Growing Up with Crystal Palace

If you were a ’90s kid in Las Vegas, going to Crystal Palace was a right of passage. 

It’s been years since the veteran roller rink crossed my mind, but when I read its Boulder Highway location was up for sale last December, I was inexplicably shaken-up.

It was the same feeling of betrayal that plagued me after I learned Taco Bell was eliminating potatoes from its menu last summer. Although several years passed since I last devoured their succulent Spicy Potato Soft Taco, I grieved. This familiar relic from my college days was departing. And I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye. 

Stored deep in my consciousness, somewhere between 10th Grade Geometry Formulas and The Name of That One Actor From That One Movie, were my forgotten childhood flashbacks at Crystal Palace. 

It all came back.

The curious aroma of snack bar pizza and stale french fries. Blissfully playing hopscotch by myself as I leaped from star to star on the sullied neon carpet. Proudly recognizing the music that played on the overhead speakers. My late-night excursions watching MTV in secret influenced my penchant for late ’90s R&B and NuMetal; making me wise beyond my years.

There’s a Latin phrase, “memoria praeteritorum bonorum,” which translates to “the past is always well remembered.” Time has a way of softening memories, especially in contrast to our busy and hectic adult lives. Looking back often feels like things were much simpler back then

The more I reminisced, the more I began to question why I even liked the place at all.

I was devastatingly intimidated by the teenagers, who, in their cropped halter tops, baggy Tommy Hilfiger jeans, and tattoo choker necklaces resembled an ensemble cast for a ‘90s teen rom-com that would have inevitably starred Melissa Joan Hart. 

And then there was the actual act of roller skating, which I dreaded. Every time 8-year-old me went to the venue, either for my elementary school’s Skate Night, or a classmate’s birthday party, I promised myself: today will be the day I skate with the big kids.

I was timid, plagued with introversion, overly cautious, and equipped with the coordination of a baby fawn taking its first steps.

Every time I entered the skating rink, the same cycle repeated. I laced up my rented roller skates (using the loop-loop-pull method, which took me longer to master than I’d like to admit), sat by myself on the bench, and longingly watched the Cool Teenagers sweep through the hardwood skating floor with grace and dexterity.

The skating room floor, illuminated under the blacklight, may as well have been a pool of lava. I was too afraid of getting hurt, and more importantly, too afraid of embarrassing myself. 

Time has passed. I am now a full-fledged adult. I’ve built an IKEA shelf, I have five solid recipes in my repertoire, and as of last week, I am now an investor in the stock market.

Local news station KSNV recently reported that boxing legend and Vegas local Floyd Mayweather purchased the east-side roller rink for $4 million. Mayweather has a well-documented affinity to roller skating that’s undeniably wholesome.

Last week, Mayweather invited his 24.6 million Instagram followers to “come skate with him,” at the skating rink — which he renamed Skate Rock City, a tribute to his home state Michigan and the Kiss song “Detroit Rock City.”

It may be too late for me to ever eat a Spicy Potato Soft Taco again, but it’s not too late to go back to my childhood skating rink and prove to myself that I am brave

That night, I picked up three of my friends, took the I-95 North, and headed toward the palace of yesteryear. 

Entering the roller rink in 2021 was like stepping into a time machine. The déjà vu was suffocating. I looked around, surrounded by a new generation of Cool Teenagers, and all of my childhood insecurities flooded back.

I laced up my rented skates (admittedly, now as a shoe-tying expert), stood up from the bench, and immediately lost my balance. I resembled one of those large inflatable air dancers that flail outside of used car dealerships. I straightened my body and slowly practiced skating on the carpet.

I wish I could say that night unveiled my undiscovered talent as an inline skating champion; ready to reprise the role of a Soul-Skater if the Disney Channel ever remade their 1998 original movie “Brink!”. But, as I stood there, wobbling around in my bruised, adult body, I realized I’ll always be clumsy.

I’m just not embarrassed anymore. 

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