Day 293 - Dwight (1st person I approached)
October 20, 2014 - There’s a spot in downtown Vancouver that is both a tourist attraction and a skateboarding hangout. I guess the skaters like it because it’s a wide open, evenly paved location. It has lots of room and a couple of curbs, or solid jumps for them to use. They always seem to be mindful of those around them, looking to see that there are no pedestrians about to walk in their way. Before you know it, the board gets thrown into motion and the skaters are jumping on as it moves forward. Today was the first time I’ve seen a skateboarder there by himself.
I approached Dwight as he was taking a seat, on his skateboard and looking through his backpack. He pulled out a small cloth and was wiping the perspiration off of his forehead and neck. I explained what I’m doing and asked if he would chat with me.
“Sure,” he said. When I asked if he’d let me take his photo, I got a
“Yeah, no problem.” I still showed him my Facebook page, for legitimacy.
Born in Mexico, Dwight has one younger half brother.
“I lived in Mexico until I was about six years old. Then we moved to Atlanta, Georgia (United States). My mother had left a couple years ahead of me and I lived with my (maternal) grandparents. I remember how much I missed them when I first went to Atlanta,” he said. Dwight went to elementary school in Atlanta. He was eleven when his brother was born.
“My little brother was born there in Atlanta. My mom was always working, and so I had to look after my little brother a lot. It was just the three of us. I didn’t mind, it was helping my mother,” he said.
“I started skateboarding when I was around thirteen. I saw other kids doing it and wanted to try it out. A friend showed me a few things. I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.
“Once in Atlanta, I got arrested for skating. I was trespassing on private property. I've only ever hurt my ankle, nothing serious.”
At sixteen, Dwight moved back to Mexico, and lived with his grandparents.
“Why not?" he said.
"I went to school and started working. I worked for a while with Western Union, and then I started working in restaurant kitchens. I liked cooking. I was a server as well,” he said.
“When I was in Mexico, I went to high school until Grade ten. Then I dropped out of school and worked all the time.
After two years back in Mexico, Dwight wanted to make changes in his life.
"I didn’t want to grow up in the US, and I wanted a better life for myself than I would have in Mexico. My father was living here in Vancouver. I didn’t see him much when I was a little kid, when I first lived in Mexico. He was in my life. Just not all the time. He told me that there were a lot more opportunities for me here in Vancouver. That’s why I’m here now. I’ve been living with my Dad for about a year now,” he told me.
Dwight is back at school. When I asked him how that was going he gave a slight shrug of his shoulders and curled his upper lip slightly.
“It’s ok. I’ll get through it. I plan to graduate.” Then his face lit up brighter than it had through the conversation so far.
“I really want to get my culinary diploma. I want to cook,” he said smiling and with enthusiasm. I told him that I could see the excitement on his face when he spoke about that. “It’s a good job, you can go anywhere with that kind of thing. I like it a lot,” he said.
Skateboarding is Dwight’s mode of transport, and his recreation. We talked a little bit about different boards and types of wheels. Some skaters are into all the different aspects of the bearings, wheels and trucks (the forms that attach the wheels and bearings to the board). Dwight sees it as a means to an end. He likes to skate and it gets him around. He doesn't seem to care so much what wheels he has or about the board, other than it has to work. He pulls his board out from under him and shows me the wheels, with a spinning motion.
“I’ve had these wheels for about a year. They’re good enough,” he says. It’s about the riding for him, and not any competitive edge or prestige.
“When you come to a place like this, if you don’t know any of the skaters, it’s okay. They don’t mind. As long as you’re not getting in their way, everyone is accepting. You’ll see some of the guys riding around with their buddies filming them. Those guys are trying to get sponsorship. They send in video footage of them doing tricks and things. If it’s good, companies will put them on a list to use for things in the future,” he explained to me.
I asked Dwight, who is nineteen, who his hero’s are. He thought for a minute or two.
“In skating or in life in general,” he asked.
“I’d say Tupac Shakur (an American rapper who died at twenty-five, having sold some seventy-five million records). His message in his music, for me, was about being proud, not walking with your head down, but with your head held high. Be proud of who you are. And Bob Marley, for the same reason,” he said.
"That’s a good message. I want to be the best I can.”
I took Dwight’s picture and he gave me one of the warmest handshakes I’ve experienced in some time. He looked me right in the eye, with his whole face smiling. He reached out and patted me on my shoulder. There was a genuine look of appreciation on his face.
“Thank you for speaking with me, man. I hope you have a nice night. Thanks again.” #notastranger