Friday, December 30, 2011

Inaugural, that's me.

Alright, I'm not going to begin this post with an apology for not making an entry in so long. By now I consider it applied. What I will say is be prepared for a pretty long story. Find a Cumfy seat, grab a beer, a coffee or a white wine spritzer and pop on your bifocals. I need to go back a little bit...
*wiggly flashback music and effects*
Remember that badass sport that I play, roller derby? Well, I'm not sure whether I mentioned it or not, but I was lucky enough to be chosen to represent Australia at the first ever Roller Derby World Championships, hosted by Blood and Thunder magazine and Toronto Roller Derby, in Toronto. Well, since Aus is pretty much the exact opposite of the globe from Toronto, I was set up to shell out a lot of cash. So, the moment I was selected, I nutted out ways to raise money to get there. The Lil' Adelaide Rollers (Adelaide's junior league) jumped on board straight away, they were amazing support from the start. They (in addition to being brilliantly skilled and clever kids) were brilliantly skilled fundraisers too, and presented me with an oversized novelty cheque to the amount of $1500. Like I said, amazing. Also, I made myself a Pozible project and (thanks to the kindness of my family, friends and even some strangers) raised a whopping $1600 there too. Lastly, my amazing band, 50 Cycle Hum agreed to performing a fundraising gig for me which raised another $700!

So. That's where the story starts, with a quick rundown of the gig. So with a Pozible, you have to provide rewards for the different amounts that people might pledge to your project. In addition to this, it's advisable to promote it by offering incentives to reach certain milestones. For example, I promised that I would re-enact the dance fusion scene from The Office (British version) in the middle of Rundle Mall if I reached $650 by a certain day. I did. I haven't done the dance yet, but I will. The next incentive that I thought of was to get it over the $1000 mark - I promised to perform the last set of our fundraising gig in a onesy. I did. It was velour and bloody hot.

Though we had done a couple of gigs before, this one was to be in front of a lot more people that knew me, so I was a little bit more apprehensive than usual. The Squatter's Arms pub in Thebarton let us have the room for free (awesome) and we charged people ten bucks at the door. As well as my band volunteering and the pub donating the room, my mate Lori who is a wicked stand up comedienne also emceed the evening, performing as both herself and later on, as her alter ego, Granny Flaps. Sometimes I'm a little flabbergasted at people's kindness.

Anyway, I accidentally got a bit drunk. I had three different costumes prepared for the night, the onesy that I borrowed from Brain being the finale one. My amazing girlfriend Mercedes got me dressed in it, the big bolt pinned on the front, the bolt on my face and my hair teased complete with glitter in about 7 minutes flat.

The band played amazingly as usual, though I screwed up a couple of songs cos I'm not used to the absence of a fold back speaker (but also cos I'm not a great singer lol), so I'll have to learn to be prepared for that possibility.
So, my one goal was to have a moshpit, and possibly a little crowd surfing. Moshpit was achieved for the encore song, which was Killing In The Name, a personal fave of mine. Crowd surfing... Well, one person did, but only on one person. To understand this, you'll just have to watch the following vid. Be prepared: like I said, I was drunk. I have a potty mouth when sober, so... You get the gist. Listen for me telling the crowd to 'calm their tits' - that's how you can tell I'm truly sauced. Enjoy...!/video/video.php?v=10150373447106205

After we finished, Liss n Jars headed home, and so did Tash, leaving me to party for a few more hours with these questionable characters:

I got very excited to find $2... (I'm holding it here)

Then Skato stole it and gloated.

We slapped her hard.

All in all, it was a smashing good time.

So that was a week before I left. Then I had to go to Kit Car's wedding the next day which was a great combo of really nice and really 'Kit Cat and Paul', so it was ace. Unfortunately, I could not consume any more alcohol after the night before so I was a sensible wedding guest but I danced and enjoyed myself no less. I will my whole life never forget the sight of Kit Car, exquisite wedding dress hitched up, moshing and shouting the words to Killing In The Name which played at her request.

Alright, so onto the World Cup!

I left Saturday the 26th Nov, which was heartbreaking for two reasons. Mercedes and I are attached at the hip and also the Lil' Adelaide Rollers had their first friends and family bout that day, which went really well and had heaps of support from local derby leagues. I suffer pretty badly from Jetlag, so I had to go then, or risk not be recovered for playing.
I flew over with the girls from Canberra - King Cam, Shortstop, Bambi Von Smasher and AmyKazee.  This was great, as I didn't have to be alone, and I also had people to entertain with my 'grab the seat phone and pretend it's a direct line to the president' gag.  The trip took ages, since we pretty much could not be further from Canada.  In fact, the most distance travelled by a world cup participant was whatever the hell distance I went, cos it was me.

When we arrived, we put our bags in our room and went to the hotel bar for a snack.  Wings.  My favourite thing to have in Canada, besides anything grape flavour.  I also had to have my customary 'just arrived in country and checked my bags in' drink, which is an old fashioned, like Don Draper drinks in Mad men.  I'm Don Draper, in lesbian form except that I don't earn heaps of money or have good ideas for ad campaigns.
The next day we slept til midday and went shopping.  I rejoiced cos I found a place that made gluten free burgers, and I had Atlantic salmon on it.  I also bought a green and gold beanie and then went to a local ice rink for a skate.  I like to get on my ice skates before playing derby.  It's really relaxing for me, as it takes me back to my roots and reminds me that skating is fun, lest I get caught up in too much pressure.  Here is me and my hair monster at the rink:

The next day we went to Niagara Falls, which was my fifth time, but it's still beautiful.  we marvelled at squirrels, oohed and ahhed at the falls and I bought a poncho because as it wasn't quite winter yet, there was still lots of overspray and I don't like getting water on me, especially my face.  Note: I do shower and swim, just don't like falling water on me.
The next couple of days went by pretty quick, with sporadic meetings of team members that I didn't know (almost everyone) and all of a sudden it was Tuesday, which was the day of our first training together.

My first impression of the venue was one of disappointment.  It was completely underwhelming, an old warehouse out of the way somewhere that even the local bus driver took ages to find.  There was a tiny a-frame sign outside one of four plain doors, with a sign attached that simply read 'roller derby'.  It was a piece of paper inside a plastic sleeve, clinging tenuously to the sign with a lonely piece of sticky tape.  It was half folded over, and beginning to run on account of the sleet (and the inadequate plastic sleeve).
Inside, my first thought was that this was just a training venue and that the actual tournament would be held elsewhere but that wasn't the case.  We couldn't get the toilet lights to work and I didn't want to go in the dark, cos I had a very strong feeling that there may have been a toilet ghost in there.  I held it.

We trained on the track that we would be using for our first two games, against Germany and Finland.  It was very slippery, but I have skated on worse.  I made a mental note to clean my wheels.  There were big pylons on the inside of the tracks, padded for skater safety but at least the track was nicely marked out, which was a redeeming feature.  Though I thought the venue was pretty rough for a world cup of anything (I imagine even dwarf throwing to have a little more luxury), I made up my mind to love it nonetheless, as I figured we needed as much positivity as possible.  During the tournament, I found out that it wasn't hosted by WFTDA as I had initially thought - it was hosted by Toronto Roller Derby.  This made much more sense, and I inwardly chastised myself for dissing their venue.  For an event held by just one local league, it was actually really good, and at least it had that underground 'get back to derby roots' feel.  Also, by the time the first games started, they had it looking pro.

Trainings can be a difficult time for me.  I am a very visual learner and tend to find my mind wandering if I have to listen to someone talk for too long.  I also expend so much energy trying to assimilate the things I'm learning, that I never skate very well and usually come off looking like a bit of a newborn giraffe.  So, all that, combined with the fact that I had just met most of my team the day before and also I had to learn a bunch of new strategies meant I was a bit nervous and generally gooberish.  At one point I thought to myself  'all this new shit is hard.  How the hell will I cope?' but immediately quashed the doubt.  I knew that at that point, my belief that I could do it was possibly all that held me to the ground.

I will briefly explain why all this strategy was new to me.  I don't watch derby.  I probably should, and I will probably try to from now on.  Also, Adelaide is sort of bottom of the food chain when it comes to new stuff, it seems to take longer to filter through to us, so I went into the tournament knowing very little of everything that everyone else is doing around the world at the highest level of the game.
I feel I do my best when playing.  Scrimmaging too, but particularly playing.  There's something about the atmosphere that just makes me leave it all on the track.  So, when we didn't scrimmage at either of the practices, I was concerned that I had not shown our coach what I could do.  I needn't have worried, he's a fantastic coach and has a plan, always. Lookit 'im here amping us up:

Like I had hoped, he arranged for everyone to get a game on our first day.  I wasn't on the roster for Germany, so I got myself a good seat and made ready to cheer my ass off.  We had very little knowledge of other teams in the cup.  We knew that USA would school us if we ever met them, we knew we were probably a pretty even match with NZ, but that was about it.  Germany had an air of mystery about them.  I think that people thought they would be the strongest in our pool (Australia, Germany and Finland), as they'd played a few games before.  I'm pretty sure Germany thought the same thing - well at least the three who shared an elevator with our manager Nicky Knockout (who is an absolute legend) and told her that they weren't playing against us, because their coach was sitting them for the hard games.  I guess their coach may have felt a teensy bit silly when we schooled them 136-53.

My first game was against Finland. I was nervous to be doing the new strategies and blocking styles but fortunately for me, there were some girls in the team who knew that stuff well, and they were amazing.  Ruby Ribcrusher (our captain), Sculley, Ladykiller, Muzzarati, Rose Ruin and Slawta Dawta all helped to make me calm and focused on the tasks at hand.  Whenever I wasn't sure, I would ask them (literally, on the track, say 'what do we do now?') and they always had an answer.  I tried my best to be always touching someone, looking for someone if we got separated, and listening for instruction.  When I got it, I tried to execute it immediately.  I felt myself settle in, though those first two bouts were only two halves of twenty minutes, and I always seem to forget how to lay a big block until about twenty minutes into any game.  At one point, Nicky stood in front of me and said:
'do you jam in your home league?'

*insert nodding head plastered with a grin*

'would you like to jam next?'

*insert vigorously nodding head that is now 90% maniacal joy expression with a pair of eyes and a nose on there somewhere*

So I waited in the jammer seat, and sprang up when the cacophony of whistles sounded.  I rushed out to the track, holding up my arm for the panty.  I'm not going to lie, I was nervous.  I lovelovelove to jam, but I had prepared myself that with jammers like Rose Ruin, Cookie Cutter, Short Stop, Bambi Von Smash'er and Ladykiller I probably would be simply blocking, which was still fine with me, cos I love to block also.  But, there I was, standing on the line, star on my helmet, in the green and gold.  That's not the only reason I was nervous.  When I jam at home, the blockers ask me what I want when we're waiting to go out.  My standard response is 'I wanna meet a blocker at the back, no walls and don't forget their jammer.'  Well.  I was about to meet all four of them at the back, cos it's all about owning the back now.  So, check.  'No walls'... no luck.  If I meet all four of my blockers, then I'm about to meet four foes as soon as I get through.  So, that was something I had to learn quick smart - trying to force a wall of four to ten feet so they have to let me through.  I'd never done this before, as probably my biggest strength is agility, and that requires gaps.  I jammed twice that game and loved it.  I finished the game thinking that if that was the only game I played I would be happy.

Anyhow, we won the game again by quite a margin - 179-29 and went on to play Scotland.  When I was named for the squad for that bout, I couldn't believe my luck!  I resolved to leave it all on the track again, skated my heart out and we won 251-48.  That win put us through to the quarter final with Sweden.  We knew that if we won that bout, we would meet the USA in the semis.  We did.  Initially I wasn't playing against Sweden, but at the last minute I was added and we beat them 126-80.  Here are a couple pics of that game, in the second one I'm crushing someone's fingers by accident:

So then it was USA.

Lemme tell you some things about team USA.  A lot of these girls have been playing this game for years upon years, some of them almost ten years I think.  They train like crazy, up to five times a week.  They take the sport seriously.  Thus, they are very, very good.  Fortunately for me, I don't watch footage on the net, so I had no idea who the majority of them were.  Ignorance was bliss for me.  I definitely respect them as amazing sportswomen but they're still people, not robots.  Actually, maybe Bonnie Thunders might be a robot - she's certainly some kind of derby machine.  Anyhow, I just didn't see the point in fainting with ecstasy when these girls were in the room.  I'm pretty sure if any of us trained five times a week for eight years against a million other leagues and skaters we would be that tight too.  Having said that, I was honoured to be playing against the finest skaters in the business, and keen to see how it would be. 

Now, I have no idea what went on in their bench, but I can only assume that if you are going into a tournament with the full knowledge that you will whoop every opponent, then surely you need some kind of motivation to keep striving.  If I had to guess, I would say that maybe they were aiming to beat a team by a certain margin, or perhaps finish a game without the other team having gotten on the board.  Like I said, I have no idea if this was the case, but those girls took to that game like it was the gold medal bout.  I was really stoked at the way they played.  I felt that they respected us as players, despite the vast gap in our skills.  I never at any stage felt like they were 'letting us get through' (quite obvious given the score of 532-4).  It was a pleasure playing against them and I learned so much from watching them, they were like one fluid unit.  At one point, we decided to change things up a bit, and started on the pivot line instead of the jam line, like every single jam in the tournament.  This seemed to rattle them, and we were able to get our jammer (Juke Nukem) through for four points!  We were ecstatic, clearly shown in the photo below, at the bottom of the blog.

So, after losing that game, we found ourselves in the bronze medal bout against England.  In the first ten minutes we thought we had a chance, and at one stage were leading about 44 to 16 if I recall correctly, but then they just exploded and gradually took the lead, pumping it to 203-85 by the final whistle.  They played the same systems we did, but were simply the better team, and deserved that medal.

So, that was our tournament.  Fourth place!  We were real proud of ourselves.  As the games progressed, I was constantly reminded of how many people were behind us at home, with my family, friends and league (my league and Lil' Adelaide Rollers too actually) constantly posting messages of support on Facebook.  I never forgot either, all the people who had helped me get there financially - on my Pozible, at our gig and at the LAR stuff and I would like to take this opportunity once more to thank everyone who had a hand in my trip. 

Some new mates from the Cup...

While I was there, I was able to catch up with some of the awesome chicks from the league in London (Ontario) too - Slacker Smacker gave me a robot necklace and made me a sign!  And my crazy derby wife Mirambo was at the finals in a one piece Canada suit!

Then, with all the games done and dusted, it was time to party.  We got home a bit late and then had to eat, so it was a while before I was able to get to the party.  I got there and made a beeline for the Scottish girls, knowing they would be partying hard.  Indeed they were, as I found Bandit wearing nothing but team Scotland stickers from the waist up.  Then Amanda Jamitinya sauntered past me, covered in birthday cake and wearing nothing whatsoever from the waist up.  I knew I wasn't drunk enough, so I ordered two drinks at a time.  I remember I chatted to Val Capone for a little while and Poison Pixie from NZ, then we were at the hotel.  We arrived just as the cops had broken up the party in the hotel bar, so we couldn't go there.  I guess maybe the Crowne Plaza will think twice before hosting twelve roller derby teams again.  Never to be halted by mere law enforcement, the Scots took the party to their room.  That's when things got a little hazy.  Evidently I was there, cos there are photos to prove it:

All I know, is I woke up in my room, alone and possibly dead.  My first thought is that the Canberra girls left without saying goodbye, but later they sent me this pic with the message that they did try to wake me, to no avail:

I got up and showered, at one point panicking with the thought that I had gone deaf until I realised there was no sound purely because there was nothing happening, and I relaxed.  It was the worst hangover I have ever experienced.  I called the front desk to ask for a late checkout and realised very suddenly that I had no voice.  Not just a husky voice, but no. voice. at. all.  From then on I had to write things down on a piece of paper!  I made my way very slowly to the greyhound terminal and wrote this on the paper to the ticket guy:

Hi!  I've lost my voice.  I would like a ticket on the next bus to London, please.

I wonder if he felt like as much of a dick as I thought he was when he wrote his reply on the paper!  I said I lost my voice, not my hearing!  I had just enough time to get a snack and line up for the bus.  I noticed at the snack bar that they sold 'meat patties'.  I was stoked, cos a lot of the time meat patties are wheat free.  Imagine my surprise when I got a little parcel of pastry with spicy mince inside.  There I was, scraping mince out of a pasty with my fingers, swaying side to side with possible alcohol poisoning, waiting for my bus.  I boarded and sat beside a girl watching a dvd.  I put on my headphones and tried to relax.  My headphones have a little battery powered thingy that you turn on and it drowns out external sounds.  thanks to this, I had no idea what was going on outside my little world.  This led to surprise when the driver pulled over on the outskirts of town.  I took my headphones out and asked around what was going on.  Turns out there was a belligerent drunken lady on board who was going off and just would not shut up. I had heard none of it - none of her ramblings or the other passengers telling her to shut her mouth.  We had to wait about fifteen minutes til the cops came and got her.

So, finally I arrived in London and my mate Bren picked me up.  By that stage I had already caught some kind of cold on the bus and was destined to be horribly sick for the rest of the week.  So, it was filled with moaning, groaning, coughing, sneezing, nose blowing, resting, a shopping trip and a tattoo.  On the Friday night, Bren's mate Carla drove in from Michigan and they took me to dinner at an ace restaurant in town.  We drank some red wine.  We ate some ridiculously good food.  We drank some more wine.  The restaurant closed.  We went home.  We drank some more wine.  Then, evidently we slipped into Ukraine mode:

I woke up the next day horribly hungover again and pottered around packing my luggage.  We made the executive decision to spend that last night in Toronto, as my flight the next morning was really early.  Bren got us a wicked room in a swanky hotel and we hit the town.  We spent the night in an Irish bar, cracking ourselves up at how funny and witty we were as we picked everyone around us to pieces according to dress, creepiness and drunkness.  This is us on the town:

When we arrived back at the hotel, the lobby was filled with people.  the bar had just closed but there were still loads milling around.  I noticed people wearing hats that read 'Tap out' and realised that we were at the hotel where some UFC dudes were staying.  Cauliflower ears abounded, intermingled with miniature clothing hanging on emaciated women, glowing orange with fake tans and too-white teeth jumping from their smiling mouths.  We did a little more people watching - my sad favourite was a little drunk guy stumbling around with a look of hopefulness on his face each time someone came through the automatic doors.  He clutched at his hat covered in signatures and a black sharpie.

We eventually went to bed and got two hours sleep before we had to get up and leave for the airport.  My first flight is a blur, and when I landed in LA I made a beeline for a hotel, ate bad food, slept in a room with a bunch of arguing Russians next door, showered and hopped back on a plane to Australia.
With amazing forethought I packed two temazepam and (after somehow lucking out and getting a row to MYSELF) took them, drank five or so bourbons (and spilled one directly into my lap) and passed out.  My favourite flight ever.

So, I came home.  I walked up the ramp in Adelaide to my beautiful girlfriend waiting for me.  We were inseparable for days on end after that and she had to take care of me cos I had a sinus infection.  I made myself NOT skate so that I could get better.  As a result, here I sit, on New year's eve, writing my last blog of the year and I still haven't skated on my new Torches.
So.  That's the story of the trip.  Sorry about the length!  I hereby solemnly vow that 2012 will see me writing more posts!
Hope everyone has a great night and a wicked year!

Oh.  And P.S. an embarassing thing happened whie I was at the world cup.  I bought  new lip balm, one of the ones Mercedes has so it would remind me of her...
*In the lift with Kazee applying the lip balm*
Kazee: 'you know you have lip balm all around your mouth, right?'
'yeah, I like to apply it real well.'
'Did you know it's red?'
'WHAT?!?' *spins around to see in the mirror* 'AARGH!  I didn't know it had colour!  I've been wearing it like this for days!!' *frantically wipes it off*
I looked like an old woman who can't apply her lippy anymore!  All I needed was to have it on my teeth!  So, I got back to my room and told King that little story.  Her reply:
'Oh yeah.  I saw that the other day but didn't say anything.'