Day Job – Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Text And Photos By Mike O’Meally

So what do you do when your parents ask you, “When are you gonna grow up and get a real job?” The answer could be just that-get a real job. The fact is most skaters skate just for the fun of it. For a few lucky ones, there’s sponsorship, a pro-model board, free shoes, and travel all over the world, but for most others the working week is something they know all too well.

In the past, skaters were seen as outcasts, and this just fueled their individuality. Now some of the world’s best musicians, actors, artists, and designers claim a skateboarding background. But what about a more parent-friendly career? How do you secure the future for your family without giving up your bleeding desire to ollie fire hydrants at midnight? Can the two go hand in hand, or will a college degree be the death of the four-wheeled fun-pursuit?

We interviewed three skaters from New York City who made the decision to follow interesting and exciting careers. Somehow they still manage to stay dedicated to and passionate about skateboarding, despite demanding work hours, peer pressure, and confused coworkers.

Darren Menditto

After completing four years of medical school, followed by three years of specialty training at the Beth-Israel Emergency Center in Manhattan, Darren Menditto is well on his way to becoming a licensed emergency medicine physician. During his residency, training he admitted and treated a wide variety of trauma victims. He’s had a pretty hectic ride-from car wrecks, stabbings, and shootings to newly arrived third-world immigrants vomiting up worms. Enduring twelve-hour shifts that often go back to back, it’s not uncommon for him to not sleep for three days straight, and on top of that, the ER is the first stage in critical assessment of a patient’s condition, so split-second decision-making is vital. He’s had patients die in his arms, as well as saving many lives-he has to be ready for whatever comes through the door at any given moment.

An ex-professional vert skater for Toxic Skates, Darren became interested in sports medicine out of general curiosity and a need to fix his own skateboarding injuries. He then went on to specialize in emergency medicine and has met many interesting doctors who’re not like the regular nine-to-fivers. Darren reckons that only a certain type of person can work in the emergency room and describes it as a “wild place to work-the cowboys of medicine work in the ER.” He enjoys being surrounded by intelligent people who’re good at thinking on their feet and says it takes a certain type of wit and humor to deal with the tough situations.

Around Manhattan he’s known as “The Skateboard Doctor,” and many New York skaters come to him for discount X-rays and plaster casts. Darren believes that as a skater all his road trips, living out of a bag, and couch surfing prepared him well for this profession, and he enjoys the constant pace and adrenaline rush at the ER.

How do you fit in time to skate around your job?

It’s been getting easier over the years, going from being an intern to a senior resident, my schedule gets a little bit better. I still work a lot, but not as much. I just skate when I can. Even in med school, I’d take my books on a plane and go to a skate contest.

As a resident, it was much tougher to do that. There’re a couple of skateparks nearby-I can ride my bike over to Chelsea Piers, or I can take the train to Bayridge and skate the Westside Bowl on Canal Street. In the wintertime it gets rough because there’re fewer indoor places, but I’d still hop on a train or drive back to Philly and skate with Tom Boyle and all the dudes.

Have you ever had skating interrupt your job or damage your reputation at work?

Not lately. But when I first was going to medical school, I had a preceptor tell me, “I wouldn’t tell people that you skate. People look at that as a ‘skate punk’ making noise in front of 7Eleven.” I really didn’t embra that at all. In my mind I was like, “F-k you!” I’m proud of what I did and proud of where skateboarding has brought me, helped me grow and develop as a person. Through skateboarding, I’ve met great, open-minded people who’re down-to-earth. I’ve traveled around the world. As a subculture, skateboarding’s made me so much more appreciative of other cultures. I didn’t say anything out loud, but in my mind that was one of the lamest things anybody’s ever said. When people ask me what I do, I tell them flat out, “I’m a skateboarder.”

So have there been any specific incidents you can remember where …

That was the one-that was one piece of advice I disregarded completely. I found the opposite to be true. People thought it was pretty interesting that I came from such a different background. People have a stereotypical mind-set of skaters and … , “It’s amazing that you gave up a professional career to go to med school and do this.” People were pretty stoked on that.

Have injuries ever affected your work?

I took a couple bad ones. I fell at Bayridge and got a big charley horse on my thigh. I could barely walk and had to go in that night and work a twelve-hour shift. Fortunately, I’ve never had to be out. It could potentially get in the way of things.

What do your coworkers think about skating?

Most of them are cool with it and are interested. I’ve shown them stuff online or brought in a video. You work three years, 50 to 60 hours a week, you get to know them pretty well. They’re like, “Oh yeah, the skateboard guy-he’s a resident here. He used to skate to work every day.” It just becomes part of the scene. There’s so much culture and diversity (in Manhattan). Whether you’re from another country, gay or lesbian, I think Manhattan is very accepting. It has to be-it’s Manhattan. It’s the center of the country, culturally. If I was doing my residency in Ohio or somewhere, it might be a totally different experience.

What do you see as some of the differences between a pro-skating career and your career as a doctor?

As a doctor, what you do is under a microscope much more. If you mess up and somebody dies, you’re having lawyers review your charts, review your notes-they’ll have you in court and sue you. It’s a big responsibility taking care of people who’re sick. People won’t accept that their 90-year-old grandmother’s had a heart attack and you didn’t save her, so it’s your fault. It’s like, “No, your 90-year-old grandmother smoked three packs a day and ate potato chips, and that’s what gave her the heart attack!” That’s the mentality. It’s not every patient. You’re there to help.

If you’re a pro skater, you’re under the microscope sometimes-like if you go to a demo and are under the weather, people are like, “He sucks!” You can go to a contest and do great and everything is cool, your sponsors love you, or you can get last place and they just spent 1,000 dollars to send you there-you can feel threatened.

The difference is being a doctor you have a bigger responsibility.

Yeah, it’s a big responsibility. I was never a serious-type person, but life and death is as serious as it gets. I’m still a total kid at heart-I went skating after school and now I go skating after work. It’s something I’ve always done, and it’s always been the common denominator.

If you were faced with a choice between the two-being a doctor or a skater-which would you choose?

If I was going to stay young the rest of my life, that would be easy. If I was gonna be able to skate forever … Skateboarding was my first love-I’m going to have to stick with it. But I always thought, “What am I going to do after my skating career?” Skateboarding’s great and fun, but in that deeper sense, when I leave work sometimes I think I’ve really helped somebody. That’s a pretty exhilarating thing.

Which do you find more satisfying and why?

After all these years, I can be stressed out, have crazy days at work where I walk out of there feeling frazzled with my head spinning. I cross town, get on a ramp, and everything’s just washed away in a second. It’s such a cool feeling to drop in on a ramp, cruise around, and feel your wheels spinning. It’s hard to think about all the other stuff going on in life when you’re cruising on a skateboard.

Medicine, in general, is more cerebral-it’s the opposite. You have to think things through. It’s like solving a puzzle. You have to make very logical decisions and act on them. When you do it well on a difficult case, you’re like, “Yeah, this person would’ve died and I saved their life.” That’s a different kind of reward that you get.

Andie Henrie

Andie Henrie has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is a post-doctoral assistant and research associate at New York University. He’s been there since 1997. As a young student, his interest was in philosophy and consciousness, but his curiosity about the brain led him to make factual observations by recording data and doing experiments.

In any given month, he’ll do one week of experiments and spend the rest of the time analyzing the data. His work involves making and testing models of the brain, specifically brain activity in response to visual stimulation. In his lab are reams of computer readouts, graphs, microscopes, and sophisticated machines that only a scientist would know about. He meets with other scientists to discuss and dispute evidence, and occasionally has papers published in scientific journals.

As a skater, Andie grew up in Hawai’i on a mixed diet of pools and street skating, and definitely got his chops the hard way among some tough locals. As a resident of New York City, you can find him at any given hour of the night smashing slappies and hopping over garbage cans, always with a strong black coffee in hand. He’s been known to stitch himself up and drain fluids from hippers in his own science lab and has a fiercely practical “do it yourself” attitude. An underground pillar of the New York scene for years, Andie is a self-confessed “science dork” who has a genuine thirst for knowledge and the way things work.

How do you fit in skating around your job?

It’s more of a racket than a job, and it’s academics. You can pretty much get away with anything in academics. It’s a field full of misfits, freaks, and weirdos. You can show up at noon and leave whenever you want. As long as you’re getting stuff done, they don’t care. It’s worked out pretty good. It hasn’t cut into it so far.

Have you ever had skating interrupt your job or ruin your reputation at work?

No, they just think I’m a weirdo. Once I had to get surgery on my wrist and I didn’t think that it’d hamper my ability to do some of the technical aspects of the job. That was kind of a big deal. I had to train other people to do it for me with one hand.

What do your coworkers think about skating?

I don’t know if they know anything besides Tony Hawk Pro Skater-whatever skateboarding is in the media, some X-Games garbage. I’ve tried to set them straight and tell them about Neil Blender and shit, but they don’t really get it.

Can you think of the differences between a pro skater’s career and your own?

Maybe it’s more fun to think about similarities. You’re both trying to make yourself famous for doing some kind of arcane, useless pursuit, and convince other people it’s cool. It’s pretty much some philosophical game you’re playing with yourself-something you’re doing to jerk off. It’s similar aspects of pleasure-somehow trying to get the accolades of your peers.

If you had to choose between the two, which would you choose?

There’s no question-skateboarding.

Which do you find more satisfying and why?

I don’t know if I find skateboarding satisfying so much as necessary. It’s like breathing. Whenever I’m injured or I can’t do it, I’m kind of at a loss for what to do. The work is fun, it’s philosophical, and that you can spin it to chicks late night at the bar is pretty cool. But I could dozled with my head spinning. I cross town, get on a ramp, and everything’s just washed away in a second. It’s such a cool feeling to drop in on a ramp, cruise around, and feel your wheels spinning. It’s hard to think about all the other stuff going on in life when you’re cruising on a skateboard.

Medicine, in general, is more cerebral-it’s the opposite. You have to think things through. It’s like solving a puzzle. You have to make very logical decisions and act on them. When you do it well on a difficult case, you’re like, “Yeah, this person would’ve died and I saved their life.” That’s a different kind of reward that you get.

Andie Henrie

Andie Henrie has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is a post-doctoral assistant and research associate at New York University. He’s been there since 1997. As a young student, his interest was in philosophy and consciousness, but his curiosity about the brain led him to make factual observations by recording data and doing experiments.

In any given month, he’ll do one week of experiments and spend the rest of the time analyzing the data. His work involves making and testing models of the brain, specifically brain activity in response to visual stimulation. In his lab are reams of computer readouts, graphs, microscopes, and sophisticated machines that only a scientist would know about. He meets with other scientists to discuss and dispute evidence, and occasionally has papers published in scientific journals.

As a skater, Andie grew up in Hawai’i on a mixed diet of pools and street skating, and definitely got his chops the hard way among some tough locals. As a resident of New York City, you can find him at any given hour of the night smashing slappies and hopping over garbage cans, always with a strong black coffee in hand. He’s been known to stitch himself up and drain fluids from hippers in his own science lab and has a fiercely practical “do it yourself” attitude. An underground pillar of the New York scene for years, Andie is a self-confessed “science dork” who has a genuine thirst for knowledge and the way things work.

How do you fit in skating around your job?

It’s more of a racket than a job, and it’s academics. You can pretty much get away with anything in academics. It’s a field full of misfits, freaks, and weirdos. You can show up at noon and leave whenever you want. As long as you’re getting stuff done, they don’t care. It’s worked out pretty good. It hasn’t cut into it so far.

Have you ever had skating interrupt your job or ruin your reputation at work?

No, they just think I’m a weirdo. Once I had to get surgery on my wrist and I didn’t think that it’d hamper my ability to do some of the technical aspects of the job. That was kind of a big deal. I had to train other people to do it for me with one hand.

What do your coworkers think about skating?

I don’t know if they know anything besides Tony Hawk Pro Skater-whatever skateboarding is in the media, some X-Games garbage. I’ve tried to set them straight and tell them about Neil Blender and shit, but they don’t really get it.

Can you think of the differences between a pro skater’s career and your own?

Maybe it’s more fun to think about similarities. You’re both trying to make yourself famous for doing some kind of arcane, useless pursuit, and convince other people it’s cool. It’s pretty much some philosophical game you’re playing with yourself-something you’re doing to jerk off. It’s similar aspects of pleasure-somehow trying to get the accolades of your peers.

If you had to choose between the two, which would you choose?

There’s no question-skateboarding.

Which do you find more satisfying and why?

I don’t know if I find skateboarding satisfying so much as necessary. It’s like breathing. Whenever I’m injured or I can’t do it, I’m kind of at a loss for what to do. The work is fun, it’s philosophical, and that you can spin it to chicks late night at the bar is pretty cool. But I could do something else and it’d be as satisfying-my life wouldn’t make any sense without the old rollerboard.

Ivory Serra

Ivory Serra has been a freelance photographer in New York City for the better part of ten years. He has a master’s degree in fine arts from Hunter College in New York and currently teaches photography once a week at NYU. In the past, he’s been first assistant to some of the biggest heavyweights in the world of photography. Names like Annie Leibowitz, Mark Seliger, Martin Schoeller, Antoine Verglas, Mary Ellen Mark, and Peter Beard have all placed their trust in his vast technical knowledge, and his hands have been directly involved in some of the most iconic photos of the last decade.

He has had his own photos published in a wide variety of magazines including Rolling Stone, Revolver, Newsweek, ID, and Time, as well as various books including Hip Hop Immortals and recently the Beautiful Losers exhibition book. He was also the in-house photographer for Alleged Galleries for the last six years and documented all the artworks and artists that showed there.

A native of Belinas in San Francisco’s Marin County, he shared a backyard ramp with his twin bother Shelter and still barges hard on any kind of transition. Ivory possesses that typically laid-back NorCal attitude, and there’s rarely a lighting setup or bowl that he can’t tackle.

How do you fit in skating around your job?

During the winter here in New York, it’s difficult-not only the brutal conditions, but also planning ahead, looking at the week and making sure you can allocate two or three days to skating. Whether it’s in the evening-there’re a handful of small parks here-or planning a trip to Los Angeles for four days, it’s a balance between work and play.

Have you ever had skating interrupt your job or damage your reputation at work?

No. If anything, people are fascinated by the idea that I skate, and it’s a whole other thing that I do. (While I’m) being recognized sometimes for my photography, people have no idea that I skate. When I did work for Mark Seliger, there was a weekend where he gave me a longboard because I sensed he didn’t want me to risk hurting myself. There have been other other hazardous activities-I was going to go skydiving and he didn’t want me to.

Have injuries ever affected your work?

Not severely. I’ve never had an injury where I wasn’t able to walk-I’ve limped. There was a six-month period where I couldn’t bend my left leg, but as long as your hands and eyes are working, you’re okay.

What do your coworkers think about skateboarding?

In the photography world, people are amazed and always ask, “Oh, you ride those ramps?” And if you say, “Yes,” they’re like, “Wow, you can do that?” But then there’s another generation that if they see you on the street, you’re a 31-year-old guy walking with a skateboard in your hand-people get a little misled like, “What’s that person doing holding that thing?” There’re not many opportunities where my coworkers get to see me skate-whether it’s at night or if you see someone you work with in a different part of New York, usually the people are shocked. You can tell when people haven’t skated in a long time, and that’s one place I never want to be. It’s better to go out with a bang than fade away.

Can you think of the main differences between a pro skater’s career and your own?

I think there’s a certain life span of a professional skateboarder. Both skateboarding and photography are something you get better at the more you do it. But there’s a point in skateboarding where your body physically can’t handle it. Photography is something that’s lifelong. It’s not only a career, it’s a lifestyle, like skateboarding. The skateboarding element of one’s life-if you can’t do it all the time, if you’ve invested all your time into that, you may not have an opportunity to do anything else. A lot of people get into the industry, and after they’ve become a professional, do annother job related to skateboarding. With the photography that I do, it’s not so directly tied to skateboarding that it’s dependent on it. When I was applying to college, it was almost like a trade-off-an education or being someone who’s trying to get sponsored. I never really tried to get sponsored, and because it wasn’t an ambition of mine, I skated more for fun. A lot of kids ask, “Who do you skate for?” And I’d say, “Myself.” When I was applying for college, I realized that I was giving up what was a time in my life when I could just skateboard. I’ve been lucky to enjoy the world of skateboarding and the world of photography in many places.

If you had to choose between the two, skating and your career as a photographer, which would it be?

If it was one or the other to give up, it would be the notion of being a professional photographer, because I know that I’ll never be a professional skateboarder, but I enjoy the rewards of skateboarding both mentally and physically.

Which one do you find more satisfying and why?

I find skateboarding much more satisfying than the process of photography. There’s a lot more to photography than just taking the picture-there’s preparation, processing film, lugging bags around. Skateboarding is very immediate-that’s what I love about it. You can hop out your door, like that Lance Mountain video; you can be skating right away. But the physical moment of taking a picture and interacting with the subject is similar to skateboarding-there’s movement involved, there’s a particular viewpoint that you’re taking, you’re looking for one thing at one time. Interaction with an element that is both environment and subject, there’s the crossover.

If you look at the time that people have-it could be related to Stacy Peralta and Dogtown-you’re only given one chance at this. Like if a street skater breaks his ankle, he’s screwed!-if that’s something that he’s invested all his time into. I’m glad I did go to school, got an education, and had an opportunity to make choices. My life has revolved itself around skateboarding, photography, and traveling, which is something that’s a big part of what led me to photography. I’ve been doing skateboarding and photography for the same amount of time-sixteen years. We’ll see which one outlasts the other.

mething else and it’d be as satisfying-my life wouldn’t make any sense without the old rollerboard.

Ivory Serra

Ivory Serra has been a freelance photographer in New York City for the better part of ten years. He has a master’s degree in fine arts from Hunter College in New York and currently teaches photography once a week at NYU. In the past, he’s been first assistant to some of the biggest heavyweights in the world of photography. Names like Annie Leibowitz, Mark Seliger, Martin Schoeller, Antoine Verglas, Mary Ellen Mark, and Peter Beard have all placed their trust in his vast technical knowledge, and his hands have been directly involved in some of the most iconic photos of the last decade.

He has had his own photos published in a wide variety of magazines including Rolling Stone, Revolver, Newsweek, ID, and Time, as well as various books including Hip Hop Immortals and recently the Beautiful Losers exhibition book. He was also the in-house photographer for Alleged Galleries for the last six years and documented all the artworks and artists that showed there.

A native of Belinas in San Francisco’s Marin County, he shared a backyard ramp with his twin bother Shelter and still barges hard on any kind of transition. Ivory possesses that typically laid-back NorCal attitude, and there’s rarely a lighting setup or bowl that he can’t tackle.

How do you fit in skating around your job?

During the winter here in New York, it’s difficult-not only the brutal conditions, but also planning ahead, looking at the week and making sure you can allocate two or three days to skating. Whether it’s in the evening-there’re a handful of small parks here-or planning a trip to Los Angeles for four days, it’s a balance between work and play.

Have you ever had skating interrupt your job or damage your reputation at work?

No. If anything, people are fascinated by the idea that I skate, and it’s a whole other thing that I do. (While I’m) being recognized sometimes for my photography, people have no idea that I skate. When I did work for Mark Seliger, there was a weekend where he gave me a longboard because I sensed he didn’t want me to risk hurting myself. There have been other other hazardous activities-I was going to go skydiving and he didn’t want me to.

Have injuries ever affected your work?

Not severely. I’ve never had an injury where I wasn’t able to walk-I’ve limped. There was a six-month period where I couldn’t bend my left leg, but as long as your hands and eyes are working, you’re okay.

What do your coworkers think about skateboarding?

In the photography world, people are amazed and always ask, “Oh, you ride those ramps?” And if you say, “Yes,” they’re like, “Wow, you can do that?” But then there’s another generation that if they see you on the street, you’re a 31-year-old guy walking with a skateboard in your hand-people get a little misled like, “What’s that person doing holding that thing?” There’re not many opportunities where my coworkers get to see me skate-whether it’s at night or if you see someone you work with in a different part of New York, usually the people are shocked. You can tell when people haven’t skated in a long time, and that’s one place I never want to be. It’s better to go out with a bang than fade away.

Can you think of the main differences between a pro skater’s career and your own?

I think there’s a certain life span of a professional skateboarder. Both skateboarding and photography are something you get better at the more you do it. But there’s a point in skateboarding where your body physically can’t handle it. Photography is something that’s lifelong. It’s not only a career, it’s a lifestyle, like skateboarding. The skateboarding element of one’s life-if you can’t do it all the time, if you’ve invested all your time into that, you may not have an opportunity to do anything else. A lot of people get into the industry, and after they’ve become a professional, do another job related to skateboarding. With the photography that I do, it’s not so directly tied to skateboarding that it’s dependent on it. When I was applying to college, it was almost like a trade-off-an education or being someone who’s trying to get sponsored. I never really tried to get sponsored, and because it wasn’t an ambition of mine, I skated more for fun. A lot of kids ask, “Who do you skate for?” And I’d say, “Myself.” When I was applying for college, I realized that I was giving up what was a time in my life when I could just skateboard. I’ve been lucky to enjoy the world of skateboarding and the world of photography in many places.

If you had to choose between the two, skating and your career as a photographer, which would it be?

If it was one or the other to give up, it would be the notion of being a professional photographer, because I know that I’ll never be a professional skateboarder, but I enjoy the rewards of skateboarding both mentally and physically.

Which one do you find more satisfying and why?

I find skateboarding much more satisfying than the process of photography. There’s a lot more to photography than just taking the picture-there’s preparation, processing film, lugging bags around. Skateboarding is very immediate-that’s what I love about it. You can hop out your door, like that Lance Mountain video; you can be skating right away. But the physical moment of taking a picture and interacting with the subject is similar to skateboarding-there’s movement involved, there’s a particular viewpoint that you’re taking, you’re looking for one thing at one time. Interaction with an element that is both environment and subject, there’s the crossover.

If you look at the time that people have-it could be related to Stacy Peralta and Dogtown-you’re only given one chance at this. Like if a street skater breaks his ankle, he’s screwed!-if that’s something that he’s invested all his time into. I’m glad I did go to school, got an education, and had an opportunity to make choices. My life has revolved itself around skateboarding, photography, and traveling, which is something that’s a big part of what led me to photography. I’ve been doing skateboarding and photography for the same amount of time-sixteen years. We’ll see which one outlasts the other.

l, do another job related to skateboarding. With the photography that I do, it’s not so directly tied to skateboarding that it’s dependent on it. When I was applying to college, it was almost like a trade-off-an education or being someone who’s trying to get sponsored. I never really tried to get sponsored, and because it wasn’t an ambition of mine, I skated more for fun. A lot of kids ask, “Who do you skate for?” And I’d say, “Myself.” When I was applying for college, I realized that I was giving up what was a time in my life when I could just skateboard. I’ve been lucky to enjoy the world of skateboarding and the world of photography in many places.

If you had to choose between the two, skating and your career as a photographer, which would it be?

If it was one or the other to give up, it would be the notion of being a professional photographer, because I know that I’ll never be a professional skateboarder, but I enjoy the rewards of skateboarding both mentally and physically.

Which one do you find more satisfying and why?

I find skateboarding much more satisfying than the process of photography. There’s a lot more to photography than just taking the picture-there’s preparation, processing film, lugging bags around. Skateboarding is very immediate-that’s what I love about it. You can hop out your door, like that Lance Mountain video; you can be skating right away. But the physical moment of taking a picture and interacting with the subject is similar to skateboarding-there’s movement involved, there’s a particular viewpoint that you’re taking, you’re looking for one thing at one time. Interaction with an element that is both environment and subject, there’s the crossover.

If you look at the time that people have-it could be related to Stacy Peralta and Dogtown-you’re only given one chance at this. Like if a street skater breaks his ankle, he’s screwed!-if that’s something that he’s invested all his time into. I’m glad I did go to school, got an education, and had an opportunity to make choices. My life has revolved itself around skateboarding, photography, and traveling, which is something that’s a big part of what led me to photography. I’ve been doing skateboarding and photography for the same amount of time-sixteen years. We’ll see which one outlasts the other.