9.07.2009

Battle for the Backyard Recap

Words by Ian Frisch.

The muscles in my lower-back cringed under the strain of lugging the keg from the car to the backyard—180 beers (PBR, of course)—with the help of Brian, a resident of 37 Troutman Street, the location of the very much anticipated Battle in the Backyard: A competitively casual backyard skate-jam to celebrate not only the birthday of Hayley Hastings, but also the refinishing of the mini-ramp, an endeavor that left the surface of the ramp lacquered in a rich brown finish and “a little slick to it,” said Adam Putnam, also a resident of the house, and source for the blueprints for the construction of the ramp in the first place. “An old VHS tape that I got from my parents years ago,” he said.

The purpose of the night was simple and obvious: Skate, drink, and have a good time. And, for some, something a little extra: Sometime during the night, a brand new, Open skateboard would be given to the skater who performed the best trick on the ramp.

“It looks really nice,” I said to Greg Rollins, another resident of 37 Troutman, as he ran off the ramp after a failed attempt at a blunt-stall to fakie—a trick that he would later land repeatedly with precision and style.

“Yeah, man. It’s great to have it refinished,” he responded. “Give it a try.” I hadn’t skateboarded on transition in over a year, but I felt it customary to at least try it—as any other option would radiate rudeness, like denying your girlfriend’s mother’s prized dinner-dish. I slapped the tail on the coping, and threw my weight forward, down the transition. Locking onto the coping at the other side surprised me, and as I came back down to the other side, I smacked into a rock-to-fakie, slipped out, and crash down onto my right side.

I traded in the skateboard for a beer after that.

The dogs that live at the house (and who’ve got doghouses built into the sides of the mini-ramp) got more and more excited as more people showed up. They ran back and forth across the ramp, down to the basement and back again, and in circles around the fire pit. (This, however, gave a lot more excitement to the best-trick contest as the night progressed).

As the sun started falling, the keg finally got tapped, and some liquor showed up (a bottle of Bacardi rum, Jim Beam whiskey, and Smirnoff vodka, to round out the options for drinks at the bar—a very efficient extension attached to the side of the mini-ramp). A fire was sparked in the fire-pit, fueled mainly by scrap pieces of plywood, cackling and spouting sparks and embers into the warm, summer air.

And then the skaters showed up (not to say that skaters weren’t there prior to this moment—around 10p.m—but these were the ones that really wanted that free skateboard, and who were doing the right tricks to get it).

Three skaters vying for the prize especially stood out to me: A thick-chested, dark skinned guy with a backwards trucker hat and green vans, who powered the ramp skillfully, tearing frontside turns, and trying countless times to ride away from a blunt stall to frontside revert—his choice for the winning trick.

Next was a skinny white kid with slim, black jeans and shaggy hair, who seems to connect especially well with an announcement made by Jon Legere, an honorary house member of 37 Troutman: “The first person to land a fucking frontside flip gets the free board! Show me the fucking frontside flip!” Needless to say by the time the winning trick was landed, Jon had nearly fallen asleep on the couch in the living room. The long-haired kid tried and tried again for the frontside flip (and got pretty damn close a number of times), but was ousted by one of the youngest skaters there.

I wouldn’t have put him a day past 16, but his fluid, effortless style screamed that of someone with more experience. He wore modestly cut jeans and a blue, short-sleeved button up shirt, and had fair, light-brown skin. He floated back and forth, squeezing in reverts, and nearly landing a 360-flip to fakie, obviously the most difficult trick of the entire night. But he did it with a quiet, non-pompous disposition, even as he fell time and time again. He just got right back up and tried again. Although quiet, I could tell he was getting tired of trying that trick, and the playful badgering from the crowd (Dan Carreiro was in attendance and tried motivating the youngster with verbal jabs: “C’mon pussy! Don’t make me do it!”). After more failed attempts, he started trying the aforementioned game-clincher: The frontside flip. It wasn’t long before he landed it, smoothly, nonetheless, and I stood up, smacked the free skateboard on the coping, and handed it over. Fellow skaters cheered at the win, and the focus went from the mini-ramp to shots of liquor and pumps of the keg.

I spent a decent amount of time at the keg, pumping it for people, and always keeping a fresh refill for myself. I also passed the time by talking to a very attractive girl with cinnamon-colored eyes and bouncy, shoulder-length hair, who had a 3.8 GPA and a thick, Staten Island accent. She was rad—someone that I truly appreciated—but I lost her towards the end of the night.

Nearing one in the morning, and to the point where I would be unable to drive my crew back to Clinton Hill [Tom, Ashley, John, and Shane (the latter two of whom were visiting from Massachusetts)], Tom and I made the mutual decision to leave the party before we cut our options of leave down to either sleeping on the ground at Troutman, or trekking the 45 minute walk back to our apartment. I led the troops out of the front door and down the street, where we passed a cluster of police officers. Now, unbeknownst to me, Shane was still holding his open can of beer, and was immediately stopped by the police—questioned and searched. After they found a trivial amount of marijuana in his pocket (probably not even enough to get two people off the ground), he was cuffed and tossed into the back of the cruiser and taken away to spend the night (or more, for that matter, as John said, “Dude, he could be in there until Tuesday. What the fuck are we going to do?”) in a concrete prison cell at the 83rd precinct.

Driving away, I thought of Shane sitting in the back of the cruiser, and I thought, “Shit. I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”
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Triumphantly in the back seat sits Brian Cross