Sunday, February 12, 2006

Let the good times roll...

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, the notion of romance is on display everywhere you look, so it was only natural this weekend that my thoughts would turn to rollerskating.

Actually, the subject of rollerskating came up in a recent conversation, and as I thought back to what was a regular event on Friday nights in junior high school, I began to reminisce about its role in my earliest attempts at courtship.

As hard as it may be to believe, the social outlets for pre-teen adolescents in north-central Pennsylvania around the early 80's were somewhat limited. In the fall, it was the football game on Friday nights, with a post-game gathering at either McDonald's or Pizza Hut. During the summer it was miniature golf, followed by ice cream at either Dairy Queen or Carvel. Throughout the rest of the year, most Friday nights were spent at the indoor rollerskating rink. With its pulsating music, array of the latest pinball and video arcade machines, and the requisite disco ball, it was like our own Studio 54. Many minutes were spent early Friday evening standing before my closet, trying to decide which 100% polyester shirt from Chess King would be the one to finally get the 8th grade girls to take notice. That time was later doubled when the choice of thin leather tie was added to the ensemble...

For me, a night at the rollerskating rink held the hope of unrequited romance finally becoming requited, and possibly even some form of physical contact with the opposite sex taking place. For most of the night, I (along with most of my other male classmates) tried to appear nonchalant as we hung together in quiet desperation, occupying ourselves with endless games of Pac Man and ordering our 3rd, 4th, and 5th slice of pizza. But what we were really waiting for was the fleeting opportunity to make our move: the slow skate. Back then, some of the telltale songs that signaled the beginning of the slow skate were "Open Arms" by Journey and "Babe" by REO Speedwagon.

Spaced throughout the evening in small groups of two or three songs, the slow skate provided legitimate cover to approach a girl and ask if she would like to spend some time with you. The timing of the approach to ask the question was crucial: ask too soon in the night and she may have forgotten and wandered off by the time the music started to play; wait too late and she may be off in the girls' restroom with her friends or have already said yes to someone else. A more formalized method of bringing us together face to face was the official "Snowball Skate", where the boys would line up along one wall and the girls would line up along the opposite side of the rink. It was up to each person to plunge forward in front of hundreds of their peers and skate across the no-man's land in the middle of the rink to go up to their intended partner and ask for a skate. Minus the concentrated machine gun fire and pre-sighted artillery bursts, I can imagine that was it was similar to the fear that the young G.I.'s must have felt as they headed across the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

Of course, once the person accepted your invitation to skate, the risk of public humiliation wasn't finished. There were basically two forms of the slow skate: the cool way and the lame way. The cool way involved the boy skating the entire song backwards, enabling him to face his partner as in an actual dance. Naturally this required coordination and poise, and the ability to make those constant turns around the oval rink while looking in the other direction. An added bonus was that it gave a legitimate reason to place both hands on the girl's hips, which in pre-pubescent terms was practically the equivalent of third base. The lame way was to skate alongside your partner while holding their hand, which resulted in the two of you looking not so much like an actual couple but more like a brother and sister crossing a busy street. Eye contact was practically impossible, as your focus was kept on avoiding a collision with one of the other pairs of skaters, while occasionally looking with veiled contempt and envy at the popular boys who knew how to skate backwards. Conversation was limited due to the high decibel level and the fact that you could only turn your head slightly in the direction of your partner as you held your gaze forward.

The other form of social interaction between the sexes at the skating rink was the make-out session in the moodily lit corner over by the lockers among the piles of coats. This was reserved primarily for the established couples and those lucky enough to have successfully navigated the physical and verbal pitfalls of the slow skate with a new partner. I was only able to pull that move off once, as I recall. The shirt from Chess King must have worked its magic that night--that, or her judgment was temporarily impaired from the several gallons of Drakkar Noir that I had applied earlier that evening. She was from one of the nearby rival schools, and therefore unaware of my designated spot as just the likeable funny guy on our school's social totem pole. I remember sitting next to her on one of those large, round plastic benches surrounded by other couples who were already in the process of making out. After a moment or two I just leaned my head in and went for it, and before long everything was bubble gum lip gloss and wet tongues and heavy breathing. That, and an instant erection that I prayed wasn't noticeable beneath my new Jordache jeans.

I think we met up at the skating rink the following week or two, but as I recall she began to date one of the boys from her own school. Once we were old enough to get our driver's licenses, my friends and I moved on to other things to do on Friday nights--most of which involved aimlessly driving around town while listening to "Jack and Diane" by John Cougar Mellencamp and "Detroit Rock City" by Kiss. Oddly, this provided very few opportunities to engage in make-out sessions with the opposite sex, or even hold a girl's hand for that matter. I'd like to think that these days I have the dating ritual pretty much in hand, but I suppose that deep down the sense of excitement and uncertainty from putting yourself out there before someone that you're interested in has never gone away. Fortunately, the measure of a successful date does not require rollerskates anymore. But if I ever do happen to find myself at a rink with someone when Journey begins to play, at least I know how to skate backwards now...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

What's happening, hot stuff??

A kind of milestone event in the life of "Yes, and..." occurred last week and I thought that I should write something to note the occasion. According to my Statcounter, this blog offcially received its 10,000th visit since it first began in October. Normally this type of acheivement would be cause for a celebration involving confetti, balloons, and party hats... but I cancelled the order for the sheet cake as soon as I took a closer look behind the numbers.

At first I had felt a tiny little bit of creative validation when the magic 10,000 mark had been passed. I thought that some people might actually enjoy stopping by for the occasional funny story, or to take a glimpse at the latest HNT pic. But to be perfectly honest, the majority of the credit for all of those visits belongs to somone else. Someone whose inspiring words and radiant smile bring people literally from all over the globe to stop by this blog every single day.
I am speaking, of course, of none other than The Donger:

Or to be accurate--the actor Gedde Watanabe, who played the character of Long Duk Dong- in the movie "Sixteen Candles". Perhaps a little backstory is in order.

Towards the end of October, I had written a post about a martini singles' night that I attended ("Martinis for two, with a twist"). At one point, I mentioned that the only two other men who had turned out for the event both resembled famous actors--one looked like Joe Mantegna and one looked like Long Duk Dong. I had done a Google search to come up with images for each of them, and then linked those pictures to their names as they appeared in the original text.

Not long after that post, I noticed a steady and noticeable bump up in my daily Statcounter numbers. As the weeks went by, one unusual http address kept popping up numerous times on a daily basis. At first I thought it might just be some spammer or phony address, but my curiosity finally won out and I went to the site to see who my #1 fan truly was. It turns out that by linking the actor's picture within that post, anytime one of the many devotees of Gedde Watanabe does a similar Google search--within a click or two they are brought directly over to little old "Yes, and..."

I can only imagine what must go through their minds when they land smack dab on my blog. I can't deny that I haven't felt a slight sense of disappointment from the fact that not one of them has taken a moment away from their adoration to write so much as a word for a comment in any of the posts since then. But then I put my desire for validation in perspective and reflect upon the fact that my situation could be worse--at least I'm getting more hits than Joe Mantegna these days. Apparently nobody is clicking on his Google images--not a single blip on my Statcounter has been from anyone following the link from his picure.

So, while it might be cause for a somewhat muted celebration, I am still really glad that some people, for whatever reason, have taken a moment out of their day to stop by here from time to time. Recently, outside events have caused me to cut back on the number and frequency of my posts--but I have a feeling that a corner has been turned and that things will be back on track in no time. As I close this commemorative post, I leave you with some words of inspiration that help me begin each and every day with meaning and purpose:

"No more yanky my wanky--the Donger need food!"

(Look out, 20,000--here I come...)