Sep 072011

It’s Fresh Meat Season!

I’m feeling pretty fresh myself, landing in a new league without any friends, but not as fresh as the actual “freshies”. Last year I was helping to assess new skaters and decide who would be invited to join our league. The year before that: Cat Wiest put skates on for the first time in 20 years and tried out for the Bellingham Roller Betties.

How do you like that meat? He he he he.

The summer of 2009 was ending. The Bellingham Roller Betties were holding their Booty Camp. I borrowed my husband’s bike helmet and rented some skates. I wore jean shorts (that never happened again). Surely I mentioned before that I am socially awkward (much later a skater confessed that many girls interpreted me keeping to myself as conceit – hahaha!). I slowly and stupidly made my way around the track, never once attempting to cross over – I thought if I fell down they would send me home. Coaches would tell me to do things that I literally could not comprehend. That night I had dreams about what would happen after 8 weeks: they would tell me I tried really hard but I couldn’t be a skater. I would proudly thank them for giving me a chance, hold my head high and go back to my mini van, then cry all the way home.

I love me some Pearl Haggard.

At the following weeks Booty Camp, a skater who wanted me to wear her extra set of wrist guards (because I had none) approached me. Enter Pearl Haggard. I thanked her and put the wrist guards on. They were kind of damp and smelled funny. She laughed and told me “That’s how I like ‘em!” as she skated away I caught my first glimpse of one of Pearls favorite derby accessories. A thong pulled up “whale tail” style out of her shorts with Bellingham Roller Betties stitched across the top.

When I gave her wrist guards back I felt like we were then close enough that I could ask a few intimate questions. Like, “How many girls are you taking into the league?” She immediately asked how dedicated I was. That what mattered most was potential fresh meat have the time to put in and lots of “heart”.  This round about answer had me sweating for the full 8 weeks (I mean, let’s be honest, the only thing they were looking for was a checking account). I figured I needed to be in the top 3 or I’d be cut. Every time I fell down I swore there were eyes rolling all over the track.

When the 8 weeks of Booty Camp were up, we had our skills assessment. I broke down and bought kneepads and a mouth guard (because they were required – yes I went 8 weeks without that stuff!). I kept telling myself “You have now invested $50 in gear you cannot return”. I did my 25 laps in 4:22 and kicked myself extensively because another girl did it in 4:18. League members who had not previously been attending Booty Camp came out to help with skills assessment and timing. It was like having a jury. Contra VersE assessed my skills and wrote notes about me (which I never got to see) but kept mum about my actual performance and grades. I went home.

It was over.

A week later I got the magical phone call saying I had been invited to join the league and could start attending practices. Time to graduate from rental skates, I bought an old pair from Ivonna Brakebones (who introduced herself to me by saying “I just want you to know I’m one of the only people who will say hi to you. You need to go talk to people”). I bought elbow pads and all the other required stuff. I quit the bowling league.

I steadily became Cat Scrap Fever.

So here’s to you, fresh meat! We all start someplace. Good luck!




Derby in Sweden

 Posted by at 9:15 pm  3 Responses »
Apr 162010

Kitty Cleavage from STDR in London to learn more about roller derby when Texas came to play London.

I spent the past week in Sweden and I had the opportunity to appear in Swedish Morning TV to talk about roller derby together with the president of Stockholm Roller Derby, Bess Irv Cold. The morning hostess borrowed a pair of bedazzled R3’s (courtesy of Jender Bender) and I was slightly surprised she did not fall on her face and seriously harm herself. Before we went on air I spent some time flirting with the band was featured in the morning show. Ah… life as a derby girl is so taxing sometimes, it was about 8 am, but it is never too early to impress.
The following day I got to guest coach Stockholm who mostly have very new skaters, but they are all so excited they are on skates and about roller derby. I got to blow the coaching whistle, boss them around and tell them a hundred times that they get extra credits for falling. (for some reason no one took this really serious, I WAS SERIOUS, falling IS good for you, it teaches you to get up real fast) The next day I took a train down to Malmö to visit the brand new league there.

Coming back to Sweden and see the girls working hard to find a place to skate, find gear, find someone to teach them the basic rules and even find enough girls to make up a team. And they do it all with smiles, giggles and beers in their hands make me remember why I loved derby from the first min. Those girls love derby for what derby is, they take every little piece of information and squeeze it, turn it upside down, jab at it, and ask more questions. They make derby their own, they love every little piece of what derby is and is becoming. They show up to practice in newly bought R3’s, in duct taped skates from the 70’s that someone found at a garage sale. Their pads are fresh out of boxes shipped from US or stolen/borrowed from a brother, sister or boyfriend. Everyone just trying figure out what derby is, how it is played, what to wear, what wheels that work in rented middle school gyms.

Sweden made me realize how blessed I am, that I am a part of a sport that women allover the world, not only US love and work so hard to get recognized. Derby makes me smile multiple times a day. And when it frustrates me, I just think of how much happiness it has brought me and all the friends I have made. Because Roller derby is something that is in your face, and I like to keep it there, with or without fishnets, it is what we all make it to be!


Dear Meat,

 Posted by at 10:00 am  4 Responses »
Apr 092010

Hi. My name is Rock Bottom, and you want to play roller derby.

Maybe you’re a washed up athlete craving an adoring fan base. Maybe you’re a hot chick looking to stay in shape while showing off your shape, or a momma in need of alter ego time away from husband and kids.

I’d like to say I was once all of these things. It would flow really well and make me seem super relatable and cool, but mainly I was the washed up, lonely athlete looking for the adoring fan base and hodgepodge of loyal teammates. Now I’m a rookie who’s just starting to get a feel for the sport, the culture, the unapologetic feminism.

Hi. This is my terribly unflattering official head shot. I was skinny.

I played a year of college basketball for Tulane University in my hometown of New Orleans, making me the fourth generation in my family to play for the university. You don’t care. I mean, I cared for a while, but then I sucked. I didn’t play, and we lost a lot. I hadn’t a spare moment to nap (and I love naps) or  to take a walk with the ducks of beautiful Audubon Park (and I love ducks). So, after a single, pathetic season of Division I basketball, the supposed Caana of aspiring athletic souls, I quit.

And then, oxygen. Chirping birds. Sunshine. Free time. Free time!

Because roller girls have to be contradictory, I joined a sorority for a bit before finding my derby love. But, after a single, average year of sorority life, the supposed Studio 54 of underage socialites, I quit.

And then, lack of purpose. Boredom. New stretch marks. Stretch marks!

When does my story get happy? When I casually emailed Violet Reaction of Red Stick Roller Derby, dragged a friend with me to Leo’s Rollerland, and found myself a new challenge.

New friends to make. A new skill to learn. A new purpose.

Now, I skate. I throw my arms in the air because I just don’t care, and the crowd feels me. I jump over hos who fall on the ground and warm up to my humble rap songs. I’m happy.

Sometimes, I notice my friends looking at each other when I tell stories about Rock Bottom and her friends. They smirk at Caitlin’s evolving wardrobe. It kills me a little to not have them back me in whatever makes me happy, but I get it. New shit is scary, and so is change; but the two can also be violently invigorating. So, whatever, I’m happy.

You, too, can be happy. Already happy? Then get ready for happier. Because roller derby is for you. It’s for any human with a vagina, two legs, a dash of swagger, and a willingness to accept incongruous folks.

It’s time you bought your skates, my friend. Find a cul-de-sac and skate it like pre-Babe Ruthless in Whip-It. Your old friends probably won’t get it, but your new friends will.