And my final kooky adventures in Port Angeles were brought to me by the strong and sexy women of the Port Scandalous roller derby team.
I don’t know about you, but my childhood memories are dotted with some notable nostalgia related to rebellious rants at the roller derby. As a family, we went to the local derby games and all I remember is promising myself at the beginning of each game that THIS TIME I would maintain some level of calm and cool. And then inevitably, after a few minutes into the game, I would be up and out of my seat, screaming at the top of my lungs for the skaters to break though and score more points. It was very emotional. As any good game of roller derby should be.
So I didn’t hesitate when I heard that the Port Angeles roller derby team – Port Scandalous – hosts free “Welcome Wednesdays” every week at the local YMCA. Every week, the players open up their 2-hour practice to anyone who’s interested in learning about the sport and who is brave enough to put on some skates and some gear and get out onto the basketball court turned rink and get skating. Sign me up!
On the first of my two Welcome Wednesday adventures, I walked down the hall of the YMCA, turned the corner and walked onto the basketball court…where I saw about eight or nine women dressed in all black tank tops and shorts, fully suited and clearly experienced. My eyes scanned the floor, along the bodies of the players and the wheels and the gear all thrown about. And my nose registered sweet and sour smells that suggested a level of serious play for which I was not at all prepared.
So, yeah…this was the real thing.
But it was Welcome Wednesday! And there I was… with my long sleeve shirt, corduroy pants, and winter vest, along with a gap of about 30 or so years since I last found myself rolling along on a pair of skates. In a moment of panic, I wondered if I had misunderstood the purpose of the night and if I should turn around and run back to the safety and shelter of my carpeted home. Perhaps the look of fear was evident on my face and helps to explain why I was quickly approached by Preditor in Chief, Lily Hammer, and StayC/DC (derby names!), who assured me that I was indeed “welcome” and promptly fitted me with skates, a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist pads.
After ditching the vest and gearing up as best I could, I managed somehow to get on my wheeled up feet and over to the wall, which I gripped for dear life as I reminded myself how to travel using this classic mode of transportation. Back and forth and back and forth I went along the wall until the memories came flooding back. Oh yes, yes, yes…now I remember. In fact, I remember roller skating quite a bit as a child. I remember the Aloha Roller Rink, where I gathered with friends and looked forward to the hokey pokey and rexing sessions. I also remember one of the greatest things that my mom ever let me do – skate in the house! From room to room, over tile and carpet, up and down stairs, and over rugs. I remember gliding along like a pro and circling around like a flower. And I don’t remember falling.
At least that’s how I remember this skating thing from my early years. So now, in this basketball court at the YMCA in Port Angeles…as I gradually let go of the wall and regained some muscle memory from long ago, I figured I had this. I’m an old time pro. These women will be amazed at what I can do… (at the very least, I will impress them with my amazing ability at not falling)
And with that, I launched myself into the court and began twirling around the “track”. Round and round, with speed increasing and confidence flowing… and eyes wandering over to watch the real pros in action. And it was these pros, so brilliantly led by Preditor in Chief (Chief for short) and Lily Hammer, who instructed us newbies on the various foundational techniques that provide the basis for all that they do. The turning and stopping and squatting while moving… the walking without rolling, the gliding on one knee, and the ever elusive “opening doors” (which require you to lift one foot and place it parallel and in line with the other, followed quickly by seamless turning and another round of opening doors). All of it really, so hard to explain. And even harder to accomplish. Even though the ladies did a brilliant job of instructing (with much needed doses of humor and compassion!), I was quickly reduced to stumbling and screeching at a pace of what seemed like virtually negative miles per hour. These exercises take skill and balance, finesse and strength..all perched delicately on top of loads of patience and months of practice. So, yeah…after two nights of skating with the lovely ladies of Port Scandalous, I figure I have a long way to go towards the dream of roller derby stardom.
But what fun nights of fantastic instruction and friendly faces. Granting me a whole new appreciation for the strength and talent of these women. And giving me great gratitude for my continued ability, at the very least, to not fall down.
Coming up – Part 2: A night at the derby…