Sunday, May 4, 2014

Starlight Express

My friend Grant was in town the other week, and the first thing he requested to do? "Roller disco". More specifically, the "Crazy Legs Skate Club" roller disco.  Located inside a Salvation Army in Brooklyn, this spectacle happens every Wednesday night with a live DJ.

The three block radius of this building is completely dead, so we heard the music blaring from the gymnasium before we even turned the corner. If we hadn't been about to enter a rollerblading disco party, I might have feared for my life. The street was dark and there was no one in sight, but slowly, one by one, people started to roll up. Literally. Out of the shadows, people came skating up to the door in their roller blades. They meant business. My care-free attitude about the night's events quickly turned into an, "Oh My God I am so in over my head." As we walked in, people were standing around in their skates, socializing with drinks and snacks in the entry room. It was a mixture of young hipsters in high-waisted mom jeans and older, die-hard locals in un-irconically high-waisted mom jeans. We paid our $15 (steep!) and sat down to put on our skates.

On our way over, Ariella had been confessing her anxiety about getting back on skates for the first time since the '90s. While I was in the same boat, I had this idea in my head that rollerblading is one of those things that, even if you were terrible the last time you attempted, the power of time and maturity would magically have enhanced your skills. I would pop into those bad boys and skate away like Nancy Kerrigan pre-Tanya Harding. Fun fact: Nope. I refused to stand for the first 10 minutes, terrified out of my mind. These weren't inline skates, mind you. These were those terrible, old-school kind with the "brake" in the front. But the "brake" is actually impossible to use so you have to adopt a kind of pizza-wedge technique I typically reserve for skiing. And while Grant and Michael swore they hadn't skated in years, they zipped away like the graceful water nymph and child of an ex-Rollerblade employee (true story) that they are.

My second mistake of the night: "Oh, a disco-themed roller rink? What fun! Let me just throw on my most obnoxious '70s gear and tease me hair! I'll blend in with everyone else and look fabulous at the same time!" Apparently, "disco" refers solely to the type of music played and not the dress code. All of a sudden my furry coat, patterned pants and gold sequin top became my worst enemy. I turned into a shining beacon of light, slowly orbiting the gym in such a pronounced way that when people started lapping me (which they did. over and over again) they knew. They were well aware. No blending in for this gal! Every time Michael or Grant whizzed past me, I'd get a tender, encouraging touch on my upper back and a supportive wink. Sometimes these intimate gestures came from other people. I think that's part of the skating culture(???).

By some great act of God, I never fell. I must say, however, that when you're going at a snail's pace, it enables you to really take in the endearing details of Crazy Legs Roller Club. For example, the way star crossed-lovers skate arm-in-arm, backwards, with their eyes closed while you claw along the wall like a leper from Jesus Christ Super Star (honestly, that's the only comparison I could think of at the time). And while people skate laps around the dimly lit gymnasium, center court is reserved for the break-dancers. Yes, break-dancing in roller blades is a thing, and these guys are good. The majority of them are middle-aged men and I found it fascinating that this is obviously their Wednesday night, every Wednesday night. One man took pity on us as we encircled the seasoned pros and gawked at their talents. He tried to teach us some moves, and Michael was dedicated enough to actually get on the ground and bust a few. Grant, being a naturally elegant swan, didn't need any lessons and floated away.

Michael attempted to convince the DJ to play Beyoncé's Blow, because, duh, but the DJ stuck with B-list disco songs (except for when he played Lorde's Royals...?). But once our back sweat had thoroughly soaked through our paisley button downs and fur, we decided it was time to turn in. And like the true Brooklyn-dwelling, disco-skating bohemians that we are, we Uber-ed back to our warm beds and called it a night. While I can assure you that Michael and Grant will be back for more, I will probably opt out for a new, slightly less death-defying adventure. Canoeing down the toxic Gowanus canal, anyone?

getting our blades on.

Photo cred: Michael Offerman. See, I wasn't kidding about the shining beacon of light. Or the being in pain thing.