This one caught my eye on Tumblr–can’t get past the Amish feel of the image. I wouldn’t want to be an Amish any of the time, but I especially wouldn’t want to be Amish in the winter.
Some things–like the bus that runs you down–you never see coming. When I was a kid, my mom used to torture me by taking me to the Ice Capades every year, year after year–until I was, I think, 13 and convinced her to let me bring my friend Kazoo. Instead of me sitting there sulky and miserable, I had a co-conspirator to cackle and sneer and chortle and guffaw. I remember they had some guy in a bumblebee outfit–a former Japanese Olympian, if memory serves–doing a routine, probably just to humiliate him, as if Nagasaki wasn’t enough.
We howled, “bzzz, bzzz, bzzz!” and garnered endless angry stares and silent rebukes from The Greatest Generation, all gathered so sternly about us. So ended an era, she must have thought. For me, it was like Moses parted the Red Sea. I was free.
I can’t say I’ve been indifferent to the sport ever since. The infamous Tanya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan thing couldn’t be ignored, especially when my job at the time allowed me to briefly (like, 90 seconds) meet Kerrigan, who was actually really nice, and Oksana Baiul, who was not nice, drank like a sailor on leave, and chain-smoked Marlboro Lights–in fairness all qualities I happened to admire, at the time; she seemed to weigh about 73 pounds, tops, though, but had a really cool white fur coat. White fox? Ermine? As usual, I digress.
I ate a bowl of spaghetti in front of the TV last night, since the kids were out and my wife was 10 pages from the end of a book, and got hooked on the free skate portion of the couples figure skating, and I’m man enough to admit it. Specifically, a pair of Russians called Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov blazed through a perfect routine–or what looked like a perfect routine to this old redneck–and just totally, completely, indubitably rocked it. When they finished, grim determination melted into exuberance, and the absolute cutest fist pump I’ve seen in ages. Yep, I was hooked. The unbridled enthusiasm charmed me utterly, especially in a sport in which the competitors are often firmly taciturn. A few minutes of commercials later, another Russian pair–favorites Maxim Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar–hit the ice. I’d seen them tearing things up in the shorter routine (oh, the horror–what have I become?) the night before, and expected them to have that same sort of grim professionalism, but this time–with the pride of their nation seemingly in the balance–they couldn’t keep their emotion and energy contained.
They didn’t look as technically, icily perfect as the night before. Indeed, they seemed possessed by some otherworldly force. I was certain that there was no way they could fall, nor stumble, nor fail. It had been ordained by a great power (God? Putin?). These folks owned the ice–or at least leased it, long-term, from Mad Vlad, and would not be denied. I must admit I was a bit jealous that I wasn’t Russian–if that makes sense at all. It would really have been something to cheer for these four athletes with the passion and conviction of nation with me.
We got home and rushed to the television last night as quickly as we could after my daughters’ swimming meet–which they crushed, again, thank you very much–kicking the dog out of the way and stepping on both cats in a fervor to get the old set warmed up for…Team Ice Dancing. Hell, yeah.
That fervor was tempered somewhat as the first athlete we saw, an American from Michigan–I won’t increase his shame by actaully naming him, spent an inordinate proportion of his performance skittering sideways across the ice on his ass. Now, I’m only an ice skating fan for three weeks out of every four years, and I know this Team Ice Dancing thing is new, but I’m pretty confident that ass-skating is not an official, sanctioned event. Sigh. It’s hard to be an ugly, jaded American.
That’s the kind of jerk I am. To be honest, I started out being snarky, but it takes a cold soul indeed to watch these kids–and the things they can do with a couple of butter knives duct-taped to their boots–on the ice: Sow Cows (surprisingly, not a Pig-Cattle hybrid, but just think of the possibilties! Monsanto?) and Sopwith Camels–normal sized guys throwing muscular tiny women around like they’re rag dolls–and catching them. Most of the time. I immediately began cheering for the Americans and hoping the other teams would fall and sprain something, a horrific realization undoubtably rooted in my Cold War Youth–you damned kids with your damned walkmans and Ugg boots can’t imagine what it was like, waking up every morning and wondering if today was the day the Russians were going to nuke us into oblivion, our only hope for salvation resting in the hands of Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson, and a bunch of cheese-eating high school kids from Colorado.
At that point, skating is the WORST thing in the world–except out comes some 70 pound Japanese boy–literally, 70 pounds, this kid absolutely has worms–and pulls off an amazing performance like something from X-Men. The dude can fly. As my dad used to say: I shit you not. Flying. Without a jet pack. . Yuzuru Hanyu is his name; breaking the surly bonds of Earth is apparently his game, and 97.98 was his score. I don’t know what the hell that means, but it was a lot. And oh, yes, he’s about 12 years old. Amazing.
The couples came on a little later–we didn’t see the Americans skate, which is too bad because I’m absolutely certain that the top American skater is an Alien. She may be wearing American skin, but underneath is some sort of Avian Space Creature sent here either to protect us or prepare us for our future as a food crop for invaders from the planet Aeriexopeia. She seems really nice–one of the networks ran a TV special Wednesday night on how awesome Olympic athletes are because their parents are so incredibly awesome–and her mom seems nice too, so I’m guessing she’ll lead the fight to save us from the evil, aquatic Humidorians. I’m not the only one who thinks this. I’m a little disappointed by that, but…I didn’t say she looks bad, just different and, frankly, the longer I look the cuter she looks. I hear she doesn’t so much jump but levitate, lingering in the air for seconds at a time because her birth planet has a gravity that is 1.2 of Earth’s–but when she touches down, she skates like an angel.