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Nevertheless, as soon as the first trick has been documented, Tony is on the move again. It's at about this time that I notice how well Chris can also skate. Because he's filming, he's riding a cruiser with big soft wheels—the skating equivalent of a pink Cadillac—but Chris has huge pop and he's ollieing up and down the sketchier curb cuts I find myself veering around.
We come to a quiet residential block, and that's when Tony admits, having dragged us here, that we might not be able to film at this spot. It's another house. And this time, he wants to use the front stoop. It would be common skateboarding practice for us to trespass and give it one or two tries before someone angrily chased us away. Instead, Tony politely rings the doorbell and asks permission from the man in an undershirt who answers. He's only a renter, of course, but he's pretty sure his landlord wouldn't like what Tony is suggesting. So we're off again, and Tony leads us to 81st Street and 11th Avenue, in Dyker Heights. There, surrounding a church, St. Philip's Episcopal, stands a red brick wall taller than any of us.
Tony wants to do a nose manual—ride solely on his front two wheels—across the top of this wall and into the street. The wall is barely wider than his skateboard, and he will have to ollie three times in quick succession to set up for the manual—but that's not the problem. The problem is the traffic right now is ridiculous. Every single car that rolls up to the intersection gets in the way of the shot. (Also, we soon discover, people are very bad drivers in Dyker Heights.)
Tony goes for it 50, maybe 60 times. I lose count somewhere after 20, because the temperature is falling and the three of us are getting stupid cold standing below him, waiting for all these cars to pass between tries. Tony, understandably, is even more frustrated. Though most of his cries are directed at the heavens, occasionally he will holler at a driver who lingers at the corner to watch. These folks mean well. A real live professional skater, they're probably thinking.
Tony gets the make just before 6pm, and as the four of us huddle over Chris's camera to review the clip, the bells of St. Philip's Episcopal sound for mass. "Amazing Grace." I find out later that Tony has never skated this spot before, never even climbed up on that wall. Instead, he has been passing this corner for ages, imagining the possibilities.
As it happens, Tony is sponsored. He receives decks and parts from Homage, a popular snow- and skateboard shop in Cobble Hill, and apparel from Entree, a Brooklyn street wear manufacturer. "I'm always happy for what I get, I'm grateful," Tony says about riding for these companies.
To make a living, however, he works as a private instructor for Homage, handing down the secrets of the kickflip to another generation of groms. In addition to that, he works seasonally for the Parks Department at Owl's Head, the city's oldest West Coast-style concrete skatepark, and the place where he himself, as a teenager, learned to ride transition. There too he is a teacher.