Site Meter Peculiar Susceptibility: January 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What I can remember of it

The first figure skating tests I proctored were in UConn's old ice rink. It was exposed to the elements except for a boat-shaped roof and metal bleachers that were not, on that day, filled with the people that might have done better to block the wind a bit.


I had a knack for it - teaching children how to skate - because I worked hard (very hard) for every skill or jump or edge or spin that I mastered. I taught in those days in exchange for ice time. I spent a couple hours with the very little ones - toddlers, usually - who were always wrapped in bundle upon bundle.

The very first thing we taught them was how to fall.

Earlier this month, I stopped home for my brother's birthday (and for Jane Austen on PBS). I was standing at the woodstove with the dog and my mother said, in an off-handed way, "Chris Bowman died."

They called him Bowman the Showman:

When Chris Bowman skated this program, which is still a joy to watch, I was actively training as a figure skater. Very actively. Everyday actively. Going home and training more actively. Reading USFSA rule books actively.

I would read for homework standing with the arches of my feet pressed against the base of the desk. I had bunk beds at the time. I slept on the top bunk so that, before I went to sleep each night, I could drape my spine over the edge until its bend would approximate 90 degrees.

It was in the early 90s that my mother and her friend Holly took me to see the Stars on Ice tour. Holly was the adventurous one of the three of us, convincing us to sneak down to some unoccupied third-row seats. She also convinced us to go backstage without passes.

At that point I was already almost my full height. (I grew fast and early and coaches were always muttering things like "You'd better hope you don't get any taller" or "drink some coffee - stop growing.") It was backstage, meeting these people that I realized how short they really are - and how doomed my already dubious skating aspirations were.


It was the edge of an era for skating. They were about to do away with the very practice that gave the sport its name:

I was not a showman. I loved figures. They played to my obsessive streak. (In case it's not clear from the clip, you're expected to skate exactly in the rut of your last run, presuming, of course that your last run was perfect. I spent hours and hours practicing this, establishing the muscle memory of a perfect arch.)

Despite my desire to be a showier, more physically adventurous skater, this is the program I remember best.
Torvill and Dean "Oscar Tango":

[Just a quick aside: how could you possibly think, as a commentator, that it was a good idea to yap through that program, which was so clearly about hearing blades on ice? Just let the Brits be postmodern.

The roof of the old UConn rink - now renovated into an ugly arena - gave the place strange acoustics. I knew all the boys who used to drive the zamboni, so they would let me on the ice at the end of the night, after it was cleaned for the next day. I would go out to the center, do a couple figures, and then stomp my blades. The whole place reverberated with the sound.]

You'd think, with all that practice falling, and with all that practice negotiating perfection, that life, now, that all of this would be easier.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


I have a bit of a fraught relationship to New Year resolutions. As a young girl, I would resolve to be more kind (a totally unnecessary goal) or to work harder at school (again, I was already earnest enough as to render this completely silly). By the time I started taking Latin (I was ten), I would mutter things like - "New Year resolutions are irrelevant - they're based on the Julian calendar, which is arbitrary and impirialistic." I spent much of high school not eating, thereby making extraneous any kind of resolution about dieting.

[When I imagine my earnestness as a child, I sound something like Marjane Satrapi imagines she sounded:]

Last year, I decided to revisit the idea of resolving myself to something. I went against my character, though, and decided to resolve to do something that would make my life more joyful: it was to see more live music. [Some quick highlights: Santogold, Neko Case, Aa, Wolf Parade, Band of Horses, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cat Power, Shearwater, Grizzly Bear, Okkervil River, The National, Feist, Richard Thompson, Carl Blau, Ian Thomas, Camera Obscura, Duran/Schloss/Mitri, Yo La Tengo, Bill Callahan, Sir Richard Bishop, Richard Buckner, Damien Jurado, Ladybug Mecca, the Mountain Goats, Vic Spills, Burnt Sugar, Modest Mouse, The Winterpills, Mates of State, the Drones, Saul Williams, et al, et al, et al.] For what it's worth, it worked. It made my life feel more full; it created a context in which I found myself able to revel about beauty and creativity.

I thought I would continue the practice of making a resolution that would result in the sense that I lead a more complete life. I had been making all kinds of grand proclamations over the past two weeks not settling in 2008.

settling clerks, clearing deposits with systematic zeal

I thought to myself, and I may have repeated to others, that in 2008 I will not settle for acquaintances that are unsatisfactory. I will not settle - or pay a rent in - a city in which I don't want to live. I will not put myself into situations that are not fulfilling (and certainly not into situations that are derogatory). I will not be complacent in the face of my own mediocrity.

But it dawned on me, as I was looking at the etymology of "settle" for this entry. I haven't reconciled myself in 2007. To wit:
- I wanted to be a more active poet, so I created a writing group, I started a blog, I made a couple dozen submissions, I attended every reading I could schedule in, I talked with writers every chance I got, I read voraciously, I drafted a book. I DRAFTED A BOOK.
- I was uncertain about the career path I am taking and so I made arrangements to teach college courses, I have actively researched other possibilities, and I have found other aspects of my life around which to center my identity.
- I felt incomplete and underdeveloped returning to Connecticut. [Stalling, here, for time before an embarrassing confession...] Looking around my house, which I have inhabited for just shy of a year, I notice that I have not settled. Not in the least. I have neglected to get the two or three additional bookshelves I require. I haven't reupholstered the couch. I have art and mirrors leaning against the walls on which they would look best hung. (Truly, they're placed exactly below where they ought to hang; all it would require is a hammer and some nails - I've got those; I even know where they are.)

What, then, to do but to build off this restlessness, this reluctance to set false roots.

And so: 2008 is the year of (still) not settling. Not, at least, until I find that with which I can reconcile myself, content.