Week 2: Ice Skating and an Open Mic Night
On Friday, I was (finally!) sworn in as a member of the District of Columbia bar. During the opening remarks, one of the judges quoted Thomas Jefferson – “But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.” I believe that Jefferson’s words perfectly capture the goal behind my 52 New Things resolution. In sum, I hope to enrich my life by being a student of all things – in 2013, 2014, and beyond.
As I’ve mentioned previously, experiencing one New Thing each week is just a minimum number. This week, I decided to try two New Things – ice skating in the National Sculpture Garden and attending an open mic night. I confess that I’m cheating a bit because I’ve been ice skating once before when I was ten-years-old. I can tell you now, though, even if I vaguely remember my last experience – my legs certainly do not!
Ice Skating in the National Sculpture Garden
I am a bit Awkward and Clumsy. It isn’t unusual for me to sport impressive bruises on my shins that line up with the edge of my coffee table. And you can’t tell me that ice skating is altogether safe. When they were still dating, my Brother-in-Law took my sister on a romantic date at the local rink; the couple ended up spending the night in the hospital while my Brother-in-Law was treated for a concussion. He has a lasting souvenir from that night – a crescent-shaped scar framing his left eye. Remembering this particular story from the annals of our family history, I approached my next adventure with enthusiasm but not without some trepidation.
After a brisk 1.5 mile walk from home, I arrived at the Sculpture Garden. The skating rink was rigged up with lights and filed with smiling couples. Unfortunately, I arrived alone. My friend Sam (a different Sam from my NYC adventures) had agreed to meet me but was running late. However, I was eager to make full use of my limited time before the open mic night at 8:30pm. I stepped tentatively on my skates towards the edge of the rink. With one arm on the railing, I inched both feet onto the ice. Feeling immediately unsteady, I had a mental image of my legs flying out from underneath me followed by a crushed tailbone. I tried – and failed – three times to get onto the ice. Apparently, I’m a coward.
Thankfully, only when lacking an audience! Sam arrived. I quickly handed off my purse (with an instruction to take pictures) and eased onto the rink. After an awkward start, I picked up speed and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Several school children laughed as they cut sharp turns in an effort to create a spray of ice. Though impressed, I decided this was too ambitious of a move for me.
Miracle of Miracles, when it came time to head to the next venue, I had managed to skate for 20 minutes without falling. My tailbone was safe!
Open Mic Night (Stand-up Comedy)
Next, Sam and I met up with our friend Denise at RFD in Chinatown. On Thursday nights, RFD hosts an open mic night for amateur comedians. Now, I am definitely what you call “a talker.” However, I have yet to achieve the kind of bravado and self-awareness it takes to perform stand-up comedy. The audience’s reaction provides an immediate and very public measure of a comedian’s success or failure. When a joke fell flat, the awkward silence that ensued was palpable. The participants’ recovery in these moments is one thing that distinguished them; the best of the bunch would shrug, make a self-deprecating remark (“Well, that was awful”) and move on to the next joke with a renewed fervor.
I was struck by the fact that many of these people – who quite literally had me “in stitches” at certain points – spend their days in humdrum office jobs. I imagine that comedians must be acutely aware of their surroundings and adept at finding the humor in everyday situations.* A comedian’s cognizance is rewarded when an audience member’s face lights up because they identify with the joke’s theme.
*I’m speaking a bit from experience; in writing this blog, I’ve already learned to digest my new experience slowly and internalize the lessons therein.
We’ve all heard that “laughter is the best medicine.” Laughing for three hours straight certainly seemed therapeutic after a long week. However, it seems that comedy is also infectious. While in line for the girls’ restroom, another patron and I traded humorous stories. I felt myself sharing a bit of the bravado enjoyed by those on stage. As she exited the bathroom and returned to her table, she waved and shouted “You’re awesome!” I suppose my one-person audience was satisfied! However, I don’t think I’ll be bringing my witty (?) banter to the stage any time soon – I will leave that to the amateurs!
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