Ninepound Hammer

Nov 072011
 

A true derby girl knows that playing the sport isn’t really about the fishnets, crazy face makeup, or brightly colored team uniforms. However, the sport is lucky enough to be so multifaceted that derby fashion has become a distinguishing hallmark of the sport. In the realm of derby, a skater is faced with a multitude of decisions before bout day, and one of those choices is always, what on earth do I wear?  Even if a team has a streamlined uniform, accessories make the construction of a boutfit an individualized choice— one that can make a skater memorable, approachable, or as intimidating as a demon from your worst nightmare.

If you couldn’t watch The Southern Belle Ringer tournament last weekend, you certainly missed out on many hard hits, juking jammers, and superior strategies. Additionally, you missed out on some rockin’ derby fashion.  Because I was only participating as an NSO, I had plenty of opportunity to scope out the hippest styles of the 2011 derby season… and if you’re thinking, sheesh, I wish 9 lb would just go ahead and write about the slammin’ tights and sparkly Derby Skinz, you are in luck.

The Southern Belle Ringer in Gulfport, Mississippi, certainly showcased a smorgasbord of boutfits that complemented the amazing athletic endeavors performed by the skaters.

As far as team uniforms, Panama City definitely electrified the venue with their neon green and black boutfits. I’ve always been a fan of the Hattiesburg black-on-yellow skeleton jerseys, and those appliquéd ribs may have been the only body parts uninjured throughout the day. Cutest of all had to be BERG’s Crescent Wenches, whose blue, gender-defiant work shirts had just enough pink stitched into the fabric to give the jerseys an adorable-yet-tough Rosie the Riveter touch.

Without a doubt, black patterned fishnets ruled the day. Hearts, fleur-de-lis, and stars were just a few of the symbols that took the average fishnet to the next sassy level. Most disappointing was the dearth of the tutu—I only saw one, which was, I admit, disappointing for a tutu lover like myself.

The truly fashionable derby girl is one who owns her style like she owns her hits. Runway standouts included many of the Red Stick ladies. C-Murdaa’s spider web tights made her jamming look even more agile; the neon handprints on Jams P. Skullivan’s shorts seemed to wave goodbye as she weaved  on through the pack; Unholy Horror’s face makeup could have been done by the ghost of Jack Pierce himself; Zoomtang’s hair always imparts an important message to skaters; and, let’s face it—no one ever rocks the Derby Skinz as hard as Brat O’Tat and Tabitcha. Bench coach TrAC/DC’s retro fanny pack is too cool for school, and Rock Bottom reminded everyone that nothing is quite as fashionable as a good cold, hard stare.

Many of the Mississippi Roller Girls had some adorable black-and-red candy cane striped socks, while BERG fans and players glittered the day away with their snazzy gold jackets and gold sequined Toms. Best of all, though, would have to be the announcers. From linen pants to sport jackets to a Boy Scout Uniform, the announcers kept the long day as fresh as new skate leather.

But if I could leave you with one thing, just one little snippet, I would like to share with you the best idea from the day: while I was in the bathroom, I heard an anonymous derby girl remark, “I’m going to invent crotchless Derby Skinz. That would make life so much easier.”  Keep your head up, anonymous derby girl. With all of the avant-garde derby fashions out there, maybe one day it will happen.

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Sep 132011
 

I never thought things would end this way.

On my third anniversary of skating with my team, I am sitting at a steering committee meeting. I’m agitated. I’m hurt. I’m upset. I’m pissed.  I always imagined that I’d leave the team because I got a job somewhere else. I would skate a final bout, say my goodbyes, and remember the team as fondly as Kevin Arnold remembered his childhood. But this was not meant to be. Not at all.

I’ve always been an emotional person, but the past couple of weeks, when I made the decision to leave this team, I felt logical. Reasonable. Clearheaded. After all, I recently discovered that I had a slipped disc in my back. I can remember starting this season with intense pain, and it never went away. I kept on pushing, ignoring the symptoms and skating my little heart out. I treated the sciatica with Icy Hot, Lidoderm patches, and muscle relaxers after practice. But when my entire left side when numb after a drill, I knew I needed to see a doctor.

When the diagnosis came back, I wasn’t surprised. I planned on skating one final bout and sticking around to help the team with whatever I could.

And then I just felt sick.

To rewind, I haven’t been happy throughout the entire season. I’m not writing this to blame anyone, call anyone out, or make the team look bad. I’m just one skater who wasn’t pleased with the direction my team was headed. Most practices ended with me sitting in the car crying. Walking into practices, I felt like I had a lead block in my stomach. Bouts were still fun, but I didn’t feel like myself anymore. 9lb Hammer was some kind of ghost skating around the track, just hoping to disappear at any moment. I felt like I didn’t belong.

So I aired my grievances and said goodbye.

I debated attending what was to be my final steering committee meeting. But in the end, I felt like I need some kind of closure, so I went. Of course, I was miserable the entire time. I felt as if all of my faults as a committee chair were being pinned on the table and examined like a little bug. I held back tears at the meeting, but once I made it to the parking lot, I lost it.

I hadn’t cried for weeks. I told my logical, reasonable, clearheaded self to avoid sentimentality. I tried not to think about how my last meeting was pretty much three years (to the date!) of my very first practice. I tried not to think about how my first bout had been against Red Stick, and my last bout had been against Red Stick. I tried not to think about the amazing people I’d met and loved like a family for the past three years.

Somehow I ended up in the parking lot of Panera, bawling and knowing that for me, for now, it was over. Thankfully, my fiancé, one of my closest friends, and a newer transfer to our team were there to console me.

My friend, a girl I’ve known since my first week in Auburn, reminded me of the good things that had happened in the past, and that I still had friends on the team who cared about me. My fiancé was there to remind me of the good direction my life is presently headed. (About to graduate! About to get married! What?) And the transfer to our team, a girl who has taught me a lot about skating and perseverance in the short time I’ve known her, was there to remind me that this wasn’t the end.

She reminded me that when I find a job, move, and (literally) get my back straightened out, I will find a new team. I will skate again. Yes, it hurts now, but I will heal and trudge forward. I can’t sit around and cry for a team that had given me the best three years of my life; I have to pack up my stinky skate bag and move on.

Burn City was my beginning, but it won’t be my end.

I don’t know where I’m headed. Honestly, it depends on where I can find an English teaching position at a community or technical college, and where there is a thriving derby team: that is my dream.

I do know that although things didn’t end well, Burn City gave me something that I don’t want to give back. I learned to win. I learned to lose. I learned that I just want to fucking skate, man! and never be in any sort of steering committee ever again. I learned enough to write two books. I learned that yes, I am athletic, and I am really awesome at pushups. I learned enough to know that no matter what, I will always love roller derby and the people who brought it to life for me.

I never thought things would end this way. Then again, I never thought that someone like me—a five-foot tall diabetic with huge boobs— would ever lace up a pair of skates and play a position called power blocker. I never imagined that I would become friends with girls all over the south because of this derby thing. I never imagined that I would find the love of my life because he announced for our team, and then became the bench coach.

I can’t wait to lace up again one day. I can’t wait for 9lb Hammer to leave the nasty ghost behind and become a skater again. I can’t wait to see what jersey I’ll wear one day.

I can’t wait to learn what derby will teach me next.

 

 

 Driving around Baton Rouge before a bout.

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Sep 012011
 

Approximately three months ago, four girls on my derby team met at The Skate Center in Auburn. After doing a few laps around the track, they bought some nachos from the concession stand and sat on the crusty carpet for a talk.

A long talk.

There has to be more to life, one of them said.

Sometimes I just feel so empty inside, said another.

I feel like I was meant to be something more than a skater, commented the third.

I have an idea, mentioned the fourth. But we’re going to have to make a blood pact. This is serious.

And so each of them picked a scab on their knee and made it official.

Three months later, the entire team would know their secret.

Three months later, they wouldn’t be able to hide their bulging bellies any longer.

 

Okay, so that’s not really how it happened. But eventually, when my derby wife Skully and I write the script for the Lifetime feature film, the drama will need amped up. Intensified. Exaggerated. We will have to find a good reason why four girls on our derby team got pregnant within days of one another.

Because that part is true.

Yep. One-third of our derby team is suffering from the nine month injury. As the chair of the hospitality committee, I’m terrified. How am I going to convince our skaters to buy four baby gifts for the amalgamated shower that we’ll be throwing? What if one of them goes into labor while we’re playing the whose-got-poo-in-their-napkin door prize game? What if they all end up in different hospitals at the same time? Ahh!

Although four of our skaters are leaving the track and crossing over into motherhood, I’m excited. I love babies. (Well, I love toddlers and kittens more, but whatever.) Derby is often referred to as a family, and Burn City is about to add four little pootums to our fold. I can’t wait to find out what the babies’ genders are, what their names will be, and what they will look like. For sure, they will all be chubby and adorable and oh-so squishy.

But the other part of me is in a bit of a panic. I’m getting ready to turn thirty in December, and I have no plans of giving birth anytime soon. Maybe ever. Will I lose all these friends because I don’t know anything about motherhood and have no useful advice? Will I ever see them again? Could it be that I am missing out on something?

Maybe yes and maybe no. I can’t predict how often I’m going to see these derby sisters once they give birth. I can’t predict if they will still want a thirty-year-old-almost-literature-professor-who-plays -derby bombarding them with “I miss you” facebook wall posts when they have a wailing baby to take care of. I wouldn’t blame them if they had to ignore me. I just hope that I will still have enough traits in common with these future moms to maintain a friendship.                                                                      

Because that part is scary. That part is what worries me the most. Did we become friends because of derby, or is there something more? I hope it’s something more. I hope that I can still relate when my teammates come to bouts with a Baby Bjorn Hangy Baby Thingy. I hope that all of my nosy questions about What Babies Do When They Won’t Sleep won’t annoy them too much. I hope that they will still want to hear stories about That Crazy Drill We Did At Practice, or the Weird Things That Blicker Says In His Sleep.

If I had to guess, I’d say that sometimes, the future moms-on-wheels might feel like they’re missing out on something, too. For so long, derby was our baby together, and now they are not going to be able to bout. To hit. To drink at the afterparties. (Or maybe some of them were ready to leave that behind. It’s hard to say.) At this point, I have to have faith that I will still be able see these ladies on a regular basis and love on their babies like they are my own.

And if any lesbian ladies on our team come to practice with a big announcement…well, then I’m skating for the door. I don’t think Lifetime is quite ready for that.

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Aug 092011
 

“I used to say ‘don’t go there,’ but that’s lame.” –Michael Scott

There is a veteran on my team who is an accomplished skater and wonderful person. She’s a team player, she is athletic, and she is clutch in nerve -racking situations, like tied bouts and tense locker room moments. Fans love her, her team loves her, and she’s a shining example of good sportswomanship to babies, children, parents, puppies, etc.

This skater has one problem: our captain is always ready to wring her neck because she’s often suspiciously absent from pre-bout and halftime team huddles. She’s had a couple of really close calls— specifically, I’m thinking of Burn City’s last bout against Chattanooga. I sat on the bench, wringing my vinegar-stenched wristguards, just hoping that she’d land her skates on the track before the first whistle blew. (Thankfully, she did…but it was oh-so-close. Too close.)

You may have already figured this out, but if you haven’t, here it is: This skater has Pre-bout Poopy Pants Syndrome.

She’s not alone.

I’m not afraid to admit that I have the same problem. There have been many bouts—mostly away bouts—where I have squatted in a stall beside another one of my teammates, trying to push any smell of nervousness and fear shelved in my body into that skanky skate rink toilet.

My team has even had a discussion based around this one simple question: Has any skater ever shit her ruffle panties or Derbyskinz because she didn’t make it off the track in time? (We couldn’t think of anyone, but I’m almost certain there might be a skater out there who has.) If so, was she able to hide it? Was she kicked off the track? Did she skate into the sunset full of embarrassment and a turd in her drawers?

These are the big questions.

To ground this blog in some sort of “reliable” research, I consulted a website published by health services at Columbia University. This particular column is titled “Go Ask Alice!,” which, of course, is modeled after advice columns like “Dear Abby” and “Ask Ann Landers.” Thankfully, Alice had already experienced a curious and frustrated young woman who requested nuggets and kernels of advice about terrifying trips to drop off the kids at the pool.

Though the young woman needing advice experienced nervous dookies when seeing her new boyfriend, the advice Alice gave is, well, for lack of a better word, filling. Alice notes that

“When preparing to sprint away from a tiger or fight a bear [or a really,  really big bootied blocker], it’s not in the body’s best interest to spend energy on digestion; you need all your blood and energy to fight or flee. So digestion stops, and often the bowels empty… your body perceives the shot of adrenaline produced in response to seeing [the situation] as stress and  readies as if for flight or fight. You might also notice that your heart pounds or that you start sweating more. These are also normal stress-responses.”

So there you have it—nervous bowel movements happen because of adrenaline that is produced when we are excited/scared to bout. Our bruised bodies simply don’t have the time to waste on something like shit when there is so much else happening! Therefore, the bottom of the rectum just wants to rid itself of anything excessive. (This is all well and good, but it would be even better if EVERYTHING was eliminated at least ten minutes before a bout, right?)

Of course, Alice offers some further advice for the skidmarked writer and therefore, those of us who experience Pre-bout Poopy Pants Syndrome. Alice instructs us all to avoid raw fruit and salads (Eek! What about bananas?), and before the big event, spend an afternoon or five calming ourselves by breathing deeply and slowly while imagining the upcoming situation. (Breathe in. I’m going to jump over the infield! Breathe out.) Once a person can “train” their bodies to stay calm, the nervous pooing may subside.

I happen to know a few gals who might want to slice some loaves from these suggestions.

Perhaps these techniques will help rectify those missed pre-bout huddles. Otherwise, we just might find the answer to our question, resting like a dead prairie dog smack in the middle of the track.

 

Citation:

Go Ask Alice!. Columbia University, n.d. Web. 9 Aug. 2011. <http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/5916.html>.

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Jul 192011
 

We don’t recognize any of the cars. The red SUV is unlocked, so I pop the trunk and sniff.

No rank derby smell. No sign of skates. No stickers, buttons, or other derby ephemera.

This can’t be the right house, I say to my teammates Amyn and Cho. There would surely be something derby related on or in the car.

The three of us are lost in a suburb of Biloxi, Mississippi. After an hour of plunking through three nearby neighborhoods in search of promised derby housing, we have arrived at our last resort. The cul-de-sac of some street I have forgotten the name of. The end. The final destination.

She said 918, says Cho. Or maybe it was 981? I can’t remember.

This is 831, Amyn says.

I sigh. Whose house are we looking for again?

We just lost our last game of season two. The sport court felt like wet sand under our wheels. We had one, just one, diligent fan cheering us on from the bleachers, and a sign on our bench that read CAM CAN’T HELP YOU HERE. More than anything, I think the loss was to prepare us for the hurricane of season three that was about to pour all over us.

It’s one of the girls on the Mississippi team, Cho says.

Well, I figured that, Amyn says.

Fuck, I say.

Okay, here’s what we’re going to do, Cho says. Amyn, go try the door. If it’s unlocked, then it must be the right house.

Somebody is gonna shoot at us, Amyn says.

No one is going to shoot us in a suburb, Cho says.

Maybe we should check the mailbox, I say.

Good idea, Cho says.

What’s her name? Amyn asks.

Ivana Bruiser, Cho replies. I’m pretty sure that’s whose house we’re looking for.

Yes, let’s search for letters addressed to Ivana Bruiser, Amyn says. That is really going to help us out. I’m sure Ivana Bruiser gets a lot of mail.

I redo my ponytail. My hair is still soaked from my helmet. My elbows smell like dirty dead fish. I want to take a shower and flop my pounding head on a cool pillow. I can’t believe I spent most of the afterparty sharing a can of Coke with a random girl who was trying to steal money from her brother to hit the Beau Rivage. I’m tired of standing in this cul-de-sac. Cho’s car is still running. The headlights of her little red standard light the path from the driveway to the door.

I’m just going to try it, I announce.

The mail? Cho asks.

No, I say with determination. The door.

You should. You’re the snoop, Cho says.

It’s true.

The house is as dark as our last few jams. With my hand on the knob, I rethink my decision. What if I roll into this house and it belongs to a family with little kids who will smack my head with a t-ball bat? What if these people have a frothy German shepherd who loves attacking strangers? What if homeowners in the suburbs of Biloxi really do own guns? What will I do then? Cam won’t be able to help me here, either.

The knob turns without a creak. Too easily, almost. I step inside the home and take inventory. Clean carpet. At least three couches. Framed artwork on the walls. No alcohol in sight.

I step back outside. Cho and Amyn look at me like bedraggled, lost puppies. I shut the door behind me.

No, I say. This can’t be it.

But Cho and Amyn need proof. This time, all three of us creep inside the home. Cho opens up kitchen drawers, hoping to find a USARS membership card. Amyn searches the corners for invisible guard dogs. I decide to use the bathroom, regardless of whom it may belong to.

I don’t flush the toilet. I’m still not certain we’re in the right house. I don’t want to make any unnecessary noise.

When I exit the bathroom, Cho jumps around the corner. I nearly scream. I don’t know how she has any energy left.

I found some blankets and pillows on one of the couches, she tries to whisper. I think that means we’re in the right place. If you all would have just let me gamble, then maybe we could have afforded a hotel.

But at this point, it doesn’t matter. We’ve made up our minds: we’re sleeping here. We’re sleeping in some suburb of Biloxi after we lost our last bout of season two. We’re sleeping the entire night and heading back to Burn City in the morning. We’re sleeping on someone’s couches, even if we have never met her. Some unsuspecting accountant, teacher, or attorney who may find three mildewed roller skaters on her couch Sunday morning. Someone who probably eats plain oatmeal everyday and watches American Idol on a regular basis. Someone who surely will not freak out and kill the strangers asleep on the couches.

We may wake up to screams of horror. We may not wake up at all.

After we create our makeshift beds, Cho uses the light from her phone to read a book about people who can’t recognize faces. I think of raiding the refrigerator for orange juice. Amyn makes a few final glances around the spacious living room, still certain that she smells a dog.

In the morning, Cho, Amyn, and I tiptoe out of the suburbs before anyone else wakes up. The adventures of our second season come to a slow end on that long stretch of interstate from Biloxi to Auburn, where the horizon looks like it could belong to just about anyone.

 

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