Saturday, February 10, 2007

In Praise of Heelys

I see these kids in the subway sometimes. They're gliding, feet cocked back, slipping through space and time, as if frictionlessly propelled by a graceful and childish will. The first time I saw it, I stopped and blinked. I couldn't make out how the kid moved. I asked a friend about it later. The kid was wearing Heelys.

If you don't have kids and you don't live in the city, I'll explain. Heelys are a newish form of roller skates that look like regular sneakers. Embedded in the heel is a broad flat wheel. The wearer can walk normally. If he wants to roll, he cocks his heel back and rolls. It's beautiful to watch.

I grew up in an era when kids never wore helmets on their bikes. Our parents either overlooked danger or recognized its role in our development. We rode in the backs of our grandfather's pick-up trucks, on the highway. A three-meter high dive stood over the town pool. That's all gone now, too dangerous people said. Of course in most instances it's bullshit. The perception of danger is not danger. Still, most kids grow up today swaddled in protective gear and guarded from any peril or the grace and courage it inspires.

Someday soon a group of concerned parents or insurance company representatives will come together to ban Heelys. Their forces are already gathering. But for the time being you can go to Modell's and pick up a pair. Do it. Buy a pair of Heelys and give them to a poor kid. Or any kid. There's not enough beauty in the world.

No comments: