I Wanna Be Sedated: A Night at the Roxy



515 W 18th St, NY, NY 10011

Neighborhood: Chelsea

Between 10th and 11th avenue, on the north side of 18th street sits the Roxy night club which, on Wednesday nights, houses a medley of characters whom appear to have been pickled by time.

Wednesday at the Roxy is “disco night.” Everyone is on roller skates. The speakeasy secrecy of this sub-culture scene contaminates one with an air of stagnation; sedation even in the midst of Vincent, the D.J.’s, supa freak sensation. There’s more at risk then the fashion sense of the regular roller skaters. Accompanying the sweat bands and polyester pants wafts an eerie breeze of complacency; a comatose contentment. As if each skater swallowed a fist full of soma upon entrance, they glide around the rink in motion sickening sink, sweating to the oldies in a frozen trance that elicits frames of Flashdance.

The idea is escape. Leave the 21st century. Toss aside hyper-technology, slip on skates, watch flashing lights and vibe with the roller disco ride. Center stage routines are being practiced with the intensity of a back stage rehearsal for Show Time At The Apollo. Commonplace George Clinton prototypes are sprinkled across every other couch. Immobile skaters watch mesmerized while the mobilized move in an undiscussed counter clock wise motion. Like Cold-War America busy hiding in Suburbia, the Roxy regulars seek retreat.

Nauseating non-New York things are in full swing. If a skater happens to fall she or he is eagerly assisted back to his or her feet. If you are nudged or bumped a “so sorry” soon follows. Latinos, blacks, whites, Wall-Streeters, slackers all unite and repress reality at the Roxy during their brief one night a week trip back through time. Bouncers skate amongst the patrons with their well versed “pardon me’s” and an excessive use of “please” while making certain skaters roll with caution , remaining undisturbed. Women bombard one another under the restroom’s fluorescent lights, scanning their faces for lipstick smudges – but guess what gals, I checked with management – there is no “Ladies Choice.”

Perhaps the constant circulation is to blame for the mass passive state. Clearly this is no place to be if you happen to be a pusher, shover, me firster, eye roller, pigeon kicker, or panic ridden regular New Yorker. For if you are the skaters will spot you as if your a cow astray from the cud chewing herd. And in a self-help hypnotic way they will try to sway you back to the barn. I found myself under 12 step attack as Bladie , a Roxy guru, tried to persuade me onto the floor to join the regulars on their love train.

The old timers, whom have been participating in Roxy skating since it broke ground in ’79, emphasize through vapid eyes how “nice” the joint is. They catatonically speak of a unique harmony, sense of comradery that keeps the patrons pirouetting Wednesday after Wednesday. It was like watching subway train riders at rush hour embrace one another – an act only acceptable after an Anthrax outburst or Arabian bomb threat has occurred. All the retro New York nicety sent me in search of salvation, so I sought out the younger species.

They replied to my question “why?” with the words, “it’s fun!” Umm that’s it, that’s all the stimulus required for a good time: spin in circles ’til you damage brain cells?

The rhythm of the music, the voodoo vibrations, the overplay of “Celebration” continued as a clone of Fame’s Leroy lead a group in a kick-ball-chain kind of dance center stage.

Their sweat smelled of regression. An insipid need to keep a breed of endangered animals alive. And after spending a few Wednesdays there I, too, caught the contagious vibe. Listlessly, I handed over my driver’s license to assure the club I would not steal their skates, then made my way into the roller arena. And in a narcotized daze began to rotate with the regulars. Inert, yet alert to the virus that was spreading, I was stymied by skates, swirling back to the days when disco was really alive and feathered hair looked all right. So if hibernation from progression sounds like a good time, grab fifteen bucks and head due west to the Roxy on a Wednesday night.

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