Friday, July 29, 2011

Insert ego-soothing title here

So, we lost our game last weekend CRDA's Cut Throat Car Hops.

We lost epically.

The final score was 121 to 120.  We lost by one point.

It was devastating.

I have been sitting here, pouting, trying to find some wisdom to share, or at the very least, a funny story.  But, honestly, I've got nothing.

The month before, we had our clocks cleaned by The Raggedy Rollers.  It wasn't so bad, actually.  I even wrote a post about it.  Quoth me: "I am such an excellent loser". 

Last month I had an excellent attitude.  This month?  Not so much.

One. fucking. point.  It makes me madder than a boiled owl.

I should be getting some perspective.  As a team, we played beautifully.  Our walls were, at some points, objects of art.  My girl Cakes and I were joking that we should get tee shirts made with the word 'Front' printed on her back and 'Wall' printed on mine.  I got to experience the sublime moment of holding off a jammer so long that she finally flapped her arms in frustration and called off the jam.

I like forcing jammers to chicken dance.

Also, the team we played has been around for a couple of years while us, a mere six months.  This was our fourth game.  We are just now beginning to understand the idea of teamwork and how it applies to those weirdos in the same colour jersey.  I think, with time, we will be formidable. 

But one goddamn point!

I don't think the other team knew how much danger they were in when they came by to shake my hand and hug me.  Hugging?  Really?  All the self control that I have developed over six years of parenting suddenly came extremely relevant as I struggled not to give them a little extra bone-jarring jerk in my handshake or accidentally bump my helmet a bit too hard on their face.

Did I just confess to that?

Don't worry, I just smiled and hugged, even though it nearly killed me.  Don't worry, smiling and hugging nearly kills me in civilian life too.  I'm just not cuddly.  And  I would never grievously harm another player off the track.  I don't even like hurting people on the track.  I am a nice fucking person, goddamnit!

I am also a believer that if you start with the actions, the conviction will eventually follow.  (No, no, conviction as in belief, not as in jail time.  Geez, you really think badly of me.)  Fake it until you make it.  If you could see me now, you could see my smile (not somewhat plastic-y) and watch me blow kisses (not in a vaguely sarcastic manner) at the general direction of the other team's hometown.  Chant with me: I am a good sport.  I am a good sport. 

I am a good sport, damnit.

Because I am a good sport with access to the Internet, I did do a bit of looking around to see how other people believe we should behave after losing the game.  Even if it's only by one point.  This article was my favorite, on a site ironically dedicated to Being A Man.  Though I fail the dangle test, I thought there was some good information in there for us all.

As for processing post game feelings of rage, injustice and failure, well, I'm taking a three prong therapy.  The first is going to practice and working my ass off to get better for the next game, because I'm pretty sure a win would help with the sour taste in my mouth. 

The middle prong is chocolate.

The final is picking up on the heart of my team, and listening when they tell me to get over myself.  The lovely ladies who all stood up and chanted, 'We're number two!  We're number two!'  Moping about this loss (one point!) takes away all the sweat, blood, and bruises we acquired while earning 120 other points.  The effective walls, the excellent jammer killing, the unsurpassed teamwork.  The same ladies who, when we realized no post-bout group shot was forth coming, insisted somebody get a fucking camera and take a picture of us.   

Because we are awesome.

RDRDA's Nightshades July 23, 2011 by Papa Razzo

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Mouthguard Years

There's this unfortunate photo on Facebook.  It was taken in a hotel hallway, sometime between the after party and the after after party.  The five of us in the photo, 1200 kilometers from home, are looking decidedly less than fresh.  There are bottles of booze.  There are slack jaws.  There are half-closed eyes.  There is smeary Sharpie.  There are glow necklaces and jersey's splattered with neon paint.  There is a hiding person.  There is a make-shift kung fu headband.

I love this picture.  But, no, I'm going to show it to you.   

I read someone's comment the other day on Facebook (I think it was Noah Backtalk, forgive me if I'm wrong) about going back through people's photos and being able to tell exactly when they joined derby because it will be all random photos of people they used to know.  Then it's just derby, derby, derby. 

Roller derby, as often remarked, has a tendency to hijack your entire life.  It also happens to get you photographed often. 

Derby photos on Facebook tend to fall in one of three categories.  There is the first type, the very desirable action shot by the professional derby photographer.  Love these.  As Rettig to Rumble pointed out in her article on Derbylife, you should buy a derby photographer a drink if you ever get the chance because they capture something amazing in us that will never be able to see for ourselves firsthand.

The second type is the fuzzy arena shots taken by the rest of us who can't figure out how to get a good photo in low lighting.  I have hundreds of these photos and wishing the pictures would turn out right hasn't made it so.  Still, I keep taking them and maybe one day, over a drink, a really good derby photographer might give me a few pointers.

The third type of derby photo is the after party picture.  Many of these are untagged as fast as possible.  Those that remain speak volumes of sheer amount of class derby athletes possess off the track.  Sometimes you can see much more of the athlete than you would of wished.

When pictures of me skating first showed up on Facebook I was appalled.  I am the type to hate photos of myself, especially ones where I am out of my element.  Roller skating is definitely out of my comfort zone.  At least, about a year ago and a half ago, it was.  Fresh meat photos are the worst.  Awkward stance, look of confusion and fear.  They're just painful to look at.

Since those first uncomfortable images, however, I've grown to appreciate my growing collection of tagged photos that I will probably one day come to refer to as, 'The Mouthguard Years'.  They demonstrate for me how far I've come from those first blundering strides to now.  I am still far, far away from the rollergirl I want to be, but yet, I can see, I have gotten better.  Every practice, every scrimmage, every game captured on a memory card and uploaded into Facebook illuminates the skills gained, the stance polished, the hits made and jammers pushed out.

I can see I've gotten better because my face is no longer forward but looking back over my shoulder, targeting the jammer (or searching for kidnapped Jesus). 

I can see I've gotten better because I no longer look like a giraffe reaching for a leaf on a tree but rather a giraffe squatting to dump last night's leaf binge.

I can see I've gotten better because I've stopped smiling nervously and have gotten my game face on, flared nostrils and all.

I can see myself in post game group photos, where two rival teams come together for one big sweaty group hug.  With whoo-hoos and secret devil signs.

In my photos there is the story of a derby girl in the making.  And also, as images of certain faces and booties make frequent cameos, another story about making walls, falling down, and friendship.  It reminds me of how fucking impossible it is to succeed at anything all on your own.

So thank you to everyone and anyone who has taken the time to not only take my picture, but to upload it and tag it for me to see.  It has been both a learning opportunity and a horror show. 

Photo by Papa Razzo, who has captured both the good and bad of me.  Thanks man.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

All the problems of the world could be solved if we'd just STOP talking to each other

In derby, as with everything in life, if one wishes to get better at it, goal setting is key.  Perfecting a hockey stop, getting 31 laps in five minutes, getting lower and more stable, there is is always something to work on.

I have a few of these personal goals going all of the time.  Usually I rotate a dozen or so skills, focusing on two or three for one week and then switch to a new set for the next, lest I become frustrated with my small improvements in my chosen areas because I fail to suddenly develop super powers in track cutting or booty blocking.  With a little gain here and there, I figure, overall I become a better player.

There is one particular goal, however, that I have been working on for several months straight.  It's something that is very difficult for me but so very important to this game.  The skill is deceptively simple in description but devilishly difficult to achieve.  This is the labour I undertake every practice, working hard at it with varying levels of success:

Shutting up and listening.

It's sooooo haaard! 

As I have already established, I am a comedic legend in my own mind and the little mini gatherings that happen between drills as we all get water or regroup to discuss provides an insta-audience that is hard to resist.  I usually have all sorts of droll (to me) observations about the practice and I enjoy the playfully combative banter that comes about as soon as a situational jam is ended.  In addition to this, I am a chronic low-level mutterer, a back talker, a nervous joker, and a sarcastic bastard.

On a good day this means I have a quip for almost any comment made and on a bad day I will emit a nearly continuous vocalization of my stream of consciousness.

None of this, despite being funny as hell (to me), is helpful at practice.  So I try, really, really try, to check my personality at the door

Which will probably come as a shock to anyone who has skated with me.

I know not everyone hates my mutterings and commentary.  One time, beautiful lady Bert leaned in closer when I was talking to myself and I said, 'Don't worry, I'm just muttering here.'

And Bert said, 'I know, I'm listening because that's when you say the funniest things!'

Bert, very seriously, taking lead jammer.  Photo by Argent Dawn Photography.

Of course, this is the same person who has been declared Most Likely to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse by giggling the zombies to death, with hugging to fatal ends being her second most likely deadly weapon.  But she's a pretty good skater, so I think I can believe she speaks some truth.  Because skill at roller skating is obviously a surefire way to accurately assess general enlightenment.  I do say funny things.  Often under my breath.  Yes, you should become very quiet and listen closely to everything I say.  I could probably change your life.

Or not.

It's that small voice of doubt that also suggests that my pithy comments and witty observations best be left for later.  Talking during practice, unless giving instructions, asking relevant questions, is extraneous, disruptive and rude.  If I am talking, I am not skating and not learning.  If I'm not skating and learning, then I'm missing an opportunity.  I can talk anytime (and I do).  Practice is for skating. 

Fighting this tendency of mine is a bit energy intensive, but again and again I remind myself, Shut the Fuck Up!

(Unless I'm skating in the pack.  Then, Where's the jammer?!  Communicate, damnit, Talk!  But only then.)

I am getting better at not making unnecessary comments, no matter how funny they may be (to me).  Even in the face of extreme provocation, I've held my tongue.  For instance, just the other day I let the phrase, 'hot vibe' used in all seriousness, go by completely unremarked upon.  Though in my head was a chorus.  And it was funny as hell.

So, those who have the mixed pleasures of sharing a track with me, or heaven help you, are on my team, I may seem a bit quieter lately, but while I stand there between drills, apparently listening to the coach with a squinty focused look and having a busy gnaw on my mouthguard, know that A) I am actually for really, real listening and B) I am also making a list of all the things I could of said that would of been a riot (to me) but did not because I am becoming a pure and virtuous practicer of derby.

And I'd also like to say to you, Shut the Fuck Up!

Because if I can't say it, neither can you.  So there. 

(And if you don't like it, get a blog.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

My hero

Tonight I witnessed an amazing feat of courage and strength.

After practice tonight we all came out of the arena, put our gear bags down or into our vehicles and proceeded to do our post-practice milling around.  After a little chat with my buddy Lacee Longstalkin', we both said our good byes and I walked back to my car while Lacee got into hers.

Getting into my car, I glanced over towards Lacee to wave goodbye when the unthinkable happened

Lacee backed up her car right over her skate bag.

I started waving my arms, shouting, 'Lacee, stop!  Oh my god, stop stop stop!'  At first she game me an amused smile, having practiced many track awareness drills with me and used to my sudden screaming of her name, but once she felt the crunch under the back end of her car, her grin turned to a rictus of horror.

Lacee immediately braked but it was too late.  The skate bag had lodged itself under her back axle.

I jumped out of my car and Lacee shut hers off.  We raced to the brutalized bag, to try to extricate it from under the car.  I reached my arm under and gave tuga slight  to the handle and it became immediately obvious that any attempt to pull the bag out would cause further grievous damage to the bag and possibly to the precious cargo it contained.  Panicked, I said, 'Lacee, what are we going to do?!' 

But Lacee knew just what to do. 

Lacee gripped the back bumper of the car and said, 'When I lift, you pull.'  And with one tremendous heave, like a larger than life superhero, Lacee lifted the car off of the bag.

The bag suffered some ripping and crumpling at the corner but it could of been much worse without Lacee's demonstration of super human strength.  It's true, that in a time of emergency, we find the strength we need to save what we love.

Tonight my thoughts go out to Lacee and her poor bag.  I hope her skates and safety pads are all right.  Next time I see her I will bring her duct tape to help put her shattered bag back together.

And for all of us, let that be a lesson.  If it's just after practice and you've been milling around, before you turn the key to start you vehicle, you need to ask yourself do you know where you skates are? 

With the jammer in her sights, super strong Lacee LongStalkin' on the right.
Photo by Argent Dawn Photography

Sunday, July 10, 2011

celebrating (almost could be if I work hard enough) mediocrity

I've been told several times recently that I should blog more about roller derby.  I agree.  I have been breaking blogging rules by posting infrequently and randomly, plus I like to put in annoying variations in font size and rarely have pictures.  All good things to do if you don't want people to read what you write.

Yet, here you both are!

For either one of my two readers here who do not know, I do have another blog in which I follow the rules of blogging and it has a few more readers.  Like eight or so.  You should know, before you wander over, I hardly ever use the word fuck, never douchebag, and mainly talk about my kids a lot.  Roller derby consists of about .02% of content. 

Yet derby takes up about 56% of my waking life time and 88% of my brain space.  A slight discrepancy in writing time given over to one blog versus the other, if you want to consider life energy given to each pursuit, but I do find it is easier to write about sewing, crafting and raising my kids because I am actually pretty good at that stuff, while derby, well, not so much.

It kills me to not be good at something.  I am the person who usually asks questions only if I already know the answers.  I never guess at things.  When I did not instantly rock the guitar, tumble gracefully in gymnastics, hit the fucking ball in baseball or keep my head above water in swimming, I quit rather than humiliate myself.  

As an adult I've learnt a bit of perseverance, it's true, but still, eventual mastery of a particular skill is always my goal.  If I will never be great at something, then why stay with it when there is so many other things to be doing?  So many other things I can be great at?

Roller derby has thrown a bit of wrench in my easy route/slacker routine.  See, I already know I will never be great at roller derby.  It's been a year and a half now and not only have I failed to achieve superstardom, but I haven't really reached mediocrity.  And I know that if I work hard, skate every day, cross train, eat, sleep and breath derby I will never achieve the fluidity, bad assitude and juky-ness I see comes naturally to other players.  I can, perhaps, be good.  But not Awesome.

And that's okay.

No really: OK.

For some reason, despite my absolute shame at making mistakes and the emotional suffering I go through whenever I appear foolish in public, put me in a pair of fishnets and lyrca skirt and suddenly I don't give a shit.  Knock me on my ass, my face, make me trip over my skates and do a funky chicken while I crash into the boards and I'll be back for more as soon as I can pick my fat ass up off the floor.  I'm pretty sure I look like a fool and a lunatic, I mean if you are going to play a ridiculous kitschy contact sport on bloody roller skates, for heaven's sake, you'd best be at least good at it

But I'm not.  Have I mentioned I'm okay with that?

I wish at this point I could enlighten you about what makes roller derby so special to actual locate itself outside of the realm of my usual neurosis.  I have no insight there as of yet.  Derby, in fact, isn't entirely untouched by my self-loathing since I still can not watch video of myself skating and nearly always refuse to view photos of myself playing, but while I'm on skates (in fishnets and lyrca), no matter how I appear to others, I feel pretty good.  Even as my head is bouncing off the floor.

Normally I hate perspiring in public but I really like skating.  Normally I hate sports but I really like playing derby.  Normally I hate appearing anything less than perfectly together and, horribly, I don't mind getting knocked on my ass.  Normally I see most people as being surrounded by an extra large bubble and apologise profusely if someone else bumps into me on the bus but I like knocking bitches on skates over.  Normally I'd never use the word bitch.  It's all a big a big bundle of dysfunction and odd and it's all happening on roller skates.

Pretty funny, right?

One day maybe my daytime identity's self consciousness will catch up to my derby persona, but in the meanwhile, with this lag in feeling like a loser and mortification with appearing foolish, I can enjoy doing something that I am not very good at yet can still live it. 

As lame as I am, the hits I take are real and, yeppers, I truly am bouncing off the concrete and when I manage to push someone out, block the jammer for half the track or knock someone else, for a goddamn change, on their ass, I know that it is extraordinary, for me, and I relish it all the more.

Or maybe it's just all the hits to the head talking.

Yours, in derby (badly),
Unchained Malady        

Friday, July 1, 2011

There are a couple of things I can attribute to my girl Pamcakes.

First, the recognition of the difference between skating a few jams in a game versus really being in the game.

Last weekend was my first REAL game.  The first game where it wasn't a randomly played rookie invitational and the first game I played with my team where I skated every second or third jam.  The first game where my head and heart were in the right place and I truly put out everything I had to give out there on the track.  I am proud of myself and of my team.

Another thing I've taken from Cakes is the phrase, 'We kick ass at getting our asses kicked.'

We lost our game.  Epically.  Despite giving everything the Nightshades had as a team we lost by over a hundred points because the Raggedy Rollers from OSRDA just out skilled us at every turn.

I really don't feel bad about that.

As far as getting our asses handed to us, the Raggedy Rollers were a fine team to do it.  Couldn't of gotten beaten up by a fitter group of women.  I am actually, right now, wearing a tee shirt with their logo on it.  See?  No hard feelings.  They say that no matter what the score is, the real winners are the ones who are good sports.  And I because I am such an excellent loser, I'm really the winningest winner!  Or some such crap. 

On the bright side, I do know we learned much more as a team and individuals as we lost this game than through our previous wins.  We are a new team, this was only our third game, and a good dose of sweat, sprinkled with humility, and a spattering of sternum blocks is an excellent way to get a grip on reality and find some goals to set.

We have many goals now as a team.  Like not losing by a hundred points or more.

We also learnt what we do right.  Because we did get over a hundred of our own points.  When we work together we stand a much better chance of getting our girl through.  Plus, with having to work so hard for every small gain, there was the exquisite satisfaction of managing to knock one of the bitches down.  Few things sound sweeter than the clatter of pads and the enemy's ass hitting the ground.

So, thanks Cakes for giving me some perspective, something to grab onto after our team's first major defeat.  And thank you to the Raggedy Rollers for being such formidable opponents.  I am grateful for the game and even more so for lesson.  Before this past weekend's game I liked roller derby.  But now, oddly enough, I am officially in love

I left my heart out on that track last Saturday.  And I can't wait to do it again.

Photo by Argent Dawn Photography.