U-District Skate Spots of the Late ’90s

Joe Aguilar



The BECU parking garage with the small set of stairs we ollied down across from the church our fathers made us attend, where the middle-aged pastor whom I loathed and admired had said Kierkegaard said, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” When the cops pulled in, lights flashing silently, we fled into the rainy night, our wheels clacking over the seams of the sidewalk, trucks slashing water near us.



The planter we ollied over on the sidewalk outside IHOP at 2 a.m., where the woman studying engineering at UW found us studying a stream of ants packing pancake crumbs into a pinhole. She said we looked like her little brothers and she led us back to her apartment to sit on a rooftop over Lake Washington, listening to KEXP, while the garden lights of software engineers turned the water’s edge expensive colors. She got sarcastic when we didn’t swallow all of the prescription drugs she handed us. Doug Martsch said, “Wiggly days, wiggly nights.”



The sculpture of a broken obelisk we waxed the edge of in Red Square, where the cop car surprised us so we sprinted carefully over the slick bricks, boards under our armpits, until we found the hedge near the road where we crouched for an hour in the dripping leaves. We giggled, knocking our shoulders into each other, until they neared, they circled, they stopped (how did they find us?), their harsh light scanning through what hid us only barely, until you rose and burst through the other side and disappeared into the dark. I squatted, dizzy, doomed, until the gray-bearded man grabbed me out and handcuffed me to scare me and shouted at me for my name until I gave it to him and he shoved me free to where you waited on the porch with your father’s cigarettes for us to share.



The enormous, multi-level UW parking garage that plunged down like catacombs, like a tomb, where we escaped in the week after your mother had ordered your father out of the home for good, so we locked ourselves in the TV room downstairs while your mother strolled the halls with a cereal bowl held before her like treasure. I’d bought new ceramic bearings with my birthday money. We bombed down four levels until a pebble took my board out. We sat together on a parking block next to an empty parking booth where we watched the blood leave the wound in the heel of my hand. I asked you if you’d spoken to your father and you laughed and said no.



My bedroom in a home thirty minutes from yours, in the suburbs north of the city, where doctors or professors lived, at the edge of a ravine coyotes stalked, no sidewalks, few cars, freshly painted verandas, streets free of trash. After school, tender with worry for the world ahead, I locked my door and set my board against the wall and slipped under the covers and set my headphones over my ears against the noise of rain on the window. I wanted a darkness to quiet every thought.



The parking lot behind the video store where I landed my first kickflip. The hill by Ravenna Park where we flew. The tennis court where you caught your foot on the net and broke the bridge of your glasses. The bank under the bridge where we sat and talked to the Krishna proselytizers you made fun of. The Safeway parking lot the adults chased us out of. The gas station the adults chased us out of. The covered parking lot of the Washington Mutual they chased us out of. The middle-school basketball court they chased us out of. We rode pawnshop boards through empty parking lots, long after the day’s commerce had quieted, but they chased us like we had something of value.


Joe Aguilar is the author of Half Out Where (Caketrain). His recent work appears or is forthcoming in Okey-Panky, The Threepenny Review, and The Iowa Review.