Thursday, November 11, 2004

Fire On Ice

During the highly awkward era between 8th grade and my sophomore year in high school, I had the unfortunate experience of taking ice skating lessons from a woman named Lorissa who lived in a trailor park, loved Sammy-Hagar-tainted-Van Halen, and often tried to do double axels while she was nine months pregnant. Even more unfortunate was the name of our little "ice skating club" that Lorissa tried to establish: "Fire On Ice." I hated this name, along with the accompanying black spandex pants, blue-or-white sequined belt, and big, baggy black t-shirt uniform that set us apart from the rest of the ice skating clubs--oh, wait, there weren't any in Provo; there weren't any in Utah County, for that matter. We were a step away from those high school pep squads and drill teams, from the masses of spandex-clad youngsters who perform at the Stadium of Fire, only our biggest gig was half time at the Weber State Hockey game.

"If you hated it so much," you ask, "why did you stay in it for all those years?" Like an unhealthy relationship with a human being, or with junk food, ice skating lessons were chock-full of a sado-masochistic pleasure. For example, Lorissa would sadistically force me to do yet another sit spin, while I groaned within myself, and masochistically did as I was told. She had a sven-gali (or is it jolly?) type hold over me, hypnotizing me to do things I would normally despise or at least laugh at in real life. I've already mentioned the black spandex uniform, but there's more. I wore little ice skating dresses with bright, tropical flowers on them OUT IN PUBLIC. She had me waking up at 4:00 am just to drive all the way up to stinkin' Cottonwood Heights and do "patch," a mind-numbing activity in which you use a huge compass type thing to draw a circle on the ice, then spend the next hour skating over it on one leg. I PERFORMED IN FRONT OF PEOPLE because of this woman.

The funniest thing is that this woman's hold on me was completely irrational. It's not like I wanted to be just like her some day. If anything, I ran from her lifestyle and her values. I mean, Sammy Hagar? Making us do a skating finale to "Right Now"? Stone washed jeans and ripped white t-shirts? She represented everything I was against in life. I dreaded our lessons like some people dread dying. Yet, I kept coming back for more. I tired to break free, but she kept sucking me back in with her little references to the Olympics in 2004, my athletic ability, my Nancy Kerrigan-esque grace. All of this was a lie, of course.

I think the moment that changed all of this for me was the half time performance at the Weber State hockey game. Students in the arena that night probably still talk about "that group of girls in spandex who looked like a bunch of bobbleheads out on the ice." I'm sure we are legendary up there, though I have never dared to show my face at Weber State since the dreaded "Fire On Ice Incident."

The ice was particularly slippery that night--or so we like to tell ourselves, to rationalize our humiliating performance. Our song was "Right Now." Our uniforms were the traditional black spandex. Everything was going according to plan: we were lined up according to height, waiting just off the ice for the music to start. My heart was pounding, and I may have leaned over to my friend, Amy, and said something unprintable; I can't really recall when the swearing took place.

Suddenly, it began: the crashing symbols, the intense, purposeful guitar, Sammy Hagar's oh-so-inadequate-compared-to-David-Lee-Roth's voice. As we skated onto the ice, one by one, I could just picture the caption "right now you are on the verge of humiliating yourself in front of an arena of twenty-somethings" hanging over my head, just like in the music video: Right now someone is stealing. Right now 70% of Americans are suffering from AIDS. I came out of my daze just in time to think "right now, two people are crashing into each other on the ice." And it was horribly true: tall skinny girl had crashed head-on into short stocky girl during the tricky direction-switch of the pinwheel. Chaos ensued. Instead of executing our jumps and spins, we executed each other on the ice: girls were dropping all over the place as we tumbled into each other in a disoriented stupor.

The crowd was loving this. They were cheering, laughing, pointing, taking every ounce of pleasure from watching us fail, and slide helplessly across the wet ice. Looking out into the crowd, I only remember seeing a sea of rugby shirts and plaid flannel, and a few demonic faces twisted in sardonic pleasure. Mercifully, the music stopped, and we skidded into a frenzied version of our pose: girls' arms sticking out every which way, some facing backwards, some flat on their backsides. The only sound was the last little scrape of an ice skate as Amy, pathologically late, got into her place in the middle. Then the crowd errupted. They clapped; they roared; they stood up for us; they stamped their feet. We stumbled to our feet, bowed sheepishly, and made our way off the ice.

Yes, it is accurate to say that this particular event broke Lorissa's strange, hypnotic hold on me. Amid the cursing and shouting, I recall telling Amy "I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN. I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN." And I meant it. My interest waned after Weber State; Lorissa moved away, and I haven't seen my ice skates in probably 8 years. But I still say things that are unprintable when I think about that awful night.


  1. If you still have the ice skates is there any chance you also held on to the outfit? I am thinking the white sequined belt could possibly come in handy during this holiday season... Maybe you could pair it with some jeans and a fun silk Christmas top and FINALLY feel as if you got something useful out of this whole Fire On Ice experience.

  2. Oh cletis! I never knew! For some reason I thought you were a young child when you talked about your ice skating years. I hope this blog has purged the pain, as I tried to do in my own Veterans Day blog.

  3. having just gained a state of semi-conciousness from a drug enduced stuppor. i read your entry. And, oh my word, it made me laugh so hard. Normally this is a good thing. When you have incisions on your abdomin... not so much.

    My only experiance with ice skating involves me crawling off the ice... so your story was impressive on many levels.

    Wow... I'm so drugged right now. Sorry.