baby dolphins

by tobias crabtree

katherine fontaine loves baby dolphins. this ain’t some kind of  love that someone thinks is cool and might get a dolphin tattoo on her lower back to show people how much she loves them. this is the real deal kind of love that one would hope to get from anyone at least once in their life. it’s the kind of love that one wakes with in the morning and lies down with at night and carries every moment in between. from what i gather, katherine’s adoration comes from a surfing event. she was out past the breakers and a small pod of dolphins came through. a curious little dolphin came closer than the rest of the gang and put on a little show for KF. there were flips and twirls and all manner of tricks before the mama pulled her little calf away. since then i hear about them all the time. i love them too, i’m like the vice president of the Baby Dolphin Love Affair Society. katherine holds that executive spot, she has to, she just doesn’t fit in better anywhere else.

KF and i are also in a skate gang. we recently just bought the same skateboard for bombing hills. i’d like to make something clear here. i’ve never bombed a hill on a skateboard in my life. i’ve seen other people do it and it looked so amazing that i wanted to do it. i told kath that i was going to learn or die trying, probably the latter since i’m in my 40’s. she already knew how to skate and already owns a cool longboard but she went ahead and bought the kind i bought. same board…exactly. mine sat for a little while, all sleek and fast and amazing looking. i did a lot of talking about how cool it was going to be to bomb hills. kath agreed. we scoped out nice places where we wouldn’t get run over by motorists. we planned our trips around the united states. in the midst of all this, we realized that we were a gang. the name was easy, The Baby Dolphins, were born.

since that day about 3 weeks ago, i went into a local skateboard shop and bought the things i didn’t want to buy. i was sure i wouldn’t be gaining any cool points for what i knew i had to do.

(me) “do you guys sell elbow pads and knee pads for someone, say, about my size?”

(skater guy behind the counter) “yeah man, upstairs by the decks, i’ll show you.”

(me) “do you think i need a mouth guard?”

(skater) “i hope not. that would be a bad wreck.” he glanced back over his shoulder and smiled. “you just getting started?”

(me) “yeah, i’m gonna really bomb some hills.”

(skater/really nice guy) “that’s rad, man, and pads are cheaper than hospital bills.”

i left with a better feeling about it all. it gotta admit, i felt like a skater. that guy was all about me bombing hills. i texted KF with the new insight. i watched the pros on youtube. i made a pair of gloves for speed checking (this is a kind of way to slow down, which is important when you bomb hills like a baby dolphin). everything lined up. it was time.

my 14 year old buddy, rowan, took me out to his spot. at the top of sunny vista, a nice, long, strip of asphalt in the desert, he gave me some pointers. he showed me what to do, body position and stuff like that. he said, “nice and easy.” armed like some kinda plastic super hero, i stepped aboard my flat black steed, nose pointed downhill. then, with no further adieu, i bombed that hill. and by bombed, i mean i went down it slowly and carefully and fearfully. rowan was awesome and he told me how to control my speed and my board. i did what he said and i felt like a wild baby dolphin. at the end of the session (that’s what a period of time spent skating is called) i was feeling that feeling, that understanding of the beginning of something wonderful. i called KF to report the progress. 400 miles north, on kirkham street in the outer sunset, kath was doing some skating on her own. she didn’t pick up the phone, just texted her preoccupation to me. the sun was setting and i was sore like someone who’s 46 and just learning to skateboard.

i look for hills now.

i smile when i see a punk kid with a skateboard.

i am…

a baby dolphin.

(this essay dedicated to the real baby dolphins in the real ocean…and to katherine fontaine)