Could be Xanadu?

My friend Kaz and I went rollerskating tonight. I was hesitant because I sold my quads awhile back. I had only been skating on tennis courts. I was really into it that year but never made it to the rink in town. Not willing to risk tearing an acl, spraining an ankle or breaking a neck all in the name of nostalgic fun, my friends talked me out of a skating party that year. I sold the skates and had not skated since.

Playland was something out of our childhood. The musty, moldy odor from filthy air ducts and thirty years of sweat hung in the air creating a familiar atmosphere. We both thought it looked just like the rinks in our home towns. Hanging up were signs announcing new carpet. Below our feet was what reminded me of cheap, penny slot casino's in Vegas (Slots-O-Fun), loved it. Sitting on a counter at the entrance, was a tall jar filled with pieces of different colored chewed up gum, gross. $2 fine for gum chewing.

It was a mixed crowd on adult night. You had your twentysomethings and sixtysomethings and everyone in between. My first impression was that there was a bit of a NASCAR vibe. That perception disappeared when I spotted a small group of guys in a corner doing on their skates what low riders do with the hydraulicized cars. Then whizzing past us as we continued to investigate the crowd was what looked like a garden gnome on a night off: hat and suit gone, just a long beard,tee and Richard Simmons red, satin shorts. He swooshed erratically back and forth as if to celebrate some stolen moments away from a dead cluster of zinnias. He muttered the venue rules as he saw them being broken, "Don't sit on the rail, don't stand near the rail, don't hang out near the rail..." swooshswooshswoosh. He was an awesome skater and looked like an interesting person.

We got our skates, giggling the whole time, fascinated with how skating rinks stay frozen in time, amazed we made it this far and anxious to see what level we'd find ourselves on. Upon entering the rink something seemed off. Lights. The lights were on. That's not right, the lights are on. My confidence came in the dark, always did at school dances, learning to drive and ride a bike, Fun-O-Rama...turn the lights off.

We were more graceful than we thought. Kaz skated using both feet I seemed to skate more on my left leg. I think that came from years sharing a pair of skates with a friend I had in Mexico. Every summer, I got the left, she got the right and away we went, all day sometimes. I think it did permanent damage. After Kaz and I completed our first few laps around we stopped to discuss our shortcomings but at the same time surprised with our skills and balance. I had skated so fast I scared myself at one point and had to slow down a bit. Once I did, zipping past me left and right were all the fancy pants. They were all aware of my level and skillfully going around me. Actually, perhaps going right through me. My slowing down didn't phase them at all, they continued as if I wasn't even there.

We'd break and watch the beauties and the show-offs. Truly gorgeous the way these people skated. The skates were natural extensions and it was effortless. They went forwards, backwards, sideways crossing their legs, in quads or in-lines. They danced gracefully, lifted legs, held hands, spun in circles. This was their element and sanctuary. By day they could be cashiers, nurses, admin folks, professionals, business people, salespeople...whatever. In the rink they were oozing with talent and a presence not possessed by many. They were poised and detached because they were flying, eyes just about closed, content, placid faces. This was their zen. Beginners and advanced beginners filled the rink too, but the true skaters just naturally stood out because they were amazing.

Meanwhile I concentrated and bit my lip as I turned corners, finding the graceful moments everywhere except corners. Two hours later we had improved, even the corners were feeling less unyielding and more airborne. We stepped out of the rink with plans for more visits soon. As we were making future plans, out stepped one of the beauties, looking a little haggard and older than she had skating. In the rink she looked twenty but off she had aged 15 years or so. Kaz and I looked at each other. Her posture changed immediately as she emerged from the rink. What was a sublime example of delicate dexterity now clumped around boorishly with poor posture and sat completely unrefined at the edge of a table texting. The magic was gone, she was now grounded, one of us. It was a fascinating transformation. One by one as they stepped off the rink, they instantly became less enchanting. Not a bad thing, just a testament to how truly awesome they are on skates. I want to be like that.

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