“My boyfriend’s a skater,” said the waitress.
She’s old enough to carry an AARP card, wears her blonde hair tied behind her head, and her smile is one of a teenager in love.
You never know what you’ll find when you pick at a random string hanging from the universe. This day is no different.
Sitting in a small diner a block off the Pacific Ocean along the 101 in Southern California, I’d asked the waitress about the skateboarding stickers covering her black order pad. I knew the names well.
“Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but sometimes when we are at a skatepark someone will ask which one is mine – I’ll point to the old guy and say the big one out there.”
When I was fifteen years old I dreamed of skating the asphalt hills rolling out to meet the ocean along the Southern California coast. Posters and random pages were torn from skateboard magazines replaced the kid’s wallpaper in my bedroom. The names of skaters, Jay Adams to Tony Alva – the notorious Z-Boys, were my heroes.
“Who is your boyfriend?” said a voice from the next booth. He could easily pass for the parent coach of a youth traveling soccer team.
She sheepishly shares his name.
“No way. That’s sick.”
The next booth joins our conversation proving that even in Southern California, a small roadside diner operates as under the same community conversation rules as one in Topeka, Kansas.
Our new friend in the next booth, he in his forties, knew the skater’s name instantly.
The waitress tells us about how her boyfriend traveled the world touring and is talking about building a new wooden ramp with some friends.
“He is pissed at the city’s skatepark,” she said. “Not enough vert.”
She tells us about how one day he came home stomping and sulking like a little kid.
“He’d jumped the fence when the park was under construction. He wanted to test it out since he’d helped design it with them. Found the city had made the vert only 8 feet instead of ten like they said they would. It was like living with a ten-year-old for an entire week.”
“When he told me he’d jumped the fence I was like, dude, how old are you?”
Our conversation, the one including our new friend in the next booth, turns to a local skateboarding shop down the street.
“McGill’s skateshop is just down the road,” she said. “Most legit shop around.”
The guy in the next booth speaks up.
“Yeah, he invented the McTwist, right?”
The waitress nods her head.
The coffee tastes a little better sitting here in the epicenter of skateboarding universe.
My fish tacos arrive. The waitress gets called away to another booth, her black notepad in tow. The veil on the universe begins to drop, returning us all to our adult lives. But for a moment, for all of us, we were nothing but a bunch of skate rats trading stories in paradise.