Fly Boys

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

But there is only time for one question.
The voice that comes across on this hissing cellular connection is young, thoughtful, well-spoken, mannerly. He listens to a long, crazy question about the flow.

"Right," The Arlo says when the question is done. "Well, on the one hand, I'm afraid it's more purposeful than esoteric. We have to put a lot of people in a small amount of space. Instead of having everything go into the middle, you want to have different courses or lines people can skate without running into each other.

"In this kind of skating, it's important for skaters to be able to get from one obstacle to the next seamlessly.

But on the other hand, he says, "It's true that skating at its best is rhythmic. You do get into a flow, especially when you're talking about a session, which is when a bunch of people get together to skate. It takes on a life of its own."

Arlo echoes a theme frequently offered by other members of the Eisenberg clan--a mantra of the business. He wants his skate park to be a "home for lost skaters."

In the center of Eisenbergs is a kind of rough-hewn lounge area with a Slurpee bar and a picture window looking out toward the vert in the far distance. Seated by himself at a table, finishing a drink, is Derek, 13. His real name is not Derek. It has been changed here because he's 13, and if he puts his real feelings out, other people could knock him down.

"I used to come probably four days a week," he says, "but now that I'm living with my dad, I just come on the weekends, mostly Saturday."

Derek's mother, when he lives with her, picks him up at school and drops him off here almost every school day until late evening. "I try to do all my homework at school the best I can and get it turned in so I can skate."

There's a big difference between his home in far North Dallas, where he lives with his mom, and his situation in East Texas, where he lives with his dad.

"They got corporal punishment out there in East Texas, but I don't care because I don't get in trouble that much. I get mostly A's and B's, a few C's."

He's short for his age, dark-haired, with a Hollywood smile, huge glowing brown eyes, and a pleasant country lilt in his voice.

"I live in a real rich neighborhood here (with his mother). When I come here to Eisenbergs, I spend $20 a day. That's nothin' to me. Today I bought these shoes (holds up his feet). They cost me $100.

"A lot of girls do like skaters," he says. "My girlfriend likes a skater." He flashes a big grin. "She likes me." He waits the proper beat for the laugh.

"You'll see a few girls that skate, but, you know. Most girls are more into makeup."

He used to skate at the old raunchy skate park in the industrial district, now out of business. "I broke my elbow and my arm there," he says proudly.

He's a skater but not an in-liner. He's a skateboarder.
"Most all skateboarders get along with skateboarders, and Rollerbladers get along with Rollerbladers, but Rollerbladers and skateboarders don't always get along."

He is quiet for a while, finishing his drink, gazing around at his world with a small, confident, proprietary smile. "I just like it here," he says. "You're on your own. There's plenty of people if you do want to hang out with somebody.

"But there's nobody telling you what to do. You learn from your mistakes. Yourself."

He rises, signaling that the conversation is at an end. "What else do they want us to do?" he asks, about to turn away. "Walk up and down the streets?"

Good question.

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