Before leaving for Qatar I did something I've been meaning to do for the past 30 years. Get a real job, you ask? No, nothing that responsible or drastic. I may have mentioned once or twice that as a kid I used to skate. To be more precise, I was a figure skater from the age of 10 until the year before I graduated from high school. Like everything in my life I was a passionate skater who trained year round with a coach, leaving school everyday from about 11 in the morning to drive to distant rinks, train and then returning home around 6 p.m 11 months of the year. Now, I can hear some of you smirking and saying to yourself that I'm just a copy cat and that Vera Wang is the only skating designer who may or may not have been a contender for the gold medal or a shoe-in member of the U.S. team if not for her A.P. English class, SAT tutoring classes or ballroom dancing lessons in preparation for her debut.
Well I was another designing figure skater or vice versa. Skating was my life and the thing I wanted more than anything with the exception of becoming the first chair flautist of the Boston Symphony or a member of the U.S. Equestrian team for Dressage, and if those things didn't gel, then a really successful fashion designer who also writes, or vice versa. From the moment I saw Peggy Fleming win gold at the '68 Olympics, I knew that sport was for me. Like Vera, I didn't make it to the top of the podium, have the thrill of international judges holding up scores of perfect 6.0 (the old judging system). Nevertheless, I had the thrill of becoming a pretty good skater with a few medals to hang on my wall. My strength was as a free skater and less so compulsory figures, which is something one never even hears about anymore. I was a jumper with a handful of nice big lofty doubles. Triples were a little beyond me unless I over did things and over rotated a double. I never mastered a double axel but my single had a nice big open delay and covered some serious distance.
The point is that skating was a way of life and still something that haunts me. I think about it and dream about it to this day.
I had a dream just before my trip that I've been unable to forget: There was a group of people I was wandering with through a barren field covered in a dense fog with mounds of snow and reeds everywhere like a bog in winter. Out of nowhere I see the remains of boards around what looks like a derelict skating rink some distance off. Like a magnet it tugs at me and I'm running through the marshy snow to see what's there. At the edge the mist is just floating above a surface that is like dark grey glass; perfect, untouched ice. (every hardcore skater's wet dream...) Next thing I know I've pushed off and am gliding across the surface in skates with blades that just cut so perfectly I can feel and hear them slice with no resistance. The ice opens before me to reveal a huge area without boundaries. I'm skating the way I used to, turning, jumping and spinning. As I look down at my feet I see that breaking the surface of the ice are a multitude of water lily blossoms large and open the color of silver. It gives me such a feeling of joy that I start skating loops around them and spinning in every possible position. Then I woke up.
What does it all mean? I can't say. All I can say is the next day I found myself at a store downtown ordering a new pair of skates. I took my old ones with me to show the man in charge and he agreed they were best kept as a memory. I was fitted for a pair of boots and ordered the blades like my old ones to match. When I got back from Qatar I went and picked them up. These skates are so beautiful and the blades are astounding. John Wilson Pattern 99's with a toe pick that takes no prisoners. If there's anything I wish for in skating again it's to learn how to really center my spin and do another axel. Spinning was always a weak spot for me. I couldn't hold the center like so many others around me. I'm determined to find that center. Even I am not blind to that glaring metaphor. A secret wish is to find a guy who is a strong pair skater. The only time I've ever wanted to be a girl is when I watch pairs do death spirals. The girl has such a cool position in that element and I want to feel what that's like. Wearing a dress or make-up doesn't move me, but being the partner in a back outside ( NOT inside back or forward inside... I'm a purist.) death spiral would be my idea of heaven. This has little to do with fashion or fashion criticism/commentary, but everything to do with the things that make me tick creatively, spiritually and just stuff I LOVE. I will give my new skates a test drive next week and will probably have more to say on the subject then.
For the record I had an interesting week upon my return from Qatar. I was invited to participate in a symposium at FIT on "Fashion Icons and Insiders". As that topic is one that I instinctively bristle it was a lot of fun to have the discussion with Eric Wilson from the New York Times in front of an engaging audience. I was very nervous going into it but it went well and the audience seemed to enjoy it. Eric is such a pro and so intelligent. He's a fascinating person to have a conversation with and I would gladly have continued talking well into the night.
I'll look for you all at Sky Rink or World Ice in Flushing where I hear lies the "purrr-fect" surface!
* Blur: a short film by Mark Dennis