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.
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.
Central 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.
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.