I wrote this earlier this year on my private blog, but it’s such a good introduction to Dean, I thought I’d post it for you.
For as long as I’ve known him, Dean has been fascinated — well, maybe obsessed — with curling. Yes, it snows in Maryland, where he’s from, but Maryland is south of the Mason Dixon line and is, at least according to Dean’s dad, in the south. Curling isn’t exactly a cultural norm in the south. And in curling’s case, the south is actually anywhere below Canada, so how and when Dean’s affection for the game — which he’s never played — started, I really don’t know. But there it is. There. It. Is.
(I’m using the word ‘game,’ by the way, in deference to my sister. She’s the only athlete in my family — a damn good one — and she has certain, let’s say, athletic sensibilities. Sensibilities brutally worn into shape by years of sweat, pain and glory, pushing her body to perform in ever stronger, smarter ways, with greater flexibility, agility, endurance, etc. Should you, in your lazy ignorance and unforgivable naivete suggest that curling is a sport, my sister is likely to launch her impeccably-tuned body at your throat and rip out your jugular. Never mind that it’s in the Olympics. A stupid, inexplicable lapse in the IOC’s judgment that borders on being an international atrocity. So, OK. Curling is a game.)
There is some logic to Dean’s attraction (not that that’s remotely required for Dean to be obsessed with something). He likes aiming games. Pool, bowling, darts. Quarters. And curling has the added appeal of being just a little bit ridiculous. Sweeping the ice like mad to keep the stone moving. Intentionally making one foot super slippery on the ice. Really, it’s perfect for him.
So, it wasn’t all that surprising when he asked me if I’d go curling with him.Well, wait a minute. Let me restate that. It wasn’t surprising that, in theory, he wanted to go, or that, in theory, he wanted me to go. When it became evident this wasn’t a theory, THAT was surprising.
Turns out, there’s an ice rink in the valley where we live, only about 15 minutes away, and they have a curling club. With members. Devoted members. Teaching members.
Apparently, curling enjoys a surge in popularity in the south during the winter Olympics. Those in the know say it happens every time. So, the Hollywood Curling Club (whose rink is nowhere near Hollywood) offers several clinics in the weeks before, during and right after the games. (Funny that expression — “the games.” Shouldn’t it be “the sports?”)
Dean would have been crazy gung-ho to go no matter what. But then a little poking around revealed that there is such a thing as accessible curling. In fact, the US has a paralympic team (sorry, Tash). The rules are a little different (no sweepers and disabled curlers use a stick to push the stone) but it’s an established version of the game and — hold on, here it comes — the club in the Valley has all the equipment and TEACHES this version! OH, YEAH! It was a done deal.
Since the clinics are on Sundays, Dean asked if we could go for some date day. Sure. No sweat. I’m not the least interested in curling, myself, but what the hell. We’ll give it a try.
Then it became evident that the Sunday in question was Valentine’s Day. Hmmmmmmmm. When date day falls on a holiday, especially one devoted to the couple, does one partner still get to pick the activity? What if it’s the boy and he wants to go curling??
Apparently, I’m just not that attached to how Valentine’s Day gets commemorated. Last year, we went out to dinner, not to a fancy, romantic restaurant but to Dean’s choice — Professor Hogley Wogley’s Tyler, Texas BBQ, where bibs are required and if you want a vegetable, you better bring it. The food (aka meat) is great and we had fun sitting next to each other in the booth, sucking down really good BBQ and licking our fingers. (Our own.) (Not each other’s.) Curling certainly wasn’t something I’d ever considered doing on Valentine’s Day (or any other day, for that matter), but why not?
So after raspberry brownies, 7 cards (another one turned up inside my computer), breakfast, snuggling and movies, we went curling.
It’s a lot harder than it looks. People were falling all over the ice. And the stone is bloody heavy. It weighs more than 40 pounds. The first dozen times I tried pushing it with the stick, I couldn’t even get it into play, much less into the zone where you score! (Which is called the house.) (I could sense you were dying to know.) And my arm was killing me. My arm. My not-exactly-weak, pushes-a-wheelchair-all-day arm. And then I thought, my arm. My not-exactly-weak, HAS-to-push-a-wheelchair-all-day arm. Can you see it? Me, the next day, wheeling around in circles, my right arm hanging lifeless at my side.
Dean was having a similar problem with his left, butt cheek. Able-bodied curling requires this crouch and slide action, and though he was mighty graceful (see stunning picture below), his ass wasn’t exactly happy. By the end of the night, we had between us only three working limbs and four frozen fingers. But, I have to admit, it was fun. And we both improved a lot.
As it turned out, I’d been practicing on a length of ice in between two groomed curling lanes, so the ice was much rougher. When I finally got in an actual lane, the massive shove I’d been perfecting shot the stone not only into the house but through it and beyond, right out of play. I spent the rest of the night learning how to pull back.
There are actually a million tricks to learn, all kinds of ways of finessing the stone, but I’m not sure my attention for curling will hold. As a disabled curler, there is less for me to do on the ice which means a lot of sitting around doing nothing, and I can think of much warmer places to do that. But, we’ll see. I know Dean wants to go back (“They have leagues!“). Who knows. Maybe curling will become our thing. At least every other Sunday.