HYANNIS – A skinny guy on a skateboard, carrying an orange envelope and wearing a blue knit hat, arrived at the blue mailbox in front of the excessively nondescript beige building that is the 200 Main Street Town Offices.
Paul Garcia, who lives in the neighborhood, was sending a Halloween card to his daughter in New York. She’s 26. Garcia, on a 1980s replica skateboard, is 54. He just learned he is going to be a grandfather.
He is currently not working. He is not retired. “It’s easier for me to get around on my skateboard than it is to walk,” he said. “I have a neurologic disease and a musculoskeletal disease… I have Lyme disease.”
Although he walks far more often than he is on his board, Garcia said that on a nice day with a short errand, the board made sense. “I love this neighborhood and I love the people around here,” he said.
Plus, he added, “All the streets are all level streets.”
Garcia, who grew up in Larchmont, New York, has been skateboarding since he was a child. In 1999, he came down with Lyme disease. He does not remember being bitten by a tick and never found one on him. The symptoms developed slowly over time, he said.
And then Garcia, an engineer who had a career in research and development, was bitten again by a tick in 2011 and, he said, “I almost died.”
Now he has many symptoms. He knows that depression can also be one. Suicide, he said, has killed those who give up.
Garcia looks fine. He’s pretty coordinated on his skateboard. And he knows it. But, he said, no one knows the pain he is in. “Relatives, or friends say, ‘Put your big boy pants on.’” he said.
But what is not clear from the outside, as with many diseases, he said, is his pain.
“I’m in pain from head to toe,” said Garcia.
Garcia has started an organization, Lymelight Mission, to raise money research to find a cure for all tick-borne illnesses.
He said although he cannot currently work, he is involved in “advocacy and activism” to bring help to those suffering from Lyme disease.
The disease is very difficult, he said, citing a wide spectrum of symptoms and severity. His was very bad, he said.
He described the disease as “a blindfolded ride on a merry-round roller coaster in the dark.” That means, he said, that that things go round and round, up and down, and the patient often has no idea what is happening.
“It can be disorienting,” he said.
But he had his bearings on this beautiful fall afternoon in downtown Hyannis. From the Town Offices, he headed down Main Street until he got to Pleasant Street, one of his favorite streets, he said.
Not only is the skateboarding great on Pleasant Street because it is a smooth road but much of the scenery consists of stately though mostly dilapidated historic sea captain’s houses. It is old Cape Cod, and Garcia said he loves it.
“I do worry about traffic a little bit,” he said.
Just before South Street is a short, not steep, hill and curve that Garcia caught with style onto the sidewalk on South Street. “Skateboarders get a bad reputation,” he said.
The only thing he doesn’t like is when he sees vandalism at a skate park.
But skateboarders are a community, said Garcia. Spend any time in Hyannis and one is bound to see someone, often a kid, on a skateboard. “The skateboard shop right on Main Street does a vibrant business,” said Garcia.
He said he runs into the younger skaters all the time in Hynnis. “I guess I’m the old man. But it’s ageless,” he said. “We just talk like we’re friends.”
It is, as Garcia told it, just another passionate community on Cape Cod where everyone has a story.
Garcia happens to also belong to the Lyme disease community, formed of people affected by the disease.
And while that disease can be, as Garcia said, disorienting, he finds joy in getting on that replica 1980s skateboard and rolling through town.
Garcia wishes his health were better but he is thankful for where he lives and that his children don’t have to worry about him.
He is not disoriented at this moment. “I know that I’m alive,” he said. “I’m talking to you.”
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A softball team called the Townies. A slick developer with a sketchy story. A town divided over a zoning change….— YOU CAN’T SELL RIGHT FIELD, A Cape Cod Novel
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