The Ice Capades

lake-placid-skating

Boys skating on Lake Placid, 1929

I got my skates sharpened and went ice skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park. Instead of getting in touch with my inner child, I got in touch with my inner curmudgeon.

Once a week, from the age of 7 to maybe the age of 10, from October to April, my mother took me and my brother ice skating. My mother and I had identical red plaid skate bags and white figure skates. My brother had a black bag and black figure skates.

Despite wearing white skates, I liked being on the ice. I didn’t mind falling or crashing into the side rails. I chased my brother around the rink, imagining that I was playing for the Rangers.

I don’t know why my mother stopped taking us skating. When I was in my thirties I decided to start skating again. I was going to buy a pair of black figure skates, but the guy who was fitting me told me that the best and cheapest skates in my size were boy’s hockey skates. I didn’t need to be convinced. I also bought a black skate bag.

Yes, the skate bag is made by "Transpack" and was bought way before I identified as trans.

Yes, the skate bag is made by “Transpack” and was bought way before I identified as trans.

I skated regularly for a few years, then I tailed off. I started working out at the gym. Gracie needed to let off steam at the dog run in the evenings. I only got to the rink once or twice a season. The last couple of years I didn’t skate at all.

The perfect time to skate in Central Park is at dusk, but I knew that if I waited for the perfect night to go skating then I would will miss another season. I looked at the Zamboni schedule (they close the rink for 45 minutes to smooth out the ice) and aimed for 3:00 PM.

trump-zamboni-wollman-rinkCentral Park’s Wollman Rink was built in 1949 as a gift to the city from Kate Wollman. By 1980 it was run down, and in need of renovation. The city closed it, promising to reopen it in two years. In 1986 it was still under construction. Donald Trump offered to take over and pay for the project, but with a profitable catch (he would build and run a facility on the site). The city ended up paying for the project but Trump’s company oversaw the construction and still manages the rink operation. Trump plastered his name all over the rink, and on the Zamboni (in the largest letters that would fit on it). New Yorkers still call it Wollman Rink no matter how many signs the Trump Organization puts up.

Pluto in Disney's "On Ice"

Pluto in Disney’s “On Ice”, see Notes.

The Zamboni was just finishing up as I tightened the laces on my skates. I held back for a minute to let the other skaters go ahead of me. The combination of freshly sharpened skates and smooth ice scared me. The first time around the rink I moved slowly and timidly. When I started to fall, I remembered to pull my arms in and crouch, instead of flailing, and I regained my balance (several times). It took 6 or 7 laps to stop wobbling, and it never felt effortless. It may take me a couple of weeks to find my groove.

My anxiety got in the way of having fun. I watched everyone else, trying to keep clear of the skaters who could neither steer nor stop. For 45 minutes I dodged tourists taking selfies. I was envious of the experienced skaters, gliding by with their hands in their pockets, weaving through the crowd, completely at ease.

I realized I hadn’t been skating since the advent of selfie-sticks and Instagram. i saw a group of skaters ahead of me, posing in the middle of the ice. I skated slowly through their photo opportunity and headed for the exit.

Notes: This article, from 1986, on Trump fixing Wollman Rink, shows that Trump has not changed much in 30 years.

If you have a weakness for Disney cartoons, “On Ice” will take your mind off of all your troubles for 8 minutes.

15 thoughts on “The Ice Capades

  1. Lesboi

    I’ve only been on ice skates once in my life. It was a surprise for my birthday as a teenager that a few of my friends took me to skate. I spent the whole time hanging onto the wall trying not to fall and was thankful I didn’t break anything. I love to watch people skate but have no interest in ever putting on another pair of skates. I am glad you’re going out again and hope you get your groove back so you can enjoy it.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      My plan is to go more or less weekly for an hour and try to enjoy it more. I think if I feel more confident on the ice then it will be better and I will be better at ignoring the humongous TRUMP signs and the tourists with selfie-sticks. If not, I might have to go in the morning when there should be fewer tourists. In the worst case, I’ll buy a cigar and go play chess in the park with the old men…

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  2. Fredrication

    Grumpy or not, I’m glad you took time to go to the rink a it seems like something you’ve thought a lot about lately. Maybe next time you will feel more at ease and more steady at your skates?
    Last weekend I wen skiing for the first time in 10 years. I used to be very good, and I must say that felt like a champion compared to the complete rookie that I taught to ski. At least I felt like a champion until we left the training slope…

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      In the US we call the beginner’s slope the “bunny slope”. I never went downhill skiing but I used to go cross-country skiing and snow shoeing – I prefer to do things slower rather than faster (I like riding a bicycle uphill more than I like riding downhill) – probably due to my need to control everything…

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  3. Ariadne

    I always loved ice skating. Where I grew up (in Canada) all the girls had figure skates, and all the boys had hockey skates. They used to flood the soccer field of the elementary school in the winter to make an outdoor skating rink, and I would go down there alone after dark to skate under the stars. So magical! (Though sadly growing up with that kind of winter-wonderland experience kind of ruined skating for me as an adult because around here ponds/flooded areas don’t freeze solid in the winter, and I have no desire to go to crowded indoor skating rinks, even though I still like skating…) Anyway, I hope you enjoy rediscovering it!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’ve only skated at urban outdoor rinks – with piped in music – and lots of other people. I’d love to skate in Central Park when it was empty – but unless I rent the rink for a private party (prohibitively expensive) it won’t happen.

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  4. PlainT

    I used to figure skate from ages 4 to 8 or so. I got good at cross-overs, single axels, and a little bit at skating backwards. My mom wanted me to go farther but I got intimidated by the older crowd, opting to switch to karate instead.

    Never been to Wollman, though it’s not far from me… I ought to go!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is definitely worth going to Wollman – it is only $11 on a weekday if you have your own skates and bring your own lock for the locker. If you come on a weekend and rent skates and a lock it can get pricey ($30).

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  5. Widdershins

    I had a similar experience with tourists and selfies riding a bicycle a few years back. A bunch of them were standing in a gaggle right in the middle of a very clearly marked and dedicated bike path. I could see cyclists ahead of me swerving round them and probably saying unflattering things about their idiocy. Idiot tourists had recently become a huge problem so there were signs everywhere in many touristy languages – so no excuse as far as I was concerned.

    I was usually accommodating of such behaviour, but as I recall there’d been a slew of close encounters in a very short distance and I was losing my patience.

    Because of my knees I sit up rather high on a rather big bicycle and I am a middle-age butch of traditional size so I decided, in a moment of pure and vicious joy to go ten-pin bowling.

    I gave them several chances to move out of my way by vigourously tooting my air-bubble Winnie-the-Pooh horn. Early in my rediscovered love of cycling I found that it was louder and more ear-catching than the standard bike bell. I also yelled something tasteful like, “Get off the bike path, you idiots.” They stared at me like sheeple do and looked at each other, hoping someone would start the exodus a couple of meters to one side or the other. No-one moved. I gave them one last chance.

    “Comin’ through!” I shouted and did just that.

    Mrs Wids pedaling along behind me said I didn’t hit anyone, (Of course I didn’t have my eyes closed, butches don’t do things like that) but they did indeed scatter to the four winds.

    There may or may not have been great congratulatory applause from other bicyclists in front and behind me that day. 🙂

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    1. RonaFraser

      Widdershins — that was so awesome I had to read it out loud to my 2 officemates. Some people are SO oblivious!!!! I’m just glad you didn’t hurt yourself by crashing into any of those blockheads!

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    2. Jamie Ray Post author

      That is a great story. I would love to barrel through a gaggle of clueless people trying to curate their social media presence (as if anyone else really cares that they were biking on a trail).

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  6. Curious and Curiouser

    Girls getting white and boys getting black! I hadn’t thought about that for years! Why on earth?? Growing up in a very hot part of this continent, I lusted after white boot roller skates with red wheels. I never got a pair but my sister did (grr). They had a special name and now I’ll have to google it. Thank you for that little nostalgia hit – and for another moment of contemplating the ridiculousness of gender and colour 🙂

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Trying to get the boy’s version of everything was an important part of my childhood. I was especially concerned about getting black instead of red cowboy stuff (hats, boots, gun belt) and boy’s sneakers (rubber cap toe instead of pointy toe). I snagged a lot of hand-me-downs from my brother, but my parents still bought me new white skates ;(.

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  7. anexactinglife

    One of my best investments in adult life has been a pair of “recreational skates” to replace my old figure skates. Even now I hear women say all the time that they’ve stopped skating because they don’t feel steady on figure skates – no matter how tightly they are tied, they are not designed to keep your ankles supported. Recreational skates are like the hiking boots of skates. However, they still have toe picks which are easy to snag and trip on. So I am now getting ready to buy my first pair of hockey skates. It is my goal to learn how to do a hockey stop!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I love my hockey skates and I’m sure you will love yours too! However, I do not do a spray stop (I like the video though and when I get more comfortable I’m going to try it) I do a slow down stop. It always bothers me when I see people renting skates (a basic pair of skates is less than the cost of 10 rentals!).

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