Thursday, January 28, 2010

Roller Disco

Stuff to do: "Space is the Place" Roller Disco Party
World On Wheels
4645 Venice Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019

Cost: $10-$12 (The website said 12, but we were asked for 10 at the door so who knows?)

When I was a kid, I was really good at roller skating. And because I've never claimed to be good at anything, you should take me very seriously when I say that. Not only did I spend most weekends at the local skating rink, Sports-O-Rama, but I also practiced constantly in the driveway and on the hardwood floors in the living room. I mastered the figure 8 and zooming down the street, balancing on one foot. I could even jump and twirl in the air, landing gracefully like the Olympic ice skaters I was trying to mimic.

But then I got older and roller skating went out of style. And after a brief affair with roller blading, I gave up on wheeled footwear all together.

So it was with great anticipation that I made my way to Space is the Place roller disco party on Saturday. I wondered if I would still have the skills. Or if I would fall flat on my face.

World on Wheels is not located in west LA, where I thought it was. Instead, it's in one of those random areas of LA, in between familiar neighborhoods and landmarks. Specifically, this was south of Koreatown and slightly north of the 10 freeway. Because I'd mislead a few people on the location of World on Wheels, a small group was already there by 9:50, but the event did not start until 10:15. Thus we broke what turned out to be the first rule of roller disco: Don't be early.

If you're early, you're forced to stand in the lobby while the rink empties out from family skate. An endless parade of screaming, hyperactive children passes by and they look at you like they know you're responsible for their untimely departure. "I needed this more than you," their little faces seem to say.

To avoid the awkwardness, us early birds decided to go to the bar.

Decorated like a PTA Casino Night fundraiser in the gymnasium, the bar is actually part of the bowling alley upstairs from the skating rink.

While having a cocktail I looked around and noticed the bar filling up with people in fantastic 70s costumes. Some were disco inspired. Some were more like roller derby -- knee high socks and short shorts. There were actually some insanely short shorts that night and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous of these cellulite-free divas.

This brings me to the second rule of roller disco: You should wear something really, really ridiculous. I tried to get into the spirit of things, conservatively, with a 70s looking t-shirt and some bell bottoms that have been collecting dust in my closet since I bought them on a stupid shopping rampage in college. Some other Doing Stuff Clubbers looked vaguely disco. We tried, but we should have tried harder.

As we made our way back downstairs to the skating area, I found that I was surprisingly anxious. Admitting that I was unsure if I could still skate, Becca told me that it was probably just like riding a bike: you never forget how. This wasn't comforting because the last time I rode a bike I discovered that I had, in fact, forgotten how and wobbled down the street wondering if I'd fall and crack my skull open.

Once we paid our admission and entered the not-ever-remodeled-not-even-a-little-bit skating area, waves of nostalgia washed over me. The lockers you rent for a quarter. The carpeted benches you sit on to change into your skates. The snack stand with nachos and pizza. Heavenly!

Here's a picture of my bellbottoms and my skates. I have a theory that some enterprising young guy got ahold of a massive stock of the world's ugliest carpet and sold it to every single roller skating place in the country. Tell me this was not the same carpet at your hometown rink.

While getting our skates on, more members of the Doing Stuff Club arrived. Some of them apparently got the memo about the whacky outfits.

It was weird seeing all of my friends on skates. There's just always something funny about familiar faces in a new environment... like when you were a kid and you saw one of your teachers at the mall.

Once over the initial shock of it all, it was time to skate!

The only way to enter the rink is by going down a ramp of doom that forces you to accelerate to a terrifying pace before spitting you out onto the floor and into oncoming skater traffic. It's a lot like going up the onramp to a busy freeway; when it's time to merge, you just brace yourself and hope for the best.

Fortunately, I made it off the ramp without falling and was pleased to discover that, with a great deal of effort, I could keep my balance. I could not, however, control my velocity whatsoever, and so I quickly left Devin and my sister in the dust as I sped my way through the infinite loop.

Skating is actually a great way to hang out with friends, while hardly seeing them the entire evening. Everyone pretty much skates independently and then when they happen upon someone they know they bust into some stupid arm flailing move that is meant to look like dancing. "Hey yo! Look at me! I'm looking at you! We're skating!"

For those of you wondering if I found that I still could skate with great style and ease --turns out, I can't. I kept hoping that by my next lap I would have gotten back in the swing of things, but no such luck. I remained hopelessly uncoordinated.

The same was not true for everyone. Several people in our group were actually, inexplicably good at roller skating. At one point I looked over and saw Barry whizzing by me --in his afro wig and what appeared to be brown velvet pants --going backwards, on one foot, and doing what I could only describe as "grooving."

The only downside to the whole event was the bar. While it wasn't so bad during our earlier trip, by later in the evening it was just chaos. This isn't to say that it was extremely crowded, but that the bar staff was severely underprepared for the group. (And considering this is a once-monthly party, that shouldn't be the case.) The two bartenders were miserable and slow. I suppose they do okay when they are just serving the regulars, but they did not like pouring shots or taking orders of more than 2 drinks at a time. Half of our group didn't even bother trying to order drinks --and that's saying a lot about our level of frustration.

A real missed opportunity for the bar, if you ask me. Which brings me to the third rule of roller disco: Drink before you show up.

By about 1am, several DSC members had already gone home and I was about ready to do the same. But first, we decided to do another few laps on the rink. And I'm so glad we did! At this stage in the night, the crowd had thinned out so there was more room for terrible dance moves. The music got better (more actual disco --less pop) and we were really hitting our stride.

This brings me to the last rule of roller disco: Save time for the skating!


  1. if i liked skating i so would have come. but glad you guys had so much fun and i love the outfits!

  2. I think grooving is a good word for what I was doing. It's impossible for me not get funky when I have roller skates on.