Nestled in a trailer park and flanked by a cemetery on the outskirts of Grand Rapids sits a little gem. Sure it’s dark inside, dank even…There is loud music playing and disco balls and pre-pubescents sit in the corners texting or making out…But this place is a little piece of history, preserved and in somewhat working condition. It’s the Play-Mor roller rink and it’s where I got my rollerskating mojo back.
Maybe you are laughing right now, rollerskating mojo. Ha! Who is this Butterscotch person? But there’s something magical in rollerskating.
Let me take you back to the days of the Nisswa Rollerena. That’s where I did the bulk of my rollerskating in my youth. I went to Nisswa Elementary and most weekends, you would find me and some friends skating at the roller rink. That last time I skated there was probably in 1982 or 1983 and my memories of the actual place are a little sketchy. Of course it doesn’t help that it burned to the ground some time in the mid-80s. What do I remember about the Nisswa Rollerena? Carpet on the walls. Centipede and pac-man machines. Rows and rows of used smelly skates. Green apple tangy taffy candy. Strobe lights. Disco balls. Billy Squier’s “stroke me”. And dark corners where prepubescents were making out.
There were cool kids there with Farrah Fawcett hair-dos and big pom-poms hanging from their skates and Dr. Pepper lipsmacker. And then there was me. Straight hair, glasses, “pretty plus” jeans, a little blue eyeshadow, rainbow t-shirt and a desire to skate as much and as fast as I could. I had my birthday party there, I took rollerskating lessons there and it’s where I got the first hint that maybe I wasn’t that cool. Luckily it was time for crazy trios and Mary and Kelly and I were going out there and that thought passed.
That’s the thing. You can be the dorkiest kid in the world. But when you strap on those skates and join the people skating around and around, you FEEL cool. Even if you aren’t. And believe me, you aren’t. And for whatever reason, I could convince myself that I was just like everybody else when I was roller skating. I could go fast. Faster than some even. And I could feel good.
Cut to some 25 years later. I am with friends. *One who is crazy enough to want to start a roller derby league in our town. She asks me for help. I say sure, I’ll be your media contact and help you set up your first meeting. No, she insists. I mean skating.
I thought she was crazy, but I promised her I would try. I would go to the Play-Mor roller rink in Grand Rapids and rent skates one night. “If I can still skate I’ll try” I told her, not thinking for a minute that I’d be able to do it again. But guess what? I can! And I did! And I feel like that same girl out there, skating round and round, smiling at my friends, feeling good and fast and like I can do it.
This weekend we, the Iron Range Maidens, head to our bout in Superior, Wisconsin where we’ll face off against the Duluth Derby Divas. It’ll be fun for a lot of reasons, but one of the reasons I’m really excited is that my Nisswa pal Mary will be there with her daughter, cheering me on. Stay posted for details of the bout…. I’ll be doing my usual role – getting in the way of others, sticking out my booty and holding the line. All while I FEEL pretty darn cool. Even if I’m not.
Damn. I love this roller derby thing. Hope to see you there!
*I’m talking about YOU, Ingrid M. Hulk!