SOME would call L.A.'s decision to build an outdoor skating rink in a subtropical zone a colossal folly. This very publication did so on Nov. 15, in fact, dumping the Department of Recreation & Parks' seasonal extravagance in Pershing Square into its "Overrated" section along with Taser parties and Takashi Murakami. I, however, adamantly disagreed with such Grinch-like disparagement. Call me crazy, but nothing says the holidays like 2,000 gallons of water coerced into an unnaturally solid state by a maze of antifreeze-laden tubing and a refrigeration unit the size of an 18-wheeler.
So it was with the kind of relish you can't spread on a hot dog that I headed to Pershing Square, ready to prove the naysayers wrong by getting absolutely jiggy on the slick stuff. My relish and my jiggy were both in for disappointment, though, once I spotted the Lilliputian rink up close. Whereas the full-sized ones I had occasionally traversed in my youth -- when everything seemed bigger -- are 200 by 85 feet, downtown L.A.'s is a mere 90 by 50, not even two-thirds the size of the Big Apple's famed mini-rink at Rockefeller Center.
But putting aside any feelings of rink envy in a burst of chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire cheer, I plunked down the $8 needed for a one-hour session and a pair of skates and hit the ice. I was underwhelmed.
For me, the fun of skating comes from picking up speed on the straightaways and gliding through the turns. But with such Enzyte-worthy dimensions, the Pershing Square rink amounts to an almost continuous turn, a cruel, unremittingly counterclockwise exercise in abductor-adductor anguish.
Then I saw Ravin Rhodes, an inspirational young lady who, even at the tender age of 8, was blowing everyone off the ice with complicated flip-jumps, scratch-spins, sits, loops, sideward spirals and "camels" -- spins performed while holding one leg in the air.
Asking this future Olympian for a little advice, I got a useful tip for an alternative way to slow down into the turns. "It's just like skiing," she said. "You point your toes in." And suddenly, Santa got his groove back. The rest of my hour played out with all the Christmakwanzukkah magic of a snow globe set to blizzard.
While interviewing Ms. Rhodes and her mother after our session was up, however, I had to agree with her suggestion for the parks department: "Next year, they might want to build a bigger rink."
DOWNTOWN ON ICE
WHERE: Pershing Square, 532 S. Olive St., downtown L.A.
WHEN: noon to 10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays to Sundays; ends Jan. 21
PRICE: $6 per hour, $2 skate rental