Welcome to adult skate night at Skateland in Austin, Texas. Walking in, I immediately like it better than my old hangout Rollerworld, because it seems more likely to be the setting of a movie starring Jessie Eisenberg – he and a Kristen Stewart type actress would work together at the ticket booth and share a cigarette outside on their break which is okay because the film takes place in the 80s. The walls are all primary colors because this place wants to be taken seriously, playfully serious. The crowd is a mix of teenage girls in high-waist booty shorts with a false sense of retro style and what appears to be retired drama teachers, wannabe thugs and very old men in the same shorts the teenage girls are wearing.
The rugs are just like my at my old digs, a black background with neon pops of stars, what appears to be the planetary system, and a myriad of other unidentifiable shapes; the mood is definitely beckoning for a simpler, more tubular time – a time where one would associate Sean Penn with Fast Times instead of Milk. And I’m totally in it — also because Anna looked like she was about to roller derby some bitches to the ground when she picked me up:
Anna described the friend from work I was about to meet as someone I would like because she’s just like me, to which I replied, “I don’t like people who are like me.” Turned out her friend from work is exactly like me if I were a super cute tiny blonde with perfect skin and a perky disposition. (OKAY, I do have really great skin). But I was immediately grateful for her presence when she told me that she liked my hair and I looked like a rockstar — flattery is the
only main route to my heart.
We head over to pick up skates and for some reason, whether it be the effect Anna and my beauty have on the sweaty, clumsy, roller skate attendant — who is a mix between Christopher Mintz-Plasse and The Brain (from Pinky and The Brain) — or the fact that we have on ridiculously colorful, badass long socks, we are immediately labeled as the girls that have never been here before (which I was sort of okay with). Putting on the skates didn’t help. Remember people, I was born in the 80s but just barely so the only objects I have ever put on my feet starting with the word roller are blades. For me, the rollerblading scene from Mighty Ducks was the ultimate aspiration. (Don’t even get me started on the Disney movie, Brink).
To be fair, we tried skating. We put on our “quads” and made our way, slowly, to the practice area. For a second before we put the skates on, I had fooled myself into thinking I did this before — like it was one of the many activities in my distant childhood my dad bitches at me for not remembering. But no such luck. There was no foreseeable way to turn in these things, the only thing I could think to do was walk carefully and briskly. With the skates on I morphed into awkward Gumby Aly, all limbs and no balance. Although this sultry picture may convince you otherwise:
Within minutes I looked at Anna and mouthed “rollerblades” because although I had a lot of fun bonding with Tatenda, the only one that appeared more uncomfortable than me on the kiddy rink, I am really bad at not being good at things. Anna said she knew I’d want to come with her because I’m into things like bowling, and by into she means I was in a bowling league in high school because in my high school that was the coolest activity to do on a Saturday morning (besides every other thing teenagers my age did). Really I’m just super competitive.
We’re pretty sure the roller skate and blade attendant charges us more than usual for the rollerblade upgrade (yes, I consider it an upgrade) but we’re immediately no longer the worst people at the rink so all is good. It seemed like the retro mystique of the roller skates made a lot of people more comfortable with themselves than I was comfortable with. Like for instance, the referee that looked like a sausage coming up and asking Anna to dance during the couple’s skate. No thanks, it’s girls night and we’re fine sipping contraband vodka mixed with the dollar cokes we had to wait an hour for because Marjorie the fifteen-year-old concession stand attendant decided to close up shop to take a shit right as we were entering. And of course we get mobbed with the skate gang as we wait for our cokes, one of them even ended up going behind the counter to get a cup just to show us how much skater clout he had.
I liked to think we looked pretty natural on our blades, now that I was able to turn and all. That was until an old man in short shorts zig-zagging backwards through everyone told me I needed to bend my legs and relax. First of all sir, my legs are bent so I’m sorry you cannot handle my awkward body proportions but I promise you I go most days without falling on my face. And also, don’t tell me to relax! This is like when an old or middle-aged white man interjects a “Smile, why don’t you!” as you’re walking down the street and what you’d really like to do is pick up the nearest shovel and show them what a genuine smile looks like.
I was in a groove on the rink for a while, especially after I passed Tatenda and gave him a thumbs up as he clasped his friends hands tightly while they slowly circled the main rink. He told me I looked great, so, I’m definitely taking his word for it. And they were playing the same songs from my Rollerworld days — Some Shaggy mixed with Kung Foo Fighting and other oldies. Oddly enough this was more exciting than worrisome. What I would’ve liked to have done before we left, however, was to sabotage one of the many “weavers” on the rink — you know, the speed skaters that get boners off of almost making you fall every time they pass. That and I wanted to join the wannabe thugs in the middle of the floor to see if I could still drop it like it was hot.
By the time Anna and everyone wanted to leave I was in the groove, literally and figuratively — I had finally found a way to almost dance when “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk came on as all the regulars looked around like, “Who turned off Destiny’s Child?” I finally made my way off the rink, barreling toward the edge to get off because I never learned how to use the breaks, and just barely stopping myself without face planting.
“Nailed it,” I said to the guy who seemed to be more into the spectator aspect of the sport.
We took off our blades, leaving us with the weird feeling of no longer being able to glide on the carpet, and said our goodbyes. As we walked out an old man on buttoning up his leather jacket and approaching his motorcycle stopped us.
“This ya’lls first time?” He asked, and I was resigned to the fact I could never fit in as a regular here at Skateland without actually becoming a regular. But was I ready?