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Return of the Skipper

Hey railbirds! It's good to see you again.

Where have I been for the last couple of years, and what's going on now?

The short version is, I let Life get in the way of drawing. I never intended to quit the comic. As with anything, it's easy to let excuses take over. I'm busy, I don't have time, something happened, I'll do it tomorrow...and then I missed a few posts, and then a few more, and then I just gave up. I haven't checked the email account in an embarrassingly long time, so if I ignored a message from you, please don't take it personally.

The longer story is that I devoted all my free time to derby, broke up with my fiancee, moved to another state, got full-time status at my day job, got into a new relationship that inspired me to make another long car commute on weekends, and helped to found a new derby league. I've been focusing on going to the gym and wage-slaving to pay off some debts.

Last summer, my mom - with whom I'm very close - got diagnosed with cancer, and she's been going through chemo since September. She's doing as well as can be expected, but surgery and radiation are still to come. I just got elected president of the new league and our season opens next month. I'm also moving again, and trying to re-devote myself to my physical training, which I let lapse a couple of months ago.

I've got a lot on my mind, but "if you want something done, ask a busy person." I'm done making excuses about why I couldn't post the last page or what-fucking-ever. So here's what's going down in Skipper-draws-strippers land...

I've been working as a technician, troubleshooting and fixing various bits of technology, since I was 16 (I turn 27 next week). My first official, tax-paying job was as an intern in a computer repair shop, and since then, I've been allowing myself to get assimilated into various techie jobs. I started college intending to major in music, and somehow came out with a degree in computer science. Unemployed in 2009, I started learning the two-way radio trade from my then-fiancee, and worked for him as an installer. Newly graduated from college in the spring of 2011, I applied to be an emergency dispatcher for a change of pace, and got hired right back into the two-way business instead.

I'm historically better at rolling with the punches than I am at putting my foot down, but if I continue allowing chance to make my decisions for me, I'm going to regret it. Fixing things is useful and interesting, but it's not where I belong in the larger sense. To wax poetic for a moment, I'm a creative soul. The time has never been better for people to make their own careers as anything they want - thank you, Internet - and I'm making my own leap. Art is what I really want to be doing.

So I'm moving, which has an amazingly convenient dual-positive effect on both my romantic relationship and my cost of living, I'm leaving my hourly job, and I'm drawing strippers. I'd love your support, in whatever way you might care to show it. Toward that end, I've started a Patreon page. Google Ads changed their ToS to disallow all forms of adult content and nudity, including artistic, and booted me from their network; so for now, Patreon is all I've got.

Never heard of Patreon? It's pretty fascinating. The platform connects creators and patrons, allowing patrons make pledges to directly support their favorite creatives' work. You can pledge as little as $1 per month, and know that you're helping artists create the work you love. The more you donate, the more rewards you get (they're listed on my page), and there are cool things that happen when I get a certain amount of monthly pledges. Most of those cool things are MORE COMICS. Please check it out and spread the word!

Butt-shakin' love,

Craig's First Skating Injury

Now that I've alarmed everyone by announcing the last comic didn't go up because of a hospital visit, it's time to explain what happened.

This entry ended up a bit longer than I planned. There's a TL;DR at the bottom if you're pressed for time.

When I first got interested in derby, the second or third time I went skating, I talked Craig into going with me. He said he didn't skate, and I said I could teach him. He rented skates, went once around the rink, and then decided again that he didn't skate, and that was that.

I dragged him into derby shortly after I started, and he's been NSOing for the league since early summer of 2011. Mostly he's a jam timer, and he volunteers for other leagues when they need officials for bouts, too. Over the course of this past summer, our league lost all but one of its refs, and he's been assisting the remaining one during scrimmages. The two of them, along with our head NSO/penalty tracker, do their best to cover the jobs of 7 refs and a handful of other officials for us every week - not an easy task.

Sometime around our last bout of the season, Craig decided to make another attempt at learning to skate, because he wanted to become a ref, the actual reffing-from-skates kind. His ref friends were excited, and I was thrilled - I never gave up on the possibility of him skating. Refschild gave him the skates that he started on, and after a long wait to get paid for a couple of large jobs, Craig and I went to Bruised at the beginning of this month to get him geared up.

Last Tuesday night we went to the league's open skate to get him up on his new wheels. We bundled up - the Bunker isn't what you'd convincingly call "heated" - and got rolling. I showed him a basic skating stride and a toe-drag stop, and he was doing better than the last time I saw him skate. Then he had one of those awesome moments I mentioned in my Derbyversary post, where you're standing still and your feet just decide to be elsewhere. He landed on his ass on the concrete, and from the look on his face, I knew the night was over. I removed his skates and knee pads, and he handed me the rest of his gear.

"You need an ice pack?" He shook his head. "A hand up?" He took my hand and got to his feet, walked over the chair by the front door and sat down. Jake came over to check on him, and he said he just needed to stretch out his back. I put his gear away and went to work on my hockey stops.

Guess what - a little frustration and violence, combined with a tip Jake gave me several weeks ago, made my hockey stop happen!

After a few minutes, Craig said he was ready to go, and I de-geared and carried his stuff out for him. We pass the hospital on our way home - handy, huh? - and he said, "You know, let's stop at the ER." This was about 9:30pm. I stopped, he walked in, I parked the car and then parked myself in the waiting room with a sketchbook and markers. After a while a volunteer came to get me and brought me back to the room where they'd put Craig.

There was a bit of a wait, then they took him for X-rays and brought him back. Some more waiting, and the doctor came in and said there was something odd on the X-ray. "It's probably nothing, but it could be a fracture, so I'm going to order a CT scan to be sure." Craig got the shakes, and I asked a nurse to bring him a blanket while we waited. I reminded him it was probably nothing, that they were taking extra precautions by doing the CT. They gave him some kind of injection for pain, and took him to the CT and back. I sketched, inked, colored. We waited some more.

Finally the next doctor to come on shift stopped by. "You fractured your L2 vertebra." Oh dear. Worse than either of us thought. "We're not a trauma hospital, so I'd recommend that you go to Bay State." He chose to go, and they loaded him in an ambulance. There were two transports leaving at the same time, and I followed the wrong one. Fortunately I realized my mistake quickly and managed to catch up to the right one before it got on the highway.

We were headed through Holyoke when we passed a state trooper running a speed trap, and I knew I was going to get stopped. Sure enough, he pulled out behind me, waited a minute, then turned his lights on. I pulled over and rolled my window down.

"Good evening. License and registration please."

"Is it because I have a headlight out?" I asked, knowing it couldn't have been anything else, since I wasn't speeding.


I reached for my license while gesturing toward the quickly-disappearing medical bus. "I'm following that ambulance to Bay State, my husband's in there."

"You're all set," the trooper told me, waving a hand in a shooing motion. "Get outta here."

"Thanks." I took off, waited until he was out of sight, had a quick encounter with an angry driver who seemed to be looking for someone to pick on, then stepped on it. The ambulance had gotten a longer lead than I thought, but eventually I caught up and followed it the rest of the way to Bay State. The paramedics told me someone would come for me when things were settled down, and I headed for the waiting room. Around 2am, I was watching the election results come in on the news and trying to ignore the guy two seats over, who was talking to himself and having intermittent spasms of some kind - addict in withdrawal, I guessed. After an hour, Craig texted me to give me the number of his room. I tracked him down with some help from Information, and we hung around in Trauma for a while. I fell asleep in the chair several times, to be awoken repeatedly when I slumped over and banged my head against a sharp disposal bin.

After several visits from doctors and nurses, they moved him up to Intermediate Care about 4:30am. I hung around for a few minutes, but after 23 hours without sleep I was starting to lose my grip on myself, and I knew I had to leave before I had a complete meltdown. I said good night - good morning? -  about 5:15am and stepped out. I reached the corner of two hallways, realized I had no idea how to get out of the hospital, and lost it. A nurse walked by and asked if I needed help, and I sobbed that I was lost and needed to find the ER. He smiled, looking like he felt bad for me, and gave me directions. I smiled, still crying, thanked him, and headed off. After about five steps I realized I hadn't heard the essential part of his directions. All I got was "Elevator, down, back this way." Down to where? I had no idea.

Hoping to see a map or chart or labeled button, I stepped into the elevator. I pressed 1, because we'd walked into emergency from the ground without going up any steps, then second-guessed myself and pressed 3 because it had a star next to it. I don't remember where I got off, but it didn't look familiar. I found a map, but it didn't help, because it didn't show floor numbers. After more wandering, I found a security guard and asked him for directions. He told me to follow him and led me back into the elevator, to another floor and down a hallway, then pointed. "It must take months to learn your way around here," I said, and he agreed. I walked down the hall and found myself back in the waiting room. With a sigh of relief, I found my car and headed home. I'd been worried about falling asleep on the highway, but I was too wired. I got home about 6:15, called Craig to tell him I'd made it, took a shower (Finally! My job that day had involved taking down a drop ceiling and getting covered in mouse crap), and went to bed.

I woke again around 11:30am, freezing for lack of food but feeling emotionally recharged. I stuffed down a slice of pepperoni pizza with mushrooms and green peppers, made some coffee for myself and hot chocolate for Craig, and left. I stopped at Big Y for a roast beef sandwich and a rose, got caught in a surprise blizzard on route 91, got lost in Springfield trying to find Bay State, got lost in the damn hospital again and had to ask for directions a couple more times, and finally made it to Craig's room. He was awake and looked relieved to see me. I gave him the rose, the hot chocolate, and a couple of clementines, because I know what hospital food is like, although it turned out that Bay State's actually wasn't bad.

"I'm glad you're back," he said, and I gave him a hug. "I missed you."

We went for a walk around the wing because the doctors wanted him walking. They told us he'd be checked by another doctor, fitted for a back brace, and discharged. The guy doing the brace fittings was apparently quite busy, because we were there until 6pm. I pushed him out in a wheelchair, retrieved the car, and drove him home, stopping at CVS for prescriptions. The doctors say no work through the end of this week, light duty for a few weeks after that, and he'll be back to normal in 8 weeks. One and a half down, 6.5 to go...that's the first week of January.

Craig broke his back rollerskating. He can walk but is out of work for a while. He'll be fine by the New Year.

First Derbyversary

One year ago on September 7th, I laced up my skates and stepped onto the sport court at the Bunker for the first time on wheels. Even though I could skate, I stumbled and met the floor as I learned that skating on plastic tiles is nothing at all like skating on the varnished wood of the local public rink. I had a head-start on the other fresh meat, because I already knew who everyone in the league was, and I'd spent the summer hanging out with the officials and learning the rules.

When we all lined up against the wall to wait for a drill to be explained, I was the first one to spontaneously fall on my ass while standing still. I laughed it off while Sarah explained that this is why we stand with one toe-stop down. If you can't be a good example, be a dire warning.

After passing my level 1, my new yellow stripe made me contact eligible and I started learning how to give and take a hit. I limped home after my first night of contact, curled up on the kitchen floor and begged for ibuprofen. I hadn't felt so beaten since I learned to snowboard in my freshman year of high school. I wondered if I would feel like this after every practice forever...I didn't think even my incredible passion for derby could keep me in if that was the case.

Fortunately, it wasn't. After a few more practices, the hits hurt less, and I walked straighter when leaving. I passed level 2, spent one practice watching scrimmage, bundled up in my parka with a head cold, and then one practice reffing. Then I started scrimmage, and it was like starting contact all over again. I wondered if every scrimmage would make me feel like I was going to die, if I would always being catching up to the pack just in time to get smashed into the floor again. I started preemptively taking ibuprofen before Thursday practices.

For a while it seemed that at any given scrimmage I could keep up with my mental game or my physical game, but not both; either I could see where I needed to be but couldn't get there, or I could get somewhere but didn't know where to go. Eventually it all got better, though. I started giving out hits as well as taking them, getting in the way of the other jammer and not just my own, counter-blocking instead of avoiding the people who scared me the most.

I passed level 3 on my second try and bouted for the first time on April 1st. It was freezing cold in the rink and I was benched a lot. Craig, my mom, my uncle and his girlfriend, my boss and his wife, and my two best friends with one significant other came to see me play. It was amazing. As soon as the photos showed up on Facebook, one of them became my profile picture. "Look everyone, look what I do! This shit is awesome."

After a summer of bouting at home, following our ladies travel team to their away games to cheer, sweating my ass off at practice, and getting slowly and steadily beaten into a better player, I attended the September fresh meat night. One year later, I went from being the newbie, certain I wanted to play but uncertain of everything else, to one of the skaters, welcoming in the next crew of newbies.

Happy First Derbyversary to me, and many more.

How I Found Derby

The head ref of a local derby league, who is a professor by day, is teaching a class on derby culture and gender to students learning English as a second language. She asked whoever would like to participate to write about their experiences with derby, and here's what I gave her.

* * *

My dad used to play hockey, and he taught me to ice skate when I was tiny. My first memory of skating was Dad lacing my hockey skates way too tight, until I couldn’t feel my feet. My childhood dream was to be a figure skater, and I took some lessons around the age of 10, then moved on to other dreams. In high school, my girlfriend and I would go on dates to the roller rink, at least until they shut down due to lack of traffic.

I found roller derby completely backwards. Since my first or second year of college, there was a sticker on my computer that was an image of a girl wearing roller skates, kneeling and pulling up her skirt to reveal shorts that read “BAD ASS.” I didn’t know that it was derby-related; I just liked it.

Some time after I put it on there, I was sitting in the Student Center doing homework, and a stranger sat down across from me and asked if I played roller derby.

“Roller derby?” I asked. “Why?”

She pointed to the lid of my computer. “Your sticker.”

“Oh, that. No, I just like the sticker.”

Then I looked up “roller derby” on Google image search to figure out what the hell she was talking about, because I had no idea.

It didn’t really stick with me then. It wasn’t until I graduated college and was dragged to our local roller rink by my neighbor that I was reminded of two things: one, I used to really love to skate; and two, roller derby exists. I think I saw one of Pioneer Valley Roller Derby’s publicity postcards at the rink, or maybe I turned to Google again. I don’t remember which it was, but I became immediately obsessed with derby. I decided I was going to play, and that was that.

It was April of 2011 when I made that decision. I sent PVRD an email and ended up talking to Lethe L. Ejection, their head ref, who told me they had stopped taking on new skaters in February but needed volunteers. I said I’d be happy to volunteer, and she asked me to come to a practice.

On Thursday evening, I drove the 15 minutes to Florence, parked in a lot down the street, and walked up to the warehouse they call the Bunker. The garage door was open, and as soon as I stepped inside, I was awestruck. A roomful of people were geared up for battle, zipping around on rollerskates like they’d been doing it all their lives, talking and laughing and shouting to each other across the track. I had a sudden sense that I had just arrived at exactly where I was supposed to be – not just in my daily schedule, but in my life. It was hard to believe that it existed so close to home.

I asked a girl with spectacular pink hair if Lethe was there, and she waved and called out to the people on the track until one separated from the group and skated over to me. We introduced ourselves, and Lethe asked me what I knew about derby.

“I’ve watched a couple of bouts on YouTube,” I told her. “I’m going to go see my first live bout next weekend. And I just finished reading the rules.”

“The WFTDA rules?” she asked me, looking surprised. “All 47 pages?”

“If that’s how many there are,” I said, because I hadn’t bothered to count. “Yes.”

“I love you,” she said, and gave me my first of many sweaty derby hugs.

I had felt it necessary to read the rules before showing up to practice, since I didn’t want to look completely clueless to the people whose sport I wanted to join. I was surprised to find out that almost no one actually reads the entire ruleset, and I’ve since picked up the moniker of “rules geek,” which is fine by me.

Lethe made me her penalty wrangler for the summer. My job was to follow the inside pack refs, listen to their calls, and relay them to the penalty tracker. It’s not a great position to watch derby, but it was wonderful for learning the rules and ref calls.

She had told me that new-skater recruiting would probably start again in “September or October.” I assumed it would be October so that I wouldn’t be disappointed if it wasn’t in September.

The first week of September was our last bout of the season. I was scheduled to wrangle, but threw out my back and could barely walk, so I asked Lethe for a different job, and she put me on scoreboard. It was a Sunday, and I had a hectic week ahead of me, working two jobs and preparing for my best friend’s wedding that Saturday. I limped into the arena like an old woman, mulling over how I was going to get everything done in the next five days, and then Hothead came up to me and said, “Hey, you’re coming to fresh meat on Wednesday, right?”

I couldn’t skate with my back the way it was, and I didn’t have the time in my schedule. I went anyway. I had spent my entire summer preparing for that night, and I wasn’t going to miss it. I wasn’t even on skates yet, and derby had already become my life.

I raced through my level 1 and level 2 skills tests, and scrimmaged for the first time in November. The first few scrimmages were awful. I felt like all my time was spent trying to keep up with the pack and figure out what was going on, but eventually things improved. My skills and my track awareness slowly increased, and I was nervous but prepared when my level 3 test came around in February.

I failed. I thought I had everything, but the coach told me I wasn’t hitting well enough. I was bitterly disappointed, but the next testing opportunity came around fast. With only two elements left to beat, that time I did it. I was rostered that night, and my first bout was less than a week later, the opening bout of the season.

Roller derby has been a really amazing force in my life. I moved to Massachusetts four years ago, and three years into that time I still had almost no close friends here. Now I have a huge group of friends who are all wonderful. I have a sport that I love, something that encourages me to improve myself mentally and physically, a good cause to put my time and energy into. When my now-ex best friend dumped me out of nowhere and I felt completely lost, my derby family was there for me. As cheesy as it sounds, I’ve learned the importance of teamwork, and I’m thrilled about it.

If I didn’t have derby in my life, I don’t know what I’d be up to these days, but it couldn’t possibly be as good as what I’m doing now. In almost every way, derby keeps me going.

My Head Hurts

For the last three-ish weeks, I've been having headaches that have been getting progressively worse. I don't know exactly when they started, because headaches are not uncommon for me, so at first I ignored them. My usual progression of solving a headache goes something like this: "Maybe I need caffeine." (Drink coffee.) "Maybe I'm dehydrated." (Drink water.) "Maybe my shoulders/neck are tense." (Take ibuprofen.)

Usually one of those three will do the trick, but not this time. A couple of them have progressed into migraine territory, complete with light sensitivity, dizziness and nausea. Craig thought maybe I had given myself a couple of small concussions and maybe had Post-Concussion Syndrome, and that made a whole lot of sense. I do get knocked around an awful lot, and concussion symptoms can be mild and take time to come on after an incident. I called my doctor on Monday and was told I couldn't get in until the middle of next week, so I skipped practice to go to the hospital that night, where they have a thing called Fast Track that's kind of like seeing your regular doctor, only at the hospital, whenever you want.

They tested me for signs of stroke (not something that had occurred to me), looked in my eyes, asked me a bunch of questions, took some blood, and the doctor finally said, "My gut tells me it's something unpleasant but not dangerous." He gave me scripts for Compazine and Fiorecet and told me to go see my regular doctor.

I have an appointment next Friday, and I really hope they can figure out what's wrong. My family has always had a way of coming down with maladies that stump doctors, the kind that make them say, "...I've never seen that before." I'm also going to try going to a chiropractor - if my health insurance covers is, that is. I've been meaning to do that anyway, with the bi-weekly beatings I put myself out for, and maybe they can help with this too.


Skates Fail

You know those new skates that I was so excited to have my hands on back in March? Well, I'm not so excited anymore.

At first they were painful, but I was expecting that, since the boots are leather and need time to break in. I was miserable for about three weeks, and then they started to feel better, helped by my relacing and skipping a set of eyelets on the right one. 

The pain never really went away, though, and neither did the numbness in my toes. I was also having trouble with my heels sliding around, so I bought some of those sticky foam cushions from CVS that attach to the back wall of your shoes. They helped, but not enough.

At DerbyCon in May, I took a class about Riedell boot fit. The rep said that a common problem people have is that if their boots are too loose in the heels, they'll tighten the laces and speed straps down too far to try to compensate, and then they still have loose heels, accompanied by pain, foot cramps, and numbness. Afterward, I had him take a look at my skates, and he agreed that that was exactly my problem, evidenced by the fact that when I laced my skates up, the sides nearly touched across the top of the tongue. (Apparently that shouldn't happen...)

Basically, I bought entirely the wrong boots for my feet. When I got "fitted" at Bruised, they measured the length of my foot to get me a boot size, but didn't check anything else, just asked if each pair I tried on was comfy and how it felt. Having only ever worn one pair of derby skates, they all seemed better than what I had, so I went with the popular choice: the 265, made for derby. Everyone else seems to like them and the price is pretty reasonable, so why not?

Here's why not: the 265 is a D/B split last, which is medium in the heel and wide in the ball of the foot. That seemed like a good idea, since the ball of my right foot had been pinched in my old skates, forcing me to skip a set of gromets. As it turns out, I have about the narrowest heels that anyone can have, and what I really need is the B/AA split last (medium in the ball of the foot and super narrow in the heel).

Conan used the leather stretcher on my right boot to widen out the section where I skipped the lace holes, and I was able to lace them back up normally without pain. I would have to do the same with a pair of B/AAs, but that's not a big deal. I'm considering getting either the 495 or the 965 boot. Of course, having recently dropped a lot of money on a new pair of skates, I'm not too eager to do it again...but I really want skates that fit.

Riedell 495    Riedell 965
The 495                                                                            The 965

No Really, I Swear I Still Exist

I just drew and posted my first PPC page in over three months. Time to explain where I've been all that time!

I swore when I started derby that I wouldn't let it take over my life to the point of interfering with the comic. That lasted a while, but once I hit February and was trying to pass my Level 3, I slipped. It seems the one extra practice per week that I started attending to prepare for the test was the tipping point. Then I passed the test, bouting season began, I did a few full weeks at my New Hampshire job and a couple of weekend projects with Craig, and although I didn't forget about the comic, I just didn't have the time to actually put those thoughts on (virtual) paper. I can't remember the last time I had a full two-day weekend at home with nothing scheduled.

There was also some personal drama surrounding my now-ex best friend. I won't be the whiny emo kid begging for attention, but suffice to say that she managed to turn my life upside-down for a while, and we no longer speak (her choice, not mine). Fortunately my derby family has been there for me, and the silver lining in the cloud has been the opportunity to get closer to some of the amazing people I skate with. (One of whom, ironically, went through the same friend situation a few years ago.)

Other than that, not much has changed. My life consists of work, skating, chasing the elusive concept of getting enough sleep, and trying to keep up with the bills. I finally paid off my computer this week, but on the other hand, I now own the car I've been driving for the last three years, and anyone with a car knows that comes with a fair amount of expenses (especially in Taxachusetts).

I'll leave you with some pictures of the baby bird Craig and I rescued from a car wash recently.

Baby sparrow pics!Collapse )

New Skates

Four weeks ago today, I ordered my new skates from Bruised Boutique. I'd gone there back in January to try on the boots I was interested in, and after trying Riedell 126s (ouch! Awful!), 265s (VERY comfy), and 495s (also pretty comfy), I decided on the 265s. I'd been planning on getting the XK4 DA45 plates from SureGrip, but while I was there, Jenny introduced me to the brand-new Avengers. They come in aluminum and magnesium, and the magnesium are a bit more expensive but shockingly light-weight. Since they weren't much more than the XK4s, I figured why the hell not.

When I got my tax return, I called Bruised and placed my order. They told me it would be 5-7 days to get the parts in and another 2 to mount the plates, and they would call when the skates were ready, so I could decide whether to make the trip to pick them up or have them shipped. When two weeks had gone by, I called them to ask if they would be ready that Saturday, since I was going to be in the area anyway, and could stop by without taking the extra four-hour trip (two hours each way). They said no, not that day, but I was next on the list and they should be ready by Tuesday.

I called on Tuesday to check in, planning on heading out there after work. After taking a few minutes to track down my order, they told me that they had the plates but not the boots, and Riedell was back-ordered but hadn't told them, and it would be another two weeks. I wasn't happy, but there wasn't anything I could do, so I went home, annoyed.

After another week and a half had gone by and I hadn't heard a peep, I asked Craig to call them, since I would be at work all day and couldn't take the time (and I also can't stand bothering people, even when I have a right to). Several phone calls later, my skates were ready for pickup, and I drove out to Nashua after work yesterday and got them. To apologize for 9 days becoming 4 weeks with no warning and no updates, they threw in some toe caps - which, it turns out, don't fit my skates. All-in-all, I'm a bit non-plussed with the service from Bruised, but all I really care about is that I have my skates in hand.

Riedell 265 boots with magnesium Avengers, Poison Alloy Slims, and Gumballs

I went to the rink for a short time today to try them out. The fit of the boots is HUGELY different, and it's all for the better. They're a half-size smaller than my previous skates and made on a D/B last, which seems to be ideal for my foot. The plates aren't as drastic a change as I had expected, but they're definitely different. Slaloms and cuts are easier, and the end of my crossover stride is a little shaky. I'll probably notice more specific differences when I'm back on the floor of the bunker, since I'm no longer accustomed to skating on the polished wood of the rink, so I'm not sure how much of the difference was my wheels interacting with the floor.


Last night was a collection of good and bad. I joined the yellow stripes in their test, since I was the only blue stripe, and I took turns with them and did different skills. I passed on the tomahawk stops and jumping. I felt like I did badly on the hitting, but I didn't get a chance to ask Mars, who was administering the test, whether or not I passed before we did laps. All the yellow stripes did their 5-in-1s, and my turn came up faster than I expected. I guess I stopped counting the turns at some point.

I've heard coaches say that they'd rather have a player with heart than a player with skill, since skill can be learned. Since I can pick up most skills in a relatively short amount of time, I've always wondered which side of that saying I'd be on. After last night, I know the answer.

The Bunker where we practice is cold, dry, and dusty, and I have asthma. The first 5 laps were easy. I heard Mars yell, "Five in 50! Good!" At ten, my body was angry with me. By the high teens, I was starting to think I might actually expire right there on the track, still skating, and I couldn't imagine a way that I was going to make it to 25. I could barely translate the numbers that Jake was yelling at me. Crossing the line to end lap 25, I collapsed on the floor and skidded into the wall. My vision was blurred and I didn't even realize Mars had told me my time until I heard Craig say something like, "Awesome!"

"Huh?" I rolled over.

"Four thirty-four."

"Oh. Cool." It took me a long time to get up and stumble to the end of the track to find my water bottle and bandanna. My lungs were on fire with a pain I can't even describe. I've never run myself so flat-out before, or had an asthma attack as severe as the one I had for the next three hours.

But the test wasn't over - I still had to do fall recovery and whips. I pushed through it, taking frequent breaks for air, and passed both. Finally, Mars pulled me aside and said he had good news and bad news.

The bad news: I failed hitting. I was disappointed but not surprised. The good news: I passed everything else. More bad news: he was going to give me another chance to pass hitting.

"Why's that bad news?" I panted, ecstatic to get another chance.

"Because I'm making you work more."

"That's okay! I'm okay!" Some part of me would clearly have rather died trying than failed. I tried again, and failed again. The good news is, they don't retest anything that someone has already passed, so all I have to do next month is hitting.

I Got Skool'd

I finally started going back to Wednesday nights a couple of weeks ago, and I wish I'd done it earlier - it has helped SO much with my hitting. Going back to basic technique without the distraction of a jam going on around me seems to be what I needed. The last two scrimmages have been a lot better as a result, to the point where Mars said he thinks I'm no longer dangerous.

This weekend was Get Skoold, a clinic for players, officials, and coaches. There was an hour on blocking, an hour on jamming, and then an hour of scrimmage, and I learned a lot of useful things. Chewie, Gnome, Brian, Lethe, and Craig were there too, so there were some people I knew. (And some people from POD that I recognized from their last few weeks at PVRD but can't say that I really know.)

Me scrimmaging at Get Skoold
(Photo by Greg Easton Photography)

All of this is coming about just in time, because I'm taking my level 3 test tonight. If I pass, I get the stripe removed from my helmet and become roster-eligible. There aren't too many skills on the test - not like level 1 - mostly hitting, whips and pushes, and fall recovery, plus the 25-in-5 (25 laps in 5 minutes). Then there's the written test, which I'm going to keep studying for even though I really don't need to, because I want to get the best score I possibly can. If I screw up any of the rules, Lethe (and I) will never let me live it down, since my introduction to derby was four months of penalty wrangling. Wish me luck!

As for those new skates I mentioned, I ordered them a little over two weeks ago. They told me it would be 7-9 days, and I called on Saturday morning to see if they were ready, since Get Skoold is much closer to Bruised than I am, and I figured maybe I could pick them up then. But no, they won't be ready until Tuesday, so I'm going to have to make an extra trip all the way out there.