Of Butterflies’ Wings

I went roller skating for a friend’s birthday party. So. Much. Fun.

Exactly like this.


Okay, maybe not quite.

Also, it was strange.

Oh, how youthful feelings of inadequacy came flooding back in a tidal wave. The moment I walked into the building, I noticed people I know — some very well, some just tangentially — gliding effortlessly around the rink as if to the manner born. My first immediate thought was “Oh boy, here comes failure.” My second immediate thought was “Oh, I can do this. I’ll pick it right back up in a few minutes.”

Thinking back, however, I could not remember the last time I roller skated. In fact, I may not ever have roller skated. There was no roller rink in my tiny hometown, and there was not one that I could recall in the entire area where I grew up. I don’t have a specific memory of roller skating, but I also don’t have a specific memory of not ever roller skating.

Anyway, I eagerly and dutifully put on some skates and started falling down. I fell twice within the first 30 seconds, then another time a couple minutes later. Then I sort of started to get the hang of it and thought that I wasn’t going to fall anymore. Then I fell and hit my head on the floor with an audible thud. I sat down for a few minutes but got back on my skates and headed out again. The challenge was just too alluring.

After a while I was getting my style on and only fell one little more time. I was getting tired but still wanted to demonstrate to myself and others that I was equal to the challenge. I had just decided to rest when that very moment T.Rex’s “Hot Love” came on, compelling me to skate more.


I dare you to listen to this song and claim that you wouldn’t roller skate to it (given that you already had roller skates on your feet). I mean, damn, that’s roller-skating music.

So back out I went, and back down on the floor I went within about 20 feet, this time wrenching my ankle badly enough that I had to admit to myself that it was time to stop. And stop I did.

As the rest of the evening progressed, I realized that this wasn’t just a little twist, but at least a nasty sprain, a reminder that stays with me now, these two weeks later, that I need to check my ego in situations like this. Still, it was fun.

Wait, there’s more.

The next day I couldn’t ride my bicycle to work as I usually do, so my wife gave me a ride to and from work. On the way home, we were stopped at a red light behind a line of four or five cars when we got rear ended by a minivan going about 20 miles an hour. There wasn’t too much visible damage to the car — a crack in our bumper and the other car’s license plate numbers stamped into its surface — but both of our heads snapped forward and back enough that we have some whiplash (nothing too serious, but enough that some acupuncture and chiropracty have been in order).

Of course, there are those of you out there who will tell me that I avoided a much worse bicycle accident by being in the car at that intersection at that time. However, part of me can’t help but think that that damned T.Rex song spread and flapped its butterfly wings, tickling my boogie bone, teasing my ego, and blowing a breeze of minor injury in my direction. The aches and pains linger, and the hassling with insurance companies continues. (The latter has been generally worse than the former, believe me.)

Also loosed in my direction, strangely, has been a wealth of information about the woman who hit us. After she was sort of dodgy about giving us her insurance info, I Googled her eminently Googleable name, just to make sure that we could track her down.

Boy, can we track her down. I know where she works and from where she graduated. I know her husband’s name, alma mater, and past three jobs. I know their exact address and how much they paid for their house. I know their twin sons’ names and birth date. I have seen many photos of them (on the husband’s unprotected Twitter). I suspect that her husband has a little bit of a pr0n fixation (from a few posts on his blog). I know much, much more than I bargained for but couldn’t stop myself from learning once I had the opportunity. I have pieced together their entire lives and convinced myself of what they’re like.

Every time I drive near their house I think of this family and the portrait I have painted of them. I also think of how random all of this is, how T.Rex and my fragile middle-aged ego brought us together, just whispering by each other on our travels through life.

9 responses to “Of Butterflies’ Wings”

  1. LP says:

    First: Excellent choice of rollerskating clip! Ruth Buzzi’s finest film.

    Second: I don’t think I knew your sprained ankle was from a rollerskating accident – Mazel! That’s at least a good story to tell. I once asked a physical therapist what the most pathetic story was for one of his patients, and he said a guy had fallen asleep on the couch with his leg bent under him, and then when the doorbell rang he leapt off the couch and sprained his ankle because his foot had fallen asleep. If I were that guy, I’d have told people I was rollerskating or something.

    Third: It’s fascinating how the Age of Google has changed how we think of people’s names, isn’t it? Good luck finding your old buddy from the 3rd grade, Michael Johnson! But if you have an unusual name, like the mad minivan driver, you better be careful about what you post. Fortunately for me, my given first name is different from what I am called, so if anyone ever googled me based on official documents, they wouldn’t find anything. (It’s the only fortunate thing about being called something different from your first name, IMO).

    Nice post, Literacy!

  2. LHD says:

    Thanks, LP! I selected the Skatetown USA trailer especially for you.

    Sorry, Scotty, I didn’t know you were a fan of Dave Mason’s roller disco phase. That song is infectious.

  3. swells says:

    LHD, I am so sorry to hear that what should have been a free-wheeling evening led to a grinding halt that gave you whiplash. I love that you take these misfortunes and contextualize them into the broad arc of interconnectedness. I’m going with the Magoo theory on this one–better your car than your bike.

    Also, I know you hit your head, but I have to very, very, very gently ask about the spelling of your title. It seems, well, so incredibly un-LHDish that I feel I must be missing what is undoubtedly a deliberate choice whose meaning is over my head.

    Finally, thank you for posting two of the juiciest videos I’ve seen in a long, long time. I once wrote on this very site that I never wanted to see Marc Bolan without a choker, but his sparkling lame jacket mitigates that lack. As for Skate World . . . I can only dream.

  4. swells says:

    Speaking of LAME: Of course, I meant lamé, not lame!!!

  5. LHD says:

    ZOMG! I mistakenly thought that the plural of “butterfly” was “butterflys”. Excuse me while I wash the egg off my face and edit this post.

    Thank you, Swells, for your ever-so-gentle correction. You should just have stamped with a big red rubber stamp: “SPELLING!”

  6. Mr. Magoo says:

    Do-de-do-de-do-de-do. Lovely day!

  7. jeremy says:

    I love the unusual and unexpected turn this post takes, though it reminded me that I, too, have an “eminently Googleable name,” and that this, of course, can be problematic. Or a total bummer. Or the reason family members decide not to talk to you for a while.

    In elementary school, I used to skate it up at the local Skate King. Falling seems so much less appealing now than back then…

    (Sorry about your ankle and head and car, LHD!)

  8. Mrs. Magoo says:

    I was way into skating when I was a kid too, but it seems the muscle memory of all those fast sprints and endless circles didn’t last 30 years, so it wasn’t nearly as effortless for me as I remembered it to be. And while I try not to think this way, I am constantly worrying about a piano falling on you while you’re riding your bike, LHD, so perhaps there is a silver lining to all of this (stoopid distracted drivers notwithstanding).