CALGARY, Alberta — I am leafing through Mozart and Mendelssohn and Marvin Hamlisch. I consider Bach, then I put down Bach and consider Beethoven. I am searching for the right music for my particular brand of figure skating.
“How about ‘The Four Seasons’?” suggests the woman behind the counter.
“How about The Four Tops?” I say.
I have decided to take charge in these Winter Olympics. I have decided that since we Americans are winning almost no medals, it is time for me to do my part. Pick a sport. Go for the gold. I have chosen the great sport of figure skating because 1) it is indoors, and 2) I am taller than most of those guys who skated Thursday night.
Besides, the key part is picking the music. I’m good at that. I have a car radio.
“Alexander Fadeev of the Soviet Union is skating to Ukrainian Folk Dance,” says the woman. “You could try that. Or Zwischenspiel.’ Brian Boitano is going with ‘Les Patineurs’ by Meyerbeer.”
“Gee, I don’t know,” I say, looking over the sheet music. “Do you have
‘Mack The Knife?’ ” A classic(al) debate “Perhaps you should tell me your style,” says the woman, wearing sequins and blue eye shadow. I am told she chooses music for all the world’s top figure skaters. I am told she is the best.
“My style?” I say. “My style is no style. My style is sort of Jerry Lewis meets Chubby Checker. That is my style. What do they call the stuff when your skate blade chops up the ice? Shavings? I do shavings. I have a shavings sort of style.”
“Perhaps you want something up-tempo then,” says the woman, “like
‘Hungarian Rhapsody.’ Chistopher Bowman is going with that. Or ‘Don Quixote.’ The Russian, Victor Petrenko, is using that one. Anything classical might work
— Vivaldi, Haydn, or the master of them all . . .”
I don’t know. I’m not sure I get this classical music connection. I can’t see Mozart sitting by the piano, late at night, sick with fever, saying: “Damn me! They’ll never skate to this!”
No. I am into the modern approach. I think I could score with the modern approach. I am thinking a gold medal/gold record medley: “Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog/Heartbreak Hotel.” Yes. That’s it. I could be the first Elvis impersonator on skates.
“You’ll never win with that,” says the woman.
“Maybe not. But I’ll get a lot of scarves.”
We continue our negotiations for almost an hour. She says, “Concerto in C Minor.” I say, “Louie, Louie” in B flat. She says, “Clare de Lune.” I say,
“Duke of Earl.” She says Debussy. I say Del Vikings.
She asks my theme. I say my theme will be American. She suggests John Philip Sousa. I never liked that guy, even back in grammar school.
“What will you be wearing?” she asks, her counter now buried with records and tapes. “Maybe that will help.”
“I will wear the classic American skating outfit. Sweater, pants and pillow.”
She shakes her head. I can see she is confused. But if you want the gold, you go for originality.
“Something popular,” I say.
“All right,” she says, exasperated, “How about ‘Summertime’ by Gershwin? That’s popular.”
“Is that the one that goes “Sum-sum-summertime, sum-sum- summertime, sum-sum–“
“No,” she sighs. “Not exactly.” The key is the right keys I apologize for being difficult. But listen, I tell her, the right music is important. The right music is your key to the gold medal.
“How do you mean?” she asks.
Well, hey. I watched the men skate Thursday night. I know how this stuff works. I remember it from “American Bandstand” — you pick a song, you go out there, you dance around for a few minutes, then some judges hold up cards to show whether they like your music.
“Your . . . music?” says the woman.
“Yes, of course. Sometimes they like the beat. Sometimes they like the lyrics. Sometimes they like the guitar solo–“
“It’s not your music, you idiot!” she says. “It’s your skating! Your skating!”
“I beg your pardon?”
“They judge skating! They judge jumps, spins. Your double axel. Your salchow.”
“Let’s not get personal.”
“You are graded on your skill, your form, your technical merit. It takes years of preparation, incredible endurance, balance, grace and style.”
“Oh,” I say, softly.
Heck, we don’t have time for all that. I give her back the records. I return the sheet music. I remove my ice skates and put on my blue suede shoes.
My skating career is over. I am sorry. I will have to find another sport to bring home the American gold. Something more suited to my style.
“Which way to bop-sledding?” I ask.