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Thursday, March 17, 2016

FIGHTS: LOUDMOUTH: Chapter 5 - The Rockstar Realization and the Delicate Balance...

At the end of my past life, I earned the right to be the first flat track derby announcer with the Texas Rollergirls.

What follows is a very old, very unauthorized, and very unedited version of the document I produced describing my experiences during the genesis of flat track derby.  It would be some of the last moments of my past life.

Enjoy.

LOUDMOUTH: Confessions of a Flat Track Derby Announcer

By

Bowie V. Ibarra


Copyright 2007  Bowie V. Ibarra

“T-T-T-Totally, dude”
- Shop Boyz, “Party like a Rockstar”

Chapter V:  The Rockstar Realization and the delicate balance

            I’ll never forget the night when I realized the Texas Rollergirls were going to be bigger than the Beatles, and it looked like the gang and I were going to be allowed to ride their coattails.
            A game was scheduled in Dallas, Texas.  A ragtag travel team of available Texas Rollergirls was to promote flat track for a league of eager north Texas rollergirls hungry for derby action.  Assassination City rollergirls would be our host, and the crosstown rivals, the Dallas Derby Devils, would also be in attendance.  Both teams had been practicing and were soon to make their marks in the annals of flat track derby.
            The rollergirls had procured a travel bus for the trip.  It was a very special bus that, from what I remember, Gibson guitar sponsored.  I would join a contingent of rollergirls and coaches in this vehicle, riding up to Dallas and back in style. 
            The bus was a large white vehicle that somehow reminded me of a mass transit bus you would see in New York City, or the Austin Capital Metro Bus.  One side of the bus was a large tinted window and I seem to remember some kind of transparent promotional poster on one side.  The interior was nice as well: leather seats and a big karaoke machine.  It was also equipped with lots and lots of space for drinks, and geez did these girls fill up those ice chests.
            As we hit the road, the girls began playing on the karaoke machine.  Maybe I have not been to enough karaoke bars, but these girls really rocked to every song they played.  It was certainly a contrast to the last karaoke bar I was at…..
           
            It was on my honeymoon.  My newly wedded wife and I took our honeymoon two weeks after our wedding in Padre Island.  Before I go on, let me suggest to everyone reading this book who is planning on getting married to take your honeymoon immediately after the wedding.  Do not take several days off.  Go straight there.  The trip felt two weeks too late, and though we have preserved some great vacation moments on film and video, the time between the wedding and honeymoon was too far apart to be fun.
            Anyway, Padre was probably the last place we should have gone for our honeymoon as the place, being off season so to speak (with “season” being two weeks every year in March), was like being in an earthbound purgatory.  The people running every dive along the coastline seemed to be cursed to work the place from open to close forever.  I think the people working for the owners were also serving some cosmic indentured servitude as well, as their moping and shambling speed reminded me of a George Romero movie.  When you are a “land lubber” like myself, you tend to expect things like good customer service and smiles from the people you are handing money to.
            I will never forget on about the third day we went to this dive.  I knew the owner was very obviously some long lost descendant of Sisyphus.  The guy never smiled and it took the third visit to realize why.
            As I walked into his coastline establishment on that third visit, it was abundantly clear the man had been driven insane, destined to listen to the King of the Parrotheads, Jimmy Buffett himself, until he shuffles off this mortal coil.  On each and every visit, I heard “Cheeseburger in Paradise” at least twice each time.  It annoyed me and I was only there for a little while each time.  That guy was having his soul scourged every hour of every day of the year for eternity.  It must have been like hearing animals slaughtered, or listening to Chip Queso calling a game.  A fate worse than death.
            At any rate, the mainland was just as bad.  Before XXXXXX and I were to engage in one of our first big fights as a married couple, we traveled to a bar for some drinks.  In a bar right next to ours, it was karaoke night.  But not like a fun karaoke night, but the karaoke nigh of lost souls.  I have never heard more depressing songs sung horribly in a row before.  A room full of souls fit for a group suicide.  Where’s Jim Jones and his bowl of Kool-Aid when you need it?
            Anyway, so the Dallas trip….
           
            The girls rocked the karaoke machine.  While listening to the songs, I overheard a couple of girls quoting “Napoleon Dynamite”, a movie that connected to many people at the time.  In an effort to join the quote-a-thon and be friendly, I did my best Pedro presidential stump speech.
            “Hello.  I don’t have much to say except that I’d like to get some holy santos to put up in the hallways to protect the kids and bring good luck.”
            It was greeted with lukewarm appreciation.
            Apart from learning their names at practices, I had never really hung out with the girls.  They seemed untouchable to me.  Specifically, they were the stars, I was just a voice meant to get them over with the crowds.
            I was hanging out with “Kool Aid” for the most part, but Crazy Dukes was very amicable as well.  There was an interesting vulnerability to her.  Throughout the trip, she would make comments that drew laughs from everyone around her.  Unfortunately, they were chuckles of the “laugh-at-you” variety.  It was actually kind of charming.
            Someone else who was very cool to me on the trip that I never expected to ever hold a conversation with was Dinah Mite.  Sure she was an athletic dream physically, I was more in awe at her status as one of the greatest flat trackers in the league.  I kept a respectful distance, more out of reverence than 7th grade “fear of the pretty girl”.
            Through scattered conversation, I found out she was a metal head.  She apparently was a big fan of Megadeth, which somehow took me by surprise.  Considering she posed in an artfully done nude photo with an electric guitar covering her naughty bits for a local rock station, it somehow made sense.  Her Aquarius air complemented my Aries fire and we got along as casual acquaintances.
            We arrived at the venue to little fanfare.  It seemed like we were early and in a part of town that was not like I pictured.  The place was called “What’s Fun World”.  It was your standard skate place: Part Chucky Cheese, part ‘70’s retro, and a little stinky.  I somehow remember it being very purple.
            When we got there, girls were gearing up and skating on the track.  The track itself was a stark contrast to the Playland surface.  This Dallas track was a textured rubber material colored and designed for kids, built for grip.  It was going to be very fast.  It would be an interesting night for the girls on this new surface.
            Slowly, the crowd started filtering in.  A contingent of Triple D’s (Dallas Derby Devils) had also shown up.  I seem to recall the Assassination City girls were once part of the Devils.  The “start-a-league-then-split” trend started with us and seems to be a tradition with many teams to this day.
            Since it was a special bout, I made sure to dress up nice and special.  I put on my off-white dinner jacket, black slacks, and black bow tie with suspenders.  Pretty sharp.  Stylin’ and profilin’ as always.
            The announce team had a mic issue, with two mics being set up in two very different areas.  It was an interesting coordination, but we made it work.  Chip and Whiskey stayed on the floor while Jim and I stood in a booth above the floor.  At this point, our performances were still very informal with no set times to speak, but we had our titles.  Those titles had no bearing on when to talk, although they probably should have as the years developed.
            Though in our early days our announcing was quite informal, there was still a sense of competition, of claiming a bit of territory among the announce team.  It somehow went unsaid, but we all seemed to feel like flat track was going to take off and we all wanted to lay claim to our small fiefdom within the league.
            In my opinion, the senority of being a part of the first flat track league was beginning to show in the dynamic of the announce team.  With Les’ departure at the beginning of the second season, we were left with no real leadership.  As a professional, Les took the reigns and really defined our roles in the beginning.  There was a definite learning curve and a lot of growth still needed for our crew.
            But as a team, some of our growth was taking a different evolutionary path.  And like evolution, it was making itself stronger in order to thrive.
            On this night, it was the least of our worries as we had to deal with an infiltrator to our ranks: Pinky.
            Pinky was one of the original Texas Rollergirls and served her team, the Hot Rod Honey’s, with honor and skill.  Pinky was very slender, but very capable, with a reputation for dislocating her shoulder.  I remember the first championship game in which she took a tumble and shifted her shoulder out of joint.  I watched in horror her shoulderbone jutting out beneath her flesh at a very unnatural angle.  It was even more horrifying to watch the medical crew attempt to put it back in.  The condition led to her retirement.
            So on this night in Dallas, Pinky was apparently assigned to the announce team.  She joined Jim and I in the booth.  It was not the most pleasant of set ups.  As a “less is more” proponent, four voices is a lot when gone unchecked.  Five is way too many in our group of unchecked voices.  Jim and I were having a hard time figuring out how to tell her she was not doing so well.
            Again, it was our lack of authority.  No one was in charge, formally, so no one could really tell her how to perform on the mic.  She was alright in the end, but there was a lot of grabbing of the mic out of our hands on this night.
            The crowd was also very cool, too.  For Dallas.  I halfway expected girls with big hair and Rocky Mountain jeans, but was quite wrong.  The venue was BYOB, so people could bring their own drinks.  A couple walked in with a case of Milwaukee’s Best and graciously gave me one.  O.K., maybe I asked for it, but it was still cool of them.
            The bout was a lot of fun despite the tension and we were ready for the afterparty.  Before the bus took off, I got a chance to talk to Vendetta von Dutch, who stepped on the bus for a few moments to check it out.  She was clad in a leather jacket with a large Kiss Army patch.  Though it was a stupid question, I asked if she was a fan.  Stupid, sure.  But it was a chance to get in the head of one of my favorite rollergirls.
            I asked her a controversial KISS question: with or without makeup.  As a true fan, her answer was for me to ignore their unmasked body of work.  When asked what one album I should have of Kiss, she quickly stated “Double Platinum” is the must have KISS CD.
            Before long, the trip to the afterparty began, and I really was surprised at how wild many of these girls were.  It was kind of like being with a bunch of guys in a football beer league.  Drinks were passed around and they even pulled over at one point so a couple of rollergirls could pee under a bridge.
            We were about to pull in to the location of the afterparty when Crazy Duke’s boyfriend called.  He allegedly had an eye for trouble and had arrived before we got there.  He “cased” the bar and claimed there could be trouble brewing.  It made sense to me as it was Dallas and my perception of the people of the city did not jive with a bus load of free-spirited Austinites, despite being hosted by like-minded Dallas girls.
            The bus pulled up in front of the bar.  A small crowd had gathered outside.  It was a little surprising to me.  As we stood to exit the bus, Jim Jones stood behind me and, patting me on the shoulder, whispered “We’re rock stars, man.”
            It was a bit of a shock as the people cheered for the rollergirls and how I was fortunate to be a part of this moment.  I placed my hands together in a votive gesture, bowing to the fans before shaking a few hands.  It was an amazing feeling.  I had never considered Jim’s perception of the event, but it seemed a precise observation.
            The bar was nice, though edgy enough to house a rollergirl afterparty.  The DJ was Dallas chic and sophisticated, playing his musical set over the loudspeaker from his I-Pod and a modest mixer.  That alone amazed me at the time, even though the technology has advanced that much since then.  But it was a reminder of the kind of money I always picture people in Dallas having.
            Naturally, the girls made themselves at home, and I must admit, I felt a little out of place.  It would not be the last time.  Dinah came up and talked to me briefly, which was cool.  But apart from that, most of the girls were bathing in their well deserved glory.
            I did try to socialize a bit.  A blonde lady standing near a pool table motioned to me to talk to her.  I should have known she was trouble, and not the rollergirl by the same name.  She was the literal definition of the word.  She asked where we were from, and we began a conversation about flat track derby when her hulking boyfriend strode to the pool table.  He heard her comment that she wanted to be a rollergirl, and her boyfriend drew the conclusion that she, “didn’t eat enough pussy to be a rollergirl” before threatening me to stay away from his girl.
            The last thing I needed was to have some juiced up musclehead try to pound me into the ground.  Fights are always very appealing to me, but rationally impractical.  Returning home beat up and bloody is kind of a hard situation to explain to the wife.  And what would happen to my white dinner jacket.  That would be the saddest part of all.  So I amicably finished the conversation despite the glare from Captain Steroid and said goodbye to the lady, feeling more alone than ever.
            I found my male collegues in the restroom and the moment felt abuzz with lustful intentions.  Jim was struggling with his devotion to his girlfriend and seducing a rollergirl.  Chip, in the midst of a divorce, seemed to be living vicariously through Jim, following him like the little Chihuahua that follows the big bulldog in the Bugs Bunny cartoons.
            In a moment of clarity, I told Jim if the pull to this particular ‘girl was so strong, he needed to respond to it and dump his girlfriend.  I explained there would be a time when he would not have the opportunity again, so he needed to live in the moment.
            It was pretty much a commentary on my situation.  Having joined the rollergirls just months before getting married, it was a bit of a difficult transition.  Being around so many cool girls, I had to really adjust my feelings toward them.  It was kind of a mental conditioning, a reeducation and hard change of perception that would occasionally make me aloof, ignoring obvious charms.
            But do I completely ignore my female friends in derby.  Absolutely not.  Though my female friends in derby are few and far between (read: several hundred miles, in most cases), I have never crossed the line with any of them and have remained faithful to my wife and child.  If anything, I have kept things social with a drink and conversation, which are super rare.  Some people are just really cool and I’d like to get to know them in the social setting.  This was at the heart of my discomfort, being at the mercy of this travel team.  More on that later.
            Vendetta and her husband, 8-Track, and myself decided to escape the bar for a few moments and try to find a place to eat.  It turned into a cool little adventure.
            Apparently, we were in the portion of the city that was the couple’s old stomping ground.  Vendetta’s husband was a tall, gruff man with a small ‘50’s style quaff of hair and a ducktail, stubble, a cigarette and a leather jacket.  The boots he wore were probably worn to many of the same places he was describing.
            “There used to be a bar in that building there that was kick ass, but now it sucks.  There was one over there where I got into a fight once.  But the people that go there now suck.”  It was our very own punk rock travelogue of Dallas, a scene I would never thought the city could have.
            We found a place we thought was open.  It turned out they just stopped serving food.  Dallas certainly was not like Austin.  On the way through the shop to use the restroom, I said hello to an aspiring Assassin who was looking cute in leg warmers and pumps.  On the way back, 8-Track called me out, commenting that she saw me making time with the girl.  Maybe, but it was just a fleeting moment and did not mean anything after the moment itself.  I cannot even recall what the brief conversation was about. 
            The evening was wrapping up and we were about to load onto the bus once again.  I was feeling rather nauseous, as the stagnant smoke of the bar had given me a headache coupled with the tummy ache the beer had provided me ever so generously.  I knew the bus trip home was going to be very unpleasant.  So I needed to find a place to throw up. 
            I stepped about a block away from the bus to try and throw up to no avail.  “Kool Aid” even tried to gag me with his finger, once again to no avail.  He even offered to choke me with his schlong, but I politely refused.  Now that’s a friend for you.
            I remember going back on the bus and seeing Punk Rock Phil flat on his back in the back of the bus.  The smoke and beer had got to him, too.  I remember how enormous his belly looked as he groaned in misery.  Phil refused to throw up, claiming proudly he had never thrown up over drinking in his life.  I’d never met the guy formally and seemed to be a real superfan as far as I knew.  I’m pretty sure he’s a coach today, and could not tell you his relationship to any rollergirl at this point.
            The proceeding three to four hour back were the most miserable four hours I have ever spent in my life.  Had the bus been a traditional bus, it might have been a good trip.  But the positioning of the seats in limousine style instead of traditional bus seats, so it was nearly impossible to sit comfortably.  Not to mention White Lightnin’ and several other girls proceeding to party the rest of the trip, being very loud and hilariously obnoxious.  Those girls definitely know how to party.
            We arrived back at Playland very early the next morning.  Monday morning traffic was already congesting the highways and the bright sun was poking my eyes.  Dinah Mite went back on a promise to lend me her MegaDeth CD.  I guess she was just as tired as I was and ready to get home.  Or just plain forgot she said she’d lend it to me. 
            I still had to negotiate the morning traffic to get home.  I was miserable, but my body was providing me with a little energy, the initial morning boost before the body figures out its out of gas.
            Though the ride up was enjoyable and the call average, in the end, I’m not sure if taking the bus was worth it.  Arriving home so very late to my wife to our new home and infant child, I felt very guilty.  There was no real welcome home when I finally got back.  XXXXX was left alone for an entire day with the baby.  It probably would not be a big deal if it was work, but it wasn’t.  I came home with nothing to show but a cruel exhaustion that would only build more resentment in my wife toward the rollergirls.
           
/   /   /   /   /   /


            This sounds like an appropriate time to talk about how I met my wife, and the greatest wedding ever.

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