The surroundings in which you find yourself can have a large impact on your perspective. A man holding a baseball bat evokes a different thought, depending on whether he’s standing in a baseball diamond or a dark alleyway. We stumbled into an interesting example of this concept while drifting through America’s “rustbelt”.
2019 was the year that we truly took the “road less travelled” approach to heart with regards to skate trips. Among other destinations, this led us to the streets of Cleveland, Ohio. At one point during our stay, a kid informed us that “ever since Lebron left, this city has gone to shit…” but we couldn’t tell. We had a wicked time.
The first spot we hit was in a schoolyard. The remnants of a defunct fountain on the school grounds created a spot with endless possibilities. It has a variety of banks, some of which join to form hips. There's also a portion of pyramid shaped steps where a ledge leads perfectly into one of the banks. The spot isn't easy, but it's sick.
Prior to arriving, we received two recommendations from a local guide. The first was to bring a broom. The place was littered with garbage, most of which was broken glass. This fact was particularly disheartening, as this was a school. It was also recommended that we skate the spot before sundown. This recommendation was accompanied with a few tales of skaters getting robbed while skating the spot. We figured we'd be heading into a rougher part of Cleveland.
As the session developed, the bell rang and recess let out. A hundred or so kids poured out of the school, naturally assembling near us to watch some skating. A middle aged woman followed closely behind - the principle. “Would you mind showing these kids a thing or two on your skateboard?” I couldn’t believe it. When I was 15, I remember my math teacher purposely sitting on the ledge I was skating out front of the school. You better believe I happily agreed to this principal's request.
What ensued was about an hour of short, one-on-one lessons with a hoard of enthusiastic youngsters. No waivers. No helmets. Almost no supervision. The vertical steel bars, present on the windows of the surrounding homes made me think that this community had bigger fish to fry than to worry about these kinds of things. They seemed to have viewed skateboarding as an innocent outlet for fun. With an open mind, it's difficult not to. The principal wanted to see if these children would be interested in joining in on this fun. How refreshing!
Perspective is everything. Perhaps a community dealing with REAL issues isn’t likely to impose any sort of negative view on something like skateboarding. They’re busy dealing with their REAL issues. Alternatively, a city (comparatively) void of issues (like Ottawa) would have no problems doing so. Something needs to be identified as problematic, and when everything else is in order…the seemingly destructive activity of skateboarding is an easy target. This isn’t to suggest that crime is what’s necessary to see skateboarding for what it really is. It’s simply a reminder that our views are all circumstantial, based on our particular perception.