Friday, November 25, 2005

Whither Skateland?

On my last few visits to the love-it-or-hate-it shopping mecca of Williston, I’ve either been so high on an adrenaline rush of naked materialism (Mom, look, they have a Best Buy and a Circuit City), or so busy sucking down my venti almond triple soy latte, that I haven’t noticed one small but crucial change to the strip: Skateland is no more. The place where it used to be is now a scrubby lot fronted by a cheerless bank building.

This is sad, sad news. Yeah, okay, so I’ve figured out that this happened way back in like, 2000 or something – what can I say, I’ve been out of the motherland. But where are the 12-year-olds of northern Vermont going to go to get their skate on now?

Skateland. Those carpeted, round benches. The thrum of wheels against wood competing with Loverboy, Naked Eyes and Styx. The weirdly-lit snack bar, where kids chowed down on pink and blue cotton candy, rocket ice creams and too-syrupy fountain sodas. Pre-teens in tight jeans nervously eyeing each other up, both dreading and hoping for the next time the announcer boomed “couples skate …’ and holding hands, they rolled shakily out to the strains of Total Eclipse of the Heart. There was a place in the middle, under the big mirrorball, where kids gathered, clowning around and showing off. Around them, serious skaters confidently cris-crossed and weaved. On the edges, learners clung to the carpeted walls, praying for balance. The rental skates all looked exactly like the ones in the picture above: crap-brown leather with curling edges and uncomfortably hard insides.

Later, when music videos came on the scene, they would project them against the far wall of the rink while people skated. I was there the day that the video for Michael Jackson’s Thriller – the long version – arrived, and everyone was so excited they sat down on the floor to watch it. I had my birthday party at the rink two years in a row, and took to wearing a pink-and-blue satin jacket with the legend “Roller Disco” emblazoned on the back. The window for Skateland was between the ages of about nine and thirteen. After that, more grown up pursuits beckon the teenagers of Vermont. Chiefly getting high in the woods and standing in cold fields around cars blasting out Led Zeppelin IV, pretending to enjoy the taste of warm Budweiser.

I went back to Skateland, for some reason or other, in the summer of 1995. It seemed smaller and a lot shabbier than I remembered. I talked to some kids in the parking lot, teenagers who were hanging out, bored, looking for some trouble to get into. It was both sad and strangely consoling to still find it there. But now it’s gone, and I wonder – where are they going to skate now?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow...I almost got weepy reminiscing about ol' Skateland. The only thing you missed was the creepy cement hallway leading to the entrance, where I smoked my first cigarette with "the big kids".

9:33 PM  

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