Vol 17 - Issue 38 - September 22-28, 2004

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
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
EMail Address
and agree to
our terms and
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
"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
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
No part of this website may be reproduced in any manner without written
permission of the publisher.