What kind of attitude is that, Stripey-Shirt-Person?! Your team needs you! Also, gear. You should wear it.


Multiple Stages: They’re Not Just For Bumbershoot

Dear Body,

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but dude. Dude. We are supposed to be a team. I’m supposed to come up with stuff to do and make sure that it’s reasonably safe for you, and then you’re supposed to do it.

I know we’ve had our differences (for instance, you don’t seem to think that I need to inhale, and I don’t seem to think that you need any fuel but bacon and drip coffee), but we did okay for a while there. I got you asthma meds, you got me eating quinoa and (ugh) vegetables and skating regularly, and we found our groove. That was nice.

Lately, though, our system has fallen apart. I skate, you hurt. I skate slower, you hurt. I skate at.all., you hurt. Which kinda kills my motivation to skate, which makes me feel like I am falling into a bottomless pit and dying of starvation.

Look, Body, I got you insoles. Then I got you inserts to supplement your insoles. Then I added in PT to help you, literally, find your own ass without both hands and a flashlight. (You’re not so good at gluteus medius recruitment, it turns out.) I haven’t been perfect keeping up with our exercises, but I haven’t been wretched, either. And you know what? Skating still hurts so much that I’m not doing it right now.

Which means GRIEF, which means FIVE STAGES MUTHATRUCKAH.

We’ve well tackled denial:


I think, though, Body, that I may still be harboring a teeny tiny bit of anger towards you. To wit:


I know, I know. It’s not your fault that we were born with janky hip/femur connections. Still: you bastard. You utter, utter bastard. >.<

Apparently, we can experience the stages simultaneously and/or intermittently, so we may be due for some bargaining. I don’t see what the point of bargaining would be, though, because if you can’t skate


But you can’t skate. Hence the stage with the dee-pression:


I’ve been feeling that one since June when this whole business started. Also the anger. The anger and the depression, I’ve got those down. *fistpump*

Thing is, though, writing to you about my disappointment and frustration has been therapeutic. I feel some acceptance coming on:


Which is NOT MELODRAMATIC of me. Not at ALL.

It’s okay, Body. We’re stuck together. I get that. It’s like a marriage we were contracted into before either of us were born, which, now I think about it, doesn’t sound strictly ethical. But here we are, and here we will be, and I’d really like it if we could get along on skates. Think it over, would you?


Your Derby-Dreaming Mind

PS: I’ll eat more quinoa. Promise.

PPS: I’m not giving up the bacon, though.

PPPS: Or the caffeine.

PPPPS: *sigh* Fine. I’ll give up the bacon. Just know that if it’s you or caffeine, baby, I am gonna choose caffeine every time.

Cone of Shaaame

So in general derbyness, I play pretty clean. If anything, I’m too hesitant, too in my own head and too lost in wondering whether a potential hit is clean/safe/appropriate/etc. Meanwhile, the jammer is like “you just mull that one over while I take the inside line, mmmkay”, and then I am full of “d’oh!” and regret.

Then. Then. At PFM yesterday, we played a two-team game of keepaway. In a pack. On skates. With a positively ridonkulous squishy tentacled hot pink ball type thing. Goal: don’t let the other team take away Hot Pink Squishy Thing if you have it, and get it from the other team if you don’t. FUN!

Now, sitting here in the light of day, iced latte by my side, watchin’ the cars go by on 43rd street, this scenario sounds like it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Somehow, though, in the sweltering hawt Nest, in derby gear, in Competitive Mode, my entire world came down to two things: 1) Protect my people. 2) Fuck. Up. Everyone. Else.

The adrenaline rush of the game, combined with the sense that “we’re not actually scrimmaging so it doesn’t feel like Real Derby (TM)”, apparently caused my usually rule-abidin’ self to fracture into two players: Normal Jess and Batshit Jess. And when the other team got the ball, and the player holding it was right next to me, I high blocked the shit out of her and we both wiped out. FAHHCK. In my attempt to figure out what in the hell happened there, I imagined that it went down something like this:

Normal Jess: Must stop Other Team’s Player!
Batshit Jess: Do anything to stop her, roger that!
Normal Jess: Nonono. Dude, this is not ‘Nam, this is derby. There are rules.
Batshit Jess: Okay so ANY MEANS NECESSARY.
Normal Jess: Whoa dere, Malcolm X, Coach said–
Batshit Jess: *arm to the chest!*
Normal Jess: *slow mo* Nooomgwtf are you doing–?! *eats it, along with Other Team’s Player*
Other Team’s Player: I’m pretty sure that this is not a thing that is supposed to be happening!

And then this was me for the rest of practice:

To Other Team’s Player’s eternal credit, it must be said that she neither a) tore me a new one (which she would have been well within her rights to do) nor b) dropped Hot Pink Squishy Thing, thereby preserving possession for her team. Epic.

So what lessons did I take away from my foray into playin’ it fast and loose with the rules?
1) Not playing clean feels really shitty. I didn’t “mean” to do it, in the sense that by the time the “hey no dude you can’t do that” part of my brain lit up, the “whack that player with yo’ arm” part was already off and whacking, but it still feels really shitty.
2) It’s harder to play clean when outside of a normal scrimmage scenario, so it’s important to put extra focus on playing clean derby even when I’m not technically playing derby.
3) Leaguemates are fucking rad as hell. I already knew that, but I’m still moved by it every time I get a reminder. I want to remember Other Team’s Player’s response and respond similarly when I’m on the receiving end of the whackin’ arm.

And now I’m going to go ice my shin, which I bruised and cut when I wiped out with Other Team’s Player. Karma’s a bitch. 😉


I saw these for sale at RollerCon (WHY AM I NOT AT ROLLERCON) from this shop and realised, hey, I’ve never written about derby wives on TPIAL! I’ma fix that. Now, I’ve heard a wide range of opinions on the subject, and–

–wait, Jess. Not everyone who reads your blog plays derby. Slow it down!

Let’s start with the basics: what is a derby wife? I find the term hard to explain because it’s shorthand for so much and can mean different things to different people, but I’ll take a whack at it: a derby wife is a fellow skaterfriend with whom you have a pact of unconditional mutual support. Your DW will listen to you sympathetically and reality-check you without hesitation or malice. If you’re sobbing into your Bridgetown Brawl t-shirt in the bathroom, she’s the one who can coax you back to the track. If you nail a drill, she’ll notice and praise your mad skills. You’ll reciprocate all of these things, and you’ll both be the awesomer for it.

Now, that’s how I think we should all treat each other, derby wives or not. I am passionate about the art of being a supportive teammate, and I set high expectations for myself in that regard. No formal agreements are necessary: I’m here, you’re here, let’s be good to each other.

But. For me, there is something meaningful in derby matrimony. I’m a little surprised at how seriously I take it. (Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be.) I think there’s a great deal to be said for being consistently present with someone, trusting that they will do the same for you, and forgiving any shortfalls on both your parts; those skills are important, and they require constant work and self-improvement to maintain. Why not practice them on wheels? 😀

I’ve met skaters who recoil at the notion of having or being a derby wife. I’ve met skaters with a vast and happy network of derby wives, mistresses, and not-so-secret lovers. I’ll probably fall somewhere in the middle. I’m in no rush, but someday, I imagine that I’ll bust out a one-knee fall and ask that special someone, “Do you want to get married at RollerCon? Because I REALLY want to go to RollerCon–I mean, because I want us to be derby wives!”

And then we’ll take a mistress or two. Because, as we say in derby, “You’re useless alone!” 😉

Redemption, And An Otter

Uh, so we did the 25-in-5 again today.

I was on the Heartless that I couldn’t handle back in March.

I can handle them now.

I crossed over most of the way through.

I skated the track most of the way through.

I ran on the straightaway to pass people.

I was winded by the end but not exhausted.

I almost made 26. (I think. Liberty counted for me and will know for sure.)

In summary, a message to the 25-in-5 from Benedict Cumberbatch and an otter:


Smote Throat

This just in: I hate being sick!

This issue comes up, of course, because I am sick. I sound like Christian Bale’s Batman and feel like my throat is punching me in the throat.

It’s probably some stupid-ass seasonal allergy thing, but in case it’s the creeping yuck and transmittable to unsuspecting leaguemates, I’m staying home from practice tonight.

For some reason, not being able to go to practice bothers me WAY WAY more than being sick. I feel like I’m failing, somehow, even though rationally it’s the right thing to do. Rarr.

My plan tonight was to go to practice, where we’ll work on crossovers with Star Struck. Star Struck is patient, and explains things in a way I “get”, and is generally boss. She did some one-on-one work with me at Bacon and said she liked working with me because no matter what she asked me to do, I said, “Okay!” and tried it. I really, really was looking forward to working with her again, and now I’m going all Hercules:

But! Gotta get over the butthurt and come up with something else. New plan: I am going to drink herbal tea (throat comfort FTW) and boil ginger in the water and watch “Queer Eye” on Netflix like it’s my job. There will be soup. And broth. And maybe a bath, ’cause damn, turns out you get the funk when you sleep on the couch all day. Eeurgh. Til next time, my derby amigos!

Sampler Plate

Behold, Crazy’s Venus plate! http://www.sincityskates.com/venus.aspx
I bought them for my Riedell 126 boots in May. The good folks at Fast Girl mounted them, and I gave them the ol’ college try for 18 sessions over about 3.5 weeks of skating. As I write this post, FG is putting my Powerdyne Thrusts back on. I’m not in love with the Thrusts, but just now I’d rather go back to them than learn yet another plate.
If you’re considering buying the Venus plate, allow me to point out that I am a 170 lb. 5’4″ fresh meat skater who is still working on basics like strength and stops. If you are an All-Star 120 lb. 5’11” jammer, you will certainly have a different experience than I did. 🙂
Stuff about the Venus that worked for me:
  • The trucks are deliciously responsive. Transitions, lateral cuts and fast wiggles on one foot all became magically easier.
  • I know this makes me an army of one, but I love the toe stops that come with the plate. I much prefer the flat surface to the Gumballs I had before.
  • The bolts that hold in the toe stops are truly mighty. Even after a relay of jogging the length of the track and back on my toe stops, they were still snugly in position.
  • I felt that I got more out of each push on these plates than on the Thrusts. The stiff aluminum was able to put up a better fight against my bulk.
  • I love, love, love the cushion options that come standard with the plate. The clear cushions worked best for me, with the yellow being nigh unskatable because they were so soft and the purple being alright but a bit stiffer than I prefer. Since the cushions run yellow-clear-purple from softest to hardest, and since I’m a substantial skater, that makes sense. In retrospect, it would have been fun to mix and match the cushions, but I didn’t feel like monkeying with my trucks that frequently.
Stuff about it that was “meh” for me:
  • The first few times I skated them, my right foot would occasionally shoot off to the right when I put it down, even if there was barely any weight on it. It stopped on its own, so my body must have figured it out, but it was pretty unsettling while it was happening.
  • The hex key that comes with the kit to tighten the toe stop is sharp at one end. Unfortunately, that’s the end you’re supposed to pull against when you’re tightening the stops. Oww.
Stuff about it that was a dealbreaker for me:
  • I can’t control the plates at “high speeds”, a term I am using with great poetic license given my turtlesque performance. When I set the trucks loose enough to corner well, I lack the strength to make them hold a clean line when I’m skating the track and I lose the ability to cross over unless I slow down; if I tighten the trucks so that they are not squirrelly, they no longer turn with me and I lose the ability to cross over anyway.
  • This is gonna sound stupid, but I lost… nuance. I couldn’t do drunken sailors anymore, I couldn’t control my sticky skate crossovers as well as I could on the Thrusts, I couldn’t plow stop at all: I lacked the strength and skill to get the plates to do what I wanted. It was frustrating to be unable to do things, or to do them far more clumsily, when I knew myself to be capable of them on other plates.
  • I couldn’t learn fast enough. Given enough time, monkeys with typewriters could write Shakespeare and I could master any plate. Alas, we live in a fast-paced world, so I’m going back to the Thrusts. I’m not sure what the monkeys are going to do. Maybe dictate to their iPhones?
 What about you, Fearless Readers? What plates are you on? How are they workin’ for you? Do tell.