You haven’t lived until you’ve fallen though thin ice in the middle of February, and then, having instantly acquired human icicle status, having to walk a mile and a half back home. I was shivering so badly I was barely able to breathe.

It happened at the peak of my miserable teenaged life in Westfield, New Jersey. The location was an oblong-shaped pond near the corner of East Broad Street and Gallows Hill Road.

A friend (Joe Frederick) and I were gliding across the pond without much effort, having a great time, no stress, etc. I must have been 14 or 15.

I was moving at a pretty good clip when I suddenly noticed I could see through the ice, and at the same millisecond I heard a little symphony of cracking sounds. I said to myself “okay, here we go.” Some kind of instinct told me to drop down and slide on my back as I spread spread my legs and arms. A second or two later I was waist deep in ice water and scrambling to crawl onto the thicker, unbroken ice. I was actually out in a flash, but I’ll never forget the sight of Joe throwing his head back and laughing uproariously as he skated along.

By the time I made it back home I was blue from the cold. Right after the submersion I managed to take the skates off and change into shoes, but that wasn’t much help.

A year earlier I went skating on the same pond with my dad, Jim Wells. I distinctly remember Jim losing his balance or his skate getting caught in a rut or something and him leaving the ice for a second or two and crashing down hard. I didn’t laugh at this (I wasn’t that callous) but I was secretly pleased.