Gliding into the Heart of Houston: Bear Creek Roller Rink by Jessica Wilson

5210 Highway 6 N, Houston, TX
Phone: 281-463-6020
Houston, TX 77084

April 2004–It all started at the ripe age of eight, when I first moved to Texas, from Virginia where most people ice skate not roller skate. My first experience with skating started when my dad fastened a pair of fisher price skates onto me at the age of five, and instructed me to glide from side to side of the bumpy, gray sidewalk. Gliding from side to side would have been easier if the skates for children at that age were actually designed to roll. I threw a skate off, and firmly pressed my fingers against the wheels hoping that they would budge. Unfortunately, the wheels did not budge, and neither did I. Then, there I stood on the slick as glass concrete floor, when Bam! It started.

Barely opening my tear-filled eyes, I sat there gazing at my limbs entangled with this big, blue-eyed boy.

“I guess I fell for you,” I said as corny as it sounds. Not to mention I had fallen for a place that would become another chapter in my life, and would peel my enlightened eyes further into the scope of Houston ’s many offerings.

Comfortably settled in between a busy six-lined road and a small complex of apartments is a huge roller rink that most onlookers would not give a second glance. Traveling from the smooth concrete road to the rink requires that one slightly damages their rubber tires over the bumpy, dusty, desert-like parking lot that contains no clearly defined parking lanes. When it rains the muddy parking lot worsens, but that does not stop the steady flow of dedicated skaters and sometimes their frightened parents. Youngsters habitually travel to this low lit box of fun on Friday nights. However, it was by pure accident that I would discover myself and a microscopic version of the bustling city we call Houston inside that ever changing-ever enchanting Bear Creek Roller Rink.

Now turn the clock forward about eight years. When I arrived to the thin, foil like structure it was already rattling with the vibrations of music. I carried my bulky, black skating bag strapped over my strongshoulders, and my ten dollar bill ready in my hand. My friend was adjusting her hair with the reflection of the plastic window in front of us.

“Hey, y’all, glad to see y’all again,” chimed the ticket lady with a bright smile filled with pearly-white, straight teeth.

Then the security guard, or as he likes to be called, “police officer,” greeted us with “Nice to see y’all folks, enjoy your time.” He was a middle-aged man with a short, chocolate colored mustache, but he did not just serve his duty here at the skating rink, but rather all over town. By, this time it was the middle of the skate night: Friday 9:00p.m and the ooze of teenagers already dissolved into their various cliques. This skating rink displayed a unique characteristic about it that no other skating rink contained (and I certainly know about the different skating rinks in Houston .) The temperature of the room remained at a slightly cool level to keep the patrons, (that is what the workers liked to call us) from passing out due to excessive heat.

Red laser lights beamed carefully designed pictures onto the pale white wall, while another set of multi-colored lights danced frantically beside the beams as if trying to compete for the skaters’ attention. Closer towards the DJ booth, sounds of thick wheels clunked against the thin, cardboard-like structure. Past the DJ booth aromas of freshly micro-waved hotdogs made their way into the nostrils of the eager and hungry teenagers. Carefully, I rolled towards the blue counter and asked for my usual sweet, chocolate ice cream. To my right I noticed a tiny four year old cheerfully sucking on her cherry lollipop and continuously smearing red sticky gunk into her bright, white cotton shirt.

Along the middle benches and in the snack bar area, people socialize and compliment each other’s weekly outfits. At the age of thirteen in 1997, my appearance meant everything and choosing the right outfit to wear on Friday night determined my place amongst my peers. Located in one area were the rappers with their JNCO jeans and thousand-pound jewelry draped over their bodies, waved backed and forth like the constant Galveston tide. They all glued their ears to the center rapper as he hummed his chants into the perceptive mind of his audience. Further to the right, the aggressive inline skaters listened to shouting songs of alternative bands. Mostly wearing brightly colored accessories, with backwards caps on their unkempt heads, they grinded on and off the worn out, wooden benches, each one claiming the best pair of Vans skate shoes. Thankfully, the walls of the skating rink were padded with light blue carpet, so that whenever the skaters would trip or mess up they would have something to cushion their bodies and not their egos.

Typically teenagers make this skating rink the home of their interests. From time to time one will see an older individual attempting to skate, and actually succeed. According to Seskate, “a 92 year old man named, Allen MacDonald learned to inline skate when he was 80 years old and he skated the Tahiti Half Marathon at age 89.” That story shows how despite their age more and more people rekindle the spirit of skating that once was only a popular fad of the 1970’s. Thanks to the newfound rekindle of skating, I found my passion-my place among my peers.

At this skating rink one sees who loves who, simply by gazing at the marked up and inscribed benches, and every so often one might discover talented poetry of a young writer carved into the shiny, wooden benches. The interesting thing about this skating rink compared to others, is that practically everything is blue: sky blue floor, dull blue carpeted walls, plain blue counters, bright blue signs, and so on. The blue scheme gives me a sense of freedom or escape as if I am flying through the sky, and it certainly feels that way when rapidly skating and twirling past individuals. Then, there were the parents prying the tightly clasped hands of their children away from the skate wall, while trying not to get run over by the buzzing skaters nearby.

“I hate all of you!” Screamed the misunderstood boy in the back corner with long, sleek hair that fell into his clear eyes, whenever his heart wound pound harder. Jenny came skipping along stopping by anyone who might deserve a hug, (except for the misunderstood boy, who happened to be in love with her.) This skating rink has a mesh of different people, from different places, much like the city of Houston . Like Houston , the skating rink attracts people from every race, religion, age, gender, and nationality. The skating rink continuously changes, because of the people who visit it, and Houston changes.

I remember when they upgraded the place in order to keep up with the style demands of the time period. The multi-colored flashing disco lights momentarily blinded us not only from what was in front of us, but what was to come. The syrup-smelling fog enhanced our dreams and diluted our problems. A reoccurring image was the rearranging of the arcade games to make more space for the newly arriving people. Similar to Houston ’s changing roads, the moving of arcades caused us to adjust our habits and “special spots.” Even though large clusters of individuals would visit this place, somehow you felt a sense of community. Whenever one excited boy would let another borrow his skates you can feel the friendship blossom. The enthusiastic boy and the shy one barely knew each other, but the skating rink tends to bond strangers in a creative way. Whenever a young teenage girl would give another girl advice in the girl restroom you can sense a special bond between them. That kind of friendliness and sense of community made this skating rink unique and welcoming just like Houston .

Later that Friday evening in 1997, I began to firmly strap on my black speed skates, and headed off to the freshly painted floor that gave me a slight dizzy spell. In my lifetime I skated on both concrete floors and wooden floors. Although, “the cheapest floor is a concrete floor,” it is the best floor to speed skate on because of the gripping affect. The nicest floor is wood, especially when performing certain kinds of continuous spins.

Weaving in and out of traffic, I adjusted to the style of music and skated accordingly. Several times, my friend and I would choreograph fancy foot work and skate routines for certain songs. We definitely believed we were professional skaters. Figure skaters or trick skaters performed their dances in a painted oval in the middle of the roller skating rink. I was a trick skater, meaning I would perform certain footwork and stylistic moves (or commonly known as tricks) in the center of the rink. Sometimes on weekend mornings, I could spy on the Hockey players or the figure skater practicing for that night’s competition. Although the competitions were never held there, they hung numerous pictures of first through third place winners in the front lobby area. Also, I bought my speed skates from the roller rink, but they did not have the style I wanted, so I ordered from a catalog. The particular brand I wanted called, Carrera comes in two colors black and white. Typically women prefer the white ones, but I thought black would be easier to clean. Skates in the catalog ranged in price from one hundred dollars to one thousand dollars. The more expensive skates were the in-line speed skates with five wheels, metal frame, and an American flag painted onto them. This is not the most over-elaborate place in Houston, but over a period of time it became a second home to me-a kind of safe haven. Although it was a safe haven for me, it was not free from conflicts, but those conflicts molded me and engraved memories into my heart.

“I will be leaving soon. I have to move back to Magnolia,” responded Jack to Clarissa. Jack wore faded-blue wrangler jeans and always had that flashy charismatic smile, which had broken several hearts. However, Clarissa was not that lucky, she was a shy girl that moved from the country to the busy city. The skating rink was the first social setting she went to, and Jack was the first comfort. Of course, for different reasons people must come and go and the skating rink is no different from Houston . Ever so often you will have the old-comers who revisit trying to find that old home, and they put on their worn out skates. Soon, they are gliding back into the heart and soul of who they are and where they belong: Bear Creek Skating Rink-Houston.

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