Don’t focus on what you lack, focus on what you possess is what my father told me after I complained as a teenager. I dusted off that phrase when my son, Milo, recently asked about club and school ice hockey in Spokane.
I knew the subject would come up sooner than later. Both of my boys have played club ice hockey since they were each 6 years old. But I explained that there just isn’t much of an ice hockey scene in Spokane. I asked around about Spokane youth sports in February and Milo tried out for baseball teams in March and that all worked out well, thank you Spokane Expos!
I was informed that the football programs are solid and that Spokane is naturally basketball mad. Go Zags! However, who knows when high school football and basketball will return?
I came up snake eyes when it came to ice hockey. But I told Milo, 15, to look at what he can enjoy after baseball season. Skiing is on the top of his list followed by skateboarding. Milo and his brother, Eddie, 18, have had wheels or blades under their feet for about as long as each can remember. A few years ago, my sons witnessed one of the rare classic daytime scenes in the nearly perfect film “Back to the Future” when charismatic protagonist Marty McFly broke the kid’s wooden scooter and turned it into a skateboard prototype, their take was “of course, what else would you do in that situation?”
That brings us to Riverfront Park, which is where my boys have congregated with either their skateboards or longboards whenever time allowed over the last month. That’s particularly been so for Eddie, who has been hanging downtown most days.
It’s easy to spot Eddie, since he’s the one skating with an iPhone in his hand. I imagine that it’s difficult to balance life without a cell phone. As a side note, did you ever notice how many photos feature the subject with a phone or a bottle of water in their hands?
“Meeting People is Easy,” isn’t just the name of the entertaining and edifying film by Eddie’s favorite band, Radiohead. It describes the skate scene at Riverfront Square Park. Eddie and Milo have met kids from the Valley, North Spokane, West Central and Post Falls, among other areas. They skate around and just hang out talking.
The locals have been curious about teens who have made a 2,500-mile trek across the country who grew up in a very different environment. My kids are used to abrasive and edgy behavior. The difference in Spokane has been surprising.
“Everyone here is so chill,” Eddie said. “I’ve never met so many laidback people, who aren’t all about themselves. They ask questions. They want to know about me.”
It’s been cool since Eddie is my most introverted kid. It’s been that way ever since he was a child. He’s also my most sensitive guy and Milo, well, his personality is perfect for New York. Milo is confident, jarringly blunt and wants to win every battle, while Eddie isn’t so self-assured and is usually quiet.
To put it all in perspective, when Eddie was 4 years old, I saw that he was crayoning outside of the lines and he had a meltdown. Around the same age, Milo was doing the same thing and I asked him about it. Milo said that he meant to be outside the lines. It sums up the difference between the two.
Milo has always had a number of friends and Eddie, not so many. So it’s been nice to see how Eddie’s connected with so many local skaters.
I’m not surprised my children are plugged into the heart of the city since they experienced quite a bit of the most urban environments, even though they were raised in suburbia. They grew up constantly in the center of Philadelphia and, for the past three years, the boys each spent significant time with their sister, Jillian, who is a senior at Pace University in New York City.
As much as Milo loves the great outdoors of Idaho, he’s drawn to the center of town, like his brother. They see all that Spokane has to offer and what they really appreciate is that it’s skater friendly.
Eddie’s mind raced back to Philadelphia’s legendary Love Park. It’s a small, open space right in the middle of Philly’s Center City, within spitting distance of Philadelphia’s City Hall. Love Park, which features the iconic Love statue by Robert Indiana, was created in 1965 by innovative city planner Edmund Bacon, who happens to be the father of actor/musician Kevin Bacon. The idea was for park space that happened to become a hub for skaters. During the ’90s, the city banned skateboarding. In protest of the ban, Edmund Bacon rode a skateboard through the park in 2002 at age 92.
“It was one of the coolest things my dad ever did,” Kevin Bacon told me while laughing in 2017. Skaters defied the ban. During the 2000s, there was a renovation, but skating survived. When Eddie turned 13 in 2015, he skated there. It was a classic melting pot. There were skaters, tourists taking photographs of the statue, 9-to-5ers strolled through on the way from work, while the homeless congregated and drug dealers were on the periphery.
It was perplexing how the police would hassle the skaters but let the dealers conduct business. Eddie’s time at Love Park was short-lived.
Philadelphia mayor James Kenney announced in 2016 that Love Park would become green space effective immediately. Skating was finally finished at Love Park.
Eddie has his memories of Love Park and he’s thrilled there is a place such as Riverfront Park. Ice hockey isn’t on the menu but skateboarding is for my boys. But it’s alright since to quote, the brilliant comic and Academy Award winner Steven Wright, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”
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