The following video featuring Muhammad and the Westboro Baptists was shot on October 4, 2016. It is the first protest video I ever shot and edited. It is also the day I began my altar ego as the Indianapolis Skateboard Journalist.
I was just over two years post chemo and testicular cancer. My wife was being treated for stage 4 colon cancer. Despite all of our health issues, we had a child just five weeks after my last chemo infusion.
That last treatment nearly ended me. A couple days after the infusions, I could barely get out of bed. Thankfully, Carmen knew something was seriously wrong and demanded I go back to the hospital. I didn’t put up much of a fight. I couldn’t. After receiving one blood infusion that evening and another the next morning, I went from barley being able to make it down the hallway, to putting baby furniture together.
Over the next five weeks, three white lines running across every toe and fingernail kept reminding me of the three cycles of three chemo drugs I had experienced. That, along with bouts of fatigue and nausea, which usually came on after eating, left me wondering to what extent, and what sort, of damage may have been caused by the treatment.
Soon after Buck was born, I began having problems with my balance. I was unstable while carrying him on feet that felt like sensitive bricks. My movement was slow, and I was always on the verge of tripping and falling over. Whenever I wore shoes, I thought there were lumps in my socks.
For a while I even developed an electric shock in the bottom of my feet every time I looked down. My doctors ruled out MS, and my oncologist eventually, but hesitantly, admitted that the cisplatin I had been injected with during treatment had most likely damaged some of my nerves.
back on board
In my frustration, I began going out on my longboard trying to push through the imbalance and awkwardness. I was a bit shaky, but made it around the neighborhood most days without falling. Over time, the Muehrcke lines on my nails disappeared as they grew out, and my balance began to improve.
Buck on board
Buck also began riding with me on another longboard a few months before turning two-years-old. His interest in boarding developed immediately after he rejected the balance bike I bought him. Upon pushing the bike over one day, he sat down on the 42″ Meyer deck which was wide enough for both of us to sit on together. So I padded him up and away we went.
We started off riding down hills as if we were sledding. After mastering our downhill runs, I began standing up behind him. As time passed, we pushed further and more frequently.
Our rides together came on the heels of Carmen’s cancer diagnosis. She had one tumor in her colon and four in her liver. In between taking care of her and working during our terrible time of trouble, Buck and I often sought refuge surfing concrete across city streets and sidewalks while Carmen rested. By the time he was three-years-old, Buck had spent more time on a board downtown than most teenagers who skate. But that’s another story.
downtown on my own
Eventually, I started taking my board downtown to work with me riding it around the Mile Square. At first, I could barely maneuver around all the sidewalks and rough terrain. Over a few weeks, I started getting smoother and venturing out further from my office. I hit a lot of neighborhoods. Especially ones with Mexican restaurants.
back to school
One afternoon while sitting in my office, I was intrigued to hear that some Westboro Baptists were going to be protesting on the IUPUI campus. Having obtained my BA with a Religious Studies Major from IUPUI while working part time for The Hendricks County Flyer as a reporter, I thought I’d ride over and see if I could score an interview.
Upon arriving, the Westboro Baptists were setting up their protest behind two layers of fencing. Police blocking every access point to the protestors were scattered about. A large number of students nearby were holding a counter protest. The school even had a DJ and a dancefloor set up outside to dance the hate away as roaming staff yelled through megaphones pleading with students to ignore the hateful protestors.
In the middle of shooting some video, an engineering student from Qatar named Muhammad started talking to me. He seemed to be making more sense than any of the other students or staff. He was neither afraid nor offended, and he said something that has stuck with me since that day, “Offense is always taken, never given.”
instinct over skill
I went back to my office after the rally and worked until early evening editing the footage on Windows Movie Maker. Operating less on skill and more on instinct, I cranked out the first edited video ever to go beyond Buck and I rolling around on a board together.
The video shot up to over seven hundred views on YouTube overnight, and it occurred to me that there was much more of Indianapolis worth showing from my board’s eye view. Little did I know at the time, however, just how much more I would end up seeing while rolling around.
Since that first video, I’ve uploaded well over 200 videos featuring the city of Indianapolis. My shooting and editing has improved, and I’m also off the longboard and back to street skating cigar shaped decks.
While making Skateboard Journalist videos, I have met a bunch of amazing people, and have become healthier than I ever was in my 30’s. The best that has happened, however, is Carmen remaining cancer free the last five years, and our son, now seven-years-old, developing into an amazing, beautiful, healthy, kind spirit.
This is not the life I thought I’d be living at 49-years-old, but so far, it’s absolutely my best life. As the Skateboard Journalist of Indianapolis, I’m happy to share a little bit of my heart with a board’s eye view of the city I love.