on the joys of fresh asphalt
paving the way to fun
Asphalt is unpleasant.
Ask anyone who has ever flown down the hill on a skateboard and hit the smallest of rocks. For about a tenth of a second, everything is blissful. Arcing through the air is fun.
Impact isn’t really that bad either. Hitting the ground while moving quickly doesn’t really hurt until the next day. Both immediate and continued pain and scabby discomfort occur once the asphalt takes hold of your skin.
Asphalt is a mixture of sand, rocks and dirty petroleum products. It’s nasty stuff that has a low dollar cost but high environmental impact. Many of the places that I loved to play in as a child are now subdivisions, ruined by asphalt. Where there were once wonderful meandering mountain bike trails, there are now big box stores and yet more asphalt.
In my young adulthood, I used to rage at those who would pave the planet. Why are we smoothing out all of life’s bumps, I’d puzzle? The world of paving and road work was toxic and needed to be stopped as far as I was concerned.
The road to my Nanny’s was recently resurfaced. It is clear, smooth and perfect. There’s not a bump or speck of dust to be seen. The tar is still very present. The road is extra black and glossy. Rounding a corner, the reality of play collided with my cynicism. My view of asphalt changed.
I encountered a child. Shaggy haired, shirtless and bronze bellied, this boy was ripping down the road on something that looked like an old school Big Wheel.1 He was swerving and spinning, fishtailing and drifting. He was having a blast. The old road hasn’t been this fun in a while.
The road was paved forty years ago. I was around the same age as this kid. I loved riding my bike on the paved road. I remember the delight that I enjoyed. I remembered the bliss of fresh asphalt.
We are living in a time of uncertainty. Threats seem to poke out in every media. Whether cable news or the feed on your phone, it’s easy to find evidence that the world is going to hell. Even more, we’re getting there more quickly due to asphalt.
If this is it. If we are doomed as a species. If the planet is truly fucked. If the oligarchs are taking over and making everything terrible. If if if if if if what many of the experts say is true and that the world is truly becoming a toxic place, I invite you to be like the kid on the Big Wheel.
Find what pleasure you can. Fishtail, drift and play. It might not save the planet. It will save your soul