RESCUED FROM THE DARKNESS
It was a cold March night on the second night of my visit to Wireland as I scrambled across October Square on the way to Zooropa Bar and Grill to join friends for drinks. Alas, the setting was too familiar; I hadnít made it across the square when someone grabbed me. It was getting to the point where these encounters were scripted; Iíd become dangerous to too many people. Now Iíd irked the local figure skating officials who didnít like challenges to their authority. "Kiddo", said a gruff voice behind me, "you havenít been to a Wireland Figure Skating Arena support meeting in two weeks."
"So what?" I asked. "I have no respect for you guys. Itís been eons since itís been any fun doing that and you guys couldnít care less. Iím tired of all of the squabbling. Iím telling you, thatís all I ever hear. Theyíre such mindless disputes. You should change the name of the place to Bedlam. You just donít know how to have fun and I think you hate people who do. All they want is another costume slave".
"What are you talking about?" asked one skating coach, who was holding me around the neck so tightly I had to struggle to breathe. "Thatís besides the point. Weíre teaching these kids proper technique, I tell you, proper technique. Itís thankless work. And if you donít support it youíre just ignoring them. They need their costumes, you know".
"Oh, knock off the guilt head games", I snapped. "Iíll come, and bring two of my buddies. Itís all technique, technique; youíre killing hearts and souls. The judgesónot to mention audiencesólike to see personality on the ice, too. You guys canít develop; you can only bully." I shook my head. "Reneeís very upset that she canít even do her exhibition piece to "Radio Free Europe" Thatís not the competition. Thatís for fun, supposedly. Itís no judges and to heck with the rules. Youíre really hurting that girl, and sheís our best skater. Their friends at school are circulating petitions to let her and Ronnie go to Popland. That campaign is really picking up steam. Itís in the newspapers. Itís embarrassing".
"Donít bring anyone from that bar", said the coach. "Theyíre too undisciplined".
"Not on your life", I retorted. "They wouldnít waste their time. Iíll show you someone who makes you sourpusses look happy-go-lucky. Youíll meet your matches from Saturn".
"Saturn?" asked the other coach. "AhÖ.since when was it legal for them to be here?"
"The Interplanetary Chamber of Political Disputes authorized some to help me just today. Wait until I tell Venus. You guys have screwed up big time with your guilt head games. OK, Iíll see you later. Iíll bring the sequin trim".
I went back to the car and called up the Commander of the Venusian UFO Unit. "Look, Iíve got these sourpusses from the Figure Skating Registry on my case to get active again. Iím afraid theyíre going to ask me to do some costumes for the next competition. Iím so tired of these people I could scream. You know, they practically have to teach these kids to smile. Let me tell you, that "Golden Waltz" can get old fast. Some of the dancers really hate that piece. They want something a little more fresh for their free dances and the coaches are so neurotic about music itís disgusting."
"Oh, good grief, how could I forget that "Golden Waltz" fiasco from three years ago?" asked the Commander. "The choreographers couldnít remember how to teach it, so all hell broke loose, right? So what do you want to do about this?"
"Theyíll be fighting by the time I get there", I said. "We can walk in there and start circulating those U2 ticket offer leaflets. The parents, the skaters, everyone, will just go ballistic. Theyíll never want to see me in there again. Thatís the point, you see. I have to get kicked out before theyíll let me go".
"Are they that uptight?"
"Yes. To them everything is technique, technique, get it perfect, no mistakes. Fun isnít in their dictionaries. So Iím going in there and throw six bags of sequin trim on the ice".
"Thatíll make them angry enoughÖ.OK. Now, how about using some of your stray Saturnians? They know how to melt ice. You know, those automatic thermomachines they have, the minute they hit ice, the whole ice surface melts!"
"I contacted the Chamber about them today. Theyíre coming." I said. "These coaches are going to be so mad they ever fooled with me."
Ah, this would show them that they couldnít push me around! I went back to the apartment and put on one of my older Renaissance costumes, the one that had landed me that thankless costuming job that had become an albatross. I grabbed the bags of sequin trim and took off.
The Saturnians were there with their thermomachines when I got there. My friends from Popland were there with the ticket offer leaflets. "OK, letís start this raid!" I said. We opened the door and walked in.
"Good evening, Patricia", said the arenaís owner, Sharon. "So glad youíve decided to come to tonightís planning session". Then the aliens walked in right behind me.
Sharon was petrified. "Patricia, whatís with you lately? Youíve been acting crazy".
"Iím human, for crying out loud" I retorted. "How many times do I have to tell you that this isnít fun? Half of you admit it, and the other half of you are too dense to know what fun is. Youíre hopeless. Now, hereís that costume stuff I was telling you about". I scooped up the bags, walked to the boards, and emptied the contents onto the ice. "I must say, that was fun", I said.
The choreographer on the ice was speechless. The skaters started to scream. "Whatís going on here? You showed up just to screw up practice".
"No, I didnít", I retorted. "Iím here to have some fun. I just did something different, and thatís such a threat to you guys. Iíll show you guys thereís more to life than that awful "Golden Waltz" if it kills me".
The Venusians had arrived on one of their UFOís and arrived at the rink. At this point they entered the building and started giving out the concert ticket offers. A skater sitting in the stands waiting for his practice turn with his ice dance partner took a long, hard look at the leaflet. "I wish I could do this", he said. "But my parents really think Susie and I can be the next dance champions. Itís insane. Theyíre being way too pushy. And no one will let us try a more modern dance piece. Thatís how to kill ice dancing. You know Reneeís situation, of course. She wanted to do her exo to "Radio Free Europe" and her coach is making her use "Phantom of the Opera". Renee loves "Phantom" but she loves REM, U2, Nirvana, Radiohead, the Clashósheís a rock Ďn roll kid at heart. Sheís a U2 fanatic in particular. She has a poster of the band and a separate poster of Bono in her room. She hasnít managed to get "Boy" or "October" but she says she wants them badly. Sheís also our best singles skater. Her triple flip knocks me out. Itís beautiful".
"Modern dance isnít dance, Ronnie", sniffed his coach. "You go with whatís established, whatís respected".
"Baloney", said Ronnie. "An idiot can do "Golden Waltz". It takes more guts to do stuff thatís never been seen or done before. Itís harder. Thatís what Iíd like to do more of. Iíll always skate. Susieís not losing her partner. Sheís too good to lose her partner. But I need a change in my routine or Iíll burn out before Iím twenty".
"Iím worried about Ronnie", said Susie. "Heís not happy. Itís getting to be a drag. Weíre two very different people but we trust each other completely. I think we should take a good six months off so he can do what he wants to do. Right now this is a nightmare".
At this point the Saturnians entered the practice rink with their dreaded thermomachines. "OK, you guys", said one. "I trust youíve at least seen these in the newspapers. Weíll use them if necessary. "
"Oh, no, Patricia, I had no idea youíd do this!" said a woman in the stands. "You did go get them. Now weíre toast".
"Not if you let Ronnie and Renee go to Popland for the summer", I said. "Thatís what they want to do. Ronnie wants to go to the Popland Dance Theatre School. Just stop trying to turn him into a machine. Itís not going to happen. Heck, Renee wants to move to Popland. She wants the heck out of this program. Itís too confining for her. Youíre really holding her back in her artistic development. Iím telling you, that kid could win Nationals with better coaching. Sheís got personality to burn."
"Reneeís too young to go off by herself like that", said Sharon. "Sheís sixteen in two weeks. Thatís too young to leave your parents."
"Not Renee", I said. "Sheís very mature for her age. Her parents are the most manipulative skating parents Iíve ever seen in my life. She needs to be let go and develop herself. Sheís got to get away from them".
"You guys go, just go!" Sharon screamed. "I donít want to see a bunch of mush out there."
"Iím going with them," said Ronnie. "Hey, whereís Renee? I havenít seen her since her run-through".
"Sheís gone to the lounge with her parents" I said. "She took one of those leaflets. They had words. She wants to go to visit Popland with you. But her parents wonít hear of it. They think if she doesnít do what Sharon tells her to do that sheíll be led astray. That's nonsense. She needs a new situation, and sheís fighting for it. I say good for her. OK, Ronnie, step out into the hall with me. Iíve got some great news."
We walked out of the practice rink room into the hall. "Ronnie", I said, "You and Renee can catch the U2 show in Popland if you like. How would you like that?"
"Oh, my God," said Ronnie. "Are you serious? Is this a joke? Howís that possible? Didnít the tickets sell out in twenty minutes?"
"Because I have extra tickets, Ronnie. Weíll get Renee there, too, if she wants it."
"Sheís dying to see one of the shows. But her parents donít want her to start going to rock concerts. They think sheíll get corrupted. Good grief, her parents wonít even let her take two weeks off from training. Isnít that pitiful?"
Renee met us at the door of the skatersí lounge. "Youíre not going to believe this, Ronnie. They told me I could go to Popland for two weeks! The coaches talked to my parents. Even they want me to go. Sometimes youíve got to be a pain in the neck to get what you need. Of course I canít go to a U2 concert. Thatís a bummer. But itíll be fun just to get the heck out of here and hang out with some other fans. Wow, Iím going to love it! "
"Renee", I said, "you can go to the show. Iíve got some extra tickets. Weíll make it happen for you. Weíre taking Ronnie Tuesday; youíre welcome to stay with us in Popland and youíll see U2".
"Oh, my goodness", she said. "I canít believe it. If Iím dreaming donít wake me up! Gosh, Iíve got to pack."
Tuesday came. Ronnie and Renee met me in October Square, and together we entered the tunnel to a Venusian UFO. "Iíve been so excited", said Renee. "I never thought Iíd get to do this." We entered the UFO. The two skaters looked around the huge room, which was equipped with a huge CD player system, a DVD player, and a VCR player. There were U2 posters all over the room as well as a huge lemonade container with a pile of cups on a table.
A member of the Venus UFO Unit walked into the room. "Glad to meet you", he said. "Just make yourselves at home. Weíve got quite a nice facility here if I do say so myself. Weíre honored to have you. Youíll love Popland. Itís such a fun place."
Ronnie and Renee sat down on a couch after helping themselves to some lemonade. For once words failed the usually extroverted and talkative Renee. You could tell that she was in a complete state of shock just by looking at her. She was free at last. The UFO staff put on "Discotheque", and the skaters broke into an improvisational acrobatic routine. "Iím going to work on this some more", said Ronnie. "Renee, youíd burn up the ice if youíd do your exo to this".
"Itíd be fun" she agreed, finally managing to talk. "How about "Mysterious Ways? Yeah, itís a tricky tempo for skating. But I wouldnít mind trying it. Hey, I dig this UFO. I never thought Iíd get to fly on one."
Two weeks later it was time for the big show. Ronnie and Renee had been presented with special seats, as theyíd become noted crusaders for the rights of high school students to choose their destiny. The band had heard their stories and had been impressed by their tenacity and courage. "Theyíve been through hell", commented Bono in an interview with the Interplanetary News Network, which publicized the case. "We want to give them one
hell of a great concert.".
"Itís no big deal", Ronnie said with characteristic modesty in an interview with the Interplanetary News Network. "Renee and I just know what we like and want to do".
They found that out in a big way at the concert. The two skaters reveled their way through the set, breaking into freeform dance moves several times.
"Iím speechless," Ronnie said after the show. "It was beyond awesome."
"Heck, I wonít be this happy if I ever win Nationals", said Renee. "Thereís so much more to life than winning. Some people put way too much emphasis on that. I know I learn from losing, as much as I hate it. Youíve got to live, and for that youíve got to have a spiritual orientation of sorts, one that fits you. Youíve got to have identity. Thatís what so many people just donít get."
Just then a member of the bandís entourage approached the teenaged skaters. "The bandís heard about you", she said. "Theyíd like to meet you".
"Oh, my God", said Renee. "Ronnie, can you believe that this is happening to us? Itís my sixteenth birthday! Gosh, what a present! Now I just hope I donít faint."
Renee and Ronnie followed the staffer backstage. There they found themselves with their favorite rock stars. "Weíve heard about you", said Bono. "Youíre really extraordinary kids. Youíre really setting a good example, letting kids know that they can run their own lives, thank you very much. Did you enjoy the concert?"
"Oh, it was amazing", said Renee. "Way past amazing. I canít explain how I feel right now. Iím in paradise."
"Iím speechless", said Ronnie. "Iíll just say that I agree with Renee".
"Well, yes, we are out to prove that weíre perfectly capable of making intelligent decisions about our lives," said Renee. "Itís terrible when parents just push their kids into situations theyíre miserable in. Could we have pictures?" Ronnie took a picture of Renee with the band, and then she took one of him with the band.
Just then some of their new friends from Popland High School came and invited them to a party to be held at Zoo Station Coffeehouse, which had no age admission rules. "Weíll see you in a bit," said Edge. ""Weíre dropping past the coffeehouse. Have a blast. Youíve earned it."
Arriving at the coffeehouse, Robbie and Renee ordered lemonade and then sat down at a table with some of their new friends. "Oh, did I tell you my great news?" asked Renee. "I went by the Popland Ice Arena yesterday. I can train here if I want to. The coach is really cool. Iíd love to train here and go to school with you guys. Naturally, Iím not sure what my parents will think about the idea".
"You can do it, Renee. Weíll help you. I know a couple of kids from the Popland Skating Club. Iíll give you their phone numbers. The coach is excellentóone of the best in the Solar System, Iím told. Those skaters are all really cool. I saw one of them absolutely bring the house down skating to "Even Better Than The Real Thing." She got a standing ovation. Youíre a great kid and you deserve to be happy", said one student.
"And I got accepted to the dance school. Iím really going to learn a ton of cool stuff", said Ronnie. "Hey, letís celebrate!"
Just then several limos pulled up in front of the coffeehouse. It was Bono, Larry, Edge and Adam! They walked into the coffeehouse and approached the table where Renee and Ronnie were sitting. Adam handed Renee a package. "We heard that itís your sixteenth birthday", he said. Renee eagerly opened the package. It contained an autographed tour booklet and CDís of "October" and "Boy". It had come to the bandís attention that Renee did not have these CDís and wanted them. There was also a band-autographed birthday card in the package. On the cover of the card was a picture of a gold skate.
"Iím overwhelmed", she said. "Thanks, guys. I think youíve saved my life. I was so miserable in Wireland. Now Iím healed. Thatís the power of music".
"I feel the same", said Ronnie. "Renee, weíve got a great future now. I never would have known it a month ago. When I go back to Wireland Iíll be fresh and ready to go. Itís amazing the way important things can change your life."
Patricia Hefner, 12 March 2001