I’m in a parking garage in downtown Houston in 1984. I’m 14. I’ve got a board with pitted wheels and rusted bearings. I don’t know where I got it. This is what we do. Skate around town all day. Maybe someone had a car. Just as likely, we just skated in from Spring Branch and caught a bus for part of the way if the bus came or if we had money. Who knows where we will sleep. It’s as much a coming of age story as any childhood on a farm. It’s not as urban as it sounds. Houston in 1984 was still very much Texas. Now there’s Houston and there’s Texas. They are two different places now. But we were at our post-apocalyptic best coming from punk and goth clubs that would let us in off the streets if we promised not to try to drink alcohol or worse.
I’m in the Edwards Marquee 23 parking garage at 3am. It’s 2008. Here are the skate kids. Who knows how old they are. Some are definitely young teens. Who knows where their parents are. Who knows what their existence means. I am so glad to be here to see this. I am so glad there are still kids skating parking garages at 3am. The technology is different than when we were out here. These kids have long boards with 75mm gummy wheels. There’s one kid with a short board and ramp wheels and he is shredding 9 floors of parking garage while drinking beer. There’s a tall skinny kid that somehow makes downhill turns on his back two wheels. There’s a girl with blond hair flowing behind her in shorts that squats pulling the outside edge of the board up as she leans into the first corner. I don’t know how fast they are going, but I have no desire to go that fast. I’m not too old. I just never could skate like that.
They are comic book characters. They are so unreal I wish I had a video camera to shoot a documentary. Everyone has a recent story about the police or an over-zealous security guard. Some of them have stories of paying off cops in exchange for skipping the ride downtown. Why am I so comforted by the idea that they are still here? I know our existence was pretty miserable most of the time. But we also had a lot of fun.
And a parking garage at 3am has a very post-apocalyptic feel to it. You skate to the bottom and take the elevator or the stairs to the top. You get a good view of the buildings from the top. Especially in Greenspoint. The medical center to the Southeast, the Galleria to the west, Downtown and Midtown to the northeast. It’s a lot of light and a lot of activity. But you still feel alone up there with a board and a bunch of kids. Where the hell do we come from? Where do all these at risk identities go as adults? Are we really all of the failures that society believes us to be? Or do we just fit somewhere else? Is there some kind of thought process that is valuable to society that is born only in the freedom of high risk teenage years?
Post-apocalyptic urban skateboarding. That’s what Club Foot does for me. It makes me think of family that is really lost forever. Dark parking garages. Dirty, sweaty, stinky, parentless teenagers. Misguided authority figures. Road rash. Leg cramps. Urban skylines. Blackened concrete. Cold ass wind ripping us apart in January. August nights that just wring you out and spit you up on a sticky dawn cherishing your discomfort on the long ride home.
What do you say about a song so unafraid of itself? So sure about it’s original intent? There’s nothing wrong with Club Foot. It holds itself together from the beginning to the end. I have listened to a bunch of live versions in mp3 and on youtube and they execute brilliantly on stage. There’s not much drama in their stage persona, but who the hell needs drama when you are playing this song like that? I challenge you to sit without moving some part of your body while listening to it. I don’t think you can do it.