AFTERWORD Between the Ears Rollerblades, Vladimir Nabokov, and a theory of geography BY PETER LA SALLE With a pair of used Rollerblade Lightnings that cost me 50 bucks and a hockey stick bought at a local Target Store, I like to go out to the concrete tennis courts at a small park in my Austin neighborhood. I dribble around a yellow rubber ball \(especially high-impact yet without winding up for what’s left of my slapshot. A whack at the ball, then the clank of the thing against the chain-link. To realize again what I learned early in my own ice-hockey-playing days up in Rhode Islanda slapshot is surely more theater than anything else, devoid of much accuracy, but what a solid rush to the overall explosion of it, anyway. Usually nobody is at the courts. Or I time it so I will be there when I know I won’t have to make my apologies to people who show up with tennis rackets, telling them, “I’m just leaving, really.”After all, the courts are there for that game and not the indulgence of a skating baby-boomer in old chinos and an old dress shirt; I wear “long clothes” to ward off the reportedly ravaging harmful rays. Weekdays in the late afternoon, when I can slip away from my job at the University of Texas, are good, before most everybody else gets off from work. And in the autumn, Sunday afternoons are perfect because everybody is watching footballbetter, of course, when the Cowboys are on. I skate, and skate. Not that I was easily won over to the pastime. As somebody who had played on at least one championship ice-hockey squad \(OK, it was only the Harvard East Yard team that won the freshman been living in Texas for 15 years and I certainly didn’t want to reduce myself to that kind of skating. Naturally, I had seen the whole rise of the phenomenon. For a while it seemed to be just the usual sight of a couple of teenage girls who had rented old roller-rinkstyle skates, those front-and-rear-axle standbys and not in-lines. They might be gigglingly wobbling past the street circus of vendors and panhandlers on Austin’s so-called “Drag,” the commer cial strip facing the university. Then, within a few years, everybody seemed to be on the new in-lines, with one kid showing up to one of my own classes wearing blades one dayhe claimed they were better than a bicycle for competing with the ten-minute inbetween-classes rush at a place as massive as U.T. But I didn’t give in. Actually, for some reason I never as much as brought my hockey skates to Texas. I suppose I could have given it a go at the indoor rink that used to be smack in the middle of the cavernous Northcross Shopping Mall.There, I must admit, I would sometimes be shopping, and more than once I stopped to leisurely inhale that almost holy refrigeration smell from the frozen oval, powerful enough to transport me back to my own kidhood. \(Was there ever anything better than the sheer adventure of scrimmage at the local rink at one AM on Sunday morning, when I was in boys’ school in Rhode Island and the ice was cheap to frank, I kept my skates in a closet at my sister’s house in Rhode Island; the high Penny Van Horn point of my athletic year was definitely flying up to New England during the winter semester break and skating with my old buddies from college. One of them lived in a woodsy Boston suburb with a pond that was favorably mentioned by Thoreau in his catalog of ponds in Walden, and our hockey was always a wonderful little party involving wives and kids too. In short, I know I was more than a purist about the whole thing. 5/23/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
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