Saturday, April 16, 2011

How Roller Derby Girls Roll

Days Remaining to Next Beer: 337

One afternoon a while back Lindz and I took the massive mutt to the dog beach in Kitz, and after, feeling parched from all that salty sea air and sunshine coloring the scalp left bare from the parts in our hair and an afternoon ahead of us with no the where for us to particularly be, so we slogged up the hill from the beach to the Fringe, a quiet little joint where nobody knows our name but they’re cheerfully receptive to us all the same. We park a table up by the front were we can keep an eye on Boomer in the back of the car, parked there in the shade with all the windows down so the poor guy doesn’t overheat. 

Lindz is cruising the news on her iTouch or some such, having a gab with her Mm on the phone, and I’ve grabbed a Georgia Straight, local free paper with a staff that all annoying pretentiousness aside knows their shit when speaking to their flavors of musical recommendations, and with a cover story about a femme two piece called Pack A.D. I’m already the color of intrigued, and scouring staff picks for artists to go look up on the interwebs, iTunes store, etc. On the topic, if you’re a band with skills and you’d like to be heard and further supported, get a website up, don’t rely on myspace to do the work for you, and most of all, get your music up with a paypal option for direct downloadable purpose. I worked years and years in college radio trying to learn about new and different music from any make or model, and I want to support the artists I end up enjoying. Not corporate marketing budget & profit margin concerned middlemen, not MTV, nor Apple, nor anyone else I don’t need too. I want to support you, the artists, so let me support you. Pretty please, with stallion juice on it.

And someone, I believe Lindz, noticed a flyer on the flyer wall by the wide open door next to the wide open wall to the shallow patio at the front end of Fringe. A flyer for Roller Derby. Terminal City Rollergirls, specifically, now about to launch into their 5th season as I two finger type this anecdotal account on out.

After a brief discussion that went something like this, “Look what I found, wanna go?” Sputtering response, “What? Someone has brought this into the new millennium? Hell and yes!” Pretty sure that last bit issued forth from my mouth, through my teeth, and sound waves warbled into clicks and grunts via my tongue.

Polished off our pints, hers of pop, mine of the petrol what powers proletariats and protestors alike, the pistol whipping passion poison that is pints of pontiff proof punch me party out pilsner. And then I needed to pee. Zip and a tossle under the faucet dribble, and we were off bounding East on 4th bound for home in hurry, so Boomer could get dinner, and so we could grab jackets as the sun began to wan and tussle our manes, not a euphemism, and look up directions via Google to the show.

Soon we were parked in possibly the last spot in a five mile, er – kilometer radius to the epicenter where the event would soon transpire. We joined into the thickening like my arteries after southern cooking crowd sauntering towards the venue, a kid’s hockey rink and rec center, now a place for teams of women to beat one another senseless at high speeds for fun and profit. Hell. And. Yes.

As we neared the ticket booth we spot some tall, wheeled warriors decked out in team flare taking interviews from local media. I felt a pang of sadness that we’d somehow failed to learn about the revival of this sport in our very locality at the same time as the news, as this meant we’d truly become adults, and thus clearly last to learn what kids today were into. A brief pang, as I practically crushed folks to get to the tickets and from their drag m honey into the venue, all the while secretly picturing her in skates barreling around a rink like Drew Barrymore’s brawler. 

Pause to picture that. Smile. That’s my lady! And we’re past the ticket takers, inside, and then we see the merch table. Say this for a sport run by women, as well as being brutal gladiors on the rink, they also make great merch. We dropped a fair bit of coin and came away with t-shirts, stickers, and buttons. And the event hadn’t even started yet. You have to have put forward really, really good merch to get sales like that before anything has actually even happened yet. Great graphic design, good fabrics and craftsmanship, fun names and logos.

And then into the inner sanctum to find seats, whereupon we discover the beer garden is a great place to see the rink, you can effectively stand right up next to it and hope to get bowled over by a flying torso flung from the fury and fervor of the fast flowing femme fighters. Beer sold via tickets, in cans, and since there is quite a line up, might as well buy two now to save a trip, or four if you’re really thirsty.

And then the first round begins, and the crowd goes wild, and dust shaken loose from the rafters settles on your shoulders as the dandruff of Thunderdome. A brief explanation of the sport, how the scoring works, introductions of the teams for round one, and away they go, bodies colliding, blocks, turns, dodges, low squat grinds, spin outs, knee drops, elbow grab sling shot rockets and hard skating sprinting to whip down the straight-aways and hug low inside the curves.

And before the first pair of teams finds enough points to define a winner, half-time hits, and the Richmond Dodgeball League, most of them wearing store bought Marvel and DC comic book character costumes, ask the crowd for volunteers and my glee gets the best of me and my hand is up before Lindz can cringe and look for her camera. Soon I’m in a locker room full of Dodgeball ringers, particularly the Asian-Canadian women with steely eyes and blood beneath their fingernails that keep making faux shadow boxer nut shots at the boy volunteers to get them to cringe, I hid behind a referee and goal kick protected my pork and beans for safety sake, still had an Otis to help make yet. 

Got the lay of the game, not much different from the survival of the fittest contest I recalled from elementary school. And then I got the t-shirt designed to best make my beer gut resemble a tight packed keg, and shoved out to the waiting seats for our time to shine. The first round of Roller Derby match-up is winding up to a climax full of hurting, smeared war paint, pulled out hair, and road rashes robust like a strawberry field of bruises, and then the buzzer goes and as the women pump fists in the air for the fans and roll off the battlefield all friends again, our handler grabs us each by the arm and waves us into the middle of the rink. Time to give the crowd their pound of flesh. I look out into the crowd, trying to find my love, or at least see her camera pointed at me, but I have to squint against the bright lights, heat from them inspiring geek sweat to seep from my pits and pores, soaking through my tourniquet tight tee, guess that kid won’t be wanting his shirt back, and I shrug and look at what we’re up against. And that’s when I realize it actually is exactly like elementary school. On the far side all I see are costume store super heroes, on my side only volunteers. Or victims. Semantics, really. I had a flashback of being a small, frail kid and always ending up on the side serving as warm up target practice for the jocks before they’d go after the girls, if they weren’t already the girls. With blood under their fingernails.

I looked at my crew and saw them looking back at me with wide eyes, they’d not anticipated the ruse either, that sort of feeling of having volunteered for something because you didn’t step backwards fast enough. And something kicked in, my age maybe, or the lack of blood to my brain from the tight t-shirt, or the couple cans of beer I’d had before my hand went up to answer the call. I started corralling people into squads, and yelling instructions similar to what I vaguely remembered worked for the Red Coats, that as one person goes low to retrieve a ball, someone stand tall to throw theirs, and vice versa. Of course, this strategy only worked until the Revolutionaries caught onto the pattern and refused to fight like gentlemen, breaking ranks and shooting irregularly. Meaning, as the match began and the woman in the Hulk costume began yelling something in Korean that gave me chills, I suddenly remembered that my brilliant military strategy is what got the Red Coats annihilated. Did I mention I was only ever in the reserves? 

Soon my team had lost half its numbers and my girth could only shield a couple people at a time, not that I wanted them to hide behind me. There was a guy crying like a baby and hugging his knees, snot bubble in one nostril, and another flat on his face, hands over his head in the universal duck and cover position, while the onslaught continued like a perfect storm of ball flinging tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and hail storms. I’m not agile, but something inside me have be sliding, ducking, contorting, channeling Keanu Reeves “Whoa, I know Dodgeball…” scooping balls up two at a time, tossing some to team mates still standing to give them a hope in hell of lasting one precious second more, and I hit the Blue Falcon, or was that Batman? Bounced one up into Thing’s chin that I don’t think counted, and deflected a ball from somewhere with mine before chucking it wide and out into the  crowd.

And then I realize I’ve gotten too confident, too brave, and I’m standing in the middle, balls whizzing past me, but nothing I can grab or catch. It’s one of those moments like an epiphany or and ensuing car accident when time dilates and sound dampens to seeing mouths move slowly, She-Hulk screaming something that is shaped like Dol Sot Bib Bim Bob but could’ve been a lascivious lullaby and Black Falcon cartwheeling behind her as Spider-Man pinwheels to rapid fire one volley after another. And here I stand in the midst of my imminent destruction, the crowd noise a dull roar, consigning myself to my unavoidable fate. 

I believe the balls that knocked me down weren’t the first to hit, nor the last. Those hits were somewhere in the middle, somewhere around my twisting like and homage to Sonny Corleone and Clyde Barrow, forgetting to cover my boys and nearly jeopardizing my Otis maker to Hulk angry, and seemed towards the end like someone had given the crowd balls as I hit the floor and rubber balls pelted my carcass tender like milk fed veal. I looks up to see our last man standing, a woman, take a shot to the chin, apparently glass, and she wilted like someone turning off the air to one of those tall wavy sock people you often see by used car lots and radiator joints, though never muffler places, they always have those faux robot men made of mufflers and wheel rims.

We peeled ourselves up and sulked away off the rink of defeat while the costumed cadres cavorted for the crowd. I smiled despite myself. Sure, I dropped like the U.S. housing market. Still, I was sweaty, winded, and I hadn’t gone down without a fight and taking a couple of them with me. Time for a pint!

The second round of Roller Derby rocked every bit as much as the first round, except with more props, attitude, and energy. If the first round could be construed as the mud league minors, the second round certainly satisfied as the majors. 

While I do hope as the sport matures that more teams will circulate from up and down the West Coast, where most of the bigger cities have burgeoning leagues now. Though subsequent visits have always been a hoot, still feels like locally there aren’t enough teams, and I can’t help but wonder how our teams would fare against the women from San Fran, or Seattle, or San Diego, or Portland. And what about looking east, to Toronto, Montreal, NYC? How scary would a team from Jersey Shore be? 

This post is dedicated to Hal Valla, a kindly gentleman I met during my brief excursion backstage for Dodgeball orintation, a super nice fellow and a great personality out in front of the crowd.

No comments:

Post a Comment