Do you have your funky bus fare?
Let me hear you say HO!
How much is the Funky Bus Fare anyway, can I use my debit card? Do I need correct change, and can I get a transfer to the “I’m over 30ish” line after 2:00 in the afternoon?
In the past month I have had more than my share of reason to remember, delve deep into memories...to cry and to smile. The smiles are sometimes because of the overwhelming humor of my childhood memories. In the past month I have also been to two birthday parties for my daughter’s classmates. Let me tell you, not much improvement or advances from the birthday parties of my youth. There are some differences, but there are not so many that I can't recognize the things I miss from being young.
Growing up in a small town there was not much to do. We did not have a red light until it was too late. Part of the movie The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia was filmed there and we had a skating rink. When the Howard family moved to town it meant that pizza did really exist. Their family's once small pizza stand opened and our town folk flocked to them. I remember sitting next to the Howard's youngest daughter in the fourth grade and wondering, “Why would you move here?” However I came to understand that even the Northern Mountains of Georgia deserve good pizza.
The 80's in our small town meant big hair, and skating rink weekends, just Saturdays if it was a football weekend. The school dance was there at the rink on Friday nights after the home games.
When you pulled into the parking lot you could hear the thump of the bass outside. You know I can't even remember if the sign said anything but “Skating Rink,” but whatever the sign said you could feel the excitement, even outside. The metal building you entered was a welcoming shag carpet haven of fun. My Mom would snag a booth to sit in and I would go exchange my jelly shoes for the borrowed skates. The rented skates were the color of a brown paper bag. They had a white stripe down the back branded with the size, bright orange wheels and dark brown laces. My Mom sometimes had to use a lighter to burn the ends of the laces if they were missing the aglet and frayed on the ends. When I close my eyes, I can smell the singed nylon now.
There were not many choices for birthday party fare in town. It was only the skating rink or McDonald's I guess. When I had my birthday party at the rink I opened the best gift ever! It was just what I wanted skates of my very own. If I remember correctly even my cake was shaped like a skate. It was one of my favorite birthday parties. I had on cream colored jeans printed with pink roses. Oh those were the days! Skate shaped cakes and rose printed jeans what more could a little girl ask for.
So the next weekend we were headed to the rink. I had some cousins that were crazy good skaters. I mean crazy good, like Starlight Express good. As a little girl when we would show up I would so be like “yeah, I'm with them.” (Please note how many “likes” it takes to convey my message of coolness) Some kid with coke bottle glasses and striped shirts would look at me like “you're with them?” And I'd be like...did I not just like walk in here carrying my bag with my purple pom-pom skates that says like “yeah I'm with them.”
My cousins would take the rink floor—it was like Moses himself was there and the waters part—they would pay their funky bus fare and it would begin. The Double Dutch Bus comin' down the street had arrived and they were the engineers.
I would watch my cousins skate with amazement while I was eating my jumbo pickle, grape fun dip, and drinking from a waxed paper cup branded with the old Coke logo. I might have walked in like “yeah, I'm with them” but I was never a skater like them. That would have been impossible. I would later take to the smooth blue rink floor where my new skates with the purple pom-poms of power were useless, they did not help me skate better. Oh no, the pom-poms had no magical powers. It was clear once I had run into the wall to stop halfway around the rink, and my mother had shouted “TUCK YOUR FINGERS!” when I fell--the ruse was up, no one believed my “like, yeah I'm with them,” no one. If I listen real hard I can still hear my mother’s voice over Super Sonic.
So back to the booth with my Mom, next to the metal fountain of the kids with the umbrella that looked like it was raining. The bottom is soggy on my wax Coke cup and my cheeks are red—both sets. I would regain my composure and make an attempt again. With each round I was getting better, each time wishing beyond wishes that Another One Bites the Dust was not the DJ's song selection just as I fall. Then the worst words a kid could hear...“couple skate” was announced from the elevated DJ booth of power. I wish I had a microphone in daily life—people tend to listen. Then after some slow hair-band power-ballad you would hear your release “now time for all skate...all skate.”
Let us fast forward a few years, the cousins have moved away and I have new skates with blue wheels. There is new music and bigger hair. You know what they say, “The smaller the town the bigger the hair.” There is no cousin coolness to ride on the coat tails of now, so I better bring it. With my blue eyeliner, rave hairspray, and my sequined LA Gear jean jacket...I so like brought it. You should never doubt that Rave hairspray is the official sponsor of the 80's and early 90's. I had a coiffure that will never be stylish again, but I rocked it then. NKTOB, MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice where calling my name and drawing me to that blue rink floor. I was now scared to death that there would be a “couples skate,” and that someone might ask me. I was not scared of the boy; I was scared of skating backward. I was a better skater now but the skating rink was not about being a good skater to me now, it was about seeing my friends and almost having an anxiety attack until they played Debbie Gibson. Spotlight on me Mr. DJ here comes Electric Youth.
Looking back I see that all of that time passed too quickly. Later on, weekends got busy, there were still the home game dances at the skating rink but it was not the same, for some reason going skating was not what I did anymore. Things changed, not the rink but me...what changed about me? Did I lose my Funky Bus Fare? I can't even remember when it happened but my skates no longer fit, they were pushed to the back of my closet and forgotten.
The next couple of high school years were filled with dates of mini golf, bowling, movies and ball games but no skating. Grunge music was what you were supposed to be into. My love of Debbie Gibson did not really fit into a mosh pit. The mosh pit is a whole other topic. Jumping in a big circle clump thingy? Did I really do that? Is that really dancing folks? Yes I fell into it, but no...No it was not dancing.
Then sometime later something clicked for me—I realized, I'm not really that girl. The mosh pit was not for me, not so much. I do like flannel shirts, but I don’t like Nirvana. I don't Smell Like Teen Spirit. I smell more like School Spirit, or maybe something floral. I was never all that angst filled. So hear this 1994—I LIKE TO SKATE, I like funk music. So I bought new skates. Kick ass new skates, with purple wheels and purple pom-poms of power. My hair was not as big now, but my love for skating was. Take that 1994! I...will...be...myself. So you can take your angst, your mosh pit and go find someone else to wear your flannel. I’m going skating.
I find that time stands still for no skater. Here I am years later with my daughter at her classmates skating party. I watch her in borrowed glow in the dark skates, breeze blowing her pony tail back as she makes her way around a smooth rink. She is taking it all in, waving at friends, singing as she skates. There he is the “Biebster” blaring in the sound system...Like baby, baby, baby oh! Like baby, baby, baby, NO! (She may never know he is the Debbie Gibson of her time.) She is being young and loving the moment.
I guess maybe youth always has something to do with hair. My youth was filled with big hair, brought to you by small towns and Rave hair care products. My daughter will someday remember her youth filled with boys with premature comb-overs brought to you by Justin Bieber. But I hope she remembers these days, these moments. I hope she remembers how fun skating to Justin Bieber was. Being young and living in the moment. Black light skates and laces frayed at the ends.
Like I said before, kids’ birthday parties have not changed much. I realize what I have been missing—from this side of 30ish—I miss not knowing how to live in the moment like back then.
They say you can never go back, and that is true. My hometown skating rink is no longer there. It closed just after I bought those kick ass skates, the ones that still fit me today. There are days that I wish I had that Funky Bus Fare—if just for a moment. I think back on the wonderful memories of cousins, smiles, grape fun dips and Coke in a wax cup with the soggy bottom and I smile.
I think I might get my skates out in the next few days. Live in the moment, and not be afraid of falling.
Give me a HO if you've got your funky bus fare...HO… HO… HO
There's a double dutch bus comin' down the street
Movin’ pretty fast …....