As I’ve said before, we moved around a lot, and I had to take a lot of shit from jock dickheads in every new neighborhood I arrived in. This pattern played out yet again when we landed in Frankford. I started hanging with this group of jerk offs who were constantly playing basketball in their side alley. Eventually, we all figured out that we didn’t really like each other and then one of them wanted to fight me, and I just avoided them all from then on. Shortly afterwards, my kind and friendly Jesus freak neighbor, Bob, introduced me to a kid my age from his church, who also happened to be named Sean. Sean and I were both way into our BMX bikes. We rode them all over the place and I tried to do tricks but I sucked. Cemeteries were always a great place to go get lost for a few hours. Sometimes, his mom would throw our bikes in the back of her pick-up truck and drive us up to the BMX racetrack in Bensalem behind the Kayak Swimming Pool showroom. He was a good dude. We had a lot of fun.
One day, we were jerkin around on our bikes just a few blocks from my house when we encountered a small group of kids on skateboards. Some of them were our age, and some were a year or two younger. We introduced ourselves and started talking to them. They seemed pretty cool. I also had a skateboard, but it was a sub-standard, toy store skateboard. These dudes all had Powell Peralta, and Vision, and G&S and Hosois. They all seemed to know some tricks too, but very interestingly, they didn’t seem to take it or anything else too seriously. They were all tryin to do street inverts. That is, when a skateboarder gets to the top of a ramp and he/she grabs onto the coping at the top of the ramp with one hand and grabs the skateboard with the other hand, body upside down, while the knees are bent and prepares to re-enter the ramp. Only, these guys had no ramp. They were all just doing these goofy one handed hand stands on the curb. None of them could do it. They kept falling over in the gutter. It was pretty silly lookin. Also, they dressed kind of funny. A few of them had more hair on the top of their heads than on the sides or backs, like, the opposite of a mullet. They all looked like they might know what Benetton was.
The most charismatic, handsome, and eccentric of the bunch was Josh Grimaldi. It was in front of his house that we were all gathered. He had black hair, green army pants, and a black hoodie with a row of safety pins on the left shoulder like a makeshift epaulette. He wore beat up black Chucks with duct tape on the one side. He was sloppy and rumpled, but he had this odd command of something. I told them that I skated but that my board was all whack. Almost immediately Josh offered to sell me an old deck and some wheels he had laying around. We bullshitted for a little while longer, then we parted ways. I told him I’d come by in a few days to get the wheels and deck.
A couple of days later, I knocked on his door. As I stood there, holding the screen door, waiting, I noticed that it smelled like cologne. Like Drakkar Noir maybe. It was bizarre. Why would the front of somebody’s house smell like guido cologne? Baffling. The door opened and a woman who looked a little bit like my mom answered. “Hi, is Josh home?” “Yeah, come on in!” She said. She was friendly and had a gentle smile. I walked into the living room. She sat down on the couch. The Road Warrior was playing on the TV. Dude’s mom was sitting there in the living room by herself watching one of my all time favorite movies. “ I LOVE this movie! I love Mad Max too! Thunderdome’s ok.” “Oh, I like ALL of them.”, she replied, a little dreamily. “Josh!” She hollered. “Whaaat?!” Josh’s muffled voice shouted back. “What’s your name, hon?””Shawn”, I answered. “Shawn’s Here!” I heard a door open and his head appeared upside down from the staircase. “Come on up!” He said, like a cracked prankster. As I walked up the steps, I noticed 3 VHS tapes sitting on top of the TV. They were Mad Max, the empty Road Warrior box, and Beyond Thunderdome. I felt like I entered the Twilight Zone. The house was very neat and clean, vaguely Italian looking, and mysteriously did NOT smell like Drakkar on the inside.
“Your mom’s into Mad Max?” I asked? I couldn’t fathom what I was seeing. “My mom’s into Mel Gibson!”, he spewed back, kind of disgustedly. I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t see any video tapes of The Bounty or The Year Of Living Dangerously laying’ around. Those were the sexy Mel movies. I was thinking that maybe Mrs. G was specifically a fan of these three Aussie motorhead spaghetti westerns. We went into Josh’s bedroom. He didn’t have a bed, just a mattress on the floor. Everything was earth tones. He had a few Cure posters on the wall. I had only ever heard 1 Cure song in my life. It was Why Can’t I Be You, which I saw on MTV’s 120 Minutes. I thought it was atrocious. I also hated their hair. Fat guys with make up bummed me out. “The deck and wheels are in the basement. I’ll be right back.” He then left me sitting in his room by myself for like 25 minutes. I’m not even shitting you. I started looking through his stuff. Not rummaging, just perusing what was sitting out. He had a bunch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics laying around. This was when they were still a cult phenomenon, if you can believe such a time ever existed. He also had some Cerebus comics, which I’d never seen before. Real heady, intellectual shit. I couldn’t relate.
I saw a guitar sitting in the corner. I grabbed it. It was a black Fender Stratocaster with a white pick guard, just like my guitar teacher’s but without the lace sensor pickups. It just had standard single coils. I strummed a G-cord, but the thing was FAR from tuned. I started to tune it. It was nice. I had never played one before. It had an elegant simplicity to it that I really dug. It was everything an electric guitar needed to be and nothing more. Well, maybe something more. It did have a whammy bar, but it wasn’t attached to some giant contraption. Just a simple, compact bridge. The door flew open, “No! No! No! Put that down! I didn’t say you could play that!” He had a beat up skate deck in his hands and 4 mismatched wheels. He dropped them unceremoniously on the floor and snatched the guitar out of my hands. “Nobody plays that!” He said. It sounded like maybe himself included, from how out of whack the tuning was. “Oh…sorry man.” His reaction was pretty overblown and weird, but no weirder than the rest of this whole scene. He held his palm out flat. “Twenty five dollars!”, he shouted. “Give me twenty five dollars and you can have the deck and wheels!” He was talking in this loud monotone voice. “Let me see it.” I looked at the deck. It was a Schmitt Stix Monty Nolder. It was cool lookin, but most of the tail was worn off. “This thing’s pretty thrashed, man. How about twenty bucks for everything?” He paused for a minute to think about it. “Okay, but you have to leave now!” “Okay…” I gave him the twenty dollars I had in my pocket and grabbed the deck and the wheels and left. As I walked out the front door, Josh’s mom stared vacantly at the TV as Max and The Feral Kid barreled through the wasteland.