Thursday, January 20, 2011

the long post

I am supposed to be writing a serious discussion of skate maintenance for my league's soon to be released blog.  It will be brilliant.  Or at least informative.  Or at least readable in a way that doesn't make people vomit into their gear bags. 

My goals, as the person chosen because of a random team building exercise confession concurrently happening with an internet make over coupled with my inability to resist spreading myself too thin, are simple.  I would like our league's blog to be positive, technically informative, helpful, and serious.

Oops, just tripped myself on the last one.
I'm not a terribly serious person.  Okay, actually, I am, but I still joke a lot and see whether or not I come off as funny or annoying to other people is merely splitting hairs because I think I'm funny as hell.  I can't help but make the little wise cracks and asides.  I even joke while playing and am immensely proud of the fact that despite my relative lack of ass kicking in my first bout ever, I did manage to make the whole pack laugh at one point during a jam.

But, I have this vague idea that not everyone thinks I'm as hilarious as I find myself.  It's the all too frequent blank stare I get when I slip a little irony into a conversation, or the pause before the polite little titter that gives this slightly discordant feeling like I'm a bit of an asshole sometimes. 

I can live with that.

However, having been honoured with the task of organizing the league's blog, I would like to do a Good Job and not make the rest of my league look like assholes by writing like one.  You know, like I do here. 

For the league blog, then, no jokes.  Or not a lot of jokes. No alots anyway.  (That was a joke.  See what I mean?)  And, for fuck sake, I really shouldn't be talking about how I zone out during pace lines or my humorous appreciation of the fine agony of giner shiners (when they happen to other people anyway). 

At least, I'm going to try to avoid admitting what idiot I can be at this whole derby thing.

These are my rules.

So, the first post is some information on skate maintenance.  Properly caring for your second most important piece of equipment (the most important is either your head or your ass, depending on which one works better on the track or both if they happen to be in close proximity) is extremely important.  Especially since playing derby can run up your credit card mighty high, most of us at some point develop a boot or wheel fetish, and there is no sense in throwing away your money having to replace what could easily be still working well with only a little bit of effort.

This is me reasonably understanding what should be done.

Sadly, despite my almost supernatural powers of cognitive reasoning, I am not a shining example of skate maintenance.  Viewed from the outside, one might surmise that I actually hate my skates and am attempting, through neglect, to do away with them.
At one point a month or so ago I thought that my basic skills were being sucked into a vortex created as penance for not working out enough.  I lost the ability to do a knee drop.  Rather, I lost the ability to get back up after  the drop.  Which was a bummer since I had worked so hard at dropping and touching one knee to the ground and pushing myself back up without stopping, having to retrain myself after initially being taught to drop, stop, and wait for applause.  I'd be doing a little warm up practice with my new league, trying to show that I belonged with the big girls and please don't send me back to fresh meat practice and suddenly I'd be skidding around on the floor, completely defeated by a knee drop.


Then my plows started to be less plow and more double wide trailer.  When I'd try to push someone my legs would shoot out sideways.  Eventually, I could barely cross over without almost falling over on my hip.  Sssshhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiittttttttttttttttttttttttt was the sound my accomplishments rapidly being drained from my body and sucked down a black hole of gym slackers.  My skills were leaving me!  I was convinced that it was because I ate too many cookies and didn't take up running like I said I would.  Same reason why I got zits in high school.

Turns out, after being clued in one evening when I tried to t-stop and my wheels were hopping around like a frog on a hot plate, that something wasn't quite right with my trucks.  Not right as in the damn things had just about unscrewed themselves loose from my skate and were threatening to leave me entirely if I didn't start paying a little attention to them.

A few moments with a handy dandy screw driver and suddenly my skills were spit right back out of the vortex and hip hip hooray, I can skate again!

Wow.  What a relief to know that it wasn't my lazy not-working-hard-enough ass to blame, it was my lazy not-treating-my-skates-right ass that was a problem.

Should of learned something from that experience, yes?

Well, obviously if I did, there wouldn't be more to read here, so let's go on with the tale my shameful lack of skate care.

My wheels have been squeaking and grinding a bit for, oh, a month.  Or two.  Awhile.  At first I thought the problem might go away if I just ignored it (I tried this tactic with both automotive oil changes and pregnancies with little success - I think we've established that I am a slow learner), but eventually the noise was getting alarming enough that it began to seep into my consciousness that I should probably do something about it.  The point where I could not longer put it off came when Gunpowder Gertie, a wise and most excellent skater, mentioned that because of my grody bearings I was working much harder than her just to skate.  I seriously did not need that, having enough mountains to climb without throwing in badly functioning skates.  Why make this harder on myself?

Thus, I did, finally, clean my bearings and wheels, checked out my bushings (yes, they exist!) and so forth, and though they still don't sound like well oiled machine (despite the speed cream) I will know for sure if they truly roll easier at my next practice.  I had them out right after I cleaned them for a scrimmage up at Oil City, but I was way too busy getting my ass handed to me to notice how well my bearings were doing.

The whole point of these abysmal stories is that I am terribly concerned that my shoddy example will somehow reflect badly upon my league mates, and that I need to somehow step two steps back from myself in order to do a Good Job.  Put on my reporter's helmet cover, so to speak (it will have holders for a notepad, pencil and mickey of gin), and pretend that I actually know stuff about stuff.

Of course, my megaflaw, honesty, will probably rear its ugly head and I will have to confess my shame.  Do you think the Do As I Say Not As I Do argument will hold water here?  I hope that my own dirty example won't be generalized amongst my league and smear their reputations.  People all over the derbyverse will be all, "Oh, Red Deer, they don't take care of their skates!" 

"Oh! My! God!"

Or maybe I overestimate my own importance.  (Of course I do, I blog, don't I?)

Thank you all for staying with me through this long post of self doubt and sad stories of skatey lameness.  Next post I will hopefully be a little less mentally debilitated.  Perhaps we'll get lucky and someone will hurt themselves in a highly amusing way.  Here's hoping!

(That was a joke too.  Nobody gets me!)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

No Quads Allowed.


This afternoon, I popped into a local indoor skate park to buy some speed cream for my bearings from the small upfront supply shop.  While in the shop, waiting for the purchase to run through the various machines, I made a maladroit go at idle conversation (something, given my compulsive need to both joke and reference obscure novels and natural phenomena not to mention actually speak with parenthesis, I should probably give a miss) by asking if they often get in roller skaters.

'No, this place is pretty much set up just for skateboards.'

'Oh, well, you'd let in the roller skaters though, yes?'

'No.  We're only really set up for skateboards.'

At that point my receipt for the bearing lube for my bearings that I bought from a skateboard company that fit in my wheels that are mounted to trucks, looking a whole lot like skateboard wheels and trucks because they are the same damn thing, duh, came through the machine.  Beep.

'So, what you are saying, is that you have never had anyone roller skate here? In this skate park?  Someone skating?'

'We just set up for skateboards, you see?'

We're both eyeing each other, trying to figure out which one of us is too dense to understand a point.  He must of decided it was me, so he elaborated a bit,

'We've had people ask if kids could ride their scooters and stuff, but it's really only for skateboards.  Skate.  Boards.'

Oh, okay.  Maybe he thinks I mean I want to drop off six year old in a pair of roller skates and fuck off for an afternoon pedicure?

'What about adult roller skaters?  With insurance and stuff?'

'No,' taking a deep breath, remaining calm, 'It's only set up for skateboarding.  In here.  Where there is only skateboarding.'

'Oh, okay.  Thanks.'  I left.  Because I'm gracious like that sometimes. 

As I was carrying my purchase, sold at the only set up for skateboards shop out to use for my not a skateboard skates, I couldn't help but reflect that something had gone a bit odd since I was a twelve year old with a skateboard, feeling hard done by because I wasn't allowed to skate anywhere there was concrete.  If I tried, police people (or bylaw officers or most likely the old bird who spied out her window day and night looking for hooligans - hey, it was a small town) would come along and hassle me.

No Skateboarding Allowed. 

I'm not nearly as obtuse as skateboard buddy thinks I am, I know that 'it's only set up for skateboarding' was his nicey nice way of saying, 'we don't want your kind around here.'  Because it wasn't about the surface being inappropriate for my wheelie things since my wheelie things actually inspired his wheelie things, and as far as skating goes, he should bow down and thank my beautiful quads for his johnny come lately flat board fad.   

Skateboarders refusing to let other people skate?  Putting up barriers, hiding behind arbitrary designations, limiting access to a totally skateable surface?  When did this aging punk wearing a toque indoors with suspiciously red-rimmed eyes turn into The Man?

Or maybe it's just me.  Maybe if the rollergirl asking to skate at the indoor skate park wasn't a rotund, thirty-something old crank dragging a whiny kid around with her, they might be more accommodating.  Because me in there, well, I'd probably bring down the tone.  Remind the skater boards of their mortality and freak them out before they drop in a half pipe.  I might even pocket a fistful of bearings and a couple of stickers. 

You just can't trust anyone over thirty.

But anyway.   

Here is my prediction for Mr. Skate Park Police. 

Given the growing popularity of roller sports, not just derby, but jam skating and aggressive quad skaters, in five years the kids will be breaking down the doors of the indoor skate parks.  And they'll have to, because all the cool, rebel kids will be on quads, and nobody but embarrassing dads who talk shit and come out to the skate park Sunday mornings to break their tailbones actually skateboard anymore.

I, however, will not be holding rallies, trying to break the tyrannical segregation between skater boarders and quad skaters because I think that skate parks are freaking dangerous and I am way too old for that shit.

Slopes = death.

Give a nice flat track anyday.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

fouling out

I admit that my vocabulary tends to run towards the slightly profane.  Or very profane, if you factor in that I spend most of my time with two young, impressionable children.  My kids are well versed in the world of trucker talk.  The two year old has been known to throw down a toy with frustration and yell out 'damnit!'  He once, to my profound embarrassment, announced his departure from a game with his sister by saying, 'fuck it.' 
The six year old positively revels in learning a new obscenity with which to impress her friends.  So much so, that last week as some overgrown SUV tried to t-bone our little Dodge Neon at an intersection on the icy roads, I apparently let loose with a word that not even my little pitcher had heard before and she was more excited to hear the new cuss word than worried about becoming a grease stain on the crossroads.  I won't tell you what the word was, but I will say it started with a C and rhymes with punt.


Even so, with my deep midnight blue streak, there is one obscenity that I have avoided strenuously throughout my adult life.  The word was so heinous to me, so riddled with patriarchal oppression that I would never, ever consider even thinking the word in reference to another human being and have been known to come down particularly harsh on those around me who did.

I hate the word bitch.

At least I used to.

I can't remember who exactly it was that I read, but in a book of classic second wave feminist essays, the argument that the word 'bitch' is the word men use to keep women in their subordinate place.  The logic goes that when a woman is angry or being aggressive, calling her a bitch neutralizes her anger or aggression and makes her feel bad about her unfeminine behavior.  She then backs down, nobody wants to be a bitch, and retreats ashamed and passive.

Don't be such a bitch.  Why'd ya gotta go be a bitch?  Oh, her, she's a bitch.

Bitch is a bad word.  Is is used to invalidate women's voices.  It is used against men to unfavorably compare them to women.  Do not use this word.  It is forbidden.

Okay, yeah.  But now, well, there's this derby thing.

In derby, there is this whole culture of bitchery.  Bitch is a term of affection.  Sort of.  The opposing team is definitely full of bitches.  And the other jammer is like a super bitch.  You are a bitch.  And I'm a bitch. And everyone is a bitchy bitch.  Hell, I even skate with a Bitch.  She used to be Prez.

At some point, not too long after my introduction to derby, I wore down a little and the word started creeping into my vocabulary.  I remember the very first time my husband heard me use the B-word - The Forbidden Word! - because he stopped focusing on what I was saying and started skipping like a record and acting like a fourteen year old who has just been handed the keys to the liquor cabinet:

"Did you just say the Forbidden Word?"
"Um, yeah.  It's a derby thing.  It's okay in derby."

"You just said the B-word!"

"Yes.  Okay, now, listen.  I am going to-"

"You said 'bitch'!"

"Whatever.  I'm gonna-"

"Does that mean I can say 'bitch' now too?"

"No.  Let's move on-"

"Wow, you said bitch!"

I did, initially, make some lame ass reappropriation argument, where I am reclaiming and redefining the word 'bitch' to mean a strong, independent woman who needs to be knocked down not because she is a woman who needs to know her place but because she is in my jammer's way and deserves it, the bitch, but even to my ears it sounded hollow.

The truth is, at this point in my life, I am far more concerned about what women oppressing me on the track than any man.  Dude on the street can call me a bitch, well, so fucking what?  The Man can call me a bitch, but, seriously, I know my place and it's not underneath his heels.  And if he does, he'd better have his running shoes on because now not only has he a bitch to worry about, she is also very angry.
'Bitch', as an instrument of oppression really doesn't have that meaning anymore.  At least for me.  At this time. 

Unless I'm using it.  In that case, the bitch should feel very oppressed.    


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hi ho, hi ho, off to the gym I go

I think I've mentioned this before, but since it has been weighing on my mind lately, I think I'll say it again: I am not an athletic sort of individual.

My body is designed for long days spent in pajamas, curled on a bed with a laptop perched across my ample thighs.  My belly, where I store my extra fat and love, is a perfect pillow for the heads of my children or any wayward cat that needs a warm place for a quick nap.  I don't move quickly.  In fact, since my children are now old enough to fetch, it's possible, though ethically questionable, for me to not move at all.

Getting up and throwing myself around vigorously everyday ruins it for everyone.  My pajamas become lonely, and wonder what's so great about leaving the house anyway?  My kids want to know why I can't stay still long enough for them to crawl all over me and what's up with the sweat?  Why the heck do you shower so much lately?  A question usually reserved for teenage boys.

The last couple of months I have been picking up the pace fitness-wise.  I now have a gym membership and am familiar enough face to the front desk people that they ask about my kids.  My 'clothes to sweat in', between derby and gym time, has taken over my wardrobe.  I am familiar with my resting heart rate and my desired heart rate for a decent cardiovascular workout.  I cross train.  I circuit train.  I combine cardio and resistance training.  Just knowing all these phrases and how to apply them should get me a free two inch butt lift, don't you think?

I get myself into a healthy, sweaty lather - the unfun way - at least six days a week now. 

It would be nice to say that this has given me a trimmer body and more energy, but in general I am still the same basic potatoe shape as always, moving at a slightly brisker pace than slug amputee.  If becoming vegan didn't do it, passing time watching boxing while running on a treadmill isn't going it cut it either.  Now in my mid-thirties, it would take nothing less than three boot camp drill sergeants, a team of liposuction surgeons, and a truck full of Spanx to alter this body.  Looking at the women in my family, I think it would be fairly safe to say that I would be the same shape no matter if I spent my days training for a triathlon or eating chocolate covered bon-bons and drinking Pilsner.  My ancestors bred for generous pockets of fat, better to survive the cold and seasonal famines.  I move slowly, better to conserve precious calories, and the mere idea of skipping the bread course is enough of a shock to my system to make it store even more calories in anticipation of the Great Sweet Roll Shortage

Look at me, pinnacle of evolution.  Now where are my bon-bons and pajamas?

However.  As nice at it would be to shut myself inside all day, eating and getting drunk, I do value my health, blah blah etc, and at night I do venture forth to do a little think called roller derby.  Perhaps you've heard of it?

That's the kicker.  I must get better at derby.  This sport is too dangerous for half assedness.  And the potential for embarrassment is high.  If I was a natural athlete, I could, in fact, live a nice, indulgent lifestyle, and still knock bitches around, making it look as easy as taking a stroll to the mailbox.  I know several people who are of that type and I resent the hell right out of them. 

But, given my body, personal history, and penchant for dark chocolate, peanut butter, and red wine, I have to work pretty damn hard to gain even the smallest improvement in agility or speed.  It takes a lot of effort just to lift this body up and down stairs with a basket of laundry, never mind chugging on the stair climber for forty minutes.  It is difficult to continue to motivate myself to eat less, drink less, and exercise everyday when there seems to be little payoff.  Am I whining?  Definitely.   

Still, I continue.  My one true skill, as far as I can tell, is this streak of belligerence in me that kicks up wherever I think I may be defeated.  I might not win, I probably don't stand a chance, but I haven't given up yet.  My motivation is to inch up my skills to a place where I have a plausible shot at laying out one of those naturally athletic bitches.  Get my revenge on the track.   And if that day never comes to pass, well, I suppose I can always wait in a dark alley with a bottle of merlot and a ten pound block of fudge and seriously mess with her mesomorph ass.   

Just thinking out loud.