Good News from A Great City Haverhill, MA
The new kale salad at Lakeview Kitchen led The Heartbeat of Haverhill to our latest adventure. The guy at the next table just beamed with joie de vivre, flashing his Ultrabright smile, and captivating all with his energy during the course of ordering lunch so we had to ask: “What’s Your Favorite Thing About Haverhill?”
He answered without pause: “Other than Lakeview Kitchen, the best thing in Haverhill is Skateland on Thursday nights.”
Not an answer THOH expected from an adult who skated past 30 a little while ago. Time to figure out what we were missing, and Carlo E. who drives up weekly from Melrose, MA was just the guy to fill in the details. He recruited both THOH and Lakeview owner Eric Karlstad to come to Skateland by saying the energy and friendship of the Thursday night group must be experienced to be believed. He promised if we went, we’d want to skate. It’s been decades since THOH laced up any wheels, though the last time may in fact have been at Skateland. Since then the skates have collected dust and rust in the attic. Carlo offered to rehab them. THOH declined, but agreed to check out the scene. Eric’s interest was piqued but conflicts left him promising “Maybe next time.”
The group skating at the rink on any Thursday night is all adults. You must be 18+ to enter and though it was very dark (a photog’s nightmare in fact) with blinking disco balls, blacklights and flickering music videos, THOH noted that most people were 2-3X the minimum age. That gave hope to people like THOH who worry about knees, backs, age and embarrassment. In fact, group leader Steve OB1 says he can teach someone to skate in under 10 trips around the rink.
Winter is the big time for skating, but during the last weeks of summer there was room on the rink for more tentative skaters (and plenty of offers of help) as well as areas to showcase some amazing moves without intimidating the less adventuresome in the group. There were singles and couples as well as women from the local roller derby team, casual skaters, fanatics, and newbies. According to everyone in attendance the craze is growing.
We encountered very few skaters from Haverhill. We met people from as far away as Maine and Boston, Ipswich and New Hampshire. They are for the most part 8-wheelers rather than inline skaters who avidly follow the rinks and exhibitions and competitions. A group was heading to New Jersey the next day for a skating extravaganza of some sort there. On Tuesday, the adult skate is in Beverly. Only the most daring go to Saugus because it does not have an adult skate so you could be competing with fearless little kids for your section of the rink.
People were very friendly, coming right up to talk without knowing who we were or why we were there. Though getting names from everyone is hard with the pulsing music tracks and because the people who spoke with us were mostly part of a Meetup group from Boston that assigns nicknames to everyone. The leader of the group Steve OB1 is former military and during the rest of the week teaches physically challenged people to skate and ski. Here he offers advice and instruction to those whose only challenge is being fearful. John “Poetry In Motion” is a lumberjack with graceful long lines and ballet-like moves. JD shared his story about battling cancer and being unable to walk, but he discovered that he could skate, an activity he’d loved long ago. Skating has helped him build up his strength, and as he energetically rolled by no one would ever be able to tell that he suffered from any physical limitations.
Carlo said he was into performance skates for a few grand at this point. But that’s for the advanced devotee. It’s not exactly “Free”-wheeling but it’s pretty close – $7 to get in, $3 for rentals. Watching the smiles and seeing the laughing people enjoying themselves without alcohol reminded THOH what it felt like to have the wind blow our hair back and how the crossovers worked. We wistfully walked by the rental counter as we exited wondering where in the attic the skates ended up, because true to Carlo’s word, The Heartbeat of Haverhill did want to skate. But with two cameras and a looming deadline, THOH had to settle for “next time”, too.
Give it a try, and let THOH know what you think.
(c) 2014 by Alison Colby-Campbell
MEETUP Meetups are a franchise group of adults who want to get out and meet new people, try new activities and have fun. It’s not a dating service; it’s a social group with 18.9 million members worldwide and nearly 173,000 groups. There are several Meetups groups in Haverhill to support a variety of interests. http://www.meetup.com/about/
SKATELAND , 19 Railroad Ave, Bradford, MA, 978-372-3050, http://skateland.com/index.html