One Sunday afternoon in 2011, OCD Ben called me. “Skateboarders got through your fence,” he said. “They’ve set up a grill and a cooler and they’re skating your pool.”
OCD Ben lived in a Spanish Colonial on an immaculate acre lot–not a weed to be seen, not a piece of gravel out of place–next door to the uninhabitable ramshackle ranch house that I’d recently received in my divorce settlement. The back yard included a drained pool and the rotted remains of a guest house where a colony of wild rabbits, and their feces, had taken up residence. During better times my former husband and I had planned to renovate the house and live the rest of our days there. But that happily-ever-after dream shifted to me hanging onto the property until the gutted Phoenix real estate market strengthened and I could sell it.
I drove to the house expecting to find a bunch of teenagers. Instead, I was greeted by a half-dozen middle aged men who, it turned out, were former professional skaters. True Skater Chris was the de facto leader, a physical therapist by day, married, and with a young child.
“Listen,” I told him, “it’s OK by me if you use the pool but just keep the noise down and clean up your trash so that we’re cool with OCD Ben.” And then I made him promise that the skaters wouldn’t sue me if they head-planted their way to paraplegia.
We fist-bumped to seal our deal, then he offered me chicken from the grill, a beer, and free skate lessons for my kids.
For the next six months, during a time when I was dog-paddling through my new life, trying to keep my head above water and my two boys afloat, OCD Ben and those skaters were the very definition of the kindness of strangers and paying it forward and all that. After copper thieves cannibalized one of my AC units, Carving Kenny–a pool cleaner who knew his way around electrical systems–disassembled both units and hauled them away to prevent future visits from the scroungers. When pipes burst in the house, Grinder Greg–a plumber–fixed the leaks. All of it for free.
Eventually the market began to turn a corner and a window opened to sell the property. I called True Skater Chris to tell him that I was filling in the pool and razing the house before listing the lot.
“I’m sorry,” I said. He’d told me that the Alta Hacienda pool was their favorite, so much so that they often brought visiting pros to skate there.
“We had a great run,” he said. “The banks are still foreclosing on houses so we’ve got a supply of pools. But hey, you doing anything with that coping stone? We’re building our own bowl and we love that pool’s edge.”
“Please,” I told him, “take whatever you want, including the rabbits. Well, especially the rabbits.”
They ended up carting away the coping and splitting the chain link fence with OCD Ben. Their photos and videos from their weekends at the pool remain online, that railslide time of my life riding on in perpetuity.