The Clash at 12th and Salmon


Life without a skateboard is inconceivable to me. Literally inconceivable. Some of my earliest memories are those of our elevated, wrap-around porch and a royal blue, plastic skateboard with bright yellow wheels. It is impossible to say how, or when, I received the thing. If I were to guess, it must have been my birthday, or Christmas, at the age of five or six, seven tops. No, it was certainly before seven. I am positive because we moved from Tumalo to Bend when I was seven and my trusty skateboard found itself a new home amongst lawn equipment, vintage car posters, and the notorious after dinner cigarette smoke. I cherished that skateboard. It made me feel like one of the big boys. After all, my older brother Mike had a real skateboard and I thought it was the coolest. Unfortunately (well, unfortunately at the time, but truly a blessing in disguise) I left my skateboard unattended in front of the garage one day and my Mom, or maybe my Dad, who knows which one, backed right over it. Needless to say, it snapped. Not only was my skate broken, so was I. Oh, how I loved that board. It was my first one. It was my baby. It was, at that point in my life, my one true love. However, love struck again when we went skateboard shopping that very night. The details of countless boards owned since that little junker are long gone like dust in the wind. But they have all been under my feet. They have all kept me skating for 20+ years.

I am a man of many obsessions. As you have just learned, skateboarding is one of them. Others include surfing, travel, utilizing time, snowboarding, red wine, and, thanks to my Father's 1980 Canon AE-1, photography is another. Something tells me you already knew that. Therefore, I will skip the decade of details that entail my photographic timeline and get on with my story.

It is peculiar what one will learn when engaged in certain activities for significant lengths of time. For instance, I have learned that a camera – more specifically a photograph – is, quite often, undesired (especially if you are the person in front of the lens rather than behind it). Furthermore, a camera seems to ruffle the feathers of even the most even-tempered individuals. It seems as though people have been trained to see the camera as a threat. Whom shall we blame for that? The paparazzi perhaps? Regardless of who is at fault, the fact of the matter remains: People loathe the camera.

The camera should not feel alone. People share the same bitterness towards the skateboard. Just today, as I was waiting in line at the post office to mail my father his gift for this coming Sunday, one of the middle-aged tellers – clad in her monotonous USPS outfit that reeked of conformity – says to me, in a not-so-kind manner,

"If yer gunna have that, that thing in here, you gotta be carryin' it."

I looked up, wondering what kind of thing a person would have been kicking all over the post-office. To my amazement she was looking right over her 1950-esque bifocals and directly into my eyes. To be honest, her gaze put my stomach where my throat usually is and vice-versa. She quickly noted my understanding and called for the next person in line. Surprisingly, not in the same tone that she had addressed me. Yep, I was the sole individual on her shit list today and I owe it all to my skateboard.

The previous instance is one of hundreds. Consequently, my bewilderment towards, what I have come to call, "The Clash at 12th and Salmon" should not be so surprising.

Two days ago I slithered into a private office building hoping to access the stairwell in order to secure an awesome photo. I failed to see the older than middle-aged, but not yet old enough to be called a senior, overweight, mean looking, security guard until it was too late.

"May I help you?" he said in a spirit that bellowed sarcasm.

"Um," he really caught me off guard, "Yes sir. I was hoping to access the stairwell in order to capture a photo of the building next door for a local photo contest. I am an amateur photographer and..."

He looked me up and down, pushed his lower lip into his upper, raised his brow, and interrupted, "The-building-is-CLOSED-for-the-day!"

I stayed calm (no really, for those of you that know me, I did. It amazed me too).

Noticing the building directory to my right, I got a closer look at it and replied, "Ok. Is this indeed the building manager, [name has been omitted for privacy]? I will get ahold of him and hopefully he can grant me stairwell access for this picture."

Now, standing a solid inch over my 6'2" frame, the cranky, middle-aged, but not yet old enough to be called a senior, overweight, mean looking security guard said to me, "Yes he is, but Mr. [privacy thing again] has gone for the day, you cannot speak to him."

I stayed calm. Seriously.

"Understood," I said, calm as a monk. "I just want to get his information so I can have access to the stairwell."

"Listen kiddo! Nobody is getting in that stairwell today!"

I stayed calm.

"Like I said before, I understand that Mr. [again, omitted for privacy] has left for the rest of the day. I am hoping to contact him in order to..."

"How many times do I gotta tell you PUNK..."

The gloves came off.

"Hey GUY (if you know me, you are aware of the term "guy" that gets tossed around my group of friends. Imagine it said with the definition of sarcasm in its trail while your eyes squint and your upper lip sneers to the left or right, your call)..."

My sentence was cut short as he came waddling – quickly waddling – out from his assigned precinct yelling something about police and this and that. He was pleased with himself when I escorted myself out of the doors on my own. It was obvious because he muttered something under his breath. When somebody mutters something under their breath towards you, I think it is just to call that person a, well, for decency purposes, a cat. A little ***** cat. The adjective before cat obviously being the word that I would call somebody that mutters something under their breath.

I shouldn't have. I really shouldn't have. But before I was out of the key-coded security doors, I turned around and said...I have no clue what I said. But I shouldn't have said it. As he grabbed for his mace I escorted myself out for the second time, much faster than the first, I might add.

As I slowly strolled past his window, trying to make a point that I was in no particular hurry to be anywhere in particular, I pointed at him, looked him in the eyes, and laughed. It felt good.

Then I realized that I had my camera on and my skateboard under my arm.

Go figure.

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