Thursday, May 22, 2008
Retro Roller Rink
Dammit, I miss roller rinks.
It's hard to even describe the feeling of white-as-snow excitement I got whenever my class went to Skateland, the roller rink in my hometown. They seemed like such a grown-up place at the time -- you'd see glimpses of disco culture on TV (cop shows, Buck Rogers, Dance Fever with Denny Tereo), with the mirror ball and the crazy clothes and the pumping, throbbing music and suave, cultured people talking slick to each other. The roller rink seemed like that in miniature, a Studio 57 that let kids past the velvet rope. With popcorn and video games, no less! It was a mixture of sexiness and pure innocence and it ruled.
I still have vivid and very fond memories of standing amidst the flashing colored lights, eating a hot dog, listening to "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty (this was Minnesota, okay? It wasn't all disco, we're genetically a rock culture) and watching Michelle Hagen, the cutest girl in 4th grade, make her way around the rink. Her honey-blonde hair was styled in a nascent Farah flip. She was smart and cute, and I loved her for years. She, on the other hand, was enamored with one Alan Smith, who was one of those impossible specimens that's smart and good looking and a hero on the hockey rink. No way I'd compete.
But that didn't stop me -- at the roller rink I felt powerful. English Leather powerful, even. I had on my best disco shirt, a polyester number that, if I remember correctly, had the Taj Mahal on it. Every time we went I'd ask Michelle to slow-skate, and every time she'd say yes (sweet girl, lots of sympathy), but every time I was completely humiliated by the fact that, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't fucking skate backwards. It vexed me. Whenever I tried, I fell flat on my ass. And if you're a boy, you have to skate backwards if you slow-skate, or else you're a wuss, right?
Naturally, Alan Smith could skate backwards. He was in hockey. So, apparently, was just about everybody else in my class, since they were all dab hands. So after I skated with her, she'd make her way to Alan Smith, and he'd just gli-i-i-i-ide around the rink backwards with her in his arms, and it would piss me off.
But luckily, I was in fourth grade, so the depths of my jealousy and anger weren't very deep at all. I'd just make my way up to the concession stand, order some popcorn, and play a video game, and it would all be forgotten.
So much of my love of music comes from the roller rink, since this was the only chance I got to listen to rock and roll. We were pretty heavily involved in the local Evangelical Church, and attended "Why Knock Rock" seminars and such (Google it and prepare to laugh), so the thought of having too much of the Devil's Own Music (or even just the stuff that was "worldly-wise") in our house was kind of out of the question. This is where my adoration of the Bee Gees comes from. This is why Yacht Rock doesn't make me cringe. This is where I first heard Michael Jackson, whom I'll still defend to this day. And hell, I even loved "Guilty" by Barry Gibb and Barbara Streisand.
But just to prove what a fucking geek I am, my favorite song to skate to -- and I had to ask for it specifically -- was the theme from Superman. Usually I was the only guy on the rink, and I'd skate with my arm outstretched in front of me just like Chris Reeves did (only he, of course, was flying) and for three minutes, while that John Williams theme swelled around me, I actually felt super-powered, like I could take on the world.
Until, of course, I noticed my classmates standing off to the side and pointing at me.
Why'd they get rid of roller rinks? Did cable TV and video game culture just subsume the innocent activity of going out and rolling around? Did they become gang-ridden? Too kid friendly and thus not sexy enough? Did the death of disco culture kill 'em? I'm not sure. Skateland is now a furniture warehouse store, and most of the other 70s relics in the Twin Cities are torn down. I understand there's a couple still standing in Los Angeles, but I bet ten bucks they've renovated.
No, roller rinks are part and parcel of the 70s experience, and like drive in movies to the fifties or hula-hoops and monster models and whatever you lot had in the 60s, its something consigned to the glory of nostalgia and memory. God bless 'em -- I miss 'em.