Adam Kargenian Photography
Old School, Chelsea Piers (2014)

Old School, Chelsea Piers (2014)

“Chris? Chris doesn’t hang around here anymore. He stopped coming awhile ago, actually.”

“Yeah, fuck Chris.”

*******************

Nestled against the Hudson off of 11th Avenue rests an acre of land that is one of New York’s dying subcultures. Walk the adjoining bike bath and you’ll certainly miss it, if you’re not looking for it. Palm and birch trees shroud the border fence, as if to hide the events that happen within. The only place to peer in is on the southern side, which happens to be the entrance.

The Chelsea Piers skate park houses one of the last designated areas in Manhattan for people to skate. There is only one other park, under the Manhattan Bridge. But Pier 62, where the skate park in Chelsea is located, is certainly bigger. If one ignores the lapping water from the adjoining Hudson River, it almost feels as if the park is located in Venice Beach, CA. The scene that has grown around Chelsea Piers is one that is undeniably authentic, and one that is undeniably skateboarding.

Last year, I documented—strictly through images—the youngsters that would flock to the park during the weekends. They came from Montauk, Nassau, East Rutherford…basically anywhere in the surrounding Tri-State area. Many had older brothers that introduced them to the culture. Some simply where there with their parents.

Yet without fail, there was a specific group of kids that were seemingly present every Sunday. The four of them—Victor, Mason, Jose, & Chris—were a typical band of middle school boys, always poking fun at each other, but most importantly having fun. Outside of the impressive cursing vocabulary for their age, you could pluck them out of any average public school.

This month I decided to revisit this group of boys. In the course of one calendar year, how much would they have changed?

Dramatically.

As I walked into the skate park on a late Sunday afternoon, there was already a different aura to the park as I remember it. Long gone were the hordes of youngsters littering the boxes and rails the dotted the eastern side of the park. Rather, there were a plethora of older guys, around 20-30, who were having a serious bowl session on the western end. Colt 45’s and empty Negro Modelos scattered on the concrete, something definitely absent twelve months ago. 

But I was not here for the aura of overall change. I was here for a specific group. Lo and behold—

“Hey I remember you! You were here last year, kid who shot film for some reason. You smoke weed man? Puff this shit.”

Jose was perched against the surrounding fence, sitting in the southwest corner of the park. He was straight to the left of where the few youngsters skated, and straight to the right of the older guys’ bowl session. Appearance wise, he seemed unchanged. A little taller, a little longer hair, but nothing too crazy. He was mellower. Probably due to the dope.

“I see you, Victor, and Mason,” I said, “Is Chris still around?”

“Chris? Chris doesn’t hang around here anymore. He stopped coming awhile ago, actually.”

“Yeah, fuck Chris.”

Those three words were my introduction to Victor, whom I hadn’t spoken to in over a year. He snatched the joint from Jose as he butted into the conversation.

Jose, Victor, and Chris, circa 2013

Jose, Victor, and Chris, circa 2013

“He got weird dude. I don’t even know,” Victor continued.
Such is the mind of a middle-schooler.

Unlike Jose, Victor had changed dramatically in appearance. Gone were the soft cheeks and short stature of last year. He had grown over a foot from the last time I saw him, and was now easily the tallest of his friends. A sharp jaw line accentuated his cheekbones; it was almost looking at a younger male Angelina Jolie. And he now had braces.

It was interesting that the boys had seemingly rejected Chris from their presence. Admittedly, I don’t know what happened. When I probed about the situation, I didn’t get an answer. But Chris was their ringleader when I first came around. He was always the one with ideas, setting up trashcans to clear or new transfers to try. A truly innovative kid for his age. Chris had fine, stringy, long, blonde hair, braces, and a squint that made him appear to always have sun in his eyes. He was a misplaced California kid.

Mason, circa 2013

Mason, circa 2013

Instead, the group had found a seemingly new leader. Frank. Frank was an older guy, and could have easily belonged in the bowl session instead of continuously hitting the rail that he was. He constantly had a Marlboro Red in his mouth, giving a James Dean persona about him, which could have held true if not for the shaggy mop that perched atop his head. The boys watched in wonder at the tricks they could not perform, hoping someday to achieve. To them, Frank was the epitome of cool.

Perhaps the most unchanged persona of the group was Mason. A quiet blonde kid with freckles, Mason seemed intent on doing whatever was possible to fit in.  He didn’t say much. He just was a carbon copy of his friends. Whatever Victor and Jose did, he would soon follow suit. Except, it appeared, for the smoking. Mason had an older brother that usually accompanied him to the park, but not today. Regardless, from what I remember, the two didn’t talk much. Mason had his own crowd to please. If Frank was the new leader, Mason was the most loyal supporter.

Yet of all the growing and personality changes that I observed, the most flippant one was the group’s abhorrent rejection of my camera’s presence. Last year, they had welcomed my film with open arms. Now, none of the guys even wanted an interview on the H4n recorder I had brought along.

“Absolutely not,” said Jose when I asked for a picture. When I probed for a reason, his answer was simple.

“I don’t want my mom to accidentally see what I’m doing here.”