Redgirl, a Flint Expatriate now living in Europe, reflects on a very American instituion...
Rollerworld, now those were the days...At barely 15, I spent a lot of time there on Friday nights thanks to my school friend Carla, who had a raging crush on Justin Bates and introduced me to the place. Where else could you skate to songs from AC/DC's "Back in Black" album and Aerosmith's "Walk this Way" one minute and Parliament-Funkadelic's "Flashlight" or Earth Wind and Fire's "September" the next?!
But more than that, I will always associate that time and that place with those first experiences at meeting kids quite apart the rather sheltered world of home and school I was accustomed to. Talk about excitement, talk about trepidation! And all of those few hours on a Friday night free of the watchful eye of some authority figure. Except maybe for Justin's mother, who occasionally had to shoo hormone-driven couples locked in horizontal embraces out of the shelving units at the back of the place behind the lockers. Yes, the shelving units. No, I wasn't one of the shooed.
But it was at Rollerworld that I met every parents' nightmare for their little-big girl: long hair, leather jacket, a couple of years older, drop-out, a penchant for drinking Jim Beam straight out of the bottle with no chaser and hanging out with a pack who did the same. Good God, what was I thinking? Wait, I know what I was thinking. Anyway, to this day when I see a bottle of that awful Kentucky corn, the smell of which makes every last nerve in my body shudder, my thoughts trail back to Rollerworld and some of those west side kids, including the one in the leather jacket, some of whom went on to do bigger and better things and some who didn't. One or two of them never even made it to 18, I heard, and at least one of them is now serving time for murder. She was violent back then, beating up on everyone - boys included - with her fists, her feet, her chain belt, you name it. Of quite the opposite nature, and to be honest rather frightened of her, I was an easy target for her once, my face the landing place for her fist all because of the one in the leather jacket. Needless to say that didn't go over well at home, and not too long after that rather shaky start at independence I quite fortunately found another channel for all that curiosity about other people.
But when my mind occasionally wanders to that conflicted and, now I can safely say it, tender time, I really can still feel that excitement, maybe even more so the trepidation, and I can see most of those kids just as clear as a bell still. And for at least a brief time Rollerworld was that initial venue.