The morning was a comedy of mild errors for me, as I went through my usual pack at the last minute routine. I had a lot of opportunities to forget things -- phone, laptop power supply, toothbrush, credit card -- remembered them all after nearly forgetting. Paused at my apartment door on the way out, thinking, man, I know there's one more thing... but I also just knew that as many other things as had juggled through my short-term memory registers in the previous hour, it wasn't going to come to me. Less than an hour before departure time so I'd already cut it way too close, so I said "ok, whatever it is, I'm living without it."
Tore down to the airport (I <3 509), sent the car home with my friend Blake who'd driven in with me, looked in horror at the American Airlines checkin counter... where the hell are all you people going at 7am on a Saturday? Got there just as the agent working the line was saying "anyone else for the 7:08?" so thankfully I got to jump the line. Boarding pass in hand, it was only at security that I realized it... hm, seems like I'm not putting as many different things in bins as I did flying to Tucson. Let's see, bag 1, laptop, boots... oh my god my HAT. How in the hell did I forget my *hat*? Yes, yes, of course it's not like I couldn't get a hat in Austin... but that's not the point. This hat... yes, *that* hat... by god, that hat NEEDS to see Texas. I cannot believe I failed it so. I just hope it'll understand how badly I feel... and after the rest of Saturday, I feel certain that I'll be back to Austin before long, so next time is Hat's time for sure.
I was sure I had to be the very last person to get on the plane, but one more person came on after me, then another... then about five minutes behind me, a very sleepy-looking Basket Casey. Also on the flight were Lorna Boom, D-Bomb, and Matilda the Hun, as well as speed coach Francine. After takeoff I nabbed the empty seat in their row, and picked their brains for some teammate anecdotes for my on-mike debut tonight. Loooong flight, 3 hours 50 minutes to DFW then a wait for the 1-hour hop to Austin, where we got cars, picked up Ann R. Kissed, and went our separate ways for the day.
Yesterday afternoon and early evening, the girls checked in and gathered the rest of the team from several flights before going to Playland for the public open skate to get used to the floor. The upside: I hear that the floor feels grippy and fast, and mostly enjoyable to skate on. The downside: Hello, concrete! This will be the hardest surface any Rat City Rollergirls team has ever bouted on, so hard fauls will be potentially more jarring than they're accustomed too. Sport court may not seem like a whole lot of protection, but don't knock it.
Meanwhile, I paid a visit to Austin's banked-track league*, who are playing a bout the same night. I'd determined earlier that I'd be arriving just in time to help them load up their track for transportation to their temporary digs, which they're doing for each bout this season while their current home undergoes further renovation. I got to meet some great people, and confirmed what didn't surprise me at all: that derby is derby, despite any geometry details. There's definitely a lot to be said for picking up heavy stuff for a couple of hours to shake off five hours on airplanes! Pictures to come... I love a lot of little things about their home venue, lots of truly home-y touches. Had my first Lone Star beer, which went down easy... a little too easy. Foreshadowing of things to come.
After getting cleaned up, I met up with Texas Rollergirls announcer Chip Queso, who was entertaining a ref and a couple skaters from the Denver Roller Dolls. Texas Rollergirl Muffin Tumble and Lonestar Rollergirls Witch Baby and Miss Conduct were all working at Austin's derby bar of choice, whose name cannot be disclosed for security reasons. Not long after I arrived, my phone heralded the imminent arrival of Burnett Down, Basket Casey, Tash-ya 'Round and Steve, and General Anesthesia. Much derby love was had by all, and once again it became apparent that the Rat City Rollergirls logo is just the most outstandingly awesomest logo that ever there was!
Before you ask: yes, Miss Conduct is as adorable in person as she was on the show, and yes, she is very friendly. And holy shit is the "derby discount" good at the bar which cannot be named. Here's a nice skater moment:
General Anesthesia and I were somewhat alarmed to note just how fast a bottle of Lone Star empties. Even more alarming: finding out just at last call that we'd have to order something else, because we'd drank the place *out* of Lone Star.
Next stop, late-night food. Waffle House got nixed in favor a local favorite, whose name I would in fact share if I can remember it. Star-something. Very good food, which we were enjoying by about, oh, I wanna say a quarter to four? Except poor Tash-ya 'Round, far and away the hungriest of us, whose order was first forgotten, then turned in completely wrong, and finally delivered a good half hour after the rest of ours. Sufficiently sobered up, I was returned to my rental car which I drove back to the hotel, spent a little time winding down from the diner coffee, and finally went to sleep around 6am.
11:15 am - Phone rings. It's Lorna Boom inviting me to join the DLF crew and several Texas Rollergirls at Austin Java for brunch. Fantastic eggs benedict and bacon, and a darned fine mocha. Heard lots of other happy-tummy noises around me from people eating a wide variety of foods. From there we split up, many of us to go shopping in the Congress shopping district. Lots and lots of little independent shops there... Seattle people, think a little bit of Fremont, a little bit of Pike Place, a little bit of the waterfront, not quite as dense as the last two but similar variety.
I, of course, was on a mission. I'd intended to shop for boots while I was here, and indeed I ended up at Allen's Boots, but on a more urgent search: Hurt Reynolds requires a hat. I must've looked at every dark-colored hat in the store, and there were lots of them... found a few that I liked, but nothing that really spoke to me, and many were just not in my size... I have a big head, and that's not a metaphor, that's a statement of physical fact. The one I picked doesn't meet all my hopes and dreams, but it'll suit my purposes.
I made up for it, though, by going ahead and buying boots anyway. I'm really happy with the pair I found. I'm wearing them tonight despite the fact that they will surely destroy my feet... but what can you do? I have a team to support and a production to represent, and by god that's just what I'm gonna do!
On that note, it's time to go. The girls feel good. Both teams are equally beat up, so the bout will truly be a test of the teams as a whole and not just a couple key players. DLF has demonstrated time and again that they have the heart and resolve necessary to do great things... and make no mistake, winning this bout, would be a truly Great Thing. Note it well: in the modern roller derby era, no team from anywhere else has ever beaten any team from Austin. Will tonight be the night that remarkable record falls?
Stay tuned to find out!
* A little background for the uninitiated: Modern roller derby was born right here in Austin in 2001. The city now plays home to two separate roller derby leagues, one (Lonestar Rollergirls, recently featured on an A&E reality series) playing on a traditional banked track allowing for higher speeds and faster action, while the other (Texas Rollergirls plays flat-track like RCRG does, foregoing the physics of the banked track in favor of reduced fixed costs. The two leagues share common roots and an always-complicated relationship, which I will not specifically comment on further.
On a more general note, it's worth pointing out that many, many budding roller derby leagues have experienced some form of traumatic organizational-restructuring at some time during their formation or early operations. While it's easy (and understandable) to bemoan this fact, I personally think that this is a *good* thing. Each person involved must commit enormous time, sweat, and dollars to the sport, and the odds that several dozen people will all be that passionate about an identical vision are narrow in the extreme. While it's clearly distressing to go through a shakeup, I think leagues are smarter to confront their differences and test for realisitic compromises, sooner rather than later. Not everyone's ideas may be viable, but the viable ideas should survive the trial by fire (and history is already showing that they do). If you're starting a league and getting dissillusioned by building frictions, don't dispair... you are following in the footsteps of greatness, and you can make it through as others have before you!