Nocturnalist | Ice Hard, Skating Easy (for Some)


It was 24 degrees at 10 p.m. on Thursday, but Semira Abdella seemed colder, her teeth clacking as she and a friend stood in their skates at the lip of the ice rink in Central Park. Their friends whizzed by, laughing and slipping, but the two did not budge.

“I’m from Ethiopia,” said Ms. Abdella, 26, a flight attendant in New York City for the night. “There’s none of these ice things.”

Her shivering colleague from Senegal chimed in, “It’s strange; even the shoes are strange.”

Ice skating may be relatively simple, but ice is hard. The inevitability of a spill proved too daunting to the flight attendants (who never once made it around Trump Wollman Skating Rink that night) but seemed to slip past a host of skaters at rinks around Manhattan, who skittered around in the frigid night, gliding, speeding and, of course, falling.

At the Rink at Rockefeller Center at 11. p.m., the air was so chill that Prometheus should have had on a jacket. Skaters shivered as Manuel Corredor, 31, an instructor and competitive skater, slid a bright red Zamboni-like machine over the ice like a sleigh.

Young boys darted out on the reslicked rink like pinballs, splattering themselves full length on the ice to the gasps of onlookers. Mr. Corredor also polices the rink. Once he had to eject a Mrs. Claus who tottered in wearing knee-high stiletto boots. But “I let her have her moment,” he said. “She looked fabulous.”

Farther south, the Pond at Bryant Park had its own exhibitionists, the self-described “rink rats,” who nightly slalom among the stumbling skaters, spinning and stopping with sprays of snow, like a troupe of break dancers on ice. Each crew member wore a plush toy strapped to one skate. “It’s a badge of honor,” said a rink rat who goes by Edge Celize, 25.

In Central Park, near closing time, a few couples still tooled around the ice on their skates. Past the yellowing weeping willow and the skyline framed by spectral trees, children waddled like penguins, trying to get the knack.

Ms. Abdella had mustered the courage to step onto the ice. She stepped right back off it.

“I just wanted to take pictures,” she said.

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