Friday, October 31, 2008

"Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr. & Mrs. Pistol!"

As you all well know, I’ve held and played various roles in derby in the past few years, and this past season being out with double shoulder injuries has been no exception. I was a player for game 1 and then a bench coach, announcer, bench coach again, and most recently a “referee minister”.

Several months ago when my team-mate and bench coach of the last 3 seasons (Pistol Whip & Mr. Pistol) asked me if I would preside over their marriage ceremony, I was thrilled. But when I found out they wanted to do it at our 2008 championship bout, I was ecstatic!

I got ordained earlier this year to preside over the wedding of another two of my friends, Dana (aka, Miss Handle, a former CCRG referee) and Eric. It’s an honor to be asked to play this role for people you know and love, and having the chance to do it again – at roller derby, during half-time of our championship bout, while wearing booty shorts and skates – is nothing short of awesome.

A formal account of the wedding and how The Pistols met can be found here – an article and slideshow published in today’s Baltimore Messenger. But how did I get to know them?

In CCRG’s infancy, we held fundraisers what seemed like every other week, many of which were car washes held at bars. I may have met them before the car wash at The Mojo Room, but if I had, I can’t remember. I knew Pistol’s sister, Buzz Kill, as well as I knew any other rollergirl, since she and I were two of the eight founders of CCRG, starting the LLC that got the ball rolling on our becoming an official league. Not only that, but we had realized we were neighbors. I knew Buzz had been trying to get her sister to come out and skate with us, but never made the connection of who she was until that day at the car wash.

It was cold, it was October, and the car wash wasn’t that well attended, so The Pistols, J, and I hung out at the end of the bar by the door, drinking beers and waiting to see if anyone rolled up. I can’t remember what we chatted about, but I know I instantly liked both of them.

After that, The Pistols started coming out the The Mojo Room (it was our hang-out spot back then) with Buzz, her husband, and J and I.

“You got to be able to hit hard,” I remember Mr. Pistol saying to me one night, 10 or so beers in. “Come on,” he said to Buzz and I, as he tightened his upper body and got into position, “Hit me!” We threw shoulder blocks (all the blocks we knew at the time) until he turned blue – literally. Several days later he lifted up his shirt and showed us his purple ribs. It was arguably the first thing Mr. Pistol did as a coach to help both Speed Regime and the CCRG All-Stars (formerly the Mobtown Maulers).

Pistol Whip was – and still is – quiet but consistent. An amazing jammer and a great blocker, it’s been fun skating with Pistol for over 3 years. Last year we planned Buzz Kill’s baby shower together, and it was great fun.

This past Saturday, the cake arrived before I did. Charm City Cakes (from Ace of Cakes), one of our sponsors, jumped at the opportunity to make the Pistols’ wedding cake for their special day. In Speed regime colors, The Pistols topped their own cake – Mr. Pistol with his little go-tee and Pistol Whip with anatomically correct tattoos.

In an elaborately planned ceremony where I was asked to wear something “referee inspired”, since we would all be on skates, the rest of our team, past and present, were the bridesmaids dressed in green tutus and holding green pistols with a single red rose coming out of the barrel of each gun.

The music started. I skated out (almost biting it on the way) and took my place. At their cue, Mr. Pistol and Pistol Whip’s father walked out and took their places. Mr. Pistol’s eyes welling up almost made me lose it. The bridesmaids skated out as a pack, and slowly they skated around the pack until after turn 2 they dissipated, forming staggered lines on either side of me, revealing the bride, Pistol Whip, who had been in the middle of the pack the entire time. Greeted by her father, he walked her over to Mr. Pistol and gave her a kiss. The ceremony began, and before we knew it the ceremony was over. I remember trying to say everything perfectly, looking at my notes, but seeing undoubtedly the two happiest people in the room standing in front of me smiling and dancing together with their eyes.

Like I said during the ceremony, The Pistols told me during the wedding planning that “it’s the marriage that’s serious, so why not make the wedding fun”. And fun it was. From vows like “Do you promise to always bring your helmet panties home to him at the end of the night,” and “Do you promise that no matter what, you’ll always tell her that she’s your lead jammer” to bridesmaids in tutus and wedding cake at the after party, it was a wonderfully fun and beautiful wedding.

I video of the ceremony can be seen here.

Although I may joke about placing myself on Craigslist to perform weddings dressed as a rollergirl – you pick the booty shorts: gold or silver – I really do appreciate and enjoy being included and being asked to perform the legal ceremony that joins two people in love.

I, myself, am not big on marriage, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love partaking in other people’s joy, especially when I can revisit my role as The Officiate.

With less than a week into their married life, I wish Mr. and Mrs. Pistol the very best, and I will continue to look forward to working and playing with them and seeing their love grow over time. Mr. and Mrs. Pistol, CHEERS!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Verdict

I’ve lived in the city limits of Baltimore for nearly 8 years, yet earlier this month was the very first time I have ever been called for Jury Duty, which I hear from other city-dwellers is really abnormal.

Not thinking they’d get to my number during jury selection and seeing the respectful decline of all immediate potential white jurors immediately preceding me, I thought I was in the clear – that I wouldn’t be called. But I was called, and I became Juror 11, seated on a jury to determine the outcome of trail in which the defendant was being charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

The trial, from beginning to end, opening statements to verdict, was supposed to take no longer than 4 days, but we wound up being there for 6 – deliberating 2 days longer than intended.

During those 6 days, I became half-way accustomed to the life of someone involved in the court system on a regular basis (think, Professional Juror). I knew where to park in which garage that was closest to the courthouse, I established a regular coffee joint and developed a fleeting relationship with the two people who worked there, and I knew what door to enter into the courthouse in order to not be hassled about throwing away my coffee in the mornings. I had developed quite a routine in a surprisingly short amount of time.

When in the jury room, I sat in the same seat for all 6 days – between a chatty girl who couldn’t stop asking me questions and a woman my mother’s age who was a director at the city school department. Across from me sat the woman who actually fell asleep while we were voting by a raise of hands for various counts against the defendant. On the second to last day, the security guards downstairs confiscated her pepper spray, which sent her into fit in the jury room when she wasn’t asleep and thought about it.

The other jurors accompanying me were a random selection of people from all over the city, but we all had one thing in common: none of us were “peers” of the defendant.

We sat through a trial that was somewhat rushed by the judge. We heard the 1st witness admit to having smoked crack prior to the incident, we heard both the first and second witnesses commit perjury on the stand after they were caught talking to each other about the case and their stories in the hallway during a court recess. We heard the next two witnesses completely recant their prior statements to the police while on the stand, and we also heard them and another witness, all currently living in separate facilities for having committed crimes themselves, tell similar stories about the same detective feeding them information on a person they did not know in order to solidify the case for a “deal” – all but one “deal” never having transpired. We heard the last of those witnesses cry on the stand – apologizing to the defendant, judge, lawyers, jury, and court for wasting their time by making up a story in order to try and help himself. According to this witness, he would be facing similar charges next week, and apparently someone went and did to him what he did to our defendant. “I guess it’s karma,” he said. “I deserve it for helping to ruin this man I don’t know’s life. Apparently this is common.”

We saw evidence that was questionable – police line-ups, 6-packs, about five of them in which the person ID’d had by far the largest-sized head and the lightest, clearest picture. We saw bullet casings, one of which was collected that night but was likely left over from another separate shooting incident.

We saw the detective in question’s partner bring up the rear as far as witnesses went, and in less than 5 minutes she discredited her partner’s work and ethical behavior when processing and following this case.

As I walked in the final two mornings, I saw a line of white Blue Bird busses – the kind I remember from being a kid, the old kind. Only these weren’t used to take students on field trips – they were used to transport prisoners in shackles to and from the courthouses. And although I had never seen a bus like this before, I knew from a glance and the bus’ position next to the court house that the metal pieces over each window were not for shade on a sunny day. It was sad and beautiful at the same time, and I still can’t tell you why.

On that last day, as we finalized the verdict, we broke out of the confines of “look only at the evidence” and “reasonable doubt” and lamented about segments of our city that may reside in Baltimore but that are a million miles away from any life any of us had ever known. Little pockets, a street here, a block there, where generations have grown up in the midst of violence, of various family members and neighbors having been in and out of jail, of addiction that’s more common than making it to 10th grade before you drop out, and of guns replacing fist fights or even harsh words.

One man spoke about wanting to send a message that just because this type of behavior is the norm in some parts of our city, it’s not right. I spoke of not wanting to reward a dirty cop who could be just as sloppy and ill-intended with my case should I become a victim of a crime.

How will the root of these problems ever get solved if both sides keep doing what we were privy to?

I took my position on the jury seriously, and we delivered our verdict – one that I felt good about. Regardless, I left the courthouse that day feeling completely defeated, sickened, and depressed.

How can we let this go on in our city? “If we all just banded together,” I thought… And then I realized that was the problem. We may all live together in the city, but we’re segregated by neighborhood, block, side of the street, and individual house. Most people have compartmentalized themselves, so they don’t have to care about what exists outside their own individual world. I guess the only difference is that some made the choice to box themselves in, while others had that choice made for them.

It’s my opinion that without the joined effort of neighbors, community members, city dwellers, and police, I’ll likely be called to serve on another jury like this one sooner than I would like.

Monday, October 27, 2008

As Twisted as The Pretzel over Which I Salivate

I’ve recently become obsessed with the Auntie Anne’s pretzel stand in the mall near my office. Now, if the type of pretzels they offered there were the large, hard, sourdough kind, like many people I probably would have never even noticed the stand was there, but these pretzels aren’t hard or bland or even easy to ignore. They are soft and warm and coated in butter and salt. Mmmm…

You might as well just roll a softened stick of butter in salt, coat in extra lard, infuse one-million carbs, and fry.

Really, it’s all Sephora’s fault. The mall just opened a Sephora, and like any girl who hates shopping for jeans, my favorite mall hot-spots include any place with shoes, accessories, or make up, and the new Sephora fulfills the make up requirement quite nicely.

Knowing how I go apeshit over make up (because she does too), and knowing that Shephora had just opened because I couldn’t stop talking about it, my previous boss got me a gift card to Sephora for my birthday. Well, who can spend the exact amount on a gift card? I had some left over, so last Friday I decided to go back and try to again find a new perfume.

Again? Yes, again. I’m extremely picky about fragrances, especially perfumes, and this is about the eighteenth time I’ve gone out hunting for a new scent. Don’t get me wrong, I already have a scent I love, Kiehl’s Original Musk, but I’d like to have something else to mix it up a bit when I feel so inclined. I used to mix it up with an Indian Sandalwood oil, but the guy who sold me the good stuff started watering it down, and what he now sells is shit, because the scent isn’t as potent and leaves completely after only several hours. I’ve tried different vendors of Indian Sandalwood, but it’s the same story everywhere, so I’ve been on a mission to find something new.

Oh, and one more thing – I hate (HATE) manufactured chemical scents. HATE. I need something natural, something earthy, something rich and deep. Try walking into a store and telling that to the perfume saleswomen. It doesn’t fly so well, and it usually translates to “spicy baby powder cat piss worn by a whore”. Ick.

Friday came and I decided to head to Sephora on my way home from work for two items: dark gray nail polish and perfume. As I walked toward the Sephora, the smell of warm, salty, buttered pretzel wafted under my nose even though it was on the other side of the Sephora. “No,” I told myself, and I went into Sephora.

Item 1 – "metro chic" nail polish: XXX!!! (read: that horrible "No, dumbass!" buzzer from The Price is Right) Apparently that nail polish color was featured in a magazine and is sold out. Everywhere. And they aren’t going to be making any more. WTF?! Not going to be making it anymore? It just came out several months ago! Doesn’t OPI want to make money – isn’t it all about the Benjamins? Whatever. I settled for a lighter gray (and added some black to make it the color I wanted - take that, OPI!).

Item 2 – new perfume: I got some, but I didn’t like it once I got it home. I tried just about everything in the store, got confused, and bought something that was totally not me, but I didn’t know that at the time.

I left Sephora and needed to take a pain pill for my tooth, so I immediately looked around for a place to purchase a drink. The food court was a floor up, but the escalator wasn’t far away. Even closer, positioned directly in front of the escalator, Auntie Anne’s. Intending to only buy a Diet Coke, I ordered that and a pretzel when I got to the counter. Not able to wait until I got back to my car to dig in, I put my face in the pretzel holder like it was a muzzle or a feed bag, as I balanced my purse falling off my shoulder, my bag, my keys, and my gallon-size Diet Coke. Once in the car, I told myself I would ration the pretzel so that I could eat it all the way home – a 20-to-30 minute ride. More than half of it was gone before I exited the parking garage. Licking my greasy fingers less than a mile from the mall the thought actually entered my mind that I should have bought two.

I thought about that fucking pretzel all weekend long. I reminisced about those few months in college I worked at The Picture Place. There was a pretzel joint two doors down, and I probably ate two pretzels during each shift that I worked. The employees would just walk over and give them to us. Did I want a pretzel? Hell, yeah! And during that several-month stint, I was actually pretty thin (for me, anyhow). So all weekend long, I’m thinking about the pretzel and rationalizing that I can eat two a day and be fine, since I was more than fine back then, right? Wrong. And I knew it.

Today after work I go to exchange the perfume, this time walking by Auntie Anne’s on my way to Sephora, pretzels wafting in the air. THEY SMELLED SO GOOD. Too bad I can’t bottle that smell (even though they do violate my “natural” requirement – anything more processed than my hair is not natural)!

After much sniffing (and hand labeling my spray sticks like a total dork), I settled on Fresh’s Cannabis Santal. I don’t know why I didn’t think about the Fresh line of fragrances before – the whole premise behind the brand is that it’s natural, and I love wearing Lemon Fresh in the summertime (even if J says I smell like cleaning products).

As I walked out, the only thing that kept me from my precious pretzel was the thought of leftover meatloaf and limited edition Edy’s pumpkin ice cream. If the pretzel would have been sitting in the next room from me all night like I knew the ice cream would be, I would have walked past the ice cream at the mall. Luckily, I know I have very little will power, and I was able to broker the ice cream for pretzel swap with myself before I could get the pretzel and then still eat the ice cream later.

When I get done typing this, I’m going to eat the ice cream, and hopefully, because I denied the pretzel earlier today, I won’t feel as bad about the ice cream as I would had I also eaten the pretzel. That is, as long as I don’t eat five servings-worth of ice cream, like I did last night.

A girl just can’t catch a break!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Back to Life, Back to Reality

I FINALLY finished jury duty yesterday, and I’ll blog about it next week. Today, I want nothing more than to get back to normal.

Last night I attended the first open skate I had been to in well over a year, and it was an awesome scene – I couldn’t believe how many rollergirls were in attendance. With try-outs next Tuesday, it’s not entirely surprising, but I don’t think I’ve seen that many rollergirls at an open skate since before we started holding closed practices nearly four years ago.

We outnumbered the other skate patrons last night. Stinky skate bags ruled the benches that the kids and teenagers usually congregate on. I don’t know if the other people stayed away from us because we stank, were cursing, or were just not well understood.

For me, it’s completely different skating in the dark with flashing lights, dodging kids skating the wrong way or falling in front of me. I actually lost my balance a couple of times, which made me feel like an idiot, because I was suppose to be there to help the skater tots cram for Tuesday’s test. Thrown off or not, I did wind up helping, and I was happy to see the skill level of the newbies coming in. I swear to you that each group coming in gets better and better, which amazes me.

I was also happy to see ladies of all shapes and sizes preparing to try out (circle gets the square). Some are tall and were struggling with plow stops, because they were self-conscious about their long legs having to extend out further than everyone else’s. Others just felt self-conscious about spreading their legs. I became self conscious about the same thing last night, but only because I had worn a mini-skirt that exposed my crotch to everyone at Skateland when I demonstrated the plow stop. It’s one thing to expose yourself at Skateland when it’s just you and your girls at a closed practice – it’s an entirely different thing to flash your striped cotton panties to the 45-year-old jam skater who then started to linger at the end of the rink on which we were practicing. Yick!

Most of all, I was happy to see how encouraging all the skater tots were to each other. I didn’t detect a single twinge of an “I’m better than you” or “you’re not going to make the cut” attitude. I’m so proud of our league for not even putting up with the petty bullshit. Even the tots know derby is a place to build people up and not tear them down, and I think that’s cool.

Today at 10am I went over to my alma mater, Towson University, and spoke about roller derby to a Sports Management class for an hour. I must admit that I was nervous going into this, even though I had completed a thorough outline and prepared to speak. I still got a case of the nerves, because I had no idea how these kids would react in a Friday morning class to me discussing what is predominantly a women’s sport.

The class went well. There were only two chicks in it, but the guys seemed as interested as the ladies were. I ran my big, fat mouth for the entire class and only had time to take two questions (the plan was to take questions for the last 20 minutes). Oh, well. What can I say, I love to talk about derby. But you all wouldn’t know that, now would you.

I felt kind of old going back to my school to speak to a class, but I got over that too. The decision last night about what to wear was an odd one. Not only would I be educating them about the sport, but I would also be speaking to the business of derby. Do I appear professional or do I wear booty shorts? Okay, it never actually entered my mind to wear booty shorts. Instead, I wore jeans, my CCRG logo tee, a pinstriped vest, and heels. Oh, and I did my hair and makeup – much more than my coworkers get out of me on a Friday!

I’m finally back to normal – busy at work in my office and totally consumed with derby. I was thinking as I walked back to my car from the classroom that I’m one of the busiest women I know, if not the busiest, yet I don’t always see myself that way. In a way, I’m lucky, because I’m busy doing things that I love. “You only live once” is the mantra I live by, so I suppose it’s a blessing to be consumed with something you’re so passionate about. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Noone Shits on My Stove!

After thinking about what to write about after dinner last night, I went to rinse my chili bowl and was startled by a furry, fast sprint from behind the kitchen faucet, across the counter top, and down to the trash can.

I squealed. I squealed LOUDLY, left the sink running full blast, jumped up on the stool I keep to get to the infrequently-used spices, and did all I knew to do: I screamed for J.

This is the first mouse we’ve had in a very long time. We had a rat when we first bought our house, but ever since then we’ve employed the exterminator that ridded us of the rat, and we’ve been happily pest free. And then we got busy.

J started working till 6pm each night, I accumulated more and more after-work derby meetings, and we didn’t show up one month to meet Frank, our exterminator, on our predetermined monthly day at our predetermined monthly time. He took care of the outside, billed us, and I left his answering service a message that said we needed to alter our time and to call me back on my cell phone (he calls during work hours when I’m not home, and I wanted to get a hold of him).

Frank called back, but he called our home phone. Phone tag ensued, where I kept saying “don’t call our home number – call my cell, 443-…” I halfway gave up. We got a bill in the mail for the last time he came to our house, I meant to pay and include a note, but I never did. I called back with the same message, only now we no longer have our home phone due to an internet switch from DSL to cable (and who needs a home phone anyway?!), and we’ve never got a hold of Frank. Enter Speedy Gonzales.

We didn’t know we had a mouse until yesterday, when J told me he found turds when doing the dishes. Although he disposed of the turds that were in a frying pan, he left the turds that were on the stovetop, and I swear to you that I had a fucking flashback to my old apartment that more accurately resembled the subway system in Japan during rush hour, only the people were mice and they apparently don’t have control of their assholes, because tons of tiny turds could be seen outlining from where the mice came and where they went, like a handful of dotted lines on a pirate map leading to the buried treasure. Argh, there’s nothing like a pirate’s booty! (much like there’s nothing like finding turds lining the perimeter of all your living room furniture that faces one wall)

I hated that apartment for that sole reason – the mice ruled the building, and probably the buildings on either side of my building as well. They ran free so often that my beagle became desensitized of game and to this day doesn’t really give a shit about any other animal that he should want to attack and eat. It was a dark period in my life – a period filled with more foreign urine and feces than a line of spot-a-pots at VirginFest.

When we bought our house, I was determined that rodents would not run free in it, and now due to my combined laziness and hectic schedule I have allowed the furry little fuck to shit all over my stove. No one shits on my stove.

Hear this, you rancid rodent: consider my squeal a warning, you will not get another. I will hunt you down (or get Frank to) and I will eradicate your from my residence. Get out now before you still can, or I may just split our electric bill three ways this month, which I don’t think you could pay, unless you keep your tiny wallet somewhere other than in your nonexistent pants.

Until I get off this damn trial and am able to call Frank, I’ll be lacing the dog food left out overnight with pain pills, because if I can’t yet keep you from running all over my stove, at least I can keep you from shitting all over it. Oh yeah, and I’m hiding the Metamucil.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Weight of a Big Girl on My Shoulders

Saturday was my mom’s birthday, so in true mother-daughter fashion, we did what we do best: we went shopping. It was a good day – with not even a hint of an argument, we were both having a good time and enjoying each other’s company. And then out it came: “You seem to have lost some weight, what are you down to now,” she asked.

I must admit, she was clever in her asking. The question came out of left field, and I, surprised, said, “What?” to which she replied “Ooh! Let’s look over here! I need to get…”

It was completely planned. She had a plan of retreat, because she knew full well how it would likely go – so why ask in the first place? I’ve got to figure she just can’t help herself.

Ever since I left home, I’ve gotten the questions. The “how are you doing” has always referred to my weight. I use to buy into it. I use to let her rhetoric influence what I did, and more importantly how I felt about myself. If I was gaining weight or staying the same, I would feel defeated – like a lost cause, but if I was losing, I would come home from a day with my mom and feel like I was on top of the world.

Okay, so this dysfunction was primarily my own. Allowing my mood to be completely ruled by the outcome of what my weight was, relative to what it was the week before that is no way to live AT ALL.

Luckily, I’ve kicked that for the most part (hey, we all have our, “Holy crap! I-just-ate-an-entire-pint-of-Ben-&-Jerry’s" days). The funny thing is, once I let go I’ve actually lost weight. Only now I’m having some conflicting feelings about it.

I feel like a sell-out, namely because of this blog. Luckily this feeling of guilt comes and goes. Like I told my coworker who told me I was “wasting away”, I’m actually really fucking far from wasting away. As in, wasting away is China, and I ate the shovel that could dig me there.

And then there’s the anger and disgust at someone feeling proud of me for having lost weight. In my opinion, weight is a personal issue. You can encourage me to be the best be I can be or to be a good person who affects positive change in the world, and you can be happy for accomplishments of mine like my new promotion or a job well done with derby sponsorship, but I get sickened by attaching such weight to something so superficial that doesn’t mean dick. With so many other important things in all of our lives, why put so much importance on weight?

At the same time, part of me feels awesome that I didn’t completely fuck up my body by yo-yo dieting for years and years. I have to admit, I’m kind of astounded at this weird side effect of my not caring, and it is kind of cool – I’m not going to lie. Just yesterday I was dancing around the living room in my too-big pants in front of J, singing “I’m in the 170s…”

As a life long big girl, only other big girls wouldn’t see the irony of my being elated at the 170s (the high 170s, at that) – a number that might make many women faint if they were to wake up and see that on the scale.

The truth is, all the stuff that I’ve done and accomplished that really matters has been done by a big girl. I put myself through college while working at one point five different jobs as a big girl. I bought my house as a big girl. I’ve held various publishing jobs as a big girl (and this big girl just recently got a big promotion to match). And I’ve played derby for nearly four years. All this is great, but I think the best thing I’ve done as a big girl is get to know myself.

Many times people who are big or who look different or who have a disability fixate on what they perceive to be the problem and can never get past that and work toward becoming the best person they can be. That’s really what this blog is all about. I may talk about derby a lot, because derby is really a metaphor for the rest of life (and I love derby). It’s more difficult to do things physically, emotionally, and because you don’t always have the trust and buy-in of others because you’re big, but you can still do it. It may be harder, but it will make you better, and it will show others that their fixating on your weight isn’t worth their time. Hopefully seeing someone accomplish something one wouldn’t expect will cause he or she to stop the discrimination of big people, weak people, poor people, and different people. And hopefully as that stops, the people who can’t get past their weight or whatever else on their own will finally be free to find themselves and be the best they can be.

As for my mom, I can only continue to do what I did on Saturday – ignore her comments on weight and hope that my actions speak louder than the number on the scale. Maybe it’s a lost cause with people of her generation, but that’s not going to stop me from trying to show her what I think is really important. And whether I’m 220 or 180 or something else, I’ll always have the full weight behind me, driving me to show her and others that this big girl, and other big girls, can do whatever the fuck they want.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Being a Juror is Cutting into my Blog Time

I got selected as a Juror on Tuesday, and serving has kept me from writing anything!

On one hand, it's killing me not to have time to write, but on the other hand I can't wait till its over so I can tell you all about it!!! It's been absurd and rediculous.

We'll talk next Wednesday (trial to be over Tuesday) or possibly sooner if I can find time to write in the evenings.



Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Madison, Wisconsin

I didn’t expect to like Madison, Wisconsin, and if it hadn’t been for Derby in Dairyland, the WFTDA Eastern Regional Tournament, I likely would have never gone there on my own.

I’ll admit, I was a bit worried about my stay last weekend when I found out I’d be biking to the coliseum each day with the person I was staying with, Elle Machete. Biking? The only biking I do now is on my 1100cc Yamaha V-Star Classic. My mind instantly went back 8 years to the last time I rode a bike. I was on my way to work downtown, about 3 miles downhill, when the passenger side door of a cop car swung open and damn near clothes-lined my ass as I was biking alongside rush-hour traffic.

I’m a city girl. Although some people do ride bikes in Baltimore city, they are called bike messengers, and they are some of the toughest people I know – many of whom have been hit by cars multiple times.

Although it was something I never expected to do, I decided that the Madison trip was going to be an experience that I would fully embrace, forcing myself out of my comfort zone, so I packed biking clothes and my derby helmet, and I was on my way.

I don’t know what I expected Madison to be like – Milwaukee, perhaps? I was in Milwaukee last year, and it wasn’t much to write home about (sorry, Brew City). Don’t get me wrong, it was nice, but I was surprised at how similar it was to any city on the east coast. Madison wasn’t far, so I wondered how different it could be – aside from the ability to bike (aka, sweat right after doing my hair).

I was shocked to find Madison full of independently owned businesses, a grocery co-op (I never did see a regular grocery store there), and yes, many, many bike paths. It became apparent quite quickly to me that although the economy of Madison is largely dependent on car manufacturing, the citizens of Madison don’t tolerate sprawl and they cherish their co-op, independently-owned restaurants, and many, many coffeehouses, none of which I saw rhyming with “Starfucks”.

Madison is cozy – it’s like your mom’s house after Thanksgiving dinner; the scents from earlier in the day fill the rooms with warmth just like the charm of the old buildings that have been allowed to stay fill the streets.

Toward the end of my stay, after having visited several different coffee shops, the co-op, and a tiny, independent diner, I wondered why Madison had all these great things and Baltimore did not. Why in Baltimore is nearly every new business a chain? Why is it so hard for Baltimore citizens to open their own small businesses and stay in business? Why do we allow it to be that way?

It’s funny. Sometimes when people see a city they love, they decide to move there, but instead, why not bring the elements you love into your own community? How do we do that?

This is a question I cannot answer but that I’m interested in continuing to pursue.

Although I wound up never riding a bike in Madison, I’m glad I was prepared to try. And after spending the weekend with one of the most amazing groups of women, rollergirls from all over the country, I thought about how far we had come in reviving derby all across America and how we came together to put on something as spectacular as Derby in Dairyland (on our own), and I became optimistic that maybe I could evoke positive change in my home town. Perhaps I already have (through derby).

It’s been a long time since I’ve participated actively in my community outside of derby, but you know what they say: it’s like riding a bike. I’m up for it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Go Team!

More than anything else (today) I hate standing on the sidelines. In derby, it pains me to be on the bench while my friends are out there skating. In fact, I get exponentially more nervous before a bout if I’m not playing, compared to when I am.

I recently watched a video of myself bench coaching my home team, Speed Regime. I knew I took the edge off by chewing gum as if I were competing for a “most hot dogs eaten in 5 minutes” gold medal, but what I didn’t realize is that I also open and close my hands repeatedly like a child waving “goodbye” at about the same speed that I chew the gum, all the while rocking back and forth.

I buy my underwear at K-Mart.

It’s hard not to cheer when you’re watching something you care about so deeply. At the start of the Charm City/Cincinnati game earlier today I was alone at turn 3, which was fine. It wasn’t the alone part that made me move – it was the Cincinnati fans who were ringing the cowbells they sell here in Madison that are perhaps more evil than the Steelers’ “terrible towels”. They’re so freaking loud that I couldn’t hear myself cheer. To make matters worse, when I turned around to see who had the bells and saw the women from Cincinnati, I had a flashback of the Cincinnati fans who almost started a fight with damn near everyone in the venue when their team was down (or was it Detroit?) at the first East Coast Extravaganza (ECE) in Philly. I couldn’t remember which fans I should have been scared of, so I moved to turn 1 just to be safe.

It was shortly after that when Baneanna gave me a yellow and black pom-pom to aid in my cheering for Charm City. I gladly accepted and quickly became a 5-year-old girl at a parade. My cheers went from bellowing howls, instructing our ladies to “get her” and telling them “you got it”, to nothing more than a meek and higher pitched “go team”, as I shook my pom-pom in the air, limp wristed at that.

Charm City came out swinging with a 14-point initial jam, and they were unrelentless. When they pulled ahead by a wide margin in the second half, I was finally able to relax and get back to the Cindy Lop-her cheering I’m use to. And then I had a thought: is it wrong that I’m here on the sidelines screaming in tongues for Charm City, when I’m suppose to be representing WFTDA as a neutral sponsorship manager?

I guess it’s not like anyone ever told me I had to be neutral, but I’m sensitive to that shit – I wouldn’t want to jeopardize a sponsorship because someone thinks that I’m an asshole. I thought on that for a bit and then I had a realization: it’s a fucking game. You’re suppose to cheer for one team or another, and if anyone can’t realize that nothing is wrong with me because I’m passionate about derby, then well, they can just go suck on the other end of what Greg from BestBuy’s been sucking on since Thursday night.

We’re playing Windy City tomorrow morning, and if we win, we’re going to Nationals. I think it’s safe to say that the ill-tempered Rain Man will be in attendance. If you see her, don’t try and take her pom-pom away!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

AT&T Rules, BestBuy Can Suck It

Dear AT&T:

I’ve been an AT&T customer for over 8 years – I was with you when you were AT&T, I stayed with you when you were Cingular, and I made it through the third transition back to AT&T. Last month I was happy to find out that my boyfriend wanted to buy me an iPhone for my birthday – the perfect gift, since my new work schedule necessitates my having a phone with access to e-mail and the internet for Google docs. That, and my old iPod breathed its last breath several months ago (did you know it’s difficult to run on a treadmill without music?).

My boyfriend and I went to BestBuy after having seen the ads that they were now carrying the iPhone 3G. We have a BestBuy Reward Zone card, so my boyfriend thought purchasing the phone there would be great, because it would also earn him points.

We were sad to find out that because I was an existing customer I could not get the iPhone for the advertized price of $199 – even though I was due for an upgrade, I would have to pay $399. “This is total BS,” I thought, but not wanting to have to pay $200 to get my present, my boyfriend opened up a new AT&T account under his name to get the phone for $199, and I essentially gave away my rollover minutes and the phone number that I just had printed on 3,000 business cards. Not to mention that they said we could not do a family plan with an iPhone and a regular phone, which meant I would need to find another solution for my mom who has been on my family plan. Oh, well, they said we couldn’t do any of it.

Not a week later and the phone broke – the touch screen was bad, and I hadn’t yet synced my contacts to my computer, since I had only had the phone for 3 days. I went back to BestBuy, explained the situation (letting them know I was using the phone and why even though the account was under my boyfriend) and I was able to exchange the phone – but I was unhappy when BestBuy told me that the iPhone didn’t contain a sim card, and I’d have to enter all my contacts again from scratch – it had taken me 3 hours to do this with the first phone.

Then yesterday, when I called you all to cancel my old line – the line with the number I have had for 8 years, the line with the family plan with my mom, the line that’s been due for an upgrade since August – your associate, Jeff Johnson, tells me that everything BestBuy has told me is completely untrue. I can get the phone, even at BestBuy, for $199 because I’m due for an upgrade, I can keep the family plan and have my mom stay on the plan with me, and (holy heck) the iPhone does have a sim card after all.

Jeff was so appalled that he called the BestBuy from which I purchased the phone (White Marsh, Maryland 410-931-3107) and spoke to the cell phone manager on duty, Henry. While I was on hold with Jeff during my lunch break at work, Jeff set Henry straight and received confirmation that I could come in, return the phone bought by my boyfriend, and upgrade for $199 (keeping the family plan too). Henry was only working till 3:45pm, so I called before he left and confirmed with him that if I came in tonight after he had left, the situation could be handled and the other BestBuy cell associates were in the know. He confirmed.

Having to return the phone by the 10th (30 days per BestBuy), I cancelled my plans last night to go to BestBuy, because I’m leaving town for several days on the 9th, and this is the only time I could get this situation straightened out before I left town.

I had prepped myself for the worst case scenario – I was ready for the BestBuy people to not know what they were doing, and I was ready to sit and wait an hour while they tried to figure out the process for what they needed to do. Instead, I was greeted by a cell phone associate named Greg who started to shout at me about how BestBuy was not going to give me $200. Didn’t Henry relay the message? Apparently not. After engaging my boyfriend and I in argument after argument, we tell Greg that we’ll do a simple return – that we won’t give BestBuy any more of our money, only Greg hijacks our phone and won’t tell us how we need to go about returning it. He also refused to “inspect” it, as his department is required to do when returns of phones are made.

After waiting another half our in line at the Return Desk, we finally make it, and Greg starts to argue with the girl handling the returns about how we shouldn’t be allowed to return it. He then verbally engages us again.

Finally, a second cell phone associate, Daniel, comes up to the desk and asks us to explain to him (for the 40th time we’d explained it in that store) why we were returning it. When Daniel hears what happened, he is baffled and states that you all were correct and he can fix the problem. Well, Greg can fix the problem, because Daniel’s about to leave. I tell Daniel there’s no way I’m dealing with Greg again and will sooner drive 20 miles to an AT&T store to chance that I won’t have as horrible of service with an unknown salesperson than I know I will have with Greg. I’ve spent about 10 hours of my life over the past month dealing with this upgrade, and I’m at my wits end. I will not have an arrogant, argumentative salesperson “correcting” my problem on my time. Daniel agrees to stay late and help us.

As we’re waiting by the desk for Daniel, Greg approaches us again and starts yelling at us. I tell him to leave and stop talking to us. He gets even more aggressive and loud. When we refuse to answer him, he finally goes away.

As Daniel is completing the transaction, he tells us how he’s moving to Texas in 2 days. It struck me funny, because if anyone in that store were to speak to us the way Greg had, you’d think it would be Daniel – someone buying his time with nothing to lose. Instead, Daniel stayed late, fixed the problem, and we actually enjoyed talking to him while he was doing it.

You’d think after that I’d be happy to be on my 3rd iPhone in a month, but I’m not. Maybe it’s because I’ve been burnt over and over and I can only hope and pray nothing goes wrong with this phone, so I never have to set foot in BestBuy again. Maybe it’s because I’ve wasted 10 to 15 hours of my life trying to fix something that should have been done right in the first place, only to have the people who are suppose to help extend a verbal bitch slap to me.

I would petition you to never work with BestBuy again. Not only are their associates, who represent you, misinformed and incompetent, but they are rude as well. As I was sitting there last night writing down Greg’s and Daniel’s names, I was trying to come up with adjectives to describe them. Daniel was easy: very helpful. Greg took some thought – I wanted to get it just right – and I think I captured it appropriately with “argumentative douche.”

Although the bulk of this letter is meant to show you how BestBuy is falsely representing AT&T (I would have directed a letter like this directly to BestBuy if I thought they gave a shit), I would like to commend your associate, Jeff Johnson on a job well done. I have always received good service from you, however I was both surprised and happy that Jeff would go so far as to call the sore at which I originally bought the phone – the BestBuy. I’m continually pleased in my dealings with AT&T, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share the good along with the bad (and lets face it, it’s not like it’s you all who are the bad ones here).

I hope you’ll pardon my at-times crude language. Since I’m posting this letter on my blog (1,000+ distinct visitors per month), I was at times more conversational in tone than I normally would be when writing this type of letter. I wanted to make both my glowing reviews of AT&T and my utter disgust with BestBuy something that would be read by all site visitors. I hope you can understand.

Thank you, again, for the superb job, and keep up the good work!


Tara Gebhardt

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wishes, Fortunes, and Accidents

This past Saturday we FINALLY made it to the Renaissance Festival, one of the happiest places on earth, according to yours truly. I love the Ren Fest for many reasons. First, it was one of the first outings J and I ever went on together, and somehow being there brings us back to the days of puppy love and PDA, something we don’t partake in too often seven years later. Second, it’s outside. I miss doing things outside, and this is one event that’s completely outside. Lastly, it denotes Fall to me, and Fall is my favorite season!

We had planned on getting there at noon, but I went running that morning and took my time getting ready. We were all set to get there by 1pm, 1:30pm at the latest – we even had “secret back way directions” to avoid the traffic along the MapQuest route everyone takes. Everything was fine until we were 2 miles away. Then the sitting in traffic began.

I had to pee before we left the house, but I was so excited to get there that I put it off. Now, two hours later, I was squirming in my seat desperately looking for a place on the side of the road that would shield the glow of my big white ass. It hurt so bad, I had to undo my seatbelt.

“What’s wrong with you,” J said.

“I have to pee so bad it hurts, and there’s nowhere I can pee here,” I said, “I need a toilet.”

Then, out of nowhere, we move about two car lengths and up ahead I see a port-a-pot on the side of the road! I got out and started running. Not only did the port-a-pot come from nowhere, it was possibly the cleanest port-a-pot I had ever seen. No toilet paper, but at that point I didn’t even care – it was a place to pee.

Once back in the car, I began to wonder if maybe everyone really does get one wish in life, but the wish selection is completely random. Maybe I had just cashed mine in – the “I wish I had a toilet” was granted and I’d blown my chances at a million dollars, perkier tits, or three more wishes. Oh well, at that point, I was just as happy with the toilet!

We finally made it – hours late – and met up with some friends. We drank bee stings (mead and cider), threw axes, drank some more, threw knives, ate turkey legs and onion rings, and laughed a lot. Then I decided I was going to go to get my cards read.

I usually only think of psychics as being older women, but mine was in her 30s. I guess you could make the argument that the reading I got could have translated to anyone, but it really did translate to my life as well. I suppose I should have been happy about that, except I really couldn’t be because the entire reading was about work. For some reason this pissed me off – I was like, “don’t tell me about work on my weekend!”

By the time I got out of there it was time to go. J was waiting for me outside and had gotten me a rose, which actually surprised me, because earlier in the day someone had tried to sell him a rose to give to me, and I spoke for him, saying, “But I won’t be able to hold it – I need both hands for beer.”

On the ride home I couldn’t stop smelling the rose – it was one of those oversized greenhouse type roses that look perfect and smell perfect too. I was totally immersed in studying the rose, when the cars ahead of us broke my attention.

We were on a three- or four-lane highway, only two cars ahead of us, we’re all going 80 MPH. and then suddenly, the silver car in front of us goes to change lanes, not realizing the black car is in his blind spot. The silver car starts to merge and then realizes the other car is there. He overcompensated by jerking his wheel back into his lane, which caused his car to flip up into the air, land on its roof, and slide 80 MPH for what seemed like an eternity. We were more to the left, so we went further left, hoping the car on its roof wouldn’t collide into us, or us him. Luckily, the car on its roof slid off to the right-hand side and stopped in the emergency lane without a collision into the jersey wall. Holy crap.

I’d never been that close to an accident before, and I had no clue a car could flip up into the air like that. I thought only Jeeps rolled. I thought about the people in the car. I hoped they were okay. I wondered why THIS hadn’t been revealed in my card reading.

I had to pee again, but luckily we made it home within the hour, safe and sound and ready to face the work week with my newfound knowledge. As much as I like the events associated with Ren Fest, I hope next year’s Ren Fest is uneventful.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Learning to Try

Not too long ago the vice president of my company told me that unlike some people, I was the type of person who forged ahead when working on projects (instead of holding meetings and talking about how to forge ahead), which is a fairly accurate description of how I work, but what he said next confused me, until now:

“I’ve always thought people who were involved in sports did this better – they learned to just go and do it, but that’s just my theory,” he said.

What does that mean, I thought? I played sports my whole life and didn’t quite get the connection.

Having been injured since May, I’ve had a lot of time to think and, quite frankly, become paranoid about how I will perform when I’m able to participate fully. Will I forget to look behind me? Will I get so flustered that I cannot do anything of worth? Will I remember how to play with my teammates? Will I hesitate?

I won’t lie – my first season was HORRIBLE. I was actually considered by some to be the “best blocker in the league” until we had a game, and then when I was out there in front of a crowd I was so afraid of screwing up that I wound up not doing much at all. It was terrible.

Luckily, I recognized this flaw and in my second season I made sure my team and I were working together (I was co-captain). This was the beginning of my exit from “fear” mode.

Then, leading into season 3, I had analyzed and knew full well what my flaws were and that if I ever wanted to be any good, I couldn’t let the fear of performing bad keep me from performing.

As I thought about this progression the other day, I realized that the statement my VP made did make sense. You’re never going to be effective if you don’t just try.

Sure, mistakes will be made along the way, but you can use them to learn how to become a better player (or worker or whatever). Only a fool looks forward all the time – you must look back to gain perspective on what was really happening, because when you’re in the moment, you don’t always know. But, once again, you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t try.

No one wants to watch a bunch of apathetic athletes – people who are so scared they will fail that they take the competition out of the sport, and in my mind, it’s difficult to work with apathetic workers – people who are so scared they will fail that they cease to be productive at anything.

I guess I now know the logic behind Nike’s slogan: Just do It. And it’s true. I hope I can remember this mantra in January when I’ll be able to scrimmage again!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I Shit Gold Turds

I was reading a commentary earlier today by someone whose opinion I don’t usually trust, let alone give the time of day, but he said something that struck a chord with me and my recent thoughts on the current financial crisis in America:

“Political parties that put their own success over that of the country's will be the death of America.”

It’s true. The only reason the majority of the House voted AGAINST the financial bail out earlier this week is because each vote represented a person who wanted to be reelected. They wanted to go along with the voices of their constituents to essentially save their own asses. After that vote, Washington came away feeling like they had done the right thing… Until the actual ramifications of not providing the bail out were presented succinctly (which no one had actually done before this point) to TV and radio audiences in the day following the vote. After being spoon-fed the ramifications by the media, the constituents called up their senators and told them to vote FOR it (and minutely slight modifications were made). And so the majority of them voted for it, and it passed the Senate. These people also voted for the exact same reason: to save their asses.

It’s funny how this cycle is playing out and no one seems to be able to see that the motivations behind Washington and Wall Street are the same: they each wanted to save their asses. That’s how we got into this mess in the first place.

I guess it all started with that stupid statement that “America is the best nation in the world.” I heard someone say that two days ago, and he might as well have said “I shit gold turds.” Just because you say it doesn’t mean it’s true.

It’s all about money. It’s always been all about money. Some people have it and some people don’t – there’s only so much of it to go around and we can’t all have everything – mathematically, it just doesn’t work. We were doing well, much like China is now, when we consumed the majority of what we were producing and exported that to other consumers. In my mind, that was America’s peak – it’s REAL peak – not one determined by a country now living off so much credit that the world could likely literally end before we can pay it off. But, we got greedy, and the benchmark for being the “Best Nation in the World” stopped being about actually being the best, which encompasses many variables and that little thing called foresight, and the new benchmark became “how much more money can you get for us right now?”

Instead of thinking about how to be the “Best Nation in the World”, we only thought about ourselves and how we, personally, would be impacted if we failed to produce more money in the following fiscal quarter. We started only thinking 3 months ahead. We made the decisions we did, not for the greater good or for success overall, but so we each saved our own ass, 3 months at a time.

In recent decades we stopped making plans to make more money and instead focused on making cuts to make more money (you can only find what’s there for you to find). We saw a drastic reduction of US exports and a drastic increase in foreign imports (to save a few bucks on the bottom line, of course). We could buy our necessities from 3rd world countries for less than it cost us to produce them ourselves, so we laid people off. Then, when all we had left were white collar workers, we shipped their jobs offshore, again, to help with those next quarter profits. Eventually, we ran out of cards to play, and before we knew it (I think some people still don’t know it) we had no more collateral. We’ve been knowingly handing over our money to others, and now we wonder why there is no more money in America.

Everything on the news is “fat cat this”, “fat cat that” – I wonder if the fat cats knew they were setting up their own demise, like junkies just trying to chase that next fix. Sure, you made some money for your company, for yourself, to save your ass, but in the process you were unknowingly planning your own demise. See, when you’re like me, when you don’t even have $100K in the bank, you have very little to lose. Me? I’ll be fine. Sure, it’s going to suck, but not as bad as it’s going to suck for you, fat fuckers. It’s actually quite amusing watching you hang yourselves, but back to the ass-saving contagiousness.

The way I see it, America’s going to fall, our economy is going to collapse – it’s just a question of how soon. Sure, pass the bail-out. The fall will be prolonged another year, when an equal-costing bail-out will be needed for the corporate giants that are on the verge of needing it, but don’t need it quite yet. Conversely, we can rip off the Band-Aid now. We can allow the inevitable fall to happen and get a jump start on the rebuilding phase. I guess my biggest argument for ripping off the Band-Aid now is that our “solution”, our bail-out, is to put the fate of those we bail out in the hands of our politicians. You know the ones – we were talking about them earlier – the ones who make decisions based on saving their asses. Funny, that didn’t work for the corporate fat cats. How can anyone trust the government to act any differently than the former CEOs? Hell, the government’s decision to bail-out or not to bail-out is based on each politician saving his or her own ass! Dare I say the government is even LESS trustworthy than the fat cats? Well, we already knew that, now didn’t we.

It’s a good time for a revolution.

Fuck the politicians, fuck the fat cats, fuck anyone who’s not interested saving everyone’s ass over his own ass. Let’s stop passing over turns at the Jenga table and let one or the other pull out that one supporting piece that’s giving us the illusion that the structure is still stable or salvageable. Then we imprison the players, the politicians and the CEOs, because they’ve stolen what little money the rest of us had, and we start over.

For once, we don’t think about ourselves and we sacrifice the rest of our lives to build a foundation that will begin to support the coming generations. There’s no other way, because if we don’t, well, then we’re just as bad as them, if not worse, because we’ll have watched corporations and politicians do the exact same thing and not have learned a fucking thing. If that’s the case, then perhaps we don’t deserve to survive. I suppose maybe then you can stop telling me that we’re the fittest – the “Best Nation in the World”.

I shit gold turds.