Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rollerblading Inferno

I had heard about this group of rollerbladers in Tel Aviv for a while. They would assemble in some part of the city and go for a skate a few days every week. Until recently, I lacked any hard info on how to join them. Last Monday, I joined them for the first time.

I left work in a rush. I heard the group was leaving at 8pm and it can take a while to get to Tel Aviv during the rush hour. We opted to go through the lesser-used and speedier highway that runs through the West Bank. Many sections of the road have giant walls to protect drivers from bullets, rocks and other projectiles. Statistically, we would have a much greater chance of getting into a bad road accident on the main highway than have someone shoot as us on this road. Plus, we were late.

We found the assembly point around 8:15pm. We forgot we were dealing with Israelis - there's rarely a reason to rush to get somewhere on time. About twenty minutes later, with the tooting of a fog-horn, we were off.

I hadn't rollerbladed in a few years. When I did, it was mostly for playing hockey indoors. On top of this, I haven't done much exercise in the past few months. I got a bit weary looking around at everybody's fancy skates and big wheels (bigger wheels = greater speed). Not that mine are bad, they're just made for hockey and not for skating at high speeds and for long distance.

As the fifty or so skaters took-off, I felt reassured as most people were getting in my way as opposed to the other way around. Once we hit Dizengoff (one of the main roads in Tel Aviv), the group took over one of the lanes and the pace picked-up on the freshly paved street. The group has several skaters designated to skate ahead and block-off streets so that we would stop a lot less at red lights.

Trailing the group are several bikers that like to tag along. One of these bikes is a Disco bike. It has a little trailer with speakers on it that are attached to an iPod.

The longer I'm here, the more I see that the stereotypes presented in "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" are really true. Towards the end of the movie during the hacki-sack match, they have 'Disco breaks'. Disco lights come on, everyone gets out o their seats, bad dance music starts playing and everyone starts disco'ing.

Throughout the night that we were rollerblading, we would make short stops to allow everyone to catch up and take a short break (often in small courtyards or squares). The Disco Bike would pull up and use this opportunity, to blast some dance music while we waited. People didn't break into dance and the only flashing lights came from people's red safety lights. That was, until we stopped near the beach for a longer break. There were some religious Jews there (a shofar in one hand, a Heinni in the other and a Talis draped over their heads) who did decide to dance.

So there we are, about fifty rollerbladers and bikers, just off the beach. Disco music is blasting while some people are dancing, some people are drinking and the religious Jews are drinking beer and blowing the shofar. Two things popped into my head; this could be right of the movie and second, this is not such an uncommon scene for Israel.

The skate continued for a bit more, it ended up being a lot of fun and I'll try to start doing it every week. Of course, the skate itself finished at a Russian bar with all the rollerbladers inside (with their skates still on), dancing away to some really bad music on the disco floor.

This experience has inspired me. I'm going to start writing a post looking at the many, many stereotypes in the movie and see how close to reality they are. If you haven't seen the movie, I really suggest that you do. However, it's 'funniness' is proportional to how many Israelis have crossed your path.


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