Diamonds & Wood: Smoothland Giveth And Smoothland Taketh Away

"Diamonds & Wood" is an ongoing series in which music critic Shea Serrano breaks down the 5 hip-hop tracks you need to hear this week.

I couldn’t run fast enough. I couldn’t stretch far enough. There was nothing to be done. Nothing but die.

Earlier this week, the boys and I were trespassing into a school parking lot after hours because that’s a little thing called engaging with your sons. We were there to skateboard. The boys have been skateboarding for maybe two or three or four months now. It’s not something they (or we) do every day, but they (we) do enough to be good at it.

Now, there is no shortage of perfectly skateable concrete near our house, but the boys are wanderers, explorers, tiny men of action. They like to move as far away from their home as possible, which most readily manifests itself in a trip over a gate and into the deep, dark jungle of the Montessori school parking lot a hundred yards away from our front door.

The parking lot is glorious. It was paved only this past summer, so it is clean and divot free. A good couple of kicks there yield far greater net gains than on the rubble of road we’d otherwise be relegated to. The boys refer to it as Smoothland. It’s not an especially clever name, but it’s functional and sometimes that’s the point.

The boys and I were there earlier this week. We went right before dinner. We’d been granted 30 minutes of play because they’d finished their homework early, which is something that rarely happens, so we were all very eager. We put on shoes/shirts/shorts and left. We kick-pushed through the loose gravel of the unsatisfactory street leading up to Smoothland for all of ten seconds before deciding it was less troublesome to carry the boards. (The road is a truly awful place to ride once you’ve been to Smoothland. I’d sooner eat a shovel’s worth of mulch than ride there every again.)

We arrived excited and ready. There’s no freer, more satisfying feeling than coasting along at a speedy clip atop a skateboard. So we skated. And it was perfect and beautiful. Until it was awful and hideous.

Boy A, a natural athlete and speed junkie, was flying down a flawless stretch of pavement, when Satan reached up from Hell and grabbed his two front wheels. They stopped immediately. And he kept going. I was twenty feet away. I saw it all. But I was just too far away to do anything. I couldn’t run fast enough. I couldn’t stretch far enough. There was nothing to be done. Nothing but die.

He flew—LITERALLY FLEW—through the air in slow motion. He couldn’t think to call my name, but I know that’s all he wanted to do. He tried to ready himself for the impact, his arms stretched out in front reaching towards empty air, but it was a toothless move. He had no anything. All he could do was slap his face onto the concrete, which is exactly what he did. Forehead to chin, perfectly parallel with the ground, is how he landed. He hit with an alarming velocity. The only thing faster was how quickly he raised himself.

He popped up, decided which part of his shattered cranium to grab first (he went with the sides) and then screamed. I was powerless. My whole stomach fell out of my butthole. There’s just not much worse than watching your kid hurt himself. I sprinted over, pretended like it wasn’t that big of a deal that his face had just exploded blood, then held his head against my stomach and wordlessly tried to figure out if it’d be best for everyone if I just murder-suicided the lot of us.

When I peeled him off my shirt was covered in blood. Face, lips, nose, front left tooth: all destroyed. I looked at him, rubbed his tufted afro, kissed his forehead, then picked him up and carried him home.

There’s no grand moral to this story. It’s not a parable or metaphor or anything like that. It’s just some shit that happened. Sometimes that’s the point too.

1-5. Maxo Kream, Quicc Strikes

To match the destruction that occurred in the above story, I’m passing along but one single mixtape: Maxo Kream’s Quicc Strikes, which just released this week. It is remarkably dystopic and intimidating and confident in its own devastation. It will wiggle around in your psyche, a zip full of nightmares stored in your iPhone. Download it. Love it.

Shea Serrano is a writer living in Houston, TX. His work has appeared in the Houston Press, LA Weekly, Village Voice, XXL, The Source, Grantland and more. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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  • huiche7

    OH SHIT SO SERIOUS