For some perverse reason, I recently dug out a copy of 'Aquarius,' the second album by dance-pop band Aqua. If you are not familiar with Aqua, the mid-nineties brainworm ditty 'Barbie Girl' was their doing. Why, yes, I am a masochistic fuck.
Wikipedia informs me that the members of Aqua are Danish-Swedish in origin -which begs the question of what goes on in those Scandinavian countries. 95% of the world's four-letter-named sugarpop comes from there. A sick imagination leads me to believe that it is some sort of regional industry, with little Swedish kids being separated into boy-girl, boy-girl foursomes and given a spandex budget and a Moog synth for their fifth-grade school projects. First ABBA and now this.
That being said, roller rinks were not worth going to in the late nineties if Aqua songs were not played. Aqua, Spice Girls, Semisonic and Weird Al songs, with the occasional selection from 'Grease,' (which, in case you were not a child recently and don't know, is the dirtiest of the apparently family-friendly musicals,) ah, such was the soundtrack of my wheel-footed youth.
And roller-rinks were a big deal to me in the late nineties. Two bucks to get in, another two for skates, three if you wanted Rollerblades, and all the Skittles and AirHeads your leftover lunch money could buy. It was the only place where you could simultaneously get and burn off a sugar buzz. If your folks weren't picking you up 'til nine, sometimes you'd get a soft pretzel with nacho cheese, which you could share with another kid -hopefully male and cute.
Some lucky kids formed couples, which meant they might break a wrist holding hands on the rink. There was schadenfreude for all, a wheel of instant-karma wherein a kid who turned to laugh at someone falling would slam right into a wall. Even the nerds got their moments of starlight there, beating the high-scores on the ancient arcade games I strongly suspected my mother of having put her initials on in the Seventies. ("That line of nines? My mother. Totally. Who else was 'SJE' in this town thirty years ago?") Kids who wouldn't talk to me at school shared pretzels and chatted like old friends, kids from other schools became the friends I would count on in years to come. I beat a bully at air hockey and he stood up for me on the schoolbus forever more. I helped a smaller kid up from falling and her big brother was the first guy I ever got to turn down for a date. The lights flashed and turned colors, the floors shone, and anyone could be cool for a brief moment. Even the geeky girl in the blue glasses.
When you're eleven, that's quality nightlife.
So here I was, listening to the one ballad Aqua saw fit to include on their second album, the title track 'Aquarius.' This was the roller-rink's 'slow song,' the one that had once accompanied a smaller, nervous version of myself skating while holding hands with a boy for the first time. That smaller version had been in the throes of a horrible crush on said boy, and hearing the song, it was hard to believe I was somehow twice the age I had been that night. I shut my eyes, saw the flashing lights, and for a moment I remembered what it felt like to be eleven and too terrified of falling down to avoid falling haplessly in that bittersweet thing called puppy love.
It's a pretty song. Download it if you don't believe me.
I opened my eyes and saw Sparky sitting at his computer.
"I think I've heard that song before..." he whispered. "They had it at the old skating rink."
We didn't grow up in the same small town -far from it. But it appeared we had a little more in common than I thought. (Of course, it was somewhat less likely that his crush had gone on to become a beloved friend who came out of the closet to the geeky girl in blue glasses before anyone else he knew.) After sharing some memories and winding up with a mutual craving for Skittles, we got on Google and discovered the nearest skating rink is only about 30 minutes away by car. We could go back in time and be that couple holding hands, and this time it would really last. Fulfilling childhood dreams is not something one can go about doing every day -but what can I say? We're the kind of people who like Aqua and the Spice Girls, we don't have good sense.
Wish me luck. If I break a leg, you'll all get more blog postings and who wants that?