I can’t remember the last time I’ve been through this much consistent rain. We’re facing the worst drought EVER. I get it. But tomorrow, or perhaps just for a few hours, I’d love to see the sun cut through the gray antimatter above my head. I’d like to avoid that panging odor of San Francisco concrete shitwater permeating through my mass transit commute. When it rains, all the MUNI busses remind me of muddy ice-skating rinks, minus the smiling parents and children.
My brother Gil and I took figure skating lessons for about a month at this place in Van Nuys. I was about 11, he was 9, and we were already too cool for school. We didn’t really make friends in our group, and my dad didn’t care. We spent most of our time racing each other and crashing into walls. It was winterland during the summertime. Our boots were green and brown and laced up to the ankles. We rocked the house.
I’ve never been that great at sports. Well not all sports. Just those which require balance. Or coordination. I don’t get soccer, nor do I understand people’s obsession with it. Ninety minutes to watch a bunch of overpaid guys run around on a field, back and forth, sweating like rabid puppies? Because it’s very likely that that game will finish 0-1, and I’ll more stimulation and gratification to stay interested. In that span amount of time, I could do laundry, make espresso, and learn about the weekly Torah portion, and Facebook stalk your sister.
Basketball I can roll; running is life; I get nervous when I play baseball but still enjoy it; chess is not a sport but something I’ll get into whenever there’s a table lying around and the Scrabble board is missing. But ice skating was fun. It was fun because I was good at it. The boy who can’t balance himself on anything can suddenly glide on a huge block of ice. His 145-pound frame resting on nothing but a millimeter wide sliver of metal. If that makes sense to you, then explain it to me.
Not being good at something, I naturally have little interest in keeping up. I go through moments where not following sports becomes something of a handicap. Here’s how it usually goes down:
“Hey, did you guys hear about the next Laker trade?”
(1) Reference something about the sport and sound intelligent. Ask question, and mention that you’re asking a question. Extra points if you make a false or made up metaphor. “My question is, who’re they getting that’ll play down low? Bynum is a junk bond trader and that cupcake knows it.
(2) Look vaguely interested in the topic, and mumble something agreeable. “Yeah, I mean, I’m just saying, what an opportunity to take the advantage.”
(3) If all else fails, my go to strategy is to sound so ignorant of the topic being referenced, the joke will deflect your very ineptitude. “How many points is a super touchdown?” In San Francisco, there’s some law of diminishing returns here, and this has not worked as well as I would have hoped.
So ice skating and Apples to Apples remain my hobby of choice. I haven’t gone ice skating since senior year of college, and it’s possible that drinking a bit beforehand contributed to a hairline fracture of the elbow. It had to. I will accept no other argument. Ice skating is the one thing I’m good at, and nothing will take that away.
But why am I holding onto that nostalgic memory of success? That one when you were young, you were king or queen for only a moment of something. It’s nice how that moment remains even crystal clear today. You still remember raising your arms when you were 12, better at something than everyone else. For a second, you simply owned. And it never goes away. We were absolutely convinced we would be dancers, painters, sport newscasters, travel writers, photographers, architects, car mechanics, pasty chefs and bookstore owners. Then we grow up. We grow out of our dreams, or let our dreams outgrow us. There’s no moral arc here – life moves and we can choose to move with it. We go through phases where we can accept change with a sense of realistic optimism, or devastating panic that the party’s crashing on us. But as you move, keep track of those times on the rink. No matter what, it will never disappear. It stays cold forever.