Thursday, October 23, 2008

Riding A Roller Skate Down Old Santa Fe Trail: Santa Fe 1984

So I lived in an old adobe on Camino de la Luz up in the hills east of town and got a job waiting tables at the Forge Restaurant downtown. I used to walk the mile or more to and from work each day, down Alameda along the trickling tree-shaded Santa Fe River. I only knew one person in Santa Fe--Joel, whose house I lived in--but after I landed the job, I fell in with a group of characters.
Though I got to know about, say, a dozen people just from work, it was mainly two young guys, John and Alex, that I hung out with. They were both locals, both going-no-where kind of young men. Nice guys, though. John was a cook, from a broken family who rarely saw his father (I recall we were out and around one night and some leather-clad fellow buzzed by on a Harley and John yelled out and the guy waved to him; "That's my dad," John said to me. "He's a freak." and this was kind of shocking to me, that you would casually wave to your father on a motorcycle in the street as if he were but an acquaintance), kind of a drinker/drugger ne'er-do-well. John was a bit of a harmless scammer, scrappy and interesting. Alex was a little more refined, a drummer and musician; he lived in a studio apartment at his mother's house but didn't see much of her because, as I was told, his brother had been killed which broke his mother's heart and she put a great distance between her and Alex because of that tragedy. But, they were guys--like most young guys--who liked to stay up late and bound about and look for things to do.
When I say stay up late, I mean real late. We often worked the night shift at the restaurant and it got to where they started inviting me out afterwards to hit the bars, to go to Club West (where Alex's girlfriend was manager, where I eventually worked as a bouncer). Then, even after the club closed, say three, four in the morn, they'd take beers and wander downtown Santa Fe looking for things to do. Like I said, they were both natives of the city and they knew it block by block. But what I also found out was that they were both into roller skating.
Now, sure, I'd roller skated. Had last skated in Iowa City when I was a freshman and we'd arrange to go to a rink in Coralville with a another dorm floor--girls, of course. But I had a rather low opinion of it. But I'd walk and they--having brought their skates to work--would glide along, up and down sidewalks and empty late night streets, skating and spinning the concrete spaces around the state capitol and other government buildings. And invariably there'd be other characters about--cab drivers, hooligans, bar workers--who they knew and would stop to talk to and introduce me to. But otherwise, the city was empty and dark. Sometimes, downtown along the plaza, we'd even climb up to the roofs of the buildings. I recall one time we hopped up--I think on top of the bank--and looked own on the plaza below and there was a street bum wandering around and John--ever full of mischief--decided to toss quarters into the street. Alex and I watched as he did this, the quarters pinging down to the pavement, the unfortunate homeless bum hearing it, searching as another quarter came down, now the man seeing it, picking it up as more quarters and other coins began to rain from the sky. I admit I laughed. The bum finally figured it out, looked up, said, "Very funny". But at least he got to keep the change.
I remember one night after work I went out with them. We did the usual--drinking till Club West closed--taking beers and hitting the deserted town, walking while they skated. Then they said I should try. "No way," I said. "Your skates are too small, anyway." True, I was much bigger than both of them, maybe even put together. "You can ride on it," they told me. Ride on it? "Like a skateboard," Alex said, "you can use one skate and I'll use the other." I was more than skeptical. I was also sloshed. "Okay," I said. "I'll give it a try."
We were up on Santa Fe Trail, a main drag that ran as a hill down--eventually--into the center of downtown. So, beer bottle in one hand, I sat down on the tiny skate, balanced myself, and off I went . . . Indeed, I glided downhill, gaining speed, learned I could control it like a board or toboggan by shifting my weight, and I went a long long way. Just drinking and skating, sitting on one single tiny roller skate, bopping along in the dry night summer air of Santa Fe, the four am buildings brown dark and empty, stop lights flashing only yellow, trees full-leaved and dusky, the whole city empty and quiet and but a playground for fools like us.
We did it again, on different streets, until the sun came up. In fact, I had to be at work for the breakfast shift, so I never did sleep or get home, but went straight from drunk and sit-skating to my locker at the Forge, where I changed into waiter attire, and started my shift. 
But I was in pretty bad shape, though made it till about noon, then--after the initial rush--I begged off work. Sherri--the manager--let me go home. And as I walked, down some of the same streets I'd been wandering all night before, everything was surreal and strange, my mind bamboozled, my sensations discombobulated in a pleasant, if worn down, way. And, I discovered, it was the Fourth of July.
I'd forgotten. And as I tramped along the street I came across a crowd, across the Fourth of July Parade route and here it came, floats and clowns and Shriners and cowboys with horses and kids and wagons and red white blue bunting and me. Me strung-out stranged-out happy tired heading past the parade and up the long-walk hill to my temporary home in New Mexico.
Oh, it was just a dumb little thing. One of many dumb little things out of many dumb little days spread out over lo' these many years. If only I could get paid for such foolishness, I'd be a rich man. But, I still remember such trivial frivolities, can still conjure them up quite well, like a movie reel in my head that entertains me in my own idiosyncratic way, allowing me to laugh at myself.
Maybe that's payment enough.

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