A conversation at work today unearthed a childhood passion of mine – roller skating. I’d sort of forgotten about my love of skating, and like finding an old photo album or a favorite childhood toy, it was a really nice memory to dig out of storage.

I don’t know where I got my skates. My feeling is they were one of the zillions of artifacts that littered our garage and basement, and when my feet grew to fit them, I claimed them as my own. They were white leather beauties, and I used them often. I would skate up and down the level street that intersected with mine right in front of my house, but the pavement on that road left much to be desired.

But when I really wanted room to roam, I would tie my skates to the handlebars of my bike and pedal down to the park in town that had a paved 1 mile track on it. That was where I could really let loose. I’d skate round and round, and watch all the middle aged men and women jogging and walking to try to stay fit. I could spend hours there practicing my moves – wishing I was as fluid and effortless a skater as roller girl was in the Skateaway video.

I never was.

I adore that video. It’s the only Dire Straits song I really, really like. My best friend John and I would listen to that song in his car and drum our hands on the dashboard in time to the drums, and every time it came on MTV I would study the video and then try to copy the moves skater girl could do with absolute ease. Even though I could skate well enough to become a decent roller derby contender, I never was able to learn any decent foot work or tricks.

I started to love rollerskating as a kid. There was a roller rink on Rt. 17 in Paramus, NJ and every few months I’d BEG my mom or dad to drive me out there so I could skate on the smooth wooden floor to bad 70’s music. It was kind of a haul for them – about a 35 minute drive from our house. On the bright side, the rink was in the middle of a veritable cornucopia of retail shops and malls, so that could lure them out for a few hours.

The rink was dark, and old and wonderful. I’d go a lot of times with John, who skated like Frankenstein – stiff legged and arms out. It was great when the rink was empty because you had room to spread out; when the rink was crowded you had to be on your guard for aggressive skaters and mean girls. People from lots of surrounding towns would flock to the rink, and some of those towns had some pretty tough girls. It also had some pretty cute guys – I remember meeting some dude from Little Ferry who my father dubbed “a punk.” After a few phone calls, I agreed with dad, and that romance fizzled out.

So did the rink. I can recall going there to skate with my first real boyfriend in high school, and then the next thing I knew, it was closed and converted into a Linens n’ Things. But I still loved to skate. I’d head down to the park in town and practice my roller girl moves on the track at least once a week, and it wound up getting me in some hot water.

One of the middle aged men who would jog down there was my neighbor, Wayne. He had moved into the house next door a year or two before with his pregnant wife, and we pegged him for a perv right away. He was the type who would find excuses to come out and tinker in the garage or the yard while my sisters and I were out sun tanning in the back yard. He’d usually start up a conversation with us, but there was always a hint of a leer in his eyes while he was talking to you. One of my bedroom windows faced his garage and driveway, and more than once I caught him staring up at my window. I’d be disgusted, wait a minute or two, and lower the shade. Seriously, ew.

But, he was an adult and a neighbor, and I was a teenager, so I had to show some respect. He would stop me at the park and strike up a conversation. He said that he managed a roller rink in Newark, and suggested I should come out there one time to skate. Now, I knew some of these rinks had some serious skaters, and I mentioned that I would feel way too intimidated to skate around people who were that good. He laughed and said that I could come by when it was closed to the public and that we could skate alone.

ICK. An empty rink in Newark with my pervy neighbor? I’ll pass.

Fast forward a year or so. I’m 17 and Wayne is moving. My mom needed me to bring the neighbors something. I can’t remember what… packing tape or mail that came to us by mistake. He answers the door and says to come in. I step in the foyer, we make small talk for 10 minutes or so. When I go to leave, he grabs me, and plants a serious full tongue kiss on me.

ARRRGGGHHHH! I push him off and stumble back. He tells me he’s divorcing his wife. I tell him I could give a fuck and to drop dead or something similar and stomp home. Now, I had a steady boyfriend for about a year who is 20, and when he came to see me after work he could tell that something was wrong. When I told him what Wayne did, he walked right over, rang his bell and began to scream at him. He had the balls to claim that I instigated it. I yelled that he was a liar from the safety of my front porch. I told my mom, but I don’t think she believed me. She invited Wayne and his wife to a party at our house a few weeks later and I avoided him like the plague. He tried to apologize at one point but I walked away.

Well this blog post went off course! I started in blissful reminiscence, and wound up in the plot from a bad 80’s teen movie. To get back on track, I miss my days of roller skating. I tried inline skating, but the plastic boots killed my ankles. In college I took up figure skating and really liked it, but you  need ice to ice skate. Roller skating you can do anywhere. Ah, how I would love to find another pair of white leather 4 wheeled beauties.

Roller Girl, don’t worry. DJ plays the movies all night long. All night long.

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