"You are being detained," the officer said. He put a heavy hand on Christian's shoulder and led him to a barren security office on the airport's lower level, where Christian was seated on a bench next to a desk on which someone had left a Styrofoam takeout box with chicken bones and some unfinished potato salad. A few other agents gathered as the arresting officer began to search Christian, who was still holding his skateboard and wearing his new signature-line shoes. (He had just signed a deal with a distributor in Japan.) The agent found the meth in Christian's hipsack and held it up to the light, letting it hang in the baggie like a prize fish he had caught. "Do you have any idea how much trouble you're in?"
Christian Hosoi was finally coming down. He pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was 32 years old.
To see Christian in prison, I have to drive east from Dogtown through downtown Los Angeles, then West Covina, Azusa, Palmdale and Upland, past dozens of Del Tacos and strip malls and long-closed skateparks to a desolate exit where the only hint that you are near a jail is the sudden riot of signage offering bail-bond services. At the reception window I fill out a visit request form for booking number 0402301190. Then I pass through a metal detector and wait in a large room lined on three sides by plexiglass, with partitions that divide the perimeter into semi-private cubicles, like open-air confessionals. A chubby mother in a Simpsons T-shirt tells her two rambunctious boys to keep quiet. Two men with shorn heads are warily looking around. Finally, a line of orange-jumpsuit-clad men file into the room—on the opposite side of the glass—and sit down. Visitors scurry from booth to booth until they find whom they've come to see, then both visitor and prisoner pick up the intercom phones and start talking.
Christian is one of the last prisoners to sit down. His thick black hair has thinned and his face is fleshier than it was in the '80s. He has put on weight in prison, and with his dark hair and complexion he looks like yet another Mexican father doomed to catch only glimpses from behind bulletproof glass of his children growing up. At 36 he is more than a decade removed from his athletic prime. Though he totes a Bible and launches into long discourses on how he's blessed to be doing God's will, and says that he has no regrets because this was the path that put him in touch with Jesus, there is a weariness in his eyes.
He insists he never thinks about whether it should be him sitting by that pool in Encinitas, banking those fat video-game royalties. "I don't dwell on the past," he says. "That was Tony's journey, and God bless him. This is the path the Lord has set me on, and I am grateful that I will be able to use my name and my skating as my key." [Because of good behavior, he could be released in early June.] He says that when he gets out, he will use his skating to preach the word of God. "I can't wait to skate again. Kids will see me, and I can represent Christ. I want to acknowledge him in everything I do."
Christian Hosoi will skate again. Within a few days of being released, one of his friends will take him to a pool or a ramp or a skatepark. (A group of fellow skaters in Santa Ana has already built a 40-foot-wide halfpipe in preparation for the resurrection of Christ.) He will be tentative at first as he becomes reacclimated to the feel of the grip tape under his sneakers, the urethane wheels rumbling over wood or concrete, the way his body feels as it moves through the transition to vertical. Whenever he skates, wherever he skates, word will spread and a crowd will gather. Fathers and mothers will explain to their children, and older siblings will tell younger brothers and sisters who this is. And Christian, inspired by the crowd, and still a showman, will push himself. And after a few runs, a few carves and then grinds and then rock-and-rolls, he will once again launch aerials off of a ramp or out of a pool. He will again take flight.
And then, he insists, he will gather the children around him and tell them about Christ—Jesus Christ—and he will start his parable by talking about a boy who was not afraid to go too high.