On my way to work this morning, I passed a guy in business clothes and a well-trimmed goatee. He was expertly skateboarding along the sidewalk, while casually smoking a cigar.
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Tagged L.A., WTF
8:00am on a rainy Saturday. I pull into the rink parking lot and see only a few of us are there. Two other adult skaters, both of whom are WAY better than me, are working with their coaches.
I get laced up and start skating around and around to warm up. Dan the Man is practicing a dance which is mostly backwards and fun to look at. He’s an experienced dance skater and glides around looking elegant–well, as elegant as a guy in an “Atari” t-shirt can–which is his case is pretty darn elegant. At one end of the rink, Frosty works with another experienced skater, a brunette around my age in a spangled dress who I will call Serena. She is one of my favorites, and possesses a great combination of devotion to skating with a sense of fun, and always with a warm smile.
We all pass small talk as we pass. “”I am working on my three-turn and it’s driving me crazy.” “Looks like the rain is keeping folks away.” “Nice crossover.” Just another Saturday morning at the rink.
Seeing these two made me think of all of the experienced skaters in the club, who have been nothing but encouraging and helpful to me as I learn this sport. It’s very clear on the rink when someone has less skill, but there are never the sideways glances or exasperated sighs one encounters at the gym. Skaters with years of experience go out of their way to praise a basic Glide Waltz or to offer suggestions when asked about beginning moves. They made room for my first shaky forays into skating backwards and later noticed when I began to do better. A brother and sister pair of team skaters take time out of working on a complicated routine to take a look at my sticky wheels. These are the people who watched when I did the Progressive Tango when my mom was visiting, and then surprised me by breaking into applause.
Technically, this is an individual sport and we are all competing with each other. In reality, though, we all compete with ourselves to get better. Maybe because of that, we skaters are free to support and encourage each other. And we do.
As I left the rink today a dad was bringing his little daughter in for kid’s skate class. I leaned over to her “I hope you have a great time skating today!” I said.
I remember, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when I could not do Mohawk Turns. I smile indulgently when I think of those times. My poor timid Former Self. I called the Mohawk my nemesis and feared I would never be able to do one EVER. Yes, I said my “Former” Self. My Current Total Boss Self can now do Mohawks a pretty easily. I admit that they aren’t the SMOOTHEST Mohawks you’ve ever seen, but I do them, and I do them every freaking time.
Now I am starting to work on stringing them together. First, I do a front-to-back turn, followed by a back-to-front, so I am essentially turning completely around while still moving forward on my skates. The goal is for my upper body to turn around in a single, unbroken motion, while my legs and skates are doing all the complicated lifting and opening and placing heel-to-heel required. Yeah, I KNOW it’s cool.
Once I master a complete turn on my skates, I will chain them together so I will be able to move across the rink while turning around. Sweet! This week, though, I’ll just be working on putting those Mohawks together into one glorious turn. The shouts of glee you hear echoing from Glendale will let you know when I get it right.
My adorable and totes fun mom visited the past two weeks, and we engaged in a whirlwind of gaiety and hijinks. Amongst the trips up the coast, the meals with friends, the movie-going and the many fervent discussions of how cute our new puppy is, she came to see me skate. I was VERY nervous about this.
This is the first time someone has come to see me skate since I started this blog. I have been writing about skating and talking about my progress for months, but now that someone was about to actually WATCH me, I suddenly felt I had made very little progress at all. Uh oh. Let me tell ya, lots of worries made themselves known as I attempted to drop off to sleep each night, jostling for position to be the biggest and most bad-ass worry of all.
- Will it all just bore her?
- Will she be disappointed in how little progress I’ve made?
- Will I fuck up in some obvious and horrifying way?
- Will my intermittent outside edges dismay her as much as they do me?
- Will I (my constant fear) look like one of the Dancing Hippos from Fantasia?
Of course, none of this happened. She enjoyed the whole thing–and came to see me twice, as a matter of fact. She had a great chat with Big D., met all my peeps at the rink and approached everything with her usual blend of intelligence, curiosity and enthusiasm. Granted, my mom is NOT an unbiased observer when it comes to her progeny. Her scale basically ranges from “wonderful” up to “perfect” with us. Of course, I know that my worries reflect much more how I feel I am doing than what others might feel. I knew that while I was worrying them, as a matter of fact, but it didn’t stop them from coming.
Seeing myself through her eyes, and discovering how much she noticed and admired, reminded me to be proud of what I CAN do and not so fixated on what I can’t. I can and should be hard on myself at the rink–but not at night when I can’t sleep. At night I will remember that the hippo ballerinas were damn good dancers, after all.
Had a good practice yesterday. When I got there, there were four of us on the rink, all working on figures in silence. There was something beautiful about each of us tracing our own small circles on the rink with stillness and concentration. Everyone was moving slowly, as one does in figures, each of us tracing the same kinds of lines in differing ways and on different spots on the rink and it felt like a dance. I was so happy to be part of it.
Yes, okay, I am still trying to get my outside curves back reliably. I am close–I have moments where I am right on the edge in a gorgeous arc, but I can’t keep it up.
The bitch of it is that I know EXACTLY what I need to be doing. I know where my body needs to be, where my balance needs to be and where my various limbs need to be–I just. can’t. make. it. happen….yet.
On the other hand, my one-footed Mohawk turns are becoming things of beauty and I also practiced some complicated Tango moves, which are a combo of scary and fun in equal measure. That place between fun and fear, where I am really pushing my limits, is an exciting place to be.
It isn’t that I haven’t been skating. I have. Of course I have. Been making some sweet progress, too. It’s just that, well, two weeks ago THIS happened:
Yes, we got a new puppy. Meet Chet.
So when I am not skating and home and sit down to write a post, my monologue goes something like this, “Okay, I wanted to mention the way the slalom exercise and how much it–wait, is he sniffing?Does he need to go outside, I better–no, he’s lying down. So, where was I? Oh, yeah, the sla–aw, look how adorable he is with that toy. Are you a good boy? You are a good boy. Wait, don’t chew the chair leg. NO! Good boy. Chew this rope toy instead. There ya go. So, the slalom–now he IS sniffing. Yup, he has to go out.”
Hey, can you blame me? I will say that work on my outside edges proceeds in a sluggish but forward pace and that this morning I was skating backwards on one leg for a full three count like a GANGSTER.