Part 2 of Brooklyn Banks week.
Interview by Ted Barrow on October 26, 2007.
I grew up in East Flatbush, in Brooklyn. One day I was coming out of my high school, I think I was in either 10th or 11th grade, and this guy had a shop. He used to sell little trinkets or whatever, but then he tore it all down and sold just skateboards. It became a skate shop.
I thought about it, I was like, “Yo, I want to put my artwork [in the shop].” That’s a way for me to get my artwork out, and so I got into skating. I saved up a little bit of money every week and I paid him off to get a set-up.
I started skating. Then I bumped into this kid that I used to go to Flatbush Boys Club with, his name was Anthony, and he was already a sick-ass skater, and he introduced me to all these other kids that were skating in Flatbush.
Where were you guys skating in Flatbush?
It was like [a] Burger King, that was on Church Ave, between Flatbush and Bedford. Now it’s a Veggie Castle. We skated a Wendy’s on Empire Boulevard that had these double-sided parking blocks inside it. All around the whole Wendy’s was an embankment with benches that went all around them. It’s still there, still a sick-ass spot. You know those plastic benches that are super slick? You can grind them? It’s got those all the way around them.
Who was the crew of skaters you were skating with then?
What did they call themselves? Oh. Team Aggression. They had boards and everything, man. They used to sell boards to kids and shit, it was crazy.
What was the first board you had?
A Santa Cruz Cory O’Brien. The one with the skull, throwing the fire. I still remember that shit. Thunder trucks, and 52 OJ II’s.
Did you go into Manhattan around this point?
Yeah. I remember one day, we were all skating in Flatbush, and this kid Mike was like, “Yo we should go to the Banks,” and I was like, “What’s the Banks?” And we get on the train, and he took us to the Brooklyn Banks. You know, I couldn’t skate it at all, I didn’t know how to carve at first, so I just rolled around. I got so obsessed with learning how to skate transition. I was like, “Ok, if I’m going to be a good skater or get sponsored or anything, I’ve got to learn to skate all this stuff.” So I made it my duty to skate this stuff as much as I can, even to the point were I started cutting school to go there. In the beginning, I’d say I would cut school on Friday, and go Saturday, Sunday. But when I got done with high school, it was pretty much every day. For years. When I think back, it was every day for years.
When did this start?
’88. I would say I skated there straight until about ‘93.
How many people would be skating there then?
Tons. I remember at a certain point I would stop going there on the weekend because it was so crowded. I probably would cut like three classes, and go there by myself. Be it summer, winter, I didn’t give a fuck. I’d skate there by myself, get my tricks down, stuff like that. Then they started throwing contests. Dead-End contests. I started entering those, and Dead-End started hooking me up with boards. I remember this really big contest one time and Airwalk was sponsoring it. I got second place, and they gave me this coupon, which was pretty much a sponsorship. So I started getting shoes from Airwalk. I’d get boards from Shut, they’d hook it up. That was like my spot. Where I would go to skate. Plus they had the handrail right there, so it was pretty much a well-rounded spot.
The old rail that Danny Way skated?
That’s funny you say that. The day he did that, we were all battling for $150 bucks. Then he switch noseslid it and frontside boardslid it.
Who were the locals then?
Aww, man. Everybody. Gio Estevez, Loki, Jeff Pang, Bum Juice, Kyle, everyone. You name it, everyone was there. My friend Ducky.
You mean the Spanish Gonz?
It’s so weird, but that was his whole style. And he used to ride for this one company, what was the name of the company, man? It was like Air Tool, or something like that. Right after that, he met Gonz, and the two of them became friends. They’re both really sick artists. And then my friend was like, “Yo, did you hear what happened?” I was like “What?” He says, “Yo, Ducky got on Blind.” And he was riding for Blind. That was one of the coolest dudes. I see him now still. He plays music in the band, and he’s an art director for a non-profit organization.
In that era, would you guys stay at the Banks, or would you move around?
We’d go to the banks, but there were other spots. There was this one spot, we called it the Woop-Woop Banks, it was on a street near Water Street.
The Humps? Yeah. It was a marble street with all these embankments. We’d go there, South Street Seaport, Crooked Benches.
A lot of people tell me about boarding jackings and shit like that back then…
I got tons of stories. That was the shit, dude, that’s how you skated. Didn’t have no money. I would hop the train to go to the Banks and I would hop the train to come home. It was funny, we had designated stations that we would go to hop. Sometimes we’d have to walk far. It was so funny, man. That’s the way I skated for a long time until I started embracing the facts of Karma. Shit. Kids would be like, “Yo, can I see your board? Can I try a couple tricks?” and they’d be like, “Yeah, go ahead”. Take the board, try a couple tricks. You know the Banks is slanted. So you try a couple of tricks, it’s a natural flow, and just, skate off down the way. Do a backside ollie, and just roll down the hill. That was the way.
Down to me and Harold and all of us, we were board jackers extraordinaire. Bum Juice. He was one of those dudes, he wouldn’t leave. He’d take your board and keep skating. People would come up to him like, “Hey, can I get my board?” He’d be like, “Yo, this ain’t your board.” And the kid would be like, “What?” And he would go, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, this is not your board.” He’d skate away.
I remember one day, this is a classic story. I was skating the Banks, this is in the winter time, and I was by myself, and I had just shaved off my hair. I had had a lot of hair, and I shaved my head bald, and I was skating. I was about to try a trick, and something said, “Yo, turn around.” I turned around and [Bum Juice] John was like this [hunched over, ready to attack]. I was like, “Yo, I was about to fuck you up,” and he was like, “I was about to take your board” [laughter]. That was fucked up, man.
He was just creeping behind you?
Yeah. Just creeping. You know where you start to do a trick under the bridge, he was just creeping behind me. He was like, “Aww, I didn’t know that was you, why’d you cut all your hair off.” Crazy.
Who was the most notorious out of that crew for jackings?
Definitely Kyle James. Without a doubt. He could skate, too. He was sick, man. He was the only dude who would come there in Timberland boots, and skate and kill it. Legendary. I still see him once in a while.
What happened to him?
He was a street kid, man. I don’t exactly know what happened, but he got into some trouble, got locked up for a while. And then after he got out of jail, he had a long-term girlfriend. That’s funny. He’s the only dude I knew at that time who was probably like 16 or 17, and was living with his girlfriend. They were living together, and they started having babies together. He’s got like 5 or 6 kids. He’s a welder. Last time I seen him he was driving a welding truck. It’s so funny, dude, he has Supreme stickers all over his tools. One day I was downtown at BAM and this dirty ass truck rides by. The thing that caught my eyes was there was Supreme stickers on it. A red Supreme sticker on the side. I was like, “What the fuck?” And he’s like, “Yo, Shane.” And he’s like jacked. Comes out, talks for a while and shit, smoked an L, and went back to work.
When was the most exciting time for you there?
Every day I went there. Every day I went there was a different adventure [laughter]. You’d be at home, and dudes would call you up like, “Yo man where are you, yo come to the Banks, everyone is there, having a session.” And you’d go there and Jeff [Pang], Peter Bici, everyone would be skating. Sometimes you’d go there and the Plan B dudes would be there or whatever. Just like, whoever. Steve Rodriguez. I used to see him on the weekends, though.
Why did you move to California?
I felt like I had to. All the guys I knew, like Ryan Hickey and Jeff, they were always talking about moving to California. I knew at that point, I was up to par with them in skating. I would get hooked up, but I wasn’t getting sponsored. And my parents definitely weren’t supporting skating. They hated it. I would have to scrounge to get money to buy boards, and my mother would take them away, any chance she got. “You’re on punishment, you can’t ride your skateboard.” And she would look at my skateboard everyday for marks to see if I touched my skateboard. Crazy.
I got into some trouble. I got into a fight. My friend had beef with these guys, and one day we’re coming back from a Hi V8 contest, this guy used to throw these contests in Brooklyn. Actually, Steven Cales’ adopted father, Rick Hershman. So we’re coming back, and one of the kids, they wouldn’t fuck with me, but they would fuck with him. They would take his board, throw it into moving cars, run over his board, a bunch of shit like that. One of the kids had this thing, he was shooting it up in the air, and I look at him like, “Oh that’s cool” and he’s like, “Don’t fucking talk to me,” and tried to beat up my friend. So I jump in. Next thing you know, it’s like eight dudes jumping me, and my friend, he ran away and left me. He just left me there, dude. And I beat up all these dudes by myself. So I see one day, the kid that started the whole thing. I’m in my neighborhood now. Me and my friend are going to buy a bag of weed. We’re on Church Avenue, and this kid comes round the corner on a bike, and we make eye contact. As soon as he sees me, he tries to take off, but me and my friend just beat the shit out of him. In broad daylight on Church Avenue. So he knew this other kid that knew where I lived, and the kid’s like, “Yo, I’m a come and shoot your house up,” and a bunch of shit like that. So I got to get out of New York for a while.
This girl bought me a bus ticket. A week before, I wasn’t sure, like “Yo this is the first time I’m going to be on my own” and shit. But this is what confirmed it – I was coming home from work and I bumped into one of my homeboys, and he’s like, “Yo, let’s go up into this building,” but it was a bad building. Like, all the illest drug dealers lived in it. They sold drugs up out the building. It was called The Castle. He’s like, “Let’s go up on the roof of The Castle and smoke a blunt.” So we’re up there, just about finished, and this dude busts out the door with a sawed-off shotgun and sticks it in my face. He’s like, “Yo, what you punks be doing on the roof,” and shit like that, “You always throwing shit off the roof,” and I’m like “It wasn’t us, it wasn’t us.” And I was like, “Yo, I know you.” I knew the kid, too. And he goes, “I don’t fucking know you,” and I’m like, “Just let me go in the light and you’ll see who it is.” So we go in the light, and he’s like, “Oh shit, Shane, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” After that, I was like, I’m not leaving the house until it’s time to go to the bus station. I felt like something was going happen to prevent me from going on this trip.
I became a man in California, you know? I was homeless for a long time, fucking used to sleep in the coffee shop. Just scrounge around for a while. Finally I got to drop my stuff off somewhere. Used to keep my stuff in this kid’s house and like, walk around. One day I meet this girl, and she gave me like 3 hits of acid. One night I took all 3 of them. I was like, “Yo, I got to learn this city.” I walked everywhere, until the sun came up. By the time I was done, dude, I knew where the Mission was, I knew where the Castro was. I knew the avenues, I went out to the beach. Something I’d do in a week, I did in one night. I found FTC, I found all the skate spots.
One day I’m sitting in FTC, and it’s pouring rain outside. Everybody’s looking at me crazy because my beard is like out to here, I got a soaking wet army jacket on, I got an army duffle bag, like fucking combat boots on. I remember Pat Washington, Danny Sargent, all those dudes, they’re all looking at me. And this dude walks by and he’s like, “Shane?” and it was Jeff Pang. He’d gotten into some legal trouble too, and he moved out to San Francisco for a while. He let me live with him, took me to his house. He was doing CRM at the time, took me to the warehouse, got me new clothes, everything, man. Really solid dude.
When did you decide to move back into New York?
The summer of ’97.
Was it different?
What I missed was, all the dudes that I used to skate with, they weren’t really skating anymore.
Peter. You know, Jeff was like a big-time pro around this time. None of those other guys were really around anymore. People changed. When I left, people were small, when I came back, they grew up. Perfect example. One day I was working for this liquor store, across the street from Union Square. When I moved away, Charles [Lamb] was small, dude. I swear he was like this little. But he was always really good, and he had this certain style of skating. So I’m looking across the park, and I’m like, “That’s got to be him, that’s got to be Charles Lamb.” And he’s killing it, trick after trick, trick after trick. I went over, sure enough it was him.
Were people still skating the Banks regularly then?
It wasn’t really the same crowd. It was the same shit, but a different crowd. Still some of the same old school dudes, but a younger crowd mostly. Just as wild, just as crazy.
The wall [fence] they put along the side of the Banks the kind of made it die down until we figured out how to skate it.
Those are the most care-free days of our lives. It was some of the hardest days of my life, but I looked at it like this: If I made it through those days, I could make it through anything. It was a test of will. You know, I don’t really blame my parents, because, they come from another country [Guyana], and another time period. I had an older sister, and she was one of those people who never went outside, never left the house. She wouldn’t do anything, just hung out at the house, in her room or whatever. And then you have me. My mother always tells people how she can’t even count with her hands and her toes how many people would come with their sons knocking on the door, [saying] “Your son Shane beat up my kid.” My mother’s the type of person who would come looking for me in the street, and would beat my ass in front of everybody. She was notorious for that.
I was really small, really skinny, big head, little body. So kids would think they could come pick on me, take my stuff or whatever, and they’d get their asses kicked, basically. I’m one of those dudes. I get this from my father. My dad always told me, “If you can’t beat them with your hands, pick up something and beat them with it.” I got kicked out of school once, I bashed this kid in the head with a lunch tray one day. And we had metal lunch trays. He took my food, couldn’t beat him up, [so I] cracked him in the head with a lunch tray. Next thing you know, parents had to go up to school. They’re like, “I’m sick of fucking going to school for you.”
Did you ever get in any fights at the Banks?
All the time. Everyday. Yeah, somebody got their ass kicked everyday.
Talking shit. Sometimes it was locals. I got into a crazy fight with the same kid that left me to get beat up.
How’d that go down?
I beat him up. Punched him around, he tried to punch me. He wasn’t much of a fighter. He was always one of those mouthy-mouth kids, you know, always wanting somebody to back him up.
There was always something going on. I remember the contest when Kyle got busted in the head with a skate-key. I think he tried to steal something from this kid. Somehow they got into some altercation. He had a shaved head, and this kid had a skate key, and he punched him in the head with the skate-key. Stabbed him. A bunch of people were there. Mostly the Real team.
Imagine seventy or something kids brawling. It was basically all the locals against whoever. If you jumped in and we didn’t know you, you’d get your ass kicked. Everybody brawling, dude. I’ll never forget that day.
It all started with Kyle. I think he wanted to steal this dudes chain. It was all over a gold chain.
If you didn’t know him, he’d definitely roll on you. Definitely. I remember one day we were at Astor Place. I sold this kid a bag of weed, and Kyle took the weed from him, like, “Yo that’s not your’s, it’s mine,” and the kid goes, “Dude, give me my weed back,” looks at me and I’m like [shrugs, resigned]. I felt so bad because like, an hour later, me and Kyle are smoking a blunt at a church on 5th Street. So funny.
What about Bum Juice?
He would piss me off. Me and him got into a brawl in front of Pro Sports on 6th Avenue. Rolling around on the street. It started in the store and it moved outside. He just pissed me off over something, I don’t know what it was. I was like, “Yo John, shut the fuck up.” He goes, “Nah, man.” And they kicked us out of the store. Then some dude is outside, sitting in a car, and he comes over and starts talking shit about us fighting, and we beat him up.
He’s a chef now. Unfortunately the last time I seen him, like a lot of people from that time, was at Harold’s wake. He told me he was at the cooking school a couple blocks away, about to graduate and try to get a gig as a chef. He was a crazy dude, but one thing he always had was he was like, “I got to do something with my life, something.” And years and years after I met him, he’s always progressed in somewhere. He never stagnated. He’s always doing a little bit better.
I need a year for that one. He’d do the craziest shit, dude. He always looked out, though. I will say that. Jeff and Peter and those dudes, when I started coming to the city, I kind of put them in another category. They were sponsored, they rode for companies, they had pictures in magazines, and then eventually Harold got sponsored. So it was like, “Oh shit.” This dude that is pretty much on my level is doing his thing. Getting pictures in magazines. But he always helped people out. He’d give you his old boards or whatever.
Before he got sponsored, he used to steal his brothers skateboard. His brother Ronald used to skate, too. And this is the funniest shit. Ronald would come to either Tompkins or the Banks. Can you imagine having to walk all the way from 13th and C to the Banks just to find that he’s not there? Harold would be skating with us at Union Square, and he’d just break out. The next thing you know, you’d see Ronald like, “Where is he? Where is he? He stole my fucking board.”
We used to hang out at Washington Square a lot. Girls and tourists. We’d be skating there and they’d stand and watch. And then after a while, Harold was the first person that did this… One day we were skating, doing tricks over two trashcans on their side. So many people stopped and watched. And when he was done, he took his hat off and passed it around. At the end he must have had like $70.
This is another thing he used to do, every fucking day. He’d be like, “Yo Shane, you got a quarter?” And if someone was sitting next to him, “Hey you, you got a quarter?” And by the end of the day you’d see him counting mad money. This fucking dude, man…Tweet