the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Figure-Skating Fans of Orange County

On Wednesday, I noticed in the newspaper that “Smuckers Stars on Ice” was playing at the Staples Center on Thursday, for one night.

“Hey, “Stars on Ice” is at Staples tomorrow,” I said to Sophia.

This comment was supposed to be a random piece of information, like “the weather is nice” or “Los Angeles has decided to ban the sale of Arizona brand iced-tea.”

But it was too late, and I was smacking myself in the head a second later.

“Oh yeah? We should go!”

Sophia is a big fan of figure-skating.  Over the years, we have attended two National Championships and one World Championship.  I immediately back-pedaled after mentioning the event.

“I didn’t mean we should actually go to it.  You know how these  Stars on Ice shows from TV.  They’re like the Ice Capades.   For kids.”

“But Shen and Zhao are there!”

Shen and Zhao are the Gold Medal -winning Pairs team from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.   In 2003,  we went to Washington D.C.  and we saw them win their second World Championship.  Although figure skating competitions can be very tedious,  their performance at the World Championship was the single most exciting live sporting event that I had ever seen.    While practicing their quadruple salchow,  Shen landed badly and injured her landing foot and ankle.  She required several treatments to numb the foot entirely so that she should compete.   The pair performed a brilliant long program that earned them several perfect 6.0’s for both technical merits and presentation.  The crowd was on their feet, giving a standing ovation for what seemed like two weeks.

Even with Shen and Zhao in attendance at Stars on Ice, I had no interest in going to see it.  I convinced Sophia that we were too busy to go.

I had dodged the bullet.

The next day and a half passed without any mention of axles or Sasha Cohen.  On Friday, At 4:30PM (and mind you, the show is at 7:30 in another county), Sophia came upstairs, as I was taking a shower, preparing for a quiet Twitter evening with my iPhone.

“”Stars on Ice” is in ANAHEIM tonight, and I found a ticket broker that can get us tenth row seats!”

I tried to come up with every excuse in the book, from it being too late to appealing to her snobbery:

“Do you really want to see Shen and Zhao in ORANGE COUNTY?”

It didn’t work.  Soon, we were on our way to the Honda Arena on Katella Blvd. in Anaheim.  Sophia was driving her Prius.

An hour later, we found ourselves parked outside a retirement home on Katella Blvd. in the city of Orange.  The location had the exact same address as the Honda Arena, but it was in Orange, not Anaheim.

“Where are we?” asked Sophia.

“Not the Honda Arena. It’s not my fault.  You must have put it in the GPS wrong.”

“Don’t be so defensive. The Prius GPS always goes crazy in Orange County.”

“You must have put it in the GPS wrong.”

“OK then. Let’s do it right this time.”

Sophia put the correct address in her GPS again, and it told us we were seventeen miles away from the Honda Arena. Rush hour traffic, very little time left, but Sophia can drive fast, believe you me.

Seventeen miles later, we ended up exactly where we started.

“Well, maybe it’s listed as the Arrowhead Pond, the old name.”

“I’m not running around Orange County anymore.  Call the Honda Arena.”

“The Honda Arena?”

“Yes, and ask them for directions.”

“It’s an ARENA.  It’s not a Chinese restaurant.  No one is ever going to answer and give us directions.”

“Sure they will.  Call the box office.”

Stubborn Sophia. I took out my iPhone and instead of calling, found the Honda Arena in the Maps app.

“OK, I found it.”

“No.  I don’t want to just go without knowing the exact intersection.  I WANT you to call the Honda Arena.”

You see where this discussion was going?  It was like 1995 all over again, in the era before Onstar and GPS, when men and women fought over asking directions.   I once wrote a post saying that GPS should win the Nobel Prize for creating peace with married couples driving in their cars all over the world.

Snickering, I called the Honda Arena.  They answered immediately and gave me perfect directions. We were three miles away. Humble pie… We finally figured out our way to the arena.  Sophia mumbled something about writing a nasty letter to Toyota about their crappy navigation in Orange County.

Because of our navigation mishap, we arrived at the Honda Arena with only ten minutes to spare.

(Three Orange County babes in front of the scary Anaheim Ducks sculpture)

Parking was twenty-five dollars.   I hate paying full price for anything, but not in this case. BUT, Sophia likes a challenge.

“Let’s drive around to see if we can find something cheaper.”

I didn’t want Sophia to miss the beginning of the show, because I knew that would upset her, and I like to play it safe, so I suggested we just park the car for twenty-five dollars.

“Just give me five minutes,” said Sophia.

I was about to call her stubborn, again, but within ten seconds, she came across an ATT installation plant parking lot. An attendant was standing near a huge sign reading “Arena Parking — $10.”  We paid the attendant and laughed at our good luck.

Sophia shook her head, as if saying, “That’s exactly your problem.  Always playing it safe.”   Or at least I interpreted it that way.  

Stars on Ice was… above average.  Not great, but not as terrible as how it was reviewed by my blogging friend Vicki when she saw it in Washington D.C.    Some of the stars  performed at a competition level — Sasha Cohen, Michael Weiss, and Shen and Zhao — while others, most notably Evan Lysecek, seemed to phone it in, waving a lot to his new fans from “Dancing with the Stars.”

And where was Johnny Weir?  I heard rumors that he might have been deemed too “different” for mainstream America.  Is that true?  (If I had known this about Johnny Weir, I wouldn’t have gone at all!)

The weirdest part of the evening was when Sophia convinced me to take a promotional photo in front of a cardboard cut-out of the figure-skaters, because she thought it would be hilarious.

As the crowds left the arena and headed to the overpriced parking lots, Sophia and I whistled happily and crossed the street, reveling in our fifteen dollars saved by smartly parking in the back of the ATT plant.    Upon our arrival at the lot, we were surprised at its relative emptiness.  We were the only passenger car in the parking lot, now filled with huge ATT trucks. The attendant who took our money was nowhere to be seen, and the “Arena Parking – $10” sign was gone, revealing the message that was hidden on the sign behind it —

We figured it out.  This was just some guy who covered the ATT parking lot sign with his — not related to the lot at all –  and then disappeared after he made a few bucks from suckers like us.

“We were lucky we didn’t get towed. But then again, that would have been some blog post.” said Sophia.

Still, with fifteen dollars saved in parking, despite being scammed, it was time to spend our extra dough.

“Frozen yogurt!” said Sophia.

“We can go to Yogurtland when we get near home.”

But Sophia seemed disappointed.  She wanted adventure.  She wanted me to take out my iPhone and find an “interesting” frozen yogurt store on Yelp as we drove down the 405.

A few minutes later, it was Mission Accomplished.  We found a unique frozen yogurt store.   Not only did the frozen yogurt store have nightly karaoke, they also sold CLAM CHOWDER!

“Why do you sell clam chowder?” the ever-friendly Sophia asked the Korean woman behind the counter.

“In the winter, frozen yogurt was selling poorly because it was too cold outside, so we decided to also sell bowls of clam chowder.”

Not everything needs to make sense.


  1. kenju

    An interesting evening, to be sure. $25 for parking? Highway robbery! I am a skating fan too and I would have enjoyed that show. I saw Stars on Ice here, but we had seats at the top of the arena and the skaters looked like ants.

  2. Tuck

    Good story. The icing on the cake would have been if at the FroYo/Chowder store, you bumped into that guy who sold you the illegal parking, also enjoying his “winnings” for the night. Oh yeah, and with his girlfriend, Tonya Harding.

  3. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    I loved this story. The yin and yang of long term relationships….

  4. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    P.S. I love Johnny Weir. I follow him on Twitter, though I have to admit, he’s a bore in that venue.

  5. furiousball

    do they have frozen yogurt in a clam chowder flavor?

  6. middle-aged-woman

    Nobody will ever equal Torvill and Dean.

  7. Philly Jewish Amy

    Oh potential drama had the car been towed. I’d like to read the post in the alternate universe where the story takes that twist.

  8. Twenty Four At Heart

    Hey, hey hey … you’re making fun of MY Orange County. We are a sophisticated bunch here. Even plastic women with giant fake boobs can appreciate good ice skating. You should have called me Neil. When we go to the Honda Center we never pay more than $10 dollars for parking right off Katella. (Right next to the Center.) Really, I’m better than your iPhone – I’m a great resource for OC information! (And my boobs are REAL by the way!)

  9. Blaiser

    Love me some ice skating. But I’ve never attended a live event. Grew up skating on farm ponds in figure skates (’cause that’s what the parents bought) and then, as an adult, asked to rent figure skates at the Lake Placid public oval, and they looked at me like I was, well, the kind of guy who would order quinoa at Outback.

    GPS is a lie–it’s just another excuse to not pay attention to your surroundings, what you’re doing, and the person next to you. Long live the map. And adventures, which I guess you had anyway!

    Not for nothing, but after reading your posat I have an uncontrollable urge to spread Sasha Cohen over some toast…

  10. Suzy

    A question I’ve always wondered about: How do non-pros know when pros are ‘phoning it in?’ When I do standup there are days I phone it in but I assure you, no one watching or listening would have a clue.

    So. How do you know?

  11. neil

    Suzy — I know when you are phoning it in.

  12. jessica

    i was dying to go to that show with Phoebe but the tickets were way too expensive.

    I cannot and yet I can believe that scam artist.

    Boy you guys were lucky.

  13. flutter

    so very few things make sense. As long as they don’t sell clam yogurt…

  14. Juli Ryan

    I thought a city boy like you would be more street smart. You really needed a Walter Findlay moment

  15. Vicki

    I’m glad you had a better experience than me. Although we saw it in Hershey, PA, not in DC or fancy schmancy Orange County-I think they up the ante for the ballers. Love the pic. 🙂

  16. teahouseblossom

    I can’t belive that guy scammed you on parking!!! And selling hot during winter and cold during summer = rule # 1 of a successful business! Those crazy enterprising Asians!!

  17. 180|360

    I loved this story! I think it kind of sums up your relationship perfectly — a little bit scary, strangely normal, but still somehow hilarious.

    I can’t help but wonder if you two couldn’t make it work with a little more adventure in your life. Sophia can drive, you can record and replay — it’s kind of a perfect set of quirky characters playing for and against each other.

  18. leah

    nice narration on your adventure, i felt like i was there whiplash and all 🙂

    your description of the dynamics between you and sophia remind me of my husband and i. he’s not a risk taker, pushing the envelope but i am (now-i had to work myself up to it)…

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