Perspective | Searching for D.C.’s most sacred skate spot? Observe your ears.
Metropolis officers name it Freedom Plaza, and again in March, the Nationwide Capital Planning Fee proposed giving the park at thirteenth Road and Pennsylvania Avenue NW a big architectural facelift — which triggered most of the metropolis’s skate boarders to spend the recent months freaking out. (Native skaters have at all times referred to as it “Pulaski Park” after the park’s statue of Revolutionary Warfare determine Casimir Pulaski.) To them, Pulaski’s stone geometry is sacred. It shouldn’t be touched.
To see why, go hear. Chase after a type of downtown drones till you’ve reached the granite-and-marble plateau three blocks from the White Home — the one with the postcard-perfect view of the Capitol — then head all the way in which to the park’s east aspect and take heed to the purr of the wheels, the clack of the decks. These hums and grinds are sounds that characterize creativity, improvisation, dedication, enjoyable — and collectively, they create a music that allows you to know you’re standing on one of the culturally natural, best-sounding spots the District will ever know.
“The best way that this place sounds and feels is like nowhere else,” stated Jeff Fuchs, 31, throughout a weekday lunch hour at Pulaski earlier this summer season. 9-to-fivers sat on a close-by ledge, grazing on salad-chain greenery, watching the skaters as they staged repeated revolts towards gravity. When one skater went airborne for a tailslide, scraping the Pulaski stonework with the sting of his deck, Fuchs pointed an index finger upward as if the sound have been perfuming the air. “The screech on that ledge? Previous marble, outdated granite,” he stated, smiling. “Previous items of historical past that sound and really feel completely different than anyplace else.”
How for much longer will Pulaski sound and really feel like this? After presenting three choices for revamping the walkways of Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and the White Home, the Nationwide Capital Planning Fee says it’s going to usher in consultants to assist refine their plans in 2023. “There might be a number of alternatives in future phases of labor for the general public and stakeholders, together with the skateboarding group, to supply enter, remark, and inform improvement of the ideas,” Stephen Staudigl, public affairs specialist on the fee, stated in an e mail.
So there’s nonetheless a while for skaters to skate at Pulaski, and nonetheless a while for listeners to hear, too. Through the sunlight hours, the park hosts anyplace between a handful and some dozen skate boarders, seemingly of all ages. “It’s infants and grown outdated males out right here,” stated Dioren Hallums, 34, on a blazing afternoon earlier in the summertime.
Taking part in music from a Harman Kardon Bluetooth speaker formed like a 72-kilogram kettlebell whereas he made some repairs to his deck, Hallums stated he’s been skating right here since he was 10, however he’s not precisely certain when he turned one in every of Pulaski’s unofficial DJs. “Some days I would need to take heed to some techno. Different days it’s lure. Generally it’s old-school hip-hop,” he stated. “It’s simply the vibe.” Then, a music by Louisiana rapper Summrs got here oozing out of the speaker, his sticky, Auto-Tuned rhymes sounding as in the event that they have been melting the noon solar.
Skateboarding and underground music tradition have at all times been tightly linked, in fact, and Pulaski’s historical past at that intersection spans generations. Hardcore punk dudes from bands of assorted ranges of acclaim — from Weak Tilt to Turnstile — are identified to skate right here whereas members of the District rap group 3LG have been heavy Pulaski regulars again of their late-’90s heyday. The truth that handfuls of go-go troupes, together with Junkyard Band and TOB, in addition to punk heroes Fugazi have carried out at Pulaski through the years solely makes this holy floor that a lot holier.
However in the end, essentially the most vital music at Pulaski will get made with skateboards. On the final day of August, Donovan Stubbs, 26, was making a few of his personal, attempting to grind one in every of Pulaski’s marble corners, stymied by the best angle of a ledge that had been worn right down to a mushy curve after years of comparable makes an attempt. Again and again, Stubbs stored attempting to land this trick, till his efforts started to resemble slightly music. Might he hear it, too? “Oh yeah,” he stated. “Everytime you get that proper pop; you hear that good one, one-and-a-half, two seconds of grind; and are available out clear?” His face flashed a glance as if he was trying to find one other phrase however might solely discover one: “Music.”
So how lengthy would he be out right here? “Man, until I get it!” Stubbs stated. Then he laughed and coasted away for one more cross. The music started with the rumble of his wheels whereas town offered some mild accompaniment: the boastful vroom of a sports activities automotive at a stoplight, the bang and buzz of a close-by building crew, the distant screaming of airplane engines as they descended into Reagan Nationwide Airport. Then got here the pop. The grind. The sound of two sneaker soles thwacking a drum fill on the bottom as Stubbs tried to regain his steadiness. Didn’t come out clear. So he performed it once more.