A Taste of Plaza Life

Winter was here again, my friend down the street had cousins, aunts and uncles coming in for Christmas.  His cousins skated, one was seventeen, the other, my age, my quasi-friend was about eighteen months older than me.  My friend had nothing to skate, his house was too far from mine to carry my rail or skate it down in our dead end neighborhood.  His seventeen year old cousin was incredible at skating, one of the highest pops I’ve seen in person to date, flip tricks, everything.  Christmas morning came, I remember getting the call from my friend.  They were all going downtown to Freedom Plaza.  I didn’t have to beg, although I was prepared, my family had already opened the presents and had breakfast.  I don’t even remember a single thing I got that year, other than the free ride to and from Freedom(Pulaski, the fort, whatever you want to call the spot) and the hours we spent there that day.

Mike, my sister’s boyfriend, had told me the nightmares and dreams of skating Freedom.  Overnight in jail, the tricks that went down, seventy-five dollar tickets, everything that had happened.  They picked me up on the way out of the neighborhood.  We hyped each other up with rumors and talk, my friend’s father had no problem pulling up right alongside the plaza for parking and opened a piece of fiction.

I remember walking up four stair across from the National Theater.  Seeing that much skateable granite and marble in one place scrambling my brain.  All I had seen as a skateboarder was woods, highway and suburbs, or from car windows.  Here I finally was, feeling it under my Duffs’ Stromboli’s (arguably one of the best skate shoes ever), throwing down my board onto the rough plates chiseled with quotes of peace, love and liberty from freedom fighters, the blueprints of Washington DC built into the rectangular platform covering the majority of the plaza up three stairs with a fountain at one end, a planter and memorial with a statue honoring Pulaski at the other.  The freckles of reds, silvers, pinks and blacks of the ledges mixing with the solid black and whites of the blue prints, the chilled but warm air, I remember taking off my sweatshirt wearing a black Lucky bearings t-shirt, the hollowness of the city on such a holiday.

I watched my friend’s cousin do the long most perfectly executed grinds, doing tricks I had only seen through screen and pages, I couldn’t believe the precision, still to this day, a front crooks this guy did, just cruising by the ledge, is everything that I compare style and consistency to.  I have yet to see another person so exquisitely knock out a 360 flip over a trash can on its side in person, let alone in the mid-nineties beyond the television screen, if even.  The way he skated was why we all skate and what we all try to feel out of every roll, every push, every pop.  It reset my aesthetic to such a higher level that I could’t comprehend for years.

We skated all day, got there around noon, I did every grind and slide I knew on that ledge, tried to fling myself down every set out of stairs.  Skated the silenced fountain like a set of banks, feeling the raw nature of hitting the false ecosystems we as humans exist in.  Granite and marble, guerrilla art, jungle law, nature and animalistic tendencies expressed within the confines of these fake human bubbles, natural souls trapped, this is where we belonged, save insanity and true street life.  Living to the fullest, we could and were ready to run or fight for our lives to preserve and protect what we felt and were given, and to feel it again.  I couldn’t get over the experience, not even as it was happening.  The sun was setting and my friend’s dad had finished his piece of literature.

I talked about it for days.  Hunted through old magazines and videos for anything that looked east coast.  I needed that.  I needed everything Freedom/Pulaski had given me.  The rate at which skaters burn through product, being given the rail the year before, I couldn’t ask for more, but I couldn’t help to spit it out.  I wanted a box.

It was and has been the only thing I created with my father.  It was two feet tall, four feet long, we planned on building another four foot box and attaching the same set of wheels to walk it out to the street on one end(I requested a heavy box due to the lightweight rail).  The first box had such heavy(in every sense of the word) framework, we never got to the second box, plus, I was just happy to have something I actually had to ollie(and later flip into) that was a legitimate and challenging size.

You had to ollie(or flip) a foot earlier than most ledges, at least if you wanted a four foot grind, and I wanted all I was allowed.  We’ve all skated the type of edge this box still has, the razor cast iron that shaves your trucks into a thousand paper-cut grooves, slices through plies like a knife.  I had everything but a ramp, but I didn’t even want a ramp, I wanted everything about city skating.  My box and rail could satisfy my imagination more than anything else I had at eleven and twelve years old.


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