True Grit

 Posted by at 1:29 pm  1 Response »
Apr 272011

What “type” of women play roller derby? Well, if you play then you know. All types. But there always seems to be some sort of intangible bond that makes us feel closer just knowing we share the sport. It isn’t broken down by “type”. For example, this weekend I walked into a ladies room at a bar in Las Vegas and saw a girl washing her hands. I recognized her jacket immediately as an American Apparel track jacket, so I creepily shimmied behind her to check it out. It was a derby team jacket! Ha! I wanted to ask her about it because I couldn’t read the logo from the perverted angle I’d adopted. I was wearing a fancy dress and had a pretty good buzz, but not enough of a buzz to fawn over a derby girl jacket and ask questions. But still. I thought about it. It didn’t seem unreasonable.

I opt to leave in my eyebrow piercing and cover it with tape. It's all about the pirate look.

In my “real life” (there is no such thing) I am many other things besides a skater. Usually throughout the year I work as a baker. But I do not feel bonded in any way to other bakers, even if we have shared the same bakery and same recipes. I am a cyclist. There is a certain sort of code among cyclists to watch out for the bike lane, smile at each other, use hand signals… whatever, but it doesn’t feel tingly and warm. When I see a woman in the bathroom wearing the same padded butt pants that I have, I don’t find it to be a conversation starter. I also work as a commercial fisherman. Meeting other fishermen is usually pretty unspecial, because almost all of them are men (though meeting my husband was pretty special). Meeting other women fishermen? I feel the same privileged sort of bond that I do with derby girls, like I can ask for a favor or if they know so and so… there are not a whole lot of us. Kind of like derby girls in the athletic world… tons of basketball/soccer/volleyball players, but derby is smaller. It’s more intimate.

When I meet women fishermen at random I always want to know what they do and who they work for. I have no interest whatsoever in hearing some dude recount his best seasons, but it’s different for women. We put up with a lot of shit. And we don’t make things sound harder than they were, we are honest with each other (males tend to inflate the sense of danger). There are a handful or so ladies I have in my life who I have met fishing, after sharing a few stories we became friends for life! Some were born into fishing and introduced to it by their fathers, some married into fishing and kept at it with their husbands, and some like me just happened upon it and stayed for more (I say it’s because I love it, but it’s probably because I’m crazy – just like roller derby!).

It’s rough trying to get a job on a boat when you are a girl who doesn’t have any dock cred. Just about anybody will hire a 22 year old male who can’t tell his ass from his ear hole,  but ladies have really got to pound the pavement. As  a sad result I used to take any job that I could get and have ended up grossly underpaid, overworked and verbally abused. I have walked a boatyard asking strange men for jobs while they looked me up and down asking if I even knew what a salmon looked like. Once I overheard my skipper bragging to a crane operator that I was the best deck hand he’d ever had, that’s why he hired women “because they work harder to prove a point”. I had one particularly ignorant young guy tell me he wouldn’t work with a girl on deck, because “you know, we have to pee on deck and that could be weird”. He meant it would be weird for him. What about me? I’m the one who has to pull my damn pants down!

Gratuitous King Salmon shot!

Well, it’s getting to be that time of year. I’ve got some extra special ladies stashed around the country and soon we will all be together in Alaska! Griping about one thing or another, poking fun at our testosterone pumped male counterparts, cringing at specialty porno stashes (I have seen things… wow), and sharing drinks at the end of the season. If only I could get those girls to put some skates on!

Holly is an elementary school teacher in her "real life". She always brings themed decorations for the boats in her fleet to liven up the season!

Joy has been fishing for over 40 years. She likes to collect the eyeballs that pop out of fish on deck and save them for martinis. I am totally serious.











Derby is something I love and it is something that drives me insane. The work and the time that goes into it makes me feel crazy for staying. But we are passionate, dedicated, and I have made some amazing friends I couldn’t have met anywhere else. Fishing offers me freedom, but I have to go without seeing or talking to my husband for weeks on end. I have literally worked for 34+ hours without sleeping, eating only what I could get in my mouth standing on deck between sets. That’s what we have in common. We endure. When the going gets tough, the tough grab a power bar and say “this is what I fucking came here for!”.

Fish scale crusted face, this was the beginning of the longest, hardest day of fishing I have ever had. Look how happy I am!





Jul 092010

This past week, I’ve been thinking a fair bit about my last post here on LDG. Sure, I said that thing about roller derby possibly contributing, in an indirect way, to the breakdown of my last relationship. I believe that statement has some truth (maybe), and I want to break it down and examine it, but this week, I want to look at last week’s post from a more positive angle.

So I was talking about derby chatter, and how it fills our lives and the lives of those around us. And I’ve been thinking about all those hours and hours I made my ex listen to descriptions of hitting styles, the merits of various wheel materials, the interpersonal dramas that played out in practice, and, most of all, the details of my attempts to become the badass that I want to be. I’ve also still been mulling over this problem I’ve had with focusing on the task at hand when bouting, and even at practice. And it has occurred to me that my ex was actually sort of my coach, in a way (my league hasn’t had an actual coach in about a year). He supported me and listened to me during all my derby-talk, and was even genuinely interested, most of the time. He watches a lot of sports so when he watched a bout, he was really good at analyzing what was going on, and giving me tips (and props) not only on my performance, but on how my team might work together better (while understanding that feedback from a non-derby person is taken with a big grain of salt). When I got better at something, he could tell, and he knew just what I’d done to get better, because I’d told him. Sure, he complained, a time or two, about how much of energy derby took – for the both of us, but who could blame him? Sure, other friends were also very supportive and attended a lot of bouts and could see my progress, but they didn’t have the back story, they weren’t the ones who had to deal with my lousy mood on those days when I just didn’t think I’d ever give a good hip check or juke around our scariest blocker. They weren’t the ones who greeted me with a beer when I got home and helped me figure out what I could do to get better.

There can be this many people watching, but you can still feel alone out there if the right person isn't there.

So maybe my feeling of being a little lost has at least something to do with losing this coach of mine, this person who had been with me at the beginning of my derby career, who was around in those first weeks when I was afraid I wasn’t even cool enough to talk to the bitches who are now like sisters to me. When I feel like I’ve done something awesome in a home bout, maybe there’s a little of that feeling you get, when you’re little, and you say, “look, Ma!” and she’s not looking. Maybe.

Photo Credit: Rose City Rollers (record bout attendance back in April 2010: 3,000+).



 Posted by at 12:00 pm  1 Response »
Jul 022010

This is Tricky. Sometimes it's hard to remember when to take the knucks off.

If you’re a skater, or you live with or date one, you know how much we talk about roller derby, especially in the first six or so months of skating. Of course, derby remains an immersive activity throughout one’s career, but it’s during those first months that you have the most trouble talking about other things. With each practice, your knowledge of the game and your blocking and jamming skills increase exponentially, which of course serves as great positive reinforcement for the increasing time commitment you’re making. In the beginning, you are also getting to know your teammates, both as skaters and as people, and your derby family starts to become more and more central to your life. There comes a time when, despite your best attempts to limit talk of ass-punching, crotch-stomping, and the predicted quality of the floor at RollerCon when in non-derby social situations, you may find your relationships strained by your new obsession. Ever tire of hearing about your friend’s new boyfriend or girlfriend, when they are in that phase of new love where absolutely every imaginable topic of conversation leads to something about said person? That annoyance usually lasts about three weeks. Derby skaters babble with the same sort of intensity for MONTHS. Sometime last fall, I found that the distance between Sarah Perry and Tricky La Rouge was shrinking while the distance between each of us and my non-derby friends was expanding. Roller derby also, perhaps, effected my relationship with my previous partner – but this is a problematic, debatable effect that I’ll have to get into in a future post.

This is Sarah, a few years ago. She definitely needed some knucks.

As we all do, I found ways to hold onto the positive aspects of my pre-derby life while continuing to deepen my commitment to derby. I’ve since chilled out a little, I think, and am better about halting my derby talk when I see that someone is glazing over (which occasionally happens even when talking to other skaters. Anyone can get a little burned out).

Which brings me to a little anecdote. First of all, I’d like to officially announce here on LDG that I’m dating a new person. This is pretty awesome news, especially since he’s been reviewed by much of my team and has been approved. He’s derby-supportive and had previously been one of my most reliable ticket-purchasers (guys and gals who’d like a derby girl of their own, take note).

But I mostly share this news with you so that I can tell you this: the other day, he was clearing some seriously entrenched brush from around his uncle’s house, which involved hours of hard labor out in the Southern heat, and he found himself thinking: If I was on Tricky’s team, would this count as a make-up practice?

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d thought that I wasn’t talking about derby nearly as much as usual, but clearly, I was wrong. Skaters, don’t fool yourselves.

And yes, he calls me Tricky. Score!