Bob Crawford, aka Skater Bob, aka Shaggy, etc., is a skateboarder and writer who’s been dodging cars, catching shows, crashing parties, and people-watching in New York City for about two decades. Bob has seen it all, and he’s written it all down too. He's always got something to say, whether or not you agree with his point of view. About a hundred or so of his letters to various editors of skateboarding magazines have been published, which earned him recent coverage in the Metropolitan section of The New York Times. He also penned a true tale for BlackBook Magazine before starting up his own zine to share his published letters and other stories, which earned him a write up on Quartersnacks.com. Even though I've known Bob personally since 2004, I decided to ask him some questions to get to the bottom of his unique way of life.
Quick LookBirthday: February 24, 1972Living in and originally from: Kearny, New JerseyUsually Found: Union Square
No-Alternative: Why and when did you start skateboarding? What was the initial impetus, the thing that got you interested?
Bob Crawford: I started skating around 1987. This dude gave me a board and introduced me to these surfers that hung out and skated the parking lot of Quick Check (in New Jersey). These guys were so fucking cool, with their surfer shorts, flipped brim hats, Vans sneakers with no socks, the graphics of their boards…even the splattered paint they did themselves. They would jump on cars and jump back onto their boards, and I just thought the whole culture was really cool and looked like fun. They even had groupies sitting on top of the cars while they were skating. Seeing that opened up a new world for me…a world that I would never leave. It’s amazing to be a part of something that you admire, and live it at the same time.
What is it about skating that feels so right to you? Does it allow you to feel free? Does it keep you young?
Going super fast though traffic is so much fun. It’s a big fuck you to everyone that sees you and wishes they can live your life. It’s great for the body and it clears your mind from all the problems that are around.
You skateboard every day that doesn't rain and use the board as a method of transportation, a seat, and even a babe magnet (kidding!). Can you explain the ups and downs of living life this way?
Besides the injuries, I really can’t go to bars without someone making the 25 cent remarks…some douchebag always has something smart to say and I even got my fucking ass kicked for just being a skater. So if I need to drink and get fucked up, I take it to the streets; usually a side street in Tribeca where I can see everyone around me but no one sees me. Oh yeah, the pigs suck too, but I laugh at them ‘cause I have the upperhand, since my job has no stress. The hardest thing about work is getting my ass out of bed in the morning.
You started a zine not too long ago, which you sell for one dollar, and you're already up to the fifth issue. Can you talk about this a little --- what's the idea behind the zine, and why did you decide to create it?
My zine is all letters from the past. I hate the fucking internet. Thrasher Magazine has a zine section and I think it’s so cool because I used to read those in the ’80s. I started ordering zines and I just want to be a part of something that doesn’t really exist anymore, so I started making a zine and I sell them on the street. I love old school art and I just want to relive it so I started doing them, and now everyone is picking up on it and liking my shit, which I did not at all expect. But it’s fun and I am glad that I restarted a trend that people forgot about.
Since you've been in New York for a long time, you've experienced the many changes this city has undergone, especially downtown. What do you make of all this? What parts of the city do you miss? What parts, if any, do you think have improved?
I have a hate/love relationship with NYC. The music scene is dead, night life is dead. The rich took over so it’s all about small pure breed dogs and expensive baby carriages. It fucking sucks. Even the art is just horrible. Everything has been done and people just tend to follow the next person. Even the styles --- they all dress the same. It just seems people don’t have a mind for themselves because they worry about what others think. I tend to hang out with the lowest of low: bums, junkies, gutter-punks. Every building has been upgraded to a glass tower for the yuppies to live in. They need to improve the streets…it’s getting really bad with all the tearing apart Con Edison has been doing. I hate those metal grates and black pebbles…they piss me off!
You have a tendency to sit back and people-watch, at Union Square or other spots. What are some of the things you love to see; and some of the things you can't stand?
I love chaos! I love seeing people just lose their minds in the streets…it’s great entertainment to see how people react to it and how they handle it. People are cowards; they usually run away. I laugh and yell and try to push it on others, it’s fun. I don’t like perverts…the way dudes can act towards girls is just fucking gross. I like seeing people eat out of garbage cans while the yuppies sit and eat their food from Whole Foods.
You have about thirty journals filled with personal writings. Why do you document your life (and New York City) this way? Do you have any goals in mind for all of this material?
I just like to write. I live a crazy life and it’s worth the time to write about it and it’s just also healthy to get things out of your system. I tend not to tell people my problems because it just bums people out, so I have my journal and get that shit out of my head. And who knows…when I am dead maybe someone will have the fucking brains and get the shit published and make some money on my name.
As a skater, a writer, and just as a person, do you ever feel misunderstood? Can you try to explain this, and what you might do to set people straight?
I was misunderstood from day one. I hated school, so they shoved me into special classes. I was just pushed out of the whole system. Fuck, I even stayed back in kindergarten for being a lefty. Everywhere I go people stare at me, cops give me shit, everything is just fucked up because I made a choice not to live my life like everyone else. If you don’t do what everyone else is doing, people just look down at that. But little do they know I found a way to live a stress-free life, without bullshit drama. People have to understand: we make our own choices in life. Stop feeling sorry for the junkies and drunks; they made their choice.
Do you have any personal mottos --- like something you tell yourself when things get rough, some kind of belief, statement, or idea you live by?
Things do get rough. But I always have it in my mind that tomorrow will be a better day. I live for it day by day.
Finally, what advice would you give to young skaters, or any young person who comes to New York?
My advice if you come to NYC: hide your fucking cigarettes, otherwise you will be out of a pack before you know it! And don’t come here thinking you’re going to be some hometown hero. Skate, have fun, observe what’s around you, and just enjoy the entertainment. If you get caught up in the bullshit, you are not going to last…this fucking city will eat you up and spit you right back out!
This interview is dedicated to my true love of 18 years: Anna (my loyal cat). No one will ever get the amount of love I gave you…you will always be a part of me.
(both photos of Bob by a.dupcak)