May 142011
 

Let me begin by saying that we’re not going to cover wheels here. I know, I know. There’s nothing I’d like more than to spill my guts about wheel hardness/softness/grippiness… etc. I’m not going to talk about it mainly because wheels deserve a post all their own but also because I have relatively limited knowledge about the diversity of wheels. Granted, I know more than freshmeat, but I’d rather let a vet really do justice to the all-powerful DERBY WHEEL. (Yes. All in caps because wheels deserve it.)

Same thing goes for skates, but I’ll go on the record with my setup – Riedell Vixens with 88A Radar Flatouts and 93A Atom Jukes. I dare you to try that combo and not have multiple feetgasms. Truth.

 

Anyway, let’s talk about the other part of Derby Gear. The things that draw some women to the sport and then the things that eventually keep them there.

THE DRAW

 

Fucking fishnet. Hell yes. I’ll be honest and say that the look of derby was attractive to me. The dichotomy of badass motherfucking women in clothes that told an entirely different story oddly fascinated me. I know a lot of people have problems with the scantily-clad nature of the sport, that it’s a “sexification” of female athletes (and we are athletes), but then again not all teams wear skin-tight, ripped midriffs with cheek-accentuating panties that say “EAT IT.” Honestly, if I had the ass for that, I’d be totally onboard. Another part of me really loves the stream-lined uniforms of teams like Gotham City or Philly’s Broadstreet Butchers. Either way, “accessorizing” seems to be a really important part of the draw to derby. Even if your team has a strict uniform at bouts, practices are an entirely different story. I can’t count how many times someone’s come to practice with new knee-high glitter socks and everyone shat their panties. New, unique fishnet? Cause for a celebration! Cute derby shirt with clever quip? TIME FOR A SHOPPING TRIP.

 You pick a name and then adorn yourself with the clothes that help define that name… in the beginning, that is. I almost bankrupted myself on fishnet and knee-high socks in the first two months. But once you’ve emptied all of your drawers of the clothes from your “former life” and refilled them with nothing but DERBY, you come to the realization that it’s not the clothes that make the name – it’s the skater. Sure, dressing up is fun and there’s nothing prettier than upper thigh rinkrash in the shape of big diamonds, but once you’ve tested all of the different types of accessories, you streamline. You find what you like, what’s comfortable, and what (possibly) helps make you a better skater.

In the beginning, I wore fishnet, thick knee-high socks, derby panties under shorts (and then REAL panties under them), and any one of a thousand derby-related shirts I’d bought. I also started with the same gear any girl probably starts with – cheap shit from Academy. I had no idea what Killer 187′s were. I didn’t know what Protec or Triple 8 was. I thought, “Hmm. I’ll need to keep from breaking my ass and face open, so I’ll just get this $25 package that includes everything I need.”

Yeah. Well $25 gear is….. $25 protection. The first practice, I tried to do a Tomahawk and did something so weird to my knee that there probably isn’t a name for the move. THE FIRST PRACTICE. Welcome to Lameville, I’m the Mayor – Lamey McLamerson. I showed up to the next practice even though I couldn’t skate because I didn’t want my team to think, “Oh great. Another lame-ass new chick who can’t handle it.” So I got back in there and upgraded.

 

THE KEEP

 

Feisty Psyche

My wonderful, fantastically-giving friend Feisty Psyche (Broadstreet Butchers) sent me an old set of her Killers. LOVE. I still have knee trouble, but doing the Rockstar on Killers is like floating on fucking clouds. The kneepads I had before were like spoons taped to your knees – not much coverage. She also sent me some Riedell skates that ended up being too small, but don’t you just love how giving the women of derby can be?

I have a Triple 8 helmet and am currently upgrading my elbow pads andwrist guards. My old man (Sofa King Bad) uses Protec, which is what I’ll probably go with. I can’t stress enough how important getting good, solid gear is. Three weeks ago, I almost broke my wrist in a bout because the spoon tore out of my right (and cheap) wristguard right before I went down.

Back of fingers? MEET FOREARM.

As for the clothes - I now  wear thin, black leggings cut off at the knee, ankle socks, and bout panties. For a top, I wear a black/white wifebeater. Why? Because it was fucking hot wearing all of that other shit. And while I still love the look of fishnet, I prefer the leggings because of the way I do my crossovers. Let me keep it real by saying I’m not a pixie blocker. I’m a buxom, red-blooded BLOCKER and my crossovers became smoother because of the leggings. Does everyone have that issue? Probably not, but I’ve found my comfort-clothes and I’m sticking with them.

Ok, so the moral of the story is – flash and glitter might be what draws women to derby, but it’s the comfort and safety (funny enough) that keep them there, because believe me – there would BE no Coma Splice if my gear hadn’t evolved with my skating.

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Apr 302011
 

This is not going to be a happyhappyjoyjoy post. It’s not going to make you feel all warm and fuzzy about the wonderous sport we all know and love and it’s not going to lead you to some revelation about yourself or derby.

This is a look at how I was (and probably still am) a total n00b.

For those of you who are slightly to moderately internet-dyslexic, according to “Lord Emperor” of urbandictionary.com, a n00b is “A[sic] inexperienced and/or ignorant or unskilled person.”

Ok, so anyone entering into derby would be considered a n00b, in a way. I remember when I first heard of derby I thought it was for badasses. And I don’t mean like, sassy women who “tell it like it is” or something, but women who were so amazingly confident in themselves that they didn’t HAVE to tell anyone how it was because it didn’t change the TRUTH of it all. “It,” as it was, existed with or without the telling of it. Women so amazingly confident in themselves and the other women they surrounded themselves with that they all got along amazingly because of this unspoken truth.

Right, so you see how I was n00bish, huh? Yeah.

So right off the bat, I saw how wrong I was. The women I skate with are amazing, make no mistake about that, but I made the mistake of buying into this mythical derby ideal that doesn’t fucking exist. Granted, my derby family is different than all of my “normal” friends and family and that’s why I love them. They love me because I’m not “normal” either. How can normal exist in derby anyway? It takes a special kind of girl to wake up in the morning and say, “Today’s a good day to get my ass handed to me in the rink.” And you always love your teammates for putting you there and making you stronger for it.

But we’ve already covered this, haven’t we? trACDC did a rock-solid job on the taboo involved in your derby family. But what about other teams? What about other leagues?

So you see, I learned early-on that I had a misguided idea of what a derby girl is, but I still assumed that other teams filled with similar-minded women could still uphold that sense of comaraderie I’d always heard about. If you’ve skated in even a single bout, you know exactly what I’m talking about: both teams skate their asses off, knock each other into next week, then party together like they’re long lost sorority sisters or something. I assumed every bout was like this since derby has always seemed like a left-of-center sorority to me. Fucked up chicks who are sisters because we’ve all taken the same beatings, bruises, broken bones, and rink rash. It connects us in a way that is unbreakable, right?

Until you meet the one team that doesn’t operate that way. A team that doesn’t adhere to this supposed code and plays, well, however the hell they want. And that’s ok. It’s the real world and we’re all big girls, so we can pull our glitter-panties up and be big girls about it. It doesn’t take away from the fact that unsportswomanlike conduct still pisses you off.  

See to me, that sense of interleague comaraderie is an important part of what derby is. And yeah, maybe that’s why I’m still a n00b, but if that’s the case, then I’m ok with that. I want to be friends with the other team (after the bout, of course). I want to be able to go up to the tiny girl who somehow managed to put me on my ass and say, “DAMN. That was awesome,” and I want her to be able to do the same thing. What I don’t want is to wonder if I’m going to have to defend myself from a fight-happy derby girl at the afterparty. I don’t want to wonder if one of their fans are going to jump me when I leave the bout. That’s not what derby is about.

I don’t know, I think my biggest rant here is that once you’re a “derby girl,” you sort of start assuming a lot of things about a lot of people. You assume that someone else who has earned the same title respects the sport as much as you do. You assume that she has also worked her ass off like you did and that she wants to play as fair as she can – like you do. We assume the best in all of these women because we want them to assume the same is true about us. The thing is – assumptions are for assholes because you can’t assume anything about anyone because we are not all cut from the same cloth, ya dig?

So yeah, I’m still learning. I’m still discovering the idiosyncracies of the women on my own team while also trying to figure out how to navigate the testy waters of other teams. I wouldn’t trade anything I’ve learned/bruised/broken in derby because, like every other experience in my life, it’s shaping who I’m becoming…. and I kinda’like that girl.

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Mar 292011
 

A quick word from Vill: Hey guys!  Please welcome our newest contributor, NomNom De Plume, to the LDG screen.  We loved her comments on Moxie Horror Picture Show so much that we asked her to join the team.  Check out her bio, read her brilliant musings, and give her a loud derby welcome!

I’ve been feeling a lot of fear lately- but I think it’s a good fear.  It’s the same kind that I would get while preparing for a flight lesson. Well, almost the same kind. Get this- if I didn’t listen to The The’s ‘This is the day’ in its entirety while on the way to my local airport; I would be convinced that unspeakable tragedy would befall me in the not-so-friendly skies. Generally, I would try to weasel myself out of flying a plane almost every time I was scheduled to do it, using every possible excuse: I was unprepared. Hungover. Sore. Coming down with something.  You could say I was superstitious, but truthfully- I was self-doubting, hesitant, over-thinking at every turn and well, a little chicken to boot.  All it would take was one skip in the CD, or one missed gear while shifting, and yeah- I would mentally psyche myself to fail, then plan my excuses to guarantee ground school for the day (translate: bookwork boredom).

My flight instructor Pete- a retired aircraft carrier fighter pilot- must have seen this little routine one too many times, for he would chuckle at my lameness before telling me to go pre-flight the Cessna 172 for our lesson. About halfway through my very intense, very scrutinous (is that a word?) pre-flight (Me: that bolt looks a little loose…maybe I should fill out a squawk sheet and have the mechanics take a look, could take awhile), Pete would saunter over to me, shake off my concerns after making quite the show of ‘scrutinously’ lending a second pair of eyes to my own, and inevitably state, “Ok- let’s go!”

Caution: Aviatrix in Command!

And we would, and I would learn something new each and every time. Sometimes I would glean little known things about aviation (‘See that lake? You can tell which direction the wind is coming from by the ripples. That corn field? Bad place to land in an emergency- they just plowed it, see?”), but always, always- I would discover something pretty great about myself. But I was still afraid.

One rainy day, while participating in a heated session of ‘hangar talk’ (Hangar talk can pretty much be equated to pilots sharing tales of close calls, accomplishments, tall tales- any aviation speak to pass the time until it’s clear enough to fly again), I blurted out the unblurtable- “I’m so scared each and every time I walk up to a plane that I’m about to fly!”

It got really quiet, and I remember hearing very clean, uninterrupted, staccato punctuations of raindrops hitting the metal of the hangar we were all huddled in. It seemed to last an eternity. That is, until one of the pilots spoke up.

“If you walk up to a plane and DON’T feel scared shitless as pilot-in-command, then you need to walk away and never get in another cockpit again!”

I don’t know if you could call that advice, but the old man who said it to me was WWII Ace Jimmy Johnson’s wingman. I figured he knew what he was talking about, and his words stayed in my head enough to overcome all that superstition, self-doubt, hesitancy, etc., and I obtained my FAA-approved Single-engine land Airman’s certificate.

Jump to a decade later and well, here I am. The air-racing stunt pilot career never got off the ground. I’ve instead relegated myself into a corporate, hourly-waged routine. It has good health benefits, pays the bills, but most importantly- it’s providing me with the day to day stability I require in order to start something just as scary and rewarding as flying has been for me.

You guessed it- I’m Nomnom De Plume, the latest roller derby player in training.

I’ve been feeling a lot of fear lately, but I think it’s a good kind. I’ve felt this once before, but I have to tell you something- Being in absolute control of one’s own destiny (and life), while being 3,000 feet above the ground in a tin can that’s smaller than a Mazda Miata, and was built while Nixon was still in office? That’s much less intimidating than balancing on quads, executing plow stops and preparing for 25 in 5, amongst other things skate related.

Prequel finished, let’s get into the sexy side of scary- Roller Derby, you had me at ‘Talk Derby to me’.

 

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Feb 242011
 

Me, making my way around the track as the RSRD jammer least likely to actually score any points

So.  This past weekend (Sunday, Februrary 19th, 2011 for those who are keeping track) I played in my first match against an opposing team.

It wasn’t a bout, exactly.  It was a scrimmage.  We were in front of families and a few close friends, skating in our normal practice space rather than on the intimidating floors of the Baton Rouge River Center.  But we were skating together, as a team, against girls from another city.  And as anyone who’s bouted before can tell you, being up against a real opponent makes a difference.  For the first time, I was skating against girls who wouldn’t tell me how to improve, wouldn’t pat me on the back after I survived an especially hard hit.  I was up against people who wanted to get their jammer past me at all costs – people who wouldn’t know the difference between me and any other girl in a purple uniform.  They wouldn’t know that I was new, wouldn’t know how hard I’d been working in practice or how much I’d overcome to be on the floor that day.  They would know only that I was their opponent, an obstacle to be eliminated.

I’m not used to being an obstacle.  I’m one of those “how can I help you” people – the girl who always wants to know what else she can do, how she can facilitate and instigate and accomplish.  If I ever stood in someone’s way, in the everyday world, I’d probably have a heart attack.  Or cry.

Originally, I was going to spend this entire post telling you about the process of becoming an obstacle – explaining how I found my footing in the midst of a game and learned to stand in the way of my opponents and their goals – WITHOUT feeling guilty about it.  I was going to tell you about our 117-76 win, about my unsuccessful jams, and about the way I made peace with those jams and realized that, in the process of failing to become a better jammer, I’d accidentally succeeded in becoming a better blocker.  A solid blocker.  I was going to say “aw shucks, isn’t derby grand?”

But that post-bout feeling subsides.  Obstacles cease being positives, and the desire to score more points returns.  I know that we here at LDG are fond of enlisting derby as a metaphor for all the great challenges we face in life.  But there are times when the answers I find on the track just aren’t applicable to the situations that bombard my everyday world.  Sometimes they aren’t even applicable to the situations I face within my own team.

Racing up to form a wall with teammates Schexorcist and Summer Squasher

Our league, like every league, has its disagreements.  We always bump through them together, but that doesn’t make them any less painful when they’re happening.  Right now we’re in the midst of a debate about shifting our long-standing practice time by an hour or two.  I won’t bore you with the details.  The point is, we’re putting some changes to a vote, and we’re discovering that even seemingly small alterations have far-reaching consequences.  While setting an earlier time might help some skaters with babysitters, early next-day work hours, and late-night study sessions, it would also potentially prevent other skaters from making the required number of practices each month – forcing them out of bouts and eventually off of the team.

When the question was originally put to a vote, I voted for the earlier time.  Because it suited me best, and I was voting for my own interests alone.  When it came to light that other skaters would be severely affected by the change, I wondered whether I’d made the wrong choice, whether I was a selfish bitch for going with my own interests.  I wavered and began to wonder if I should change my vote.  And then I wavered again, wondering whether there were others who would be equally affected by the later time, whose feelings I might not be taking into consideration.  I sat in front of my computer, staring at the debate on our skater forum, and froze.

My entire life I’ve been caught between the desire to perform for others and the need to perform for myself.  When I was on the track on Sunday, I thought I’d found the answer.  Something inside of me had snapped, and I had suddenly forgotten about trying to do what I thought I was supposed to do and had instead done what I knew I could do.  I had gone from being the waffling girl, the one who asks everyone’s opinion before she makes decisions, to being the blocker who thrusts herself firmly in other people’s paths.  I hadn’t worried, even for a second, wether my moves were the right ones.  I simply made them, automatically and definitively.  But now, post-bout, I was right back in my pre-derby headspace – fearing that following my own instincts and acting in my own interest was only going to hurt other people.    I was an obstacle, and I was certain that I ought to move out of the way.

Ultimately, I assume that we’ll reach some sort of compromise – one that will hopefully put everyone on an equal footing.  But in the meantime, I’ve had to realize that derby doesn’t give me all the answers.  Or maybe what it gives me are answers in the form of questions, like Zen Proverbs or something.  When I started skating, I was counting on derby to make me more assertive and less cerebral.  I wanted it to take me out of my head and teach me to assert myself as a person with needs and wants and boundaries.  But maybe wanting to euthanize my old identity isn’t the answer.  Maybe sometimes the girl who weighs people’s feelings, who waffles and is slow to make decisions – maybe sometimes she’s in the right.  Or at least not totally in the wrong.  And maybe neither one of us is the strong one.  Maybe the strength is in balancing two identities, knowing which to inhabit at the appropriate times, being able to shift between the two at will.

Maybe all the people who’ve been trying to convince me just to stand up for myself were reading me all wrong.  Maybe sometimes other people’s interests are my own, and the line between selfless and selfish is thinner than it seems.

Either way, I think I’m going to make a damn good blocker.

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Change and move

 Posted by at 12:05 pm  No Responses »
May 032010
 
My first team was Camaro Harem of Jet City Rollergirls

Camaro Harem of Jet City Rollergirls 2008

Changing leagues is not easy, you are leaving all that hard work behind you to join a new league, and they have no clue how hard you worked in your previous league, and you have to do it allover again. Gotham is my third league, and considering that the American population is more prone on moving than most other populations, it is not to odd to expect that many derby girls will skate for more than one league during their active skating careers.

I started out playing for Jet City Rollergirls (Everett) and it was good fun, it was their first season. I felt welcomed when I tried out in December 2007. My coach was great at teaching skating technique and I was completely new to roller skating. Jet City gave me the real foundation. But the late practices (9-11pm) and the long drive (50min) was what finally made me decide to try-out for Rat City Rollergirls.  I was living and working in Seattle and skating for a Seattle league made sense. I also wanted to play for a WFTDA league, and at that time, JCRG were not really sure where they where heading.

Sockit Wenches of Rat City Rollergirls 2010, photo by Jules Doyle

Sockit Wenches 2010 (photo by Jules Doyle)

I tried out for Rat City Rollergirls in December 2008 Rat City, was drafted to the Sockit Wenches. I was the opening jammer for the Sockit Wenches at the first Rat City bout at Key Arena. I thought I was going to puke.

But to be honest I had my goal set on the travel team, and attended practice four times a week and worked really hard to learn everything about derby. I made the travel team in April 2008.  In late June I was elected co-captain for the Sockit Wenches and I was working at least 30 hours per month for the league. I was greatly disappointed that we weren’t able to beat Oly and make Nationals, but I guess it makes me feel a little better that Oly went on and won Nationals. At that point I was looking forward to a 2010 season with Rat City, working out, but I also had a month trip to Sweden planned in December…

I had always had a dream of moving to NYC, especially after six years in the Seattle area, and after a very intense discussion with my parents; I had to tell RCRG that I was leaving them for the Big Apple. They really understood, but it really was one of the hardest decisions I have made.

Moving to New York and trying out for Gotham, was much harder than my previous transfer and much more emotional than I thought it would be. Being used to going to practice four to five times a week, I all of a sudden were limited to a max of three practices with one being especially targeted towards very basic skating skills. I missed Rat City, I missed my Sockit Wenches, I missed the travel team… and I cried at times. I knew it all would change, but it was hard mentally to adjust not only to move cross-country but also to figure out how to fit into a new league and make new friends. When Fisti Cuffs called and told me that I had been drafted to Manhattan Mayhem, I actually cried, it was as if I had been told I had gotten a new home. I still was longing for a place on the all-star team, and a few weeks’ later tryouts for the all-stars were held.  When Bonnie Thunders told me that I made the Gotham Allstars, it was like a little knot in my stomach released. I am so proud and happy to be with Gotham today, but I know that I am the skater I am today thanks to Jet City and Rat City, but also thanks to myself and all the time I have spent skating, skating, skating and playing…

Once I read a quote in a gym before a bout, probably scribbled for the High School students, but I will always remember it ‘Hard work will always beat talent, if talent don’t work hard’.

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