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Saturday, February 18, 2006

When Phoebe or Liam get invited to a roller skating party, we always RSVP with a yes. I grab a totebag that contains my skates, which are equipped with Krypto street wheels and hardware dating back to 1976. They're about shot, but then so am I. Last summer the right front truck dropped off while I was executing a wide curly-Q (curlicue? curliqueue?) on the sidewalk by the Lafayette Hotel, and I went sprawling. My important bits (knees and wrists) were protected by pads and steel shanks, but I got a fabulous sidewalk burn on my calf from the accident.

I have been on rollerblades once, and know when I'm over my head. It's skates for me. Wider wheelbase, slower speeds, more maneuverability. Most of the older kids at the rink last night were on blades, and they were careening at twice the speed they should have been, with half the control they should have had. Almost lost my dear digicamera to a near-collision with a boy zooming by. Teen-agers are more comfortable with hairsbreadths than I am. I bark at them like a surly old dog until they give me a wider berth. Watch it! Maybe you're immortal, but I've figured out that I'm not.

I used to skate in college, commuting from the Radcliffe Quad (aka Siberia) to classes and friends' dorms along the Charles River, and occasionally skating all the way to MIT and downtown Boston. I had to look sharp when I got on the subway, and hide myself in a crowd, then tuck my feet under the bench, or the conductors would bust me for skating on the train. I skated in any weather except wet or snow, and thoroughly enjoyed weaving in and out of stalled traffic, leaping from street to sidewalk, looping backward around parking meters, and rolling wherever I went. My instructors adapted to my odd mode of transport, and tolerated my wheeled feet, once they realized that I wouldn't crash or fall. The dining hall ladies were cool, too. I used to fetch coffee for people because it was fun to take a tray of coffee cups around like a waitress at a diner. It's much easier to skate with a tray of drinks than to walk with it--smoother. The great evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr once reprimanded me for skating with a drawerful of bird specimens at the Harvard MCZ. But then he watched me for awhile and allowed as how I could still do it as long as I was careful.

Phoebe is going to be a killer rollergirl. Hallelujah, here she comes.
Her feet are growing so fast right now that I don't want to invest in a third pair of shoe skates until summer, when we skate the sidewalks and bike path, so we're renting for the moment. Liam, on the other hand, went around the rink once, hanging on to me, and was done.
Liam doesn't want to do anything until he's good at it. Which makes learning to do new things kind of hard. But he amused himself watching other kids play air hockey.
When we put some quarters in the machine, he had fun
until Phoebe scored on him--D'oh!
Gotta figure out how to get Liam to loosen up a little. I'll put him in skates and pads this summer and let him learn little by little on the sidewalk. That'll help with skating, at least.

Mr. Gibeaud has been skating for over 50 years. He tightened up my trucks for me, and then presented me with my own personal wrench. It was a good night. Lots of laughs, good sore legs, no bad wipeouts.


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