Cyclops on Ice, and other lessons

Things I have learned over the past 24 hours:

If you have a strange incident where your left eye goes totally nuts, waters profusely, then becomes blurry and scratchy for hours, for unknown reasons, this is an excellent time to go skating in a big, unruly General Skate crowd, to test how good your one-eyed-reaction-skating is under pressure.

If you’re not at Mamasita, the brilliant Mexican restaurant tucked away at the top of Collins Street, but arrogant enough not to take bookings, by 6.15 pm, you either have to suck it up in a long queue down the street, or not.

“Not” can be a good option.

Pelligrini’s back room remains a lot of fun and with excellent pasta, if the Italian Waiter’s Club is also full (What’s going on with all the CBD dining, peoples? It’s early January?)

Pelligrini's, Bourke St. Sit out the back.

Falling backwards, mid-pivot on your wrong side, hurts as much as it ever did.

My wrists remain unthrilled with landing hard on ice. But thankfully are strong enough to escape only mildly strained.

Blood & Sand has definitely moved into First Place in the Nicko Place List of Excellent Cocktails. It’s Scotch whisky-based, with blood orange mixed in, and I’ve had it at two venues now (CollingwoodWorld and Lily Black’s) and both were awesome. (The Flaming Lamborghini remains my popular favourite for potentially dying while attempting to drink a cocktail for the entertainment of a crowd).

The Latin for “I will be on my portable communication device” is “Ego meum consilium Donec vulputate“.

Some people don’t like General Skating sessions when there are seemingly hundreds of kids on the ice, all strapped into rental skates and yellow bibs, with no idea of how to skate or which direction to even attempt to go. Me? I love it … working on your tight turns can be helped by weaving through witches hats, right? Well, imagine how good for your on-ice reflexes are metre-high witches hats that move, flail their arms, lurch in random directions and often splatter onto the ice right in front of you. Nothing but fun.

Non-skating witches hats.

My dog has a much higher pain threshold than I do. Her stoic acceptance of a Big Achilles has been an inspiration.

Icehouse staff who stand at the goalline, looking terminally bored, while learner skaters go in all directions, as against the one direction, and then make a point of coming over to growl at you for leaving the ice by the gate nearest the lockers, instead of the gate with 600 people trying to squeeze through? … Well, let’s just say you’ve got a great career as a petty bureaucrat coming up, dude.

Bike couriers have an entire world and culture that I was unaware of, but is actually cool in many ways.I now just have to work out how to weave this knowledge into my new novel.

My pivots and hockey stops are definitely coming along, but I have – dammnit! – somehow become that thing I didn’t want to be: a one-way turner. Turning left, right foot in front, hockey-stops and pivots are getting there. Going the other way? Not so good. Yet I feel like I’ve worked on both equally and tirelessly. How did this happen? Sigh. More ice will be eaten before this one is done.

I need to get to more Come & Try and Stick & Puck sessions so I can skate in full gear and have less fear of damage. Bowing to peer group

The Blood & Sand cocktail. Photo by me. Arty, huh?

pressure, and the fact I don’t actually fall very often any more and can’t remember when I last whacked my head, I’m now hitting General Skates in only elbow pads and hockey gloves (gotta write a novel by October = can’t afford a broken arm just now; uncool fashion or not). But to really step up pivots, and to attempt hockey stops at speed, I’m going to need to have the full armour, so when I splatter, it’s the gear that takes the brunt. Maybe I should sell tickets? Hand out Blood & Sands while the crowd watches me fall? This could be an earner …

The Icehouse hasn’t scheduled anywhere near enough classes for First Term this year, and is squeezing all of it into a Wednesday night. I’m going to have to fight harder than for Falls or Big Day Out tickets, just to get a berth in Intermediate and Dev League. You’d swear they don’t want this sport to take off the way it is. Which would mean I’d need to instead write a blog about Tennis. Nobody wants that. Least of all, me.

Stop, in the name of love (well, hockey)

The hockey stop. It’s one of those annoying manoeuvres that some people seem to get in their opening five minutes on the ice while others struggle for years.

I guess I’m somewhere in between because I’m closing in on a year, as against years. And I remain determined to master the bastard.

In fact, this move has been my main focus over the past two weeks. Even on Wednesday, when the Icehouse helpfully closed half the public rink so seven people – that number again, seven – could enjoy a curling Christmas party, as everybody else – speed skaters going in second gear, figures skaters having lessons, hockey players cooling down or warming up, general skaters and newbies wobbling around – all crammed into a space smaller than a public swimming pool. But icier.

I found occasional unpopulated corners of ice where I could keep working on kicking my heels, trying to snap my skates around to a sliding, sudden stop; arms held in front, as though holding a stick in front of my chest, so that my shoulders don’t move with the stop, just my hips and legs.

This is just one of the roughly eight million pieces of advice or teachings I have absorbed re the hockey stop. I’ve watched untold videos, spoken to skaters who clearly know their stuff, watched smartarse hockey players stop on one foot, or backward hockey stop or just go from 100 kph-zero in a nano-second, next to the boards.

It’s clearly a matter of feel and I continue to probe away at that sliding, hopefully horizontal, full-skate edge that becomes solid enough that I can dig in, really dig it, and not either feel my skates slide out, or stop dead so that the rest of me keeps going, sans ankles. I just need to dare to fully commit, and I’m determined to hockey stop on both sides. Many players are great on their preferred skating side, but wobbly on the other. I want to Jedi-stop both sides. Aim high, right?

In Chicago, a local player, John, who saved the lives of Will and I by driving us away from the mean streets of west Chicago to Gunzo’s hockey store and then back to where we were staying, admitted he took three or more years as a kid to truly perfect the hockey stop. That gave me hope (apart from the well-established fact that I’m no kid).

Even talking to the coaches, Lliam and Army, has left me strangely confused; as to whether the weight is on the front leg or the back leg, or both legs. It’s a pimped-up snowplough, yet the back leg plays a role. One of my Hockey Rookie mates, Chris, gave me a crucial tip when he managed to convey that I wasn’t getting my front leg perpendicular enough to my body (something Will, admittedly, has been trying to tell me for months), and I definitely need to snap my heels, so I don’t curl into the stop. Or do I?

One thing’s for sure: I need to keep wearing elbow pads and a helmet while I nut this one out. I actually haven’t fallen in two weeks, while working on the hockey stop, which either suggests I am tantalisingly close, or I’m not committing hard enough for death-or-glory stops that will solidify the move. Like the bastard that is the pivot, I certainly still can’t hockey stop at speed. From a cruisy pace, I’m not far away.

I’m close enough that I can feel how much fun it’s going to be when I finally get it. I reckon it’s the coolest move on the ice.

Tonight (Friday), a bunch of us were invited to train with one of the summer league teams, at about 10.30 pm. I am choosing instead to join my band of Giant and ex-Giant desperadoes for a night of drinking and shenanigans, throwing out any chance of Hockey Rookie of the Year. A price has to be paid sometimes.

And what the Hell, in honour of this quasi-Christmas party tonight, let’s get in the mood with the mighty Paul Kelly, and his anthem. Sing along, peoples.