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But then I bought that pair of secondhand Lightnings. No sooner did I lace them on than it seemed that, yes, I knew learning how to survive on them was going to be easy. As people had assured me, it was the same basic motion as that of ice skating. The inline configuration of the wheels worked like a real blade, as opposed to those roller-rink antiques that offered only a couple of little clumsy wagons on your feet. I did have to learn new kinds of stops, because plastic wheels on terra firma don’t gracefully skid sideways for braking as does sharpened steel across ice. Also, I had to get used to the disconcerting rumble if the pavement turned rough, plus pumping hard to ascend even the slightest incline, which reminded me of what I had never really dwelled on before: All ponds are level. Still, it wasn’t bad. In truth, it was damn good. And after three consecutive afternoons of not being able to log enough of it, sore muscles part of the fun, I wondered, as you do after the fact, why I had been so stubborn and foolish to postpone sampling it for as long as I had. Because now, as I said, I skate. And skate. Sometimes grade-school kids show up with sticks and skates, and I pass around a ball with them. Sometimes people in cars just linger at the stop sign beyond the courts and the park’s grass to stare at me, an oddity. Once a guy about 25, solid as a linebacker, stood off on the other side of the courts’ chainlink backstop watching me. Alone that day, I continued with my dribbling and slapping, smiling once when I rolled by the big-muscled specimen wearing what looked like weight-lifter’s tights. And I forgot about himuntil 10 minutes later I noticed that he remained there, watching me; the guy was slowly nodding. On the next loop around I stopped to chat with him. I offered another one of my set apologies \(I realize I must look weird indeed indulging exercise, easy on the knees too when you get to be my age. But age didn’t appear to be an issue with him. As it turned out, the guy tried to recruit me for a loosely organized roller-hockey league he participated in on Tuesday nights up under the new Highway 183 overpass/interchange far north in the city. Despite my assurances that I \(grayplay, adding that I needed only one real tumble for the entire kit of fragile good health to crumple at my age, it made no impression on him. He asked me where I had played hockey, and I talked about Rhode Island and Massachusetts; he nodded some more. He somehow produced a wallet from those tights, and I somehow happened to have a ballpoint pen in the pocket of my baggy chinos for him to write on somebody else’s business card he took from his wallet. He jotted down the time on Tuesday evenings when he met with his compatriots for the competition, drew a little map with an indication, marked by a bona fide “X,” of the exact location for the games. Serious as ever, he simply said before leaving, “Think about it, manyou might change your mind. We’ll be there.” Things like that can assume giant proportions atto repeat it once moremy age. No, I wasn’t bonkers enough to drive out to some patch of rock-hard asphalt under an elevated sixlane and slam my way through the feverish play of a bunch of guys his age for a couple of hours. But I could take satisfaction in knowing that I still had my “moves”; I realized I had managed to look good enough, upon very careful scrutiny, that for definitely the last athletically recruited. I told guys I work with about it, noisily bragging to them in the corridors of the English Department building, sad to say. However, here is the best thing, the metaphysical stuff, maybe. One Saturday afternoon I went again to the park. It was a thoroughly beautiful late-March day, bluebonnet season. The trees dripped the costume jewelry spangles of first budding, some kids were being guided down the plastic slides by their moms and dads, over by the empty swimming pool that, baf flingly, wouldn’t be filled till Memorial Day. I sat on the bench tugging tight the laces, and I figured I would have one of the two courts for my skating. The other was being used by a bunch of rugged men speaking Spanish; they were guys who seemed to be from a work crew, probably carpenters on a job nearby, and recently I had seen them there late in the day playing volleyball over a net they had brought with them. They themselves had seen me skating before, so the spectacle of my performance had worn off, and I smiled to them, several smiling back. I commenced with my workout, as they continued with their happy, and entirely noncompetitive, game. They must have been right off the job; most of them still wore work clothes, a couple had on straw Stetsons. Now and then they stepped aside from the court to sip from tallboy beer cans, and they had cranked up the sound on a pristinely customized white pickup with chrome moon hubcaps parked on the street the Austin Nortefio station blared bouncy accordions and drums. It was about eighty-five. But a dry, delightful eighty-five, before the soaking heat with humidity would back up from the Gulf later in the spring. There was something entirely right about it all. So, summoning the English professor in me, here is what I have been thinking. My specific experience in the park that afternoon surely echoed what Vladimir Nabokov \(most of us at least know the name of the author from the supposedly racy does in his last major work, Ada, written when he was well into old age. In that novel he creates for the loopy main characters a place to live in that isn’t exactly on the map. It seems a territory that in detail, incident and even language sometimes blends half the memory of the gone Czarist Russia of Nabokov’s happy youth and half the appreciation of the bountiful midtwentieth-century America where he had ended up living a pleasantly long chunk of his life, after finally having to flee Europe at the start ofWorld War II. Nabokov was maybe telling us that, 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5/23/03