Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Weekend at the Dream King's Palace - Part Two

For those that don't know, aside from an accredited Gaming Geek, I am also the announcer for the Chippewa Valley Roller Girls, the Eau Claire area's original Women's Flat Track Roller Derby league. Not only had this sport made me friends with a great group of dedicated and fun ladies, but it's had a few side perks as well.

Now, I know that this about this weekend, but there's really a year-long preamble to how things got to this weekend, and I think it's important to recount my side of those events.

Last Halloween, I had the pleasure of attending The Gathering of American Gods at the House on the Rock. I was thrilled just to be going to one of my favorite places on the face of the earth to celebrate one of my favorite works of fiction. Little did I know how it would my personal worlds of derby and literature collide in a most unexpected way.

So, I kept running into Neil at the event all weekend, in strange ways that often seemed to be driven by fate. And perhaps they were.

I had heard that the Fabulous Lorraine, Neil's assistant as well as a very talented lady in her own right, was a fan of derby. I thought that was pretty cool, since she was lived in the Eau Claire area, and I should find a way to invite her to our upcoming bouts. Then, on a late October Saturday morning, things happened that changed a lot of stuff.

Through a series of rather inexplicable events including my inability to make a decision, rocking out to a Drums album so intently that I missed an important left turn, and forgetting a pack of cigarettes in my car, I ended up entering the House on the Rock right alongside Neil and Lorraine.

I gave a polite nod and hello to Neil, and sort of pulled back in the group a little, not wanting to intrude. I ended up walking next to Lorraine, and decided that it would be a Good Thing to strike up a conversation about derby. So, I confirmed that she was a fan, let her know about CVRG and my announcing for them, and found out that she was one of the people who got turned away from our first sold-out bout. We chatted for a bit about derby and her getting to join Neil and Amanda Palmer and others on stage at the Evelyn Evelyn show I had attended a month or so prior, and then let the group go on their way to take photographs in the carousel room.

"That was pretty cool," I thought.

As the weekend went on, I met Neil in passing a couple more times, and kept running into Lorraine. We talked derby some more, she introduced me to Joan of Dark from Naptown, and talked about how excited she was to get to skate for her first time that weekend.

I became facebook friends with Lorraine, and we would chat about derby. I'd let her know when the bouts were, and when practice was, and encouraged her to come and skate with the girls and give it a go. You can read all about Lorraine's adventures on her blog at her website.

The months rolled by. Lorraine attended the bouts. Neil came with her to one, and it was great. I got to meet Joan of Dark again, as well as Lorraine's awesome friend Daisy. Things were going well.

Then Lorraine started attending practices, which made me very happy for her. I knew how much she wanted to, and how scared she was at the same time, and it was just great to be there to see her take her first steps, as I had for a lot of other girls on the team. It's amazing to watch that confidence develop and really empower these ladies. You can tell just by watching how life-changing it is for most of them.

So, fast forward to the beginning of Season Two, and the Back-to-School Bruise-a-Thon mixer this weekend. In that time, I've moved twice and ended up in Janesville, a four hour drive from Eau Claire. There's no way that I'm not going to announce for CVRG, though, as long as it's realistically possible for me to do so. Lorraine is now head of the Events Committee for the league, and has been nice enough to provide a place for Kristen and I to stay when we come up for the bouts.

So, a couple days before the big event, I get a message from Lorraine that there might be snag - photographer Kyle Cassidy is going to be in town, and she's not really going to have enough room at her place.

"So," she says, "you guys will be staying at Neil's house."

In the second or two following that, a lot of stuff went through my head. Part of me fainted dead away. Part of me just kept screaming "OMIGOD!" over and over again. Part of me was trying to calm the other parts down. Neil's just a person. He does regular old person-y stuff like everybody else does. Part of me thought, "Is that what my life is now? Spending the weekend announcing four back-to-back derby bouts, meeting world-famous photographers, and hanging out at an award-winning author's house? I can deal with that."

I'm pretty sure the cool and collected part won out at first, but as the days went on, that "OMIGOD!" voice got stronger. Not only was I getting to announce for these lovely roller warrior women, but I was going to get to sleep at Neil Gaiman's house? OH. MY. GOD!

So, the weekend was furious and fun. A four hour drive from Janesville to Eau Claire, most of which was spent coming up with some, if I do say so myself, pretty awesome intros for a ton of skaters from other leagues that would be attending. It was so nice to see everyone again when I arrived, and I'm still always a little surprised at how warm the welcomes are. Self-esteem issues, I guess, but whatever.

Then set up at the venue, which is always a blast to witness. Thankfully, the arena had internet access, so I could get some sponsor info. Most of the rest of the time was spent wrangling data into spreadsheets for team rosters, ref info, sponsors, timelines, season schedule, blah blah blah. All rather tedious stuff that you're not interested in.

The bout itself was spectacular, even though it was incredibly cold and attendance was low. I got to see a lot of great skaters from other leagues and got to witness some of the new crop of CVRG skaters - Velveteen Rogue, Toxic Hell, Emmachete, Medium Rare, Sissy Strangler, Shawtown Shankher, Jinx'd Karma, and of course Quiche MeDeadly (Lorraine).

"This is really fascinating, Mat," you're probably saying, "but when are going to get around to your stay at Neil's?"

Well, kids, THAT is going to have to wait until tomorrow's post.

I know, I'm such a tease.

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