I don’t know how to ice skate. What I do know, is how to fall.
Still, I’ve never been deterred by my body’s lack of graceful functionality. And even though most of my time on the ice is spent falling down and getting back up, I’m proud to say that I’ve awkwardly stepped onto many ice skating rinks in New York. Bruised butt cheeks and all, I take pride in knowing that I continue to face my fear of falling. I believe, subconsciously, it’s my determination to look like a blundering idiot which makes the experience all worthwhile.
It might be the reason why I’ve never learned how to ice skate. Even when I spent the entire winter of 2005 working at the Citi Pond at Bryant Park—which has recently changed its sponsor and was rebranded as Bank of America’s Winter Village at Bryant Park—I spent minimal time ice skating. (These days, botched robberies which escalate into unwarranted shootings keep me away from the Winter Village altogether.)
About a month ago, I received a newsletter via email from Nick Burry, CEO of the Northside Media Group (L Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine and BAMbill), informing me about the Open Space Alliance’s first annual Northside Holiday Market at the McCarren Park Pool. Bringing an outdoor ice skating rink to North Brooklyn through the end of December, with the possibility of extending its stay through January, seemed at bit comical to me. You’re essentially telling me there’s a good chance that I could witness someone skating in skinny jeans while sipping on a can of PBR. I’m not missing that. So I crashed the party.
Luckily, when I arrived at the McCarren Park Pool on a bitterly cold Friday afternoon, I was met with an underwhelming crowd at the entry. I could say I was astonished by the short line, but I wasn’t. It just so happened to be Black Friday and one could only assume that most people were spending their day fighting one another and trampling workers—in yet another chapter in America’s epic display of capitalism—for items they don’t need, but must have.
Of course, this happens the day after a holiday where they’ve spent their entire time trying to convince the world, through social media, that they are indeed thankful for what they do have. These were the thoughts that came to mind as I waited in line. I stopped analyzing America’s shopping addiction and ethical well-being as I paid my 13 dollars for entry and skate rental.
At this point it should be obvious that I’m not an expert on anything related to ice skating, but the Bauer skates being handed out were aesthetically one of the best I’ve ever seen. Better than the uncomfortable blue-plastic-shoes-of-doom I was handing out to customers at Bryant Park back in 2005. And yet, I nearly severed my right ankle attempting to put one of the skates. Oh, there’s no problem with the skates. I’m just a complete dumb ass. I had forgotten to loosen the laces. But just imagine if I, a grown man, would have asked another adult for help to do something as simple as putting on a pair of ice skates. It would have been embarrassing. Trust me. I know. It’s something I had to deal with at Bryant Park. It was cute when I was helping small children, not so much when I was assisting the child’s incompetent father. So, seeing that the tables had turned, I did what I hope anyone with a functioning brain would do: I figured it out on my own.
There was violence in the air as I made sure I had put my skates on properly. “Do you see any other kids crying?” asked an aggravated mother nearby. “Those kids are trying,” she continued.
Admittedly, that mother’s verbal abuse may have not only traumatized her child, but it could have solidified a future filled with failed relationships with women, however, it gave me the motivation I needed to get out there and glide like swan (or an ugly duckling). I thought I was ready, but as I prepared to board the icy plain, my childhood phobia of falling to my doom reemerged when a young boy nearly died coming off of the glassy snow land. Doubt set in and questions emerged.
Will I fall again?
Will all the hipsters smugly laugh at me when I do?
How did they manage to stigmatize kale?
All of those uncertainties faded with the indirect words of encouragement from a little girl. She came off of the ice with a pink coat wrapped around her body and a bright smile on her face. “I didn’t fall,” she exclaimed. Proud of her flawless achievement, it inspired me to strive for the same goal as I stepped onto the ice.
It was traumatizing, yes, but I continued to make my way around the ice rink. Memories of falling down at Bryant Park and Wollman Rink returned with each child dropping to the ice like a casualty of war. It was like a battlefield out there. In one swift instance, a young woman accidentally collided with the same young boy that had fallen down earlier. His cries were so gut wrenching that I nearly dove into the large, empty pool below to escape the madness. I didn’t. I needed to move forward with my mission which was…a success.
I didn’t fall.
I celebrated by treating myself to some hot chocolate. Yum.
Featured image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Enrique Grijalva