Fly Boys

Like a gang of punk Peter Pans, suburbia's not-so-lost boys flock to Eisenbergs Skate Park to test their wings

Gurian is an author, not a researcher. Among academics and researchers, there is some skepticism about his view of testosterone as the chemical key to all boy behavior (the thing that makes them idiots). Dan Kindlon, a Harvard Medical School professor who is co-author of a soon-to-be-published book, Raising Cain, thinks testosterone is not all it's cracked up to be.

"People view testosterone too simply," Kindlon says. "There's not as much known about it as people think. There's a very interesting study out of Canada, for example, that says when you look at boys who are high school bullies, they tend to have lower than normal levels of testosterone.

"But you find higher levels among valedictorians," he says. "It may mean that testosterone is related to dominance, not aggression."

Judy Chu, a doctoral candidate at Harvard who is also working on issues of boy behavior, thinks adolescent boys confront the same dilemma adolescent girls do--figuring out a life for themselves in spite of all the pressure and crapola they get from adults.

"Boys, like girls, have to accommodate themselves to externally defined images. For boys, it used to be a macho-man image. Now there's a sensitive-guy image. But neither one may be the right fit."

Chu interviewed adolescent boys to find out whether they were in touch with their own feelings or the feelings of others. "One of the most striking findings, in talking to boys 12 to 18 years old, is that they know exactly what's going on with themselves and others, but for them it's a different game than for girls.

"They tell us, 'If you tell people how you feel, they can knock you down.'"
Chu says that's true. Isn't it? So why do New Age-esque adults tell them it's not true?

Who knows? One thing, though: When they're at Eisenbergs, you can't tell them anything. You can't even talk to them. They strap on those helmets, put down their dewy chins, and plunge off the top of the vert ramp into the screaming techno-rave music and the smell of sweat, and from that moment on you can't get their attention by yelling.

Sitting on the sidelines watching are a few dads and moms, people who can't quite get their minds around actually leaving a kid here and then going home to wait for the emergency room to call.

Chuck McDaniel, a landscape architect from Oak Cliff, says, "I'm not prepared to drop my kids off at the front door and come pick them up four hours later. But I find that the Eisenbergs are fine people. They run the place well."

Cathy Moult, who lives in Willow Bend, brought her son, Adam, 8, and a nephew, Justin Emmert, 13, visiting from Joplin, Missouri.

"It's a little walk on the wild side for them," she says.
Adam says the kids at Eisenbergs were nice to him. "If you, like, fall down, they'll help you up, and they cheer if you do a good trick."

Wide-eyed and flushed, Justin leans forward to say, "This is totally different from Joplin."

Perched on a steel bench against the wall, John Merriman, a 37-year-old father, says, "If I was 10 to 15 years younger, I'd be out there doing it myself. It's dangerous, I know. But I was raised on a farm. When I was my son's age, I had a motorcycle and a .22 rifle. At 13 I had an old pickup truck, and (he pauses, looking for the first time at the reporter's note-taking)...and that's about as far as I'm going with that story."

The place is pretty crowded now. There are helmeted boys flying off all the walls like atoms. Walking out into the midst of them seems like a plan for suicide. But new arrivals wait by the margins for their chances to get in, slump-shouldered hopeful little acolytes in their flowing vestments. One by one they move forward and are suddenly a part of it, all of them surging from place to place in a shared but inscrutable pattern --a flow.

Flow. Flow! That's what it is. That's what they have or do or make together. A flow. That is what one feels. A flow.

They skate together, and they all become part of this huge surging force that laps from one end of the building to the other like a giant lava lamp filled with sweat. Which is a disgusting idea. Which is part of the appeal. The flow fills nostrils and heart with a hard meaning and purpose.

Josie Eisenberg says the flow of the place is not accidental.
"Arlo came in when the building was still an antique mall, and sat in there by himself for hours and drew it out. He wanted to make sure it would work for skateboarders and bikers too, that it would have the right transitions and launch boxes, so that the whole place would have a flow."

An unexpected phone call: It is now possible to speak to The Arlo!
He's somewhere. Not quite here. He was here. But he's gone. He's not there yet. But it is possible to speak to him while he's in between. He's The Arlo.

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