Church of 8 Wheels

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If you can’t remember the last time you were on skates (or you do, but the last time was a less-than-sober Halloween night in college), it’s generally advisable not to go tearing about a crowded roller rink. This is particularly true when the roller rink is in fact an old church with only a theoretical track marked by a tape line. A tape barrier isn’t much help when you’re careening around a turn and just in front of you a man in a flowing, blonde mullet wig and flapping Hawaiian shirt is making a beeline left and a tutu-ringed girl is wobbling right. No, not at all advisable.

Still, careen I did. And I loved it. The best of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s was pouring out of the speakers, a kaleidoscope of laser lights was swirling across the interior, and no one seemed bothered by the occasional near-death collision. In fact, it seemed to add to the conviviality; a burst of laughter accompanied most close calls.

Almost better than the skating itself was watching the diehards inside the free-skate ring—a woman dressed in Michael Jackson’s signature fedora and red jacket deftly moon-walking in her light-up (!) roller skates; a man in sunglasses zooming around sputtering newbies and whipping into double-skate spins, his long, black duster flying. Oh the spins! One foot spins. Two foot spins. Triple-toe-loop-what-have-you spins. Where had these people developed such skills? Why weren’t they tottering around with the rest of us, using walls and church pew benches as braking devices?

Take note though—you’d do well not to ogle the show ponies too much. At one point, tearing my eyes from the romantic rollings of a man dreamily trailing wings of voluminous silver fabric in his skating wake, I realized I was rapidly approaching a wall of bodies. Not a pew in site—only more bodies taking wobbly selfies (for the love of God…) and ogling the show ponies too—I had no way of stopping. (That nob on the front of the skate you say? Have you tried stopping with that thing? I didn’t think so.) With an audible “aaaahhheee!” I squinched up my body and managed to slip between two girls in hot pants and tube socks. They bore the tell-tale sign of unsteady skating—butt out, arms flung precariously to the side ready to break a fall—and I felt bad that I sent them pinwheeling for balance. Of course, in the circle (oblong?) of life that is the roller disco, it all comes back around, and soon someone was wedging by, clipping my side and sending my arms a-flailing.

Over the speakers, C+C Music Factory demanded that everybody dance (best of the 90’s or what?), and dance—er, skate, spin, and sputter—we did. We pumped up the jam. We pushed it. We caught the Night Fever. Mostly though, we tried not to fall.

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Housed in the former Sacred Heart Church at 554 Fillmore Street, The Church of 8 Wheels bills itself as an “‘only in San Francisco’ rolligious experience.” They’re open Thursdays 7-10 p.m., Fridays 7-11 p.m, Saturdays 3-5 p.m. (family skate) and 7-11 p.m. (adult skate). It’s $10 to enter and $5 for skate rental.

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