San Francisco Chronicle
March 25, 1989

The Park's Real Wheeler-Dealer

By Nanette Asimov
Chronicle Staff Writer

David Miles may not be faster than a speeding bullet, but on rollerskates he has beaten the Muni Metro and that can make anyone feel like Superman.

"I wouldn't beat it by much-about 3 minutes. But oh, man, I kinda feel like a superhero aImost Miles says.

Miles hasn't missed more than six Sundays in 10 years at Golden Gate Park's mad boom-box skate party each weekend on John F. Kennedy Drive. Those who know him-nearly everyone there-suspect that if it weren't for Miles' lobbying everyone from Recreation and Park officials to state lawmakers for his sport there would be few skaters, only cars, roIling down the avenue.

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                                                                                                              photo by Brant Ward/Chronicle Thanks to the efforts of David Miles, who has been skating in the park for over 10 years, the Recreation and Parks Department is replacing the asphalt off of John F. Kennedy Drive at 6th Avenue with skater friendly asphalt.

Thanks in part to his efforts, as the park re-landscapes a small area off JFK Drive at Sixth Avenue, it is also replacing the rocky asphalt with skater friendly tar. The idea is to make it easier for skaters to shimmy there on weekdays, when traffic keeps them off the main road.

Call him Skate Man or just envy his ability to dance on skates like an acrobat on wheels. He is a former Kansas City, Mo., street kid who skated out of the drug-ridden environs that swallowed up so many of his friends and family. From the day he tested the asphalt in Golden Gate Park 10 years ago, Miles has been a skating fiend. But his passion is creating skate contests for his friends and skate-a-thons for charity.

"Being a good skater is well and good;' Miles says, "but organizing it gives me a sense of purpose:'

Savior on Wheels

And like the Pied Piper, Miles finds that if he plays his game hard enough, others will follow.Ronnie Gadaleta did. She was only 12 when her mother died 16 years ago. She lived in so many group homes that the total is only a blur."I was uncontrollable;' said Gadaleta, 28, "and the people I was hanging out with were into drugs:' Many are strung out tighter than a snare drum now. Several are dead. But Gadaleta has a job, a house, a husband, a baby, and a dog.

"You can hang 90 percent of the responsibility on Dee (Miles) and skating:" she said. "They were into doing things that were fun instead of destructive:'

"They" are the Golden Gate Park Skate Patrol, a, good-guy network of about 15 people who've been the guardians of the park's skate scene since 1979. Members roll through the park on regular rounds, defusing trouble or lending a hand. Some skaters have been with the group from the start, including Miles, its longtime president. Passing a CPR class is required to join, though being Super Skater is not.

"I'm probably one of the worst skaters the group has ever had:' Gadaleta admits. "I can't do tricks, and I can't jump over cars. But even though I was horrible, they made me feel I was part of it."

To Miles, that's the idea. He boasts of the Skate Patrol's multi-cultural mix: blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, Indians, Russians. The group includes a plumber, a security guard, a high school student, and even "Old Man Bob" a skating graybeard who lives in a van.

Sunday in the Park

"Old Man Bob" is Bob Roberts, a retired merchant seaman who's been skating for 45 years. He describes the Sunday skate party as a "social gathering, no snobs allowed:' Old Man Bob glides through the Sunday crowd with a silver cane in his hand and two snowy pigtails dangling at his ears. A woman wearing a long blue dress and a white turban skates by pushing a baby stroller. Midstreet is center stage, where Terry and Elizabeth Smith practice synchronous dance moves to the rap beat spewing from Miles' boom box. Heel-toe, heel-toe, cross, whirl, roll. The Smiths are another park-born romance, having met over polyurethane one Easter Sunday. Last year they won Mi!j:s' free-style dance contest.

This is the scene over which Miles presides, "a loose leader of loose troops:' as skater John Thomas describes it.

San Francisco skaters

Born in 1956, Miles moved II times and went to three different high schools before dropping out in the 10th grade. His mom married and divorced five times. Miles earned his equivalency diploma in the prison like atmosphere of the Missouri Job Corps. He joined his mother here 10 years ago after a particularly persuasive Missouri snowfall and sought the warmth of the park.

It embraced him well, introducing him to rollerskating and to Rose Cheng, both of whom he married. Rose works mornings in a doughnut shop while Miles watches Melanie, 5, and Tiffany, 2. When Rose comes home, Miles skates to work at the Midtown Terrace rec center.

His two-bedroom apartment is dominated by a large screen TV he bought after winning a job discrimination suit a few years ago. He keeps the names of more than 300 skaters in his computer database, and his VCR plays one video after another showing his buddies doing the slalom, the high jump, the long jump, or himself doing his signature skate trick, a cheek-to-ground move with an outstretched leg.

Miles would rather skate in the park than take roller dancers out on tour. He'd rather teach kids to skate for free than sell them skates. And local skate store owners would rather have it that way, too.

"He's promoted a sport that I make a living on says Lee Cole, who owns Skates on Haight. "Miles is an odd individual these days when so many people after a dollar, including myself."

Miles knows he's an exception, but he'd rather example. "I feel that I am somebody with nothing (but) I'm making something. And I have glued a lot of. people together."