Beneath the palm trees and glinting office windows of Pershing Square, Lynn Pershing -- no relation -- shuffled hesitantly on her skates and glided into a wall, her first taste of ice-skating at the opening of the city's public outdoor rink Wednesday.
"I can't go fast. I don't know how to stop."
This is the sixth year that the city of Los Angeles has opened the downtown ice rink, which will be open through Jan. 19, including holidays.
Recreation and Parks General Manager Manuel Mollinedo, standing in the bright sun and 80-degree weather, joked that the rink could help Angelenos "enjoy the chilly, tundra-like winters in L.A."
Likening the Pershing Square rink to the one in New York City's Rockefeller Center, Los Angeles officials said they hoped it would draw families downtown, an area that is usually deserted at night.
Or, Mayor James K. Hahn suggested: "Guys, if you're thinking of popping the question, can you think of anything more romantic than coming down here?"
Carol Schatz, the president of the business group Central City Assn. of Los Angeles, said the area is safe, patrolled 24 hours a day by purple-shirted members of the association.
Ricardo Marroquin, 10, glided across the ice with classmates from Christopher Dena Elementary School in Boyle Heights. He said he had fallen only twice, though he hasn't had much experience with ice skates.
"I've never done this, because there's no snow, no lakes and it's not that cold."
Park employees in orange vests held skaters' hands or braced shaky beginners. "Mostly I've been helping kids off the wall," said Annette Rocha, 19, of South Los Angeles.
It was, she acknowledged, "pretty weird" to be skating in a T-shirt under palm trees.
Ringo Aguirre, 57, who owns a jewelry store across the street from the park, said he always looks forward to the opening.
"It's nice," he said. "I can meet people. My nieces and nephews, we have a lot of fun."
An hour on the ice costs $6; skate rentals are $2. The rink is open from noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday. However, between Dec. 19 and Jan. 11, it will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. all week.
More information, including a schedule of concerts and events, is available at www.la parks.org/pershingsquare/per shing.htm.