way to call me.  Okay, in theory SOMEONE would have let him use their phone, but how can I rely on that?

It looks like a phone may be in his immediate future - most likely once the local outdoor park opens for the season (although, with all the snow we've had here, it may be late Spring before everything melts!).  Now I just have to figure out how to break the news to OlderBrother that, once again, Sk8terdude gets something at a younger age...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

First and Foremost

I'm diving in to the blogosphere...or maybe I should say that I'm taking my first "drop in" into the world of blogging and I'm hoping to drop in from the parent lounge whenever I take my son, Sk8terdude, to different skateparks around the country.

A drop-in, for those of you who don't skate (or don't have kids who skate), starts with the skater perched over the edge of a quarter- or half-pipe.  The skater puts his/her weight on the back of the board, back wheels against the downward slope, the front of the board suspended in mid-air.  Slamming the front foot down onto the board (and, hence, the board onto the slope), the skater drops onto the pipe and skates.

Here's a youtube video that shows exactly how to drop in on a skateboard (parents, don't try this at home!).  And, no, that's NOT Sk8terdude.  He's in the photo at the top of this blog.

It's an apt metaphor.  Sitting in front of the screen, I do feel like I'm suspended in mid-air.  If I succeed, plenty of skateboarding parents will find and read this blog.  And if no one finds it, reads it, and enjoys it, well, then I guess I'm the skater who failed miserably and landed on my rear.


Today is February 6th and I'm writing from the parent lounge at Drop In Skatepark in Hillburn, New York.  If you've never heard of Hillburn before this, join the club.  It's located near (in?) Suffern - at the northern New Jersey border where it meets New York.  Like so many others, this skatepark is warehoused in an industrial park near a highway - not exactly a tourist destination - and it is colder and dingier inside than most.  This is our second trip to Drop In, more than an hour from our Connecticut home, but our former winter favorite, Vertigo Skatepark in Brookfield, Connecticut, closed its doors for good a few months ago.  Today our choices were limited:  drive here and skate for the afternoon, or wait until evening and skate in North Haven.  Since tomorrow's a school day for Sk8terdude, the trip to Hillburn won the toss based on time slot.  I didn't want him to begin skating at 4:30 p.m. and at Haven the BMX bikers rule the park on Sunday afternoons.

The parent lounge here is larger than most.  Painted an interesting shade of green, with bright blue trim, it holds a motley collection of discarded sofas, tables, and armchairs, a dirty carpet, and a television which seems to be set permanently on "1000 Ways to Die."  In other words, a decorating choice based primarily on what would appeal most to a group of teenage boys.  The promised free-wifi is not working properly.  Fortunately for me a skater-dad (not to be confused with Sk8terdad, the father of Sk8terdude, who managed to avoid this trip by volunteering to stay home with OlderBrother) graciously allowed me to join an ad hoc network he created by tethering his laptop to his iPhone.  (Okay, I don't really know what that means, except that thanks to him I have internet access!)

The highlight of my first trip to Drop In (and yes, this is tongue-in-cheek) had to be the bathroom.  Most skatepark bathrooms are, well, nasty.  Let's face it - a bunch of sweaty (mostly) boys racing in and out of the bathroom doesn't lend itself to sparkling clean.  Some skateparks have a second bathroom for women or for parents.  At Drop In, the guy at the front desk was nice enough to offer me the use of the employee bathroom....and then he apologized for the soft-porn decorations on the walls!  It was certainly eye-opening...not sure if I'll revisit the experience this time around.

One of the nicer (for real) features at Drop In  are the three large windows (6' x 3' or so) that look out over the park.  Except for one small corner in the back, most of the park floor is visible from the windows, so parents can keep an eye on younger skaters.  The park is set up like a street course - ramps, rails, stair sets, etc. - with no bowl.  During the skate session the park is a mix of skateboarders, inline skaters, and scooters.  Most of the skaters are teens or older.  Sk8terdude is one of the younger boys out there today.

BTW - Sk8terdude is skating on a Creature board with hollow Thunder trucks and Speed Demons wheels.  He's in DC shoes.  He thinks he looks pretty darn awesome!  (Of course, I agree.)

On the television, we've just reached "way to die #435" and I'm wondering if dying of boredom in a skatepark parent lounge is one of the 434 they haven't yet covered....

Guess that's my cue to end this post.

Next stop - either Skater's Edge in Taunton, MA or Greenside Skatepark in Middletown, RI.  I've promised Sk8terdude a road trip during February break, and the Elemental Awareness tour will be in RI that week, so we're debating the pros and cons of both trips...

[postscript:  After I logged off my laptop but before we left Drop In, I decided to use the bathroom.  After all, it's a long ride home!  I was pleasantly surprised to note that there is a new staff restroom and it does not include the previous wall-candy.  It may not have been clean, but at least it wasn't "dirty" - if you get my drift!  And for those of you who read the earlier paragraph and immediately decided that therefore Drop In would have to be on your to-do list, I guess you'll have to bring your own "reading material."  I hear the articles in Playboy are quite well-written...]