Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wild West Showdown Part Five: You Know How to Say Goodbye

Valphonse Capone, Lady O and I said our goodbyes to those remaining at the Kitsap Fairgrounds at a leisurely pace. Being three of the people who had flown from across the country, it was important to determine who was going the last party and for whom this was the end of their journey and thus someone to say goodbye to properly. The exchange of pleasantries matters, people. However, it appeared to matter most to Val who successfully said goodbye to everyone at the venue...for an hour.

Goodbyes finalizes, we drove over to the roadside hotel hosting the after party. Within the hotel lobby, I finally saw the model of Mt. Rainier Val had scaled at the beginning of the weekend. The fact she'd been given permission to climb it and then yelled at by the same concierge in the hotel on Friday was why she had decided not to stay there. I love a woman that understands that contradicting statements call a service provider into question.

Regrettably, this is the closest we'll ever get to reliving that moment.
We followed the thumpa-thumpa bass beats down a hallway and a flight of stairs to the hotel's ballroom. A man wearing a black windbreaker and a trucker hat labeled "SECURITY" eyed us with a mixture of wonder and disgust as we walked in. It turned out he wasn't a derby dad wearing an ironic hat, but actual hotel security. With all the money that hotel made on us they should give the man a suit to wear. Dude deserves to look to fresh.

The DJ was on point; mixing the very recent beats with mainstays (on my iPod anyway) like "Atomic Dog" and Earth, Wind, and Fire. Is it the West Coast that has the best DJs? Or is it more the fact I live in Boston? It didn't matter. Things had taken a turn for Right-the-F-On.

Philly continues to bring that East Coast love to everything. 

Seeing Philly at the after party was a dream come true. This was the equivalent of going to a European club, getting drinks, and then finding out that other Americans are there, not jerkwads, and easily understandable while you dance. You don't have to worry you are going to be put into a "specialist movie" at a hostel and instant camaraderie is flowing through you like cheap wine. 

Sin City did pretty well with leg wrestling.

The dance floor was packed, and many of us who went to get water soon had to make due with the carpeted spaces surrounding the hard-top. It was no biggie, though.  One of my favorite dance partners of the weekend of ALL TIME was is Mean Satine.

The 90s NYC Club Scene apparently lives on in the Pacific Northwest!

Watching Satine dance is hard to describe. It's more of an eqaution:

      Incredible rhythm +  yoga-enhanced mobility + outlandish attire  = somebody who's ready to impress the crowd.

With her bringing the game's level up faster than a Nintendo cheat code, the rest of the announcers formed a circle and a dance battle ensued. Skaters quickly got involved, as did officials. Challenges were thrown down between dance squads from competing leagues. Denver broke out the double worm. Jet City answered it. Remember this fact, folks: The best way to nurse all bruised bodies and egos is to dance the wounds off.
A half second later and there was a circle of 30 people, because pervs are everywhere.

MoTown Philly is indeed back again.
Frenchie and Draggin

Shakin' it.

Since I started this series of posts, I have been asked what it is like to travel with Lady Oshun across the country, call games, and spend every waking hour together. It's like this:


I had to throw the camera back in my pocket at this point, because just standing there every thirty seconds felt weird. Dancing with Justice, Clobber, Philly, and Rose City was the balm that soothed my aches and pains. Both of which were given to me by a rambunctious Draggin Lady who hip-checked, punched, and kicked me throughout the night's festivities. A knee pressing into one's sciatic nerve is predictably unpleasant. She had some steam to blow off. I get it. Should you come out for Eastern Regionals, Draggin, I'm sure you'll understand my needs, too. They're simple. I want to walk in the morning.

A huge round of applause should be given to Denver who brought it to the after party with awesome outfits and attitudes as well as a (mostly) synchronized dance to "Thriller." I have seen hundreds of drunks try this over the years. You, ladies, delivered.

At the end of the night, SECURITY(hat) allowed the DJ to play one more dance song, and the DJ played a long one. We danced the last bits of energy out of our bodies and went back to the hotel. Flopping into bed, Val, O, and I talked to one another until we all passed out with a synchronicity normally reserved for swimming routines. Wait, would that mean we would drown?

The next morning, we left our hotel and went to the Family Pancake House for breakfast, where we were once again confronted by the helium stand in its Pennywise cozy.

Damn it, Bremerton. Stop it.
We had to eat quickly in order to catch the ferry across the Puget Sound to Seattle. As we waited in line to board, a motorcyclist had dropped his wallet onto the street while rolling forward. No sooner had it happened than a seagull the size of Vespa landed next to it and picked the wallet up in its mouth. The biker jumped off his Honda and scared the bird enough to have it drop his wallet before it flew off.

In its defense, what would it do with a Discover Card?
 Once on the ferry, the three of us stared out the window together, talking sparingly about little things (mainly how much we loved each other) and planning our next meet up.
Religious pop band in the works.
This looks pretty until you realize those posts are covered with pick-pockets.


We dropped Val off at the airport with a tearful goodbye before Lady O and I met my cousin and his wife downtown. Looking for a decent lunch spot, we were checking out the fish market's eateries when we heard, "FOUR LOKO, BITCHES!" Turning around, there was Junction City. Again. Those girls get around, I tell you what. We explained the story to my cousin ("s"? Is someone married to your cousin considered a cousin-in-law? Internet? Help?) of our daily run-ins with the carbonated booze peddlers from Utah and had a good laugh while looking over the Puget Sound one more time.


After a few hours, I drove Lady O to the airport and shared a tearful goodbye before making my way to West Seattle for more family time. Lady O leaving days before me signaled two things about the trip. The first is that the Wild West Showdown was officially over. The second was without my announcing spouse keeping me grounded in what I loved about the sport, it underscored that Dread WASN'T with me and how necessary O had been to keep me from missing the missus.

Coming home late at night (thanks, Hayley!), I crawled into bed with my sleeping wife, held her close and tried to fall asleep before our dog wedged between us. I failed, but I didn't care.

Goodbye, Pacific Northwest. I leave you in capable hands:

If you want to see more shots from the Wild West Showdown, go here.
Feel free to use the pictures on your Facebook if you credit me taking them.



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wild West Showdown Part Four: Every day is like Sunday

Resting on Chad.
After the previous night's derring-do, one could have finished the book on the Wild West Showdown and said, "that was a satisfying ending. Let's get back home with tales of derby wonder." But no, the Pants Off Dance Off was merely a howled prayer to the deities residing on Mount Skatelympus to give us more quad-wheeled combat the next day. And lo, that prayer was answered.

In the morning, Val Capone and I called a scrimmage that featured the very same ladies who threw the party the night before. This scrimmage was being recorded for WFTDA as it was a play-test of a "no minors" ruleset. If you're unfamiliar with roller derby, there are minor penalties and major ones. For efficiency's sake, just consider this equation: 4 minors = 1 major. Majors send one to the penalty box immediately. Removing the minors affected game-play and strategy (any track cut was a penalty, some forearms were just ignored) but the game was still roller derby. However, with only thirty minutes of play and the fact nothing was really at stake makes me wish they had gone a full two periods to simulate a real bout.

Denver continued their winning streak against Sacred City, and I called Jet City v. Philly with Miz Spydr. Philly was rested and battle-ready, and they took it to Jet with a fury seen only on nature shows, winning 185-68. This power animal thing is working. I think I need one. As Teflon Donna already has the one I'd choose, I guess I better go for a gibbon:

The gibbon is the loudest land mammal. I know you come here to learn.

Calling that game had taken a lot out of me and my voice so Randy Pan, Lady O and I went up into the beer garden to watch Santa Cruz take on Dockyard. Dockyard took an early lead, but Santa Cruz quickly recovered and blew Dockyard out of the water. The bout was better than coffee, as I repeatedly stood and screamed for Santa Cruz, especially for the jammer Lu Lu Lockaw, a regular reader of this blog.  Seriously, I love watching up-and-coming teams. Sure it murdered my throat, but damn the West is exciting.

Look, I write and talk a lot of mess. The skaters are very much the reason we watch.
And if you're out West... Santa Cruz, suckas.
After the game, I sought out sustenance. The food truck was gone, but my hopes for eating well were unbroken. Juanito's Tacos set up shop by Track Two. If you're ever in the Bremerton area, eat there. Not only did they make a superior Carne Asada taco, they brought them over to announcers at the emcee tables. In turn, we praised them as masters of Mexican cuisine. Deciding to give them money for a change I waited my turn in line to buy their food. The owner's son, a boy of about twelve was taking my order when a meth-addled copy of Fred Durst cut the line and said, "Yo, Coke. Yo," while pointing both index fingers at the soda cooler.

Maybe it was him...
Before I could even say anything the kid looks at Meth Bizkit and says, "there's a line. Wait." The guy stared at him, likely in disbelief that his only option was Coca-Cola and not Faygo, and then walked away. After the young cashier's display of no-nonsense control, I would order tacos from Juanito's and request them to be delivered via mail just to give money to the family that raised such a fearless little man.

The final official game of the night, Rat City v. Philly was just tops. Philly seems to be the experts on two person walls and saving their points even with a full penalty box. Rat City, on the other hand, hit their stride in their last game. Playing offensively and penalty-killing worked in their favor and they came out ahead. Calling once more for the internet with Randy Pan, our joking died out before period two because of the sheer power of the bout.

Once it was done, the venue was closed to the public. Another coed scrimmage, featuring the finest skaters from OLY, Rat,  and the best of the West fought long and hard in one of the most obscenity-laden bouts I have ever witnessed. If John Waters had directed Whip It, this game would have been the model for the final game in the movie.

While watching the event, Junction City donated a Four Loko to Lady O's "Gettin' Tore Up" fund.

Taste testing...

Our final treat of the evening was the NSO bout. The NSHobos are the primary group of Non-Skating Officials in the Pacific Northwest. Many of them cannot skate worth a damn. While this was entertaining enough on its own, things took a turn for the weird:

The streakers returned, their dress-code was quickly adopted by the penalty box and those announcing the bout. The laws of physics, nature, and Bremerton quickly turning into soup of primordial chaos, I felt immediately foolish for believing the previous night's dancing would be the pinnacle of fun I'd experience.

Then came the last after party.

Tomorrow: Thriller! Philly! Thieving Sea Gulls! Yoga! And Goodbyes to the state.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wild West Showdown Part Three: Everybody dance like your booty's out yo' pants

The Saturday morning sun reflected off the arrows' fletching beautifully. Lady O and I were ready to face our second day of Wild West Showdown madness. O was scheduled for the first bout of the day (ten in the morning), which meant there was time to neither dilly nor dally. We hopped into the car and made our way over to the venue with an hour to spare. My stomach rumbling, I headed to a trusted friend of the fairground goer, the food truck.

Like this one, except not being driven by a longhaired dude referring to himself as "the Jewish Cowboy."
My friends inside cooked me up biscuits and gravy with bacon on the side. Cost? Three dollars. Taste? Pretty damn good. I ate my breakfast watching Lady O call with Joe Mama on Track Three. Their game? The InvAsian vs. Femme Fianna. It was awesome to see the Asian team's roster, especially because Rice Rocket was rocking the jammer line. That's another bonus of these tournaments. You never know who is going to show.

Joe Mama's jokes were funny and I can't repeat them.

The day continued to roar on. I called with Magic Pony Power Hour on Track Three. We had no team rosters, so a lot of it was trial and error, but we did it! And by the end of that half-hour,  almost everyone's name was said correctly.

My biggest gift of the morning was seeing the Coed Cripplers in action. It was in that bout I got to see Val Capone, B Train, Justice Feelgood Marshal, and Quadzilla up on the track as teammates. This was a rare treat, like a dog being able to steal a steak off his owner's plate. I was completely enthralled and with the sweet moves, hits and boutfits that made me twirl my ring around my finger lest I become the type of lech that calls Providence bouts every month while wearing a fringed jacket over my shirtless torso.

Internet creeps, you're welcome!

That night, Rose City took on Philly.  With Elle Viento, Fists, and other vets back home, the Liberty Belles were showcasing five new players. I called the game with Draggin Lady, and our words were thrown across the wireless internet and into homes across the country (in Canada, they were politely handed to our viewers). Philly held their own, but the Rose City machine is racking people up and knocking them down. SmackYa Sideways, Cadillac, Acid, and White Flight shake my world. Scratcher in the Eye just demolishes it with sheer power. During my commentary, I was receiving texts from Dumptruck, Reverend Al, and skaters from back east who gave me words of encouragement like, "you're a clown," and "you mind if I date Dread while you're gone?"

The end of the night came with a bang and it was time for THE after party event. The Vagine Regime were hosting the "Pants Off Dance Off" party at a local bar in Bremerton. My outfit had been decided before I left Boston. We arrived at the Naval Bar known as "The Horse and Cow," and navigated the congested parking lot out back until we found a space. The local police rolled past the pub in twenty second intervals. I felt as though I were the sea turtle in the main tank of the New England Aquarium surrounded by sharks with badges. They weren't about to bite me, but they wanted me to know they were there. No matter. After showing my ID to the doorman, Lady O and I got in and got ready to dance!

Party time.

Rejecting the premise of East Coast v. West Coast play on the track, I do see that the West Coast is ready to throw down at the party harder than the Northeast does. Being one of the exceptions to that statement, it was nice to get out and not feel like I was hanging out at a WASPy wedding reception. People were ready to  shake their booties and throw themselves into the Satyr-like atmosphere with the type of abandon that you enjoyed in our youth. To symbolize that, I came wearing a boutfit worthy of the party:

We were missing our Michaelangelo.

I rarely need to drink, and being the designated driver was actually the best thing for me because dancing in a cable-knit sweater can get hot. Drinking liquor would have been a recipe for hangover city anyway.  Sans pants, however, I was very comfy. While out on the floor, I ran into Val Capone who had found something under foot that deserved more care.

Trampling this 'zine was heck of sad.
While HELLARAD was banned from the venue, it was all over the town of Bremerton. I imagine the citzenry had a great read about the effectiveness of adult diapers, derby, and Dumptruck's defense of the free-range announcer while they were cleaning up after us. I know I did.

Clobbs says hello, Boston!

The strangest thing that happened at the 'Dance Off came after finally meeting Chrome Molly of the Southern Oregon roller girls after months of mutual admiration on the DNN site. We danced and chatted before finally realizing who one another was, and I was excited to hear that her boyfriend listens for me on web casts. Thanks for listening, dude!

Nothing better than meeting the lady that got you votes on the West Coast! Love to Chrome Molly forever!

Shortly after we said hi, a skater came up to me and had this exchange:

Skater: So, is being here weird now that you're flying solo?

Me: Oh, I'm not! Lady O is right over there!

Skater: Crazy! You mean, you and her--?

Me: No, I .... (finally gets it) Oh, No...I'm still married to Dread.

Skater: Cool! (The skater, Chrome Molly and I go back to dancing)

Later on, a ref came up and asked how my divorce was going. Explaining that I was not getting divorced, he excused himself and said, "I have to go stop someone from making an ass of herself."

So yeah. Still married. But thanks. You made me blush through my turtle mask. Dread found the story funny, as I never get people are actually talking about that stuff until I almost walk into trouble. I'm the Forrest Gump of the romantic world, or the pretty girl who's all like "sure you can rub my back," before realizing it's probably not the best thing.

The night ended with me shouting at a gothy skater out my car window. "This is your weekend, honey! You rock it!" She thanked me. I realized that I just shouted to a lady out of a window.

I am a buffoon.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wild West Showdown Part Two: The action begins and Pelvis makes a party foul

After taking a moment to appreciate the archery skills of our neighbors, Lady O and I did our hair, threw on some decent clothes, and made our way to the venue to meet up with Draggin Lady and Mike Chexx, the Rose City announcers with whom we've worked the most, and the two in charge of announcer wranglin' that weekend. My GPS, left overnight in the car, refused to work. We left our hotel with printed out directions and they were fantastic. We arrived within fifteen minutes.

The Fairgrounds were nice. Three tracks had been set up for derby action. Track One and Two were in the main building, and they were for sanctioned play. Track Three, which was in a smaller building a mere 300 feet away, hosted the various challenge bouts. We were excited as hell.

Going away on a tournament weekend and reconnecting with your friends from around the country is a lot like summer camp, or so I'm told. The nearest thing I can compare it to is my own grad school experience. Whenever I arrive on the Bennington Campus, I'm nigh orgasmic at the sight of other writers with whom I share a sense of common passion, interests, and favorite scribes. Being with the mouths of derby, I get the same sense of common passion and interests, but instead of moments of introspection, we're often getting louder than IEDS.

Val Capone explains the proper way to project on a live call starts with a split.
My first bout of the day was calling Sin City v. Slaughter County with the latter's own announcer .00 Buck. Buck was a great host on the mic, and though we had to mad dash for rosters a few minutes beforehand, he was unflappable. It's good to be taut in these situations. We called the game, and at half-time I took a quick photo of myself to say hi to Dread.

Hey, Sexy pants!
If you saw the game, you know that Slaughter County's jammers were fantabulous. With time before the big Denver v. Rose City bout, Lady O and I went over to Track Three to see Quadzilla and the Puget Sound Outcasts play. The man's a skating machine. Hell, his whole crew is impressive, but if I hear one more lazy, pot-bellied dude talk about guys being unable to skate with the same grace and watchable style as the women-folk I'll...still stare at said pot-belly and think the same things I always do. Simply put: Quadzilla is amazing.

Puget Sound has the speed to give you what you need.

When the big game of the evening came, I hustled my way to Track One. Lady O was calling for the people watching on the internets, so the beautiful lady voice that massaged my ears with play-by-play goodness was Randy Pan's. The bout was so amazing, like watching a political debate suddenly turn into a Jerry Springer slapfight. The lead changes, the huge plays, the screaming fans...I was on constant overload. When the score was finalized (Denver 112, Rose City 98), I was thanking every god I could remember for giving me the chance to go to this tourney.

Stop Motion won't help you. This was not a slow game, even in the sense that made you boo all 2009 long.
Lady O did some awesome post-day wrap-up in "The Penalty Box." She was clever enough to make me stifle a laugh and I had to just marvel about the amount of insight she has about West Coast play that I could later steal and appropriate as my own opinion. That's what derby marriage is for.

Lady O's "Biggie vs. Tupac" comparison about derby enthralls the boys.

Back at the hotel, we were unwilling to go to bed right away. We went to the on-premises bar that was now packed with leagues and officials. I bought a drink, went over to say hi to the karaoke DJ, and promptly spilled my drink all over his deck. A panicked run to the bartender got us the necessary towels. Mortified, I sat down to lay low until we left the bar.


However, the DJ was cool about it, ribbing me only a few times, and it didn't stop Lady O and I from singing anyway. If you were there and tipped him, thank you.

Before we called it a night, we met Power Jammers fans from UTAH, The Junction City Roller Dolls! As they are from the state of the Big Salt Lake, their alcohol is not as strong as ours. Imagine Bruce Banner is a UTAH beer. It's 3%, if that. Now, bring these skaters to a place where that beer gets angry and turns into the banned Four Loko. This = a cost-efficient way for them to get the type of screamy-laughy drunk they may not have had elsewhere.


The ladies were nice, full of energy, and didn't show any sign of slowing down or paying for their mind-blowing intake. As the weekend went on, they were indeed the front-runners of the marathon of partying that so many joined in on as the weekend wore on.

Happy and exhausted, we went to bed without any significant hoarseness and prepared for the second day.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wild West Showdown Part One: Goin' Out West

"We're experiencing some turbulence and ask that you remain calm," the pilot said via the intercom. "Up in the cabin, we think it's pretty fun."

For the first fifteen seconds, I agreed. The view of the clouds above St. Louis, MO  lost none of its charm as the overhead compartment rattled with each mini-bump the plane hit. I had eaten a snack, been served a Coke Zero by a flight attendant who looked a lot like Julianne Moore, and just finished Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad (procure this book and read it). Had Dread been with me, I'd have been gritting my teeth as she crushed my hands to cope with her fear of flight. Relishing my mitts uninterrupted blood circulation, I was loving the ride.

Then the woman to my left slumped over and onto me. Minutes before this, my seat neighbor told me she'd taken a Xanax prior to boarding so she could sleep all the way to Seattle. The turbulence had shifted her now-unconscious body to the right and my bony shoulder was her new pillow. An elbow moved her without her waking up. I was resolved not to complain much that weekend. I was headed to the Wild West Showdown!

Southwest Airlines: gremlin free since 2011!
Arriving in Seattle, I was greeted with the rainy weather for which the beautiful Rat City is known. My dearest aunt, Patricia, picked me up from the airport for a quick lunch and then brought me to her house to retrieve the car that Lady O and I would use on our trip. Kissing my aunt on the cheek, I left her house with alacrity and went back to the airport to pick up my announcin' spouse.


A word on the Pacific Northwest's highways for those who have never been there: They suck. Most of the smaller highways have NO NUMBERS on them. There's also places where an off-ramp is for THREE different exits. Given the pouring rain, you may miss your exit. Fifteen minutes from our destination, we almost missed ours.  I was able to get onto the exit 100 feet before I'd have to wait until God Knows when to turn around. Then Lady O and I were pulled over, threatened with a thousand dollar ticket for reasons that our police officer friends and lawyer relatives have since dispelled as "bunk" and sent on our way. Honestly, I am grateful we received a warning, even if it was all BS. We arrived in Bremerton, WA at 7PM PST. We made our way past the shipyards, juggalos and different roadside inns to our home-away-from-home, The Oyster Bay Inn.

Home for the next five days.

The staff of the Oyster Bay Inn were exceptionally kind. The concierge was ready to do anything for us, including moving Lady O and I  to a new room when our first room's heater blew cold air and the refrigerator was both on and blowing hot air. Was there a disgruntled HVAC worker in this quiet town? We'll never know.

There was a bar in our hotel, reminiscent of the Chinatown bars in 80s action films where Steven Seagall would fight Yakuza for whatever reason was hot at the time (Asian confusion, sadly, still plagues most Americans to this day). There were only six hotel guests in the bar that Thursday. We met Stu Pidasso and Bruce, referees from Utah's leagues, along with a truck driver from Eugene, Oregon (who bought us drinks!) and the town's local band leader, Willy.  Never passing up an opportunity to get on a microphone, O and I sang karaoke at the other four patrons and the three staff until it was time for bed.

Our room had a quaint porch that looked over the bay. The next morning, I went out to enjoy the view while Lady O beat her face in the mirror.  Nature was happening. I loved it. Then I saw something that reminded me we were no longer in Boston.


They hunt trees from porches out here.

I grew up in a hick town, but this...this was some Crystal Lake type of shenanigans.

Tomorrow:  Day One of the Wild West Showdown! Meeting the folks! Awesome games! Dancing! Derby Skinz! Be there!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gender Bending? Widowers wearing their girls "team jacket"

In the United States, it's pretty common to see young ladies wearing their boyfriend's sports jacket, or team jersey either around town or to pass through a crowded living room of roommates to get ice cream before retreating back into her boyfriend's room. Before roller derby entered my life, after my days of being a fabulous Drag Princess, I normally borrowed just Dread's shoes:

 However, the flat-and-banked track revolution has seen the rise of widows with the Y chromosome sporting team t-shirts, merch, and sometimes their own lady friend's jersey at bouts. The more conservative, but nevertheless die-hard will wear shirts with names printed on the back like "Mr. Splatter," "Lady Shatterly's Lover," or "Philzie." Widows of the same-sex as their partners are often in on this, too, but for those in a heterosexual relationship (Tab Wang into Slot Vay Jammy) a man exhibiting this behavior is a pretty recent phenomenon. We just think it's old hat because we have forgotten that derby hasn't been around that long.

Pictured: Older than modern derby but damn cute.

  It's a tradition I hope will never die.

Hey, this came from my blog. Google searches love me.

The coolest thing about this is that it shows a real outpouring of love, support, and even parents get into it. Poppa Feevs, Boston's original hardcore daddy is a fixture. But as we pull fans from the families of volunteers and officials, will this tradition continue?


I am a little upset he didn't come as Dread, though.

Kidding aside, gentlemen I support your support. Now walk to your girlfriend's fridge in her women's size tiny tee and get yourself a Fanta. Don't worry about putting on pants, it was okay when she did it in your dodgeball team's shirt.