Though we have written about Union Square’s dwindling post-renovation relevancy in the past, it still manages to keep its head above water as a diminished, yet occasionally influential, political force in New York City skateboarding. We may be a long way from Union Square’s generation-spanning stint of power (please note that it was still socially acceptable to film last tricks at Union Square in the mid-2000s), but it still has its share of characters carrying on the torch to prevent it from being left merely to the history books, like the Astor Place cube or the Brooklyn Banks.
A brilliant resource for Union Square anthropologists, entitled Amazing Strangers, was recently brought to our attention. Aside from drawing up the map above, it provides a much-needed breakdown of the park’s cultural hubs as they pertain to junkies (apparently, there was a fatal incident of junkie-on-junkie violence a few weeks ago involving a hit to the head with a U-lock), confused skateboarders, gothic ravers, and any other human form that society outside of Union Square has rightfully refused to acknowledge. It also gives a breakdown of how an authentic Union Square skateboarder is supposed to look (pink V-neck, longboard, upturned sun visor, pink wristband, etc.)
Perhaps Quartersnacks will begin on compiling a similar guide for Tompkins and 12th & A (essentially a three-block map of the East Village.) We could then detail the history behind many of the Tompkins’ most infamous characters: The Mayor, The Janitor, The Cuddler AKA the Snuggler, The Irish Potato, The Philosopher, Dirty Daddy, Joseph Delga DOS, Union Squeric, The Brown Refrigerator, Tall Rodriguez, Puta, Young Buck, and many others. Give us a few months.
Until then, the Union Square guide should hold you over. It was obviously compiled recently, as the exclusion of Dave Thomas would be a glaring omission if a similar project was made available in 2002.
If you spend time south of, or on, 14th Street, you have probably seen Shaggy AKA Bobby Crawford skating around. A while back, we linked up a piece he wrote for Blackbook magazine about various Union Square degenerates, and a New York Times article about his longtime hobby of writing “Letters to the Editor,” so this may seem familiar. Aside from his Astor and Union visibility that has spanned many years, he gained some infamy from editors at Slap, where he was a recognizable name in their “Envelope” section.
When you see him, buy a $1 copy of his zine, entitled Handjob Sk8 Zine. It chronicles many of the entries that have made their way into print over the years. The zine is a couple black and white photocopied pages of magazine clippings, and handwritten commentary along the side, tackling topics like New York skateboarders turning into “sissys” (Via Slap: “If Anthony Pappalardo lives in the city, any wimp can do it”), longboarders (Via Thrasher: “I’m seeing big groups of people wearing helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, and even wrist gaurds, pushing mongo through the streets of New York. If they’re that concerned about their safety, maybe they should consider walking”), and even celebrity gossip (Via W: “Bruce Willis was starting to look more like a lost puppy than Die Hard‘s John McClane tagging along everywhere with his ex-wife and her boy toy husband…But things have turned around now that he is on the cover of W with his hot wife.”) Beyond the hilarious rants, there is some balance in there, like a well thought-out response to the ignorance of a 2005 New York Press article suggesting it wasn’t “cool” to be over fourteen and skateboard.
“Letters to the Editor” seem to be a dying feature of many remaining printed publications, as they are among the first things to get axed when cutting back on pages, so it’s cool to have even a stapled and photocopied compilation of these from someone who has found a bit of notoriety in the annals of print. New York doesn’t seem like a place with an overload of zines (I vaguely remember something called 2nd Avenue Zine that used to get passed out at the TF in maybe 2004, but cannot remember who made it. I think it had a photo of Ted doing a switch crook at the now-gone Philly step on Church and Worth Street), so a buck isn’t asking much to have a particularly entertaining one, especially when it’s not full of weird inside jokes, and could be enjoyed by anyone.