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Skating Away:

I had not gone ice-skating since I was about seven. It was at New York’s Central Park rink and at one point, I strayed on to the area reserved for figure skating. A security guard swooped down and picked me up to get me out of the way. I was so frightened by the big stranger that I never skated again.

Last year, when Starbucks and the City of Santa Monica created an ice-skating rink in the downtown area, I watched skaters in envy but did not dare to try. I could only envision myself getting hurt and being out of commission to cover important stories for the Mirror. I imagined the headline:

Mirror Reporter Skates, Breaks Leg

I saved my energy for action, not for traction, and the opportunity passed.

So this year, when the rink opened in November, I plucked up my courage and went to the Ice at Santa Monica rink on a sunny Sunday after Christmas. I went up to the rental booth and paid my ten dollars for a pair of size seven skates.

I thought I would spend an hour just getting the skates on my feet. I remembered I had to loosen the laces and then retie them. Laced up, I rose to my feet and immediately grabbed a rail outside the rink. Whoa! I was trying to stand on two thin blades.

Digging in to the carpet at the entrance with my blades, I entered the rink. For about the next fifteen minutes I shuffled back and forth holding on to the rail. People had to move around me. Little kids held on to the rail too, but they all had Mommies and Daddies to help them. Everyone out there seemed to be from a family. Few were the adults who ventured out alone and fewer still were those old enough to remember when the songs on the recorded background music (by artists like Elvis Costello, Genesis, Blondie, etc.) were new.

The ice beneath my feet close to the rail was very slushy and bumpy. But I didn’t dare let go the rail. Out there in the center of the rink, kids and adults skated like they were strolling down a garden path.

Then I began to experiment with letting go. I held up my hands and moved forward. I kept close to the rail just in case. More and more, I moved forward without holding on, one foot in front of the other, both feet gliding together.

It’s hard to remember the moment when I realized I was ice-skating, for heaven’s sake! I went around others still clinging to the rail. I put my hands behind my back and skated. I sang along: “Is she really going out with him?” “We got the beat!” “She’s a Maniac, Maniac and she’s [skating] like she never [skated] before!”

I only fell once – I was trying to go around a father and son and I overestimated my “swoopability.” But I fell on one knee and got right up.

Maybe it has been all that Yoga, the standing on one leg exercise that I do (almost) every morning. I circled the rink nine times and then decided not to push my luck. My legs felt a little bit tired but not as achy as I had feared.

I’m probably going to do it again before the rink closes on January 19.

And then there’s next year.

Ice at Santa Monica is open through January 19. Hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m. every day. $10 buys skate rental and a wristband good for a coffee drink at local Starbucks branches.

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