NO FOOL LIKE AN OLD FOOL by Peter Nolan Smith


Outside the Pattaya Tai Big C Shopping Center there was a skateboard club. Some Thai kids tested out tricks on rails and ramps. Some were good. I tried a few moves to be surprised by an unintentional wheelie by putting too much weight on my back foot. The Thai kids applauded my move and I handed back the skateboard, happy not to have taken a fall.

Making contact with hard objects can be quite painful, since I was closet to 80 than 20.

But I started thinking. “I’m not that old. I can still grind.”

Royal Garden had a few boards; 600 baht and 4000 baht.

I bought the cheap version and practiced on my street. My daughter liked being pushed on the skateboard. It was harmless fun, until one day I was watching the Winter Olympics. It’s been years since I skied and I thought skateboarding down a hill might satisfy my downhill needs.

I mentioned to my ex-wife that I wanted to skateboard down Jomtien Hill.

She asked, “How old are you? I know the answer. Do you?”

“It’ll be fine. I’ll wear a helmet and go in the new park. You’ll ride behind me so no one will run me over.” Thais have a finely honed disregard for pedestrians and it’s always open season on fallen farangs.

“Bah.” She thought I was crazy, but realized it was my own life. “Som nam nah.”

We drove over to the new park and I got out of the car. The road was smooth. The high speed descent might rival the thrill of skiing. I wore a helmet for protection and flip-flops on my feet.

Sneakers would have been a better idea, but I wasn’t planning on creaking the speed limit.

“Sure you want do this?” My wife wouldn’t think me any worse for backing out.

“Yes, I’m fine.” I signaled I was ready. My daughter was in the car too.

I got on the board and pushed off.

I picked up speed.

I was soon rolling at 20 kph, then 30.

I was out of control and deboarded in a panic.

My flip-flops failed the test of hitting the ground running.

Two steps and face plant.

My helmet thunked the pavement and my shoulder crumbled under the weight of a man’s middle-aged body. I got up slowly. Nothing was broken, but my cellphone was squashed in my pocket.

3500 baht down the hole.

I had plenty of cuts and bruises and blood seeped from open wounds.

My daughter cried thinking that I had really hurt myself.

In fact Angie was right and for the next two weeks I felt like John Gotti’s Mafia collection agency had beaten me with a baseball bat.

Pain was a way of letting your body was not yet dead.

Then remind you of your age by not letting you heal quickly.

Snow was definitely softer than the street.

Everyone in Pattaya upon hearing this story asked the same thing, “How old are you?”

I think I’m 25 but act 15 sometimes.

My friend Jocko Weyland was a well-known skateboarder. He wrote a history of the sport THE ANSWER IS NEVER. Jocko considered my effort commendable.

“Dude.”

So I was a dude to one person in the world.

Better than none, although three months after the crash I’m still sleeping on my right side and the skateboard is gathering a fine veneer of dust.

“How old?”

VERY OLD, but still young at heart. In other words stupid too.

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