Site Meter Peculiar Susceptibility: What I can remember of it

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.


Meghan Maguire Dahn said...

And just because it's pretty to watch:
Yekatarina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, Calgary Long Program:

Meghan Maguire Dahn said...

Also, I could be persuaded, you know, potentially, to edit this post to include pictures of me from those days. But only if people try to persuade me.

betsy q. bramble said...

I just have a feeling that you are in some way targeting me with that last comment...I see what you are trying to do here. Even if YOU aren't aware of it.

Meghan Maguire Dahn said...

It's going to come out sooner or later. You know that, right?

LowBrow said...

This is a strange coincidence of sorts. Just last week my first girlfriend from, egads, 23 years ago contacted me out of the blue. She became an figure skating instructor after I met her. Freaky. Ok, maybe just for me. Anywho, nice to have another piece of your puzzle.

Meghan Maguire Dahn said...

We're a type, Tom, we figure skating instructors...

betsy q. bramble said...

No, I do not know that. Puh-shhh.

Oh and also, I was wrong about which figure skater Faith had a boner for. She told me his name but I forget it again, but it wasn't Victor.