Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I recently found this little drawing in my desk from Craig Grasso.
Craig was a pro freestyle BMX'er back in the late '80s/early '90s [he once road naked during a King Of Vert contest!] that I met through my bmxing friends. He fell in love with a girl who lived in Maryland and ran with my circle of friends so he came out from Southern California a few times to visit. I even put him up with a place to stay at my parents' house during a summer between college semesters when I was home in Aspen Hill.
I showed him all the trails we rode and the old, hot jumping grounds from when I was a kid riding Torkers and P.K. Rippers and doing crossed-up kick outs at places like the Alligator Pit, the big launcher at Wood Jr. High, and that big ass hill behind Peary High School (which is now totally overgrown and wooded by the way). He would do the same a few months later when I came to Hermosa Beach to visit some of my friends. Only Craig's repertoire involved wall rides, something I was not well-versed in.
He was a super nice guy and crazy talented both on his bike and off it: the guy had this Mark Gonzales style of illiterate outsider art going on. I was never quite sure if Craig really couldn't spell or if misspelling words was part of his style.
After I relocated to Southern California in '91, I still kept in touch with Craig even though he lived in San Francisco where he was part of the storied bicycle messenger scene and a soap box derby racer. He also had the claim to fame of living at one time with Puck from the Real World.
Once during a visit to SF, Craig and his buddy took me to some crazy ass warehouse party where we drank assloads of Jagermeister and then on the way home from the party, before we could stop at some "killer burrito joint," they initiated me into the seedy world of gay SF.
They pulled over curbside in what appeared to me to be some random place in town and instructed me to get out of the car. They said they had a dare for me. This was the pre-Jackass days of skate/bmx culture which was - and still is - filled with fiesty challenges of bravado and courage.
My request seemed simple enough: I was to walk down the alley in front of me and they would meet me on the other side.
Didn't seem like much of a challenge so I eagerly flung into action.
About 25 yards down I realized something wasn't right. The alley was littered with bottles and condoms and wreaked of piss and shit. And soon enough I was greeted by a man in a 10 gallon hat and leather chaps, cock in hand being stroked asking me if he could "service me."
"No thanks," I said and just kept walking only to find the entire alley overrun with gay male prostitutes all who resembled in one way or another a member of the Village People.
When I got to the end of the alley, Craig was hunched over holding his ribs laughing his ass off.
My face must have been pale. I'd had never seen anything like that before.
"Welcome to the Castro!" said Craig.
And with that we got back into the car and got ourselves some "killer burritos."
I lost track of Craig sometime before I moved from SoCal to NC in '95 and haven't heard a peep from or about him since then...
[UPDATE: A contemporary told me that last he heard Grasso was living and working in that alley he dared me to walk through...]
We took the kids to the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Christmas parade on Saturday morning. We've been going to that parade and camping out in front of the Orange County Social Club since before we had kids. Even though we moved to Durham it still is an annual tradition.
Usually I don't get to make it because of my catering work schedule and usually it is cold as hell out but this year the temperature was downright balmy and I managed to squeeze in some free time.
And just to show you how serious they take their basketball here in Chapel Hill, the fire engines are painted Carolina blue and have the patented Tar Heel logo imprinted on them.
I wonder, are there any other college towns out there who eschew the traditional red fire engine in favor of the local university's colors?