Running with a new kind of "Wolf Pack", even if only for the day // Featuring Spencer Fujimoto & The boys
Three flights of stairs, huff, puff, huff, puff. A heavy, industrial grey door swings open. Blue. White. The sky of a crisp autumn day in New York City reveals itself. The city’s concrete prison walls escaped, fading away victim to this higher perspective. “You can see everything from up here, down Avenue A, down Stanton, it’s yours.” The voice belongs to Spencer Fujimoto, better known as “Fooj” a bearded, one speed, Asian, former pro-skateboarder, life long friend of Jaime Reyes, owner of El Señor New York and a Bay Area (Yay Area) to NYC transplant. (Whew) On the rooftop there’s a few lawn chairs, now relics of another summer gone too soon, along with a straggler, a single can of beer. Also up here is another bearded fellow, he introduces himself as Peter, better known as “The Wasted Talent” to his loyal followers on Instagram. He’s crouched down near the rooftops railings with a camera in hand, another seated on the ground next to him as he tries to shoot a photo of a rosary with a skateboard dangling in place of the cross. Here we were. I look over at my friend Shannon wearing my “Ain’t No Wifey” sweatshirt, snapping photos on her iPhone, she tends to take too many pictures. Rooftops to me are quintessential New York, mostly because when you think of the city, you think of skylines; skylines we most often don’t see because we’re usually woven into the city. But from up here, here I could actually be me, my own entity removed of any undesired and forced synthesis with the concrete.
We were up here to shoot photos for El Senor’s Holiday Collection, Fooj’s seven year old jewelry company. His mom was a sculptor so the artsy blood flows strong in his veins. The first and only, skateboard jewelry company. Powell Peralta’s “Ripper” sneered out at me from the metal engravings that I slid onto whatever finger the band would fit. Throwing fists towards the cameras, the gold and silver caught the sunlight’s glares as Peter snapped away. Of course my black tank top was wrinkled which was not to Fooj’s liking as I slipped on the rosary. The skateboard dangling at the base of the chain didn’t care if I had sinned. I remember something about an Ohio fastfood restaurant being mentioned and I remember asking Fooj if we could skate up here. Of course the answer was no, “people live here dude”. Oops, I thought, recalling all the times that I practiced my ollies from my room in the fourth floor apartment in the NYU dorms. I don’t think I really care haha. Anyway, after Peter snapped one too many photos of me and my chubby fingers we gathered our shit, cameras, coats, bling, skateboards all included and headed downstairs to Fooj’s abode.
“Shoes off, it’s an Asian style household”, Fooj says as he unlocks the door. Right on. Hawaiian style. Sitting at the dining room table was a 13 year old girl who I would learn to call Laila, pronounced lie-la, not lay-la. Across to her, crossed legged was her mom, whose name I unfortunately don’t remember because it was unusual and beautiful.
“Skater girls!”, Laila said when she saw me walk in with my board. I liked this girl already. She and her mom were talking about the audition she just had for the Art and Design Center and Laguardia for illustration. Fooj plopped down into the seat across Laila and began grinding up some weed, Shan onto a chair pulling out her phone simultaneously, and Pete onto the couch next to me flinging his head backward in pain or exhaustion, I wasn’t too sure. I asked Laila to see some of her work. She pulled out a huge black portfolio, you could tell she was proud of them and she should be, they were gorgeous. I’m pretty sure at 13 I was still drawing stick figures and houses with triangular roofs, actually I still do that. Looking around the room there was a lot of art and a lot of books, I remember seeing the word, Supreme, on the fridge and on the bookshelf. One piece of art that stuck out to me was a painting of Jackie Chan or some martial artist dude contorted into some awkward body position placed onto a skateboard. Of course. The conversation centered around food, and not just because there was a joint being passed around, where we were gonna finish the shoot at, and at some points Laila used the word “fuck”, no one blinked. I can’t imagine growing up in the city but clearly you’re exposed to way more shit than the private school kid in the suburbs whose parents drive a BMW and have season tickets to the Yankees games. At one point, Laila’s mom answered the phone, “Laila, it’s your dad”. It took me a little while to figure that out. Peter mentioned to me a book to read about social media, I took the title down in my phone. We were all just hanging out. I wasn’t scribbling down frantically in my notebook, I was just living, embracing the kind of life that seemed vaguely familiar, reminiscent of home.
We headed out for a shop that sold both bubble tea and fried chicken, I was already skeptical. Shannon had two 5th Avenue skateboards under her arm, it was cool to see her seamlessly a part of this world that she had never been exposed to. Fooj and Laila’s mom, who actually is his “girl” walked ahead of us. He walks really fast, really fast. Laila had her skateboard too, it was a Zoo York board of course and I asked her how long she’d been skating, banking on the fact that yeah, she definitely ripped harder than me. I also asked if she knew Jaime Reyes, “she was my babysitter!”. Why was I not surprised. The skate community was so intertwined, so closely knit here and that itself offered some comfort even though I wasn’t a part of it necessarily but just walking down the street with these people that I had just met I had already forgotten about my phone.
The food shop was small. Fooj ordered the fried chicken of course and bubble tea. Peter got ramen. Laila got some mango drink. I got a buy one get one free milk tea which Laila’s mom ended up liking so everyone was happy. There was some kind of deal where if you spent like $10 you could opt to pay an extra $2 and get a totally in vogue, mason jar WITH A HANDLE. both Fooj and Peter ended up getting one which was actually a kind of funny site to see just because you wouldn’t expect these kinds of guys to be sipping bubble tea out of a mason jar. Life right.
After sipping and stuffing curry and garlic flavored chicken bites down our throats for an hour or so we were heading out to some guy named, Sammy’s house to finish the El Senor shoot at. “Bye love”, Fooj said to his girl as she and Laila headed back to the apartment. She was cold and already wearing a calf-length coat. That was pretty sweet to see that kind of interaction. Shan and I had to walk ten times faster than we walk in Hawaii to keep up with Fooj. Some remarks were made about tardiness and bullshit, I guess like surfers, skaters don’t really like being on any one else’s time. Fine by me.
We arrived in front of some apartment on the Bowery and met up with a huge dude, swagged out in some Hundreds gear. The boards that Shan was holding were his, he, being Steven Cales, a pro-skateboarder and owner of 5th Avenue Skateboards. OKAY. Shredding the sidewalk in a display of impatience or true love was another long, blonde haired skater whose name yet again escapes me but only temporarily. Sammy was no where to be found for a bit so we all just stood around.
Sammy, I’m not too sure what else he does other than shoot skate photos and swag out his apartment but he finally arrived. Heaving open his heavy front door, “ladies first”, we climbed up a few flights of stairs, down a hallway into Sammy’s room. The first thing I noticed was the “calm des fuck down” prints on the wall. The boys had some back and forth and Shan and I plopped ourselves down on the sofa. Posted. Fooj started pulling out product that needed to be shot and Steven yanked down the white screen that we’d be shooting against, this was like photo studio quality level shit. He pulled a little bit too hard, maybe forgetting the sheer size of his giant physique and the screen unwound to hit the floor. “Fuck it”, said Sammy. A joint was going around already. Rap was blasting from the speakers. Fooj only brought a size large shirt, which would be a squeeze for Steven and his belly revealed itself a little, he apologized to me and Shan which makes me laugh now thinking about that. Peter hooked on this huge ring flash to his camera and when the blonde kid went up for this turn to “model” he had a hard time keeping his eyes open because: stoned. HAHA. “Close your eyes, and when I say ‘now’, open em”, said Peter. He tried to pull his beanie over his face with no such luck. It was my turn and well, nothing much to be said about that.The guys were talking about some chick who apparently was really cool but you could never be with, if you know what I mean. They were showing me pictures of her and I felt like I could hang out with these guys for a while.
After shooting, I still hadn’t done my interview with Fooj so this day was far from over. Time was flying. Steven, Shan, and Fooj and I all were gonna head back to Fooj’s place and do the thing there. On the way Fooj was showing me some tricks for perfecting the ollie that resembled hop-scotch and other drills that made me feel like I was at soccer practice all over again. I was laughing, so was Shan. “Skate school!”, Steven shouted. He actually is a really goofy guy despite his hard appearance. We hit Orchard Street and there was this old construction sign that Fooj transformed into a makeshift platform for wall riding. Over and over again. Steven stood behind it to bolster the thing from moving. You could see the drive Fooj had to land this. I was shooting and Shan was probably just in shock. An old lady passed me, looked at me, looked at Fooj and was like, “you crazies” haha damn right. Shan and Steven found some old character portrait painting on the ground, “looks like you” he said to Shan, “no it looks like you”. We were out here. This our pack. Skating down the streets like we owned it. The sun was setting, I didn’t think the day was going to be this long. We headed back to Fooj’s where we did the interview. Transcription found below. “Donezos” , I said upon asking my last question—which Steven thought was hilarious and suggested that I change my instagram name to Donezogirl. They were gonna head to Max Fish, of course and we hugged them upon parting. Spending the day with these people who were originally strangers, who now became friends. A day where I figured out what it was to be NY skateboarder, what life is like, how it feels to be a part of this community and to be surrounded by people I didn;t have to try with. Aloha to dat.