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.


Cybele said...

I don't understand how you snagged that memory right out of my head. My roller rink was in Jasonville, Indiana. Brent kindly asked me to slow skate. I told him I couldn't skate backwards. He could. Our feet got tangled, because I wasn' that good forwards, really. That's okay, he said. We held hands and skated. It's one of the sweetest memories I have of Indiana. Thanks for giving it back to me. I miss roller rinks, too, and I've missed YOU.

Jon Hunt said...

Cyb!!! I was just reading your blog the other day, where you been, dangit?

Jon Hunt said...

Wow, that sounded like Raj from What's Happening in that last comment there!

MissTrixi said...

I remember skating at Saints North skating rink in North St. Paul. I wore my powder blue Shawn cassidy jacket and had my hair up in pig-tails with those GIANT blue hair beads that looked like sparkly super balls. Weeee! And ah yes, the dreaded 'Snow Ball', when the boys would slowly skate by and pick 'Every-Girl-But-Me' to skate with. *sigh*

The last time I went to that old hant was on my first psuedo date with what is now my ex-husband. One would think that would spoil the moemories those hallowed halls of rollery, but it doesn't. It's added to other fond memories that I cherish. Just because the marriage went kaput doesn't mean that the moment itself did not exist.

Now my roller dome form the past is a mattress warehouse. I bet it still smells like Play Dough though.


Adrienne said...

You totally captured the essence of the roller rink. We went to Saints and Roller Garden. Snowball was the BEST. I distinctly remember when the boys lined up at one end and the girls lined up at the other and then everyone skated forward and chose their partner.

Here's roller rink day for me: skating with your crush, boys asking girls out, begging the DJ to play certain songs, drinking Icees, kissing by the dark bathrooms, and getting in little fights with your friends.

LAP said...

Roller Garden is still open though! My kids go to birthday parties there, and it's the same magic, although I don't remember the floor being so slippery, and I remember skating being far, far easier.

As far as backward skating goes, all the girls wished they could skate backwards because then you'd always be asked to couple skate for snowball... and the Bloomington roller rink (Cheepskate?)was the first place I ever heard the Sugar Hill Gang, so rollerskating and rap always align somehow in my mind.

Anonymous said...

I was JUST going to say that!

Rollergarden is still open, and that was my home rink back then. I was forced to go to a "day camp" run by some ghetto-ass social service organization. A brown Dodge van that smelled like puke would pick me up every morning in the summer, along with a bunch of other little ghetto rats, and we'd get taken around town to do stuff by some social work students.

It rocked pretty hard, especially when we'd go to Roller Garden. My teenaged sister was dating the DJ so I got special treatment. I had a "denim" patterned skate case and pom-poms on my skates, too, so I was a total bitch. It was awesome, except for the time someone made me do some "rush" in the bathroom and I puked up my stale popcorn and Clark bar on the rink.

Max Sparber said...

I didn't think much of Linda Blair until I searched for an image of her with Google safe search off.

Linda, if you're reading this ... I love you.

Ariel said...

To me, this brings back 'Boogie Nights' and Roller Girl skating to THAT song... As a European, roller rinks are something virtually unknown to me, even though the coolest kids had roller skates in the late 70s/early 80s. [I never did!]

Superbadfriend said...
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Superbadfriend said...
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Brash Lion said...

I couldn't finish reading beyond "Baker Street" so that I could comment and say I LOVE "Baker Street!!!" Is my credibility shot now?

MissTrixi said...

Courtney, DUDE, I TOTALLY love Baker Street, are you kidding? Nothing makes me happier than that saxophone riff at the top of the song, and that little "BEWWWWW" sound effect that happens every chorus. Great damn song in every possible way.

Chris Hill said...

I love Guity too.

You know Jon you and I and Allison and Brook went to the Roller Garden back in 2002. I fell down and all the kids made fun of me and I was crying. You see I can't skate forward and never could. I avoided going to the skate parties as a kid because i was too insecure and shy, and I knew I would fall down and all the kids would make fun of me and I would cry.

I love Roller Skating movies. Same with me and all sports. I never played sports but I like sports movies. Check out Roll Bounce. You'll love it.

MissTrixi said...

(jonny's commenting as trixi again, it is he that talks of the saxaphone riff....SHARED LAPTOP BABE!

I loves ya.

Anonymous said...

Even better than Baker Street? Right Down The Line...Gerry of the most underrated talents ever...Kind of what John Lennon might have sounded like on qualudes-- High and Dry, The Royal Mile and If You Get It Wrong, You'll Get It Right Next Time...(and lest we forget, Stuck In The Middle With You from Stealers Wheel)...

belsum said...

I was gonna remind you of the Roller Garden experience but it seems that Chris got to it before me! That was in the midst of a little roller skating revival amongst his Airborne friends. We went nearly every week for several months that year.

Brian said...

We are interested in planning an 80s night at one of the Twin Cities roller rinks left... if anyone would be interested in coming, please email us and once I have at least 100 people interested in coming, we can do it. Let us know! Brian email: