Tuesday, December 21, 2010


“How is retirement treating you?”

It’s the million dollar question – the one that derby folk and civilians alike keep asking – and I don’t have much of an answer. It’s only been a month and the league is on its annual holiday hiatus. I guess retirement is fine, so far. Maybe I haven't noticed because I’ve been busy: I had a birthday. I went to Seattle and Portland. I leave tomorrow for Phoenix, my obligatory Christmas in the desert.

With my OG derby wife, Stitches Stew, in Seattle. Note the Space Needle behind us.

I haven’t exactly stopped skating yet, either. I’ve skated at wreckLeague (wL) a couple of times, including this past Sunday afternoon. I was missing my skates and thought it would be fun to scrimmage and horse around...which it was (especially since a couple of my former teammates were in attendance). I did take a few spills, however, and there was one jam in particular where I raced through the pack and slid out on my knees, rockstar style, as I called it off. Consequently, my groin muscles have been sore and tight for the last two days. I suppose this is the biggest change I’d failed to notice since retiring: I’m not sore all the time. Now that I’m hobbling around again, I can appreciate the difference.

I’m trying to figure out where derby will fit into my post-derby world. I can’t imagine not skating regularly, but I probably shouldn’t do full-contact as regularly. I know I’ll continue to drop in on wL occasionally because, well, scrimmaging is fun, but if I did it all the time, it would sort of defeat the purpose of my retirement.

LADD honored its first class of Legends at a reception last week where those who’d been with the League five or more years were paid tribute. It was basically a bunch of old-timers taking turns at the podium, reminiscing about thee olden days when roller derby was a drinking and wrestling club, and most of us were just trying to figure out how to skate. But we were a determined and dedicated crew of rapscallions, and hey, look what we built.

The ceremony ended when the Legends stood for applause and knocked over one of the tables, sending beer bottles and plastic cups toppling. Crystal Deth and I were seated at the lower-tier table, and naturally, all the booze poured directly into our vintage purses. It was a fitting end. Oh, drinking and wrestling days, how I miss you.

Skateland, 2004

Hellraiser I, our first league fundraiser, 2004

A few Fight Crew old-timers, 2010.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

last jam

As a kid, if I ever dreamed of seeing my mug in the newspaper, I doubt I would’ve pictured it on the front page of the sports section, but here you have it:

When an L.A. Times photographer approached me about doing this piece, I was conflicted. It was an honor, of course, but it also made me a little squeamish. I’ve been a member of the Dolls’ PR committee since joining the league, and for three years, I was its director. It was my job to get reporters and photographers to point their equipment at other skaters. But this girl? The limelight makes me squirm.

As I’ve chronicled extensively here, retiring from roller derby is hard. It’s even more difficult when you’re being tailed by paparazzi.

In the documentary piece that ran on the Times’ web site, there’s a bit where I talk about the unimportance of makeup in the world of derby – yeah, we’re girls, and yeah, we like to play dress up, but the game always comes first. Last Saturday night, as I sat in the makeup chair before my final game, I cried. I had given the makeup artist free range because I was sick with anxiety and couldn’t make decisions.

Her work finished, I stared in the mirror and saw eyes I didn’t recognize as my own, thick with black eyeliner and mascara and hot pink shadow all the way up to my brow line. I looked old. It was the face of a retiree, the eyes of Tammy Faye Baker. Meanwhile, in the vestibule adjacent to the makeup room, the Times’ photographer was interviewing skaters about their reaction to Judy Gloom’s retirement and I could hear every word of it. It was all too much and I broke down.

My performance in the game was uneven, but so was my derby career, so it seems like a fair ending to the saga. In the last jam of the night, Fight Crew leading by only eight points, I committed a major penalty that prevented me from scoring or calling off the jam even though I was in the lead (boo). But…I managed to hang onto that lead while slowing the opposing jammer, successfully preventing her from making a third pass and cinching a 2-pt victory for the Crew (yay). It was one of those dramatic, sports-movie moments and the good guys won.

Photo by Mia More/Susanica Tam

Now that it’s all behind me, I’m really pleased with how the documentary piece turned out, but less enthusiastic about the article (I’m so tired of the “Librarian by Day, Killer Roller Derby Babe by night” media angle. I tried to steer the writer in another direction, but he wouldn’t budge. A quote from his article: “Hell on wheels, this little Glendale librarian.” And here’s the headline from a 2009 CNN article about another derby librarian: “Tiny librarian is hell on wheels.” Oh well).

Most importantly, the Derby Dolls made it on the front page of the L.A. Times’ sports section – above the fold! – and this is my crowning achievement as the former head of PR. I just never imagined it would be my helmet and specs in the photo.

Photo by Robert Gauthier/L.A. Times

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lena Dunham opens the door

I’d never heard of the 24-year-old writer/filmmaker Lena Dunham until reading Rebecca Mead’s profile in the November 15th issue of the New Yorker. I still haven't watched her Youtube videos or acquainted myself with her considerable internet presence. Therefore, I have no opinion of her work other than it was born from a place of privilege that is entirely foreign to me.

Dunham’s parents are both successful New York artists, about whom Mead writes, “Laurie Simmons makes photographs in which dolls and doll-house furniture are arranged to unsettling effect; Carroll Dumham makes exuberant, antic paintings that often feature a masculine figure with a penis where his nose should be.”

Dunham didn’t do well on her SATs, and therefore, spent her first year of college at New York’s New School (she later transferred to Oberlin). In the article, Dunham discusses the classmates she encountered during her freshman year and the unsettling experience of being on her home turf, but surrounded by provincials. For me, one of the most striking things from the profile is this quote about a New School classmate: “There was this boy who was really smart and really intellectual and he came from, like, a steel town in Pennsylvania, and his family called him ‘the freak.’ I had never met a person who was different from their parents before.”

Whether or not this is actually true isn’t relevant because I believe the sentiment is. Certainly she had met kids who were different from their parents, but she either never noticed or paused to consider the distinction.

As a person who regards close parent-child relationships with an instinctual suspicion, her statement I had never met a person who was different from their parents before was like peering into an alternate universe and having the door hit me in the face.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

working it

It was a hard thing when my teammate Crystal Deth retired in 2008. I had spent most of the season benched with a grade 3 ankle sprain, and during that time, I watched her game improve dramatically. I liked to think that she was skating for both of us, but in reality, she was just pissed. She hadn't made the all-star team that season and had something to prove. So, Crystal stepped it up -- attending extra practices, cross-training and thinking more strategically. Her skating jumped to another level -- a deer on wheels leaping over fallen bodies.

Ankle mended, I was able to skate with my team that fall. Then Crystal dropped the R-Bomb in December. I couldn't believe it. Quit now? She'd been on fire, and I loved skating with her because we always pushed each other to work harder. But she was quitting while she was ahead, and years later, I've come to appreciate that decision.

Photo By 3D Sean.

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by a subpooler (in LADD, a subpooler is a skater who isn't yet on a team, but may be asked to "sub" for an injured team skater during a game. To be in subpool is to be in roller derby limbo).

"I heard you're retiring," she said. "I can't believe it! You still have so much skate in you." Maybe so, I thought, but I'd like to keep some "skate" in reserve -- not leave roller derby depleted, exhausted and washed-up.

My leaguemates have surprised me with their support and kindness these last few weeks and it's been emotionally overwhelming. It hasn't made saying goodbye any easier, but it completely reinforces what an incredible, meaningful experience these past seven years on skates has been.

Some other reactions to retirement:

Tawdry Tempest (Fight Crew, retired 2009): "I've never looked back."

Queen Elizadeath (Varsity Brawlers): "What are you going to do with your skates?" (for the record, I have some very bad-ass skates into which QED's feet would fit nicely. Apologies to QED and other small-footed derby girls -- I can't part with them!)

P.I.T.A. (Sirens): "I just want you to know that you and Crystal Deth were such an inspiration to me when I first started Fresh Meat."

Bonnie D.Stroir (Swarm, OG Derby Doll who is "taking a break" after this season): "You're not really retiring, right? You're just taking a break."

Tawdry Tempest (a couple of weeks following her previous comment): "Guess I shoulda worked my retirement like you."

Thora Zeen (league co-founder, former Siren, and one of my all-time favorite skaters): "It's about time!"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Halloween started with a bike ride to the home of a retired skater for brunch. A small group of us had gathered -- Dolls past and present, but mostly past. We ate french toast and an announcement was made: a baby is coming.

One other still-skating Doll was in attendance, a veteran like me, and she was noticeably limping. She's skating again following a year spent recovering from knee surgery. It hasn't been an easy comeback for her. Every time she falls at practice, we skaters collectively suck in our breath, hoping she's OK.

It's funny to think back on our early years together in the league. I was working in the FIDM library where she was a student, and every once in a while, I'd help her at the reference desk. I'd been with the Dolls at least a year when she started skating. Barely able to remain upright that first month, she wasn't exactly a natural, but she was determined and progressed quickly. She eventually became one of the brightest stars in the league -- talented, strategic and a great leader.

I don't doubt that she's capable of making a total comeback from this injury, but watching her take those uncertain steps on Sunday, all I could think was, I don't have that in me anymore.

Our stomachs sloshing with bread and coffee and beer, the old folks caravanned to the Bob Baker Marionette Theater to watch a Halloween-themed puppet show. I've passed the building countless times, fascinated by the idea of marionettes living beneath 2nd Street overpass, but for whatever reason, I never found the time to attend.

It was magic. The puppeteers worked in plain sight, manipulating their marionettes to a soundtrack that hasn't changed in decades. I loved the rawness of it, the old-timey feel. The show stood as a testament to Bob Baker's faith in his audience. In the age of slick animation, CGI and Pixar perfection, I was delighted to watch children suspend their disbelief in the face of a dude with his hand clearly up a puppet's ass. This was the kind of entertainment so many of us grew up on, and I was grateful to experience this bit of nostalgia with kids who maybe aren't as hard as I sometimes fear. That this place endures makes me feel good about L.A.

Afterward, we filed into a party room decorated for every season -- dust-covered ribbons and ornaments hung alongside withering skeletons. Among the rows of long, cafeteria-style tables, we were handed plastic cups of ice cream to eat with flat wooden spoons.

A pit stop at a nearby bar followed. A bloody mary and a michelada later, we rode our bikes across town in search of Thai food. We sailed past Echo Park, the towering palm trees guarding the lake like sentries, to Sunset Blvd. At Coronado St., the iconic Happy Foot/Sad Foot greeted us, ushering our crew into Silver Lake. The sun setting, we rolled toward Hollywood, flying past the packs of roving trick-or-treaters, tiny warriors with pillowcases slung over their shoulders, scavenging the streets for chocolate. The air was filled with the scent of pastries baking somewhere.

And finally, Jitlada. There were six of us, but we ordered food for ten, and over two hours, we licked our plates clean -- no morsel left behind. Noses ran and tears rolled down our cheeks as we worked. A whole fish was ordered and decimated. We took turns pulling it apart with our fingers, a grade school dissection project. We devoured the cheeks, the eyes. Sated, we sat back in our chairs, sucking on the bones. This was Halloween for grown-ups.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

beyond pain

"Pain that you have not yet experienced is avoidable."

That's what my yoga instructor, Patty, said to our class yesterday morning. We were in savasana, or corpse pose, and I was trying to meditate. As usual, I was failing -- this time because I was thinking about food.

Pain that you have not yet experienced is avoidable.

It was exactly what I needed to hear. When my thoughts drifted to lunch, I repeated the mantra in my head.

I have a little yoga crush on Patty, another Shakti Box instructor I've only recently discovered. She's an excellent touchstone as I try to sort out what exactly my yoga practice means. Or, rather, what I want it to mean.

I came to yoga because in roller derby, you fall a lot. Often you put your hand out to break the fall. It’s instinctive. And if these repetitive falls are causing nerve compression in your elbow and neck, you won’t be doing your body any favors by adding a daily routine of push-ups, tricep dips and overhead presses on top of it. Sadly, it took me a long time to figure this out. My body didn't want to do the stuff I was forcing it to do, but I was in denial.

It was about a year and a half ago that my former roommate, Shannon, rekindled her lapsed yoga practice. She started coming home late from work with a mat rolled under her arm. She bought yoga blocks, DVDs and books. She told me about this great new donation-based studio she'd discovered just down the street from our apartment. She recommended instructors.

Meanwhile, my body was breaking down, but I was dangerously attached to my workout routine. When it became clear that I couldn’t keep doing what I'd been doing, yoga started to seem like some kind of compromise. I'd always been wary of the practice -- the spiritual junk made me squirm, and I harbored a lot of preconceived ideas about a certain yuppie, bourgeois culture. I was afraid that it wouldn’t be challenging enough for me. I worried it might be boring and I wouldn't stay in shape. Would they play weird music? Would I be forced to chant? The whole thing seemed strange and cultish and way outside my comfort zone, but then again, so was derby at first, so I decided to give it a shot.

I started yoga with the mentality that a workout wasn't valuable unless it left you wrecked and choking on your own sweat. Fortunately, it was easy enough to find Vinyasa flow 2/3 and power yoga instructors who could work me this way. So maybe I was missing the point of this whole yoga thing, but hey, I was getting a solid workout and my nagging injuries were no longer being exacerbated. Some of them even seemed to be improving.

My practice is evolving, though, and my affection for Patty is evidence of that. Don't get me wrong: her classes are challenging and rigorous, but I don't feel like she's trying to kill me. The good news is that I'm starting to be OK with that.

Ego is kind of a big deal in yoga. Lately, when an instructor talks ego during class, I listen a little more closely. Confronting my ego has made me less competitive, which has been great for my yoga practice, but not so helpful for derby. It's forced me to question why I'm still skating when a thrice weekly practice regimen isn't so fun anymore. For years, I was fueled (at least in part) by competitive energy. I think this kind of energy can have value -- a time and a place and a purpose -- but the reality I'm coming to terms with is that it's no longer serving me.

The other night, when I told Lei about my impending derby retirement, he asked, "What are you going to do with all that free time?"

"Practice more yoga, I guess." There are other things I have in mind too, but those were the first words that flew from my mouth. Certainly, it seems like a good place to start.

Monday, October 18, 2010

breaking up with derby

My gear is falling apart and it stinks. Duct tape is the only thing holding my wristguards together. After practice, when I peel the sweat-soaked pads from my knees and elbows, I know the smell is buried in the folds of my skin. I leave the locker room smelling like a locker room.

It's time to buy new gear, but I've been holding out because retirement looms. (Maybe). Why should I drop the cash on pads that I may only wear for another couple of months?

And why can't I say, definitively, that this is the end?

My team, Fight Crew, won our bout a couple of weekends ago. It felt pretty amazing following our previous 2010 games, which were both losses. We're still contenders for champs. And this girl had a good night-- highest scoring jammer of the evening. Not too shabby for a skater in her twilight years.

Photo by Tim the Enchanter.

I've been saying for a while that 2010 would be my last season. Then I backpedaled. Now I'm back to thinking it's time to hang up my skates. Age-wise, compared to other LADD skaters, I'm neither old nor young. But in derby years, I'm a fucking relic. I've been skating with the Dolls since 2004, and there are only a handful of skaters who've been around as long.

An infamous TXRD skater once said: "Roller derby. It was harder to quit than heroin." She'd gone in and out of retirement twice.

I still love skating games, but lately, practice has become a chore. I don't look forward to it and I rarely give 100%. I'm just not inspired. I want to be, but most of the time it feels like I'm going through the motions. There are so many amazing skaters in the league now, and rather than wanting to compete with them, I think, "let them have it." These days, I'm more excited about headstands and mastering different arm balances.

I'm lousy at breakups. For the last six years, roller derby has been the center of my life -- everything else has come second. When I finished grad school, rather than don a cap and gown and walk with my classmates, I chose to skate an outdoor flat track game at the North Hollywood YMCA in 100-degree weather (this is back when the Dolls were between venues). The announcers presented me with a phony diploma as my mother watched, fanning herself with a program. It was not the event she'd come to Los Angeles to see, but I skated a good game that afternoon, and she was proud.

Roller derby: I loved it and still love it. This sport changed me fundamentally. I still can't believe I lived 25 years convinced that I had zero athletic ability -- that I was physically weak. And thanks to derby, I've met some of the most amazing women that otherwise I never would've known. Physically and mentally, however, all signs point to letting go. It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. On one hand, there's going to be a huge, gaping hole in my world when I leave the Doll Factory after my final game. On the other, I'm pretty excited about what I might find to fill it.

But don't hold me to it. Maybe I'll change my mind tomorrow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

rusted wheels

Fight Crew is back this weekend -- our last game was when...May? It's our final shot at making it to champs, so if you're in L.A., put on a red shirt and come cheer us on.

Get your tix in advance because it will probably sell out!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I went camping in Big Basin Redwoods State Park a few weeks ago with some good friends (one of whom, my former teammate/Homegirl4Lyfe, Crystal, better documented the weekend here).

Elliott brought a single-speaker cassette player. At night, when we gathered around our campfire, it provided our music, and it was appropriate: a small, haunted sound in the vast wilderness. To conserve batteries, El rewound his tapes by sticking a pencil through the reel and spinning incessantly. Camping affords you the privilege of doing things the hard way -- to expend such luxurious effort.

Elliott still records off the radio, so we listened to a lot of that -- songs from San Francisco's KPOO and Rhapsody in Black. It was a junior high throwback, like the mix tapes I’d made from radio recordings as a kid: the jerky mid-song starts -- when I'd rush to my tape deck and hit record just as my new favorite song was pouring from the speakers -- or the premature endings when the tape ran out unexpectedly. Of course, Elliott has much better taste in music than I did then.

When we drove into Santa Cruz on Sunday, Elliott went into a record store and came out with two purchases: cassettes -- Siouxsie and the Banshees and Neil Young -- $2 a pop.

El gave me the tattoo on my bicep a few years ago. It looks a little like I got bored and drew on my arm -- people often ask if it's a pen mark -- but it's actually a music note, etched into my skin with a needle and india ink. Crystal has a music note too, also administered by Elliott, but hers appears more polished. El has a handful of these small, homemade tattoos -- a music note here, question mark there, various squiggles. Once, when someone asked him what was up the music note, he replied, indignant, "I love music."

The weekend after Big Basin, my brother, James, came to town with his friend, Sam. It was after midnight on a Friday when they arrived, wanting to see Hollywood. I drove to the Cahuenga crawl and released them into the thick of it -- where creatures in too-tall platforms swayed and vomited onto the Walk of Fame.

The next morning, James and Sam showed me their new tats, acquired on Hollywood Blvd. for a $100 apiece. On my brother’s chest was a black hole, ostensibly left there by some imaginary bullet. From the hole, blood splattered across his chest like red rays from a black sun. Next, Sam showed me his: a purple music note -- big, bubbly, airbrushed-looking and occupying most of his forearm. It floated there, snarky and effervescent. In solidarity, I showed him my own music note. He brought his face closer to my bicep, squinting, as I flexed instinctively.

Monday, August 9, 2010

seeking sentiment in tar and blubber

When asked what I’m doing this summer, my stock answer is “reading Moby-Dick.”

Due to budget cuts, the library where I work part-time is closed this month. As for my other job, running a non-profit that serves impoverished school libraries, there’s not a whole lot to do when school isn’t in session. So, August is a slow month for me on the work front. And if I’m going to be honest, June and July weren’t exactly bustling either.

I would have liked to use this free time to travel a bit, but my bank account is still recovering from The Great Engine Explosion of February, which was followed a month later by P.S. You Need A Brake Job Too, Sucker! Oh, and then in April, How About a Retreatment of a Root Canal from a Endonondist who Claimed to be In-Network, but Oops!, $1200 later, Turns Out He Wasn’t?

That leaves Moby-Dick and Me. Hello, summer.

I don’t think I would’ve picked up the book on my own, but a couple of library school alums formed an MB reading group, and I was inspired to join. It’s also Shannon’s favorite book. I miss her a lot, so I figure reading MB is sort of like us hanging, tickling each other’s brains. All of that said, I’m pretty sure I’m the only group member who is actually reading the thing. Over on the MB Facebook discussion page, it’s crickets.

I’m treading along at a moderate pace because, of course, I’m reading too many other things. I’m nearly finished with Just Kids, Patti Smith’s account of her early years with Robert Mapplethorpe, and I’m still plugging away at The Collected Stories of Deoborah Eisenberg, which at 960 pages is actually four books in one. Four hundred pages down, I’m halfway through the second book. I’ll continue reading the stories intermittently, alongside Lydia Davis, which means I probably won’t wrap it up til Christmas. I preordered the new Franzen novel, which should arrive on my doorstep in a couple of weeks, and I’m dying to read David Lipsky’s account of traveling with David Foster Wallace during his Infinite Jest Book Tour. Also, I would like to read most of these 100 recommended magazine articles (note that seven DFW articles made the list, which, fortunately, I've already read).

I'm also practicing a fair amount of yoga, running through my neighborhood’s canyons and, now that the Dolls’ annual summer hiatus has concluded, I’m back in roller derby training. So, I guess I'm keeping busy. But what I really should be doing is learning Spanish.

From SparkNotes on Moby-Dick: The movements of whales, like all of the secrets of the ocean, are largely hidden, and the whalemen’s struggles to piece together what they see and hear resemble other people’s struggles to make meaning out of life or stories in books.

A few weeks ago, I went to a screening of my friend Rick’s films. I brought a date, and we struck up a conversation with Rick’s new roommate, Larry.

"How is your summer going?” Larry asked.

“Well, I’m reading Moby-Dick.”

“Are you interested in whaling?”

“Not particularly.”

“Then why are you reading it?”

Before I could answer, my date interjected.

“Maybe because it’s in the canon? It’s a classic.”

“Yes, but I don’t understand why someone would read it if they weren’t interested in whaling."

“I’m fine with the whaling," I said, "but I guess I'm more interested in the book thematically, and in Melville as a writer."

Larry looked perplexed.

“But it’s about whaling. How can it hold your interest if you don't care about whaling?”

The date interjected again. “Do you really think every person that reads Moby-Dick does so because they’re interested in whaling?’

“Most, yes.”

And from here, the conversation between the men – neither of whom had actually read Moby-Dick – escalated. I extricated myself, floating toward the table where a bottle of whiskey twinkled.

"Over Descartian vortices you hover. And perhaps, at mid-day, in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you drop through that transparent air into the summer sea, no more to rise for ever."

Friday, July 16, 2010

summer, cont.

I grew up in Arizona, but I've never seen the Grand Canyon. It wasn't going anywhere, I figured, and I'd get around to it eventually. It's still on my list of things to do.

Similarly, the closest I'd been to Lake Havasu was watching Bill Bellamy, Eric Nies, et al. grind away my teenage afternoons on MTV's Spring Break. Thanks to last weekend's Fight Crew retreat, courtesy of Broadzilla (a Havasu homeowner), all of that has changed. I can now say that I have piloted a waverunner over Lake Havasu's glassy surface, red rocks looming large and martian in the distance. I held on for dear life as my inflatable Bonzai raft was towed and tossed by a boat. I rode a wakeboard. I drank a frozen margarita from a green plastic container fashioned after a naked woman. I cruised under the London Bridge as the Beastie Boys' "Root Down" blasted from the boat's speakers. I peed in that lake.

Fight Crew wins at wakeboarding.

Unrelated, more yoga wisdom from Clio: In class a couple of weeks ago, we practiced upward facing bow while squeezing blocks between our thighs. When a classmate's block dropped to her mat with a thud, Clio announced, "We all shit bricks sometimes."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


"The days just clutter up with things I feel like doing and do. One after another, I fill up and dispatch dayfuls of things." - Deborah Eisenberg (currently reading: The Collected Stories).

Friday, May 21, 2010

in the face of defeat

This morning in yoga, Clio instructed us to take wheel pose with the backs of our heads against the wall, our hands on blocks. She told us to start stepping our feet toward the wall as we walked our hands up the wall. I did as I was told, but I wasn't sure what I was trying to accomplish. Clio hovered over me as I moved upward.

"There you go!" she encouraged. "You're almost there!"

I was three-quarters of the way up the wall, and Clio was cheering me on, but I was confused.

"What am I working toward?" I asked, my head hanging upside down through my extended arms, glasses askew, palms pressed flat against the wall.


"Oh." My eyes were fixed on the white wall behind me. "Sometimes I forget."

"But more immediately, you're trying to stand upright."

"Just stand up? I can do that."

I walked my hands a little higher, lifted my chest and head out of the bend, and there I was: standing. Clio smiled and clapped, beaming, a proud parent.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

game day brain

Whipity Pow / Rocky Mountain Rollergirls / Photo by Jay Vollmar.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about Whipity Pow's thigh this week. I don't want it for myself, but it's an incredible thing to behold.

David Foster Wallace on tennis great Roger Federer:

"Genius is not replicable. Inspiration, though, is contagious, and multiform -- and even just to see, close up, power and aggression made vulnerable to beauty is to feel inspired and (in a fleeting, mortal way) reconciled. "

Recently, there was an episode of Radiolab about limits. During the segment on limits and the human body, Jad and Robert interviewed Julie Moss about her legendary second place finish in the 1982 Ironman Triathlon. It was really insightful to hear the analysis of how our brains deal when we push our bodies.

Anyway, here's Julie Moss shitting her pants and crawling to the finish line:

I was hanging with some Brits the other night, and the roller derby thing worked its way into the conversation.

In her adorable accent, the Girl Brit asked, "Is that the sport where the angry girls on roller skates hit each other?"

"I'm not angry," I said. "I'm just determined."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

U.S. Roradabi: fight formal and trippings are forbidden

Did I mention that I have a game coming up? I do. Buy your tickets in advance because it will probably sell out.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

about my not-so-new roommate

If you have a roommate, you should probably keep your pants on. Even if you think your roommate is gone for the day -- all the way in Orange County, which is practically another planet. Even if you've finished a five-mile run, and your pants are sweat-soaked, and you've just peed, and you're about to hop in the shower, which is running. So, really, what's the point of putting your pants back on while you pluck your eyebrows with the bathroom door wide open?

The point is that your roommate might return unexpectedly -- with your weekend house guest in tow -- and for a split second things will seem normal because you're still wearing a tank top, but then he'll glance down and look! No pants! Someone will say "Oh my god." Front door and bathroom door will slam in awkward unison.

I've known Lei since we were teenagers. We went to high schools on opposite sides of town, but we'd run into each other at Food Not Bombs feedings (which, at least in Tempe, AZ in 1996, was more about having a picnic in the park than it was about feeding the homeless). Lei didn't talk much at FNB meetings. He was the bespectacled Asian kid who showed up and doled out scoops of couscous to the gutter punks, kept his mouth shut, and then disappeared as mysteriously as he came. He seemed like a weirdo, and I vowed to make him my friend. I didn't really succeed until after he'd moved to Berkeley for college and I started writing him letters. Eventually, I'd make frequent trips to the Bay Area, and we'd hang non-stop in Phoenix when he'd come home for the summer and holidays.

We lived together during the two years we were in grad school, both at U.C.L.A. getting our master's in information science. And all these years, he'd never seen my beaver. So is our friendship fundamentally changed? No, of course not, but I do think it's funny considering our old pact. When we were in our early 20s, we agreed that if we were both single at 30 (or was it 31? or 32?), that we'd marry each other. And here we are -- around the designated age, living together again -- and Lei catches a glimpse of my ladyparts and we're both horror-stricken. So, marriage? Seems laughable, but I should point out that he's become my emergency contact for every piece of paperwork I fill out these days. Maybe we'll just wind up common law.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

fly girl

Yesterday, I updated my Facebook status to read, "There once was a lady who inhaled a fruit fly." Because I did. The buggers have been a nuisance, all up in my den these days, and yes, I have tried the usual tricks to no avail.

It didn't occur to me until after I'd updated my status that the nursery rhyme actually starts "There was an old lady...." I didn't intentionally omit the "old." I just misremembered. Kind of like old people do.

Speaking of geriatrics, the Derby Dolls enacted a new policy for skaters who have been with the league five or more years: In conjunction with our newly anointed LEGEND status, we are no longer required to volunteer at bouts. Too old to work? Sure, I'll take it. Now I get to show up on game night after 6 p.m. and watch roller derby like a civilian. If called upon to pour wine or work PR or DJ, I might bite, but mostly, you'll find me at the games I'm not skating drinking a medicinal beverage. And that's if you find me at all. No more parking lot detail for this LEGEND.

I am beginning to understand the appeal of "lounge wear," or the urban gal's answer to sweats. I almost ventured outside yesterday in pants that clung to my waist with a handy drawstring. I was only leaving my apartment to receive a massage from a nice Thai lady in the San Gabriel Valley who crawls all over my back like a 110-lb spider. I would be required to strip upon arrival, but still, I couldn't bring myself to go outside with a rope around my waist if exercise wasn't involved. So, I changed into respectable pants. The kind with a fly.

After yoga on Sunday (I was just talking about lounge wear, remember?), I rode my bike through Griffith Park with some friends. We were hunting for the free bacon-wrapped hot dogs one of us had read about on the interweb. Apparently, there is a guy named Javier with an irrepressible urge to share the joy of the bacon-wrapped hot dog with his fellow Angelenos. It's become an annual thing where he sets up shop in the Old Zoo and gets to grillin'. On this Sunday, Javier wore a red t-shirt emblazoned with a t-bone as he manned his makeshift grill. A cookie sheet and small propane tank were involved.

When we rolled up to the Zoo, I introduced myself to Javier, and foolishly asked, "Are you a street food vendor? Are you promoting your business?"

He laughed. "No. I just love bacon-wrapped hot dogs!"

He made me a veggie dog wrapped in veggie bacon, and it was the best I'd ever eaten -- probably on account of all the bacon grease it had rolled around in.

The whole event turned into a great Los Angeles picnic -- people showed up with beer and condiments to share. No one knew each other, but fast friends were made. Pie holes were stuffed with dog after dog, laden with California condiments like kimchee, seaweed and avocado, and it was official: Spring in L.A. has sprung.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Flowers on the prairie where the June bugs zoom

Oklahoma City: conquered. No snow after all.

What you should know about OKC: All lettuce comes from a bag. Some public restrooms double as tornado shelters (indicated by a placard outside the entrance illustrated with a black tornado, which looks suspiciously like a turd). Do not order the Ahi tuna (even if you well know that tuna in OKC cannot possibly be good, but still, it is game day and you are a pescetarian and believe that protein is required to be properly fueled). Also, that children ride the elevators for fun (maybe children do this everywhere, but there were SO MANY elevator-riding orphans in OKC, and they will insist on pressing the buttons for you, and all you can think is, "Kid, where I come from, you could get paid to do that). Service industry professionals are ridiculously kind and attentive, and in general, Okies are super nice and all the unsolicited hellos and waves from strangers on the street will be a little unnerving.

Oh, and if you order a yogurt and granola parfait in Caffeina's Markeplace, the hotel's cafe, the granola will be a pulverized Nature's Valley granola bar. When you point this out to the barista, she will not understand why this is disgusting or weird.

Finally, that banked track roller derby could be frighteningly big in Oklahoma. It's a city where there isn't a whole lot to do on a Saturday night, and its denizens are really, really enthusiastic about sports.

The Red Dirt Rebellion Roller Girls rented the large and well-lit Cox Center arena for the game, which was conveniently conjoined to our hotel via Sky Bridge, providing the Aftershockers (my team) a theoretical opportunity to never set foot on a public walkway in OKC. It was hard to gauge crowd size inside the Cox, but I would hazard a couple of thousand, which is impressive considering that this league isn't well-established. The Doll Factory's capacity is 1700, and though we almost always sell out, we push those 1700 seats hard. OKC is, obviously, a much smaller town.

The game was a blowout in favor of the Aftershockers. The final score was 239-31. RDRRG put up a good fight, and hell if those ladies aren't tenacious, but they're still awful green. With time and experience, I'm certain they will become a force, and it's exciting to have another banked track league up-and-coming in such an exotic locale.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

amateur hour

When we last left the Hollywood Librarian, she was riding in a tow truck. The driver was right – it was expensive. The auto shop estimate was $3400, but estimates don’t include sales tax.

I blew out the engine. “Oil change” was on my Google calendar for Wednesday, and the engine went on Tuesday. The bookmobile was a couple of months overdue and its innards were (apparently) bone dry. Amateur move? Yes. Do I know better? Yes. And was it 100% my fault? Yes.

I am quick to abuse my car, I think, because I resent that it was forced upon me by this city. That attitude isn’t going to get me very far though. I’ve learned an expensive lesson.

I did not drop this bag of money without pause. A new car was out of the question because I am not interested in car payments and increased insurance. I considered buying a new used car for a comparable price. I looked at Craigslist and quickly became anxious. Though my purple Saturn is an eyesore, I know this car: one previous owner, my mother, and only 80,000 miles. Classic devil you know vs. the devil you don’t know, and I chose the former. My mother generously gave me that car. Now I’ve bought it.

In other news, Fight Crew lost the game on the 13th, but we did it with panache. At some point in the 3rd quarter, we were down by nearly 40 points, and we came back to lose by 10. This girl had a solid game, scoring 26 points, but it wasn’t enough. Oh well. The season is young.

Photo by Colin Young-Wolf/LA Weekly

I’m flying to Oklahoma City tomorrow for a game against another banked track league, the Red Dirt Rebellion Roller Girls. What's to do in Oklahoma besides play roller derby? I hear it's snowing there. I haven’t seen snow in years -- not since 2000 when Tony and I drove to Flagstaff to pick up a Volvo gifted from his brother. I think there was snow melting on the side of the I-17, but we never got close enough to touch it.

I’m not sure what to do with snow. Maybe I will bury myself in the stuff to soothe my nagging aches and pains.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

car woes

My car almost exploded on the freeway yesterday. It had been making a funny noise for the past couple of weeks, and I'd planned to take it in, well, today actually. As I drove home from work, bookmobile heavy with groceries, the unexplained sound escalated from "funny" to "assault rifle." When smoke began to billow out from under the hood, I felt compelled to turn on my hazards and pull over.

Things I am grateful for: My AAA membership.

Cars barreled past, rattling me, when I stepped from my vehicle onto the shoulder. This probably isn't very safe, I thought, as I popped the hood. I looked inside and saw what appeared to be an engine. Hmmm. The colors looked right, nothing was oozing lava or pus and there were no visible signs of a silverfish infestation. So, I got back inside and waited for the tow truck. I listened to an episode of the Moth on my Ipod and pulled a bran muffin from a grocery bag. I ate half. Thank God I didn't starve to death in the 20 minutes I waited for a tow. I'm good in a crisis.

When the tow driver arrived, he started my car. It still sounded like an assault rifle unloading. He winced.

"What do you think it is?" I asked.

"I don't know, but it sounds expensive."

He towed my car to a mechanic a few blocks from my apartment, and I'm still waiting on the diagnosis.

In happier news, my team is skating its first game of the 2010 season and you should come. It would cheer me up to see your shining face in the crowd, dear anonymous reader. Tickets will sell out in advance, so get yours soon.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I keep telling people that this is going to be my last season. When they ask why, my responses vary, but they're usually along the lines of, "I keep getting older and bitches keep getting younger" or "I've been doing this way too long" or "I've been neglecting my other hobbies for the past six years" or "I need to focus on my career" or "I'm broken" or "My scrabble game needs work" or "I should get out of L.A. and buy a house somewhere" or "I'm tired" or "I'm moving to Tucson." I'm not sure which of these things remain true outside of the moment it was uttered. When I see them in print like this, I'm skeptical (Wait, what? A house? Tucson?!).

Many of these sentiments felt true during the holidays, when the league was on break and I had so much time to myself. Another season of derby seemed far away and like a lot of work. Then I put my skates back on a few weeks ago, and lo, the fire under my ass was reignited. Oh yeah, I love doing this shit. I still think this will be my final season, but the plan is to go out in a blaze.

Saturday night was the 2010 season opener, the Sirens vs. the Varsity Brawlers, and I was working the Paso Creek bar with Krissy Krash, pouring wine to raise money for the league's travel teams. The Dolls' biggest blocker, Krash has nearly a foot on me. I stood on a crate behind the bar so as not to be dwarfed. She was all overgrown Girl Scout in her Tough Cookie uniform, and me, midget to her left, was all layers and a scarf because the Doll Factory is a meat locker in January. Even on a game night.

Bong Jovi, the league's Head of Events, breezed by our table on his rounds.

"You should block more," he told me.

"You think so?"

"Yeah, I like your style. It's been a while."

"I don't know. I can obstruct, but my hits aren't very powerful."

"No, blog."


My hearing isn't so great, but Jovi eventually got his point across, so here I am blogging. I have a lot of things I could write about -- the most recent wedding I attended or my new roommate, Lei (who's really my old roommate), or the fun stuff the Beer Committee's been up to, or my yoga breakthroughs, or health care, or FUCKING HAITI, but I think I'll just tell you about my bad reading habits for now.

In my experience, when you read too many things at once, you manage to read very little. I have book club obligations, a tower of New Yorkers to conquer, books gifted to me, the stuff I want to read for pleasure and the stuff I should read for pain. I did finish The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which is as good as everyone says, and I listened to Zeitoun as an audio book on my drive to and from Phoenix, which I've been recommending to everyone.

Since December, I have been reading the Collected Stories of Lydia Davis the way I imagine people read the bible. Her stories are short, quick, arresting. They feel like fables. The collection is heavy at 600+ pages, but some stories are only a few sentences. So, I open the pink volume to a random page and read a story or two, sometimes when I wake up in the morning or before I go to bed at night.

Tomorrow I might blog about that wedding.