Monday, January 3, 2011
I love finding something where I wouldn't expect it.
Like the lemon tree in the alley, the tiny backyard rink tucked in behind a row of greystone apartments on Clark Street is a perfect surprise.
The ice glows blue and smooth. Kids whirl, totter and scrape around the rectangle. The sound of skates slices the air.
"I'm like the Italians with their tiny gardens," says Tommy Groszman, master and creator of the rink. "I used to wonder, 'what are they doing with such a little space?' Now I'm like that with my little piece of ice."
Tommy built the rink for the kids, Ella and Adam, and also as a way of working through some ideas for a screenplay he's writing about hockey.
He figured out how to pack and water the snow at the edges of the rink so that water wouldn't run off. He created his own contraption for flooding the ice after consulting Home Zamboni videos on YouTube. His special rig involves a bucket fitted with a nozzle that attaches to a perforated tube. Bungee cords hold a square of carpeting in place for ice-grooming.
Some nights he gets up two or three times to make ice.
"It's addictive. My ice has to be perfect!" he says with a laugh. "I don't know if I should tell you this," he confesses, pointing to his boots. "But I'm not wearing any socks right now."
He is one with the ice this way, his feet alert to any stray bumps.
His perfectionism does not go unappreciated.
Ella, who is nine, can skate for hours on the rink right outside her back door. She zooms around in her hockey skates until bedtime.
"I'll miss it when it's gone," she says, projecting herself into the future and imagining her wistfulness, the way we do when something is truly special.