Machine gun shots rang out from the intro of  Nonphixion’s 14 Years of Rap. The song blared from the CD player in Billy’s car. The stock speakers on the maroon Nissan Maxima could not handle the volume, but Billy did not turn it down. You could hear the speakers strain on every drum beat. Ill Bill’s New York accent came out tinny over the sound system,


...walk the subway platform with gats drawn,
like a postal worker coming home drunk and just lost his job.
That’s what we dealing with in Roman times.
I never liked schools, fucking devils always told me lies,
and try to brainwash, but read the value, everybody fucking hates cops,
and if you blast at one you gain props…


Billy sped beneath trees with no leaves under a pale blue sky. A lady walking her dog shook her fist at us and screamed words that were inaudible through the windows of Billy’s car. She wore a powder blue Columbia jacket and the clenched fist she shook at us held a bag of fresh dog poop. 

The tires screeched as Billy turned left onto 15th, the song ended, and a Micranots song played next. I yelled over the radio,

“Did you see that lady yelling at us? I think she wanted you to slow down!” 

“Yeah, what a fucking bitch. It’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m a hella good driver.”

“Yeah, what a dumb bitch.” I said, nodding my head to the beat.

Billy whipped the car left onto Ravenna Boulevard and zoomed around its curves like a stunt driver in a James Bond movie or a car commercial. It was early afternoon and there weren’t many other drivers on the road. Billy made another left on 20th and parked his car before the barricades across the 20th Bridge which arched its avocado-green steel structure across the Ravenna ravine. The bridge was closed to cars. Giant rocks painted white dotted the lawn in front of the bridge to prevent people from driving over the grass onto the bridge.

Billy popped the trunk to his Maxima and we got out of the car. Billy grabbed a skateboard from the back and we made our way towards the bridge. Billy skated slowly ahead of me popping half-hearted ollies and shuv-its. We stopped in the middle. The tops of evergreen trees poked over the gray guardrails on either side. The gray paint lay thick on the metal guardrail from years of painted over graffiti.  Marker tags yet to be buffed out dotted the handrail and lampposts. The main jogging trail lay about fifty feet beneath the bridge but it seemed like a hundred.

I leaned against a guardrail and pulled a blunt I’d rolled earlier from behind my ear. I handed it to Billy and he lit it with a cheap transparent purple lighter.

He took a long drag off the blunt and started coughing violently. He was trying not to cough and his cheeks stretched out like a blow fish every time he coughed. He covered his mouth with a fist and held the lumpy thin cigar forward. I took it from him. Billy coughed one more time before regaining his composure. He spoke,

“Nothing like getting hella baked before Thanksgiving dinner, dude. Shit is about to be so bomb.”

I nodded and said, “I know, right? Hella crackin’.” 

I took a pull off the blunt. The cigar paper made the smoke sickly sweet. The smoke hit my lungs like a car hitting a brick wall. I coughed violently, gagging. I thought I was going to throw up. My eyes watered. I hacked and pounded my chest with my fist before hawking a loogie on the gray pavement. Billy did some jumping jacks, and you could feel the whole bridge move beneath us.  I passed the blunt to Billy. We repeated the process until the blunt was a speck of brown paper. We coughed less with each successive drag, and by the end we weren’t coughing at all. Billy dropped the remnants off the bridge and I watched it flitter slowly downward until it was invisible to the eye. 

“I’m geeked foo.” I said.



Tom Brokaw was on the TV, talking about Saddam Hussein and the war in Iraq. Images of the war flashed on the screen. Soldiers in desert camouflage. Iraqis yelling. Stock footage of Saddam Hussein. George W. Bush giving a speech. It didn’t make any sense. Why are we attacking Iraq when it was Osama Bin Laden who had attacked us? I thought he was from Afghanistan? I thought to myself.

I shook my head and chalked it up to a grown-up world I didn’t understand yet. Basement Dude was holding his bong, eyes squinty behind his wire frame glasses. His friend and business partner Basement Guy was working on the Thanksgiving dinner he was preparing for all of us. My Mom was upstairs. I had been chilling with Basement Dude and Basement Guy since Billy dropped me off after the blunt session at 20th, watching a movie marathon, drinking beers and taking bong rips. Basement Dude put his cheap plastic bong to his lips and lit the bowl. The water bubbled as the chamber filled with smoke. The water looked black inside the dirty bong, it hadn’t been changed in weeks. Basement Dude pulled the bowl out of the bong and cleared the chamber. He gestured to me with the bong, and I shook my head, then he tucked the bong out of sight behind the couch.

“Those A-rab fuckers want a holy war? I’ll show them fucking holy war. If I was in charge I’d nuke those fuckers back to the stone age. Turn the desert to fucking glass, that’ll show them fucking holy war.” said Basement Dude shaking the remote at the TV like it was a weapon.

“What do you mean, ‘turn the desert to glass’?” I asked.

“You see Joey, glass is made from sand. The heat from the nuclear explosion would turn the sand in the desert to glass. Peace in the middle east, baby! For the next million years. Wipe those filthy goat fuckers off the face of the earth.”


“Isn’t that kind of extreme?”


“Fuck no, those fuckers have been at war since the fucking Crusades, man. Probably longer. They’ve had at least a thousand years to straighten their act up and play nice. I for one am sick of it.”

“Oh.” I said before taking a sip of my Budweiser.

Basement Guy was stirring a pot of something on the stove, lip synching to a song that only he could hear between sips of beer. Dancing and gyrating his hips. The nightly news ended and the KING5 local broadcast came on. Basement Dude pointed the remote at the TV and flipped through the channels at high speed. The channels skipped in front of us. Snippets of commercials, home shopping networks, news channels, kids programming, and crime dramas flashed on the screen before us. Basement Dude saw something in this swirl of cable television that he liked and backtracked three or four channels. It was the Count Of Monte Cristo, and we watched that as we waited for our Thanksgiving dinner.

I got up and grabbed a beer from the fridge.

“Hey toss me one, Joey.”

I took the beer I had grabbed for myself and tossed it underhand to Basement Dude before grabbing another one for myself. I walked back to the couch, sank into my seat and allowed myself to get lost in the plot of the movie.



The dining room table was in the middle of the kitchen my dad had built a few years before he died. Sleek black countertops and light cherry cabinetry.  Shiny black appliances that matched the counters. The table itself was heavy and built of mahogany and had been in my family since the 1940’s.  A gold tablecloth lay across the top of the table. I had set the table for four people. Basement Dude and Basement Guy carried up steaming hot dishes they had been preparing all day in the basement apartment. The turkey y was placed on the table last, already carved. We took our places at the table. I led the table in prayer,

“Dear Lord, thank you so much for this food, we hella appreciate it. I’m so thankful for all the amazing people in my life. I’m so thankful the guys in the basement can be here with us. Thank you for my wonderful mother. Bless this food to our bodies and be with us lord, this I ask in Jesus name, Amen.”

I burped a tiny burp and could taste beer in my mouth. It was a quiet burp and my mom did not notice. I made myself a heaping plate of food and drowned it in brown gravy. Thanksgiving dinner had never tasted so good. My mom spoke,

“I don’t know what I’d do without you guys.”



It was a Friday afternoon. My friends and I were making our way slowly to Ravenna Park down 15th Street from Roosevelt High School. Tim, Mikey, Seth, Daniel Bond and I. We had a group of girls in tow. The ratio was one to one. A blue and yellow Metro bus lumbered by, brakes wheezing. The front of the bus read “DOWNTOWN” in electric yellow. Pollution spewed behind it. Cars whizzed past. The sky was grey. It wasn’t raining. We walked, dragging our feet, Northface windbreakers zipped up over grey hooded sweatshirts. Our group was spread out across a solid city block as we snaked our way to the 15th Street bridge. Crossing that, we hung a left on the dirt trail that ran along the south side of Ravenna Park and deposited us at the 20th Street bridge.

We walked into Ravenna Park at the 20th entrance. We posted up at a picnic table adjacent to the ancient BBQ shelter. The shelter was in the middle of a grass field surrounded on all sides by the tall trees of an urban forest.

We pulled Olde English forties from our black North Face backpacks. We’d asked an upperclassman to purchase them for us during lunch. One of the girls pulled a bottle of Malibu rum out of her giant purse. Another girl pulled a liter of Coca-Cola out of her oversized purse. The girls took sips of the rum and chased them with sips of the Coke.  I twisted the top off my forty, the seal cracking. I took a long swig. It was warm from being in my backpack since lunch. It wasn’t gross warm, but it was not cold. The amber liquid bubbled as it slid down the bottle out of the narrow opening and into my mouth. I left space between my upper lip and the mouth of the bottle so the air flowed and the beer came out smooth and fast. I finished my sip and wiped my face with my arm.

“What the fuck is up with tonight?” said Daniel.

“I dunno, keg at Joe’s mom’s.” said Tim.

“We’re not having a keg at my house.”

Everyone else started chanting “KEG AT JOE’S! KEG AT JOE’S! KEG AT JOE’S!….”

“Shut up!” I said

It was a long running joke. No one was actually planning on having a keg at my house. They just liked to see me freak out about the idea of it.

“We could hit up Chad Huntington.” said Tim.

“That dude is such a fag bag.” I said.

“Who cares? It’s hella cold out, he has a house, and his parents are never home.” said Tim.

“Somebody hit him up then.” I said.

None of my friends had a cell phone. Tim had a beeper.

“Yo, Rachel! Let me use your phone right quick.” said Tim to one of the girls.

Rachel dug in her purse and pulled out a blue candy bar shaped Nokia phone and handed it to Tim. Tim snatched it out of her hands. He pulled a dog-eared folded piece of printer paper out of his pocket. The paper was covered with phone numbers. It had started out as a typed list of phone numbers. Hand-written phone numbers were now scrawled in all available spaces haphazardly in a variety of ink colors. He lay the sheet of paper down on the picnic table and used his forty as a paper weight. Squinting, he ran his pointer finger up and down the page until he found the phone number he was looking for. He tapped it twice, and started punching digits into the phone with his left thumb. beep. beep. beep. beep. beep. beep. beep. He put the phone to his ear and waited for Chad to answer.

“CHAD! My guy! What’s going with you, dude?” Said Tim into the phone.


“Word. word. I’m just chilling at twamp with some fools right now, gurping some four-ohs.  We got some chicks with us too. We’re tryna find something to get into.”


“So you down to have some homies over?”


“Coo, coo, we’re about to mob over now, see you in a bit homie.”

Tim pressed the hang-up button and immediately began dialing another number and put the phone to his ear.

“Yo, what’s up fool, kick it session at Chad Huntington’s, roll through.”


“Aight, see you there.”

Tim hung up the phone and handed it back to Rachel.

“Let’s dip.”

We took long sips before putting the caps back on our forties, We stashed them in our backpacks and got up to leave the park.


Chad Huntington lived in a two-story house in Bryant with a large front porch. It was painted a pale blue that was almost gray with darker blue trim. Tim rang the doorbell six times rapidly. ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding! We heard footsteps from inside. Chad yelled from the other side of the door,

“I’m coming!”

Tim rang the doorbell four more times. ding-ding-ding-ding! We all laughed. Mikey tossed his cigarette on the porch and snuffed it out with his foot. The door opened and Chad appeared, he was out of breath and smiling widely. Chad was a stocky, chubby youth, half-Asian, half white.  He was wearing a green Blanchet High School sweatshirt, his black hair in a short buzz-cut.

“What the hell took you so long buddy? Were you jerking it or something?” said Tim.

“Nah, I was playing Xbox. What’s up guys? Come on in.”

He gave each of us dap as we walked in.

“Tim. My guy! Daniel, what the fuck is up, bro? Looking good, Joe! Seth!!”

As the girls walked in, Chad stepped out of the way and bowed,


We set up shop in his living room and busted out our forties. The girls excused themselves to the bathroom en masse and when they returned, sat as a group on the floor separate from us. We played Halo and drank our beer.

“Got you!” I said after shooting Tim’s character, a long distance sniper-shot with the pistol.

“Only cuz you were watching my screen, fag! You fucking watcher.”

“You got to watch out for the watchers.” said Mikey laughing at his own joke.

“Fuck that. I wasn’t watching your screen. I capped you fair and square.”

“Whatever, watcher.”

Tim would accuse people of watching the screen whenever he got killed, no matter what. I was fairly certain his own strategy relied heavily on “watching”. It wasn’t worth arguing about though. I didn’t say anything and kept playing. Tim paused the game and we all took sips of our forties.

The doorbell rang.

“Oh, I told a few other fools they could roll through. That’s cool right?” Tim asked Chad.

“Fasho, no problem dude. The more the merrier, right?”

Chad got up to answer the door. Twenty minutes later the doorbell rang again, again twenty minutes after that, and again after that. With each successive ringing of the doorbell more people showed up, and Chad became less and less enthused with being the host. When the doorbell rang for the 5th time Chad scowled and turned to Tim,

“How many fucking people did you invite man? This is not cool. My parents are going to be home at 9. I’m fucked!”

“Dude chill, It’s just a couple of people, we’ll all be gone at 8:30.”

Chad looked over his shoulder as a quarter plopped into a cup of beer on the kitchen counter behind him, bounced expertly by Mikey. He pumped his fist and yelled,

“In your face!! BITCHES!!”

The kitchen counter was covered in slimy beer spillover and loose bits of Swisher tobacco. The living room, kitchen, and dining room were crowded with kids drinking. Chad turned back to Tim,

“Ok, but you’ve got to help me clean up and no more people. I’m serious!”

“Fasho, dude. I got you. Can I use your phone to call my mom for a ride?”


 I was in the basement of Chad’s house looking for spray paint. It was an unfinished basement with cement floors and wood beams illuminated by a lone, naked light bulb. There was loads of junk. Old bikes. Skis and snowboards. Boxes with Christmas lights hanging out of the top. Shelves of house paint, solvent, lubricants, weed eater, and other household chemicals. I found what I was looking for; four loose cans of spray paint, two of them full. The other two half-empty. Nothing special. I put the cans in my backpack and went back upstairs.

The house was very crowded with people at this point. I spotted Mikey coming down the stairs with his backpack. I looked at the black wooden clock on the mantle, its yellowed face read ten after eight. Chad ran from group to group frantically,

“Everyone needs to leave! Please leave. Party’s over…”

People laughed and continued to drink.


This got people’s attention. Chad stood in the center of it all sweaty and red in the face. He looked very serious.

“Chill out dude, we were going to leave in a minute.”


A few groups started to make their way towards the door. Chad walked over to the phone and pulled it off its charging station.


Chad shook the phone in the air violently, eyes wide.


Everyone that was still there started to leave. Mikey, Daniel, Seth and I were the second-to-last to leave behind Tim. We stood on the front porch watching Tim trying to reason with Chad,

“Dude, chill, my mom’s coming to pick us up at 8:30, just let us chill until then…”

Tim had stepped onto the porch. The second he did so Chad slammed the door behind him. The deadbolt thunked into place.

“YOU MOTHERFUCKER!” Tim screamed at the top of his lungs. He screamed again. A primal scream of rage. Tim began pounding on the door with his fist.


“That motherfucker locked us out, that fat piece of shit! Can you believe it?” Tim asked us before returning to pounding on the door.

Actually, I could believe it, but I wasn’t going to be the one to voice my opinion.

“Dude, chill out.” said Seth.

“Yeah dude, chill!” said Mikey.

“Yeah…” I tried to chime in but was cut off by Tim.


Tim’s mom pulled up in her red Volvo. Tim didn’t stop pounding on the door.


Tim’s mom got out of the car but didn’t come any closer than the sidewalk.

“Tim, sweetie, calm down, just get in the car.”


Tim’s mom winced.

“Tim, let’s go. You and your friends get in the car.”

Tim screamed with rage. He punched out the small window panes on either side of the door.


Tim hawked a loogie on the door and walked to his mom’s car.

On the other side of the door I could hear Chad sobbing. I imagined him curled up in the fetal position by the bottom of the door. The rest of us followed Tim to his mom’s Volvo.


 That Monday at school both Tim and Mikey were wearing brand new Ralph Lauren Polo shirts over their gray hooded sweatshirts.  The Polo shirts were huge on their thin frames, hanging almost to the knees.  We were standing on the corner across the street from our high school. Clouds of smoke hung above the groups of kids congregated there smoking cigarettes. A fat white kid with bad acne wearing a dirty blue velour Sean John sweat suit asked Mikey,

“Yo, where did you get that sick new shirt?”

“Oh this? This is from the Chad Huntington collection.” Mikey said with a smile before taking a drag off his cigarette.


It was late spring of my 7th grade year. Seth, CJ and I walked home from middle school under blue skies dotted with fluffy white clouds. I was wearing khaki shorts and a gray Nike t-shirt. Seth was wearing a hunter green Eddie Bauer polo shirt and khaki shorts.  Tall and lanky, CJ was wearing baggy black basketball shorts and a baby blue shirt. We were weighed down by our heavy black North Face backpacks. We made our way slowly down quiet residential streets. Some lawns green, some lawns yellow.

 “I was walking by Moto’s house the other day, this fool was watching porno in his living room, you could just see the porn on the screen through the window, haha fucking Moto!” said CJ.

 Seth laughed and said, “The last time I chilled with that guy he was digging a hole in his backyard to hide his porn from his parents.” 

 “Really?” I said.

 “Yeah that fool has a problem, he’s like hella addicted to that stuff,” said Seth.

 I frowned a little. I was under the impression that we all looked at pornography. Did I have a problem? What made Moto’s habit any worse than any of ours? I knew both CJ and Seth had extensive dirty magazine collections. I myself had recently acquired a huge box of porno magazines. Hand-me-downs from Basement Dude. Maybe I should chill out on that; I didn’t want people to think I was a creep like Moto. Before that thought process could run the rest of its course, a white Honda Civic made the corner, full of older kids. One of the kids was swinging a frat-style paddle out the window. A yell came from the car.

 “Eat shit FAGS!!”

 An egg hit me in the face and exploded. Egg was all over my face. They sped off.

 “What the fuck dude!” I said, wiping my face off with my hand. 

 That didn’t work so well. I pulled the front of my shirt up and wiped my face with it. It already had egg on it. It didn’t matter if I got more on it.

 “What a bunch of fags!” said CJ, clutching the straps to his back pack in each hand. 

 CJ spit onto the ground and squinted in the direction the car had sped off in. We kept walking. Seth, CJ and I only made it another block before the Honda Civic pulled up on us again. This time the older boys got out of the car, leaving it idling with the doors open in the middle of the street. They were “white-hats”. Abercrombie button ups and cargo shorts. The bills of their white college hats were curled into round, narrow tunnels. They weren’t college students though. They were high school students at the same high school we would all end up going to after middle school. 

 One of the boys spun the paddle from his right hand to his left. We stood there, staring.  There were four of them and three of us. They were walking towards us. The boy with the paddle spoke.

 “Get over here.”

 “Do you fags know who my older brother is?” said CJ.

 “We don’t give a fuck who your older brother is.”

 “Gabe. Gabe Russell.”

 “The sophomore? Whatever dude, grab the trunk.”

 “Fuck you!”


 The older boy grabbed CJ by the shoulder with his right hand. He tried to pull CJ towards the car. 

 “Get the fuck off me!” CJ said, pushing the older boy.

 The older boy and CJ scuffled. CJ yanked on the paddle. They struggled over the paddle, yanking it back and forth between them. The paddle flew from both their hands. It flew in an arc through the air landing handle up, straight up and down on its tip. The paddle cracked and splintered loudly. CJ and the older boy continued to scuffle.

 A silver-haired man came out from his house. He was in his 70s wearing a paint-stained rugby shirt, tennis shorts, and dirty white boat shoes. 

 “Hey what are you kids doing? I’m calling the cops! Let go of that kid!”

 Everyone turned and looked at the man.  The older boy let go of CJ. The older boys hopped back into the Honda Civic. They peeled out accidentally, speeding off. The silver-haired man spoke to us.

 “Are you boys alright?”

 “Yeah, we’re coo.” CJ responded returning his grip to the straps of his backpack.



 Billy was the first kid in our friend group to have his own car our sophomore year of high school. A maroon Nissan Maxima sedan. You weren’t legally allowed to have anyone else in the car with you when you first got your license. Billy blatantly ignored that law. Billy drove fast. Billy ran red lights. Billy would try and catch air with his car over bumps going down steep hills. The car stuffed like a clown-car full of teenagers instead of clowns. Girls sitting on laps. People sitting four abreast on a seat designed for three.

 It was a beautiful day. Billy and I were standing outside our high school on the front steps. School had just let out and the steps were crowded. Everyone milling about and socializing. Daniel Spinelli came up behind Billy and put him in a playful headlock and gave Billy’s buzz-cut a noogie. Spinelli was with Tim Corcoran and Daniel Bond.

 “Hey! Watch it dude! Don’t fuck up the hair!” said Billy, laughing.

 “What’s good, foolione? What are we going to get into today?” said Daniel, letting go of Billy.

 “Yeah, what’s going down?” said Tim.

 “I don’t know, I was thinking about schmobbing around and fucking with the kids walking home around Eckstein. You guys down?”

 “Hella down, foo!” said Spinelli.

 “Fa sho, wait’ll you guys see what I got in the trunk.”

 We walked to Billy’s car.  He popped the trunk and started digging around in it.

 “Check it out!” he said, pulling out a yellow Super Soaker.

 “Sick!” said Daniel Bond.

 “Shotgun.” said Spinelli.

 “Left nut.” said Tim.

 “Right nut!” said Daniel Bond.

 I was stuck sitting “bitch” in the middle. We piled in the car. Billy stopped at the QFC by our high school and filled the Super Soaker from a spigot on the side of the store.  Tim, Daniel Bond and I went into the store, the automatic doors swooshing and making a dinging sound as we entered. There was a bunch of other kids from our school in the store crowding the lines alongside the ladies shopping for their families. Tim took off his grey hooded sweatshirt and held it at his side. We walked to the dairy section and he picked up a carton of eggs. We continued walking up the aisle then back down the middle of another aisle. Mid-aisle Tim quickly wrapped the eggs up in his sweatshirt, concealing them. We walked back to the car. 

 “Oh yeah, shit’s about to pop the fuck off!” Tim said grinning as he unwrapped the eggs showing them to Billy and Spinelli.

 “Sick! Great idea. I like where your head’s at!” said Billy.

 We piled back in the car. Billy sped up towards 75th taking a right towards 35th wheeling around the corner as the light turned from yellow to red. A minivan honked. Billy held a middle finger out the window not looking back. Atmosphere’s God Loves Ugly blared on the CD player. I closed my eyes. Driving fast in cars made me nervous. I tried to not think about Billy crashing into someone and killing them, or killing all of us, or worse paralyzing one of us. I imagined living the rest of my life paralyzed from the neck down. 

 “Please dear Lord God, don’t let me die a virgin.” I prayed under my breath, barely moving my lips. No one noticed.

 We passed Eckstein Middle School. A group of middle school girls were standing at a bus stop on 35th. Billy pulled alongside them.

 “HEY LITTLE GIRLS!” yelled Spinelli in a cartoony voice before spraying them with water and laughing.

 The girls screamed. Billy drove off.

 Everyone was laughing except me. I did not like this. I held my tongue. Terrified of being perceived as a “pussy.” 

 “That shit was sick foo!” said Spinelli before letting out a “Yeeeee-haaaaw” and laughing some more.

 “Let me see that shit, foo,” said Tim grabbing the Super Soaker from Spinelli before he could respond.

 Billy lurked the side streets. We saw some boys walking behind Lutheran Concordia School. Tim sprayed them with the Super Soaker. Daniel Bond started throwing eggs at them. The younger boys started to run. Billy pursued them in his car. They hit a corner to a dead end street that ended at the fence on the back end of Lutheran Concordia’s large playfield.  The kids were trapped. Tim jumped out of the car, as did Bond and Spinelli. They hosed the kids down with the Supersoakers and lit them up with eggs.

 When they got back in the car I couldn’t stay silent any longer.

 “Yo, Billy can you just drop me near my crib?”

 “God Joe, you are SUCH a puss sometimes.”

 “No I’m not, I need to be home. I told my mom I’d help her with something.”


 “P-p-p-p-usssy,” said Spinelli.

 “Stop it, guys.”

“Stop it guys!!” mimicked Tim in a falsetto voice.

 “I’m serious. Drop me off.”

 “You’re such a pussy. Fine, I’m not driving your bitch-ass all the way back to your house, though.”

Billy dropped me off at the Wedgwood Mart. A mile walk from my house. 

 “Sorry guys, I promised my mom I’d help her.”

 “Whatever pussy,” said TIm.



Illustration by Zach Rockstad

My first skateboard was a blue plastic banana-style skateboard. I would ride in the alley on the side of my house. It was mostly just a toy though. Something I’d mess around for an hour or two every couple of weeks. This was when I was 7.

I got my first “real” skateboard in the 4th grade. It was a hand-me-down Vision “Gator” Rogowski pro model. My Mom’s friend had given it to me, it had belonged to her son. It was super 1980’s. Gull-wing trucks. Plastic rails. Plastic lappers to protect the trucks. Skid plate. Nose guard.  Grip tape laid down in a custom design of wavy stripes and dots with a solid piece covering the tail.

I would ride that thing up and down 20th from 65th to other end of the 20th bridge. Always wearing my bicycle helmet. Sometimes I would skate with Milo. He had a more modern skateboard with the double tail. A Wu-Tang symbol sprayed in silver onto the grip tape with a stencil. Milo was really good at skating, even back then when he was a 6th grader. He could ollie and kickflip. The first thing I did the day I got my skateboard was ride down to his house to show him.


Illustration by Zach Rockstad

“Where’d you get that relic! That thing is ancient! Didn’t that dude like murder his girlfriend and chop her up and bury her in the desert in a surfing bag?”


“Yeah, that fool Gator snapped and murdered his girl.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that.”

I frowned. Milo laughed and pushed away on his skateboard and did a 180 ollie in the middle of the street, kept rolling and did a fakie kickflip before riding back up to me.

I would skate the curb in front of Milo’s house hoping Milo would see me and come out and skate. Sometimes it worked. He taught me how to ollie in the grass by the sidewalk in front of his house. Soon I was ollieing on the concrete. But I couldn’t ollie while I was rolling that well. I could sort-of ollie up curbs. I managed that through sheer force of will combined with the large wheels and the plastic lappers on my trucks. So I’d ride up and down the curb and tic-tac around in the middle of the street. That was my repertoire. I also thought kicking down on the tail and catching my board when I dismounted was a trick.  Another one of my specialties was standing with my skateboard upside down on my feet and jumping up, kicking the board back on to its wheels and landing on it. Sometimes the board would land on its side instead, and I would land on the sides of the wheel and fall backwards onto my butt.


I kept skating. In the 6th grade I finally got a “modern” skateboard. A Chocolate Mike York pro model. My dad would drop me off at SeaSk8 early in the morning on summer days. The old SeaSk8 by Memorial stadium. The really old one with metal ramps. The sun would heat up the metal ramps and if you fell on them it felt like you might burn yourself. I didn’t know anyone there. Everyone seemed much older and tougher. One guy had praying hands tattooed on his neck, and he was flying around the skate park. I ran up the pyramid ramp in the corner. I stood there for about three hours in the blazing sun, terrified to skate. Terrified to fall in front of these older kids. I just watched.  A couple of dudes stood next to me and smoked a joint. I still hadn’t smoked weed yet. I just watched. One of them had his septum pierced, two pieces of metal poked out his nostrils like tusks on a boar. He spoke to me,

“You going to just stand here all day or what?”

“Uh..I don’t know.”

“You brought a skateboard, didn’t you?”


“Well why aren’t you skating?”

“I’m not that good, I don’t want to look like an idiot.”

“You’re not getting any better standing here, are you? You need to sack up and just skate.”



Illustration by Zach Rockstad

I rode my skateboard down the bank of the metal pyramid. I really had no idea what I was going to do once I got to the bottom. I didn’t have a clue how to ride on ramps with transitions, so I just kept going in a straight line towards the chain link fence. Prayer-Hand neck almost collided with me. He jumped off his board to avoid me, and I crashed into the chain link fence stopping myself with my hands. Prayer-Hand neck screamed,


He picked up his board and threw it at the fence. His skateboard bounced off the fence and fell to the ground. He walked over to me.

“FUCK, Why don’t you watch where the fuck you’re going, kid!”

He picked up his skateboard and skated off, exclaiming,

“People think this place is a goddamn daycare center!”

A bunch of older skaters laughed at his remark.

I reclaimed my spot on top of the pyramid. Over the course of the next five hours I managed to roll down the pyramid three more times. This time around I tried to time myself better so I wouldn’t collide with anyone. I still crashed into the fence every time to stop myself.

The sun set on the city. I sat in the parking lot on my skateboard waiting for my dad to pick me up. I stared at the parking sign with a tag on it. The tag said,


The tag looked so cool. I wondered who they were. I didn’t know who they were. But I knew I wanted people to look at my tags and think of them the way I felt about that tag.


Illustration by Zach Rockstad


Pearl Jam donated a bunch of money to the city and they replaced the crummy metal ramps with a brand new concrete skatepark. It opened in the summer. Opening week was a big deal. Franco and I would get a ride down to the skate park every day that week from Franco’s mom. His mom drove a sea foam green Subaru station wagon that we dubbed the “Penis-mobile” because of the cars phallic shape.

Eek-A-Mouse played on the tape deck. Ganja Smuggling was the song. Franco’s parents had way better taste in music than my parents I thought.

“Franco. Your dad and I bought you a perfectly good helmet and you never wear it.”

Franco adjusted the strap on his khaki-colored Mariners hat. One of the hats they gave away for free at Safeco field at some games.

“MOM! Nobody actually wears helmets! They look hella gay. We’re not going to fall on our heads.”

“FRANCO. There is nothing GAY about wearing a helmet. If you guys started wearing your helmets, maybe other kids would see you wearing your helmets and start wearing their helmets. Then wearing helmets would be COOL!”

Franco rolled his eyes at me.

“Mom, it’s too late now. We’re already here.”

The car was stopped at a red light two blocks from SeaSk8. Franco started to get out. Mrs. Samuels turned around,


Franco got out of the car.

“Bye, Mom.”

I paused before following him and said,

“Thanks for the ride Mrs. Samuels.”

I got out of the car and joined Franco on the sidewalk. Mrs. Samuels rolled down the passenger side window.

“You guys be safe!”


“I love you!”

The light turned green. Mrs. Samuels beeped the horn twice, waved, and drove off.

“My Mom can be so wack sometimes, dude.”

I shrugged. We got on our skateboards and rolled over to the brand new skatepark. The sky was blue. Queen Anne hill stood out against the blue sky in the near distance. A monorail car full of tourists pulled out of the Seattle Center whizzing along its short route to Westlake Center less than a mile away. The EMP music museum sparkled in the sun. It looked like a piece of metal paper crumpled up with pieces of broken glass stuck in it.


Illustration by Zach Rockstad

 It was ten in the morning and the skatepark was already packed. I was more confident on a skateboard at this point, but I wasn’t as good as Franco. Still, I was able to assert myself enough to get some runs in on a regular basis throughout the day.

 The stars of the skatepark that day were Corey Lane and his little brother Cal. Two Native American youths who powered their way through any obstacle that got in front of them on their skateboards. The park had just opened that morning. They had the whole place dialed by noon. Going high up on the vert wall. Board sliding the rail on the fun box. They were better than I could ever hope to be. Corey was the same age as me and Franco. Cal only a year or two younger.

 I had seen Corey at other skateparks around Seattle. The first time I ever saw him was at the indoor skatepark at the YMCA in Bellevue. He was tearing it up then too. Dropping in on a quarter pipe then doing crooked grinds on a metal ledge at breakneck speeds.

A local TV news crew was there doing a piece about the opening of the park. They interviewed Corey and his brother Cal and filmed them skating the vert wall.

I had tagged the grip tape of my skateboard. Corey noticed it.

“Hey, what do you write?”

He pointed at my grip tape.

“Who me?…I write VORK.”


He reached into his pocket and pulled out a stack of stickers with his tag on them. The stickers said DAM. Not only was he good at skating, he was better at tagging then me. His tag was simple and sick.

“Yo, put one of my stickers on your board.”

“Fa sho.”

He handed me a sticker. I went to put it on the middle of my board, but Corey stopped me.

“Don’t put it there dumb-dumb, it will just get scratched off when you do a board slide. Here, let me do it.”

I gave him back the sticker. He carefully put the sticker next to my back truck between the wheel and the truck. Close to the base-plate so the sticker would not be destroyed by the bite of the wheels.


Corey skated off.

Franco skated up the ramp and came up to me. He pointed at an older dude skating around the park and said,

“You see that dude over there? Thats THINKER.”

“The dude in the red camo cargo pants?”

“Yeah him.”

“Really? That’s THINKER? That dude is so up.”

“Yeah I know, right?”

“That’s crazy that’s him.”


We both got back to skating.

Corey’s brother Cal was more friendly. Franco and I ate lunch with him at McDonalds. Dollar menu hamburgers and water cups. I went to use the bathroom. Someone had pooped in the sink. The whole bathroom was disgusting. Franco and I hit tags on the outside door of the bathroom stall with a snot-green paint pen.


After a few days Franco and I were pretty friendly with most of the the other kids in the park. Franco had brought a small joint with him for us to smoke. We were standing next to Corey and some other kids by the deck of the big bowl watching some older skater skate the bowl. Corey and Cal were the only kids our age who could actually skate that monster. Corey was sweaty from skating, not wearing a shirt and drinking a Jones Soda. He was leaning on his skateboard. Franco asked him,

“Yo, you trying to come smoke this jay with us, Corey?”

“Yeah right! Drugs are for losers! I’m going to be a pro skateboarder, I’m not about to let anything get in the way of that.”

Franco and I frowned, I think we were both surprised he said that, I know I was. Franco said,

“That’s cool dude.”

We smoked the joint in the stairwell of a parking garage a few blocks away, the cold concrete steps a relief from the hot sun. Then we went and ate some burgers and drank waters at the McDonalds before heading back to SeaSk8 to skate some more. Skated until the sky turned from blue to fire orange to dark purple. Skated until Mrs. Samuels pulled up in the sea foam green “Penis-mobile” and honked her horn twice outside the skatepark.


We were all sitting in Tim Corcoran’s basement playing Dreamcast. Tim, Daniel Bond, Peter Jackson, Franco Samuels, Allan Lee, and myself.  Tim and Daniel had the sticks and were playing a basketball game. I was never big on sports games, unless that sport was skateboarding.

A thirty-pack of Milwaukee’s Best sat in the middle of the carpeted floor next to a mini keg of Heineken. We were divvying up the beers and putting them in our backpacks. Next to the beers were cartons of eggs and toilet paper. It was Halloween.

None of us was actually wearing costumes. Franco was wearing a pig tail wig made of yellow yarn. His face was painted white with red circles on his cheek. I think he was supposed to be some kind of girl doll. He had brought some oversized dress with him but he decided not to wear it.

Alan, Tim, Daniel, and Peter all had generic Halloween masks. Alan was a werewolf. Tim had the ghost face mask the killer wore in the movie Scream. Daniel had a hockey mask like Jason in Friday the 13th. Peter was wearing a Scream mask like Tim’s.

My own outfit was marginally more creative. I was Ghostface Killah from the Wu Tang Clan. I wore a gray hooded sweatshirt with a blue Wu symbol I had made myself out of blue fabric and safety-pinned to the back of the sweat shirt. I was wearing a woman’s nylon stocking as a hat. It doubled as a mask when I pulled it down over my face. Just like the Wu on the cover of Enter The 36 Chambers. I could see out the mask, barely.

“Yo, guys, check this shit out!” said Allan.

He pulled a paintball gun out of his backpack. It was nothing fancy. One of the cheap plastic paintball guns they sold in the sporting goods section of Fred Meyers.

“That shit is sick! Let me see that shit,” said Tim.

Tim grabbed the paintball gun out of Allan’s hands.

“HEY,” said Allan.

Tim ignored Allan and did a commando roll over the couch. He poked his head up over the top of the couch and pretended to spray us with machine gun fire from the paintball gun.

“Byat, Byat, Byat!!! Got you fuckers.”

Everyone laughed.

“Anyone that tries to fuck with us tonight is gonna get it!” said Daniel.

“Shibbity Shabbity Shibbity OH YEAH!! Lemme see that baby!” said Peter.

Tim handed the paintball gun to Peter, who held it for a minute, posturing, before handing it Daniel, who then handed it to Franco. I was the last person who got to touch the paintball gun. It felt hefty in my hand. I pointed it at an imaginary enemy and closed one eye.


I gave the gun back to Allan. Tim called some Catholic school girls he had known since elementary school.

“Yo, whats up?”


“Why don’t you meet us by the abandoned Albertsons?”


“Ok that’s cool, stop jogging by my house to get my attention, it’s hella creepy.”


“Ha ha ha, fa sho, alright, see you in a minute.”

Tim had been expelled for a multitude of offenses from the private Catholic school he had gone to since kindergarten and had joined us in public school in the 8th grade where he had made new friends fast. He was the most popular boy in my class. He had dark brown eyes and dark brown hair with bleach streaked through it. He smoked marijuana heavily. He didn’t respect anyone. Teachers. Parents. Anyone. One day when he didn’t feel like going to school he simply locked himself in his room all day and didn’t come out until his dad got home from work and took the door knob off his door with a power drill.  It never went back on. He had lost the privilege of having a lock on his door. Clothes were strewn across his room. The floor was covered with loose bits of school paper, Swisher tobacco, torn up magazines, and dirty sneakers. He had moved his bed into the walk-in closet so the room looked abandoned. The walls were covered in paint pen tags and gangsta rap posters. Tupac and Snoop Dog throwing up the “westside” hand sign wearing suits and huge gold chains.

We finished loading up our backpacks with beer and implements of mischief and left Tim’s house. His mom called after us,

“You guys be safe, stay out of trouble.”


The night air was cold and the ground was wet from a brief rain shower earlier. We hadn’t made it a block before Tim smashed an egg on the hood of a BMW. Peter ran up on the porch of a house grabbed a pumpkin and smashed it in the middle of the road. It was around 8:30 pm and the youngest trick or treaters were mostly clear of the streets by this point. Now it was mostly older kids unaccompanied by parents.

“I ended that shit, BITCH!”

We kept walking. Making our way to the parking lot of the abandoned Albertson’s. Smashing eggs on the hoods of expensive cars and pounding beers as we walked. Pumpkins left outside were smashed.

One family had been smart and put their pumpkin on a bookshelf in their living room facing out a large picture window. You could see a lady watching TV in a recliner. She got up to use the bathroom. I knew this was my chance to look savage in the eyes of my  friends. I ran up her front steps. The door was unlocked. I opened it slowly. Reached in and grabbed the pumpkin then closed the door slowly. I smashed it on the lady’s front steps.

“Oh shit, savving out,” said Tim.

We quickened our pace.

“That shit was sick, fool!” said Daniel.

“That lady is going to be so bummed when she comes back from the bathroom!” said Allan.

I felt good that my friends thought so highly of me. Part of me felt bad for the lady and her pumpkin. I tried not to think about it. I chugged a beer.

The abandoned Albertson’s grocery store was a beige monolith in a sea of residential houses. The parking lot was filled with cobbled together skateboard ramps and obstacles. Two blondes sat huddled on a painted yellow club in the front of the store. They were wearing Abercrombie sweat pants and black North Face fleeces. They hadn’t dressed up for Halloween. They got up and started to scream when they saw us. One of them ran and jumped into Tim’s arms.


We walked over to a picnic table next to the Burke-Gilman trail which passed by the far side of the parking lot. We all took turns drinking from the tap of the Heineken mini-keg.

“So what’s going on with you and Cadence?” one of the girls asked Tim.

“That girl’s pyscho, I don’t know why everyone is always asking me about her.”

Tim had been dating Cadence off and on since the 5th grade. The girls we were with had gone to a different Catholic school than Tim had. All Catholic school kids seemed to know each other though. One of the girls spoke

“You know there’s a haunted house at Villa? I think they’re serving pizza and pop too.”

“Oh, word?” said Tim.

“We should definitely go crash that,” said Daniel.

“Down,” said Franco.

“Me too,” I said.

“Oh, don’t be lame guys. I can’t go to Laurelhurst. We promised my parents we’d stay at home and hand out candy,” said one of the blondes.

“You’re not handing out candy right now are you?” said Tim.

“This is different. My house is like two blocks away, Tim.”

“Villa’s only like a twenty minute walk from here.”

“We can’t go to Villa, we don’t even have costumes!”

“Fine. You guys can stay at home and be wack. We’re going.”


“We’re doing it. Your not going to stop us.”

Daniel Bond snickered.

“Well can you guys at least walk us back to my house?”

“We can do that.”

We all got up from the picnic table and walked to one of the blonde’s house. Tim and one of the girls stood on the street corner by her house. They were pressed close together like they were about kiss. The girl looking up into Tim’s eyes. hurt. She begged,

“Tim, don’t go!”

“Sorry, babe. I got’s to do what I got’s to do.”

A gold colored 4Runner screeched to a halt in the street in front of us. A carload of older kids started throwing eggs at us from the car. One of the eggs hit Tim in the face.


Tim ran at the driver side window wiping the egg off his face as he ran. He grabbed the driver by the collar with both his hands. The older boy grabbed Tim’s arms in attempt to free himself from Tim’s grip. The boy sitting shotgun hit Tim in the head with a mini baseball bat. The kind they sell as souvenirs at Mariner’s games. Tim fell back from the car. The 4Runner peeled out and sped off up the hill towards 35th.

The girls were screaming. They swarmed Tim, who was getting up off the ground rubbing his forehead with one hand.


“I’m fine. That pussy mothafucka didn’t even hit me that hard. FUCK. What a bunch of FAGS.”

“Who were those guys?” asked Franco.

“I don’t even know,” said Tim.

“They looked like some corny private school kids. Hella preppy and shit. Blanchet or something,” I said.

“Well fuck those guys!” said Tim.

“You cool?” asked Peter.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Let’s dip to that Villa shit.”

We walked away. The girls standing in front of the house, looking dejected. We walked down to the Burke-Gilman trail. We walked along the trail in the dark. The trail was covered in dead fall leaves. The tree branches stood out against the night sky in the moonlight. I didn’t like walking on the Burke-Gilman at night. I was afraid of getting kidnapped by a child molester. I was 14 years old and terrified of the dark. I still slept with the light on. I had horrible nightmares. If I wasn’t with all my friends I wouldn’t even be walking there right then. I would have taken Sand Point Way.

We walked in silence in the darkness. The crack of a beer can opening broke the silence. It was contagious. All of us cracked open new beers and drank them as we walked. Dead leaves crunching under our feet.  The beer was cold in my mouth. It went down smooth. Light shone through a break in the trees from a streetlight on Sand Point Way, illuminating us, our breath visible like cigarette smoke in the cold.


 We hid our mayhem-filled backpacks in a bush by Villa. We walked through the gates of the wall around the prestigious private school. Another blonde catholic school girl spotted us and hurried over. She was dressed like a semi-slutty angel with a white miniskirt, angel wings and a glittery halo.

“Oh my god! Tim! What are you guys doing here?”

“Thought we’d come see what this haunted house shit was all about and grub some pizza.”

“It’s for kids who go to Villa only. Quick put your masks on.”

We all put on our masks. She took Tim by the hand and led us into the Gymnasium. It was decorated for Halloween. Orange Streamers. Fake flaming cauldrons hanging from the ceiling. Folding tables with orange and black paper tablecloths loaded down with Domino’s pizza and 2-liters of pop. A cock-eyed brunette (who was actually pretty hot besides her eyes) saw us and lit up.


“Shut up ass-eyes, you’ll blow our cover,” said Tim.

She winced then went back to smiling.

“Don’t worry, I won’t blow your guys’ cover!”


A locker room had been converted into a haunted house. It was pretty cheesy but someone had obviously put a lot of effort into it. We ran into some douchey Villa dudes we knew.

“What’s up guys, you guys are fucking BAD-ASS. You could get in SO much trouble for being here.”

Our masks were obviously not the most effective disguises.

“What are they going to do? Kick us out? Big deal,” said Tim.

Once we had made our way through the lackluster haunted house we descended like a pack of wolves onto the pizza. Pulling our masks up far enough for us to eat. Cramming slices into our mouths two at a time. Eating like pigs on purpose. A chaperone noticed us.

“Hey, you kids don’t go to school here!”

That was our cue to leave. We pulled our masks back down over our mouths. We started walking towards the exit.


We walked faster. Out the doors onto the concrete playfield. The chaperone followed us out. We started to run.


We were already at the end of the playfield. We climbed up and over the fence, slowing down to navigate the two thin lines of barb wire. We were all on the other side of the fence. The chaperone stood, powerless, on the other side of the fence from us.


“FUCK YOU FAGGOT!” Tim screamed before pulling up his mask halfway and hawking a loogie through the fence onto the chaperone’s face. His face a mask of impotent rage as the mucus slid down his cheek. We all turned and ran.


 We spent the next hour or so egging younger kids, smashing pumpkins, TPing stuff, and getting chased. One older kid was posted up on the pedestrian footbridge between Laurelhurst park and Laurelhurst Elementary sniping kids and cars with a high end paintball gun. It was bedlam. We were not the only group of hooligans afoot that night. We were one of many.

Daniel Bond had just tipped over a Port-a-Potty on the front lawn of a house being renovated. We were walking on the sidewalk drinking beers. The gold 4Runner rolled up on us suddenly.


They began pelting us with eggs from their car. Allan Lee pulled his paintball gun from his backpack.


The boy driving was frozen with fear. He didn’t get the windows up fast enough. Allan fired six or seven shots at point blank range through the driver’s side window before the paintballs began hitting the window of the car as it rolled up. Allan was working the pump on the paintball gun like the Terminator. The older boys were screaming in pain. Allan yelled,



The car sped off. Allan stood there breathing heavily holding the paintball gun. The rest of us stood there staring. Tim broke the silence,


We all chimed in, agreeing.





“We should probably bounce,” I said.

“Quit being a pussy, Joe,” said Daniel.

“Nah, he’s probably right. Those bitch asses’ parents might call the cops on us if we actually hurt them. Let’s shake the spot,” Tim said.

So we left.