How Skate World Changed My Life

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When I was in middle school, we didn’t text, chat with our classmates on Xbox, or look up cute boys online.  We couldn’t.  It was the Mesozoic era, and the technology didn’t exist.  So what did we do without the huge cornucopia of Apple-inspired abundance at our fingertips?

Hanging out with my Mesozoic friends. Image from Flickr

We hung out.  Together.  As in, a congregation of people in the same place at the same time talking, laughing, relaxing and having fun.

At first we were just a neighborhood group of 6th graders playing kickball in the cul-de-sac every day after the bus dropped us off from school.  We were small.  Like, short and super-pasty until we acquired our first sunburns of the season, blistered, peeled, slathered Noxema on our faces, burned again, and painfully prepped our oozing skin for baby oil and the long, tan, sunny days to come.

OMG SO CUTE. If this were a picture of me, I'd...

Pre-tan sunburn. Image via Wikipedia

By the following summer, various groups morphed into an actual circle, stationed shoulder-to-shoulder by the high dive from the moment the gates opened at the pool until the lifeguards kicked us out.

A year later, our circle doubled on top of itself and became a two-tiered figure eight that included just about the entire school.  We’d graduated to non-parent supervised activities, and everyone wanted to be a part of that.

Off-duty lifeguard kicking back. Image from Flickr

As the venues got bigger, my friendships grew.  Not in a six degrees of Facebook, “OMG! We went to the same driver’s ed school but graduated six years apart and never even crossed paths (literally! ha ha ha!) but somehow share 62 connections, so will you be my friend or at least like my macramé page?” kind of way.  Back then, “friendship” had a clear definition, and was something much more organic and real.

By 8th grade, I was a little person on the edge of a big world, and my growing independence meant I was more than ready to wean myself from drive-in movie night with Mom and Dad.  For me, it was beyond a big deal to be dropped off by my parents (but not where anyone could actually see me being dropped off by my parents), skates dangling from my shoulder, with a $5.00 bill in-hand.  I was always a little early so I could get the best cubby to store my stuff, and save a place for my friends at the front of the line.

The line to get into Skate World, that is.

With feathered bangs shellacked to my head and a plastic comb sticking out of the back pocket of my Jordache jeans, I was ready to roll.  Literally.  Like, all night long and right into adolescence.

Image from Flickr

Every Friday night, me and a few hundred of my peers propped ourselves against the shag carpet-walls, laced up, and hit the floor.  Nothing could keep us away.  It was our chance to talk, laugh, roller dance, and venture out into life in a safe place, without anyone who cared about good posture or whether or not we’d written our science fair hypothesis looking over our shoulders.

There was no danger of drugs or alcohol, and barely even a cigarette back then.  I’ve heard about the temptations middle school offers today, and to be honest, I’m more than a little scared for my kids.  The only hazards at Skate World were the threat of too much craziness during the Need for Speed contest, a huge face-plant because some stupid 7th grader dropped his gum, or sweaty palms in the middle of a backwards couples skate to Journey’s Open Arms.  We were allowed to roll toward preteendom under a cloak of innocence, drifting away from Mom and Dad with some bruises and falls, but nothing you could really call broken.

Image from Flickr

The more I skated, the better I got, and in a way, my prowess in the rink mirrored my growth in life.  At first, I stuck to the middle of the floor, close to the guards and skate-standing a lot more than moving in any preplanned direction.  I was trying to stay up without falling down, and with strobe lights flashing in my eyes and a ginormous disco balls orbiting overhead, I was a little spooked.  Unsure of myself, I didn’t venture very far.

Image from Flickr

But soon, all of my friends moved further out, and they looked like they were having a lot more fun than me.

So after school, I’d log hours of practice in the creepy basement, learning to balance, turn, and increase my speed, forever trying to catch up to girls who seemed to be born with wheels instead of feet.  They were so much better than me, but as I skated from pole to pole, trying not to trip on the drain or kill myself jumping the random pipes sticking out of the ground, I got better.

Speed skates are cool.

In time I moved from the center to the middle of the rink, better known as the chill zone, a fairly risk-free area where the majority of the kids hung out, flipping around backwards to talk, or test a new move.

As I shifted spots, my closest friends were now stationed on the outside: Roller Derby central.  This part of the rink both awed and scared the crap out of me, because it was where the best skaters held court, sailing around with a dizzying array of twists, speed, precision-cut turns, and an uncanny ability to somehow stay ahead of the beat.

Just watching them made me want to stop, glide quietly toward the nearest exit, and play Galaga in the arcade for the rest of my life.

A Christmas tree ornament shaped like a Galaga...

Image via Wikipedia

But there they were, talking, laughing, dancing, speed-skating, and motioning for me to join in.  It was positive peer pressure, the kind that tempts you to be better, not worse.

So one night I closed my eyes, stepped out, pushed forward, and let myself fly (albeit at the back of the pack so I could immediately abort if a rabid 7th grader tried to cut me or rip off my face).

these teams were all phenominal to watch the o...

Image via Wikipedia

I felt like I had arrived.  Where?  I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t really care because the beauty was in the journey itself.

Even though we eventually outgrew our skates, we never left the lessons we learned behind.  Skating, like life, is about balance.  Make the wrong move and you’ll end up flat on your face, but work hard enough and you’ll have the chance to fly.  Every Friday night, my friends and I learned from each other while we taught our own lessons at the same time.  And we didn’t even know it.  Now that my skates are packed away in Mom’s and Dad’s creepy basement, and my son, Taylor, begs to play Call of Duty instead of seeking out the boys next door, I realize what we had.

When I look at the canvas of Taylor’s pending middle school life, I can’t find Skate World or anything close to its equivalent in his line of sight.  Sure, there’s a roller rink in town, but nobody goes.  All I see are schedules and seminars, too many meaningless distractions, and not enough time.  Time to fly, that is.  And it makes me sad.  I’m not sure where he’ll find his place to grow, safe from my prying eyes and all of the scary things in the world.  But I’m looking, and I hope he is too.

Skate World Playlist

Halloween 2011. Still roller dancing, even if we're by ourselves in a corner. Skate World rules!

  • Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang
  • The Stroke – Billy Squire
  • Double Dutch Bus – Frankie Smith
  • Hold the Line – Toto
  • The Freaks Come Out at Night – Whodini
  • Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  • Celebration – Kool and the Gang
  • Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
  • Super Freak – Rick James
  • Jack & Diane – John Cougar
  • The Message – Grandmaster Flash
  • Heart of Glass – Blondie
  • Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club
  • You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC
  • Funkytown – Lipps Inc.
  • I Want You to Want Me – Cheap Trick
  • Let it Whip – Dazz Band
  • Open Arms – Journey
  • Freak-A-Zoid – Midnight Star
  • Jessie’s Girl – Rick Springfield
  • Le Freak – Chic
  • 867-5309/Jenny – Tommy Tutone
  • Jam On It – Newcleus
  • Waiting for a Girl Like You – Foreigner
  • All Night Long – Lionel Richie
  • Freeze Frame – J. Geils Band
  • September – Earth Wind & Fire
  • Urgent – Foreigner

*Thanks to Susan Klosterman Francke, Laura Badorek Hasler, Tiffany Calvert Diehl, and Michelle Clasby Depoy for their contributions to this playlist!

264 responses »

  1. I promise and swear that I could have literally written this post. I am not kidding. And in a never before done thing in my young blogging career, I am going to do two re-blogs in one day, b/c EVERYONE I know has to take this trip! I too am sad and scared for our kids. I over heard a dad at the NFL Experience in Indianapolis say “He doesn’t want to do this anymore, he want to play phone.” Going out side out of sight of grown ups is too dangerous for kids now. At least that is how they feel b/c that is how many parents have reacted as they have grown up. They don’t want their kids to disappear and they do not want them getting into the mischief they did. I always turn off the TV and stuff when I have my niece and nephew over, at least for 2-3 hours and we do something physical together, non-digital. They moan, but they end up always having fun. Thank you so much for a wonderful post and congrats on FP!! A wonderful choice!!! 🙂 AmberLena

    • You must be a Gemini at heart if not by birth. My children are most creative when I say “Go to your room and find something to do.” Luckily, they like their rooms because I say this on an almost-daily basis. Thanks so much for the love and encouragement…not entirely sure how this FP thing happened, but I have a concrete theory I’m writing about for tomorrow’s post, so stay tuned if you have nothing better to do! =)

  2. Love, love, love your blog! Maybe it’s partly because I’m a Gemini too and also just turned 40 (although I still don’t really believe that despite the evidence of my birth certificate etc.) Anyway, you write wonderfully – keep it up. I’m looking forward to following 🙂

  3. Love your post! Though, I’m a little young for the roller derby, my childhood revolved around bike riding. Playing free and socializing away from parents. No cell phones. No internet. My adolescence was still relatively safe but cell phones were gaining popularity and the rare teenager had one at the urging of their uber paranoid parental unit(s). I miss that life. I totally relate to your facebook “friend” comment. I think people have lowered the bar in the friend department.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, twice! I loved riding my bike as a kid too. There is nothing as great as the freedom to go wherever you want, within your mom’s “safety zone,” that is. Just kidding. My mom didn’t even know where I was when I was a kid (DOUBLE JUST KIDDING MOM. I KNOW YOU’RE READING THIS AND YOU’RE THE BEST!).

  4. Aw MAN. I did the roller thing, but for my crew it was the ice rink thing. Every Friday and Saturday… and getting to drive YOURSELF? And pick up your friends on the way!?! Pure bliss.

    I met my now-husband there, in 1997.

    I miss the ice rink. And middle school roller skating. And the good peer pressure. Your post is good and yet makes me very sad.

    • Thanks for such a thoughtful comment. I was actually nostalgic (and a little sad), when I wrote it. That’s the great thing about being a Gemini. You can express yourself in a thousand different ways (like crazy), and somehow get away with it. =)

  5. God I love skating soo much, ice skating being my favourite.

    I remember being really good at it, a 10 year old in the ice rink for the first time and going about like a professional, even the supervisor asked me if I was a regular.

    Sadly it’s been 8 long years since I have last gone skating, and this post makes me miss it even more so than ever!

  6. my husband dared me to sing a song the other day, and he dared me to sing garth brook’s “friends in low places.”

    and it TOTALLY reminded me of the skating rink! they used to play that song every saturday at the skate i used to go to with my friends.

    oh man. i love skating, this post is fabulous! good job, congrats on the FP!

    • Wait. If you were singing “Friends in Low Places” and I was singing “Freak-a-Zoid” then you’re way younger than me. Bummer. Just kidding. But not really. =p

      So happy you loved skating. I had no idea when I posted this that so many people shared my fond memories. And thank you on the FP congrats. It’s hard to believe and I’m still not sure I’m awake.

      • I’m 28, so there ya go. I was skating my heart out in the late 80’s and all through the 90’s. The Saturday morning skate became a ritual before I was even in Kindergarten.

        I love it so much.

        I’ve been begging the hubs to go on a skating date with me.

        A few years ago, we did a skating part for my friend’s bday. All adults, dressed in hot pink leggings and skating. It was amazingly fun.

  7. What can you say…wow. For us it was ‘SkateTown’. I know most guys would think I am betraying the ‘code’ for saying how cool skating was…but it was! Should I ask her out…ask her if she likes me…what?! Aw…that was wicked! Reverse skate, are you kidding me…I can barely stand up now. Dood, if you don’t ask her I will. Better call mom (on the payphone!) to get us. No wait, call yours, she is cool. Ew..no She’s not! Shutup. No you. Did you see that, wish I could skate like that. Watch this…..OW! Shutup (laughing).

    Where did it all go? Thanks for the memories. I listen to my son and his friends and what I hear in the background is …’double kill, triple kill…..Zombie killing spree!’ Thanks Halo. :/

    It’s time to put away the phones, tablets, computers, and tv’s and talk once again.

    Hi, my name is Paul……..

    • Hi Paul. Nice to meet you! I love your cool dude play-by-play. Very authentic!

      I’m sooooo with you on the technology thing. While it’s great for forums like this, it’s not so great for kids who need to connect to the world in other ways.

      My son read my post yesterday and tried to explain his position.
      “Mom,” he said with a sincere look of concern in his eyes, “it’s just, playing games with my friends is so much more fun than being outside.”
      So what did I do? I sent him outside, of course, and banned the xbox until further notice. =/

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I love this post. I’m a teenager in England, I live in a small town and we have a skating disco here too. Most people go there to meet up and it’s almost identical to your description. This post couldn’t be written any better 😀

    • I love that you, a teenager in England, read my post….and actually liked it! Because I’m old. Thank you for sharing your comment. It’s nice to know that Skate World is a universal symbol of awesome. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. so true. do kids these days ever even break a sweat? i mean, i’m sure that their finger muscles are far superior to what ours ever were or will be, but i remember sweating buckets while skating. no video game can match the exhilaration of careening around the curve, trying not to cross paths and lock skates with anyone else, then picking up speed on the straight-away before going into the other curve to the over-bassed soundtrack and flashing neon lights flooding your senses. the stuff dreams are made of.

  10. They always played “Brick House” to let us know it was time for backward skate… and I loved watching the cute boys “shoot the duck”. Those were the days…….. Thanks for the memories!

  11. A positively perfect post – thanks so much for sharing!

    I only wish you had also included Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You” in your list. It was my preferred skate tune of choice, all in the never-realized hopes that some young girl would simply be blown away by the melody and my moves… =)

    • Yes. Any guy who could bring it in the rink was sure to get the girls. No question. I knew many a boy who, when it came to walking, could hardly put one foot in front of the other. Yet when they got to Skate World it was like John Travolta met Denny Terrio. Amazing to watch. And they picked up chics by the dozen.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and for such a kind post. Why don’t you go down into your creepy basement, strap on some skates, and play “If I Can’t Have You” at full blast? Like, right now? If you do, the girls will flock to your door. I swear. =)

  12. I love this post…..I’m 58 (gulp) years old and spent the late 60s at Curley’s Skateland in my hometown……it was my only hangout because we weren’t allowed to go to movies or dances. I got my first pair of “real” roller rink skates for Christmas in 1968, I still have the picture of them. I loved skating…..loved, loved, loved!

    Until I broke my leg attempting a jump when I was 26 years old…lol

    I’m so glad someone else shares fond memories of skating 🙂
    Debi

    • I’m happy you share my memories, Debi, although I’m sorry about the broken leg…you must have been an Evil Knievel wanna be as a kid. Thanks for taking the time to comment…have a great day!

  13. I am really impressed with your writing skills as neatly as with the format on your weblog. Is this a paid subject matter or did you customize it yourself? Anyway stay up the excellent quality writing, it’s uncommon to look a nice blog like this one today..

  14. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of How Skate World Changed My Life Gemini Girl in a Random World . Thanks for the post. I will certainly comeback.

  15. Reblogged this on Paltry Meanderings of a Taller Than Average Woman and commented:
    For those of you who don’t delve deeply into the Comments section of each and every post I write, it may come as a surprise that I am MOVING. So is my husband. And my cats. And all of our shit. We and our crap are relocating an entire hour away – which is really annoying because it’s just far enough to require wrapping everything you own in at least four layers of protective paper that costs about a dime per sheet, and close enough that you have no excuse for not driving back down to your old place the next day and giving it a really good scrubbing before turning in your keys. Anyway, I’m up to my ears in newsprint, liquor boxes (both the ones I’m using for packing and the ones filled with all the wine I’m downing to get me through this nightmarish process) and clear tape that sticks to itself way better than it does to cardboard. What does this mean? It means I’m wimping out this week, folks. Yeah, I know…I only posted once last week. Wah, wah, wah. I’m a terrible person for not being utterly dedicated to the blogging job that pays me absolutely nothing. So fire me, already.

    Okay, now that I’ve got your panties all in a bunch, I’m gonna cool your temper down with the groovy stylings of the most chill, blogging bestie that a girl could ever have. That’s right, I’m reblogging…and I’m doing it Stacie Chadwick style. Oh, yeah. You’ve seen her name scrawled on blogosphere bathroom walls – For A Funny Freaking Time, Call Gemini Girl In A Random World. You’ve read her pithy comments on my site and thought to yourself, “If I could only know two people in this world, one would be Stacie Chadwick and the other would be Big Bird.” You may have even noticed that I sing her praises regularly in my blog, showering her with awards and waxing sentimental about how much I want to move to Denver so that I can share a margarita with a chick as slick as the Chadwickster. And now I have the honor of sharing with you the post that got her Freshly Pressed, earned her the love and devotion of George Clooney of Hollywood, CA (okay, George O’Clooney of Boston, MA) along with gazillions of plain ‘ol regular peeps like you, and caused me to yank out my eyelashes in sheer jealousy because I fully expected to be Freshly Pressed two weeks in a row. I know, we ALL did! I’m sorry for those of you who lost your shirt on that bet. Anyway, without further adieu, may I present the masterful musings of the grooviest Gemini in the stratosphere and her brilliant blog post, How Skate World Changed My Life.

    After you read this, you may be tempted to unfollow me and follow Stacie instead. She is prettier, much nicer and is as funny as a one-legged parakeet. Oh, please. One-legged parakeets are hilarious. Anyway, don’t unfollow me, just follow Stacie – after you read all her posts. And change your underwear. What? It’s not my fault you haven’t been doing your Kegel exercises. If it’s too much to read both of our blogs each and every week, it clear what you should do – break up with your significant other. He or she obviously taking up too much of your time. Oh, and despite what the social worker told you, kids don’t really need to be fed three times a day. It’s a myth…just like that made up crap about two hours of sleep not being enough to survive on. So not true. Anyway, reading our blogs will make you giggle, and laughter has been proven to extend your life. As have pets. Think of me as a cuddly tabby curled up in your lap and Stacie as the beautiful chocolate Lab at your feet. No, I’m not saying that Stacie is a dog. Not at all. She’s a total hottie. No, I’m not a lesbian – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Friggin’ troublemakers. Read the goddamned post and shut yer pie holes already.

  16. Oh, wow. I remember those days: the pool, the skating rink, riding bikes around the neighborhood, just hanging out and making up games. I want the same thing for my children–it’s so hard now. They wake up and immediately want to get online (which I feel the urge to do, too). It’s addictive.

  17. Now my kids go here for skating parties! Same decor! The lights don’t work at the ends of the floor. Same covering on the floor and seats! The bathrooms still look exactly the same! Time to freshen the place up for the new generation. Someone please do an update. They could get some new skates for renters too! I’m a fan but mostly because of my memories! It’s not as bright and shiny for the new generation! 😯

  18. I absolutely loved this! My sister and I would go there all the time when we were younger. It was the best time we’d ever had! I miss those days and wish the kids these days knew what it was like back then. Nothing can compare to being in a place with all of your friends and having a great time, not having to worry about the violence and drugs like now. It was just carefree. Everyone was there for the exact same reasons. To have fun and skate!

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