Picture me walking along Houston Street in the town of NYC yesterday, carrying my snowboard. I was on a reconnaissance mission, reclaiming it from my boyfriend’s house, where it has been sitting since the foul night that we drove our beater rental car back from the US Open. That was in March, when I hadn’t finished my book and had taken an awful fall on some very hard snow on a very very cold day during the US Open.
So I’m walking down the street and this guy goes, “Hey can you do any tricks on that skateboard?”
At first, I didn’t even turn around because, well, I was not on, nor was I carrying a skateboard. But I stopped for a second because people always say shit like that to me when I am on my skateboard and I had a little deja vu flashback moment. I was just shaking off the confusion when it hit me. He thought my snowboard was a skateboard – actually quite a common error in these parts. Right at this point, the guy was saying, “Yeah, you,” and his voice was much closer and louder. I turned around and faced this skinny, fucked up, homeless, white guy smiling like he was flirting with me. “It’s a snowboard,” I said to the man with matted hair and bad herpes. “It’s for the snow, not the street.”
” Ooooohhhhh, he nodded very slowly, furrowing his brow as if he remembered something disturbing. He seemed to shrink right in front of me. I was already moving on, feeling stupid for making him feel stupid. I should have just said, “Nope! can’t do even one trick!” and kept going. But then he erupted.
“A ski-board,” he said, loudly. “I had one a them. In California.” He sounded sorta Caribbean.
“When?” I asked in disbelief. He was looking very far away at this point. There was a long pause and I started getting a little worried. I looked at him and at my board, and at him again. I glanced around to see a punk rock girl sneering at me. Snowboards aren’t so popular with the punk rock kids on Avenue A. Suddenly I realized I had been standing stupidly, while this guy was just staring past me through my eyes. I started to speedwalk for the corner.
“Eet was a Seempson, girlee!” The guy was yelling to me down the block.
“Back in eightee-twoo.”
I whipped around and he just gave me a very emphatic thumbs up signal, like everything had come back to him, stuff that years on the street here had all but erased from his mind. I started to walk back toward him, but a lady came out of the Laundromat where we had been standing, and she gave him a big wet kiss. Then he said something to her that made her turn my way and scream, “Get your skinny ass the fuck away from Jaco.” I’m not sure that guy’s name was Jaco, but that’s what it sounded like. Being a natural wimp, and feeling ungainly and vulnerable with a snowboard under my arm on Avenue A, I retreated. As I rounded the corner and was able to look back nonchalantly, the couple was all tangled together on the hood of a car, and Jaco’s sneaker was poised as a support on the top of a parking meter.
I figure he used to live in California. If he meant Sims when he said Simpson he probably lived in Santa Barbara. That means that he rode one of Sims’ first boards, that Chuck Barfoot probably made with his bare hands in their tiny shop almost 20 years ago. Who knows, maybe he knew those guys. Maybe he invented snowboarding. Nevertheless, he had a whole other life in California, rode one of the first snowboards ever, and I bumped into him on Avenue A. I love New York.