It doesn’t count if you don’t fall down

I went out yesterday and bought myself a pair of ice skates. I haven’t owned my own skates since I was a child, although my friends and I spent about three years of our high school existence hitting the Oak Lawn Ice Arena every Friday night.

As an aside, this was actually much cooler than it sounds. Friday nights at the ice rink meant they turned out all the lights except for some colored mood lights mounted on the side walls. Then they planted a couple of rather massive speakers directly on the ice, and for several hours a DJ would blast loud rock and roll throughout the building. The place was filled with women who, granted, were usually dressed in outerwear, but many were cute and even if the cute ones didn’t show up it was fun to slam your friends into the side panels while Jimi Hendrix roared in the foreground.

Since that time, I haven’t skated much. I went back to the rink a few years after high school, and it was a shell of its former self—a bunch of kids skating in circles with all the lights on, some radio station playing through a tiny speaker in the ceiling. Like all things cool, my ice skating experience had been mellowed out by The Man.

But I’ve always liked ice skating. Note that liking something and being good at it are often two different things. I even went through an abortive phase a few years ago in taking my step-son Nick to the rink on Saturday mornings. One, I thought he might enjoy it, and two, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to know how to skate.

One of the things I’ve wanted for a long time was a pair of my own ice skates.

Don’t get me wrong. The Park District skates have come a long way since the worn out leather boots that we used to wear. The new ones are padded and much more comfortable, and they give better ankle support, which is a serious consideration when you haven’t skated in ten years.

But having your own skates means they’re always sitting by the door, ready for action. It means you take skating a little more seriously, even if you still suck at it. It means that when you do skate, you have a little more control over the quality of the experience. And it means less of a chance to contract some sort of fungal foot disease.

So I went to the local sporting goods discount store, and they had skates on sale for 25% off. I ended up with a pair of so-called “recreational” skates. The main difference between these and figure skates, from what I can tell, is a lack of a toe pick—that serrated thing at the front of the blade.

Truth be told, I was a little intimidated by the baldness of the blade. I’ve never played hockey, so I’ve never gotten used to hockey skates. I wasn’t sure how much my skating “technique,” such as it is, might depend on the presence of those tiny ridges. I should point out that I’m not so cool that I wouldn’t have been willing to buy a pair of men’s figure skates, but try finding the damn things in a regular sporting goods store sometime.

Today, I went up to the Oak Lawn Ice Arena. Not the same one that we had when I was a teen. The original one burnt down years ago. Don’t ask me how a steel building filled with ice can catch fire. I don’t know, and I probably don’t want to know. I suspect the answer has something to do with insurance and lots of kerosene. In any event, I went to the new one and skated my ass off for an hour-and-a-half this afternoon. It was cool. Well, at first it was cool. Then it got warm, and then it got downright toasty and wet. But I had fun, and if I keep doing this, which I will now that I have my own skates, I really will skate my ass off. After eating 75 lbs. of Christmas cookies over that last month, that can only be a bonus.

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