Friday, September 02, 2005

Roller Boogie

The bit I posted about the old Top Five lists I used to make back in 8th grade led to the memory synapses firing so that my mind is busy watching a fireworks show circa 1979-1981 and the only way to get it to stop is to put it all down on paper or in this case the ether. It's all related to the roller boogie disco of the times. The reason the years span from 1979-1981 is not because it took me that long to get through 8th grade, but because it all began during a 6th grade school party.

It must have been in the spring near the end of the school year and my class and another one had won some sort of reading contest and both classes got a skating party as reward. My mother had taken me to the roller rink a few times before and I didn't like it much. I spent my time holding on the wall with a death grip of fear cringing when others got near. So I wasn't looking forward to the party. But when one of the other class's kids jumped onto the skate floor rolling backwards as Chic's "Le Freak" boomed out over the sound system something happened inside me. Some small seed of confidence bloomed and with the help and encouraging words of some of my class's cuter girls I let go of the wall and shoved off into the middle of the floor. By the end of the afternoon party I wouldn't go so far as to say I could rollerskate, but at least I was no longer petrified or falling down every minute. I wouldn't go back to the rink until near the end of 7th grade.

I never knew what the rink's name really was. It had Skatecenter written on the facade, but all of the kids called the place Jack's since Jack owned it. People who were teenagers in the 70's and 80's in Murfreesboro all knew the place well. I think it's still there to this day run by Jack's son. I had become an incurable romantic by 7th grade falling for girls all the time. When I learned that one particular girl went skating every Friday night I soon talked my mother into taking me just so I could pursue the girl. I never got the girl to like like me, but I decided to go to the roller rink as often as possilble. It was a completely magical place where 3 hours time would seem to last forever, but in the best way. Plus my younger cousin Freddy went almost every Friday and Saturday night. It was always a blast to hang out with him, especially since he had a way with the ladies even at that young an age.

Scoring with the ladies was what it was all about. Scoring here is a relative thing. It could mean you got to skate with the girl of your dreams or maybe hold hands with her. The ultimate though was to make out with your girlfriend in the corner. This was just a regular kiss or two, nothing really heavy although there were rumours of some couples French kissing, whatever that was. What seems really weird to me now is that the kissing sessions were always watched by other kids who would stand in a semi-circle around the couple so the adults wouldn't stop it. I can remember skating around and seeing kids I knew start to congregate in one of the corners and I would know Freddy was a girl. He was a regular Romeo. I didn't do as well as him, but during 8th grade I took a few turns in the corner of the rink.

It wasn't just about the girls. It was also about the music. Jack's played lots of different music every night with no theme. One minute it would be Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" and the next you might get the Fatback Band's "Backstrokin'". I still remember the adrenaline pump that would go through my body like an eletrical charge if a song I loved came on. AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" would always make me go nuts, skating full out in a frenzy hoping the skate cops would make me sit down. It was a badge of honor to have the skate cops force you to sit out for five or ten minutes, sometimes more. Your buds would come by and commiserate with you, maybe even get sit down themselves so we could bond in our hatred of their authority.

My main crew was Freddy, who was called Fro due to his kinky hair, Mike, and Slim who was a very large kid who used to work as what I would call a hustler for carnivals when they would roll through Murfreesboro. He would hang out by the little bulldozer quarter machines and get all excited while telling people the next quarter was bound to be a big winner. I always figured Slim would end up as a skate cop even if he said he loathed them like Freddy, Mike, and myself did. The skate cops were so smug with their whistles and the girls we adored would drop us in a second if one of them asked them to be their partner during a couples only song. The skate cops were twenty something creeps. What were they doing asking 8th grade girls to skate anyways? The place wouldn't have been the same without them.

Little random rollerskate moments course through my mind. Suicides were what we would drink. I'm sure most know what that is but in case you don't: a suicide is when you mix every soda from a concession stand together. Freddy in his never ending quest to be the coolest came up with his own drink: Dr. Pepper with a dash of Sprite or was it Sprite with a dash of Dr, Pepper. Time has fogged my memory on that one. There was the ritual of the hokey pokey right around 9 PM with the agonizing decision to be made: do I join in or am I just too cool? I usually joined in. I got my own pair of rollerskates for Christmas in 1980; size 8 if my memory is correct. They were brown with orange dayglo wheels, a super righteous gift since the rental skates were always hit or miss. It was a drag to end up with rentals that pulled to the left or right badly. Sometimes you'd have to go around the rink doing small circles the whole way.

I stopped skating at Jack's soon after 9th grade started. The crowd had begun to change. The place had always been about junior high. Plus they started putting the video games in. I got disillusioned with the scene so I begged my mother to take me to the rink named Hot Wheels across town. Older kids hung out there. It had a cement floor, instead of wood. They mainly played R&B and hip-hop records. There was just a grittier vibe. Freddy didn't skate much anymore, but when he did it was at Hot Wheels. There was real making out going on there and we used to sneak Jack Daniels in and drink slugs in the bathrooms. I was getting to be a regular freak and instead of skating I started spending most of my time playing pinball games. Even though there was soul music rocking on the sound system I felt rather soulless and I began to miss Jack's. But as is the case with growing up and losing one's innocence, I never went back. You can never really go back except in memories and dreams.

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