Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Invasion of the Faire Or Hayley reaps the whirlwind

With East Region Playoffs behind us, Dread and I had been looking for an outlet to slap off the dust of the flat track and relax with friends. Dread had been hankering to go back to King Richard's Faire ever since we went with Mike, PeeJay, and Hayley. I appreciated her desire, but hadn't we just been there? No. It was over two years ago. Thus, an open invitation was sent out to our dear friends. We would be relaxing in a world of fun spectacle, great costumes, conflicting egos, and large crowds. What was missing?


The opening ceremony in front of the gates was entertaining. I had forgotten about the opening presentation, and the "new" Richard was on top of his game. I had wished Lady O had made it, as I couldn't help but make comparisons between what they were doing and what we do. Except we're serious people (ha).

Derek, Dread and I wanted to start our  day with a bang. We found it in the Torture Show.
He made us leave our seats to spit that fireball.
Hayley arrived in the middle of the show, right after Ses Carny (that's his surname) had performed his human blockhead routine. She arrived just in time to see him insert fish hooks into his orbital sockets. Carny's act was refreshing, and though it had been around for a while, I can't recall ever seeing it. Hayley, at this point, began texting on her phone. I imagined she was relaying the disgusting scene to those who had yet to arrive, but it was more likely she was "supping dudes."

After Dread and Derek browsed longingly at the series of warhammers in the weaponsmith's booth, I ran into May B. Knotty and Mr. Knotty as I gnawed on my giant turkey leg. The Cirque De Sewer, a circus performed by trained rats, was going on not fifty feet away. Vermin that close to my food enhanced the illusion of the park.  Hayley continued to text. Goddamn it.

More friends arrived. Crash Daily snuck up on us, as he has a habit of doing. Our running crew was nearly assembled in time for the first joust. All we needed was the Bomber family, who arrived in much the same manner as Crash. We took our seats on the "bad guy" side this year.

Ready to heckle some hobo and a dude with a dragon shield. Those guys suck.
Sir James is the man!
The workers were unprepared for our noise. There's an art to cheering or jeering in a crowd. If you go too far, you're just a loud douche. However, if you're keeping with the spirit of it, not picking on people around you, or interrupting the action to appear cool, you're fine. This rule doesn't apply to stand-up comedy, literary readings, or eulogies. If you're not performing any of those, you need to keep quiet.

Our knight, Sir James, was a pretty shady dude. He was rude, crude, and likely slept in the nude. I liked him. We got his attention with our chants, and he flashed us the devil horns. Huzzah! We had made our mark. Hayley began to text again. We punished her.

Which she quickly told people, via text.
Dread was having a great time. Crash and Hayley tried their hands at the Throwing Axe booth. Out of the seven participants, only Crash successfully got his axes to stick into his targets. Thus, he earned an honorary knighthood.

If this were a stained glass window, that water bottle would look wonderful!
I hadn't tried any of the booths in ten years. So, I tried to scale the ladder. How hard could it be?


Covered in hay, my mishap brought a huge smile to Dread's face. A five-year-old girl dressed as a fairy ran into the center of our circle of friends, smiled at all of us, and tossed pebbles into the air, hitting a few of us in the head. Her mother did nothing. It's moments like this that you wonder why it's always the good kids that go missing. I appreciate that those heartless monsters who prey on kids like to make it easy for us to hate them, but come on. Take one for the team and get a few shitty kids once in a while. If that offends you, be a better parent.

Dread sees the best sight in the world. We missed Pepper at this point.
As the day wore on, we saw plenty of cool things. If you kept your eyes open and listened, the drama and comedy wasn't just coming from the staff, but the other people. I mean....What the---

Goddamn it.

Here's where we had some fun. The herald of Sir Joseph (we won't hold that against him), helped us dispense justice upon Dame Hayley and confront her with her witchcraft. Never mind that he posed for the photo.

Pictured: Comeuppance.
Hayley-face, a medical condition that renders its victims with a case of permanent sour puss, is well documented in the Boston area. However, my little sister's a huge supporter of taking the piss out of people, and she played along. Surprisingly, she stopped texting, too (UPDATE: no, no she didn't).

With mere moments before the final joust, we assembled at our chosen seating place and prepared for the lack of chivalry and honor that Sir James rained on the crowd. The cheering section for the "heroes" tried to outshout us, but no one can yell over Crash and Derek. Our chants of "Hail Sir James, Kill and Maim!" and "Crush Kill Destroy!" echoed over the tourney field. The chant leaders of all sides looked at us, many of them laughing. However, two little boys that resembled Curly Howard started yelling directly at Crash.

Crash, bathing in their hatred and returning their taunts a hundred fold.
Click on this picture, it's animated.
Their father gave us the thumbs up as these kids insulted our knight, our clothes, and said things that ten-year-old kids shouldn't know about. Crash played along. When Sir James smacked around their chosen knight, he would point at them and cheer.

Sir James. Hair and Sword by the Kurgan, loved by loud derby folk everywhere.

He set his sword on fire. It's like he knew us!

Sir James fought with the power of a thousand rabid tigers, but was defeated by Sir Joseph who looked like the type of dude who does tai chi at a dance club to appear suave. When they decapitated Sir James for his crimes against the realm, Bell Air Bomber's youngest asked, "How did they do that?" I couldn't love her family more.

At the end, the knights saluted the crowd and thanked everyone for coming. We kept chanting for James. When he came out to sign autographs, he pointed at us and nodded. He knew where the real fans were. It was a great time in ye olden days.

Attending King Richard's this year was special. For a few years, it was almost boring. But the staff pulled out all the stops to entertain, my friends were ready to ham it up, and we just let ourselves get lost in the illusion...if only text people outside of the park about things that don't even matter when we're home. Hayley.

The rest of our photos can be found here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nightmare on 95: Day Three Am I salty? Because I ham up the camera all day long

So happy together!
The last day of the tournament started earlier than all of the others. Without my own car, Dread and I took a ride to the venue from Xena. If you know me well, punctuality is another of my spouses. And unlike Dread and Lady Oshun, I get all kinds of irrational if you come between me and being anywhere on time. Say what you will to me, or punch and old lady, and I am unfazed. Delay me... your funeral will be interrupted with a dance party put on by yours truly. Well, Xena not only got me there on time, she got me there early.

Teflon Donna, Me, and ....
Damn it, Crash. Always so damn smooth.
This ain't a dating web site, it's my blog.

My morning's cup of coffee never manifested itself. Instead, I was treated to two games of New England fun as Maine took on Carolina and then Dutchland took on my area code's ambassadors of derby, the Massacre. While Maine was defeated, Boston won the day and were overcome with the emotions that go hand-in-hand with a tough slog through a physical and mentally exhausting weekend. During this doubleheader of New England awesomeness, the Reverend Al interviewed Punchy O'Guts. For a man who is more comfortable in front of a camera wearing next to nothing, he was super fly in his paisley shirt, spitting out thoughtful analysis like no one else can.

Ever since Planet of the Apes, Rev. Al's really into grooming.
Bout after bout, our announcers brought their A games to live and broadcast audiences. One of my favorite pairs of announcers were calling the most dramatic bout of the day, Montreal vs. London on the PA. Plastik Patrik and Sashion Victim were magical. They managed their voices, energy and the crowd with such skill that I was learning something from them.  But it wasn't merely their calls. I had taken a page in fashion from our dear elf from Quebec:

You can't tell by the picture, but I got Patrik to laugh the moment I dropped my pants.
 I pray it's because of the design.
London and Montreal fought all the way to the last jam where Montreal took the last few seconds to claw up close to London's definitive lead, coming only two points shy of a tie. The Du Burns Arena was filled with the cheers and applause of everyone in attendance. London's place in our region was controversial due to their lack of wins in official play over the season. But their victories over the weekend were all that mattered, and they wound up going from 10th place to 5th. The excitement in the air was electric, but nothing prepared Double H and I for the enthusiasm of Raw Heidi when we pulled her in for an interview. Here's a clip of the last third of our talk:

Charm made short work of Steel City in the battle for third place, but Steel's rise to prominence in the East is indisputable now. During this last game, Dolly Rocket and the ladies of Baltimore played cleaner than their earlier outings, and came out far ahead. 

The last bout of the night, Gotham vs. Philly, was another hardcore battle where the score didn't reflect the strategy and action employed by both teams. While Gotham was dominant, I was floored by the never-say-die power of the Liberty Belles. Reverend Al and I called that game, but there were hiccups. My view of the game was obscured early on by overzealous fans and skaters that had Rev Al had to personally move. That's always a dicey affair, but who is really going to say no to that man? We rolled with a few other snafus, but we ultimately focused on the action. I was proud to have come so far from my days in an ape suit. 

Once we were done, we said goodbye to the folks at home and I then made my exit after a nearly tearful goodbye with my announcing team. The next eight hours were spent on the road with Crash Daily, Hayley, and Dread. At only one point did I suffer road hypnosis after I took over driving, and we were all thankfully spared from death by the straight roads of Rhode Island and Dread's snappy banter. 

Ultimately, the weekend belonged to so many others, and this reflection is merely on my own experiences. Still, my largest takeaway is that, for now, there is still a sense of community in derby that goes beyond a sports league. So long as that survives, there's no need to fret too much about the future. The biggest gem from that weekend is that we're all still necessary to the growth of the sport. The divisive voices, regardless of their cheesy stances, ultimately know in their hearts they have a good thing. Only the truly blind or stupid have become blind to the virtues of sport and spectacle continuing on this road together. Catty, high school era gibes are just so much hissing and self-loathing. Equanimity is key.

There is no one who can't tell me this isn't wonderful:


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Nightmare on 95: Day Two Epilogue or is Hayley Contagious Sandor Clegane?

I am no "bro."
I'm taking a page from George R.R. Martin here and writing an epilogue to that last post. The writer behind the whole Game of Thrones series is notorious for packing a huge wallop of tension and action. His books are proof that genre fiction can be just as emotionally true as literary fiction, and his audience has grown beyond the stereotypical basement dwelling dork (of whom there are fewer than you imagine, a lot of "nerds" are damn cool). Many skaters I know have identified with certain houses found in Martin's fiction, or seem to fit into them almost too perfectly.

Here, we're dangerously close to LARP territory, but I am okay with that.
(original photo by Joe Medolo...who is amazing)
Anyway, Martin is a fan of epilogues, and so am I. The end of Day Two brought the merry band of Xena, Johnny Deep, Dread, Slack Kerowhack, Hayley Contagious, and me to the Paper Moon Diner. If you've never been, it is an eatery that is one part Tim Burton film, two parts Pee Wee's Playhouse.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not Plastik Patrik.

The decor itself was eye-catching and the staff were nice, although our waiter's poor enunciation made me feel like I was listening to the Dresden Dolls' Amanda Palmer singing the menu.

Toys, mannequins, and in a few seconds...a creepy Crash Daily

Not texting. Reading a menu...okay, texting.

It was here where we were introduced to the delicacies of bacon milkshakes and crab macaroni and cheese. "Baltimore has, bar-none, been one of the best cities for food," Johnny Deep said. "No meal was disappointing." I am inclined to agree. Of course, all meals are better with crass conversation, razzing each other over our home leagues, and Crash Daily appearing from behind a clown mannequin making a face that will follow me in my nightmares for years to come.

We ended the night sated, ready to engage in the last day of derby before heading home.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Nightmare on 95: Day Two - Land of a thousand interludes

Miss the previous post? Go here.

For most, the day started with Carolina vs. Montreal. The action began for me not at the first bout, but as the New Skids' jam coach, the Rev, got ready for battle:

Truly, the broadcast section was a cavern of wonders. Adding to the magic of the picture is that it appears The Rev's change of clothes was kept in a briefcase.  Lady Oshun interviewed Beater Pan-Tease about the way Montreal had been training. I work with Lady Oshun all over North America; it was a pleasure to watch her deep in her craft next to a person who could look over her shoulder instead of right at her boob.

Sort of.
Montreal continued to excel. When it came to Maine vs. Boston, I was in the quality control seat, listening to newcomers Latenight Lyle and Mello Joe call the action. Sitting next to the two of them, writing notes and feedback, I got to see the game. Regardless of brackets, it was wonderful to see these New England teams duking it out on Day Two. Punchy O' Guts and Itsy Bitsy Fighter are very proud of their team. As they should be. Coming to the big dance after a long time being on the sidelines was a kick. Likewise, Boston was able to field new people in this big dance that didn't get play during the Charm City bout. Ginger Kid continues to impress and I hope to see big things from her in the next year. Stay healthy, sucker.

The folks behind the scenes worked their butts off like crazy and were able to tolerate me surprisingly  well.
Speed Bump is on the case. Or ignoring me. Why not both?

Bout after bout, I rushed around the venue to make sure that people were doing all right, that our objectives were being met, and that my hair was still holding up. The last was vital to the other two, as I was also on camera interviewing folk. That part was just gravy, I was just there to help in any way I could so people could focus on what drew us all to the sport...

It was around our interview with Teflon Donna of Philly that I realized that I had forgotten a vital key to survival.
Reverend Al's microphone began to resemble a flame broiled hot dog.
Food would be necessary if I was expected to last the night. Thankfully, Pad Thai arrived for me before Double H and I called London vs. Boston, the last bout of the night. And what a bout it was. The sheer defensive power and track awareness of London was an impressive and surprising sight for the Massacre fans in the crowd and online, but the Massacre wasn't about to take it lying down. Here, the story of the bout unfolded beautifully for anyone with eyes, and Double H and I did our best to give the action justice. The victory was sweet. Sure, my "home team" lost, but this was the playoffs and my real team was bringing the action to everyone watching at home. Thus, huzzah!

Stomach rumbling, we interviewed the winners, said goodnight, and I left with my buds to consume something other than fallen skaters.

Nightmare on 95: Day One

We arrived in Baltimore at 12:30AM. The GPS on Hayley's phone drove us through some of the less wholesome neighborhoods of Charm City as we made our way to the home of Xena Paradox. Xena, a former Boston Derby Dame and teammate of Dread, had stayed up late to let us into our home to crash for six hours before I made my way to the Du Burns Arena. Xena has often been pretty accommodating. Perhaps it's because we have known each other longer than she and Dread have skated. She's always willing to bend over backwards to help us out, and it's appreciated.

Give your love to a cowboy, man!
I prefer she not bend over backwards in this instance.
Borrowing Hayley's car, I traveled around the back roads of Baltimore to the arena with a mixture of anxiety and sheer excitement. This trip was a bit different than last year's East Region Playoff's insanity. Instead of showing up to call broadcast games for the Boston Derby Dames, I was there to wrangle, schedule, and manage the broadcast and live talent along with my homegirl Hymen Heaven. Good ol, Double H and the Association of Flat Track Derby Announcers (AFTDA) were charged with the task of elevating the level of the call on house and broadcasts. No big deal. And as AFTDA's Eastern Rep, I was tasked with jumping in and getting my hands dirty wrangling my fellow mouths. And to call some sweet derby action.

Du Burns is a decent enough venue. It's the home of Charm City, and a team running a tournament that they're also in can be a real stress on their performance. However, the DC roller girls came in and helped us out. AFTDA's point of contact with the hosts was Pants De Leon, pictured here providing everything we needed:

A living Avatar of Shakti, that woman.
Giving the early morning pep-talk to the troops was surreal. The announcers' locker room was, in fact, a locker room. In order to talk to eighteen people and meet everyone's eyes, I had to step into the showers. I felt like I was giving a pep-talk to Oswald Prison's football team. After a rousing speech by Double H, we tapped each other on the bottom and made our way out to the arena to call us some games.

Pictured: Our magic staging area

My first game of the day was Steel City vs. Montreal. Steel City beat them, and I still felt like I won. I predicted a Montreal win, but only because their victories had been piling on each other like so much rugby scrum. But Steel City, for whom I cheered most of the season, won out. 

Most of the day was spent with Double H and the folks behind the scenes. We scheduled folks, did interviews on camera, and planned out our next day. We also fielded feedback from people all over the globe:

I will not transcribe the expletive-laden comments that were both full of praise and criticisms.
However, the word "fuck" is now meaningless to me.

I would detail how we handled the Dutchland forfeiture, but so many people have talked about it that this isn't news anymore. In between games, I stole away to kiss my wife and say hello to members of the derby nations that I hadn't seen in months. But the weekend didn't truly come alive for me until day two.

Coming up:  More bouts, Boston peeps step up their game, and Pelvis and Double H manage.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Nightmares on Elm Street, we need to talk (or the danger of derby love).

If you've read this blog for more than a couple of entries, you know that I'm the derby widower of the BDD skater, Dreadnought, and I announce in Boston and New Hampshire. New Hampshire Roller Derby (NHRD) is where I started spitting word bullets over the PA and the ladies of NHRD have never been anything less than kind to me. Because of that league-wide support, it's easy to call everything down the middle and bask in the glory of a league that, if it retains talent and pushes itself, can become a New England powerhouse. I take pride in having never, ever been accused of favoritism.

Then they came along...
Pictured: Trouble.

The Nightmares on Elm Street, NHRD's third home team, debuted earlier this season. Dressed in my favorite holiday's colors and rostering some of my favorite veterans and 2011 rookies was cruel enough, but a nod to 80s slasher flicks and the horrible denizens of Manchester that cruise the main drag made it difficult not to smile when they took the track. They were also were the first team to ever give me a free shirt. There's no denying it, this team was a derby home-wrecker.

My emotions have altered my memory of events, somewhat. I think the bear was actually black. I don't know.
Like all unhealthy relationships, there were warning signs. An almost three-minute-long introduction at their first bout made me realize the danger of a team that loves itself almost as much as it loves its fans (danger zone). But they were so good during their first game, I overlooked that misstep. And like all bad relationships, their self-indulgent swagger won them a place in my heart.

Make Out Bandit, what the heck, dude? (Photo from the Slam I Am Fan Club)
When I wore their t-shirt during the setup at Roller Consolation, I was called on it by almost every skater not on that team. "What the hell, Pelvis?" was the best reaction. Assuring those that it was not an expression of undying loyalty for a team that had only been playing together for a few months, I wound up getting a couple of other free shirts from other teams to wear that day. Wonderful, I thought, the arms race for my love had started. Thankfully, I wore red hot shorts that day and most people only remember that.

I left the tournament confident that I acquitted myself and would be ready to prove my impartiality at the last home team triple-header, where the Nightmares would attempt to win the K-Cup in NHRD's home team Championship bout. Their opponents were the Granite Skate Troopers, a team filled talent and power. I wore no team colors, made myself look fresh, and gave equal attention to everyone. Then, as though they knew I was trying to be good, the Nightmares skated out with this:

What. The. Hell.

Nightmares, you're that friend who knows your buddy finds you attractive, but knows he/she has to move on because it won't ever happen. However, once one tries to move on, you show up in a rocking outfit and flirt until your friend is back in your pocket. Maybe you don't mean to do it. No, you totally mean to do it. Thus, I have to state, for the record, I love you. You just have that look, as Roxette would say, that summons up that psychobilly excitement in me. You were tailor-made by cruel goddesses to tempt me away from doing my job correctly. But, it can never be more than just a nod and a wink. The other teams are just as groovy, and I think they're aces. In the end, you're just another team. And it's for the best I clear the air before the derby world goes all jealous girlfriend and accuses me of ill goings-on.

Is everyone else still reading? No? You're so cool.