Interview by Ted Barrow on September 24, 2006
I was in junior high school, my first year, [when I] started skating. Someone taught me how to skate. This guy named Junior. He had a Santa Cruz, I think it was a Slasher. Around ‘87, ‘88. I’ve been skating a long time. He was doing acid drops and stuff. He told me to try it. I gave it a shot. The first time I slammed, landed on my knees. I don’t know why I was fascinated, so I just kept trying, about the third time I landed it. He was like, “Yo, you should skate, you should skate.” It was a bunch of Spanish kids that taught me how to skate.
Where was this?
In East New York. Not too far from Cypress Projects, matter of fact. We used to skate around there. Everyday I would skate at some fast food restaurant area. I think it was Wendy’s or KFC. There was this long rail, probably about 5 car lengths, and we’d wax the whole thing and slide the whole thing backside and frontside. We’d get all psyched off of that, and play our music and scream out Natas Kaupas, “Natas!” or, “Hosoi! Hosoi! And we’d go blazing fast.
What kind of music were you playing?
I would play rap, and some alternative. Some alternative. At that time the only alternative band I knew was maybe U2. Yeah, it was U2 as a matter of fact. And The Smiths. Yeah. Those Spanish kids put me onto that.
Yeah, Spanish people love The Smiths.
When did you start going to the Banks?
I started going to the Banks when everybody – all the kids in East New York – they were getting into trouble, you know, selling drugs and stuff.
These were the kids that you used to skate with?
Yeah. The crew that I had in East New York. There was a guy named Chris, Junior, all these guys, Juni. They taught me how to skate, taught me how to ollie. They pretty much got careers, got cars, just disappeared one by one. So, I had to find somewhere to skate. Somebody told me about the Banks, so I took the train, and lo and behold, there was like a million people skating the Banks, and it was these big round bubbles to skate on, and you know, I just skated it, man.
Did you go into Manhattan to skate much before then?
No. Manhattan was like, I don’t know, another country to me. I knew nothing about Manhattan.
Who do you remember skating at the Banks at that point?
At that point, I could remember the Shut team.
So this is ’89, ’90?
Yeah. Those guys were really good. I remember Sean Sheffey, Barker Barrett, Qulon, Harold Hunter, all those guys. Even Louie Louie, as a matter of fact. He was on the Benji team. Louie Louie, Ray Wong, all those kids. I met all those guys up there, and I guess, you know, pretty much skated all over the city.
Were the Banks mainly a meet-up point, or would you spend most of the day there?
The Banks were like the Grand Central of skating. That was the fucking spot to meet up. You could go there, maybe at like seven, eight o’clock at night on a school night, and still, it was people skating in the dark. No lights.
Were there any other non-skaters there? Homeless people?
Yeah. There were some homeless people there. They would really stink, actually. And we would still skate right there. That place was full of people, full of bums. I don’t know. I just wanted to skate, I was still a little kid. I don’t know too much about that. I know they stunk. Some of the kids used to throw shit at them. I wasn’t into that. I just wanted to skate.
What about the board jackings?
There was a point where boards were getting jacked at the Banks, that’s for sure. I’m not going to mention any names. My board never got jacked. I don’t think I was having that. Not from where I’m from.
Actually, I did get jacked once. I got jacked for my Swatch watch. I was up in the Bronx, 161st Street. There was a skatepark over there called Mullaly’s Park. There was a half-pipe, they had ramps like crazy. There was a kid that used to skate that spot real dope, his name was Corky, man. He was really dope. I would go up there with Corky, and Akim, and Mike Comacho, and Nuni, and even meet up with Mike Hernandez and those guys too. And Gizmo. We’d all meet up over there and skate those ramps, even skate when they had a contest. That was great too. I think that’s where we mostly learned how to skate a half-pipe. That was a good place.
So how’d you get your Swatch stolen?
Right, right. We was on the train station, the 4 train. A bunch of guys came up to us. I guess three or four of them had razor blades, I guess it was more of them than it was us, and none of us wanted to get slashed, so we pretty much gave up the stuff. I don’t think Hernie gave up his stuff. He was bigger than most of us. Yeah, Mike Hernandez. Mike the Hit Man. He didn’t give up his stuff. I’ll give him his props on that. I didn’t want to get slashed.
It was a special Swatch, too. It had the X-Men characters on it. It was clear. I think I saved up for like six weeks for that watch. I had no job.
Did you skate in any of those contests back in the day?
Yeah. There were some ESA contests. A couple of guys told me about them. I entered quite a few of them, I won maybe two or three back in the days. Doing slappy grinds all over the place, and backside grabs over the wall, 180 backside grabs over the wall. Kickflips over the wall. That was way back in the days, where my tail on my skateboard was like, I don’t know, maybe like less than 5 inches long.
Because it was so worn down?
Yeah. I didn’t get free skateboards, man. I ain’t no liar. I didn’t get no free skateboards back then. When I won the contests, yeah I got a board, and I was psyched after that.
Gives you a reason to win.
For you, what was the best era?
At the banks?
Yeah. Or just in general.
The Banks was my favorite spot. I was there all the time. Just trying tricks and whatnot. The wallride was really fun. Ollieing the wall.
Now, I got to ask you about that tailslide on the pillar.
The tailslide? Oh yeah. I didn’t skate that back in the days.
Oh, we’re not there yet. Ok.
I did do that stuff though. That’s the same pillar that Dan Drehobl wallrode and did a frontside pivot on the top.
I think a tailslide is way gnarlier.
Well, thank you [laughter].
When did you stop skating the Banks? When was it the most fun, and when did it change?
Well, I kept skating the Banks up until, I think it was maybe 2002 that the cops, they really shut it down. They started parking their cars there. It was really a wrap for the Banks. That was fucked up, because everybody would meet up there, and it separated us a little bit. To find a common place to meet. But the cops really shut it down for us. That’s why nobody likes New York Police. They’re always shutting stuff down.
But it’s a good thing we got these parks now. Within the last two, three years, you know. Other than that, they were like a thorn in our side.
So the police killed it.
But you can skate the big banks now again.
Yeah, that’s dope. This guy Conan, Steve, and his boys hooked that up. He’s a skate icon for me for that.
You know that pillar [at the big banks], I never used it in any video for anything. I still have that footage, never used it. I did frontside 50 into the bank, and frontside tailslide into the bank.
In between the point where I learned how to skate, and was going to the Banks, I was skating Queens at one point. I was skating with Christian Bruno, Ricky, and a bunch of guys from Queens that you know, they had ramps in their yards and stuff, and I got along good with them. We would skate Pathmark at that time and the guidos – we had a rainbow of colors in our pack –- and the guidos, they just saw us, and I guess they didn’t want us skating at Pathmark for some reason or another, and they pretty much chased us out of there with bats. A good thirty of them. Chased us with bats. They had cars, and everything. I guess one of the skaters cursed them out, and we all got chased. I got confronted. They surrounded me near the Burger King and took a swing at me, I backed up, took my board by the truck and swung at this dudes neck, almost took his neck off. I skated off, I skated all the way home. I lived forty blocks away, you know? East New York? Oh my god. I lived forty blocks away, and I skated home. Ducking in and out of cars, those dudes were chasing me, man. In cars and whatnot. Fucking Cadillacs. Fucking kids had Cadillacs, man. We kept going though. They stopped messing with us.
There was one day that I’ll never forget, actually. There was a lot of us. Keith Hufnagel, Keenan, Harold, myself, and a bunch of girls and shit. We all snuck into this pool over by NYU. Somewhere over there. I guess that’s around when Kids was made. I’ll always remember that. Even Peter Bici was there. I always see that picture in my head. I’ll never ever forget that. Just having so much fun. Everybody hopping the gate, looking out for cops. Everyone on the look out. We’d all hop out of there, soaking wet. I guess the gate had to be like 12 feet high, I’ll just never forget that though.
A lot of people say that the city was more free back then.
Without a doubt, without a doubt. I miss sleeping over at friends’ houses and stuff like that. I don’t do that as much now that I’m older.
No, it’s not as fun anymore.
Going to work and all, you know.Tweet