This weekend, we went away for Sophia’s birthday.  My plan was to come up with a theme weekend:  "A Weekend of Trying New Things." 

On Friday, we would drive to the Santa Barbara area.  

On Saturday, Sophia, a big fan of figure skating, would learn to ice skate at a rink in nearby Oxnard, California. 

On Sunday, Sophia would learn to ride a horse at a ranch in the Santa Barbara hills.

On Saturday morning, we arrived at the ice skating rink for our lesson with our instructor, Frederick.   Most of his students are usually children, so he seemed excited to meet two adults, who would challenge him. 

"Finally!" he must have thought, "I can finally teach some adults sophisticated skating techniques!"

What he didn’t expect was that both Sophia and I would fall on our asses the minute we touched the ice.  And neither of us knew how to stand up, so he needed to lift us both.  It quickly became clear that Frederick was not going to be teaching us any triple lutzes.  For the next half hour, he guided us slowly — very slowly — around the perimeter of the rink, as we gripped the railing for dear life with every muscle of our fingers.  Every couple of minutes, Frederick would ask, "Seems like you had enough.  Should we quit now?"  I’d nod yes, but Sophia was determined to make it all around the rink, even if it meant not finishing until the closing ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics. 

Midway during our crawl around the rink, I noticed that Sophia wasn’t behind me anymore.  I looked back and saw that a terrified Sophia was being blocked by a six-year-old girl.  She was hanging onto the railing just like we were, but going in the opposite direction.   There was a standstill.  Each looked at the other, both in fear of letting go.  Who would cave in first?  Not Sophia.  The kid let her pass.

After the skating lesson, I limped to the car, traumatized by that horrifying experience.  Sophia looked like she was in a daze and her jeans were all wet from falling.  So, I was very surprised when Sophia said:

 "That was fun.  Let’s try this again in Los Angeles!"

The next day, we drove into the hills of Santa Barbara to a ranch.   Sophia was very nervous about going on a horse.  Victor, our cowboy/guide said he would let her ride Herman, a "nice" horse.  After the first five minutes, Sophia was feeling very unsettled, I heard her mumble that she’s "ready to go back right now," but she kept on.  I was given Hershey.  Victor said Hershey was "interesting."  I’m wasn’t sure what he meant by that.  When you say that about a person, you usually mean that he’s "weird."

As we rode the mountain trail on our horses, there was beautiful scenery all around us.  We even looked over the Pacific Ocean.   Some of the trails were very close to the edge, and I noticed that Hershey enjoyed walking VERY CLOSE to the edge, so close that rocks would start to fall down the hill.  I began to wonder if "interesting" meant that Hershey was suicidal.  When Sophia saw that I was having trouble controlling my horse, she called out to the guide for help, despite me telling her not to say anything.

"What’s the problem, Cowboy?" asked Victor the Cowboy.

"Nothing… nothing… everything’s great." I said.  "Just talking with Hershey."

"That’s good.  Real good.  Because he’s REAL interesting."

What was I supposed to say?  The truth?  Victor just called me Cowboy.  I couldn’t look like a wuss and complain about this old lazy (and depressed) horse.  And what cowboy has a woman speak up for him?  It just doesn’t happen.

"If he causes you any problems," said Victor, "just whip him in the back."

Whip the horse?  Is Victor crazy?  Surely, Hershey will like me better if I treat him with love and respect.

Of course, Hershey returned his love with a big "fuck you, city boy" by walking so close to the edge of the mountain that leaves, branches, and pine needles constantly smacked me right in the face.

But no, I never whipped him.  Stupid ass horse.

When we got back to the ranch, I was ecstatic that it was over. I was already in pain from the ice skating the day before.  Now, after getting off the horse, I couldn’t even feel my groin.   Sophia said she too was in pain, could barely walk and smelled like a horse.  Finally, something we could agree on.   Horses suck.   But no —

"But it was great!  Much too short though," said Sophia.  "Let’s do this again in Los Angeles.  This and ice skating!"

Maybe next year.