"Siberia 2007" story # 43

Tomsk, Russia           December 28, 2007

Ooh. Ow! Oh.
     The months of late-October and November, with all the cold snow upon colorful Tomsk and its sidewalks, had gone splendidly for me - in more ways than one. Even so, my playful Thursdays in the rock bar had made the difference between Tomsk being a fully-content place for me and it being a bland one. With no more rock bar nights in my future, I lightly questioned whether I should stay in Tomsk 'til the New Year.
     Easily, I decided to stay, because: I know that when I'm fully successful in my plans, I set off on my next endeavors with near invincibility. (At least, I begin them that way. Later on, who knows what happens.) And I'd planned to stay in Siberia until the New Year, to experience some of the Siberian winter. So, I'm staying. Thus far, December has brought some very pleasant experiences.
     On the first Wednesday of December, I met Olesa to go ice skating. Orange-haired Olesa, who co-owns a hair salon by day and hops on one foot by night, mocks people and hillariously plays the victim when people mock her. But, on ice skates, she was the victim of her own tree-like coordination.
     In serious discussions, she tries to be as adult as possible and wiser than me. As if to convince herself, she often says she's a content person, and that she's never offended by anything. Cute, blue eyes want to protect her. Her burly body usually wears a white turtleneck, a red shawl/sweater, and black tights under a heavy, black skirt that keeps her warmer than pants because it doesn't stick to her skin.
     When I first put on my skates and stepped outside, to the corner of the gray ice, in the dark evening, I felt immeasurably happy. I felt like the child I want to be. I felt marvel and wonder for my near future, a future in which I anticipated I'd wobble and fall and collapse a lot.
     I'd only ever ice skated once before. That time was on Richmond Pond, beneath sledding hills and coniferous forest, on a dark evening in Richmond Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was so long ago I barely remember it. I think I remember complaining to my parents that my skates were uncomfortable.
     Olesa explained that I should form a "V" with my feet with my heels together, and push myself forward. And I was off!
     The sensation of gliding so elegantly, of standing on such illogical things like two blades, made me brainlessly euphoric. I wanted to talk to Olesa, to tell her everything, in a happy, chattering way as if the world was without conflict. She probably wanted to shove a snowball in my mouth.
     I, surprisingly, moved with balance and direction. We were in dark and quiet "Gorodskyy Sad" (The City Garden), skating on frozen water upon asphalt, beneath a ferris wheel and small amusement rides. We skated circles around the ice. I soon moved as surely as Olesa on the ice. Olesa was experienced, but she admitted that she was too afraid of falling to be confident.
     Ice skating was romantic; my years-old conviction was proven correct. My instincts for romance are keen!
     I told Olesa about my and my friend's plans to one day have the "Perfect Date". We'll go ice skating in New York in the winter-time, she'll wear gloves to her elbows, etc.
     Olesa thought this was the most ridiculous thing ever. Why do I need a "Perfect Date"!? she said. She'd be happy just laying around the house, if she loved and was loved by the guy. I guess Olesa's "Mr. Right" is Mr. Lazy. And my "Ms. Right" could be Ms. Katerina Witt, two-time Olympic-Gold-Medal-winning figure skater. Ha, Olesa Lazy!
     (Well, gee. As it turns out, I guess Olesa really is the victim of my mockery.)
     Olesa and I each fell one time, in forty minutes of skating. My feet, in three pairs of socks, felt slightly the plastic skates' coldness. Even so, I added "ice skate" to the dynamic list of my favorite activities, known and loved as "Acts of Spontaneous Ecstasy." Olesa probably wouldn't agree with my philosophy regarding "A.S.E.'s", either.

But, I kept my vow to do an Act of Spontaneous Ecstasy on every day of my 28th year of life, a year which ended two months ago. I even kept records, because I'm a dork.
     (Excluding A.S.E.'s "joke", "laugh", and "coldwater shower", which didn't count towards my vow) I did only one A.S.E. on 102 of the 365 days. I did exactly two A.S.E.'s on 129 days. I did exactly six on 5 days. And I did seven! Acts on one day each in Baltimore, on Corsica, and in the Czech Republic.
     I feel that the more A.S.E.'s one does, the better. Last year, I averaged 2.13 Acts of Spontaneous Ecstasy per day while in Tomsk, Siberia; 2.20 A.S.E.'s/day in Grand Rapids, Michigan; 2.39 per day while "on the road"; and 2.65/day while in small-town Rymarov, Czech Republic. (I stopped including "Czech", after several weeks there.) I did many A.S.E.'s while living in a tent on Corsica. I did very few around the time of my failed trip to North Africa, and while I was a first-time visitor in Tomsk.
     The Top Ten A.S.E.'s I did the most were: "dance" (119 days), "practice handstands" (97), "read aloud to someone/be read to" (57), "meditate" (55), "swim" (54), "write a Modern Oddyseus" (41), "Czech" (38), "climb a tree" (34), "outside nudity" (33), and "soccer" (25). Some other interesting totals include: "write a letter" (19), "kiss" (19), "snorkel" (8), "climb a mountain" (6), "baseball" (5), "write a poem" (2), "street ping pong" (1), "snowboarding" (0).
     Since January, when I first wrote about A.S.E.'s, the following Acts have been added to my list: "listen to a new album", "full-court basketball", "Dr. Mario" (a video game), "ice skate", "juggle a tennis ball" (with my feet), "outside nudity", "Balderdash", "the infamous amphibious tennis-ball game" (named by Ewan "Johnny" Smith), "banya" (the Russian sauna), "practice slam dunks", "syrova omacka" (a Czech food), "foreign-language Scrabble", "snowball fight", "the fighting-and-biting game" (named by Steve; a game for you and your pet), "Indian food", and "write a poem". "Hitchhike" was taken off my list, for not always bringing ecstasy. Another, illegal activity was added to my list, done once, and then taken off.
     Last year's vow was good but imperfect. A perfect vow should bring only happiness. During my 28th year, I sometimes felt stress. Did I partake in the day's A.S.E. for a valid amount of time? I sometimes asked myself. Does that activity ALWAYS bring me ecstasy? Stress isn't good.
     So, this year, I have vowed that I will "TRY" to do an A.S.E. every day, but not be upset if I don't.

With "ice skate" now written down on my page of A.S.E.'s, I now knew I liked it.
     The second time I went ice skating in Tomsk, I went with a guy (and his friend's toddlers). It wasn't so romantic. The guy could deftly skate backwards. On the purple ice, I tried this. I made an upside-down "V" with my feet with my toes together, and tried to push myself backwards, but it didn't work very well.
     The third time I went, I threw snowballs at Olesa's sister, who was an even worse skater than Olesa, and she could only balance on her skates while her boyfriend walked on the white ice and pulled her.
     I threw snow high in the air ahead of me as I skated and tried to catch it. In emulation of "Peanuts" character, Lucy, I spelled my name in the ice with my skates, which wasn't a smooth activity. I jumped, about a half-inch off the ice. I began to understand why a friend in Michigan likes ice hockey so much.
     The fourth time, I held hands with a girl, who held hands with a girl, who held hands with a guy, and we skated two circles around the ice. I later suggested we have a race. I skated quite fast, and then I could only stop by falling backwards.
     I seem to be taking to the ice like a seal takes to the ice. Pretty naturally. I think that's because I like it sooooo much.

Modern Oddyseus.

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