Friday, November 30, 2007

i <3 derby

injury sustained during the fight crew's wednesday night scrimmage against the sirens, which we won.

the fight crew is going to the 2007 championships on saturday, december 8th. you should go too!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

party time

thanksgiving at ms. manor* was a success. there was no shortage of grub: everyone got stuffed (shannon and i started panicking on wednesday that there would be some kind of food availability crisis, inciting a riot among our starved guests. as it turns out, we could've fed most of hollywood. we are so becoming our mothers. the leftovers are rotting in our fridge if you wanna stop by).

i had a minor freakout as guests started to arrive and i was still hunched over the stovetop, perfecting my rosemary seitan. i called in reinforcements - oli, shannon and georgia - to be my sous chefs, and we got the food on the table without a hitch.

look! everyone fits, and no elbows bump!

georgia and i, post-consumption cuddling.

check out all the photos here.

i also had a birthday last weekend. i skated. i fell. i ate cupcakes in a parking lot. people told me they had fun. i think i had fun too though my memory is a little foggy.

i was able to piece the night together a bit thanks to photographic evidence.

but seriously guys: did the snaggle-toothed and/or cross-eyed employees of world on wheels polish their skate floor with butter before we arrived? much of my birthday was spent on my ass. shit is slick up in that roller disco! i woke up on sunday morning, my for reals birthday, more bruised than the morning after a derby bout.

OK, yes, i was drinking, and some people claim that booze and roller skating don't mix, but i've done some of my best work on skates while intoxicated. just recently, i was hired (along with a few other dolls) to roller skate at scott weiland's 40th birthday party.

there was an open bar, which we, the ever-professional derby girls, hit with much gusto. the drinking had no negative impact on our performance, and as the night wore on, we got more and more creative with our interpretive dance moves. a few of us even started blocking and whipping scott, who was a good sport, not to mention a terrific roller skater (who knew?). the party guests loved us, and the event planner assured me that we are hired the very next time she throws a roller disco party for an aging rock star.

*forgot to have the thanksgiving day name-meghan-and-shannon's-apartment contest. ms. manor remains the working title until i (or you?) come up with something better.

Monday, November 26, 2007

banked track roller derby: spectacle of suffering and moral beauty

i know this doesn't hold much water coming from the mouthpiece for L.A. Derby Dolls public relations, but i think it's fair to say that our league's debut at the Doll Factory on november 17th was a smash hit (pun acknowledged). the place was packed, and the energy so kinetic, there were moments i worried the Factory might explode - an untimely end to another promising beginning.

that is some gross hyperbole, but still: L.A. city council president, Eric Garcetti, blew the first whistle of the game, and apparently had such a great time at our little event, he felt compelled to blog about it afterward (or, at the very least, to persuade one of his underlings to do as much). now that's gotta count for something, right?

post-bout honorable mentions appeared in L.A. City Zine, whose Louis Elfman called our game, "the best event in L.A....ever," and whose photographer, Emberly Modine, now wants to join our ranks. we got a write-up in losanjealous that was later picked up by the defamer.

a nice quote from that last piece:

"The Dolls’ infrastructure keeps the event well enough in check, but there’s nowhere near the antiseptic organization one experiences at a major sporting event. The DIY vibe leaves for just enough disorder that you feel like a really cool riot could break out at any moment."

and the writer's conclusion:

"[i'm]...hard-pressed to think of an event that offers so much bang for the buck. In addition to the main roller derby event, there are punk bands, vendors selling crazy crap, and a general atmosphere of Dionysian good-timery. Unless you lack a pulse, or a soul, or both, you will love the shit out of this crazy spectacle."

if you want some pictures to go with the words, check out my flickr photo set (which documents the Doll Factory's pre-bout caterpillar-into-butterfly-like transformation, and includes a few pilfered game photos).

a couple of bones for the click-averse:


there have been a few key moments in the relatively brief history of the LADD where we believed ourselves on the brink of SoCal domination. then the same thing happened, twice: we became homeless, and in both cases, it was a huge setback. let me tell you folks - lugging a 100 x 60 foot banked track around LA is no cakewalk, and this burden takes its toll on skater morale. finding a place to practice and play, a little stability in our collective lives, has been the LADD's cross to bear. but now that we finally have city council on our side, and a venue that can accommodate so many of our fans, Good Things are already starting to happen.

some interesting things were written by DF, the cryptically named losanjealous blogger. he calls roller derby a "crazy spectacle," which resonated with me, as the sport vs. spectacle issue is something that's been on my mind these days. as a skater, i know i want to be taken seriously as an athlete, and the LADD has worked hard to distance itself from WWF-style old school derby. the game we play has no predetermined outcome. it is unscripted and legitimately competitive. what separates the LADD from most of our new school, all-girl derby contemporaries, however, is our banked track (the same thing that precludes us from membership in the omnipresent WFTDA).

as a banked track league, there are only so many teams we can bout against. we have a banked track sister league in san diego, and we've faced-off against the reality tv-immortalized texas lonestar rollergirls a couple of times. but within the LADD proper there are only three teams (we hope to add a fourth sooner than later). i used to worry: will the fans get bored?

i no longer worry, and i'm starting to see why such fears were unfounded. DF makes a point here:

"I am reminded of FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s observation that women’s soccer would be more popular if it was sexed up a bit. He was widely derided as a misogynist and fool, but maybe he was onto something. The reason that the Derby Dolls are infinitely more entertaining than the WNBA or the Women’s World Cup is that they bring theater as well as skill, and part of that theater is sex appeal. There’s this widespread belief that you can’t be both a hot bitch and a bitchin athlete, but as the Dolls amply illustrate, that is horseshit."

the LADD wants other leagues to go banked, and we want to add more teams to our own league, but the process is slow. in the interim, we occupy the DMZ between sport and spectacle. i was thinking about this stuff the other night, and i revisited a couple things i had read previously: roland barthes' essay, "The World of Wrestling," and an article that stephen burt wrote on the "semi-cultlike world of women's basketball" for the believer a few years back.

barthes regards professional wrestling in america as a "sort of mythological fight between good and evil." when i first read this essay in college, i had no interest in wrestling, or any spectacles of that ilk, and i openly hated All Things Sporty. i still had a soft spot for roller skating, however (beloved pastime of my youth!), but never dreamed that roller derby would receive a punk rock makeover, and come back in such an accessible incarnation.

the barthes essay has echoes of roller derby throughout, and there is certainly a Good vs. Evil component to the game we play. as a rule, our fans hate whichever team wins the most. as the undefeated 2006 season champs, that honor currently goes to my own team, the fight crew. it doesn't help much that our uniforms are a blazing, communist red. the tide could be changing though. fight crew had a few losses in 07, and the sirens acquired superstar jammer, mila minute. no one is sure what to expect from the 2007 championship game, scheduled for december 8th.

(similarly, in the believer article, burt mentions the collective hatred among wnba fans for the L.A. Sparks, who are widely regarded as "arrogant thugs," unintentionally echoing barthes ideas on good v. evil in the spectacle. but really, isn't this sentiment applicable to any "straight" sport? don't superfans always regard their team's opponent as Evil?).

on the outcome of a wrestling match, barthes wrote,"wrestling is a sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which rises, erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of a result. thus the function of the wrestler is not to win; it is to go exactly through the motions which are expected of him."

i'm not sure how many derby dolls would agree with this statement, but it holds some truth for me. winning the championship title in a three-team league strikes me as a little - oh, i don't know - meaningless? what i really care about is being a phenomenal skater: the best and fastest i can be. and i want the same thing for my teammates. i want us to skate as a unit, a formidable machine, a steamroller! but whether we actually win or lose? eh. winning is preferable, i suppose, but what matters more - to me anyway - is playing a good game.

who won the game on the 17th? it was the sirens, and by a considerable margin, but i can't recall the exact score.

when i look back on the league's early games at the Dollhouse (version 1.0 - the chinatown pillow factory with a 350-person capacity), i am amazed at how far we've come. and i'm not just talking about the size and scale of our events, or the fact that we no longer inhale manure while we skate, or, post-practice, dislodge errant feathers from our ears (did i mention the Dollhouse v 1.0 was a feather pillow factory?). i'm talking about skill level, and how with every game and every practice we become better and stronger skaters. this is something i believe has converted so many spectators into die-hard fans, and has kept them committed despite the lack of teams in the league, and our ongoing struggle to secure a permanent venue. our fans have grown with us, and they're invested in our fate. seeing how much better we are each time out is the payoff.

there was a fantastic moment during the november 17th bout when mila minute, a former figure skater and fan favorite, oft compared to ziggy stardust on wheels, was finishing her point-scoring lap. she had passed all of the opposing blockers, racking up four points, but she kept going, determined to score on the other jammer, who had just broken away from the pack. it took only seconds for mila, with her graceful figure skater's stride, to overtake the other jammer. instead of simply putting her hands on her hips to call off the jam, mila did a 180. beneath LADD's iconic disco skate, the two jammers faced each other, rolling quietly. the blockers receded into the darkness as mila taunted her opponent. and then she did what all of us were waiting for: she tossed her head back and placed her hands on her hips. the jam was over. the crowd - myself included - went ballistic.

barthes wrote: "wrestling presents man's suffering with all the amplification of tragic masks."

i think i'm making a point, kinda sorta, which is: the real moral drama happening in the mucked-up sport/spectacle that is banked track roller derby in los angeles is ongoing, and it's not always played out on the track. it's LADD vs. the Man. just to watch us bout is a triumph: Good Girls on Roller Skates defeating an evil, faceless bureaucracy. it helps that we're nice, we're accessible, and we skate in sexy outfits. we love our fans. we talk with them after our games, at bars, in the grocery store, and on the internet.

a similar sentiment is expressed by stephen burt, author of the previously mentioned believer article. of his devotion to the wnba's minnesota lynx, burt wrote:

"i give [them] my money and time because i like watching them play basketball. we who cherish the [the wnba] enjoy nifty play-making; approachable teams; the fact that the players are women and not girls; and an obsessive, welcoming, nerdy, chatty, national subculture, free of the yahoos, and the boys' club-feel, that men's team sports can bring."

totally. to illustrate:

the fight crew poses with our own devoted superfan, little kenny.

barthes closed "the world of wrestling" with this:

"when the hero or the villain of the drama, the man who was a few minutes earlier possessed by a moral rage, magnified into a sort of metaphysical sign, leaves the wrestling hall, impassive, anonymous, carrying a small suitcase and arm-in-arm with his wife, no one can doubt that wrestling holds the power of transmutation that is common to the Spectacle and to Religious Worship. In the ring, and even in the depths of their voluntary ignominy, wrestlers remain gods because they are, for a few moments, the key which opens Nature, the pure gesture which separates Good from Evil, and unveils the form of a Justice which is at last intelligible."

barthes also claimed that wrestling is the only sport that gave such an externalized image of torture. too bad he didn't live to see the L.A. Derby Dolls skate.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

thanksgiving prep

neither shannon nor i are returning to our ancestral homelands for thanksgiving this year (new jersey and arizona, respectively). as we'd already broken our mothers' hearts over it, we opted to go balls out, and not leave Ms. Manor* at all on thanksgiving day, figuring if anyone wants to see us badly enough, they know where we live.

it was in this spirit that i circulated the following email to a few friends:

To Our Displaced, Orphaned and Expatriate Comrades (and anyone who is
simply tired of peering over the turkey, year after interminable year, and finding their boredom reflected in the sagging eyes of a grandparent):

Shannon and Meghan Present: A Hollywood Thanksgiving.

We have been watching too much Food Network and our brains have turned to squash. Let us feed them to you!

to my surprise, this email got a better-than-expected response (offering something ambiguous to eat = an affirmative RSVP. who knew? is it squash or is it brains or is it both? perhaps the only reason people are coming is because they want to find out).

what began as a Small Thing, a twinkle behind our spectacles, has snowballed into a Big Thing. our guest list now stands at 14. while i'm concerned about fitting everyone and their mother** comfortably inside our apartment, shannon has gone into martha stewart mode. she spent her weekend making curious things from construction paper: turkeys, chains, placards announcing (in decorative gold penmanship), "seitan," "turkey," "fennel, pomegranate and orange salad," etc.

this is where i left shannon when i went to bed on friday night:

and on saturday morning i woke up to this:

let's hope the food turns out as well as the decorations!

*working title for our apartment, which is long overdue for a proper name. there will be a "name shannon and meghan's apartment" contest on thanksgiving day, and the winner will receive an awesome prize (still TBD). i am currently accepting absentee submissions.

**literally. my friend and fellow derby doll, markie d. sod, is bringing her very own Ma Sod Jenny! i am very excited about this.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

on birthdays

no matter how much gunk i put under my eyes before i go to sleep, or how long i can hold a plank during burn & firm class, i keep getting older. my 29th birthday is creeping up on me, and as the final hurrah of my 20s, i think i should have a party.

i don't do birthday parties, and can only recall two from my past: my sixth at chuck e. cheese's (a magical place that i could not be dissuaded from calling "chunky cheeses" regardless of how many times i was corrected). at this party, i was serenaded by a sexy animatronic chicken, and later flung myself into a pit to be buried beneath so many bright and hollow balls. i ate my weight in birthday cake, and even at such a tender age, i knew instinctively that parties would not get any better than this.

the other party i recall was my 22nd, back in phoenix, which my friend danielle threw in my honor. it was her idea, and when she told me, my heart filled with helium and expanded, a red balloon in my chest, warmed because someone thought i deserved a party. i was so moved by her gesture that i neglected to say that i didn't so much want a party. she had a big house, and i worried that when people failed to show up, it would feel that much more empty. these fears were not unfounded.

things i remember from this party: a runny vegan cheesecake, made by amy, which we ate in the kitchen with our hands. people coming and going throughout the night, never staying long enough to fill the house. crying in the bathroom. four people in that enormous living room, dancing to xtc. kim, who would later die from a drug overdose in that very same house, shattering a window.

so that was my last birthday party, and since then, i have kept it simple. dinner and drinks with friends, no fuss, no gift required. a small exception could be my 27th birthday, which i celebrated at the magic castle with a few of my favorite people. there were card tricks and quick-change acts and a smoking clown inside a giant balloon. there was also a bar. chunky cheeses for grown-ups.

but whatever, fuck it, this year i'm gonna have me a real party. and i think i've devised a foolproof plan, a birthday party with an insurance policy. i've invited my friends to crash someone else's party. the deets:


even if no one shows up for me, i will be surrounded by people dancing on roller skates - the best kind of people, my kind of people, all of us predestined to be fast friends.

so this is it. i am wrapping up my 20s, the end is in sight, but i am ok with that. when i look back on my early- and mid-20s, and recall how loath i was to part with each year, clinging to it, how i would examine my face in the mirror at night, scanning for a fresh line while cursing myself for raising my eyebrows so often, i see an unhappy person, someone who was desperate for more time to get things right. i am relieved to not be that girl anymore

here's another new thing i'm trying out: an amazon wishlist. of the highest priority: new knee pads as i am just barely keeping my current pair together with some strategically placed electrical tape. roller derby, hobo style.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

the haps

the league put it to a vote, and our new home has been christened The Doll Factory.

(i voted for Temple of the Dolls, but oh well. i can live with The Doll Factory. i keep envisioning a warholesque motif where the walls are lined with aluminum foil. i wonder if that will fly with the fire marshal?).

there is other stuff i'd like to write about, but i've been so consumed with promoting our upcoming bout, that i haven't had the time. speaking of said bout, you guys (whoever you are) should come. my team isn't skating, but it might be a good game anyway. it's our inaugural bout in the doll factory, so you know everyone is gonna skate their hearts out. me, i'll be the bespectacled chick handing out press kits, making feeble attempts at schmoozing with media types.

What: L.A. Derby Dolls Banked Track Roller Derby Bout: Tough Cookies v. Sirens

When: Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Times: Doors at 6:00 pm, game begins at 7:30 pm

Where: 1910 Temple St., Los Angeles, 90026

Tickets: $15 general admission (ride your bike and get a $2 discount!); $35 for VIP, $45 for VIP with valet parking

Pre-sale tickets:

Parking: General parking available for $5 at City Of Angels Medical Center, 1711 West Temple (Temple and Union), one block from venue

Featuring: The Bourbon Saints and Lightnin’ Woodcock Trio playing live; L.A. Derby Dolls’ Fearleaders; Shopping at our amazing vendor village; More info at

21 and over event, beer and wine - cash only!