Nick arrived downtown on a skateboard, something he wanted to feature in his portrait accompanying his online interview on his activism work in the city and in our "First Shot" section in this week's print issue.
"I just started skateboarding two weeks ago," he told me. At the end of our portrait session, I asked him if he had five minutes. We walked to my car, I threw all of my gear in, and grabbed my Maloof Money Cup skateboard from the trunk, to which he asked, "You always just bring a skateboard with you?" I do.
Skating has probably been the longest running constant in my life. After moving from New York to Ohio with my first board at age 11, it's what helped me meet all of my friends, people I still keep in touch with to this day, and get around town. As a now 31-year-old, whose recovery time has slowed significantly, it plays a much smaller role now, though we did use my abilities on a board to document a skate protest in honor of George Floyd. But one consistent, no matter where you go, is that the skate community can be incredibly accepting. Because of that, it's often home for the misfits who might not fit in anywhere else, like teenaged Jared with blue-spiked hair, a patched-up work jacket, and a pair of Dickies.
Now, more than ever, we all need to take those opportunities to connect with our community, in whatever form they come in. Pushing around on a piece of wood is just what worked for me. After doing my best for a few minutes post photoshoot to teach Nick how to ollie on his board, I went to Pitcher skatepark in Carnegie on Wednesday with my camera to check in and see what the local scene looks like here, twenty years after getting on a board for the first time. I can report that not a thing has changed, even as so many other things have. Insecure teenagers are often hanging out on the side, learning from the older crew, often being picked on by their older "brothers." Some newbies are just learning how to ride their boards down a hill. And the guys in their twenties and older are still ripping, sharing the stoke, and pushing each other to land a trick they've been working on, with the younger kids behind an iPhone, recording every attempt.
I think next week I'll leave the cameras at home and join in.