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"We miss him," Lynn Malto says. "He's gone a lot. But Sean's always been independent and had a good head on his shoulders."
At Escapist one day this August, Askew and Malto joke about the press coverage he received during Street League's Kansas City stop. Askew does his best TV voice: "High school dropout from Leavenworth, Sean Malto."
"That was rude," Malto says.
Askew goes on: "They were like, 'His daily routine is waking up and calling some of his homies and seeing where they want to skate. But he's not a bum. He's getting paid.' So all of his friends who aren't getting paid are bums."
"It'd be nice to have a diploma," Malto admits. "It's still on the list but pretty far back. It's one of those things: Am I going to be worried about it? Should I worry about it? Because I'm not."
Malto doesn't have to worry about it. He no longer needs to send videos to sponsors, hoping he'll catch their eye. Four Star covers his clothing. Etnies takes care of his footwear. (He's on his third shoe.) He rides Girl skateboards with Spitfire wheels and Thunder trucks. Gatorade is his drink of choice, and there's always plenty. And, of course, he gets love from Escapist.
"I'm comfortable," Malto says.
Two years ago, he bought a house in Leavenworth, a split-level to share with his mother. (His parents divorced when he was 16.) But he was sleeping on Joseph Lopez's floor five days a week, so it was time to buy his own place in KC.
Malto's loft is a throwback to the glory days of MTV's Cribs. The bar and the tables and the rest of the furniture are showroom-new and indicate the decorating guidance he had from the wife of his friend and pro skateboarder Mikey Taylor. Skate videos loop constantly on the giant flatscreen — except when he's playing Call of Duty. Skateboard decks hang on a wall, not far from a life-size poster of Chiefs safety Eric Berry that's visible from the outside at night if he leaves the lights on. A signed Berry jersey hangs on a wall near his kitchen. The inscription reads: "Best of luck. I hope you join the team."
Not the Chiefs. Adidas.
"It's kind of a shame that it didn't work out," Malto says. "But I did get a signed jersey out of it."
A photo on his refrigerator, taken when he received the Arizona Street League's 24/7 Award given by his fellow skaters, shows Malto smiling and holding stacks of money.
"I love where I'm at now, and I want to keep it here for as long as I can," Malto says. "So I'm going to go skate and do everything I need to do to keep this going for as long as possible."
Lil Wayne wanted to skate. His people called Malto a few nights before the rapper's August 22 Sprint Center show. He wanted to schedule a session at the California Skateparks-designed East Bottoms indoor skate park that Malto owns with Askew and a few buddies. (Twenty-eight people pay $100 a month to skate there.) Weezy had taken up skateboarding on his latest tour — and been spotted with the resulting bandage on his head.
The skate session was set for 3 a.m., and Malto was told that he could invite four friends. Four tour buses rolled up the gravel drive leading to the skate park. A big bodyguard climbed down from one of them and scoped out the place in silence. Bars cover the windows of the converted warehouse, and rusty barbed wire lines the outside of the garage doors, overlooking train tracks.