The following is from a friend who is a dad, husband, storyteller, skater, wakeboarder, etc., etc. There’s no doubt that Ben the Welder is old school, like MacGyver’s Swiss Army Knife. He’s an old geezer in a young man’s body, and if you read close enough you’ll detect the slight smell of WD40 and fresh cut grass in his perspectives. His articles are good, but there’s no comparison to sitting around a fire when he starts playing guitar or telling stories.
Living Out Loud
Rachel ran a half marathon in Myrtle Beach back in October. I’m really proud of her for making that sort of athletic commitment because, frankly, 13.1 miles is 13.09 miles farther than I could briskly walk these days. She did quite well and it gave us an excuse to tote the new-to-us pop-up and the not so new-to-us Deaton down to the coast for a super quick beach trip.
We rolled into Myrtle and set up camp right on the beach Saturday afternoon. We all abandoned responsibilities to frolic about in the sand. Winnie barked at the wind and the sand it threw at her, I managed to lose Deaton’s favorite Aerobie Flying Disc in the murky Atlantic, I flung my cast net like a shrimping ninja only to recover spoils of broken sea shells and slimy sticks, and then Rachel decided that she had to break up the moment to ride into town to pick up her running packet. So Deaton and I set out on a flatland longboarding trip.
Mercy, have he and I become rottenly spoiled on the gentle and sinister hills of Fort Mill because the gravel-pocked, speed bump covered roadways of our campground just weren’t getting it. In a search for smooth concrete, a parking garage, or at least a sloping transition from sidewalk to street to ride on, we rode passed the boundary of our campground’s compound and soon found ourselves on the border of a neighboring resort’s territory.
As the responsible adult of the party, I knew we were not authorized to go on the other resort’s property. But I also knew my intentions were to only peacefully hunt smooth ground and parking garages, not to ransack the villagers and burn the condos down, so I kept Deaton in the dark regarding our unapproved visitation as we switched our longboards into stealth mode and slithered through the back entrance avoiding the main security gate. Once inside, the asphalt was pristine and fast, and had an ever-so-slight downhill pitch towards the beach. There was the expected lot of wealthy snoots looking down their snooty noses at us as they pedaled their snooty bikes well beyond the striking range of our filthy, middle class talons. We saw children playing ball and other standard outdoor games stop and stare at us googley-eyed while we glided and carved by as if we were on Marty McFly’s hover boards or some other foreign/banned technology. All was well with the Earth until security got involved.
I was a little bit ahead of Deaton…swaying away…slashing back and forth…living in that temporary bubble of no deadlines, mortgages, sleepless nights, or heartbreaks when I noticed that a security guard golf cart heading in our general direction had just sped up. ”Surely he’s not interested in us, ” I thought to myself. ”If he was, he would’ve started signaling so that we would have time to slow down and stop,” I reasoned. But I was wrong.
We were cruising at a descent, eye watering speed, and he undoubtedly had the hammer down since he probably hadn’t fought an ounce of crime all day and needed to make up for it with a hasty public nab. Still unsure of his intentions, I planned on continuing on my course to seek out a parking garage when at the last second he whipped his cart of justice directly into our paths and stuck his arm out…he actually lowered his ancient, withered limb in clothes line formation as if that feeble twig would act like a guard rail and stop 180 moving pounds from crossing his tracks. To save ourselves from crashing into his attack chariot or from ripping his arm clean out of its socket, Deaton and I had to bail off our boards and run out the momentum. I’ve talked about Windmill Running before, but just as a refresher, your legs go from zero to 15 MPH in 1 second and it makes your feet feel like they are rotating passed your ears. It’s painful and looks ridiculous on any occasion, but it is the most effective means for avoiding landing on your face when forced to abandon ship while longboarding. It’s even more challenging to pull off in flip flops. It’s hilarious to watch someone else windmilling, especially when they fail and crash with limbs and shoes flying everywhere.
After adjusting my flip flops, I considered lots of angry, well-deserved taunts to fire off following the guard’s completely unnecessary, dangerous pull-over tactic, but instead settled for, “Can we help you?”
“No skateboarding allowed in the Resort,” the seasoned man scowled. ”They should’ve explained all of that to you when you checked in.”
The true answer was, “They probably would have, but we didn’t check in. We are trespassing. You almost killed us just now. What is wrong with you?” What I actually said was, “I believe you. Sorry. We’ll be on our way now.”
The man begins to dig for the Rules and Regulations book to show Deaton and I the actual verbiage of skateboard prohibition, so I tell him again, “There’s no need to prove your point, sir. I said that I believe you. I’m just thankful we’re alive.”
“Oh, no! You’re gonna get a copy. If I see you on your skateboards again, the Resort will confiscate them and you WILL NOT get them back until you checkout,” Captain Charm School crowed with conviction.
The true answer was, “Sir, you are talking to a 37 year old adult. Please don’t threaten to take my toys like I’m a child. The truth is, the Resort doesn’t want trick skaters in here grinding up painted rails, chipping up stone ledges, or cursing at full volume at passers by. I get that. That’s not what we’re doing here. Between the 3 of us in this circle, you alone have endangered more lives and property during the last 15 minutes than we have, so saddle up in your little 4-wheeled moped and take off!!!!” What I actually said was, “Really?”
“NO SKATEBOARDS!!! Walk them to your rooms and leave them there,” he belted as he handed us our very own copy of the bylaws and crept away.
We recovered our longboards from the ditches where they landed and started to stroll on foot towards the back end of the resort near the beach. I began to think of my parental failures tied to this adventure so far. None of them were life changing, maps to the road to nowhere, but the guilt of luring an impressionable child to trespassing and illegally skating weighed on me. I deliberately respectfully addressed the Enforcer of Justice in front Deaton and openly admitted to him that we were in the wrong for trespassing and breaking the Resort’s sacred codes. ”We shouldn’t be here, so we did the right thing just now,” I told us both regarding our submission to the Enforcer. Despite almost maiming us for life, I didn’t mouth off to him or show off in front of Deaton. I apologized and complied and hopefully Deaton witnessed another lesson in treating elders and authority with respect, especially when you are in the wrong.
And then I noticed how far we had to walk. You know how far away the bathroom seems when you really need it? It was four times that far. I did a few quick mental calculations for how long it would take the Justice Chariot to circle back. Without notice to D, my flip flopped stride turned into a trot. I flung my board down ahead of my path, picked up the pace, and leapt on. I looked over my shoulder at Deaton to find him wide-eyed and scrambling to get his own board under his feet and tracking straight. ”He’s turning around, Ben. He’s gonna catch us, ” the poor, helpless youngster said as he frantically focused on the Enforcer.
“Never!!!! Push harder lad,” I yelled in appropriate pirate speak! Oh, the sweet taste of harmless, rebellion. No holiday dessert can match it. The sprint was on! We were flying. The Cart of Redemption and its 8 batteries never stood a chance. The chase felt good. I carved out of my straight path and grabbed my toe-side rail as I whipped back in line as, only in my mind, the Enforcer shook his fists and called in the Coast Guard for back up. A straight line directly to the DMZ of the beach would have been the smartest choice, but the big carves in the heat of battle just felt like the right thing to do. Such arrogance. Such irresponsibility. Such fun. We flew onto the boardwalk and the Resort’s guests dove for cover from we filthy skate pirates, then over the ledge we rolled onto the brown sand. Freedom.
Walking down the beach back towards our campsite with our boards slung across our shoulders, I wrestled with the whole episode. Sure, I didn’t just teach Deaton how to cook meth or steal cars, but as parents you always try to live out the lessons you teach and set good examples. I’ve fallen short on this many, many times unintentionally because I’m a human being who makes mistakes, but this was the first time (as far as I know) that I’ve intentionally broken rules and led him to follow suit. Other than the Enforcer’s feelings being hurt from our direct disobedience to his law, there were no superficial consequences. Should that matter? Will there be longterm consequences?
What sometimes feels like The Great Hypocrisy is what I think most parents deal with in raising children. The choices we make in front of our kids are not necessarily the ones we would make if no one were watching at all, but you have to lead by example as often as possible even if that means compromising our mischievous instincts. I usually follow that code. But in this case, I didn’t compromise my mischievous instincts, I embraced them (to what results, we’ll see in the coming years). It wasn’t a big deal, I know. The only real concern I have is hoping that this didn’t tear down 14 years of training ingrained into Deaton to respect authority, obey the laws of the land, and always do the right thing, because I had just led coup against all of that. In the end, I hope we’ve also ingrained in him the ability to measure the difference between serious transgressions and petty issues. I hope he takes all of the life lived out loud in front of him and ciphers it out for himself as, “There is one God, and I’ll follow him. Life is short, and I’ll find something in it that I really love to do. I’ll treat others with respect and kindness. Ben really surprised me that October day in 2012 when we bolted from the clutches of security. That was a fun day… even though he lost my Aerobie.”