Greenpoint bike shop legend Pablo Airaldi was freed last week from a New Jersey immigration detention center last week after being held for three months on charges stemming from a theft he committed more than a decade ago. On Friday, Airaldi sat down with The Brooklyn Paper’s Aaron Short at Bushwick’s The Wreck Room to talk about his experience at the detention center, his support from friends, and his philosophy of life.
Q: How are you feeling?
A: A little overwhelmed, a little hung over. I’m just playing as it goes. I had three months where I was under rigid discipline and routine. I based my entire life on not having that kind of existence. So right now I’m doing whatever I want and if I go to extremes, then f—k it, I go to extremes, such is life.
Q: What happened when you were released?
A: I was released with a belt, shoes but no shoelaces, pants and no money. It took an hour and a half to figure out how to get home, but my old boss from the Elite Couriers drove from the office and picked me up from Jersey.
Q: What was the biggest shock about being detained by the government?
A: Oh f—k, being told that I’m not an American. By their definitions, I’m not an American, despite the fact that I don’t have an accent and I grew up here. Of course, we all f—k up, we make mistakes. I’ve committed crimes. It doesn’t necessarily make me a criminal. They say I’m a criminal and an immigrant, well f—k you, I’m not. I know I’m not. I love this country, I’ve worked hard on trying to improve the faults I see, but I don’t need this country to be myself, I don’t define myself by any titles, in fact, I avoid them at all costs. Let them label me whatever they want as long as I’m not in shackles.
Q: Learn anything in jail?
A: The other people in there have children. They’ve worked hard! They went through such lengths to get to America. They deserve to be here as much as the citizens who are here, who get fat and don’t do s—t. These people are giving you culture, community, offering something cosmopolitan — but they’re expendable.
Q: Is your case resolved?
A: As far as I know it’s gone.
Q: What about if something stupid happens like if you get caught with an open container?
A: Oh I’m thinking about that right now. I’m trying to get citizenship immediately. You f—k up from time to time. I live on next to nothing. As long as my rent is paid and I have enough food, have shoes that are skateable, a board and a bike that works, I’m golden. The more stuff you have, the less efficient you become. Maybe it brings you some small sense of happiness, but it’s a huge waste of time — and time is the one thing you will never get back. Once you lose time, it’s gone.
Q: What’s your next step?
A: I want to have the freedom of not having to worry about how rent is getting paid. I would love to get a deal to work on my book and my writing. I have bar napkins, journals, loose sheets from when I was 19, all the way up to now. My ideas have a good solid foundation, my style is maturing. I think I can finally start telling stories properly. Before writing as an actual writer, I was just figuring out my life through words, I’ve figured it out now and it’s all about respectfully portraying that experience.
Q: What are you going to write about?
A: The best I can do is tell my story and make everyone else’s story heard. Until you feel the pain of what people are going through in there, and out here for that matter, people aren’t going to do s—t, they’re going to allow the country to run us all over. Until the populace personally feels the pain of the afflicted they will never be motivated to act. I’m going to do what I can. The only way revelation will happen in our age is culturally.