Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Things are so busy, I'm getting damn dizzy

Hello, my friends!

I have received word that many of you thought this blog to be abandoned. As if I could quit you, derbysphere. Granted, I'd written entries for derbylife.com and there's a review of Derby Baby! that's coming out in fiveonfive magazine. But outside of my time on the microphone, I've been pretty quiet.

There was a reason, my dear denizens of the flat track. When I'm not dropping esoteric references to the films of Paul Reubens between jams, I've been writing. A lot. Some of you may remember that I graduated a year ago with my MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College. Or as Reverend Al called it, "Pelvis didn't go to ECDX that year."

Battling through the molasses of post-graduate life, it was a constant struggle to write. Tournaments and job searches took up a lot time. I had to remind myself that Dread would enjoy the company of a husband that wasn't hidden in a loft whenever I wasn't on the road. Thankfully, I married an artist, so it doesn't take much face time before she banishes me to my sky-lit aerie while she continues to make kick ass clothes, hats, or whatever else.

Though it was a fight, I continued to keep writing. And now, I've gotten my fiction published at last. Most notably, apt magazine published my story, "Difficult Terrain." I know you spent all your money on tickets to this year's various tournaments. Well, I love you and so do the people at apt. You can read it here. Like them on Facebook and subscribe to their magazine. You'll be glad you did.

But the good new has continued. On a submission tear, I went for broke and sent out a collection of short stories to a few places. Today, Leapfrog Press announced the finalists and honorable mentions of their 2012 fiction contest. Check it out. Derby Widows is listed! The names on this list are connected to amazingly talented folks and to be among them is by far the most humbling thing I've experienced in years.

I would so wear that to a reading.

While Leapfrog only publishes the winner, the nod from this press has only made me more determined to send out its stories and the manuscript to more places. The journey for that little collection isn't over. It's my hope that its stories will find the light of day in the near future. If they do, I'll let you know.

While you're at it, don't forget to check out those awesome publishing houses I mentioned above and get yourself some reading material as you travel the country, bouting like the stars you are, you beautiful messes.



Friday, March 16, 2012

Role Reversal

Two years ago, a friend remarked after my first broadcast call that it was if Dread was now my derby widow. I took offense, though none was meant. I've been fortunate to have experiences in the world of roller derby that go beyond the limits of what someone's spouse can and should expect they day his or her partner straps on the skates and is picked to be on a league. I've the gift of a smart mouth and I can pay attention to multiple situations. After being a mascot, security head, bout producer, and volunteer coordinator, I cast it all aside for the job I wanted, announcing. But even that wasn't as important as the title I've had for over five years, Dread's derby widow. Except now, I'm not.

Dread isn't skating this year.

If you've clicked on that link, you've read the heartache-inducing, yet poetic summary of the last season, where my wife's head had been and is, and what she decided to do about it. I've known about this decision for a while. I didn't bother posting anything about it, because it was her right to get the word out.

When Dread decided to try out for the sport, it wasn't like the current regimes in the competitive markets. One didn't go through a round of cuts or need references from other leagues, your mom, or DNA tests. She inquired about joining, was told about the Fresh Meat clinics, and went for it. She broke her tailbone early on. Unlike a lot of other skaters in her year, this didn't' come naturally, but she stuck with it. She persevered through a season of not being teamed. Her organizational skills and positive spirit won her a spot on the Executive Board. Dread was, and is, a force for good.

When she was teamed, she got on the Nutcrackers. It was the one team, out of all of them that she wanted to be on. And it was the best fit I've seen for her since, well, me. That year, she was a terror on the track. The Wall of Ass, her and Xena Paradox, was an unstoppable force. Her speed and power seemed to come out of nowhere. It was as though all she had needed to excel and become a good player was just to be on the team and be given a chance to be on the track. She is modest. She won't tell you that she's anything special. That year, and in the two after, she was all that and more. And I would hear that from other people.

Simply put: Dread became an athlete even though she hated most of that jock bullshit and she was able to pull out the stops when it was necessary. She didn't lose her love for her teammates. She held herself to a high standard. And she didn't waver from her stances.

What derby gave to Dread over the years was more than injuries and suffering. In this matriarchal, often dysfunctional society, she was a voice of reason. My home league, NHRD, loved Dread. She would share everything she learned at her practices with the founders of Skate Free or Die in a parking lot in Nashua. She cared about people. When time, drama, and stress became too heavy, I worried for her.

In 2011, I worried a lot. There was a lot I was unhappy about, some of it was how she was treated, some of it was how she treated herself. If you're a derby widow, you know that you're going to hear a lot more about what happens on a league or team than an average person. You are confidant, husband, and friend. I knew how she felt, knew when to keep my mouth shut when it came to giving advice, and did my own thing. That's the thing about Dread, she loves the fact I am not attached to her like a remora. When I started announcing, it was for another league. But I still felt obligated to do other jobs in hers, as it was helping the most important person in the world to me, my wife.

Reading her post, I get choked up. This season, she is not skating. She is not actively involved. I still am, though in a wholly different capacity. We're going to see where this goes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

No, not dead.

I have been a busy young man. The off-season has afforded me a chance to really concentrate on writing and it has been time well spent. Since last I wrote to you I've written a couple of new stories, had a couple of articles published, and submitted my own work to various literary mags and agents. With any luck, my fiction will reach an audience beyond my household and peers, but we'll see.

Derbylife.com published the last blog post I made here on their website and I had a brand new article, just for them, put up last week. A part two is in the works and it should be up soon.

Additionally, I was selected as the Eastern Rep for AFTDA for the second year in the row. That's pretty cool. Announcing is easily my favorite part of being involved in this sport, so another year with this austere group is an honor.

I'm working with BDD and NHRD this year, but both have amazingly full schedules. While I will be spinning those two plates, I made a deal with myself that my own life takes precedence. We'll see how that goes.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Gravitational Time Dilation of the Flat Track

This morning, I was looking through older posts from the beginning of the year in the hopes it would inspire me to write a brief post about my favorite moments over the 2011 season. What I encountered, however, were artifacts from a time I had thought was further away than March of this year. 

Had Dread really only captained for one season? Was the Pajama Jammy Jam of NHRD only ten months ago? I graduated in June? Did Adam die so recently? And when was the last time, exactly, I spent time with some of the widows that I used to see almost weekly?

Time does not merely pass quickly in roller derby; it passes with the velocity of a televised high-speed chase. The goals and ideas that come to your partners' mind (or yours) at the beginning of the season won't necessarily stay the same on the route to Championships. Life, death, and every detail that brings the former closer to the latter moves with such alacrity that you quickly lose sight of perspective. In the constant barrage of roller derby, few have the self-knowledge to stop, analyze carefully, and move on. Hell, in the past year, this blog is more and more about my exploits than the life and times of a derby widow.

With the New Year upon us, I figured it's a good time to tell skaters and their spouses alike how to live a better derby life than you did last year.

Friendships: Keep the Ones that Matter.
People talk a lot about sacrifice to reach their derby goals. Human sacrifice, however, is not to be taken lightly. Your friends from outside of derby miss you. Make sure to give them a call. And your “friends” in derby…well, they’re very different than the friends you made while playing derby. Over the course of several seasons I’ve watched friendships, love affairs, and drinking partnerships flare up and crash and burn with such speed and force, one can hardly believe that these train-wrecks often occurred within sixty days. 

You’ve likely seen it yourself. The season starts and two skaters are the best of friends. Two months later, they barely talk, two-and-a-half months later, they only talk horrible crap about each other. Was there an incident people can point back to that kicked off this blood war? Nope. It just happened. As someone who does way more in derby than I was convinced I would, I’ve also been told I’ve lost friends over actions, thoughts, and opinions that were attributed to me I never had. That’s life. But that underscored a real truth about relationships in this sport. Derby friends aren’t always true friends. 

Don’t believe me? How many retired skaters do you know that complain that their former best buds, derby wives, or teammates never call? If you answered none, you're the person who isn't calling.

The team won't be the same without you!
Dread equates this to the concept of “temporary hit points.” Nerdy, yes, but I’ll explain.           

In Dungeons and Dragons, there are abilities in combat that give you hit points beyond your maximum health. If you get hurt, those points are taken off first before you’re in any danger of dying. But when the fight is over, those points, if you have any of them left, just go away. They’re not really yours. You’re left with what you brought into the fight. Shit, that makes DnD combat seem more isolating and lonely than ever thought possible. …yikes. I think Dread and I also think of derby in DnD terms because the WFTDA rulebook has the same amount of complicated rules.

Coming Soon: the new Bay Area Derby source book.

My advice to you is that you take the time to the people that matter to you that you care. Face time, as my father says, is what matters most. Conversely, team activities are fine, but if you find yourself shopping or drinking with a teammate that realistically is nothing like you in a way that would otherwise ban her from your home, ask yourself if she’d really be there for you if something went wrong. If not, she’s a shitty teammate, and not your friend. Go to the karaoke bar with someone who loves you. You can be civil without being forced to make out.

Be Patient with Each Other
Everyone has their reasons to be in this sport. This isn't a call to coaches to be more understanding, though I suppose it applies, too. This is about people. If the dude in the stands screams bloody murder every time his partner's team receives a penalty, he's just into the game. Until he starts threatening murder or peeing in your drink, let it go. He probably has a rescue dog at home and reads to the elderly... So what if what he reads to them are mean hand-crafted signs that put down your wife's team?

Off the track, people are motivated by different things. I've often been pleasantly surprised to get to know people I had almost written off as wastes of carbon. I've also been vindicated by waiting just long enough to find out I was right, and that _____ is a total _____ and will one day die ____. Just take the time to understand and be prepared to change your mind. Absolutes, when it comes to humans, are seldom applicable.

Talk Less Shit
There are people I don’t like. There are people that disappoint me. If they need to know, I’ll tell them. If you don’t like someone, and it’s not worth your time to confront them, shut up. Otherwise, you run the risk of them finding out through the grape vine, because many of the friends you’re talking smack to are going to make sure it gets out. This goes to the first point: not everyone's your friend. And with all that venom being spat around, it’s hard to see who’s improved, what person you’ve hated for years turned out would give you a kidney, and if you just might be that same bitch you’re describing.

In situations where you think shit-talking is imminent, I whole-heartedly endorse to all of you a trick I've employed:

Shit-talker: ______, what’s her story?
Me: She's my friend.
Shit-talker: Oh.
That tends to end it. If the person's really about to talk smack, his/her mouth shuts and she stares blankly for a half a second. Making people feel bad by nipping their behavior in the bud is an almost orgasmic feeling. Do it. Also, remember that anyone gossiping to you may likely gossip about you. If you like to gossip, can deal with the fact people won't trust you, and don’t mind sowing chaos for the sake of chaos…well, ignore everything I said and All Hail Eris!

"Damn it, this is nice."
Live for these moments. Too many times will you be faced with situations that will piss you off, leave you sad, or wondering why it is you put up with that skinny/fat/stupid/self-important ass. It’s natural. But if it were all that, our Facebook and Flickr streams would be filled with photos of impending violence and empty after parties. I’ve seen your pictures on the Internet, and you don’t look so upset. And that’s because those pictures are the living record of your good times. But a better way to do it is to just stand in that moment and remember, “This is great.” For widows, that can be the smart plays your partner pulled off or the overheard compliments about your lady/dude.

As a culture, we tend to focus on what we hated. What about what’s really good? Think about what went right and you’re bound to take the sting out of an ultimately temporary situation.

Set an Example
There was a time when every fresh meat class set a league on fire with excitement. Skaters acted like old dogs finding new life when a new litter of puppies come into the room. Like New Year's, the new crop of people is an artificial time-stamp signaling new beginnings. For the love of Calliope, bring yourself to a point where you can throw down your blood oaths and just start fresh with as many people as possible.

New kids don’t know your drama. They don’t need to be part of your personal Hatfield-McCoy feud. You weren’t man/woman enough to go to jail to settle it, so it should be over anyway. Reach out to the widow from the opposing team before game time, buy a beer for that old friend at the after party, and maybe don’t send a box full of spiders to your “enemy.”

With injuries and emotional fatigue, each season is potentially the last for everyone. Treat it as such. Because when you’re gone, you’ll have a whole other trial to weather.

No one’s really exempt from this advice, especially me. As derby continue to grow, don't forget to grow up.