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New Times gets nice and icy at Winter Wonder SLO 

Geez louise. It seems like nearly every time I offer to do something for Art Bash, I wind up either bruised or exhausted, or both. I don’t know if this is some kind of New Times hazing machine, but they are winning. I’ve done it again. My battered muscles can barely stand to type this. I wish I could just let it go the way that flaxen-haired girl sings in Frozen, but I can’t. Frozen is at fault here.

Let me explain. I went to Winter Wonder SLO—the holiday, Frozen-themed ice rink currently found at the Alex Madonna Expo Center.

click to enlarge BLADES OF SHAME:  This is photographic evidence of the one second I was able to stand up on my own with skates on. Nailed it! - PHOTO BY CAT SENET
  • PHOTO BY CAT SENET
  • BLADES OF SHAME: This is photographic evidence of the one second I was able to stand up on my own with skates on. Nailed it!

OK, let me explain a little further.

Ice skating is kind of big deal at the Peña compound. When other kids learned how to fish, how to bake cookies, or how to actually communicate with their family members, my parents made us watch figure skating. Hours, days, and months of it. I didn’t even know what my parents’ birthdays were at the age of 9, but I could tell you the song leading Russian figure skater Oksana Baiul chose for her routine at the 1999 Ice Wars.

It was “Hit Me Baby One More Time”—an absolute classic and a fitting nod to the Harding/Kerrigan debacle of 1994. Figure skating is all about the hits.

This deep, inside knowledge had me jazzed about the prospect of finally getting out there on the ice. Maybe I was a secret wunderkind of the rink. Maybe I was about to find my calling the way Yo-Yo Ma did when he first touched a piano or when Ashton Kutcher first asked, “Dude, where’s my car?”

I brought my friend Cat along for emotional and physical support. With trepidation, we neared the entrance. A gaggle of young girls came barreling out the front door, laughing and snapping pictures with the towering, inflatable Olaf. His smile mocked us.

Do you want to build a snowman? NO. I want to build an inflatable Jessica look-a-like who will skate on the ice and break her limbs for me.

We went inside. I have to give kudos to Create Promotions, who produced this year’s Winter Wonder SLO. It looks win-terrific! There are gorgeous, ornately decorated Christmas trees and a constant, chilled temperature that almost made me forget I lived in California—that is, until I approached that frozen pool of death.

click to enlarge ICE SCREAM, YOU SCREAM:  Twenty seconds in, I fall straight to the ground like newborn gazelle. - PHOTO BY CAT SENET
  • PHOTO BY CAT SENET
  • ICE SCREAM, YOU SCREAM: Twenty seconds in, I fall straight to the ground like newborn gazelle.

It didn’t help that we were surrounded by around 50 kids who all looked like seasoned skating professionals. They strapped on their bladed footwear with ease and confidence. I was going to be sick. I looked to the right of me. In a halo of golden light, there glowed a churro stand. “Alright,” I told myself. “One circle around the rink. Only one time. One time around, and I will have earned that delicious churro.”

So, Cat and I stumbled toward the entrance like a couple of drunk Weeble Wobbles. We arrive on the ice and, shockingly, I didn't fall down immediately. But one thing is certain. I ain’t no skating prodigy.

In fact, I can’t even say any actual skating took place. If anyone was to watch us, they would think we were in a sad, slow-motion scene of babies just learning to walk. Sandwiched by toddlers far more skilled than us, we gripped the edge of the rink like we were Mufasa in The Lion King—grasping at that cliffside before tumbling into that rampaging heap of wildebeests. If only.

We managed to move five feet. I couldn't handle it anymore. I needed that churro. I made a rash move, abandoning Cat and attempting to dash into the slippery, open ice wasteland. Such a mistake.

Plunk! Like a flamingo doing the splits, my legs crashed to the ground in opposite directions. I’m down! I’m hurt! I’m humiliated. I swear some kid in a Harry Potter shirt definitely laughed at me. Muggles can be such bullies. With my last, remaining reserves of strength, I hauled my sloth-like self off that icy no-man’s-land. I looked back at Cat. I’ve never seen such peril. I fell four more times before we decide it’s hot beverage and churro time. We were on the ice for a total of 10 minutes.

click to enlarge DO YOU WANT TO BUILD A STRETCHER?:  Bruised and beleaguered, I lean on Olaf as my only means of comfort. - PHOTO BY CAT SENET
  • PHOTO BY CAT SENET
  • DO YOU WANT TO BUILD A STRETCHER?: Bruised and beleaguered, I lean on Olaf as my only means of comfort.

Churro and chai latte in hand, courtesy of Cambria’s Village Bean, I sat down to watch the skaters, counting each thunk as someone rammed into the rink’s barrier. All in all, everyone seemed to be having a good ol’ time.

“That’s 21,” the barista noted. “That kid hit both his head and knees.”

So, skating isn’t my thing. But watching people fall on their face? I can do that for hours.

Ice age

You can experience Winter Wonder SLO at the Alex Madonna Expo Center at 100 Madonna Road in San Luis Obispo through Jan. 4. Tickets (which include skate rentals) cost $9 for children under 12, and $13 for anyone aged 13 or older. Skating sessions will be held every hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and will remain open during the holidays. For more information about the event, go to winterwonderslo.com, or call 996-0652.

Jessica Peña is still icing the wounds from her ill-fated ice adventure. Send her a churro at jpena@newtimesslo.com.

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