Vol 17 - Issue 38 - Septembe E-Mail the Editor Printer-friendly Version E-Mail this story Small Text Default Med Large XLarge Text Russ Smith Jack Trask Eva Neuberg William Bryk Ben Phelps Jim Knipfel Michael Yockel Noah Sudarsky C.J. Sullivan Alexander Cockburn Christopher Caldwell Jim Knipfel John Strausbaugh Ned Vizzini advertisements By Noah Sudarsky Illegal Ice-Skating The sensation of being alone in the middle of the frozen lake in Central Park when the sun starts to peek over the Carlyle is stunning. You own the city, an eerily quiet ghost town looming over the icy wilderness. EMail Address SUBSCRIBE UNSUBSCRIBE I HAVE READ and agree to our terms and conditions. Submit MORE INFO advertisement It was snowing gently the last time I indulged in my favorite pastime, illegal ice-skating. The lampposts cast a warm glow over the powder. Ice crystals danced over my skates as I glided across the frigid expanse. The first solitary promeneurs hadn’t come out yet, leaving the snow untouched, and the entire landscape seemed to glimmer and shine. I brushed against straining snow-laden branches that extended like skeletal limbs, and skated up to a trickling stream that meandered through intricate, iridescent ice formations. It felt like I had stumbled into a secret corner of Wordsworth’s Lake District or the Black Forest, anywhere but the middle of Manhattan. Having strong survival instincts, I didn’t completely trust the ice sheet, even though it looked totally unbreakable after a record two weeks of arctic temperatures. I measured it with a small hand drill and found the thickness was 8 inches. A house could stand on 3. Nevertheless, to skate nowadays means playing hide-and-seek with the police, and the only time you can do it without a major hassle is at night or in the wee morning hours (which can involve breaking the curfew, a graver offense even than ice-skating). That day, though, I couldn’t resist going back in the late afternoon. The wind had brushed the snow off the lake, leaving a smooth, glistening ice sheet. There were two other skaters on the ice, Rick Moranis and his son, both with hockey sticks. They had an extra stick, so we played around for a while on the perfect surface before the cops interrupted our game and ordered us off the ice with blaring loudspeakers. We pretended to get off, then ducked behind a rock near the Ramble and started playing again after the squad car left Cherry Hill. It’s a big lake, we figured, and the cops can’t be everywhere. We were wrong. Pretty soon another cop in an electric eggmobile spotted us and repeated the command, threatening us with dire consequences if we didn’t comply. This time, we had a discussion with the young officer, but he had strict orders due to a few incidents of people falling through the ice over the years, and one fatality (a dog owner chasing his beagle–the animal survived). He wasn’t about to cut us any slack, but good public relations dictated an environmentally correct approach to the situation. "Global warming," he said with a fatalistic air. "The ice really can’t be trusted." We looked at each other incredulously. "You’ll have to get off, or I’ll give you a summons for reckless endangerment," he warned. Moranis was unimpressed. He’s a burly man who moves with the confidence of a quiet bruiser, totally unlike the characters he plays. Since his wife passed away, he has been raising his two children alone, a devoted father who takes his recreational activities seriously. While involved in a game of insurgent roller hockey earlier in the season with his son, he was nearly arrested because he refused to stop playing. The Parks Dept. had just put up bright green "NO HOCKEY" signs below the skating circle, but nobody took the injunction seriously. "We’d been playing there for years," he said. "Imagine one of the MacKenzie Brothers being booked for playing hockey in Central Park. You couldn’t buy better publicity." It was getting dark, and after one more subversive run across the Lake, Moranis and his son got off the ice. "They just want people to go to Wollman," the Canadian actor said, before taking off his skates. I tried to imagine the mob scene if Moranis went to Wollman Rink. I recalled going to Lasker Rink near the Harlem Meer with Daryl Hannah a decade ago. The place is deserted compared to Wollman, but it was hard to skate 10 feet without a bunch of kids asking whether she grew flippers in the bathtub. Rick Moranis is just as recognizable, and it was hard to envision him getting quality time with his son while being swarmed by a horde of kids. A few minutes later, my friend David, an ex-hockey pro, showed up and put on his skates. By that time it was completely dark again, and the police had stopped patrolling for rogue ice-skaters. We surmised they went into the Ramble looking for other things. "Rick called me an hour ago and said he’d be here," David said. "Where is that old Canuck?" "He just got off the ice." As it started snowing again, we skated beneath the bridge and the drooping, ice-laden limbs of a weeping willow to the deserted boathouse on the other side of the lake. Volume 14, Issue 7 ©2004 All rights reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced in any manner without written permission of the publisher.
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