“One, two, three, four… One, two, three, four…”
That was me counting the heads of Nathan, Willem, Leo and Sean as they bobbed and weaved through the after-sunset crowds along the boardwalk at Venice Beach.
Lou and Niall had peeled off to spend the night with Lou’s wife and daughter, Tina and Claire, who had timed a Southern California visit to overlap with our Sk8 the St8s stop in skateboarding’s mecca. We made plans to rejoin Lou and Niall tomorrow, but until then, for the first time, I would be the lone skate dad. In Venice Beach. After dark.
“One, two, three, four…” I was determined not to lose a one of my four skaters. Again.
The day began with a morning skating session in Phoenix and a drive through the desert, Palm Springs, and into Greater Los Angeles. We made a quick stop in West Covina so the boys could skate at a famous sidewalk spot with gaps and ledges in front of a 24-hour fitness center. Then, after checking in at our surprisingly cheap hotel on the water in Marina Del Rey (thanks again Hotwire), we drove to Venice Beach.
The boys skated at another known spot beside a public park near the beach, thrilled to be at a location they’d seen in dozens of YouTube videos. We then walked south toward the freaky heart of Venice so the boys could hit Venice’s beachfront skate park. On the way, they spotted a professional female skater. They also witnessed a Hare Krishna “Festival of Chariots” and more tattoo parlors in five minutes than we’d seen in two weeks.
While the boys tried out the beachfront skatepark, and Lou kept watch, I escaped for a quick drink with Reid – my friend from Charleston who had rescued our road trip by driving us to Richmond after the Bustaride school bus died (under mysterious circumstances). Reid introduced me to a college friend, John, who owns the North End Caffe in nearby Manhattan Beach, and John’s friend, who calls himself Seven. From the rooftop bar at the Erwin Hotel, we looked down on the Hare Krishna chariots, the skatepark, a drum circle on the beach, and beyond that toward the sun setting behind the Santa Monica pier. After two weeks in the company of five teen boys, I hadn’t realized how desperately I’d needed a drink with grownups.
I left Reid, ran back to the skatepark, and learned that Sean had gone looking for me, even though I hadn’t told him where I was.
Then Reid (who had been Sean’s kindergarten teacher) texted me: “Sean is with me. Where should he go?”
Sean apparently had overheard me mention the bar, found it, and went looking for me. I raced back to the bar, and Reid summed up the moment: “I never would’ve guessed when you were in my class that we’d be in a rooftop bar in Venice Beach.“
Back at the skatepark, I relieved Lou so he could be with his family, and the other four boys and I walked back toward the van in search of Chinese food.
“One, two, three, four…”
To follow the whole coast-to-coast, dads-and-sons adventure, check out http://sk8thest8s.cbslocal.com/