Apr 192010
 

Day three started with me running late. As usual. When, thank god, this hot bitch offered me a ride in the lobby of my hotel. Who would say no? She’s Estro Jen of the Angel City Derby Girls and holder of the title Best Ass In Roller Derby. I know I promised a close up, but I don’t really know her that well, so just make do with this candid and I’ll work on it, alright? Anyways, before we got in the car she warned me that it might be dangerous. It kinda was, but I enjoyed her enthusiastic careening through parking lots in search of espresso. It was a fitting way to start the morning. Plus, it gave me a chance to get to know the Estro behind the ass. Turns out she runs a skate shop in Long Beach, CA called Moxi. And…(wait for it) she wants to write about gear for LDG! Which is a gift to the world, because this chic really knows her shit. Because of her I bought harder wheels, and it was a totally fucking revelation (See below). No, but really. She also taught me a lot about toe stops and truck length and other stuff I can’t really use yet because I’m a) broke and b) too new to know the difference but that will come in handy down the derby brick road. And, she’s totally releasing her own line of lifestyle skates with Reidell like pronto. Skates with leopard spots and zebra stripes for street skating. With little ruffled hot shorts to match. No shit.

After Estro graciously delivered me to Camp, I went to her Beginner’s workshop on Skating Skills. The first half dealt almost completely with stops. Turns out my plow stop was all wrong. I’ve been making a full, two-legged snowplow like a skier, but really you’re supposed to push one leg out and keep the weight on the other. It looks almost the same, but not quite, and the benefit of doing this is that if you have your weight over one leg, you can use that to push back off again. If you have both your legs completely spread, your weight is in between your legs, and you have no power to move. You just gotta step. The we worked on transitioning from forwards to backwards which is something I really suck at. But she had us get in partners and, using the stability of another skater, I improved quickly. Only on one side, but hey, it’s a fucking start.

Then I shuffled off to Pivoting with Gingersnap. Have I mentioned how rad this chic is? Seriously, though. We did the whole class with our mouthguards in. Why? Cuz pivots gotta talk while they’re wearing mouthguards. Duh. We did some waterfalling drills and she made us keep screaming. We talked a lot about what the pivot actually does. Snap’s take on things is basically that every blocker needs to be communicating as well as the pivot, and that besides the whole star passing thing, the pivot is just another blocker. We got in lines and practiced rotating around a partner. We packed up and practiced rotating to the front. All the while screaming and touching. We did a lot of screaming and a lot of touching and a lot of rotating, and I feel a little more nimble about how I move through the pack and a lot more comfortable screaming. And I learned some things about the three second rule. Like how to get around it. Like you can press wrist to wrist and as long as the jammer isn’t trying to break through that, you’re good. I really want to hear a debate about the three second rule, though, cuz there’s a lot of ideas about it and people don’t seem to agree.

At some point I took a break and bought new wheels. They’re Atom Jukes, and I’m totally in love. I got a good deal on them from Gino at Lead Jammer Skates, who is personable and also really knows his shit. He totally talked me down from buying the expensive bearings and the Heartless wheels. I decided on these because I wanted something a little harder than what I skate on now (Sugars), but still pretty grippy. They’re wide, so they’ve got a lot of stability, which is important to new bitches like me. After all this retail therapy I really needed a nap to rest up for Team Thunder practice. Obviously.

I was exhausted but exhilarated during practice. We warmed up for a few, and then scrimmaged against Team Blood. We were playing a lot better than the day before, since we all knew each other a little better and all that shit. Quad let me jam, and even though I totally bit, it was fun, and I learned a lot in that one jam. Like about this whole “friendly side” side thing Quad is always talking about. He means that if you’re jamming and you come up on a pair made up of your teammate and someone from the other team, you gotta go on the friendly side, or the side of your team mate. Sounds obvious, but sometimes the hole on the other side looks bigger, no? Doesn’t matter. Cuz when your teammate starts banging that other bitch around, that hole is gonna close up and you aren’t going to have the benefit of grabbing on to that girl who aint your friend for an assist.

More rest. Or something like it. And then it’s go time. Bout time. Team Thunder vs. Team Blood and I am freaking pumped. Warm up was rad cuz Quad was skating with us, and just having him on our tail was a major motivation. Then shit got real. I already told y’all about our badass jammer On ‘Da Sligh. She was totally running shit. And we had this other jammer, a leggy blonde who’s name I can’t remember and who I just call Shameless, who was like Jane Be Nimble. But we weren’t keeping it together that well as a pack, and I was really sucking. Yeah, I was tired and sore and shit, but honestly, I was just out of my league. Every girl on both teams had been skating longer and better than me for the most part, and I was in the penalty box three times to pay for my lack of experience. And we lost. But I don’t give a shit, because it was fun and I learned a lot, and even though he must have been mad disappointed in me, Quad was still cool with me after. Yay Coach Quad, you fucking rule.

The after party was at a hilarious bar called the Horse & Cow. I was taken there by a carload of Canadians listening to Rick Astley, I shit you not. If I had never gotten out of the car, it would have been a great night. But then there was an amazing explosion of drunken rollergirls. And Navy dudes straight from a ball with girls in long dresses. And locals. WTF? Seriously, it was the most hilarious  crowd, and even thought the DJ sucked and played Bad Romance no less than three times I still danced my ass off. Did I mention there was a stripper pole? Oh, wait. Actually there were two.

Read about Day 1.
Read about Day 2.
Read about Day 3.
Read about Day 4.

Share
Apr 152010
 

Okay, so first let’s get the whole magical Pacific Northwest scenery thing out of the way. It looks like this.

This is the view from a fucking parking lot, people. Taken with an iPhone with very little attention to composition. Shit just looks all majestic and amazing everywhere you look. But, really.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Blood & Thunder Training Camp. It’s a four-day derby trainingstravaganza. It’s twelve hours a day of derby. Those fantasies you have about your life being all derby all the time, it’s that. Girls from all over are here. Girls of every skill level and speed. Girls, girls, girls.

This is Black Dahlia. She is the first person you see when you get to training camp, and she totally runs shit. Day one, and I have started calling her the Queen of Knowledge, because I have asked her no less than five hundred thousand questions and she met all my queries with unflustered charm. Plus, she’s adorable. I promised her a crown with a shiny black unicorn spike to celebrate her reign. I have no idea how I am going to make that happen with the paper cups and cheap shampoo in my hotel room, but I’ll find a way. Yes, your majesty.

My first workshop this morning was Beginning Pack Drills with Quadzilla from Rat City. He is seriously rad, and he has the dopest skates I have ever seen. (Wait for it, cuz I ain’t givin that shit up just like that, y’all.) What did I learn from him? Oh shit. A lot. I’m new, so I’m all spongey and everything seems like a total revelation all the time. Deal with it. I learned to think of the inside line as the fifth blocker. He introduced me to the idea of thinking of the track as four lanes and distributing blockers accordingly. He told us that a jammer’s best friends are space and speed. Duh. I guess I knew that, but once I thought of it in such simple, pared-down terms, it really helped me focus on not giving the opposing jammer those things. That bitch can do without.

Then I went to an off-skates Land Drill Medley with Gingersnap, president of Gotham Girls and total fucking badass. Seriously, she made me do so many squats I almost cried. And hen she made us do some crazy shit where we did jump squats into push ups into mountain climbers. She showed us a bunch of different kinds of push ups. Whatever, she showed us a bunch of shit, but the best thing about her was her take-no-prisoners attitude. She was all, “unless you are seriously injured, you need to do every exercise every time. Or else you don’t need to do derby.” Fuck yeah. She’s also totally obsessed with core strength, which is a stance that I love. When someone asked her why their back hurt she said, “If your front hurts, it’s because your back isn’t strong enough. If your back hurts, it’s because your front isn’t strong enough.” I am always trying to say this to people, but since I am a pussy rookie and not a total fucking derby matriarch no one listens. Thanks, Gingersnap, for the burn in my thighs and also the personal vindication. That sounds dirty, but it isn’t. She’s married, okay?

Ahhhhh, lunch. I was starving because it took me freaking twelve hours to get to this coast and I had only had nutritional shakes and protein bars for twice that time. But I had no car. GINGERSNAP TO THE RESCUE! Who says New Yorkers aren’t friendly? Anyways, we got lost no less than a dozen times on the way to lunch, but it was a good time and I learned a lot about the history of Gotham and life and times of Ms. Gingersnap along the way. In like 2004, she saw the Gotham Girls skating in this weird marine god themed parade they have in Coney Island called the Mermaid Parade. When I say she saw the Gotham Girls, I mean all six of them! Six! Ginger is one of the two remaining skaters from that time, and you should basically worship her for making this sport happen for the rest of us. And then we ate Thai food and talked about her latex allergy. I smartly advised her against using condoms.  Yes, I am a genius.

Soooooo, then I tried to go to an Intermediate Jamming Workshop with Estro Jen. Fail. No, but really. Intermediate and I was instantly out of my league. Oh well, it gave me time to take notes for this little masterpiece. And to admire Estro Jen’s form and mad teaching skills. When I say form I mean her skating, of course, but she also might have the best ass in roller derby. Yes, I will try to get a close up tomorrow. Here’s a preview.

This is Coach Pauly. He’s some weird cross between the don of roller derby and a zen master. Seriously, he’s always using all these new age-y, nature-y metaphors and shit. It’s kind of amazing. I took this workshop with him for beginners called Know Your Role and it basically blew my mind. He had us do drills and scrimmage without skates on. I was so fucking irritated about having to take my skates off at first that I almost didn’t realize that this man is a Total Fucking Genius. For us new girls, skates are in the way. We are always thinking about our skating and sometimes the rest of the game just goes out the window. Scrimmaging without skates is exhausting, enlightening, and it made roller derby seem a lot more like football to me, which made me love football a little bit. Anyways, every team in every corner of this globe should take their skates off at practice sometimes. It’s an epiphany.

What next? Well, I did some non-derby things that no one gives a shit about and then I went back to the venue to scrimmage. Because I do not give a fuck about making a fool of myself, I tried out for the bout team. Some of the other bitches trying out could not only skate circles around me, but they could do so while smashing into me repeatedly. Needless to say, it was rad and it was chaos. There were girls of every skill level. No one knew anyone else, so for us new girls it was pretty disorganized, but fuck it. We’re all here to learned. I jammed more tonight than I ever have. I got my ass handed to me, and I feel pretty fucking thankful about it.

That’s all. Since you got all the way to the end, I’ll show you the holy grail of skates and my new most envied objects on the entire planet, Quadzilla’s Skates.

Doesn’t it look like the light of heaven is shining down right on these babies? That’s because it is. By the way, when I told Quadzilla that I was totally in love with his skates he said, “get in line” and then showed me the gold-plated trucks. For fucking serious, y’all.

Read about Day 2.
Read about Day 3.
Read about Day 4.

Share
Apr 092010
 

There comes a time in every derby girl’s career when she has to weigh the value of continuing to skate against some major life opportunity. Maybe she gets pregnant, and after she has the baby (could be her first, could be her third), she wonders if her body can take the beating anymore, what with sleepless nights and even more hectic days. Or she gets married, and isn’t sure if her new partnership can absorb the nights of tequila shots and leg wrestling that, for some, are a major component of derby. Or she gets a promotion, or she doesn’t get it, and wonders if that Monday morning black eye or the phantom Sharpie numbers on her arm are part of the reason.

fresh meat

delicious.

In my case, this moment has come with my acceptance to graduate school. My predicament will be familiar to many of you: there you were, floating around in your twenties, no idea what to do with your life, when along she came: roller derby. Oh, she scooped you right up, she took you so quickly, you hardly saw what was happening. At first you were just looking for something to fill the time, something that would keep you from getting fat and that would allow you to meet new people. But as you transformed from unstable fresh meat to bruise-thirsty roster skater, roller derby wedged itself right next to your heart, became just another of your vital organs.

you want this.

delicious.

Meanwhile, though, since roller derby doesn’t literally pay (yet), you still had this looming what-a-I-doing-with-my-life thing going on. Sure, you were hittin’ bitches, and getting better and better at it, but there were other, perhaps latent, dreams left in you. And you started feeling like it was time to get a move on those.

For me, it was my devotion to roller derby that finally got me off my ass and made me apply to graduate school in creative writing – something I had been wanting to do for years. Previously, I’d let the deadline slip by me each year, but now I felt some pressure: if I didn’t pursue this thing, derby might take over entirely, might not leave room for another big dream. That wouldn’t be the worst thing, of course, and I feel a special envy for Trish and Ivanna, for Krissy

Krissy Krash

Krissy on the right. Here's one chick who shouldn't waste her time with non-derby things.

Krash, for all those women who make a living running derby-related businesses and thus can devote nearly 100% of their time to the sport. But this dream of being a writer, and of pursuing that in an academic setting, had been in me a long time, and I had to respect that.

So, I applied to graduate programs. And then, of course, in the months between applying and hearing back from them, I got so involved in derby that eventually I hoped I wouldn’t get in anywhere. Really, I did. And when I thought about the possibility of getting accepted, I started writing deferral letters in my head. (Just one my year with my girls, please!) How could I leave now? This year is a very exciting time for my league, Red Stick Roller Derby: like many, we doubled in size after Whip It, which came out just before our second full season began. We’re also beginning our application to the WFTDA apprenticeship program. We’re even thinking we might need to start holding…wait for it…tryouts, rather than taking whoever can stand on a pair of skates (I’m glad to be grandfathered in).

But I got into a program – three, in fact. That first acceptance call, I admit, brought with it a lot of emotional confusion. But since then, I’ve realized that no matter how much I love my team, I can’t pass up the opportunity to attend an excellent graduate program in New York City (which one remains to be determined – more on that later). I will have to leave my girls, but, if I can help it, I’m not going to leave derby. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. How important is roller derby, really, or how important should it be compared to focused attention on what could end up being one’s career? I’ve concluded that even though graduate school would be a whole lot easier if I didn’t have to attend practice, league meetings, and fundraisers, it would leave me feeling cheap, like I’d abandoned something I loved just because 99% of society thought I had to. I’ve decided to approach derby like a second career, so of course moving to New York makes sense in this regard, too: Gotham Girls Roller Derby didn’t become 2008 national champions by accident. The training I could get by skating with them would parallel the training I’ll be getting at whichever top-rated writing program I enroll in. Of course, whether or not I can get good enough to make a transfer onto GRRD is another question entirely. Stay posted.

Photo Credits: gourmetagain.com, smir_king’s flickr page, derbynewsnetwork

Share