Jasmin called me several weeks ago to discuss the ‘sham project. She said I should expect various levels of jealousy about what I am doing here. I get to stay at home, mooch around, take some time out. It’s like a holiday at home. It’s like being a tourist in your own town. Not to mention the inevitable “but is it really art?” etc etc.
I was surprised. I guess I hadn’t thought much beyond the confines of my own list-of-things-to-do. But notwithstanding the curly question “is it art?” (which I will add to the FAQ’s, and attempt to answer – hopefully with your help – in the near future) I bet yer all gonna be jealous of what I did yesterday!
I rollerskated at the Majestic RollerRink.
Yes sir, and damn, was it fun!
Here’s what happened. Earlier in the week, Sunny from the Herald emailed:“I have just spent about 2 hours reading the blog and feel like I’ve woken up out of a nice dream!” She was keen to do a story, and extra keen on getting inside the RollerRink, where she spent every Thursday night of 2001. Now, I had been thinking how cool it’d be to get in there, but of course, I hadn’t done anything about it. And here she was, excited enough to do all the ringing around for me. The power of the press.
Just before half one, I checked in with Luciana to see if she wanted to come and check out the rink. I remembered she was a big fan of skating too. We’d been reminiscing on the porch about how cool it used to be, what a loss it was to the ‘sham that it had closed up. She looked a bit stressed – she’s got a presentation to work on for uni, about Baudelaire – but she couldn’t resist the lure of the rink.
Rachelle was excited too. She called Wolfie so he could come along with us and be in the photos. She brushed bits of dry grass out of his coat and fussed a bit like a mum. And we were on our way.
Down at the rink, a cute old fella showed up, and opened the door for us while we waited for Sunny. Luciana and I couldn’t believe it. Inside, the place was exactly as we remembered. The skates were still up there on the shelves. The woodpanelling at the skate counter still had remnants of the texta-inscribed instruction: “ONE LINE ONLY NO SCREAMING” (the word “SCREAMING” almost worn completely blank by the contact of countless writhing bodies).
Oh, there was plenty of priceless signage still up:
NO CHEWING GUM
TO AVOID ACCIDENTS,
ROLLER SKATES ARE TO
BE WORN AND TAKEN OFF
Roller Skating is a
All patrons are advised
that although the
management takes all
precautions to ensure
your safety, you are
advised no responsibility
is taken and that you
are Roller Skating
entirely at your own risk.
Apparently, despite these efforts to warn skaters that no responsibility would be taken for accidents, this is precisely what led to the rink’s demise. A lady had some sort of heart failure in the late 90s, and sued for several millions. They managed to come to a smaller settlement (maybe half a million) but then no insurance company would touch them after that.
Public liability claims another scalp, and fun becomes just too expensively risky. Luciana and I sighed. Nostalgic. Angry. Sad. Resigned. These stories are just too predictable.
Last year, I remember signing a petition at the chemist about the old RollerRink. I thought maybe it was to fight against development going through. But no, it was just to make sure that when the apartments (inevitably) get built, the owner puts in sufficient carparking. Probably the least inspiring petition I’ve ever put my name to.
But it seems that sale has now fallen through! And even better – there’s a new deal in negotiation – believe it or not, to turn the place into a cinema!
The photographer arrived, and set me up to pose with Wolfie in the middle of the empty rink. After a few hundred shots like that, Luciana and I strapped on our skates (size 6, size 10). We did loops around and around (me pulling along a rather reluctant Wolfie) trying to get ourselves in just the right spot for the perfect shot. It felt great to have the wheels spinning under my feet (although, just like the old days, the skates had a tendency to veer off to one side).
By the end of this, Wolfie was pooped. We posed a bit more outside, but the poor little fella kept flopping onto the pavement for rests. I tried propping him up and giving him pats and encouraging words, to get him to stand tall for the picture, but he was over it.
Sunny and I sat outside Sweet Belem for a coffee and natas. It was time for the interview. She had one of those “microcassette” recorders with the teeny tapes inside to record every word of infallible wisdom that passed my lips. But on New Canterbury Road, trucks roar by every few minutes, no doubt obliterating the good bits and leaving instead banalities like “yeah man, it’s all about the blurring of art and life” and turning statements of true genius like “I don’t think its unfair to say that artists now are using the ideas developed by avant-garde artists in the 1960s like tools to make a new kind of socially connected art work” into potentially libellous declarations such as “I don’t […] like […] work.”
Sunny asked me if I always over-intellectualise things. That was a good one. And although it seems she really likes the project, she said a few folks she’d mentioned it to around the office were a bit indignant. The old “once again artists are getting away with these easy scams!” – and – “Heck, I wouldn’t mind being paid to stay at home for two months” etc etc.
I ranted a little about the curly concept of the “sense of community”, how local councils sometimes seem a little too keen to push rhetoric about “togetherness and belonging” – and how within this schema, “unity” and “diversity” are somehow two sides of the same coin. I’m really at the beginning, but I’d like to find a way to think more deeply about these ideas. You know, over-intellectualise ’em a bit.
Sunny paid for the natas, and bought a few extras on the Herald account for me to take home. We acknowledged that this had been a kind of writers’ exchange – she’s covering me, I’m covering her covering me. I get in first though – her article won’t come out til Tuesday.
As she was jumping in the cab, I asked if there was any chance of reading her piece before it gets published. She said not really, and sped away. Fair enough. She hasn’t proof-read this one either…