Through the 80s, skateboarding became wildly popular. Yes, I am fully aware you can date skateboarding back to its birth sometime around the 50s. But I’m talking vert ramp, Christian Slater/Gleaming the Cube, street skateboarding and the rise of the man himself, Tony Hawk. To me, THAT’S when EVERYONE wanted to be a skater.
Around the same time, other street sports started to gain recognition as well. Rollerblading started to build momentum, pun intended. Everyone was on wheels in one way or another. Since I didn’t have the proper balance required to handle a skateboard, rollerblades were my fallback. At the time, it was thought that inline skates were going to take over skateboards…of course, they didn’t.
For Christmas 1991, my aunt bought me a pair of rollerblades. It got so crazy, rollerblades coming with so many accessories and upgrades, you couldn’t get a decent pair without spending a pretty penny. Wheels came is more colors than one could count. They made them with extra cushioning to prevent blisters. They made some that were super light to make you feel like Icarus, ready to race the speed of sound! I didn’t get any of those upgrades. I got the base model. But don’t get me wrong, I was stoked! I loved them!
Summer break came before I knew it and there wasn’t much to do in the summer, living in the country in Texas, but to skate and rent movies…and that’s what I did. A local mom n pop shop, Pay Less Video, had duplicated pretty much everything Blockbuster had done, but was cheaper. VHS rentals, that’s right I said VHS, came in a hard plastic clamshell and were about a dollar to rent. Say what you want, there was no better feeling to a kid (at that time) than opening a clamshell VHS and popping it in the VCR!
As I’ve recounted endlessly in previous articles, we didn’t have cable. We had about 8 channels that came in with less than perfect reception. Two of those channels were PBS and Univision (a Spanish channel) which to a 12 year old kid, were LESS interesting to watch than a non-working channel showing only static. Movies were all I had as a source of entertainment. So every few days I’d beg my father for cash to rent movies from Pay Less Video. It was difficult to get a few bucks from the old man. He was tight with his money to say the least.
On one particular day, the old man gave me 3 bucks. This generous act was very much unexpected. But I wasn’t going to look this frugal gift horse in the mouth. I took the cash and grabbed my skates. It had reached 105 degrees. I felt sweat trickle down the small of my back instantly as I walked out the door. I put on my skates, tucked the cash in my right skate and took off.
The trek was 3 miles, 50/50 uphill and downhill. But when it’s 105 outside it feels like an uphill battle both ways with anchors on your shoulders. The air diffraction caused by record breaking heat coming off the unforgiving asphalt should have been my first sign to turn around and maybe read a book. But I wasn’t much of a reader. I wanted a god damn movie and I wanted a god damn shower. There wasn’t a god damn thing that was going to deter me that day. I pushed through all of it knowing I’d be at Pay Less soon enough.
When I did finally get there, obviously drenched in sweat, I sat in front of the store’s curb to catch my breath. I reached into my right skate to recover what was certainly going to the most disgusting $3 ever documented. But it wasn’t there. A new coat of panic sweat made its presence felt under the layer of sweat that already existed. It was a bitter and colder sweat like the first time you’re asked if you were listening and you said yes (but you weren’t) and then they ask you to repeat what was just said.
I checked the other skate, fully knowing that it wasn’t going to be there. I took both of them off and double checked. I triple checked and even took off my socks. There sat Icarus, sunburned and penniless as he cried barefoot on the curb of Pay Less Video’s storefront. The world was little darker that day.
I eventually put all my gear back on and skated back home. I can’t recall any of my thoughts on that trip back in soaked socks and rollerblades. I couldn’t tell you what I told my father IF I even told him anything. Was there a lesson here? “Use your pockets next time, you dumb shitbird!” Truth was, there was no lesson to take from the occurrence. The universe is just a strange and cruel bitch sometimes.
Here’s another spoonful of strange to tack on to today’s article:
It just so happened that I was at the grocery store last weekend and saw a guy on rollerblades. I thought about what a coincidence it was that I had been working on this article for weeks and right before I published it, I see my first rollerblading nincompoop since yours truly! What are the odds? Seriously, what are they!?! Have you seen on inline skates recently? Let me rephrase; have you seen anyone NOT being ironic? I like to do some research (if it’s needed) when I write an article. At one point, I recall Googling rollerblades and only one Google result. It said, “Go back to 1991 and destroy your phone booth time traveling machine, you tool!” Jesus, those fucking things disappeared faster than overpriced Hypercolor Shirts. Which, come to think of it, my aunt also bought me. That woman is a badass.