new milestone into a future of grimness
Thursday, September 28 2006
I've been feeling anxious, despondent, and even a little bit mean about the impending passage by the United States Congress of the Torture and Kangaroo Court Act of 2006, with its special un-American tribunals, absence of habeas corpus, and the permitting of torture against pretty much anyone our befuddled president decides it should be used against (including you or me). Gretchen and I drove down to a skate park in Accord and on the way we were listening to the news. There was news about the rosy prospects for the Kangaroo Court Act but there was also something about a Colorado killer who'd taken over a school, sexually abused a few girls, killed one, and then committed suicide. I told Gretchen that the latter story didn't upset me nearly as much as the one about the Congressional support for Kangaroo Courts. There will always be crazy people in the world and there's nothing that can be done about that; it's a risk of being alive on a world we share with others. But for a legislative body to throw away a right enjoyed by all English-speaking people since medieval times, for half the life of the New Testament, well seems to represent a brand new milestone into a future of grimness. I'm sure Osama bin Laden is delighted by the monkeywrench he managed to throw not just into New York City architecture, but into timeless traditions of English jurisprudence. Not that anyone is saying this, but if someone should ever tell you that the terrorists aren't winning, that person is demonstrably deluded. All the new ideas for running this country seem to be coming from failed states, theocracies, and other places without democratic traditions.
The experience at the skate park, a new place called Skatetime, was a welcome respite from the grimness. The bulk of its indoors is taken up by a large roller skating rink, though there's also places to play various video games and even midway-style games, and there's a large area set up with skateboard ramps. (Hearing the upbeat oldies being played in the skating rink area, I half expected to hear a hardcore soundtrack in the skateboard area, but Gretchen told me there was no music in there at all.) I'd never been on rollerskates before, though when I was kid one winter my feet were the right size and I would borrow my mother's ice skates to cut scratches on patches of swamp ice. Unfortunately, none of those skills did me much good today. At first I propelled myself along by pushing off with that rubber thing at the end of my toe, though this soon proved awkward and I gradually learned how to develop forward momentum by forcing my skates together gradually as I rolled along. I never figured out how to do what the others were all doing, which seemed to involve stepping on alternate feet with the force-providing toe sticking somewhat outward. Part of my problem was that I cannot rotate my toes outward much beyond the position where they are pointed straight ahead. (I am abnormally pigeon-toed and actually wore full-leg casts on both legs as a toddler in a futile attempt to correct this problem.) My lack of skills compared to everyone else made me feel a little like I did when I was in Guatemala and everyone seemed to be speaking Spanish better than me. Here was this idiom, and here I was the rank newcomer, completely exposed for what I was. I fell down something like four times, and by the end I was feeling a little like I'd been beaten up. But everyone there was nice and understanding, with strangers providing helpful tips and making encouraging comments about my progress as it happened, and it was substantial.
In the snackbar area of Skatetime they server burgers and fries and you can get good veggie burgers. Their fries are especially delicious.
Despite the handicaps of my inexperience, the environment was cheerful, everyone was friendly, and I found myself having an unexpectedly good time. Interestingly, this was possible in an environment completely devoid of alcohol (which is, it seemed clear, incompatible with such a potentially neck-breaking form of recreation).
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