If you missed the #eggsreport art show that opened the other weekend at Orchard, we have the special privilege of hosting this digital recap for anyone unable to make it out to the gallery. Below is Delaney's #eggsreport instagram compilation as well as our good friend Ian Browning's write up for the #eggsreport zine. We have also sprinkled in some of the photos that were contributed by Liam Annis, Ray Echevers, among others. If you would like to purchase a zine, they're selling for ten dollars with all proceeds going to any and all future Eggs maintanence. We'd like to thank everyone involved in making the show and the zine happen and if you like what you read, which you would only dislike if you actually could not read, be sure to follow Ian on his twitter @ibrowning for more of his work.
Skateboarding in cities is often defined as much by the spaces where it takes place as the tricks being done. From historic spots like the Brooklyn Banks to recent upstarts like MACBA, iconic spots are often synonymous with our perception of what skateboarding is like in other places.
Boston has some famous spots—people far from new england know Jerry Fowler’s yellow barrier by the library, and the Windows ledges are burned into skateboarding’s collective consciousness because of PJ Ladd. It’s also a place where you can walk past a virgin ledge that people haven’t bothered to wax because they’re too busy skating better ones. Casual observers may not know this, but it has always been a plaza city. Locals cherished Copley and later Aquarium in their heydays—meet up spots where you could film tricks or end the day skating flat, possibly sneaking a beer without much trouble.
In 2004 the state bulldozed a parking lot on Nashua Street as part of a plan to clean up urban blight from the Big Dig. With Aquarium unskateable before five almost entirely because of a cop known by the locals as The Samurai, sessions gravitated over to the West End. The fences had come down at Nashua Street Park—a pocket of green space nestled in no man’s land, bordered by a jail, a hospital and a bridge. A few ribbons of asphalt cut through the grass, flanked by long, knobbed, granite ledges and joined by a small plaza in the center.
Jonathan Bonner, a Rhode Island—based sculptor and artist, was commissioned to provide art for the park. Looking to add something that would bring texture and provide seating, he added a golden spiral reimagined in Chelmsford granite, also using the stone to make orbs that mimicked falling drops of liquid. “I wanted something relative to the water,” he explained, but John Wisdom felt like they looked more like eggs.
It’s difficult to say who introduced Eggs into the scene in Boston. The Zakim bridge offered vantage point that showed under construction, drawing the eyes of countless skateboarders. Most of the people I talked to didn’t have any idea who was the first to skate the spot, but Lee Berman and Dana Ericson both had theories, both originating in the North End.
“I would say Matt Thompson is definitely the first one to skate Eggs,” Berman said. Thompson, a Connecticut transplant studying at Suffolk, was in the habit of looking for mellow spots to skate in lieu of sharing Aquarium with a heavy crew of locals. “When I moved to the North End I started exploring other areas,” he said. “I was actually out with Lee one day and we came across Eggs. I had skated flatground in the past and I told him that the ground here was really sweet.” He also addressed Berman’s assertion that he was the first to skate there, saying that it was impossible to prove. “I would never claim that,” he said. “I have no idea who else was there.”
Dana Ericson recounted Travis Reitano, also a resident of the North End, telling him about a new spot: “He actually told me that he had found a spot better than Aquarium and I fucking laughed in his face.” Reitano was living in a skate house where Ed Driscoll was crashing on the couch. Driscoll “never wanted to take the fucking bus or train anywhere,” he said, “so we’d skate everywhere.” They were introduced to the spot on trips to and from the Charles River Benches, but he couldn’t be sure if he was the first person to actually skate the spot: “I don’t know. I’d say one of my earliest memories of Eggs is rolling through and trying to get a little tailslide in between the skate stoppers,” he said. “I give most of the credit to the Wisdom brothers because they actually took the knobs off.”
In those days Zander Taketomo was working on City People 2 and keeping a watchful eye for new spots to film. He had gotten word of the spot from his dad—an architect—and went on a night mission with Gavin Nolan, John Wisdom and Tommy Wisdom check it out. “All the knobs were still on and we took a couple off to test it,” he said. “Originally we took the ones off at the curved ledges that were closer to the hospital but not the main spot that people skate... After that, I feel like we didn’t really skate there all that much.” He also offered the only definitive claim about the early days of the spot: “I’m not personally taking any credit for the spot, but we were definitely the first people there that night to take knobs off.” They came back periodically, but at that time, Aquarium was still that crew’s go to spot.
Between word of mouth and its location in the middle of a skate route between downtown and the Back Bay, the park was starting to see action in spite of the knobs. Dan Zaslavsky shot the first skate photo at the spot during that era for Kevin Coakley’s One In A Million interview in Slap. Coakley was trying full cab manuals on the low ledges closest to the water, the only skateable ledges at the time. He got the trick, but it came at the expense of his board shooting out into the river. Some DCR workers in a boat offshore rescued it for him, but it was only a matter of time before skaters started throwing something else in the river—skate stoppers.
“It looked like it would be the greatest spot in the world if it didn’t have the knobs on it,” Justin Yaitanes said, “so went to try and take them off.” Yaitanes, CN and Tom Garafalo headed out, equipped with a crowbar, hammer and screwdriver one day around dusk. They got to work on taking knobs off of one of the benches by the JV ledge. “We’re hitting it with a hammer and having a crowbar there and you can hear it— it’s super loud,” CN said. “All the sudden we hear ‘HEY’ and we look back and see a cop and he’s booking it. And it’s a state patrolman and we start booking it and everyone runs their separate ways.” Yaitanes got away from the cops pretty easily, saying that it was pretty similar to getting kicked out for skating. It was also probably easy because the cops were chasing CN across the drawbridge to the Museum of Science.
“I hucked my crowbar in the river because I was thinking that if I got caught with it, it would be way worse,” he said. He hid behind a bush on the museum grounds, but it wasn’t long before flashlights crept up on him. Playing dumb, he explained that he had only run because they were chasing after him. “They took my name down and nothing happened. We came back and started skating it the following week.”
That crew only got one knob off, but it was the beginning of open season on liberating the rest of the ledges. The Wisdoms and Gavin Nolan were responsible for clearing off the main ledge up top after a session on one of the side of the out ledge. “We had a long day waxing [the ledge up] and shredding the ledge that no one skates because all the other ledges were knobbed. We were like, shit, we gotta get all these knobs off—this is gonna be our new spot,” Tommy said. “We came back later and took the knobs off of the main ledge on the top.” As news of the spot spread, so did the knowledge that it was possible to make the ledges skateable with a few swings of a hammer or the hanger of a truck. It’s tough to write a list of people who risked a confrontation with the state police to clear the ledges, both because of the sheer number of knobs removed and because some people didn’t want to go on record about doing so, but Pete Mahoney, Romek Rasenas and Brian List all deserve a mention for their efforts in the spot’s infancy.
The main ledge, approachable from both sides from smooth plaza granite, was heavily sessioned in the early days. “It wasn’t that long before people took off the first knobs,” Ray Echevers explained “but it was like like that for a while. The other ones didn’t come off [right away]. People just started really slowly.”
John Wisdom’s ollie from block to egg in CP2, probably the first trick filmed at the spot, went down around that time. “The ledges weren’t broken in,” he said, “so it wasn’t really a good spot yet.”
Gavin Nolan said the City People crew skated there in the early days, remembering a time when the bike path was new. “It wasn't as rough or beat up yet,” he said, “people were skating up top more and the ledges on the bike path a lot.” All the while, the scene at the park kept growing—something he said was inevitable. “I think it was just really obvious to anybody that it was one of the best places to skate in the city.”
Nashua Street Park was designed by Halvorson Design, a firm responsible for a handful of plazas around Boston. Some of them are knobbed or are otherwise unskateable, but they’ve also drawn the plans for the plaza around the Federal Reserve and the ledges over planters in the seaport. “Our firm is really good at three dimensional landform resolution, so i’d like that what we came up is very pleasing on all levels,” Cynthia Smith, the principal landscape architect behind the park, explained. She said the park was designed with the idea of maintaining a view of the river from Nashua street, while providing different levels for that the paths the run along the Charles. The ledges act as retaining walls, continuing the pathways cut out of the banks of the river. The bike path runs parallel to the main ledges, insulating them from people leisurely strolling on the path closest to the water. The plaza in the center connects the two, but is also fittingly designed as a place for people to sit and chill.
The skating was initially focused on the ledges up top in part because the granite took a lot to break in. “It was kind of a frustrating spot to skate at first. That main ledge was all that people would skate,” Devin Woelfel, better known as Waffle, explained. “You had to wax the shit out of them in order to make them grind at all.” As it started to really get broken in, some locals stashed a crowbar in a bush, making it even easier to continue deknobbing the spot. That crowbar cleared, amongst other ledges, both the home and away team benches, the downhill curved ledge and the JV ledge. People started gravitating away from chilling on the wooden benches between the main and downhill ledges, Dana said, eventually cementing the home bench as the place to put your keys and skate flat: “it just evolved into skating down there more.” Slowly but steadily, other ledges got worked in.
As the skating was moving to different ledges, word of the spot spread organically, bringing new skaters and likeminded crews. “We were all hanging out at True East and my friend Andrew Cuoco told me about this sick new spot,” Andrew “Squeaks” Whittier said. “I was kinda confused about where it was and what spot they were talking about, but when I went I realized that I had been there a year beforehand. All the knobs on it and I thought ‘shit, this would be the best spot in the world if it was skateable’ and then it ended up being skateable.” With Aquarium locked down, Eggs became the go spot to meet up. Squeaks mentioned seeing a lot of Aquarium heads like TC Mulhern, Coakley and Danny Carvalho in the early days, with locals like Waffle, the Wisdoms, Dana, Brian Delaney and Gavin establishing residency at the spot as well. “I just remember seeing John Wisdom and pretty much everyone that was skating for RAW, with Ray filming,” David Milliken said of his first trip to the spot.
Local videos like City People 2 made an impact across the northeast, bringing crews in from out of state. “All we really wanted to do in the early 2000s was skate flatground and ledges,” Armin Bachman said of the scene in Albany. He organized a trip to Boston to film for B Block: Hood Rules Apply, explaining that “Eggs was the main spot we wanted to come out for.” Footage from B Block turned Andrew Petillo, a Jersey-based filmer for Habitat onto the spot. Petillo brought Steve Durante, Fred Gall, Kerry Getz, Guru Khalsa and Ed Selego to Boston to film in 2007, fixing a few cracks around the main ledge with bondo and getting handful of clips. Some ended up in Origin, but others went to webclip that came out around the same time as PJ’s part in Plan B’s Superfuture. It’s impossible to say which came out first, but whichever one did, it’s likely the first footage of pros in the park.
Despite humble contributions to international skate media, the Eggs proved a fixture in local movies beyond CP2. From Subterranean to Shape Deuce, skaters and filmers from across New England were coming to the west end to leave their mark. All the while the locals were still learning new tricks and filming there, with the younger generation was getting involved: David Milliken filmed and edited most of Dana Ericson and Friends, including new heads like James Nickerson, Curt Daley, Squeaks, Thompson Bond and Kevin Coughlin in the mix.
Despite the almost universal appeal of a spot like Eggs to similarly minded subcultures, it’s rare to see BMXers or scooter kids roll up to the spot. “The meet up spots are usually the same for everyone. Copley, AQ and Harvard Square are the first to come to mind,” said Kevin Botsch, a long time member of the city’s BMX community. “I tell all the BMXers that ask about Eggs to not even bother. There are a million other flat ledge spots in the city, why go fuck with the skaters and their spot?” Tommy agreed with the sentiment that pegs should probably stay out of the park, and definitely off the ledges: “bikes, obviously, are a huge no no,” he said, acknowledging that strength in numbers is a major factor in enforcing that. “As soon as there were more of us [than them,] it was kind of the lay of the land.”
Besides a hard “skaters only” policy, locals otherwise foster a culture of respect over an established set of rules. Waffle, a transplant from Cape Cod himself, explained that there wasn’t much truth to rumors about locals vibing newcomers “Anyone that has actually spent two weeks there and paid respect to people that were there before them,” he said, “they’ll probably tell you everyone was cool.” The scene at Eggs is a far cry from famous spots of the ‘90s, where fights broke out at Love Park and EMB locals focused weekend warriors’ boards.
Liam Annis, a recent addition to the cast of regulars at Eggs, didn’t get vibed when he started skating there, “but you had to skate there a bunch to become used to the squad.” Going there on a consistent basis, he explained, you meet everyone else who is doing the same. In Boston’s tight knit scene, hometown heros come through on the weekends, often without acknowledgment from the locals. Respect is earned through the filter of time. Spot seekers, technical plaza skaters and heads doing circus tricks all share a common bond, formed by running into each other on the streets year after year. Mark Wagner, better known as Iceman, had just started skating ledges when he moved back to Beacon Hill and started going to Eggs every day. “I could do maybe 50-50s and boardslides,” he said. “One of the first people who started to say what up to me was Dana Ericson,” who Iceman had seen skating the Underground ramp when it was open. He quickly got to know Brian Delaney and Waffle too. “One day I just came with a giant candle,” he said, explaining that he was fascinated with wax around this time. “Waffle gave me the name Iceman and somehow it stuck.”
Plenty of the older heads who skate Eggs will tell you about the influence of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s and the impact that watching Pier 7 footage and Photosynthesis had on them. Because generations in skateboarding come in five year increments, a new generation of kids whose first exposure to Love Park may very well have come up on YouTube are skating the spot as well. Gavin, using Myles Underwood and Benny Tenner as examples, explained how the culture established by the first generation was making an impact on the youth: “It’s funny, they used to dress differently,” he said. “I came back and they had baggier pants—you could totally see that the spot had had an effect on them.”
Myles, whose introduction to the spot was in Zoo York’s State of Mind, first skated there at ten years old after going to the Dew Tour at the Boston Garden. He didn’t start skating there until a few years later, showing up alongside Lee Berman and getting used to the scene. Being with Berman gave him a bit of a pass so he didn’t feel uneasy showing up at first—“I wouldn’t say [I was] vibed out, but I was not as comfortable as I am now.” It took about a year for him to feel like a part of things—getting to know people that were well over 10 years older than him, like Ariel Pearl, in the process. He said that he still skates there “probably every day,” branching out on weekends. “I mostly just stay there,” he said. “You don’t have to hit anyone up— you can kinda just go and know everybody is going to be there. I just like to skate flat. It’s a cool meet up spot where everyone is.”
Almost all the Eggs locals interviewed mentioned the spot’s cast of regular characters as one of the it’s best aspects. Dave Milliken pointed out that in addition to “the same five people there all the time,” different crews were constantly rotating through—“there’s just always good vibes with people.” The scene isn’t solely comprised of skateboarders though. Back in the day lurkers would creep over after getting out of jail, but lately a street dweller named Bones has shown up a lot. Milliken and Mike Williams met Bones skating Copley back in the day, saying that he was always drinking vodka and always hyped on their skating. “He was always a mystery,” he said. “We just started seeing him at Eggs, just walking through and saying what’s up. Recently he’s been coming and hanging out for the session, just being the hype man.”
Outside of people quickly passing through on a jog or riding a bike, nothing else really going on besides skateboarding (and skateboarders hanging out.) New skaters are rolling through and becoming regulars, and some, like Nickodem Rudzinski and Brian Reid, are figuring out new ways to skate the spot.
Still, it seems like the rest of the city doesn’t know that the park even exists. Pedestrian traffic trickles through, but hasn’t increased much. The police don’t even seem to care. I was skating Eggs in 2012 and a state trooper said that “people are still calling [about skaters,] so I guess we’ve got to keep coming over,” shrugging his shoulders as if to acknowledge the frivolity kicking us out. Skaters romanticize Love Park for its “run, skate, chill” ethos, but the Philadelphia Police Department’s anti-skate vendetta isn’t shared by the Massachusetts State Troopers who patrol Eggs.
I’ve been trying to figure out what it says about skateboarding in Boston when, across the river from a monumental 400,000 square foot skatepark, there are 20 heads skating a spot that’s well over 50 times smaller. Skateboarding is full of stories about repurposing underutilized space—Eggs is more relevant for the culture that grew up around the spot. How many public spaces have their own fiercely-loyal users, regardless of the season? Squeaks recounted being at Eggs one frozen evening with Jonah Miller, Dion Grant and Waffle: “It was the dead of winter—one of the coldest nights I’ve been out skating. Waffle was bundled up with a sweat suit over his clothes—none of us could skate because it was so cold. He was just hauling ass. I think he learned back 180 fakie 5-0 half cabs on the ledge that night.” Is there a hallowed tennis court somewhere in Cambridge where people shovel snow in the dead of winter to get their fix of backhand serves? It seems doubtful.
There are so many different factions beneath the blanket of skateboarding. The skatepark, designed to be a destination for New England and beyond, is built to appeal to all of those different styles. Eggs will never be that—it’s an altar where inner city skaters worship the gods of style. Sure, skate tourists may roll through, but the majority of the people at the park are locals carrying a torch that used to burn at Copley and Aquarium.
When I asked Waffle what he liked most about the spot, he had trouble putting it all into words. “I’ve met my closest friends there,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot of shit there—I’ve seen so much shit go down there, not skate-wise but just in general with life’s dramas and friends and shit. People getting in trouble, people doing good, and people falling out of the scene and coming back. People always come back to Eggs.” He’s right. Any day it isn’t raining or covered in snow, you’ll find people skating flat near the JV ledge. They may or may not be regulars you know, but the home team bench will be covered in half full water bottles, cell phones, coffee cups and lighters, and there’s a pretty good chance that the session will last until it’s too dark to skate.
Words By: Ian Browning (@ibrowning)
Photos By: Ray Echevers, Liam Annis, and Alex Gagne.