Merry Christmas from Doc Strangeskates

26 Dec

I’m sure you’ve all been good little rollerskaters this year, so here are some things to read and watch over the holidays.  I hope you like them.

This is a 1977 article detailing how to make vertical roller skates, written by Tim Altic.  

This is a video interview with Mike McGill, where he discusses the invention of the McTwist, and credits Mr. Fred Blood with being the inspiration for the trick.

Some friends and I were talking about starting a freeskating (like free running) club.  After doing some research, however, I think I’d prefer to start doing some skatecross.  Click here to see what that is.

What kind of skates are recommended for skate cross?  Click here to find out.

Finally, this is a link to a video of Skatopia.  At 2:25, there is a girl rollerskater hitting the ramps in side-stance.  I will owe you big time if you can identify her.

That’s it for now.  The Doctor’s gotta go get his roll on.  Until next time, keep your toes pointing down, and throw your face into the danger.

An Organized List of Chaos

16 Aug

A friend asked me recently to compile a list of links to the stories I’ve written about my life.   For the most part, this list is in chronological order, though there is a bit of overlap.

I’d like to state that everything on this site was written for personal reasons, then polished and made public as a means of “selling myself” as a writer.  I am not narcissistic enough to believe that anyone actually wants to read several thousand words of what is basically a polished personal journal.  However, if you find yourself reading this, and you’re feeling masochistic, you could start at the start, dive deep into an ugly criminal life, and come out the other side flying on roller skates.

I did.  And it wasn’t a bad ride.

The Bad Ol Days:

Deep Cuts 1

Deep Cuts2

Deep Cuts3

Don

Rudy

Helicoptors Over Leon Street

Tom

Grandpas Ashes

Skating Into Grace:

Happy Mamaskatrix Day

Where the Hell Have I Been Lately

Vertical Update

Done Got Religion

What’s in a Roller Derby Name pt.1: Who’s Your Mamaskatrixx

Let Dr. Strangeskates Make it Better

6 Jul

Some strange skate stuff for all you strange skaters out there.  Click on the links and be perplexed.

Meet the world’s youngest roller skate limbo champion.

My poor bird is going to be subjected to this all summer.  Skate-birder.

Want some strange skateboards?  Check out Freeboarding.

Ever wondered what would happen if you put your skates in the microwave?

Dr. Strangeskates Goes Old School

28 Jun

It’s been a while since my last skate-link update.  I’m bringing back some oldies but goodies, for all my derby peeps who’ve never experienced the link-salad goodness that is Dr. Strangeskates.

Enjoy.

Freeline skates.  A hybrid between sideways inline skates and a skateboard.  Make sure you keep watching until the skaters start doing flip-tricks.

Orbit skates.  Like sideways skates, except you put your feet INSIDE the wheel.

Starlight Express.  My dream job.

Rocket skates.  And a little bit of jackass, just to keep it all real.

What’s in a Roller Derby Name Part 1: Who’s Your Mamaskatrixx

23 Jun

For those of you who don’t know me and/or haven’t read any of the older blogs, here’s an update.  I was a suicidally depressed engineering student when my wife announced she was joining roller derby.  I graduated about the same time she and our daughters became involved in the roller derby community, and I started roller-skating in order to spend more time with them.  I learned lots of jam skating and fell in love with roller skates in general.  Then I drove past a skatepark and thought: “I wonder if people could do that on roller-skates.”

Turns out, you can.

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My last blog update Done Got Religion, was all about skating in skateparks.  I talked about how the dynamics involved in skating parks  — the linear momentum becoming rotational momentum, the back and forth between kinetic and potential energy — made me feel closer to Mother Earth, my fellow humans, and the kinematic truth of the universe itself.  It was some next-level hippie shit that I would normally consider too corny to say aloud, nevertheless put into print, if not for the fact that it’s totally true.  I am a roller skate zealot.

That being said, it seems odd that it took me so long to warm to the idea of playing roller derby.  After all, I was already a fan of the sport before I started skating.  I loved the action and the theatricality of the bouts I’d seen.  A friend of mine once described a woman’s roller derby bout as: “Nascar in a strip club: a bunch of hot chicks and left turns.”  I don’t even like Nascar, and the description appeals to me.

So why did I resist playing for so long?

Mostly, I blame the enforced sports of public school.  I was one of those kids who got picked last whenever the class had to divvy up into teams.  I wasn’t slow or weak or uncoordinated.  I was just a spastic geek who didn’t understand the rules to anything.  Playing any team sport left me feeling like a foolish and inadequate outsider.  So, while I loved watching roller derby, I loathed the idea of playing it myself.

I was also concerned about embarrassing my wife.  As I mentioned in Happy Mamaskatrixx Day, my wife decided to join roller derby a few weeks after tryouts for that year had finished.  As a consequence, she was unable to be on the official “fresh meat” team.  One of the many solutions she found to that problem was to train with the local men’s team, called Lane County Concussion.  She did this for several months, even bench coaching for them a few times.  By the time she was finally accepted to the women’s fresh meat team, she’d already become Mamaskatrixx, a well-known satellite of the roller derby community.

I, on the other hand, showed up for my first day of derby immediately after spending five years with my head buried in various textbooks.  Since giving up drinking fifteen years earlier, I’d reverted to the same spastic geek I’d been in public school, only now, I was also out of shape and cripplingly shy.

As I walked into the sports center where our derby league practices, all my old fears and insecurities resurfaced.  The huge indoor area was buzzing with more than a hundred skaters.  People yelled instructions to their teammates over the background roar of nearly a thousand rolling wheels, and the whole place smelled like sweat and dirty skate gear.

I could not have felt more out of place.

The only guy on Lane County Concussions I knew was Speed Dealer Jeff.  He and I had done some jam skating together at the local skating rink, and he taught me how to skate in a skatepark, so I considered him a friend.  I’d talked to some of the other guys, but I didn’t really know them.

They knew my wife, however.  Most of them had skated with her.  They knew she was a strong and disciplined skater who could take a hit and give one back.  I, on the other hand, had no discipline whatsoever, got winded on a single flight of stairs, and was terrified of skating anywhere near another person.  My son used to take advantage of this fact at our local roller rink, inching ever closer to me as we skated until I ran into the wall.  My eldest daughter tried to help me by making me hold her hand as we skated, but I always had to break it off after a couple sweaty, nerve-wracking laps.

So when my wife asked me to try skating with the men’s derby team for two months, I agreed.  I figured it would help me get over my fear of skating near people, as well as give me more cardio for my jam and skatepark skating.  Also, Jeff had asked me to try it out, and the guy had pretty much taught me how to skate, so my skates and I owed him at least an honest effort.

“You ready?” he asked me as I geared up on that first day.

“No.”

“Don’t worry.  You’re going to do great.”

Then someone yelled: “Paceline,” and I proved him very wrong.

As the name would suggest, a paceline is a line of skaters, all going at the same pace.  Considering the awful state of my cardio, that would have been bad enough in itself, but in a derby paceline, everyone needs to stay within touching distance of the person in front of them.  Within two laps, the pace and proximity to other skaters had me sweating and panting.

Someone yelled: “sprint-weave,” and things got much, much worse.

In a sprint-weave, the skater at the end of the paceline has to sprint up to the front, then keep sprinting around the whole track until they catch up with the paceline again, and then weave through it until they get to the front.  Then the next guy goes.

I was having trouble just keeping up with the paceline.  The idea of lapping it seemed ridiculous, and just the thought of weaving in and out of the tiny spaces between skaters nearly made me panic and fall.  Every time one of the other skaters cut in front or behind me, I flinched.

When my turn came, I gamely sprinted out in front, but could not catch back up to the back of the paceline until someone yelled “Pull!” and the whole team slowed down.  By the time I started weaving through the paceline, my legs were exhausted.  Where the other guys on the team had jumped gracefully through the spaces in the line, I slowly and awkwardly drifted between skaters, breaking up everyone’s flow and forcing myself to sprint to catch up again and again.  By the time I made it to the front of the paceline, my ears were ringing, my face tingling, and I was trying to spot a trashcan where I could puke.

But the practice kept going, and going, and going.

Eventually, I had to leave the paceline and skate around the outside of the track, where I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way.  I was mildly proud of myself for making it all the way to the water break before vomiting in the trashcan, but other than that, I felt pretty bad about the first hour of practice, and I seriously doubted my ability to make it through the second hour.  Had I not been worried about embarrassing my wife, I’d have taken off my gear and gone home.  Instead, I drank more water, puked again, and rolled out for my next hour.

In the second hour, we worked on scrimmage drills.  Having never played derby, I was completely lost.  I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help because I was afraid I’d already made myself look like an idiot during warmups.  I just wanted to attract as little attention as possible until the end of practice, and go home.  Every time I had to sneak off to vomit, I felt like people were judging me.

But then something weird happened near the end of practice.  A couple of our scrimmage drills started to resemble actual game play.  I stopped making trips to vomit water into the trashcan, and I found myself skating very close to people without worrying about falling and dragging them down.  One of the better players used me as a battering ram to smash his way through the pack, and — after the terror induced paralysis had passed — it made me feel at least somewhat useful.  Afterwards, everyone told me they wanted me to come back, which felt nice, though not nice enough for me to actually want to return.

I doubted my ability, but mostly, I didn’t feel like I belonged.  At the time, I thought the only way to get better in derby was to relentlessly drill a small set of skills to near-perfection, spending thousands of hours honing the basics like crossovers and hip checks and plow stops.  In jam or vert skating, on the other hand, I was able to keep progressing simply by expanding my skill set and learning trick after trick without ever really mastering any of them.  Also, jam and vert skating could be practiced in solitude, while roller derby required me to interact with people.

And it came down to attitude, too.  These people were athletes.  I was more of an artist.  They were disciplined.  I was creative.  We just didn’t seem to have that much in common.  Secretly, I planned on fulfilling my two-month obligation to my wife, recruiting a few of the guys to skate the skateparks with me, and quitting.

For the first two months I trained with the Lane County Concussions, we didn’t have a single practice with full attendance.  The practices usually consisted of four or five guys, and a couple drop-in skaters from the female league.  During the summer, we ditched one of our weekly practices entirely and replaced it with an outdoor skate along our city’s bike trails.  The trail skates were also sparsely attended and, for me at least, were long and embarrassing ordeals where everyone on the team, and often their girlfriends, took off skating and left me to trudge along the trails alone.  The fact that they periodically stopped skating to wait for me only made me feel worse.

I reached the end of my two months and told my wife I wanted to quit.  Roller derby took too much time, it was too hard, and I hadn’t learned to like it.  I just wanted to skate in the skatepark near my house and jam skate in my kitchen.  She pointed out that, due to the fact that my team had dropped our Thursday practices, I hadn’t actually gone to two full months of practice, and that I should give it a couple more weeks.  I agreed.

One and a half weeks later, I got a late night call from my wife.  She was crying.  She said her skate broke at practice, and she needed to go to the hospital.  I jumped in the car and made it across town just in time to learn that she had likely snapped the ACL tendon in her right knee.  Just four days from playing in her first official bout, the culmination of eighteen months hard work, and it was snatched from her because of a fucking equipment malfunction.

I really can’t express how cosmically unfair this injury was and is.  My wife worked hard to become the best derby player she could become, while I bitched and complained about derby being too hard.  She ate right, cross trained, and didn’t take unnecessary risks, while I stuffed myself with junk food, skipped out on extra training, and risked my life in skateparks whenever I could.  If anyone should have gotten hurt, statistically speaking, it should have been me.

God, I wish it had been.

I’m not going further into this part of the story, because living through it once sucked bad enough.  Just about the only spark of happiness that entered our home was when my wife watched my daughters and me play or practice roller derby.

Unfortunately, I didn’t want to do derby anymore.  I’d never gotten any better at it, and though a couple guys had made an effort to get to know me, most of the men on the team were still strangers.  Also, the men’s team was getting ready to scrimmage against the local women’s travel team, The Skatesaphrenics.  This is a team composed of some of the best women derby players from all the local teams, and I really hated the idea of playing against them.  To be fair, however, I still hated the idea of playing against anyone.

But I couldn’t bring myself to tell my wife I wanted to quit.  Her face lit up whenever I told her about practice.  On the day of my first scrimmage I came home from hanging Christmas lights and doing other odd jobs, only to discover that my nearly crippled wife had already packed my derby bag for me.

“Do you want to try my wheels tonight?” she asked.  “I never really got the chance to break them in.”

It seemed like a pretty big responsibility, being in charge of someone else’s happiness.  Especially when I didn’t feel like I was any good at derby.  I was certain I was only going to let her down.

And then I realized something wonderful.  My wife had never played roller derby before getting injured.  She’d trained a lot, sure, but she’d never actually played in a bout.  Every night she sat on the sidelines watching people play, the muscles in her legs twitching sympathetically, not because she thought she was going to be the world’s best roller derby player, but because she just wanted the chance to try.

And I could do that, at least.

“Keep the wheels,” I told her.  “But I’d like to borrow your jersey.”

So I put on my wife’s jersey, the one she used when coaching the men’s team, and became Mamaskatrixx.  I put aside my own fears and tried to channel her strength and excitement.  I went to my first scrimmage, and I wasn’t afraid, because Mama would not have been afraid.  I was excited, because Mama was excited.

It would be great if, at this point in the story, I went to my first scrimmage and kicked ass, but that’s not what happened. As a matter of fact, I definitely hindered my team more than I helped it that first time. But I did it. I played against other people. And if I could scrimmage, I could bout.  And if I could bout, it meant Mama could bout too.

So, I let my team know that I was considering quitting, but that I intended to stay until after I’d participated in at least one real bout.  Regardless of whatever else happened, I wanted my wife to watch me roll out in front of a cheering crowd with Mamasktrixx on my back.  Because she’s a tough chick, and I don’t get the chance to carry her often.

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The 2012 RollerCon Sk8park Tour

18 Jun

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This year’s RollerCon Sk8park Tour looks like it’s going to be a big one.  For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s an article about last year’s tour.   For the rest of us, the ones who not only know about this tour but have been dreaming about it for months, let’s see what’s in store.

Unlike last year, tour organizer, Jay Cloetens, will be celebrating his birthday in the skatepark, and we will be skating all five nights.  So, if you find yourself skating Hollywood Skatepark with Jay on Friday night, make sure to wish him a happy birthday.  Buying him a beer afterward wouldn’t suck either.

Unfortunately, vertical rollerskating legend Brian Neal Wainwright will not be attending this year’s RollerCon tour, however other legends like Duke Rennie and Desi Jones  will be there, as will hundreds of other skatepark rollerskaters from all over.  As far as I know, this is the largest gathering of vertical rollerskaters in the world, so skaters of all skill levels should be able to find something to challenge and/or inspire them.

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I’ve included a list of links about Jay, vertical roller skating, and the parks we’ll be visiting this year.  You can find it at the end of this article.  What follows is a small introduction to each park, some pictures from years past, and directions to the parks via the Las Vegas public busses.

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Wednesday

Morrell Park Skatepark

500 Harris St. 89015

17 miles from Riviera

$0

Bus Directions:

1) Take any bus north to the Bonneville Transit Center.

2) Take the Henderson Express (HDX) all the way to the corner of Boulder and Basic.

3) Walk NE on Basic (left if oriented along bus rout) to Harris Street.

4) The park is where Basic T’s into Harris.

Morrell Skatepark is a mix of concrete and prefab wooden ramps.  In addition to the street tech area and the bowls, the park boasts a wide variety of less common structures including wave-shaped fly-out jumps, brick-faced inclines, and pyramid to pyramid gap jumps.  If you want to skate on vert, you won’t find it here, however, you will be able to put your skates on just about every other kind of surface and obstacle.

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Thursday

Freedom Skatepark.

850 N. Mojave Rd. 89129

7 miles from Riviera

$0

Bus Directions:

1) Take any bus to the Bonneville Transit Center.

2) Take the 208 to the corner of Washington and Mojave.

3) Walk along Mojave keeping the park on your left.

4) Freedom Skatepark is at the southernmost end of the park.

This outdoor park had its grand opening two and a half years ago, when the concrete pool and street/tech areas were added to the above ground metal ramps.  This looks like a good park for beginners, and with the addition of the pools, more advanced skaters can enjoy it too.

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Friday.

Hollywood Skatepark.

1650 S. Hollywood Blvd. 89129

9 miles from Riviera

$3

Bus Directions:

1) Take any bus to the Bonneville Transit Center

2) Take the 206 to the corner of Treeline and American Beauty.

3) Walk along American Beauty with Lewis Park on your right.

4) Hollywood Skatepark is where American Beauty T’s into Hollywood Blvd.

It is worth the $3 admission price just to see some of the incredible structures they’ve built here at the Hollywood Skatepark.  Chief amongst these is the artistically railed and staired 18-foot full pipe, (the only one in Vegas).  The park also sports an 11-foot-deep kidney bowl, a full plaza with a railed 10-stair gap, fun boxes, ledges, benches, smaller stair sets, and . . .  You know what?  Just go look at the Google Maps link for Hollywood at the end of this article.  Satellite view.  The park sells itself.

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Saturday & Sunday

Anthem Hill Skatepark

2300 Reunion Dr.  89052

15 miles from Riviera

$0

Bus Directions:

1) Walk north one big block to Sahara.

2) Catch the Sahara Express (SX) going east.  (Don’t forget a transfer.)

3) Transfer to the 110 going south.

4) Take the 110 to the corner of Eastern and Horizon Ridge.

5) Walk along Eastern for one mile to Summit Grove Drive.

6) Take Summit Grove Drive to the bike trail across from Sandy Ridge Ave.

7) Take bike trail to park.

I personally like the idea of skating the same park two nights in a row.  For me, it usually takes a while to get to know a park, so I am glad we will be going to Anthem Hill Skatepark on both Saturday and Sunday of the skatepark tour.

The kidney bowl is just about the only thing set outside the “flow” of this amazing concrete flowpark.  Everywhere else, including the street tech area, is connected via an extended series of transitions and obstacles.  Anthem is Jay’s favorite park, because, “it has something for skaters of every skill level.  If you go watch some of Jay’s skate videos, you will probably see him skating in Anthem Skatepark.

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Links to Park info:

Morrell: Concrete Disciples, Video Review, Video Montage, Google Map.

Freedom: SkateboardPark.com, Video Montage, Google Map.

Hollywood: Concrete DisciplesAutoCad Overview, Video Montage, Google Map.

Anthem: Concrete Disciples, Video Montage, Video Montage 2, Google Map.

Video of past tours: 2009, 20102011,

I am the Jammer

28 Oct

Since my wife got injured last week, a lot of friends and family have been asking why we still play roller derby and still allow our daughters to do so.  This essay, written by my 14-year-old daughter the day after my wife got injured says it all.

I am the Jammer,

by LeAria West

I love roller derby and everything about it. I love the pressure of fans, coaches, teammates, and the idea that the entire other team is trying to stop ME. They want to stop me because I am strong, I am fast, and I score the points. I am the jammer. To me, derby is a lot like racing another girl, while four mean, fast-moving girls, try to knock me down. Oh yeah… and everyone’s on roller-skates.

I roll to the jammer line with butterflies in my stomach and shaking in my knees. The other jammer and I crouch on the line, exchanging nervous looks. One whistle sounds, loud and high-pitched, and the eight skaters in front of me start rolling. The four blockers on my team look back at me with thumbs up. Two rapid whistles, and I take off. One, two, three, steps on my toe stops gives me the speed of a freshly shot bullet. I dodge, weave, and smash my way through the pack, and get past before the other jammer, making me the lead jammer. The jam is mine to stop at any time, but i still haven’t scored any points. My legs already ache and burn, but I need to go around the track until I catch up to the back of the pack again. This time, every girl on the opposing team I pass is worth a point for my team. Yet, the other team has a jammer as well, and she has the same objective.

My biggest fear is on the jammer line next to me, not the other jammer, but the possibility of failure. The nervous looks my teammates and coaches give me, and the people in the bleachers all sitting on the edges of their seats in anticipation, that only makes me try harder. Derby has helped me deal with pressure, and even like it in some cases. I used to break under pressure, but now I just grow stronger.

It might seem weird that I like the other team’s focus on trying to stop me, but I’m a weird kid. When I hear the coach or frustrated opposing blockers yell “STOP HER”, and I know it’s about me, it means they see me as a threat. The other team, though they may be my friends off the track, are my enemies while on the track, and they know it as well.

Through all of my life I have tried to find one thing I’m good at, and work my hardest at being the best I can possibly be. This includes maintaining mental, physical and emotional strength. Jamming is so much more fun when you help your team win. Even when I don’t win I always try my hardest and make sure to have a lot of fun.