Skate the Rainbow

Gay Night at the Roller Rink Brings the Eighties Home

Skate the Rainbow
By Jason Stout

My roommate tried to convince me to go, with the promise of lots of cuties. I really wasn't buying that one. But could it be so bad? After all, it was a gay function, in a part of town that totally reminded me of my childhood, and I was gainfully employed.

Rainbow Skate Night ... what the hell? I figured if the Eighties were back for Marc Jacobs, then they were back for me, too. So, I put it on the "to do" list in my head.

Strangely, I had just been reminiscing about how roller rinks were never very fun, but rather, extremely stressful. Back when skating was in, I felt like I never fit in because I was broke, I was queer, and couldn't skate for shit. I remember having to haggle with the 'rents for coin and do a quick flip through the old addy book to see who was going to be there -- my modest wardrobe was contingent on it. Like, what if Paola showed up at the rink, and I was in last year's Z. Cavariccis? But even with all that in check, I knew that she wouldn't even show up because she was still in denial about our lovin' in the afternoon at Camp Lucky Strike. But that's neither here nor there ...

Anyway, those issues might have been moot had I been able to turn the corner without doing that hip thing. It was almost as if all my kundalini was in my outside hip. And my kundalini wanted to hug the wall for dear life. Anyway, since I didn't fit in, I was free to just sit and watch.

Just as I was snapping out of my reverie, as if to mock my painful childhood memories, the phone rang with this gig. The assignment? I had to go back to the Eighties to deal with the dorky 12-year-old Verushka. It was a sign if I ever saw one.

Needless to say, even with a name like "Rainbow Skate," nothing much has changed. I entered the rink with this image of me in my Guess denim jacket circa '89 and my Girbuad jeans, finally making that baleful hip thing look cool, getting some digits, and all of it happening to "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." My visualization technique failed me miserably. I still managed to look like a kamikaze freaker in front of what seemed like all of humanity. All these years, and it was still pretty hairy out there.

For some of us, it comes down to survival of the fittest. You'd take out your best friend if it meant not going down alone. I had to re-learn how to stiff-arm quick. For others, that rink may as well have been the Ice Capades. Thankfully, I acknowledged the 12-year-old within and enjoyed myself immensely. I even used my still-painfully-obvious ineptitude at skating to flirt. I screamed, I giggled, I groped. I bit the bullet and had fun, and left there feeling triumphant.

The only thing that seemed strange was that there weren't a lot of people on the floor, or at the event at all, for that matter. It wasn't until later that I learned that the night's proceeds were being given to various charities, including AIDS Services of Austin. That made the six bucks, the drive, and the painful self-analysis worthwhile.

It was really unfortunate that there weren't more people out there risking life and limb. After I had gone, I started asking people if they had ever been to Rainbow Skate, most of them claimed no knowledge of it.

Rainbow Skate's Web site puts the number of skaters between 60 and 80. On a Wednesday night, bars like the Forum are full enough to have to hold your drink above your head.

So, what could make this evening of dorky fun into a real event? If it's a question of "when?", well, it's every second and fourth Wednesday of the month, from 8-10pm. If it's a question of "where?", Anderson Mill isn't as far as you think. Besides, it's for a good cause. I mean, lord knows people could stand to look a little uncool and have fun a little more often. Perhaps some of those guerilla grrls who crash straight bars every couple of weeks could show up? Or maybe an impromptu performance by one of those positively divine female impersonators ... personally, I am intrigued at the thought of some fine tomboi enjoying a cozy couples' skate with a circuit boy to Kelly Kline's best Rocio Jurado. I can see it now ... the spotlight is trained on Kline's elegant, lonely figure. She, the consummate heartbroken chanteuse, while the rest of us whirl around her like this mad, mad life on the roller rink floor. Si te hablas de mi, y te dices estuves en tus brazos, no le oigas, no le hagas caso ... end story

This is UT student Verushka Gray's first published work for The Austin Chronicle.

The next Rainbow Skate Night is Wednesday, May 23, at Skateworld Northwest, 9514 Anderson Mill. From Mopac, go north on 183. Anderson Mill is the third light after the freeway ends. Turn right and look for the large green and purple building on the left. 258-8886 (Skateworld). www.austin360.com/community/groups/rainbowskate/ or 491-8797 (event info).

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