$10 & a Tank of Gas: The Joys of Rollerblading

The year: 1997. Age: eight. I am in New Orleans with my dad, halfway through our road trip from Texas to Florida. Time: 10 p.m. Wearing my pink Pretty Pony T-shirt, I suddenly proclaim “Dad, I’ve always wanted to rollerblade on Bourbon Street at night.” Resolute, I grab my Lisa Frank rollerblades and kneepads and head out the door, my ribboned ponytail bouncing with each step. My dad, attempting to stifle his laughter, scrambles after me with his rollerblades. We skate by the light of the neon signs. I am having the time of my life, whizzing obliviously by drunks, discarded beer mugs, mardi gras beads, bare-breasted girls, and strip clubs.Fast forward: The year: 2009. Age: 20. I am in Santa Monica by myself, trying to ignore the homeless man yelling at me to “Shut up!” I am sitting on a bench at the entrance to Santa Monica Pier, in a pair of borrowed rollerblades, wearing kid-sized knee and elbow pads that are starting to constrict blood flow to my extremities. Time: 8:55 p.m. Several other people in rollerblades begin to gather in the plaza. I hear our rallying cry—“Let’s roll!”—and follow the pack through the streets of Santa Monica. We begin to head south, towards Venice Beach.Skating the beach path from Santa Monica to Venice Beach is like unwittingly rolling into an opium den. I have never been immersed in a higher concentration of sketch in my life. An intoxicated woman yells to me “You go, girl!” as I skate by a huddle of dealers in black trench coats. I’m not sure if that was genuine lady, but I’ll take it. Five miles later and I’m sitting on the curb next to a parking garage, wiping sweat from my forehead and blood from my ankles, wondering how I manage to get myself into these situations.In retrospect, I can’t really be blamed. It’s clear that the combination of rollerblades and nighttime is irresistible to me. I simply can’t help myself. When I heard about the Friday Night Skate in Santa Monica, I immediately signed up for the mailing list and, ever since, have been eagerly awaiting the day I could finally experience this weekly phenomenon. I suppose I should’ve been tipped off by the ominous date—Friday the 13th—but participating in the Friday Night Skate was one of my most terrifying adventures in Los Angeles to date.Now, just to be clear, the FridayNight Skate is run by amazingly friendly and helpful people. The skaters themselves were a lot of fun to be around; one older man in American flag roller skates introduced himself as “Pappy.” But the terrain—dark, sandy sidewalks, rocky concrete, and steep hills, all less than five feet from 40-mile-per-hour traffic—can prove to be a bit challenging for someone that, well, doesn’t quite know how to stop.Sure, I was a good little rollerblader back when I had those Lisa Frank rollerblades with the big fat rubber brakes on the back. But real, grown-up rollerblades don’t have those big fat rubber brakes on the back, they just have wheels and you just keep … going.Luckily, my fellow skaters were willing to help me out, corralling around me to prevent me from careening off into oncoming traffic. Still, those five miles were the most treacherous and deadly miles I have ever traversed (at least on rollerblades; on foot, I’m sure it would be a pleasant stroll, with the possible exception of Venice Beach).The Friday Night Skate in Santa Monica is not for the faint of heart. I would certainly not recommend this excursion for someone that is a beginning skater. That being said, the Friday Night Skate has the potential to be one of the most fun, exhilarating, and off-the-wall things you can do in LA. If you’re not into skating, but your friends are, tag along. There are a lot of things to do in Santa Monica. The Third Street Promenade is within walking distance from the Pier. The Promenade is a very well-known area in Southern California that houses movie theaters, nice stores, and lots of fun, eclectic eateries. If you are willing to walk a bit farther, head up Santa Monica Boulevard just pastSixth Street to grab some delicious Thai food at Bangkok West Thai.The beach is also an option, although be aware of your surroundings if you decide to hang out there, as beaches are a little less friendly at night than they are during the day. To learn more about the Friday Night Skate, visit

fridaynightskate.org

and join the mailing list. Skaters meet at the cannon at the entrance to Santa Monica Pier at 9 p.m. every Friday. Occasionally they meet in Downtown LA instead, usually about once a month. To get to Santa Monica and the Third Street Promenade by car, take the 10 West all the way to the end of the freeway. Exit at 4th/5th Street and follow the signs for parking. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

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